Friday, February 02, 2007

Microsoft Vista

Hey maybe this will interest you and prove to be helpful too. Upgrade Season/Fever arrives.
Here's an excerpt from a fairly reliable report on Microsoft Windows Vista, (Full report) Interesting that the "tech savvy" readers at ZD.Net slammed this review. Problem with that audience base is its like trolling for trout in the ocean, too many barracuda and sharks. Meaning Unix and Apple lovers, both of whom would bash Microsoft no matter what was written by whom. I haven't personally tried Vista, I prefer to wait about 6 months until others have finished the testing and MS issues most of the patches. Anyhow for those looking for something about Vista in a lighter vein, I've also attached a PDF file, of a Vista upgrade Decision Tree Flowchart. While not X-rated or even Scatological, there are some things that might be offensive in some way, so please understand, THIS IS A GAG, I AM NOT THE CREATOR, BUT I LOVED IT. Also on a serious note, some of the final stage decisions are accurate.

Despite some world-class efforts to gin up controversy over Vista, there's nothing scandalous to report. No devastating security breaches, no data-destroying bugs. A few pieces are still missing, including Windows Mobile Device Center, the software that replaces ActiveSync to connect Smartphones and PDAs to Windows Vista. As of this morning, it's still in beta, with no announced date for the final release. Likewise, the hardware to connect digital CableCARD devices to Vista Media Center has been announced and demonstrated but still isn't available for sale.

You've probably already got a pretty good idea of whether you're interested in Windows Vista or whether you want to steer clear. In lieu of a review, I'll share some of my experiences and answer a few questions that I've been asked repeatedly in recent months.

If you're buying a new PC, do you want Windows Vista?

Of course you do. When you purchase a new PC, the price for Windows Vista is essentially the same as the equivalent XP edition, but you get a more robust, attractive, usable, and secure operating system with some very compelling extras. About the only reason to deliberately avoid Vista is if you use a critical software program or a hardware device that isn't supported.

So where are the killer features?

If you go through the mainstream media and read reviews of Windows Vista, the absence of a "killer feature" is the criticism you'll find the most often. Fair enough. Most of the features in Vista are improvements, not completely new. I'm not sure exactly what would qualify as a killer feature for a computer operating system in 2007, but if I had to pick three features to highlight these would be at the top of the list:

  • Windows Photo Gallery. Ho-hum, right? Just another lightweight program to import photos from a digital camera? What most reviewers miss is Photo Gallery's support for the Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP), developed by Adobe and used in a variety of professional-strength photo-editing applications. When you tag a JPEG or TIFF photo with keywords in Windows Vista, those tags are stored directly in the file as metadata, which you can use to search, sort, and filter images in Photo Gallery. That's a great leap forward from Apple's iPhoto and Google's Picasa, both of which store metadata in sidecar files rather than in the image itself.
  • Windows Speech Recognition. You probably haven't heard much about speech recognition in Windows Vista. If you did, it was probably thanks to a demo that went awry last summer and was widely reported. That's a shame, because the built-in speech-to -text conversion software in the final release works exceptionally well for controlling the Windows interface and dictating text.
  • Windows Desktop Search. Yes, you have lots of third-party desktop search options for Windows XP. I've tried them all and never found one that was reliable enough for daily use. What makes Vista's search so useful is the fact that it's integrated directly into the operating system, so you can search in the Start menu, in Control Panel, in Explorer windows, and in common dialog boxes. I miss this capability most when I sit down at a Windows XP machine and try to find a specific Control Panel option. It also just works. I haven't had to rebuild indexes or mess with search settings on any Vista PCs in my office.

What all these features have in common is that they're legitimately part of the operating system. Metadata and search are tied directly into the file system, which is a core feature of an operating system, and speech is just another form of input replacing or augmenting the keyboard and mouse.

How much hardware do you need?

The myth is that Vista requires a hefty, expensive new PC to work properly. The reality is any edition of Windows Vista will work very well indeed on relatively inexpensive hardware. In the week leading up to the official consumer launch of Vista, I've seen name-brand notebook PCs with dual-core Intel CPUs, 1GB of RAM, and Aero-capable graphics hardware selling for $599 or less with Vista Home Premium edition.