I recently had the opportunity to download the new Microsoft’s newest operating system, Windows Vista Release Candidate 1 (RC1 for short). They claim it will be on shelves for home users and pre-loaded into new computers sometime around January. I installed it on my laptop’s second partition so I wouldn’t screw up my Windows XP SP2 installation (which is working better than ever, I might add). I’ll have to say the graphics people at Microsoft did a pretty good job at making their new OS look better. They have made everything look like it’s made of something shiny (hasn’t OSX been “shiny” since its release, say around 2000?) . The screen fades from black to the pretty vista background, instead of flickering off/then on like in previous versions (Mac OSX has been doing this for years). There are some nice idiot-proofing that asks for your permission to run installers and executables that could damage your system (uh, mac’s also been doing this for a while now). If you have a big enough graphics card, you can get the “aero” effects which give you translucent window frames, thumbnail previews of minimized windows, and 3-d animation of your destop items as you switch through them (mac’s been doing most of this for a long time, and I’ve seen these functions being used on 500mhz G3 Macs with graphics adapters with as little as 8mb of ram). All of the control panel stuff is arranged for more user-friendliness (yup, you guessed it). The Start button, now there’s something they’ve truely improved on. Instead of the endless menus that used to flash across the screen, they have everything open up in one column in the menu. Pretty nice.
Here’s what I really think about Windows Vista:
Remember when Windows 98 Second Edition was out in full force (I’m going to completely ignore the stupidity of Windows ME)? They were loading it into machines as big as 1ghz with 128mb of ram, and it was working BEAUTIFULLY. The major trouble with 98 was the blue screens and the difficulty networking on a real network. Other than that, they were getting somewhere. Then came XP. Windows XP was supposed to eliminate the blue screens (and it did) and be as easy to network as Windows 2000 (and it is). But it took the last 4 years for Microsoft to get the major bugs worked out of XP and for computer technology to be fast enough and with enough ram to really see what it could do. If you ask me, Microsoft should have kept XP in beta until the release of Service Pack 2. I feel like all XP users were having to pay to be beta testers until then. When you beta-test a product, they warn you not to use it on critical computers and to consistently back up your data. Every Windows user had to have Windows XP if they were buying a new computer, even if the computer was an 800mhz p3 with only 128mb of ram (98SE would have been great on that machine). Now that computers are powerful enough and the operating system has secured itself better, Windows XP is now a usable operating system. So what is Microsoft to do? Roll out another operating system before technolgy is ready for it, and before it has been tested enough in a real world environment.
Enter the MAC:
Last week, Glen Perkins, of Perkins Farm supply called me and said his hard drive was going dead on his Powerbook G4. So I had him order a new 7200 RPM 80gb drive and installed it for him. I’ve been “testing” his powerbook for the last few days while I have been waiting for an adapter so I can transfer his files from his old drive. This machine is light years ahead of a “PC”. Everything from the hinges and latches to the guts are so much more refined than on any windows-based machine I’ve seen to date. It finishes booting in less than 45 seconds and it runs circles around my 1.5ghz sony vaio with 512mb of ram running Windows XP (and now Vista RC1). The kicker: It’s about 4 years old, running an 867mhz processor and the latest version of OSX (tiger). The battery is the original, and it still lasts for 2 hours (they lasted about 5 new). This thing has built-in Airport supporting both wireless B&G; Bluetooth (connects to my razr nicely); firewire; usb 2.0; and probably more than I even know. The OS installation was also the easiest I’ve ever done with full GUI functionality through the entire process (no clunky command prompt stuff). I found out today, this thing is still worth between 650 and 800.00 (compared to my vaio being worth only about $400 if I’m lucky).
Here’s the consequence for Microsoft:
Windows Vista is a resource hogging, oversized, rearranged version of the same old operating system. Just because of the way it has been rearranged, it’s like learning how to use a whole new OS. To use it, most people are going to have to buy a high-end machine (for a somewhat useable desktop, spending around $1500). But isn’t price of the hardware and the learning of a new OS some of the arguments that keep people from switching to a Mac (it has been my only two)? In my opinion, Microsoft has fumbled and has turned the game over to the other team (at least for me). If I have to spend money on a new computer, and learn a new OS it will be on a new Mac.