Is Vista as bad as they say?

Over the last few months (or the last year or more), it has become extremely fashionable to beat up on Vista. Heck, it is a great way to generate hits on you site or blog, maybe get Dugg, whether you have anything useful to say or not. I am talking about posts like this, or this, or this whole blog.

Personally, I run Vista on several machines, and have few problems which were not related to the failure of third parties to provide updated drivers, or updated versions of software for Vista (sometimes makes me wonder if there has been a conspiracy on the part of other vendors to purposely sabotage Vista – but it is more likely just not bothering to provide what customers pay for). I also still run XP on a couple of boxes, and Win2K3. On my main development box, I also run a number of operating systems in VMWare, including WinXP, Win 2K3, Fedora, Ubuntu, and several “minimalist” Linux distros for playing around with.

An unfortunate fact of life is that all operating systems available right now suck, at least in some aspect or another. Linux suffers from many driver limitations (though this is getting better), and a wannabe user interface that spends far too much time trying to look like Windows, while missing the point of usability altogether. Windows (all versions) suffer from security issues, and from performance and stability issues inherent in trying to be all things to all people. I will not comment on Mac OSX, because I have not run it. It is also kind of irrelevant, since I cannot run it unless I buy Apple’s hardware.

Vista has its own usability issues. Some that are pointed out are valid. The UAC implementation is moronic. The UI path you have to follow to connect to a wireless network is annoying. Here is one I discovered today – disk defragmentation. When you defragment you hard drive you get this useful dialog:


Isn’t that helpful? No progress indication. No estimated time to completion. Just a statement that it could take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Gee, thanks.

The problem is, this kind of thing is not just a problem in Vista, or Windows in general. It is pervasive in all operating systems, and almost all software written to run on them. Most software is filled with minor little usability gaps like this.

So stop beating up on Vista (unless you need the traffic), and start thinking about how to make the whole situation better.


I have been working in the world of technology for 25-odd years. I am an entrepreneur and consultant, focused on software solutions, social networking, and innovation processes. Currently, I am a Principal Consultant with T4G Limited, specializing in Portal Technologies (including SharePoint), software/systems development, service oriented architectures, and many other things which I will probably not remember until I need to use them. Prior to that, I was VP of Technology at Whitehill Technologies, Inc., where I spent almost 9 years helping to grow the company from a start-up to one of the most successful private software companies in Canada. Prior to that I worked on internet conferencing using early VoIP, and on large military communications projects. Before even that, I worked in satellite control, and remote sensing. Going way back to university, my focus was on theoretical physics and astrophysics. Currently my interests revolve around most aspects of software development, from technologies to management, and in the area of defining sustainable, repeatable processes for innovation within technology organizations. I also have a particular interest in Tablet PC technologies – I have been using one for several years, and I love it. On the personal side, I still have a strong interest in all aspects of science, especially physical sciences, as well as philosophy and comparative religion. In addition, I am into music, playing guitar (badly, I am sorry to say), and reading almost anything I can lay my hands on. I am also a member of the IEEE/IEEE Computer Society, and of the Association for Computing Machinery.

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Posted in Rant, Trends
11 comments on “Is Vista as bad as they say?
  1. Edward says:

    Vista is a great operating system. I haven’t had any problems since I installed it, and it runs perfectly fine. Given that my computer is relatively new, but all the “issues” that people find with Vista are pretty much resolved. Vista was a complete kernel revamp. Given that Microsoft had to rewrite the code from scratch, I would say that they did pretty well to preserve compatibility. However, I know some people are using archaic software or hardware that had their support pulled long ago and complain loudly that Vista sucks because the vendors don’t provide new drivers or software. Well those people should move to newer software or hardware or get the vendors to write drivers to support the devices under Vista. They should also stop the Vista sucks mantra and start the vendors suck mantra. Microsoft is trying to phase out older software. I don’t see any problem with that. Vista is a great operating system. I don’t understand why there is so much Vista bashing.

  2. Lightning says:

    Vista is the worst thing that someone ever created. Most of the programs I got aren’t even compatible with this horrible thing.

  3. […] to me that the most popular post I have written (based on the number of hits, anyway) is one on Vista from well over a year ago. It is even more interesting that the hit rate on this post has gone up […]

  4. Steve says:

    When you discussed the Disk Defragmenter UI problem you touched upon something that’s even bigger than Vista and that’s the overall sorry state of software. All software is notoriously buggy or loaded with really dumb UI problems like you showcased, but we tolerate it! Every time we install software we read a license agreement that basically says “We know our software will fail on you and fail big time. We are not responsible for any damage, loss of productivity, or loss of sanity our defective software is bound to cause.”

    I was a software developer for 12 years and every time I bought PC software I got screwed. Is it any wonder piracy is so rampant in this industry? Who wants to pay $150 for some piece of software with no refund policy and unresponsive support when you know it’s bound to have some fundamental flaw that will prevent you from using it as wanted? I’ve basically come to live off of bundled software that you’re forced to buy anyway when buying hardware, old software I’ve had for years, and pirated stuff.

    For example, I’d gladly pay $250 for easy-to-use video editing software but the last time I did I got unreliable software that generated video with dropped frames and other major issues. I got no help whatsoever from their tech support either. Because of this if I’m going to be stuck with buggy software I might as well use Microsoft’s Windows Movie Maker that comes with the OS.

    I’m tired of paying a lot of money for broken software and then bending over and handling the software manufacturer a broom handle.

  5. Neff says:

    I installed Vista yesterday, and yes, 2 years are passed right now since the product of Microsoft has been released.
    What can I say, I’ve been a long time windows user a not-so-expert mac user and I’m now using ubuntu linux since 2004. Imho Vista is not so bad. The real problem of Vista is that it is overweight whithout being significantly better than XP. It has a shiny new UI (which is good for some people and not so good for another kind of users) and it has a crowd of tiny little programs always running in background which aim is to patch all the impurities Windows XP had and which are not solved yet in windows vista.
    An example of that is the defragmentation tool. Windows Vista execute a defragmentation session in background automatically once a week, in order to prevent the computer to become slow(er) than it already is. The solution of the real problem has been avoided. There are tons of free File systems out there that do not require a defragmentation. Instead of creating a new tool to automatically defrag an old NTFS partition, Microsoft should have produced or adopted a new filesystem whithout the problem of the fragmentation.
    Lots of other examples like this one can be made when speaking about Windows Vista. IMHO Windows is not a bad operating system, it’s just a revamped xp with many little programs running in background to cover all the problems Microsoft hasn’t fixed yet.
    So what about Vista. Don’t buy it if you’re ok with XP, but if you have a new computer loaded with a lot of new memory give it a try. It’s not significantly better than xp, but it’s still a little bit better if you have a new machine and you’re not afraid to use its power to run a “big” boy on it.

  6. Fred says:

    I do not have that much of a problem with fragmentation anyway (I rebuild my machine too often for it to get fragmented) – I was actually trying to Shrink the volume so I could repartition and dual boot with Ubuntu (lol). It tells me I have 50gb free, but can only shrink by 5gb. I was hoping that defragging might help (a shot in the dark).

  7. Erin says:

    I use and really like PerfectDisk. It consolidates free space better than any you have seen. I’m not a fan of the Vista built-in defragger either.


  8. Fred says:

    I am not much of a gamer, but I did play WoW on my laptop under Vista very successfully (I mean it ran well enough). Not that WoW is all that demanding.

  9. Silverwings says:

    Hehe the Vista defragger is hopeless, whatever microsoft’s justification maybe for doing what they did. I’ve been using Diskeeper, which is great. Diskeeper defrags the MFT, does boot-time defrags and has an awesome automatic mode which means you dont need to defrag manually at all unless its a boot-time defrag. Oh yeah…it has a progress display too. Far better than Vista’s defrag. Highly recommended.

    BTW, I am not a Vista hater…I have had no serious stability or performance problems with Vista so far. It looks decent and runs well.
    Note: Vista is on my work laptop, not my gaming rig..I don’t know how well Vista does games. Haven’t had a chance to check yet.

  10. Fred says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    As for “driver limitations”, I consider the non-availability of drivers for my hardware to be a limitation – I was using it as an all-encomapassing term. On the UI side, all of the available desktops I have seen are either archaic, or are trying to be Windows or Mac OSX.

    Also, I agree that in terms of influence, the various generations of Mac OS have always been very influential. But, since I can only run them on Mac hardware, they are irrelevant as an OS alternative.

    The situation with Vista is hardly the same as the XBox. the XBox has an identifiable hardware problem which causes complete failure. Unfortunately (or fortunately) it is not that easy with software. I have have few problems with Vista – no more than with any other OS I run, including Linux. Of course, my 360 is working fine, too 🙂

    Finally, in terms of my own software, stuff that I would write and put out there and expect people to pay for, I am always happy to here constructive feedback. “Product X Sucks” with minimal factual support is not useful in that regard. Fortunately, I have never shipped anything which drew as much hate as Vista!

    Again, thanks for the comments.

  11. >> Linux suffers from many driver limitations…and
    >> a wannabe user interface that spends far too much
    >> time trying to look like Windows, while missing
    >> the point of usability altogether

    Please expound on Linux’s “driver limitations”. I’ve heard of “driver availability” and “driver functionality”, but “driver limitations”? As for the Linux’s UI being a wannabe, which one? KDE? Gnome? Or one of the other dozen-or-so window managers out there? Don’t think Gnome or KDE stack up? Pick another.

    >> [OS X] is also kind of irrelevant, since I cannot
    >> run it unless I buy Apple’s hardware.

    Just because you can’t run OS X on your PC doesn’t make its GUI irrelevent, not even kind of. Throughout desktop UI history, everybody’s borrowed something from somebody else.

    >> So stop beating up on Vista…and start thinking
    >> about how to make the whole situation better.

    Does this mean people should stop beating up on XBox 360’s hardware problems just because they can’t design a better video game system themselves? No.

    Do you have to be a photographer to hate the guy’s infamous picture? No.

    Have you provided any ideas on making operating systems suck less? No.

    As a VP, would you tell your customers to stop complaining unless they knew how to make your products and services better? I sure hope not.

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Please keep in mind that any opinions, points-of-view, comments, or other content which I post to this site are mine and mine alone. They in no way reflect the views of my employer, my country, my dog, my cat, or anyone else you can think of. To paraphrase Monty Python, "That is the theory that I have and which is mine, and what it is, too."

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