Come back XP, all is forgiven!

Despite being something of a Linux enthusiast (Linux boxes at home outnumber Windows boxes) I’m also realistic. My main workstation at home runs Windows, due to the simple reason that the applications I need only run on Windows. Yes, I know all about WINE, and use it very successfully on some Linux systems at work, but some stuff just won’t, at least yet, run on WINE. Two significant problem areas for WINE are games and…. Adobe applications. And when I ain’t Photoshopping, I’m gaming. So Windows required.

Anyway, to get back to the point: having built a reasonably muscular new PC last year I decided to drop Vista on to it as my choice of Windows. Last weekend it had a catastrophic file-system error. To be fair, that’s probably not Vista-specific: Windows has a long and ignoble history of buggering up its file-system and requiring reformat, reinstall, recriminations, etc. So this was just a normal day-in-the-life of a Windows user.

The interesting part is it at last gave me the excuse I needed to ditch Vista and put Windows XP on the PC. So after several months of Vista use, why did I hate it so? Let’s list some Pros and Cons of Vista versus XP.


  • DirectX-10. Well, it’s a “pro” of sorts. DirectX-10 offers some pretty marginal graphics improvements over DirectX-9 and, critically, requires a very recent graphics card. And even given all that, very few games yet support its use anyway. So more of a theoretical “pro” than a real one, at least for me.
  • Aero GUI. The Vista GUI is indeed prettier than bog-standard XP. Kinda curvier, more translucent, more, dare one say it, Apple Mac-like? Nice to have, but not really life-changing.
  • Security. Vista’s security improvements are much promoted by its makers, but really not up to much. To a great extent it’s a question of turning on stuff which by default was off in XP. And then, of course, making the mistake of turning it all up too much… After a few weeks of blindly clicking “Yes” to some needless “security check” you get so pissed off you turn it all off anyway.


  • Memory hog. Yes, I KNOW memory is incredibly cheap these days. But why, once I simply boot Vista and have all the “essentials” up and running, do I need TWICE as much memory as XP ever required? It’s just ridiculous. I would be fine if it needed more memory due to the amazing whizz-bang improvements it brought me, but it doesn’t do that.
  • CPU hog. OK, not by much, but you do feel the machine is less snappy and responsive under Vista.
  • Network. Oh my, this is a pile of crap. Vista networking is a huge step backwards. I mean how difficult should it be to open a shared folder from another PC or a server? Under XP it bounces up immediately. Same folder under Vista, maybe 10 seconds to open.
  • Network. Again. When my remote, shared folder does finally open, just because it contains maybe 30 or so applications (installers, actually) does Vista REALLY need another couple of MINUTES to display them all?
  • Network. Yup, again. PPTP VPN connection. When I’m connected I want a little flashing icon thingy on my toolbar, right? Just like I’ve had for years with XP. So where is it Microsoft?
  • Network. Yawn. WebDAV. Widely used, and well-integrated within Windows XP. So why has it completely disappeared from Vista? Not changed, or hidden a bit. Completely GONE.
  • Boot time. I’m putting this as a ‘con’, as Microsoft has made so much of the fast boot-time of Vista. What a bunch of liars. The time taken for the desktop itself to display is nothing special, but then the lying little bastards hide all the ongoing stuff in the background. Minute after minute of displayed-but-unusable desktop. Time to display desktop: acceptable. Time to display *usable* desktop: friggin’ ages.
  • Still, even after SP1 for Vista, significant numbers of drivers are still not officially Vista-compatible. Luckily most “old” drivers work anyway.

I’m making no pretence that this is a complete list of pros and cons. It’s just some of the things that struck me after using Vista for a while. The intriguing thing about Vista is just how backwards it is. I know it’s fashionable to knock Vista as being some truly awful, unusably bad operating system. It’s not. However when you take in to account the hundreds of man years that Microsoft put in to developing it you can’t help but ask “Why?” Take XP and pump up the security a bit (which has happened along the way anyway with the three service packs) and drop a pretty face on it and you’ve got…. Vista. Well, Vista without the mucked up Windows Networking and resource hogging. It really is just a total non-event.

Microsoft have some smart people working for them. I hope they are ashamed of Vista. I would be.

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