Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

Windows Vista: Six Months In, Your Mileage May Vary

This may be news to Jessica Mintz of the Associated Press, but not every Vista user has been griping. While it's easy to look to Chris Pirillo's 52-minute rant on Vista, people forget that Chris has made his professional career out of griping about Windows. He's been complaining about Vista since the first time I showed it to him in 2004. So going to Chris for an opinion of *any* version of Windows is likely to produce a 52-minute rant on fonts, spacing, pixel alignment, and his feelings on usability. I consider Chris a friend, but the guy's about as nit-picky about UI as they come... I'm actually surprised he hasn't just switched to the Mac yet.

I've been using Windows Vista for just as long as Chris has (if not longer), and while my beta testing problems were well documented, I haven't had too many issues since RTM. I'm running with UAC on, and I don't run into UAC prompts all that often. I've rarely had driver issues (except for the first few weeks when Acer didn't update their US support site), and all three machines in my house are running it. Overall, I love Windows Vista, and I can't stand touching Windows XP. Heck, my mom and kid sister use it every day too, and they've hardly ever called me about tech-support issues.

In fact, my only real beefs with Vista are centered around Media Center. The first is that my CableCARD Digital Cable Tuners encrypt all of my TV shows, regardless of whether or not the "protected" bit is set, so I can't excercise my "fair use" to edit out commercials or stream the TV using WebGuide to my other Vista PCs or my cell phone. Hopefully the next Windows Media Center release will have the "SoftSled" software extender technology they have been talking about for the past couple years. The second is that Microsoft still doesn't have v2 Extenders on the market yet, nor do they have any kind of rebate program.

So, while it may be fun to write a sensationalist article about the "problems" with Vista. It's also great that this article gets Chris some exposure right before Gnomedex. But unless the AP is going to have Zogby do a customer satisfaction survey (or unless they do some, uh, investigative reporting, and get both sides of the story), I think the best way to explain the public's experiences with Vista is "Your Mileage May Vary".

UPDATE: Since someone in my comments asked for them, here are the Reliability Index stats for my Vista machines (as of 14 July 2007):

  • Acer Ferrari 5000 x64 (Mine)
    • Windows Experience Index: 4.8
    • Reliability Index: 4.27
    • Notes: This is my main machine, and I push it the hardest. Internet Explorer crashes account for 72% of my failures, and is the single reason my score is so low. I was told a new Flash runtime would fix that, but so far, that's not the case.
  • Dell XPS 400 x64 (Mine)
    • Windows Experience Index: 4.7
    • Reliability Index: 8.17
    • Notes: This is my Digital Cable Tuner Media Center. It was running at a 10 for a couple months, but I recently installed the WebGuide 4.1 beta, and it crashed a lot a few days ago, dragging my system down. The WEI would be a 5.2 if the Pentium D processor wasn't dragging it down.
  • HP tx1000 x86 (My girlfriend's)
    • Windows Experience Index: 2.4
    • Reliability Index: 8.35
    • Notes: This is a review machine from HP that my girlfriend has been using the last 2 months (which she'll be posting a review on shortly). I hardly ever touch it, so I consider this representative of the real consumer experience. Again, IE7 is the main reason the score is not a 10. And the WEI would be higher, but the graphics card on the tx1000 is not that great.
  • Dell Inspiron e1505 x86 (My sister in Denver's)
    • Windows Experience Index: 2.0
    • Reliability Index: 6.52
    • Notes: This machine would have a WEI of 4.7, but the graphics card is the dead weight once again.
  • HP Pavillion ze2000 x86 (My sister's boyfriend)
    • Windows Experience Index: 2.0
    • Reliability Index: 7.93
    • Notes: He's had very few problems with this computer.

If I can get the stat's from my mom's and sister's machines, I'll post them too. All in all, I'm very happy with my overall Vista experience, even if IE7 keeps crashing all the time. With IE7pro, it's become far less aggravating than it used to be.



  • David said:

    I agree. I really enjoy the OS and don't like XP anymore either.  I have UAC on and get prompts, but those prompts are easier to deal with than OSX's administrator prompts.

    I've had a few issues, most self inflicted.  Few app problems, but they are out there.

    July 13, 2007 3:50 PM
  • ak said:

    Try to create a new folder in program files, give it a name, and copy some files into it and look at how many UAC prompts you get. Or try to use the run as admin context menu item for a non admin user when UAC is off, totally broken. My biggest problem is drivers. Both my tv card and audio card have vista drivers, yet i have huge driver problems and vista will reinstall the drivers on every boot (And so media center will loose all the tv channels and i have to rescan every time i boot, totally useless as a media center pc)

    July 13, 2007 8:06 PM
  • My Vista-powered laptop came with a video driver that didn't allow the screensaver to run, a built-in dysfunctional webcam, and a tendency to stop displaying wireless network status - ever.  I've lost audio for days at a time, and every now and then my right-click mouse button just plain stops working.

    It's beyond 'bad' - it's just plain embarrassing.

    July 14, 2007 12:06 AM
  • BenN said:

    How come nobody posts their Reliability Indexes do back up their posts? For instance, the 3 Vista machiens I use are currently at 3.2, 5.49 and 8.32. From that I've concluded that it's brilliant when it works, but it's a very mixed bag.

    July 14, 2007 4:24 AM
  • July 14, 2007 4:54 AM
  • Doug Baldie said:

    @Jeremy Toeman.

    Windows is an OS.  Microsoft didn't make the crappy hardware that you're running it on.  Take issues with the manufacturer.  

    July 14, 2007 7:15 AM
  • david said:

    So you are one person who is happy with Vista - good for you. But your important point is YMMV. That's important. In fact, Microsoft should stamp it on every box of Vista it sells. It should even be emblazoned on every new computer.

    A brand new Dell notebook sits beside me - its feature set not too different from the MacBook I'm currently using. I'm currently upgrading it to Windows XP because my wife cannot get her HP printer to reliably print. Her new webcam won't work. She gets UAC alerts at the strangest times. Her external LCD is stuck displaying at a strange resolution.

    I've wiped the drive and reinstalled everything. I've wiped the drive and done a fresh install with my own copy of Vista. I've yelled at the Dell and pleaded with it. I've been through Dell tech support hell. Strangely, Vista runs just fine on my MacBook. Now that's just sad ain't it? An Apple computer runs Vista better than one from a Microsoft partner.

    Yep - your mileage may vary.

    July 14, 2007 8:07 AM
  • ak said:

    I can't post my Reliability Index because I had to go back to XP. And I reinstalled Vista so many times it probably didnt go that low anyway. But I had several reports sent with the error report thing and zero solutions. When SP1 comes out I'm gonna wipe the drive and give it one last shot. If the driver problems have not improved, I'm gonna give up on Vista forever (I have a new mobo on the way to also try to fix the problems)

    July 14, 2007 10:02 AM
  • July 14, 2007 1:36 PM
  • July 14, 2007 3:04 PM
  • stuart said:

    It's funny - I've yet to speak to someone who is enjoying Vista. Everyone I know has 'upgraded' back to XP. Hopefully service pack 1 will make things better.

    July 15, 2007 4:21 AM
  • Chip said:

    Talking about problems... you can find an interesting analysis about this topic <a href="">here</a>.

    July 15, 2007 4:29 AM
  • Aaron said:

    I like Vista, but it just doesnt deliver the experiences that I see on the mac. Definitely no 'WOW' factor like they were claiming. Just a nicer looking XP, which there is nothing wrong with, but after waiting 6 years its really dissapointing that what we get with Vista was all that was delivered. I'm thinking i'll be buying a mac next to do my personal stuff with and run vista through parallels or bootcamp when I need it.

    July 16, 2007 6:26 AM
  • July 16, 2007 7:19 AM
  • AdyCarter said:

    Spent a fortune on Vista Ultimate (actually bought it, Im not a beta tester or pirate) and after three painful months I ditched it. Despite a WEI of 4.3 it ran much slower than XP, getting NVIDIA drivers that were even vaguely useful wasnt possible, my TV tuner refused to work, UAC was just crazy, and it relentlessly decided to ditch my media sharing settings and stop talking to my 360. All good fun and a waste of money.Oh and why the heck do file copies take a hell of a lot longer? My GF begged me to downgrade her new laptop to XP...

    Milage my vairy but aside from the usual MS enthusiasts I'm having a hard time finding people who genuinely like vista.

    July 16, 2007 7:25 AM
  • JM said:

    Unfortunately, I couldn't get six months in before I went back to XP.

    Vista's file operation issues are inexcusable.  It copies to my NAS device at a fraction (< 2 Mbps) of the speed that I get when using XP.  Even local disk to disk copies are slower.  How this didn't raise any red flags before going RTM is beyond me.

    July 16, 2007 10:26 AM
  • JM, your file transfer problems may have to do with yoru NAS not supporting Remote Differential Compression. Google it to see the solution for turning that off, and see if it helps. Thanks!

    July 17, 2007 12:32 AM
  • ak said:

    That is no excuse for it not to fall back to whatever Xp does

    July 17, 2007 9:55 AM
  • Colin Theys said:

    I like Vista a lot and I find the improvements difficult to live without on my XP work machine. However, it is plagued by really very serious issues and I would absolutely not recommend anylonger (I did in beta) that anyone upgrade to it who is not very computer-savvy and willing to put in a lot of time. My reliability index is 2.7 and that only accounts for a portion of my crashes because some sorts of exceptions cause a complete failure that is not logged.

    Admittedly, the worst offender is Nvidia. Their drivers are simply unacceptable. However, there are a few major things in Vista that simply do not function well enough for everyday use.

    July 18, 2007 7:29 PM
  • When asked about Windows Vista by Financial Times Deuchland, Acer CEO Gianfranco Lanci had this to say

    July 23, 2007 6:44 PM
  • Andre said:

    I´m using Vista as far it comes to the market and I´m loving it. I really haven´t any issues with it.. IE7 never chashes for me! Sincerely, my machine is not top neither a new one (it´s a Athlon 64 3000+) and Vista works fine, better than XP with its virus, spywares, crashes (it seems the ppl forgot how XP was terrible for the first 3 years...)

    July 24, 2007 8:42 AM
  • July 31, 2007 12:05 PM