Windows Vista, Buy or Beware?
Traditionally the launch of a new version of Microsoft
Windows involves a fair amount of razzmatazz but the debut of Windows Vista in
London last Tuesday was a surprisingly low-key event. To some extent this
reflects the character of the new operating system, which, if you dig deep
enough turns out to be not too different to its predecessor, Windows XP, though
on the surface it does look, and feel, like a whole new approach to computing.
Vista is a timely response to the changes in the way we use
our PC’s. In the past five years computers have been transformed from jumped up
office machines into repositories for thousands of photographs, music tracks,
videos and a huge amount of personal data. Finding a particular item in the
cavernous hard disc drives now fitted to most home computers is becoming
‘Search’ boxes are everywhere in Vista and this is one of
its most important new features. As soon as you start to enter a keyword or
name, whether it’s a program, a document, the name of a song or the title of a
digital photograph, as you type Vista attempts to zero in on what you are
looking for, displaying a list of increasingly relevant ‘hits’.
Easy searching is something Vista users will learn to
appreciate but the headline-grabbing feature has to be the graphics, and
ironically it is one of the reasons why Vista is not going to be an overnight
Relatively few PCs made within the last five years can
handle Vista without an expensive upgrade. Nevertheless it will still sell, if
only on its remarkable good looks (much to the irritation of Apple Mac owners
who claim it is all old hat...).
graphical interface adds a wealth of eye-catching visual effects to menus and
dialogue boxes but the enhancement that will catch most people’s attention –
and it could almost have been designed for the benefit of PC sales
assistants... -- is ‘3D ‘Flip’. Pressing the Windows key (‘Winkey’) and Tab on
the keyboard switches to a smart-looking 3D display showing a cascade of open
windows, allowing the user to quickly switch between running applications. It’s
all very intuitive and clearly designed to appeal to newcomers; simply
‘hovering’ the mouse pointer over a taskbar icon changes it into a ‘live’
thumbnail of the program or application it represents.
The right side of
the screen is often ‘dead’ space, more so now that many computers have
widescreen monitors. Vista populates this part of the display with ‘Gadgets’,
which threaten to become the PC equivalent of annoying mobile phone ring tones
and text messages.
are small utilities and toys that can be downloaded from the web. Several are
included as standard and these include fancy clocks, a mini slideshow viewer
and some games, but the big guns were reserved for the Vista launch. It was
clear from the first wave of sponsored Gadgets, from airlines, financial
institutions, cinema chains, news organisations and so on that they are
destined to become a powerful and potentially very lucrative marketing tool for
buying goods and services online.
Security has been
given a very high priority and Microsoft is grimly aware that even before its
launch a small army of hackers and virus writers has been tirelessly probing
Vista’s defences. A lot of effort has been put into beefing up its protective
features but there is little doubt that critical loopholes will be exposed and
it will be business as usual with regular weekly downloads of patches and fixes.
However, for many PC users the greatest threat to their computer’s well being
comes from their own and other user’s carelessness. Vista has that covered too
and a feature called User Account Control vigorously protects critical system
files and settings from unauthorised access. Any attempt to fiddle with the
operating system’s inner workings results in a stern-looking pop-up box,
demanding permission or a password before any change will be allowed.
A new and improved
email program called Windows Mail boasts a junk mail filter and anti-phishing
tool, designed to eliminate links to bogus web sites and Vista comes with
Windows Defender, a capable cleaner program, which should help to reduce the
amount of ‘malware that PC’s pick up whilst visiting dubious websites
So, the big question is should you dash out and buy a copy?
The simple answer is no, there are no killer features that might encourage the
owner of a well-behaved Windows XP computer to switch and the cost of upgrading
an older machine to a Vista capable specification could be prohibitive.
If you are in the market for a new machine or a newcomer you
may like to wait a few months, to give the early adopters, (or unpaid guinea
pigs as they are known in the trade), time to root out the bugs and glitches,
and there will be some, in spite of the extensive pre-launch testing programme.
Vista is a useful step forward and it should do well, but there’s no need to go
looking for it just yet, it will come to you soon enough if like most people
you buy a new computer every two or three years.
(c) Rick Maybury 3001 2007