Monday, November 27, 2006

Vista: An Enigma Wrapped In a Paradox

Ok. I've been running vista on one machine or another for a while.. since early beta.. and am now running the release version on my main machine. There are quite a few headscratchers in here. I often tell my colleagues I'm like the little kid from the 6th sense.. except instead of dead people I see bugs. Things that annoy the crap out of me that have been there at least one maybe two versions of windows ago.

In the past days of clicking through endless options and dialogs to configure things such as encryption certificates, etc I often wondered if this was really better than editing a single line in an easy-to-find text file.

Start menu? Hardly ever used the damn thing. Shortcut keys with and I put the quicklaunch bar off to one side with the 40 or so frequently used programs I use.

Vista doesn't support dragging the quicklaunch bar off of the stat menu and off to one side because it was "confusing to end users." No one seems to have found a registry override as yet.

Vista doesn't handle symlinks properly. It used to be "c:\documents and settings" but now in vista it is c:\users. I see a clever little "C:\documents and settings" shortcut on my C drive. OOOOoo is this a symlink? No? I get Access Denied when trying to double-click. Opening the path via an API however works fine. Go figure.

BUGS. Features? Half-Features? Call them what you want. I think most technical folks that have to work on this know these problems exist but architecturally or bureaucratically they are hard or impossible to fix.

Often on XP, 2000, NT and 95 I would hit control-esc then R for run and type frequently used programs into run. I would say this is just an odd quirk about me and how I think menus take too long and too much work to do something, but now the run area has been replaced with a little place you type in stuff and through the magic of windows desktop search it finds whatever you type in the area above that normally occupied by program icons. The bug? You have to let it search. No matter what. Yeah, WTF? This works great on a home PC where you maybe have maybe 10,000 files. Network drives? Oh no. You can't just type n:\ then hit enter. You have to physically wait a sec for it to pull up n:\ in the list of programs above the start menu THEN hit enter. WOW, WHAT A GREAT FEATURE. No more control-esc n:\ enter for me. It is nowctrl+esc n:\ wait..wait..wait.. enter. Otherwise I get some random program like Notepad. Or Flash. Or Firefox.

On the one hand I can see how the start menu splaying itself all over your screen as you "drill down" to whatever the hell obscure program you need might be unappealing. On the other hand confining the entirety of all programs available to you to a 400x600 pixel window doesn't seem like a good fix.

This is just the start menu. Don't even get me started on the new file explorer, which is the least half-baked area of Vista in my opinion. Does Slashdot have an option for submitting a rant and getting comments? I'm sure I could go on all day.

I take all this as evidence that a lot of new features in vista are based on good ideas.. new paradigms in UI design.. it just seems that the vast majority are implemented poorly at best and implemented recklessly at worst. I would not expect this in 2006 when others are able to produce such polished and solid OSs. I would have to agree this seems like code-rot from the inside out probably due to the megalithic internal structure at MS

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