Vista vs Darwin

You have to wonder what is going on at Microsoft

Over the last few months it has become clear that you readers really don't like Microsoft Vista much. I have yet to get feedback from a reader along the lines of, "All my prayers have been answered." I haven't even received a comment like "it's not that bad." If your collective response to Vista has been unenthusiastic to date then I'm guessing it is not going to be getting better any time soon.

For a start, once you get below the chrome of the top level user interface the much touted improvements to Vista haven't really moved beyond what XP had to offer. So the manner in which users were accustomed to doing things has changed radically -- hardly an evolutionary process.

These changes make everything so new and different it is tough on users trying to migrate from XP. It's like going to work one morning and finding that overnight some random streets have become one way, most have new speed limits, and all of the traffic signs are in Swahili.

For example, in Vista the audio architecture has been changed so that the volume and equalization of all endpoints (audio sources and outputs) are now independently controlled and are presented with a new user interface. This turns to be so confusing that IDT, a company that provides chip sets for high-end PC audio cards, commissioned Perceptive Sciences to research and define a better user interface for controlling the Vista audio features.

I spoke with Thomas Thornton, Senior Research Scientist with Perceptive about the company's work and he said research showed that users find the new audio interface "very confusing." Thomas contends that the Vista user interface changes are "too big a shift."

Thomas pointed out that Microsoft's drive to "improve" is far reaching and has also resulted in changes to the new version of Office; many of them not for the better. For example, the suite now resorts to the extensive use of icons which users don't understand. It would seem obvious that when users are comfortable with a user interface, making major changes to the interface metaphor is usually not a good idea. Apparently that isn't obvious to everyone.

So, the user interface is problematic, but what about the underlying architecture. Yesterday I discovered an article on DesktopLinux.com titled "Vista SP1: Still lagging behind the Linux desktop." The author, Steven Vaughan-Nichols, wrote that he'd been "working with Vista SP1 [and] I am amazed at how little improvement I see in this so-called major update."

What's really damning, however, is while Vaughan-Nichols says Vista's overall performance has improved with SP1, it screwed up his audio which is based on a standard RealTek chip set. And he isn't alone in finding issues. Just Google "vista sp1 problems" and you'll discover reports of older peripherals causing the Vista kernel to pin processor utilization permanently at 100 per cent.

Oh, and elsewhere I read that, should you "upgrade" to SP1 and then decide you'd really rather go back to a happier time, you will have to do a complete reinstall.

You have to wonder what is going on at Microsoft. What drives the design process? Why does it have this insane desire for revolutionary "improvement"? Where's Darwin when you need him?

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