Windows Vista: First Thoughts

I just bought a new Dell Inspiron 6400 laptop that came with Windows Vista Business pre-installed. Setting up my user account and registering was easy, and so far most things have run smoothly.

The most noticeable change over previous versions of Windows is the improved graphical user interface, called Windows Aero (note that Windows Aero is not available in Vista Basic, the lower end version of Vista). This gives windows translucent borders, provides taskbar thumbnails of open applications, and improves the smoothness of windows as they are moved and resized. Windows Aero also includes a feature called Flip 3D, which allows you to view all open windows in a 3D, stacked view, with the ability to "flip" through each preview. In general, Vista looks very slick indeed.

The user and access control system has been further refined. When setting up my user account "Jono", I was automatically given a user folder under C:\Users, which contains my documents. As administrator, I can run any program and perform any action, and control what other users have access to. When programs need to perform certain tasks, they ask for my permission first - something I never saw in Windows XP. The access control system is pervasive and instills trust in the security of Windows Vista, though some users might find it annoying having to confirm so many actions. For example, when I start certain administrator programs, Windows asks me if I want to continue, prompting me to do so if I initiated the action - which I did. So far, however, my patience is holding.

The start menu has been reworked, though I'm not sure that it's an improvement on the Windows XP version. In particular I'm not fond of how the All Programs menu works - it displays a single list of programs and program groups, where clicking on a program group opens an indented new section of the list below its group, somewhat like Windows Explorer's left-hand pane. In XP, the groups open a submenu. However, this is probably something that can be configured.

Windows Vista Business does not come with any of the usual Windows games pre-installed, but you can install them directly from Vista without having to insert the DVD-ROM. Of the few games available (some are new and others, such as Pinball, are missing), my favourite is Chess Titans, which includes some nice 3D views of the chess board and pieces.

There are a few Windows Vista hiccups to be aware of. Windows Media Player skips towards the end of each audio track I play. Also, in both Windows Media Player and Winamp, the AVI videos I've opened have only had the audio play back. And of course, installing programs that were not created with Vista in mind can be tricky, though most I've tried have worked fine.

Here is a list of the applications I have used on Windows Vista with no or few problems:

  • Mozilla Firefox (web browser)
  • FileZilla (FTP client)
  • PuTTY (SSH client)
  • Java Software Development Kit & JRE 1.6
  • Ant (used sparingly to build one Java project)
  • PHP Designer 2007
  • TextPad 5
  • Winamp (media player)
  • gVim
  • LimeWire (file sharing program; had to uninstall McAfee though)
  • Cakewalk Home Studio 2004 (sequencer; running as administrator)
  • Skype (internet telephony)
  • The GIMP (The Gnu Image Manipulation Program)

Windows Vista versions:
Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate FULL VERSION [DVD]
Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium FULL VERSION [DVD]
Microsoft Windows Vista Business FULL VERSION [DVD]
Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic FULL VERSION [DVD]