Inspired by Microsoft's really (really!) poor marketing campaign called the 'It's not that the product's bad, you're all just stupid' project, I thought I'd have my own go at a scientific view of how good Vista is or isn't.
This, by the way, was really prompted by the fact that I had a dead computer and the chance to buy a new one. So rather than building the thing myself - I grew to hate internal USB connection last time I made a PC - I went to PC World and picked up a bog standard, but rather large, laptop which featured Windows Vista Home Premium.
Step 1: The Hoodwinking
So the first thing I had to do was convince myself that I wasn't looking at Vista, cos, you know some bad people said some bad stuff about it, but was really seeing a new prototype called Mo-Dave. This was easier than I'd imagined because the software actually loaded - that couldn't be Vista (boom boom).
Step 2: The tests
The first thing I did was boot up the Firefox Installation Kit (IE7) which didn't like Firefox at all and took three goes before it installed, but eventually worked.
I then downloaded OpenOffice.org 3 to check out the legendarily slow office suite. It was very fast. No problems so far.
Tried Radio Paradise. Fine although Windows Media Player didn't like the .wmv stream or the .mp3 stream so I downloaded iTunes and that was good.
Then I installed Ubuntu using Vista's own partition software (this is covered in First Steps soon) which was surprisingly good.
Visually, I quite liked Vista to start with, but after a few hours of playing I'm starting to think that some parts are not that well thought out. For example, the transparency+blur effect on the title bars actually obscures what's underneath too much to be useful but not enough to make the titlebar text suitably readable.
Step 3: The reveal
So, I've played with it and the verdict: it's alright. Once I'd revealed to myself it was Vista and not Mo-Dave well, I felt pretty stupid.
Really, after a year or so of testing and the fixed kit list that a laptop provides, there's no excuse for this not being stable and usable. I've had two random stops so far (in two days), just complete and unclean shutdowns, one of which was during the installation of Adobe CS3 which was really annoying. The User Access Control is a pain for two reasons. Firstly it's just slightly too invasive; Firefox already asks if I want to download the file I'm trying to download. A second question from Windows is redundant. Secondly, it doesn't learn, so I find myself having to authorise the same small thing (opening up a system directory) over and over again. In Ubuntu I'm asked to input a password when doing something critical which is more invasive but, oddly, makes me feel my efforts are worthwhile.
The real revelation was Ubuntu Hardy Heron on a Dell. I had read up before purchasing and was a bit concerned that the wireless, the webcam or sound would play up, but in fact it's all been incredibly smooth. I wasn't concerned about the wireless because the machine is going to be tethered, but after a few minutes of playing, the system informed me that a driver was available for the Broadcom chip and it now works seamlessly.
The webcam works well with Ekiga and Cheese, sound is great and Compiz is absolutely stunning working in tandem with the proprietary Nvidia drivers.
We - as a userbase- should be doing more to show OpenOffice.org, free software and Compiz to the masses, I think. One look at the rotating cube with floating windows and image caps had office colleagues slack jawed with amazement, especially once they'd heard the price of the software.