Reviewing CNet’s Review of Vista

A few notes as I read CNet’s review of Vista:

Rather than upgrade, we recommend you perform a clean installation. With a clean installation, you keep all your current on the Windows XP drive and install only the data and applications you want to run on Windows Vista. A clean install can be accomplished by buying a new PC with Windows Vista already installed, partitioning an existing Windows XP machine to dual-boot into Windows Vista, or adding a new hard drive to an existing Windows XP machine.

This paragraph is more confusing than it is helpful and full of things that are so close to wrong that they may as well be lies. There have been many reports showing how a Vista upgrade actually gives your system that fresh system feeling as well as finally being a very viable option. A clean install can be accomplished in a lot more ways than they list plus they give just enough information to be dangerous such as adding a new hard drive to an existing machine. If you actually need to read that information on how to do a clean install you’ll probably think adding a new drive is as easy as attaching an external USB drive, which won’t work since it’ll never be hit by the boot manager.

Frankly, we think it is better for you to look beyond the Windows ecosystem for e-mail, Internet browsers, and security applications.

I use IE7 and Firefox 2 both, all day, and there is nothing besides personal preference to recommend either of them for the average consumer. As far as security applications I’d say there is no better place to look for one than Microsoft’s own OneCare. It’s far more stable, helpful, and easier to use than any of the many security products I used before OneCare.

We downloaded and installed Firefox 2, made Firefox our default browser, and quickly set up a few RSS feed subscriptions. Guess what? The Windows Vista Gadget was unresponsive to our efforts, displaying only the default MSN feeds from Microsoft.

That really shouldn’t have been suprising. Firefox uses a different feed store than IE7 does. In fact, EVERY feed reading application uses it’s own feed store, with a few newer products offering integration with Microsoft’s feed list mechanism. Perhaps CNet is going for a “hey, we’re just a normal user” approach but they are supposed to be experts and know these types of things to help guide others.

Oddly enough, this is the point when they should suggest looking to third-party applications. Browsers offer very limited functionality when it comes to feed reading, a much better approach would be to pick up a copy of the excellent FeedDemon.

The downside is that older files (say you upgraded your system from Windows XP or imported data from an earlier version of Windows) will have to be retroactively metataged in order to be searched. Also different is the file path displayed within Windows Explorer. Gone are the backslashes, replaced with arrows that offer drop-down menus of alternative folders. We liked this efficient feature.

Whew, that is a mouthful of half-truths and plan wrong facts.

First, you do not want your OS automatically retroactively tagging anything for you. That is the whole point of tagging, which obviously the reviewer doesn’t get. Tagging is personal, so while you just may be doing a report on “mountains” you do not want the OS tagging everything that has “mountain” in it for you automatically, especially for people that live in Colorado, meaning half my documents would end up being auto-tagged with mountain. So, “mountain” may be a good tag but you’d want more, such as “report”, “Ecology 101″. I can’t fault the reviewer too much as they obviously don’t “get” tags.

Second, you can still search documents that haven’t been tagged. This is an amazingly bad bit of journalism as it makes it seem as if you can’t search at all. You can search just fine, and in fact much easier, for everything with the word “mountain” in it and then you can tag it if you so desire.

Third, the backslashes aren’t completely gone. Just click up in the address bar area and all those nifty drop-downs turn right back into those trusty backslashes, so you have the best of the new AND the old.

And we disagree with Microsoft’s seemingly arbitrary division of features within individual editions.

I completely agree with this one, there are too many Vista SKUs. And, as a bitchy side note, isn’t starting a sentence with “And” one of those things that are considered a rather big English no-no?

Though video playback and, yes, even the tiny icons on Windows Vista are now crisp and colorful with Aero, unless you watch YouTube videos all day, you won’t really need Aero, nor will you miss the tiny preview windows enabled on your desktop display.

Holy crap Batman! They are somehow equating Aero with watching YouTube. I burst out laughing at this little comment, though I couldn’t decide if I should just stop reading because obviously the reviewer has no familiarity with Vista or if I should be scared that this is what people are coming away with about Aero.

About those tiny preview windows that Aero enables; at first I would have agreed with the reviewer but after using Vista for about 2 weeks I discovered that I really liked them and that I actually used them quite a bit. One of the great things is that they are updated in real time, so as you hover over it you can see things like progress bars updating, which I use all the time to check on downloads, copy operations and web page loads. It’s a very subtle feature and it’s no surprise that in the cursory review Vista was given it was written off so quickly.

While UAC notifies you of pending system changes, it doesn’t require a password. The Mac operating system does something similar but requires a password-that’s security.

Yeahhhh, what a way to sum up security review, with “That’s Security!” First, you ARE required to enter a password if you’re not logged in as an admin and second, you can EASILY enable Vista to require a password, same as your beloved little OS X. In fact, it was there until usability studies found that people turned it off or made the password so easy that it was worthless. Don’t take my word for it, read up on what Jim Allchin says about it.

…(there are separate Explorers within Windows Vista, one each for documents, photos, and music)…

Really?! Wow, a whole new feature that CNet just magically created, all with the simple power of words! There is only one Explorer in Windows people, though there are three separate folders for documents, photos and music.

…you still need to drill down one level to even access Search.

Hey, monkey boy, press the Windows key. Press key, search appears. No drilling, no muss, no fuss, one single, simple little key.

My favorite bit though, the crown jewel are these two statements, read together:

Compared with Mac OS X 10.4, Windows Vista feels clunky and not very intuitive, almost as though it’s still based on DOS…

…And there are far too many dependencies on Microsoft products; this is not a very objective operating system,…

I am Shawn Oster’s Unblinking Eyes of Incredulousness. Anyone in the tech industry should be busting a gut about now (or crying). They have just PRAISED and put on high the Apple design principle which is “walled garden“, with Apple giving VERY grudging access to any of its bits. Apple is the LEAST OBJECTIVE operating system of the big three and yet somehow Vista gets marked off for having dependencies? Apple’s whole model is one huge dependency on the iEcosystem.

All in all I give the review a 4.5. I give them points for effort but their few good points are obscured by obvious inaccuracies, bias and the fact that they spent almost no time with the system. Normally I’d give them as high as a 6 but considering that their review may actually influence people they should have spent a lot more time with the OS as well as running the entire article by a fact-checker.