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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Why Not Vista?

So, I've made a couple of comments about never wanting to own Vista. You might ask why, so I'll give you my (possibly skewed) reasons why:

1. It's a system hog.

Now honestly, does the operating system, the thing that has the SOLE responsibility of helping me interact with my hardware, really have to require such an awesome computer. Check out these system reqs:


  • 800 MHz processor and 512 MB of system memory
  • 20 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space
  • Support for Super VGA graphics
  • CD-ROM drive
I bet anyone that has Vista would tell me that Vista Home Basic with no features would likely load on this configuration, but probably wouldn't run worth beans. Any why would I want to spend a minimum of $100.00 just to dumb down my computer? More on cost later (point #2).

Now, what if I wanted to have all of the fancy features? Well, that requires this kind of system (recommended really should mean minimum):
  • 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 GB of system memory
  • 40 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space
  • Support for DirectX 9 graphics with:
    • WDDM Driver
    • 128 MB of graphics memory (minimum)
    • Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware
    • 32 bits per pixel
  • DVD-ROM drive
  • Audio Output
  • Internet access (fees may apply)
I barely meet these specs, if at all. Classic complaint and question heard around the world: why should I have to buy a new computer just to run a new operating system. Key point: JUST the operating system. This doesn't say anything about running addition apps.

2. It costs too much.

Ordinarily I wouldn't mind spending money on software. However, like most consumers, I want the most for my money. Well, for $100.00 I can get an upgrade for my XP Professional to get Vista Home Basic. That's right, I can pay $100.00 to dumb down my system's OS. Okay, what if I wanted all of the fancy features? Well, then I'll shell out $260.00 for the upgrage. These upgrades version are available for download from the Windows marketplace.

Now, I can get a "new" operating system that works with as much of my hardware as Vista does (maybe more), looks better than XP, is safer than XP, and costs me nothing but a CD to burn it on. What's the magic solution? Linux.

For me, it's a toss up between Ubuntu and Freespire. I love free software, but I'm not a purist. If a company wants to include closed source or proprietary stuff into a Linux distro and give it away, I'm all for it.

First, I like how Ubuntu looks, feels and works. It just works OOB (Out Of the Box). And there's Easy Ubuntu to enhance it further. And they'll even send me a CD free (if I don't want to download it myself). Microsoft had this focus when they released XP; they touted the MSOOB: "MicroSoft Out Of the Box XPerience". Sure, XP had growing pains, but so does any software - Vista included. But Ubuntu has picked up where Microsoft left off.

Freespire is an option for me above the other popular distros becuase it includes the proprietary stuff that Ubuntu doesn't: mp3 codecs, ATI/Nvidia drivers, Java, Quicktime, etc. And now that Freespire is using the Ubuntu core, that's all the more reason to consider them. However, their interface is still klunky and busy (it's a modified KDE), so I'm hesitant to jump in just based on looks alone.

Now, why not OpenSuSE? I worked at Novell for a short time and I'm familiar with SuSE. I have no major qualms with it, other than the multi-disk forever long install. And for all of your trouble, you still don't get the proprietary stuff. Oh well.

So from a cost perspective, Vista gets beaten down by the free competition.

3. Activation, DRM, etc.

I don't agree with pirating music, software, etc. However, I disagree with the implementation that Microsoft has chosen to enforce it. Well, better said I dislike the problems associated with their implementation. Vista's seemingly randomly deactivating themselves, DRM licenses that one day magically don't work (I've lost a lot of WMAs purchased at because of license issues), etc., etc.

I like Ubuntu and Freespire's activation procedure: none. Just download, burn and install. Enjoy your free OS that just works.

4. Compatibility is subpar.

Okay, I made this argument when XP came out. There weren't drivers for this and that, some of the software that I like didn't work, etc. But developers finally caught up and now XP is compatible with all sorts of stuff - now that it's been 6 years since XP became available to developers. Why would I want to lose my compatibility and application choice just to have the new OS? I can do that by switching to Linux - it's an even trade at this point. In the future, maybe not so much.

So there ya have it. Those are the reasons why I don't upgrade. Maybe it works for you, maybe you regret upgrading. For your own reasons, love or hate Vista, I will never own it. When XP's support ends (in something like 2014), I'll be happy to move to Linux. Maybe even before then. I stick to Windows for now because of my reliance on my familiarity with Windows (been using M$ products since the DOS days) and the abundance of software available to Windows.

But change is coming...


lunchbox said...

I agree totally. I ran windows 2000 until XP hit SP2.. just for stability reasons.. i think vista will be be same way.. you should become an MSDN member and beta test so you can get the final version for free.

Anonymous said...

What you fail to realise is really WHY people buy Vista as you are obviously not one of its main intended user-groups.

Games, games and once again - games. The people interested in computer gaming doesn't have a 8 year old computer system trying to run new software, they have at the very most a 2-3 year old system that can laugh at the recommended system requirements for Vista, while running games that require at the very least 3 times as much computer power as the operation system does.

I know you most likely won't grasp why Vista is such a huge deal for these people, or why Linux just isn't an option for gaming but its the hard truth.

Dave said...

Thanks for your comments, but I have to disagree. First off, most people don't buy Vista - it comes OEM with their shiny new computer. That's bloating Microsoft's sales numbers. Now, there will always be an "Early adopters" market for shiny new technology. In the case of Vista, they will also have/want a high-end system; that follows their SOP.

Now, it makes sense that games take more processing power than the OS. Your OS is ONLY an interface between the hardware and software. It shouldn't require a lot of processing power (Linux sure doesn't). What we have is a downward spiral between an OS and its applications. The reason why Vista is such a hog is for all of the bloat and fluff that Microsoft put into it so that it can meet all needs for everyone. In terms of games, that's DirectX 10. It is so chock full of cream filling that it requires a beefy computer to run. To add to that, high-end games now include extremely complex computational features, most requiring highly advanced real-time math and physics at many operations per second. So, that in turn taxes the OS, which in turn requires more hardware. See the cycle?

Now, I've been a gamer for years. I've moved on in my "old age" to more productive activities, but I gamed through the 9x/2K/XP revolution. My computer isn't an 8-year old, or even a 2-year old. I built it last year with mid-range parts. The shocking part is that my computer barely meets the requirements just for the OS. I still find it absurd that an OS requires so much processing power just to run.

Now, Linux isn't a "real" alternative for gaming, but that's because of the market standard created by Microsoft and accepted by the gaming industry. Some games (Half-life and other Valve games) supported open standards like OpenGL and DirectX. However, the problem is that since DirectX does not even have the same interface as OpenGL, making just the graphics cross-platform requires a complete rewrite of the UI code. That is a huge issue because you'd be asking a game developer to make their game 1 and 3/4 times (because making any game cross-platform is non-trivial). For primarily these reasons, you're right: Linux is not a gaming option.

But let's remember why Microsoft made Windows. It wasn't for gamers - that market didn't exist yet. If they intended market Windows to gamers, they wouldn't have bothered with the XBox. The fact is, Windows was and is designed and marketed for business use, and Vista is no different. The business market is most certainly more profitable because there are more business users than gamers, at least who run a legitimate, licensed OS.

That's why you see the need for bigger, badder hardware - because the simplicity of the OS and its refinement towards gaming just simply does not exist. Microsoft would do well to make a Windows Gaming Edition, in which they could strip out a lot of the fluff and optimize it for gaming. That would certainly reduce (or at least better take advantage of) the superior gaming hardware now available.

Drew said...

Honestly he system requirements, even when it came out, were not that bad at all. Any computer made since 2001 has over a 1ghz processor in it, and memory for newer (less than 5 years old) computers are supremely cheap, you can get 2gb for less than 85$ online. As far as the video card goes, a 50$ purchase would meet that requirement just so you could look at the prettiness of vista.

honestly, yes, if your computer is older, and you dont feel like spending any money to make it a little better, with a newer operating system, dont. XP's support is extended till god knows when because it has been a great stable OS for years, and will continue to meet the needs of businesses and most home users for quite a while.

Vista, even with its annoyances like the UAC (cancel/allow) is a pretty stable operating system. They published numbers on the reason for Vista crashes just this past month, since its release, and the problem is with manufacturers drivers for the OS! 30% of all the crashes were caused by Nvidia drivers for example.

Dave said...


It's true that it would unfair to completely compare the hardware req's of an operating system today with the available hardware of 7 years ago. They're like night and day. But, just like when XP came out, it seems like quite a jump just to run an OS. I remember whining, "256 MB or RAM, just to run XP?!" So, the point is, Microsoft has clearly added a bunch of bloat the OS (tradition since Windows 2000 and ME), most of it eye candy (and I'm a fan of good eye candy). But, I'd rather have a good looking, sleek OS running candy-fied apps; though I might be in the minority.

I do plan to stay on XP for a while yet, but not necessarily because I want to. I'd rather be on Linux, for a variety of reasons - primarily because I'm a geek and an engineer :) I suspect that within the next two years, Linux distros will have made sufficient advances (as distros such as Ubuntu have in the past two years) to make them more appealing and compatible with how the masses now do business on Windows. But for now, I'm happy on XP. It's not like anyone's holding a gun to my head making me upgrade to Vista, right?

As far as compatibility, Linux and Vista are even in my mind. Some XP apps won't run on Vista, just like almost all Windows apps won't run on Linux (though there are adequate alternatives). I remember how OEM drivers were a huge headache for every XP user out there. But, the OS was still stable (mostly because it was built on the NT kernel, not the 9x). So it is with Vista, and so it will be with the next Windows that'll come out as early as next year (according to rumors). In the end, XP is clearly more stable because it's been around for 7 years. Any mainstream OS would expect to improve over that much time with 85% market share.

So, it all comes down to how you look at it. I'm a Vista foot-dragger because I'm a cheap geek. But, I'm the only geek in my house, so I have to be considerate and make some Microsoft compromises ;)

I appreciate your comments!