Friday, February 23, 2007

Running with Vista - Day 1

I got my new 160GB hard drive Thursday at 5pm. I then proceeded to install Vista on it. I underestimated the time this would take, resulting in a very long night for me, especially since I had to prepare a presentation for the next day (Friday). Here are some highlights of Vista, day 1.

User Account Control (UAC) actually helped me - once.
UAC is this annoying new "feature" of Vista that supposedly helps you by asking if you're sure you really mean to do anything. I though I would be disabling this feature as soon as possible, but it actually managed to help me out. I had just hooked up one of my external hard drives and I kept getting a UAC dialog pop up asking for my permission to have "desktop.exe" run. I was a little suspicious so I chose no and then opened a command prompt to do a directory listing to show system files on the drive in question. Lo and behold there were 3 malicious looking exe files and 1 autorun.inf file, all hidden. Not wanting to risk infecting my brand new Vista install, I swapped hard drives, booted into XP safe mode and removed the malicious files.

Program Compatibility
There's been a lot of talk about compatibility issues with Vista. So far I've only had time to install my most essential programs. Here are the results:

Firefox - Installed fine. Download speed was really slow (around 20kB/s) for a while (not caused by an internet problem because IE speeds were fine), but it seems to be fixed now.
- No problems.
Java 6 - No problems.
Eclipse - No problems, loaded my old workspace just fine.
IZArc - Installed fine. File associations didn't work. The explorer context menu didn't get added either. This decreases its usefulness a lot, since I only use it from the context menu.
IrfanView - Would not install at first. Then I tried running the installer as administrator and it worked fine.

Adobe Reader 8 - No problems. This is much better than version 7 by the way. Adobe removed all the annoying stuff and made the interface a lot cleaner.
CCCP - No problems.
Media Player Classic - No problems, installed with CCCP. I mainly used Zoomplayer before, but now I've switched to Media Player Classic because it integrates better with Aero. Note: to prevent videos from switching you out of Aero, you have to use a different renderer that the default.
Zoomplayer - Installed fine, but it didn't really go well with the Aero interface so I'm not using it.
foobar2000 - I got this as a replacement for Winamp after I realized it was getting bloated and would not work with Aero. Note: you have to run it as administrator or else your settings or playlist changes will not save.
Winamp - Installed fine, but I decided I wanted something else (foobar2000) after I saw how bloated the newest version had become. It also didn't look good with Aero.
ZoneAlarm - Would not install. I'm stuck using the Windows Firewall for now.

The new Aero interface looks pretty amazing. I love how the windows kind of "pop in" when they start and "pop out" when you close them. I could open and close windows all day in Vista. There are some parts of the UI that could use more polish though. I switched from the default blue color scheme to a black one, but there's still this thin light blue highlight around the active window. I don't know if this is a bug, or if they intensionally designed their color scheme like this. Either way, it's starting to annoy me.

3D Window Switching
This feature stacks your windows in 3D like a deck of cards and allows you to flip though them. I think it's pretty useless. I would much rather have something that lays out all the windows so you can actually see them all like Expose in OS X. At least they made regular ALT-TAB look a whole lot better, it nows shows you a live updated thumbnail of each window.

Start Menu Search
Microsoft doesn't want you using the old start menu anymore. This is great for me because I stopped using the start menu in favor of Colibri (it's like Quicksilver for Windows) long ago. The new start menu search acts just like Colibri, or Quicksilver for you Mac guys. This is so much easier than the old way of starting programs. Rather than looking through a long unorganized list of programs, all you have to do now is type the first few letters of the program and hit enter. Microsoft could make the search a little more powerful though. For example, with Colibri I could type C-M-D, and it would match "Command Prompt". This doesn't work in Vista, you can't skip any letters.

Office 2007
Although this is not really a part of Vista, it sure is a nice upgrade. The new ribbon interface is amazing. It actually makes making PowerPoint presentations and Excel charts fun. There's this new feature called SmartArt that takes a list of text and automatically converts it into all sorts of cool looking graphics, really useful for presentations. I spent a few hours working on a PowerPoint presentation last night and it looks a lot nicer than anything I made with Office 2003. Even the default font (Calibri) looks awesome.

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