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Windows Vista - King Crimson or Red Giant?

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This month there’s no avoiding the launch of Windows Vista. Yet the fact of the matter is that I have no intention of switching from Windows XP to Vista any time soon.

You’d be expecting a lot of someone as conservative as me to perform a Vista ‘upgrade’ on my XP PC, when it’s behaving itself so beautifully well at present.

The only way I’d install Vista is from scratch, and that would mean I’d have to build a new PC and that’s expensive. £349 for a full version of Vista Ultimate Edition is beyond a joke but £129 for the OEM version sounds plausible, although I’d be more likely to sink £75 on an OEM version of Vista Home Premium or £95 on the OEM Business version.

Let’s fast forward a few months and assume that the PR people have done the decent thing and I have a Vista DVD in my hand. There’s no doubt that I’d install the software on a new test rig, if only so I could give DirectX 10 games a proper workout but would I make the big move and use Vista on my workstation? I’m really not sure.

The problem is that I’m sitting here at the start of 2007 and I’m perfectly happy with Windows XP. Perhaps happy isn’t the correct word, but I’m certainly content. XP allows me to watch movies, connect to the Internet, send emails, make a living and listen to music so what’s not to like?

Turn the question round and ask me what I’d do to improve XP and the list would be short, cautious and somewhat pathetic. Henry Ford had it about right when he said “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse,” so while I can spot flaws in existing features I’m not at all sure that I can predict what new features I would like to see.

I clapped my hands in glee when Microsoft added a digital camera wizard to Windows XP as it did away with the need to install USB camera drivers but these days I plug the camera’s card into a card reader and use Windows Explorer so I haven’t seen the wizard in action for at least two years.

Similarly I applauded when Microsoft came up with Windows Defender but I use Zone Alarm and it does a fine job so the fact that the new, revised Firewall in Vista monitors both incoming and outbound traffic fails to float my boat. Microsoft’s new search tool is very good but I’ve been happy with Google Desktop and would need some persuasion to change my ways.

No-one, with the possible exception of hackers and crackers, can object to enhanced security but to date I’ve found the User Account Control feature vexing in the extreme. Anytime you want to install or run anything you have to assure Vista that you’re serious. No, really, I mean it. Just run the damn software. On the other hand if UAC prevents PCs from being hijacked as zombies then it must be a step forward in which case I’ll swallow the annoyance as a price worth paying.

Microsoft would have been lambasted if it hadn’t made Vista look radically different to XP so the Aero interface and Robert Fripp start-up music were both inevitable and unnecessary, yet they are to my eye, ahem, mere fripperies.

While we’re being dismissive, is anyone truly excited by Internet Explorer 7, Windows Media Player 11 or the name change from Outlook Express to Windows Mail? And what do you think about the fact that DirectX 10 won’t be made available for Windows XP in a determined bid to force gamers to switch to Vista?

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