Ten Observations on Windows Vista....

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I've been running Windows Vista Business Edition on two computers since December 20--one, a Dell Latitude D620 Intel Core Duo running at 2.16 ghz with 2 GB of RAM, the other a Gateway convertible laptop/tablet with Intel Core Duo 1.6 ghz and 1 Gb of RAM.

A few thoughts on Vista....

First, Vista upgrades fairly well. If you're upgrading to Vista from XP there's a realistic chance it will work just as it should afterward. This is wonderful stuff coming from Microsoft. Not since my Macintosh days have I updated an OS without reinstalling my programs at the same time.

Second, Aero Vista is pretty.

Third, hardware requirements aren't as severe as we were led to believe. I was sure my Gateway wouldn't run Aero, but it does so just fine despite not having the dedicated graphics card or RAM I had heard would be necessary.

Fourth, networking works MUCH better in Vista. Integrated network mapping is both useful and fun.

Fifth, User Account Control (UAC) is probably a good idea, but configuring it for use on a computer joined to a domain is hopeless. UAC is intended to keep kids (and others) from goofing up your computer by installing, uninstalling or otherwise messing with things they shouldn't. In principle it's a good idea. But if your computer is joined to a domain you still have to go through the control-alt-delete logon process which requires entering username/domain and password before the computer fully boots. I find it hard to remember the domain logon information for my own account--and my name and address appear on the logon page by default--let alone get my children to do remember the information for their separate accounts. If you don't join your computer to a domain you can set up individual accounts and use those pretty little picture-button logons where all you need to remember is your password to run Vista securely, but if you're on a domain you'll inevitably end up with everyone running the computer off the primary domain account because that's the only preset which appears on the logon screen.

Sixth, I've concluded that the primary reason I was looking forward to Vista--integrated disk indexing and search--is a pretty thorough bust.

Yesterday I actually surrendered and reinstalled X1 as my primary disk indexer and search engine. I haven't yet turned off Vista's indexing, but I'm close.... There remains the possibility that I'm just not grasping how to use Vista's indexer, but if so, it's the most obtuse software I've ever used.

The problems with Vista's indexing are so severe, it's almost laughable:

1) Vista doesn't include viewers for the vast majority of file formats--a failing that, frankly, boggles the mind. PDF files are unviewable, many emails (for some inexplicable reason) can't be previewed, even Office files are unviewable from within Vista search.

2) Indexing doesn't work with archived Outlook .pst files. It IS possible to configure Vista's indexing to index backup Outlook files. But unless the archived .pst files are actually loaded in your Outlook profile, individual emails in those files are incapable of being opened via Vista's search window. To view archived email messages located via Vista you must first open the archived .pst file in Outlook, then manually locate and open the specific email message. It's impossible to open archived email messages from within Vista search. The end result is a search process so unwieldy it's useless.

3) Slow. Vista searches are blazing compared with unindexed Windows searches of the past, but slow compared with dedicated search programs such as X1.

Seventh, Vista seems to offer more positives to TabletPC users than ordinary PC and laptop users. Handwriting recognition and pen input implementation are MUCH better on Vista than TabletPC 2005. It's a no-brainer to upgrade a tablet to Vista.

Eighth, new sound controls allowing customized sound levels for various programs are an improvement.

Ninth, Vista's included drivers were enough to permit me to use the basic features of all my hardware peripherals--a pleasant surprise indeed.

Tenth, if you have a Windows Mobile device and want to sync with Vista you're fat out of luck. Microsoft shipped Vista without the capability to sync with Windows Mobile devices. Boggles the mind, I know, but there it is.... And ActiveSync doesn't work with Vista. Vista was meant to include a new "Windows Mobile Device Center" for syncing with mobile devices, but they didn't get it done in time. A beta version of the "Mobile Device Center" is available for download at Microsoft, but it's buggy and hard to find.

Is it worth it? At the non-profit licensing upgrade price, probably. For Tablet PCs, probably. But overall at retail? Probably not unless you're getting it already installed on a new computer.