What’s wrong with Vista / Windows?
This post comes from a variety of issues that I’ve had with Vista (specifically Vista 64 Home Premium). And, chances are, these problems will not be resolved in Windows 7. Yet, here they are in all their glory.
Vista has huge and horrible memory leaks. After using Vista for a period of time (a week or two without a reboot) and using a variety of memory intensive 3D applications (Daz Studio, Carrara, The Gimp and Poser.. just to name a few), the system’s memory usage goes from 1.69GB to nearly 3GB in usage. To answer the burning question… yes, I have killed all apps completely and I am comparing empty system to empty system. Worse, there is no way to recover this memory short of rebooting. If you had ever wondered why you need to reboot Windows so often, this is the exact reason. For this reason alone, this is why Windows is not considered ‘stable’ by any stretch and why UNIX outperforms Windows for this reason alone.
Startup and Shutdown
Microsoft plays games with both of these procedures.
On Startup, Microsoft’s engineers have tricked you into thinking the system is functional even when it isn’t. Basically, once the desktop appears, you think you can begin working. In reality, even once the desktop appears, you still cannot work. The system is still in the process of starting up the Windowing interface on top of about 100 background services (on many of which the windowing interface relies). This trick makes Windows appear snappier to start up than it really is. In fact, I would prefer it to just ready the system fully, then present the Windowing interface when everything is 100% complete. I don’t want these tricks. When I see the windowing interface, I want to know I can begin using it immediately… not before.
On Shutdown, we have other issues. With Vista, Microsoft Engineers have done something to this process to make it, at times, ridiculously slow. I have seen 8-15 minute ‘Shutting Down’ screens where the hard drive grinds the entire time. I’m sorry, but shutdown time is not housekeeping time. That needs to be done when the system is running. It should not be done during shutdown procedures. A shutdown should take no more than about 1-2 minutes to complete flushing buffers to disk and killing all processes. If it can’t be done in 1-2 minutes, shut the system down anyway as there is nothing that can be done to finish those tasks anyway.
Microsoft was supposed to eliminate the need to shutdown/reboot for most Windows updates. For some updates, this is true. For the majority of Windows updates, this is still not true. In fact, Microsoft has, once again, made this process multistep and tediously slow in the process. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that they are now at least verbose in, sort of, what’s going on.. but that doesn’t negate the fact that it’s horribly slow. The steps now are as follows:
- Windows installation process (downloading and installation through the Windows dialog box). You think it’s over when you..
- Restart the system and it goes through finishing Step 2 of this process during shutdown… and then you think it’s over again when
- The system starts back up and goes through Step 3 of the update process.
Ok, I’m at a loss. With Windows XP, we had two steps. Those first during Windows updater and the second when the system starts back up. Now with Vista, we have to introduce another step?
For whatever reason, Windows Explorer in Vista is horribly broken. In Window XP, you used to be able to configure your Windows how you liked then lock it in with Tools->Folder Options and then View->Apply to Folders. This would lock in exactly how every window should appear (list or icon format, size of icons, etc). With Windows Vista, this is completely and utterly broken. Basically, this functionality simply no longer works. I’ve tried many many times to lock in a format and Windows just randomly changes the folders back to whatever it feels like doing.
For example, I like my windows to look like this:
Unfortunately, Windows has its own agenda. If I open a file requester (the standard Vista requester… the one that looks like the above) and I change the view to ANY other style than the one above, this change randomly changes other folder views on the system permanently. So, I might open the above folder and it will later look like any of these:
All of which is highly frustrating. So, I’ll visit this folder later and see the entire headers have changed, or it’s changed to icon format or some other random format. Worse, though, is that I’ve specifically changed to the folder to be my favorite format with Tools->Options. In fact, I’ve gone through this permanent change at least 3-4 times after random changes have happened and inevitably it changes to some other format later. Again, highly frustrating.
Access Denied / Enhanced Security
For whatever reason, Microsoft has made shortcuts to certain folders. Like for example, in your profile directory they have renamed ‘My Documents’ to simply ‘Documents’. Yet, for whatever reason, Microsoft has created shortcuts that don’t work. For example, if I click on ‘My Documents’ shortcut, I see ‘Access Denied’. I don’t get why they would create a shortcut and then prevent it from working.
The only thing the enhanced security has done for Windows users is make it more of a problem to work. Security goes both ways. It helps protect you from malicious intent, but it can also get in the way of usability. Security that ultimately gets in the way, like UAC, has failed to provide adequate security. In fact, it has gone too far. UAC is a complete and utter failure. Combining this with making nearly every security issue tied to the SYSTEM user (with practically zero privileges), makes for stupid and exasperating usability.
To date, Windows still relies heavily and ONLY on NTFS. Linux has about 5-6 different filesystems to choose from (Reiser, VxFS, XFS, Ext2, Ext3, JFS, BSD and several others). This allows systems administrators to build an operating system that functions for the application need. For example, some filesystems perform better for database use than others. On Windows, you’re stuck with NTFS. Not only is NTFS non-standard and proprietary (written by Veritas), it also doesn’t perform as well as it should under all conditions. For database use, this filesystem is only barely acceptable. It has hidden limits that Microsoft doesn’t publish that will ultimately bite you. Microsoft wants this to become a pre-eminent datacenter system, but that’s a laugh. You can’t trust NTFS enough for that. There are way too many hidden problems in NTFS. For example, if you hit a random limit, it can easily and swiftly corrupt NTFS’ MFT table (directory table). Once the MFT table is corrupt, there’s no easy way to repair it other than CHKDSK. Note that CHKDSK is the ONLY tool that can truly and completely fix NTFS issues. And, even CHKDSK doesn’t always work. Yes, there are third party tools from Veritas and other companies, but these aren’t necessarily any better than CHKDSK. Basically, if CHKDSK can’t fix your volume, you have to format and restore.
Note, however, that this isn’t a general Vista issue. This problem has persisted back to the introduction of NTFS in Windows NT. But, Microsoft has made no strides to allow or offer better more complete filesystems with better repair tools. For example, Reiser and EXT3 both offer more complete repair tools than NTFS ever has.
The registry has got to be one of the most extensive hacks ever placed into any operating system. This kludge of a database system is so completely botched from a design perspective, that there’s really nothing to say. Basically, this system needs to be tossed and redesigned. In fact, Microsoft has a real database system in MSSQL. There is no reason why the registry is not based on MSSQL rather than that stupid hack of a thing call a hive/SAM. Whomever decided on this design, well.. let’s just hope they no longer work at Microsoft.
For the above reasons (and others), Microsoft has completely failed with Windows Vista. This failure was already in the making, though, when Longhorn was announced ages ago. In fact, Microsoft had planned even more draconian measures to enable heavy DRM on Windows. Thankfully, that was removed from Vista. But, what remains makes Vista so encumbered and exasperating to use, it’s no wonder users are frustrated using Vista. Combining that with its incredibly large footprint (1.6GB of memory just to boot the OS), and you have a complete loser of an OS.
Windows 7 is a glimmer of hope, but it is still heavily tied to Vista. If UAC and these stupid SYSTEM user security measures remain, then nothing will really change. Microsoft needs to take Windows back to the drawing board and decide what is necessary and what isn’t. Preventing the user from actually using the operating system is not and should not be a core value, let alone part of security. Yet, here we are.
Microsoft, you need to take a look at the bigger picture. This is your final chance to get Windows right. There are plenty of other unencumbered operating systems out there that do not get in the way of desktop computing. These operating systems are definitely a threat to Microsoft’s continued viability… especially with blundering mistakes like Vista. Windows will never win any awards for Best Operating System with issues such as these. Consider Microsoft’s stupid filesystem layout that allows operating system and application files to be thrown all over the hard drive and you’ll begin to understand why Windows continues to fail.
The single reason why Microsoft continues to exist is because users feel compelled to buy this antiquated dog of an operating system strictly due to application support. If developers would finally and completely jump ship to other more thoughtfully designed operating systems, then Windows would finally wither and die… eventually, this will happen.