Windows Vista Build 5270 – Heading in the right direction?

I’ve been playing with the most recent CTP of Vista over the past few days in order to test compatibility and just get a general feel for where this next version of the operating system is taking us.  So far, I’m generally pretty interested in several of the things they’ve added…the new Aero Glass interface looks great, some features like SuperFetch sound promising, etc.  I can appreciate some of the new Tablet PC features they’ve added too, although I’m certainly not putting this thing on my Tablet yet since the tablet is my main computer and since Vista is clearly not ready for primetime based on what I’ve seen on other systems in the office.  Internet Explorer 7 looks nice though…I’ll probably switch back from FireFox if the RSS support is up to snuff since the massive memory consumption of FireFox is annoying me.

I was very impressed by how little the installation asked me to get Vista up and running.  Truly a great improvement in this area.

I was also impressed by the operating system installing all my wireless, bluetooth, and sound card drivers straight from Windows Update.  I didn’t have to pull out any CD’s or dig around a website to locate drivers.  Vista handled it all and got all my hardware working.  Keep in mind this was on my old Inspiron 9100, so that’s even more impressive since laptops generally have funny issues when it comes to driver support.

Vista uses all kinds of memory.  I’m at 700MB out of 1GB when I boot into Vista.  It also seems to leak memory after I run builds of our products under Visual Studio 2005.  I have to reboot the machine a lot to stop the computer from swapping itself to death.

Frankly, I’m hoping there’s something in there that lets hardware run at or below current spec machines without pushing the limits.  I have a distinct feeling we would already be in ultra mobile PC land if Microsoft would or could just slow down for a moment and tighten up the OS or actively pin down a low spec configuration of XP or Vista (that isn’t XPE…normal users can’t run XPE).  I was running Word and surfing the web on a 32MB Pentium 100 several years ago.  At some basic level that’s still all a lot of PC’s need to do.  I’m pretty sure I could run a 32MB P100 spec machine for many moons with the current state of technology.  Point being…pushing forward the bar is great, but we also keep moving the bar ahead of where ultra mobile PC’s become practical as a result.  And that sucks.

My general impression with regards to the operating system is that Microsoft is adding all kinds of things without taking enough time to reorganize and simplify the interface.  I’m still trying to take stock of whether the differences are improvements or not, but at the moment many of the changes seem like change for the sake of change.  For example, I find the Control Panel to be an utter disaster at the present time…I don’t understand the groupings they’ve put together at all and the number of options in the Control Panel now is truly massive…somewhere around 40-50 icons to click on if you switch to classic view. 

In general I find this to be a common theme as I explore the interface…things are confusing.  Some basic user interface paradigms have been broken for no reason that I can fathom, and others have been changed radically…again, for no reason that I can see.  For example, many menus are now completely missing or positioned below toolbars when present.  Why?  I don’t know.  I don’t see that any user is going to benefit from such changes.

I don’t mind being confused if the change ultimately results in an easier to use interface.  Lord knows I’ve had to deal with making such changes myself.  But I don’t feel better after learning some of these changes…I’m just irritated by them, mostly.  I’m certainly not thinking to myself “Wow, that’s how it should have been all along.”

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