Windows Vista (Part 1 — Intro)

I promised a while ago that there would be an upcoming post about Vista (the new version of Windows), given my early impressions running it on a few systems (or not running it as the case may be). It turns out that there is a bunch to say, so I’ll split it up into a few entries. This is part 1 — the intro. A note to all readers: I think I’m actually somewhat biased on this topic. I guess you could call me a “recovering Windows administrator” — having given up on Windows a few years ago now (except where necessary) and become a Mac and Linux user and focused my career to UNIX-only systems administration. So Microsoft fans, zealots, and employees can take my ranting with a grain of salt perhaps.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been so long, but on October 25th, 2001, Windows XP was released to market. This means that it’s been over 6 years now that desktop and workstation windows users have been using the same operating system and the same technology (with minor upgrades and service packs of course). What we now know as Vista started development in 2001 as a very ambitious next-version of windows. Vista was originally expected to ship sometime in 2003 as a middle step between XP and a future version with the codename of “Blackcomb.” Sure enough, 2004 rolled around and feature creep and development headaches of various types made it clear that big changes needed to take place. Exciting plans for a new filesystem (winFS), among some other features, were abandoned, and development was started anew to be built off of the Windows 2003 server codebase.

Vista is arguably the largest and longest consumer software project of all time. There’s a school of thought that it was doomed to failure from the start. The windows codebase is too complicated, old, huge and messy to maintain any longer. Developers state that these days there are more than 50 dependency layers in windows (the Broken Windows Theory). Some of the headaches of this are evident in the comments of this Mini-Microsoft blog entry , where the author bemoans the slipping of the schedule and hopes for leadership changes.

So here we are, in January of 2006, a few weeks from the retail launch of Vista. After billions and billions of development dollars, countless man-hours of work, PR nightmares and years of punditry, what is it that we’ll get? The answer is really “not much.” I got my hands on the final market version of Vista a few weeks back and installed it on a couple of systems. As a side note here I must add that the supposedly next-generation activation procedure and copy protection is, as expected from Microsoft, a pain in the rear end to normal users, but already hacked and easy to circumvent for people looking to pirate the OS. Overall, I liked the OS (with a few snags that I’ll mention in my next entries on the topic), but the one, overriding feeling I had was: “We waited 5 years for this?” Stay tuned for future entries in this series.

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