Simplified FAQ for people new to Vista


Adam Albright

The intended purpose of this post is to give TRUTHFUL and frank
answers neither bashing Vista like some here do... nor praising it to
the highest like others do. Just a honest look, of course my own bias
creeps in.

Q Is Vista really that much better/worse than XP?

A Depends on your hardware and software. The main
"improvement" is also one of Vista's biggest shortcomings,
it's so-called security features, the much discussed and also
critized UAC (User Account Control) system.

Q What is the purpose of UAC?

A It was designed to "protect" your system form malware and other
malicious software that can attack your system, especially if
you are connected to the Internet.

Q How does UAC work?

A By intercepting applications or some process that attempt to enter
protected areas of the operating system that may lead to various
types of mischief if not stopped.

Q. Does UAC really protect my system?

A. No. Source: Microsoft. That's the marketing hype part. Its only
from of protection is in the form of a warning, which shortly
after seeing it over and over most people ignore. So UAC's biggest
benefit is to "educate" users to what they're doing could be at
times harmful. Most people... being human once they start to do
something will just click through anyway. That's human nature, so
UAC in that sense if self-defeating since you can either turn it
off or overide it freely.

Q. Why did this come about?

A. Because as originally written, Windows in all prior versions was
very prone to outside attack. UAC is an attempt to slam the door
shut after decades of neglect on Microsoft's part to address the
important "security" issue. Does UAC succeed? Not really unless
you accept a false sense of security. Look at it this way. If you
felt more secure everytime you saw those colored pieces of
cardboard from Homeland Security on TV stressing the current
terrorist threat level, then you'll probably love UAC. If you
thought those stupid color coded "warnings" was at best a sick
joke, then you'll see right past UAC's supposed benefit.

Q. Can UAC be turned off?

A. Yes from Control Panel. But try not to. At least give it a chance.
It will be the most annoying when you first install Vista and when
you do some common tasks like install new software or attempt to
access "protected" areas. Some things require retraining to relearn
how to use your computer. Microsoft's own fault they originally
configured Windows to run at administrative level right out of the
box which opened the computer to attack from the beginning. Even
Microsoft admits their own software engineers got into the very
bad habit of writing applications to run at administrator level
when there was no real need. Now Microsoft expects most
applications to run at user level. If they don't, then you may get
nagged to death by UAC which will drive some crazy, at least till
they're use to it.

Q. I hear that Vista is so radically different it is hard to learn.

A. That's mostly BS. Sure, Vista is different. If it was exactly the
same as XP with no visible changes who would buy it? The changes
mostly effect the "look" of Vista. Again, many things that you
were use to doing have been moved to other locations, which of
course takes a little getting use to, but to say Vista is radically
different or hard to learn is way over the top.

Q. I keep hearing I'll need all new hardware or at least new drivers.

A. Depends. For some things yes. Critical things you can expect to
need to upgrade, meaning obtain new Vista capable drivers include
drivers for video cards, USB, Firewire, SATA and IDE drives. To
a lessor extent network cards, some mice, other pointing devices,
printers, scanners, may not be fully supported, things like that.

Q. If I don't does that mean Vista won't install?

A. Again it depends. Best to run the Vista Upgrade advisor from XP
and carefully note EVERYTHING it nags about then before attempting
to do either a clean or install in place either disable or remove
ALL THE HARDWARE that the advisor mentions regardless if it says
it shouldn't be a problem or not. Then after Vista is up and
running one by one restore the hardware you disabled.

Q. Will I have to replace a lot of my favorite software?

A. Probably not. Maybe some, if you want all the features to work.
I'll relate my experience as a guide. I have roughly 230 different
applications on my main PC. Of that, only three didn't run fine
under Vista. Your milage may vary. Most of the problems I've
seen are due to software that plays out of the sandbox. All that
means is if the software you have was written in a non standard
way which some is, meaning it makes direct calls to the system
that is against the prescribed proper way as explained in the
Microsoft bible, then you may have problems. That said, I have
some favorite vintage Windows 3.1 software that runs fine under
Vista and gives no problems at all. Still something like Nero or
Easy Creator even though just one verson old, needed upgrading.

Q. Is the upgrade worth the asking price?

A. Only you can answer that. Unlike Windows 95 that was a major
change again XP, Vista is more a refinement revision. While there
are a lot of things under the hood that were changed and made
better (most hardware and software runs somewhat faster) and is
more stable, you don't SEE that much that's changed expect that
Vista if you have Aero enabled in a slicker looking OS, if that
kind of thing turns you on. Everything from the much larger and
far more detailed icons to the desktop themes and prompt boxes
are nicer to look at, use and actually do help in your
enjoyment of Vista. So yes, a lot of new eye candy.

There are many more subtle improvements. For example Explorer
while still buggy, has been improved a lot. So has the default
viewer. Often overlooked and rarely mentioned in newsgroups
like this is the new and vastly improved and far more user
friendly help system that's loaded with pictures and real time
animations. DO spend some time checking it out. Even if you
consider yourself a seasoned Windows user, some people have
obviously spent a lot of time updating and making Windows'
help system far better. Ditto for the new ways to search.
Yes different and a little tricky till you do it a few times
but once you "get it" you'll love it. Well most will.

On the downside for reasons only known to Microsoft some things
that were changed make little sense. Inclued in this group is
the multi tier versions of Vista with some having features and
others not. This creates a class system and I don't like it.

For example the powers that be decided if you buy the business
version you don't need the ability to burn or play a multimedia
DVD and accordingly don't include the necessary software. Sure
to really annoy long time customers forcing them to upgrade just
to gain access to features that should have been included in
all versions.

On balance I like Vista. It ain't perfect, but no software is. It has
some warts, shows it likely was pushed out the door before it was
polished, a time honored but highly annoying Microsoft marketing gimic
that has always been the Microsoft way. Still it is ready for most
users and most probably will like it and think the upgrade was worth
it IF they give it a chance and you take the time to learn what's
changed. No, there is no need to wait for a service pack for 99% of
the people that will upgrade. That too is mostly a old wives tale
fostered by the simple minded that don't know any better. Still expect
some issues, after all it is a complex piece of software. On a five
star rating system I'd give it 3.5. I would have given it a 4 if they
would have implemented UAC better and fixed some of the still remaing
bugs that survived older versions of Windows, another highly annoying
Microsoft habit. Release a new version of Windows, leave some old
bugs. So sure, Vista has some rough edges, but is "ready" in the sense
for most it should be stable. Mine version hasn't crashed once
regardless how hard I pushed it. That says something. Of course if you
have the same success depends on your hardware and software.

Lang Murphy

That said, I have
some favorite vintage Windows 3.1 software that runs fine under
Vista and gives no problems at all. Still something like Nero or
Easy Creator even though just one verson old, needed upgrading.


I went through my pile of old Windows app floppies last weekend and pulled
out two that I installed. DecideRight (facilitates decision making) and
AllClear (flowcharts). DecideRight worked fine... no problems at all.
AllClear, on the other hand, would run, but every time the app is closed it
throws a bomb. Oddly enough, files are created and saved fine... so I could
use it if I wanted to... just would have to ignore the bomb when it closes.

I have one DOS app that I installed. Lotus Agenda. Works fine, although I
haven't gone through the steps to get it printing because I don't know that
I'll really use it, but it brings up the issue that others have had with
their DOS apps.... no full screen with WDDM video drivers. I guess if I had
a DOS app that I used regularly, I'd be unhappy with that situation.


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