Random Features I Like About Vista and Some Other Thoughts

So a few things here. As always there are just my personal opinions. Nobody writes this stuff for me – or edits, etc. Just me here on my couch.

Also before I start I think my next post will go into how we get features into the product and a bit about coming in late to a project such as Vista. Let me know if this sounds like a good topic.

I had a thought today as well. There has been a lot of negative things said about Vista. What I’m not sure people realize is that Vista is still a Beta product (beta meaning NOT released). It has to be one of the most widely used and scrutinized pieces of Beta software ever. There have been so many eyes and such high expectations that any Beta release would be a let down. Software development is an ugly process. Every milestone you build to a certain level of quality and then immediately tear it down right after the milestone is over with new check-ins, etc. You don’t tear all the way down but I like to think of each major milestone in software development as spending ½ the time getting back to the quality of the previous milestone and then another ½ of the time getting to twice the quality of the previous milestone. Every time you take a bunch of new code on a large project your quality will always suffer for a bit.

We’ve been releasing over and over again in between milestones – essentially showing our dirty laundry. So you see the dips in quality and then it is easy to get hyper focused on issues you have or others have. Vista isn’t perfect – but I think it is actually getting to be pretty good. RC1 is running well and I’m using it on my laptop now. Remember what you’ve seen of Vista is Beta. Oh and Microsoft has been listening. I can speak to that, especially on the Media Center team.

Okay, off the soapbox. Sorry. Here are a few things that I like in Vista in random order. I’ll continue to post them an as I blog in the future. Oh one more thing. Above all using the XBOX 360 with CableCard is killer. I’m watching HDTV through two different 360s and it just make me happy. Very happy. Even without CableCard the XBOX 360 implementation is just cool. Everyone should get this…

Browsing music by artist in MCE – I know this is a small feature but I think this is the coolest thing ever. Why? Well I was always kind of slob with my CDs. I’d throw them into the wrong cases and onto the shelf in the random order. So I’d pull out my copy of “The Wall” and end up with John Denver. I was just too lazy to keep things in the proper order.

I know this view was in Media Center XP but without album art. Album art is key for me. That’s how I know what albums I have. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t really know track names – just numbers. :)

Aero Glass – I’m a UI sucker. I love cool new UI. I think Aero Glass just looks really nice. The transparency is pretty and the effects are nice. Along the same lines with the new video drivers I like the new video driver model. The live preview feature has really come in handy several times (think IE downloads). Very cool. I also like the new “alt+tab” features with the live preview and window stacking.

New Windows Games – no comment. My manager might read this. :)

Windows Update – I think the new simplified model is much nicer and easier to use/navigate. Having worked on Windows Update years and years ago this is nice to see.

And a few things I don’t really like:

User Account Control – Now I get this for newer users or less experiences users. It helps people know that their operating system is being changed. But me – well I know enough about computers that I don’t need the extra help. I should be careful too because I know the architect for this feature and he works out a lot.

Now Playing Preview in Media Center – this seems smaller to me in Media Center and I miss the bigger preview that I used to have in XP.

Display Settings – I mess around with my monitors a lot. In XP the display settings were just a right click away on my desktop. Now in Vista I have to right click to personalize and then I have to go to Display Settings.

That’s enough typing for now. I’ll post more soon. See you in the comments.

Note: One minor clarification. This list is not meant to be complete or to focus on the big features of Vista. I'm just pointing out some stuff that I like. Sometimes, for me, the little things make a big difference. I imagine this is the same for others. There has been some much coverage of Vista that some of the nice touches get overlooked and I've been using Vista long enough to appreciate some of these smaller changes. I edited the title to make this more clear.