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The Life and Times of a Dev Yes, we're really that weird

O.K.--so I got a shiny core duo 2 from dell the other day, and have vista loaded onto it.  The performance thingy rates me as a 3.5 (because of the video card), and says I should be able to enjoy all of the snazzy new features of Vista.
I start to tinker, and soon find that the Aero stuff is really only skin deep--as soon as you go into any of the dialog boxes for more advanced stuff (like the system dialog boxes, the "advanced properties" of the display, etc), you quickly find that this is just XP with a little paint.
The annoying nag screens are also pointless.  After 10 minutes I was promptly ignoring them and just allowing them to do whatever they wanted to do without even reading them.  They won't change security, they'll just irritate people.
So we got WCF, WPF, and WWF.  I view those as extensions of .net, NOT as features to the operating system, and those should have happened in spite of the OS.

I’m really left wondering, “Is that it?”  It took them five years and that’s it??  What a disappointment.

Update to respond to comments

1.  I spent more than 5 minutes with the OS and read more than one review.  My favorite is this one.  Yes, they did a lot of work, yes the network stack is nice, yes, hooking up to my wireless network was nice.  But did all of that REALLY take 5 years?

2.  Security is always an issue with users.  However, I've dealt with far too many users that become accustomed to boxes popping up and become numb to them and stop reading the contents.  This will become the same way.  After all, users have been warned forever that running attachments from e-mail spreads viruses, but we still have no shortage of viruses spread in that manner.  Couldn’t they have done something better that was smarter about determining if an attack was taking place and THEN warned the user?  That way, the user would only see the messages once in a while, rather than all of the time.

3.  The users don’t give a rat’s rear end about what they can’t see.  They just want it to work.

4.  DirectX 10 is wonderful.  The removing of kernel mode drivers was a good thing (although I’m not a driver writer, so I don’t know how good and may not understand this exactly).  However, isn’t DirectX 10 something that should have been given to us anyway, and did it REALLY take 5 years to do?

Ultimately, my point is that although there are some nice new features in Vista, I was expecting a lot more after 5 years of development.  Everything they’ve done in this release should have been done with incremental releases to XP.  This feels like Service Pack 3, or like the ME launch was to 98.  Maybe that’s why MS is saying there will be shorter release cycles.


Posted on Thursday, January 25, 2007 9:20 AM Work , Play | Back to top

Comments on this post: Vista: That's it?

# re: Vista: That's it?
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No, that's NOT it. I'm somewhat disappointed that you would think so. Just for a start: There are MANY features outside of just Aero. And if you consider the stuff that users won't see, there are HUGE improvements in the networking stack, security, the kernel, etc.

You should dig a little deeper before being "disappointed" after five minutes of poking around with the visual element.
Left by Jason Olson on Jan 25, 2007 10:12 AM

# re: Vista: That's it?
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Seriously Dude? Nice indepth examination you gave it there bud. I'd hardly consider Vista to be XP with a little paint.

There's a lot more going on behind the scenes than you are apparently aware of. Just from a game developer perspective, Vista changes (improves) a lot of things.

You may scoff at the increased security but the fact that you don't bother to read the dialogs is nobodys fault but your own.

You can't realistically expect people to take you seriously when you admit you disregard them and then try to slam MS in the same breath.
Left by Blogus Maximus on Jan 25, 2007 12:09 PM

# re: Vista: That's it?
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Brian Hitney has a section he's started on his blog that talks about some of the under the hood improvements to Vista. Check this out:

Left by Lou on Jan 25, 2007 5:07 PM

# re: Vista: That's it?
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"this is just XP with a little paint."

Well, XP is certainly just windows 95 with a little paint, so this is really just windows 95 with a few coats of paint...

"The annoying nag screens are also pointless. After 10 minutes I was promptly ignoring them and just allowing them to do whatever they wanted to do without even reading them."

People will get used to click on them when they run something. They will, however, not be so used to clicking on them when they didn't really do anything, and they just pop up. Also, once you are done doing "systemy" things, they don't pop up as much, and most users probably won't really do much advanced configuration anyhow.

WCF, WPF, WWF. Yep, parts of the .NET framework. Parts that will ship and work on Vista.

1. You have to admit that your review came across as a 5 minute opinion. And yes, it would take a long time to make a network stack, get it right, relatively efficient and bug free. And then to integrate it into the rest of the OS.... well, yeah, it could take a while.

2. Some users are stupid. Users try to blame MS for the fact that they get a virus, so MS puts some security into Outlook, so it can't open certain attachments. This is the same, but for system settings. Gives users one less way to blame MS when they screw something up.

3. Thats because they are stupid. Are you stupid too? Clearly the stuff they can't see is important. I can't explain to you why its important if you don't already understand.... honestly.

4. Have you ever tried to *use* DirectX? I can't even imagine how involved it would be to create it, and to create a new version from the ground up, with some impressive features.... well, that would take a while. I'm guessing at this point that you aren't a developer? Software just magically creates itself from ideas, doesn't it?

5. You should have had 5 points. 5 is a nice number. I guess ill respond to your closing point instead. Why don't you list what you were expecting to see in Vista? I have to agree with you here, I guess. I was hoping once I installed Vista my PC would just start spitting out money, writing my code for me, and cause me to spontaneously lose weight. Damn MS for their shortcomings....
Left by Rick on Jan 25, 2007 5:13 PM

# re: Vista: That's it?
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No, it didn't take five years, it took two and a half. Read up on the "Longhorn Reset." A ways into the Longhorn project, MS realized that what they were doing would not "cut it" so they started over again. Now, even with that, was five years too long between releases? Yes. And reading reviews and taking their word for it is hardly "educational." There is a LOT of FUD out there regarding Vista so you have to take some reviews with a grain of salt.

I've been using Vista non-stop for 6+ months now, and I feel it is more than "XP with paint." There are a lot of features that are new and improved in this release over Windows XP. And I've had much success with it being more stable (although I know others have not had the same success because of crappy beta drivers from 3rd parties).

It's confusing that you say "yes, they did a lot of work, yes this is nice, yes that is nice" yet you are still avidly "anti-Vista." (or that's the way your point comes across).

#2 is an interesting point (from the post). Studies done by MS have shown that yes, users get used to clicking an option over and over. HOWEVER, interestingly, the "average" user clicks "No" to prevent it from happening, not "Yes." Not only that, you have to remember something: you are NOT the target audience. When I'm in "business" or "user" mode, I almost NEVER get a UAC prompt. Yes, when you are doing administrative tasks, you get UAC prompts. Once you're done with initial setup of your machine, you don't face it that much anymore (at least I haven't).

#3. Ah, but there's a tricky one. You say they don't care about what they can see, but then you say they just want it to work. It's a slight contradiction in certain situations. If the under the hood changes are to make it work more consistently, then yes, the users DO care.

Now, I have a question, are you a kernel level developer? Have you developed an OS before? When you're dealing with an OS that has as many millions of users that Windows does, and goes through the rigorous amount of testing that it does, features are going to take a while to implement. I know of several features in the last six months since I started working here that were removed because of attack vectors that they opened up. Do we catch everything? No. But you know how you can run a completely secure computer? Never turn it on...
Left by Jason Olson on Jan 25, 2007 6:51 PM

# re: Vista: That's it?
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OH, and comparing Vista to Windows ME TRULY shows how level headed you are NOT being. There is NO comparison between the two.

Plus, I have not known ANY Service Pack to contain the sheer number of Kernel-level improvements that Vista contains.
Left by Jason Olson on Jan 25, 2007 6:52 PM

# re: Vista: That's it?
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Hehe--I am most certainly NOT anti-vista. You'll note that it's on my laptop and that I'll be using it exclusively. No, I've never owned a mac (nor do I plan on it), yes, I am a windows c# developer writing primarly business applications, no, I'm not biased against Vista, just disappointed, no, I've never written kernel software, but <toungInCheek>based on the sheer number of OS's that have been written, it can't be THAT difficult</toungeInCheek>.

I'm guessing that once you get into the guts of just about any program, they're all the same. Lines of code that were thought of by a human being.

See my next post for more details.

The fact that they scrapped 2.5 years of development time scares me. Is MS falling apart? Will the pattern repeat?

I hope not, there developer stuff is the best. Ever compared Java documentation with MSDN? Microsoft gets that part of it, but that's for developers . . .

Thanks for the feedback--I appreciate you taking the time to think about this.
Left by Robert May on Jan 25, 2007 7:12 PM

# re: Vista: That's it?
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Maybe there are like 10 coats of paint. But it's what's inside that counts:
Left by Lorin Thwaits on Jan 26, 2007 3:18 AM

# re: Vista: That's it?
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No problem, Robert. Sorry if I come off "ass-hole"-ish at times, I'm just very passionate about this :). Of course, in the interest of full disclosure, I do work for the company :P.

I know your comment about the sheer number of OSes meaning they aren't that difficult to write is "tongue in cheek" but it's FAR from the truth. In the same way, the guts of every program are NOT the same. Writing kernel level code (especially some of the deep OS code that is tied directly to the hardware) is a lot more complicated and difficult, especially when compared to coding in .NET.

For instance, many developers working in C# never have to worry about memory allocation and buffer over-runs anymore (for the most part). However, when in the kernel, you still have to worry about all of this (especially when you are writing kernel code for an OS in mass-use like Windows that will have many hackers cracking away as hard as possible). I can't stress enough how much of *different* beasts they are. Managed coding is not _nearly_ as complicated as kernel coding.

And you're looking at the 2.5 years of development dropped in the wrong way. I think it is a good sign, not a bad one. What would be even worse is if Microsoft ignored what was going wrong and just threw more money at the problem. Being stubborn is A Bad Thing if you are a software developer. It's good that we recognized the direction things were going and started over. You have to realize that from the original attempt at Vista, a significant amount of the OS and OS interfaces were in managed code. The first attempt was basically trying to re-invent the OS from the ground up. With the sheer number of dependencies we have, that became increasingly unrealistic. When we realized that it wasn't going to happen, we scrapped it and started from XP code base (as far as I understand it).

In the end, I believe it was a good decision. Microsoft learned a very valuable lesson and that is no matter how much money we have, we are still constrained by the real world. An OS is an extremely large codebase that so many people are depending on that you just can't expect to re-write from the ground up in three years time. It's something that has to evolve over time.

I agree, I LOVE our developer stack (especially with the release of the Express products and .NET 3.0). We're not out of the woods though. Eclipse is doing very well and we need to be sure not to let Visual Studio stagnate. Now if only we can eat the ".NET Pill" and put more managed interfaces into our OS. That's another rant for another time which pains me a LOT (being an evangelist for Windows Server Code-Name Longhorn, I deal with the lack of managed APIs every day (which is even more frustrating since I come from a managed background :P)).
Left by Jason Olson on Jan 26, 2007 10:34 AM

# re: Vista: That's it?
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Geez, sorry for the long-winded comments :(. Perhaps I should have just written a blog post about it.
Left by Jason Olson on Jan 26, 2007 10:35 AM

# re: Vista: That's it?
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Get a Mac -- I've told you all your problems will go away.
Left by You Know Who on Jan 26, 2007 12:59 PM

# re: Vista: That's it?
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This is great! One question: Is there any way around the authentication issue? I have a portal which requires a login/password. Am I out of luck?
Left by christmas nativity scene on Dec 02, 2007 6:05 PM

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