It’s easier then ever to get a continuous stream of Windows Vista FUD. In the past you had slashdot, but had to ignore the pesky rated 5 comments which often would point out the obvious stuff. Now however we have the BadVista blog, which is FSF new foray into the world of pure unadulterated BS. Some of which the press runs away with because there aren’t enough people actually using the software to call BS loud enough. Let’s look at some of today’s news stream:
- Microsoft Vista is not an option
This link is about the “Licensing and Activation” hurt hobbiests meme. We have a writer who switches out the hardware inside his case once a week and is using XP. To my spider senses, Something doesn’t add up here. XP already has activation. Even If they tightened up the requirements (which in practice remains to be seem) he should already be tripping over activation left and right. In some ways activation has gotten less onerous, especially in cases where you buy a computer from a OEM like Dell or HP. Personally, I have built all the machines in my house, and swap around components regularly (although I guess I’m too busy and poor to swap things weekly on a single machine). I’ve been bit by re-activation and had to call the activation help for my home machines twice since 2001. I told them that I was moving around components and things worked within 5 minutes both times, this is hardly social engineering. I don’t expect Vista to be any different, and I’ve already moved some hardware around. If the author hasn’t been through this already with XP, the the worst I would expect is that he will make the 5 minute phone call once a couple years. If the fear of that potential phone call and not even a real experience is bad enough to make him switch to another OS, then I not sure Vista is the real issue.
- DRM behind lack of Windows Vista drivers.. and fear new content protection.
This is based on the Gutmann FUD, which spells out a worse case scenario for the implementation DRM in Vista based on random bits of documentation and conjecture. The basic problem here is that the worst case scenario he envisions isn’t how anything was implemented and causal checks confirm it. There are still class drivers for video. Non-protected content (which is most of what I have) plays unmolested, even while I play DRM’d music and video. There is an example in the paper of expensive optical system computer in a hospital going fuzzy because the user is playing music. The first question a reader should ask is, even if the hospital bought into that sort of DRM and the system was designed that way (which from casual observation it isn’t) why would the hospital not buy a computer system to view the imagery that supported a DRM path in the hardware. It’s like buying a CAT scan system and not buying a compatible display to see the results.
In reality there is more drivers and compatibility for Vista pre launch then there was for XP (probably because of continuation of the move to class drivers and early frequent public releases). Inherent to the whole arguement is a bet that you will have pervasive protected content you want. This is the same bet that iTunes Music Store makes. If you want to watch such content, then you won’t want to run an OS where you can’t watch such content, and only systems with these protections will be allowed to decrypt it. Back in the early days of DVD’s, Linux had zero players until the protection scheme for DVD’s was broken. These days the new formats won’t be cracked that easily as they have learned a couple lessons since then. (They can remove support from all future media for a player’s decryption key once it’s known to be cracked and the general purpose cracking is probably much harder)
There are some real stuff to the story, supporting DRM through hardware is not free, and if you want that feature you will pay for it (similar to how we all pay for DVD support), but none of this is Vista specific. The main thing with Vista that you might complain about is that it supports it at all, or that Microsoft hasn’t done enough to fight DRM. Of course if you buy PowerDVD for BlueRay or HD-DVD you are getting pretty much the same thing from a different vendor. This type of stuff really annoys open source purists because licensing and securing implementation runs counter to the basic philosophy, but it’s not a showstopper as companies that actually build commercial products using pieces of open source don’t have such issues.
I’ll also note that I’m not in love with DRM, but that’s a topic I’ll save for a different post.
- Vista: Why Bother?
This starts with the insufficient hardware meme. If you asked me right after beta 2 shipped, I would be wholeheartedly agreeing. What I have discovered is that a) they fixed much of that between beta and release and b) more RAM fixes the rest . Ironically the RAM part was exactly what I was sitting around realizing when XP shipped. The end rule is if you bought it in the last two years new, get it up to say 1 Gb RAM, it’ll be fine.
The actual piece plays a bunch of games with the facts. First it talks about video editing, which is demanding in general and nothing specific to Vista. Even looking at the Mac’s that advertise high end video editing you are looking at some seriously powerful machines. Processor, RAM speed and file system speed are the things I’ve noticed are the big deal, not OS. Next there is the 94% figure, which pulls a double whammy, first it is a survey of corporate machines, which since they tend to do simpler less CPU/ram intensive things compared to consumer PCs. The more realistic numbers are the CPU replacement numbers (replacing the CPU, especially in older machines usually means a new PC), here we see 84% of corporate PCs will be ready from a CPU standpoint (I suspect many of the 84% will need more RAM, but the numbers aren’t in the article). The other little trick done with that number is using the premium level of readiness instead of the minimum. For corporate PCs, the difference between the premium and the Min are features that won’t be missed doing day to day work, like the flashier GUI.
Next in the piece is software compatibility. This is a harder area, although three of his examples are now bogus. The Zune software for Vista is already released on zune.org, I’m running the Vista Powershell (it comes as an OS update, so it’s mostly an issue of packaging, not compatibility as people running the old msi versions of Powershell can attest). The new Virtual PC has hit RC status. OpenGL is supported in the major graphic vendors drivers. I’ve found that most of the real issues with compatibility are from deeply integrated software using unpublished interfaces who aren’t in a rush to put the vista versions out and UAC related issues. For many of these companies the clock didn’t start until we RTM’d Vista. The latter is a price we will pay for the security it brings, but will be lessened as compatibility updates come out. On the anacdotal side, I’m mainly feel pain with x64 versus x86 rather then Vista versus XP.
Also in the piece Start Menu issue. My start menu has two options for “shutdown” and a somewhat hidden advanced menu. The two options on my box are: low power mode and lock session. Ironically, I don’t even use either of them on my home machine. I just push the power button on my case to go to low power mode. At work I only use the Lock one (assuming I don’t just press Windows-L). So it appears they choose the right two.
For bonus points the author then compares upgrading a point release of openSUSE to upgrading Vista from XP. A fair comparison would be to a service pack update, although I would guess that even that would be more then the dot release.
Which finally concludes in the classic, why update? If you need a single compelling reason to go to vista, it would be security and maybe the flashier GUI, after that it just feels better, the sum of a thousand little things. This is not great for marketing, but pure addicting goodness as a user and home admin. This should become quite apparent after the OS is actually out there, but you can see it in people like the TWIT crowd who has talked about their experiences since they first installed it and now really like it (oh and they are heavy Mac users). My suggestion is to find someway to use it for a week or two and decide for yourself.
Disclosure: I am a Microsoft Employee who works on Windows, but these views are my personal ones and are not my employers.