Monday, March 19, 2007

First hands on with Windows Vista.

    Last week, after some days of official release of Windows Vista, I downloaded the Demo CD from Internet. Because all the primary partitions were full in my Physical Hard Disk I installed this OS in my Virtual Machine. At the time of Installation I was not sure weather it will install and start properly in Virtual Machine because the version I am having was released much before the release of Vista. The downloaded image is around 2.5 GB and I wrote the image into a DVD. The minimum requirement of Windows Vista is 512 MB RAM, around 10GB of Hard Disk space with a pretty fast processor(P4 or higher) and Graphics Card with Geforce 2 or higher (if you want some exclusive features provided by vista like Aero and 3D Windows).

    I booted newly created Virtual Machine with the Vista installation DVD. Even though I installed the OS in a virtual machine, installation completed pretty fast. It took only around 30 minutes for completing the installation and setup never paused for any user input after installation started or showed any compatibility messages.

     After around 30-45 minutes I got the first view of Windows Vista desktop. It is almost same like Windows Vista RTM installed in my office. But the main difference I noticed it’s the difference in performance. Even in virtual machine it performed much faster compared to my office system. The preview here is the initial appearance of Vista. Only thing I have changed is the desktop wallpaper. For achieving this appearance the major thing they have changed is the changing of basic taskbar and window skinning and replacement of all system icons. This can be the only change which can be noticed by an ordinary windows user. But when I went to internals of the new OS like Icon architecture and permission management and basic approach to User experience, I found a lot of differences between Windows XP® and Vista®.

    I am not planning to cover all the details I got, here because most of them are purely technical and some are related to OS Core. I am only targeting this topic towards the ordinary windows users who want to start up with this new OS.

    In windows XP Microsoft introduced a new type of Start Menu which I found very helpful. In addition to recently used documents menu they had included a new group for most recently used programs. I liked this option very much as I don’t have to go into sub menus for getting a program which I use very commonly. The option I had before release of windows XP was to keep these shortcuts in desktop or taskbar Quick Launch. But because the programs which I used commonly changes in a period of time, these places were gradually filled with unused icons. This problem was solved in windows XP. In vista they went one step more. (But saying with a soft corner I shall say not as inventive as of the last ideaL) Now the start menu items are not going like submenus but like a tree expansion with scrollbar.

    This can be useful if one got a lot of menu items in start menu. But I really don’t like this idea as of now. This is because of my habit of sub grouping of menu items according to its category. To me I think this grouping can work better than using a scrollbar in menu. But this is a matter of habit.

    With regard executing programs, Vista introduced a permission new dialog box before executing an unknown program.

    I think this one is a very useful feature. Because in XP many spy programs will automatically start execute or self-install without giving any notification to the end user, especially when we use internet. I am not sure Vista can prevent all these type of executions, but surely it can improve the condition. Here in details we can get the information of application which is started with its command line, which we can use to verify weather it is a known program of not.

  Running of applications without user knowledge has become a serious issue in now a days especially to beginners. Many times I have heard from my friends who bought new systems that they found some programs running in taskbar or programs in add remove programs that is installed without their knowledge after some days of internet usage. I also faced such problems and to avoid them I am using my user account with least permissions (I have removed all administrative rights from commonly used login account and assigned only user rights so that it will ask for administrative rights at least for installation and some system level programs. If some programs require administrative rights then we can use Run as option from right click.) But still in rare cases some programs overcomes these provisions and installs or runs.

    One another change that I noticed in the windows explorer is the change of view types. In all our previous versions what were available are 4 or 5 presets of views like Details, lists, Icons etc. Now this scenario is changed and it is replaced by a series of options.

    Look the position of slider in the picture. It is not in “Extra large Icons” or “Large icons”. Actually the icons in windows Vista just zooms from Tiles to Extra Large Icons while the user drags the slider. They have just put the some names for particular zoom levels. This is just a sample of addition to User Experience due to the creative changes made by Microsoft® in its latest OS.

    The entire Icons architecture is changed in Windows Vista®. In all the previous versions of windows, Icons were based upon pixels, and for each type of display separate icons with different pixels were used. For example when user selects “Tiles” option in windows XP, OS will select 16*16 pixels @ 16Bit or 16*16 pixels @ 32Bit/winXP icon according to resolution and color depth and if user selects “Icons” option then it will select 48*48 pixels @ 16Bit or 48*48 pixels @ 32Bit/WinXP. Instead of this pixel based icons, Windows Vista is now using Vector based icons and OS is actually re-drawing the icon dynamically. As a result what ever the size it may be windows can show the icon without any reduction in its quality. Microsoft Software development Kit (SDK) for Vista and many third parties are coming up with controls like textboxes, buttons, drawings and graphic controls which can be zoomed to any levels. I got chance to work with developing Vista targeted Applications and tested many vista targeted Apps. Looking into these apps I think this simple change from pixels to vector is going to change the complete world of windows in terms Graphical User Experience.