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7/27/2006
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Best Bits: Vista And The Hardware Monster, Part 3

Vista loves graphics so much it wants to control them. You thought you were in charge of your PC? Get out of Vista's way.

When Windows XP was born, I noted in a review that for everything else it might otherwise be, XP was simply Windows ME (Millennium Edition) with a pompadour. A bit more flashy and in your face, XP did basically the same thing as ME in its initial iteration.

This time around, as the gestation of Vista nears its end, I can say with confidence that Windows Vista is XP with a rolled-up gym sock in its pants. For any substance it might have at this point (and, admittedly, it's still in the final throes of beta), thanks to Aero it's likely that Vista will be crowned as the metro-sexual king of operating systems. It's embracive and abrasive and about as intrusive as a 34-year old who just won't leave home no matter how many hints you drop.

The good news is that I actually did come around to like XP and finally retired my last ME system, with a sniffle and a tear, but not even a trace of post partition depression, about five months ago. I can't currently see that happening with Vista — at least not with a viable XP Media Center Edition (MCE) cavorting about. Then again, it could always get cut off at the knees, as Windows 98 and ME recently were, and leave me no choice but Vista. That would be a shame. I really detest Vista right now. I only disliked XP.

But where were we last time? That's right. Vista was working, doing everything I wanted it to do, maybe not exactly how I wanted it done, but doing things nonetheless. (See Best Bits: Vista and the Hardware Monster, Part 2.) I wasn't really concerned that it didn't like the front end on my favorite video editor (Ulead's Video Studio 10 Plus) or that it hadn't let me load motherboard drivers in the traditional way or that there were a few pieces of software that it found distasteful. (Talk about having an XP moment!) Stuff was getting done and that's really what's important. Isn't it?

I should admit, at this juncture, horrific as it sounds, that I'm not a gamer. I do keep an old demo copy of Quake 3 on one of my computers when I feel the need to blow things up but I'm generally content with, although not necessarily very good at, FreeCell. That's why I had to try it on Vista.

Wow! The Vista version of FreeCell is all cool looking. Sure, Microsoft seems to have tweaked the user interface just a bit but it does that all the time with its software — just to keep us on our toes. Wouldn't be any fun if we were all comfortable and everything all of the time, would it? So I click a bit in FreeCell, win the game, and then watch the fireworks. Well, not quite, but Vista has its own version of FreeCell's "a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer in your pants," when you win.

But wait . . . . Why is everything moving in relatively slow motion? Admittedly, this is a parts-bin computer but the Pentium D 805 has been overclocked to just under 3GHz, there's 1GB of memory, and the Diamond Radeon X1600 graphics card is no slouch and it has 256MB of memory. I have the same graphics card in an XP system and it flies like the wind. What the heck?

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