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Alexander Wolfe
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Top 5 Things Microsoft Must Fix In Windows Vista In 2008

With Vista's first service pack due for wide release early next year, Microsoft is intent on addressing the many things which need to be fixed in its still-young operating system. The question is, are they going to fix the right things? I think not, since the problems this time 'round aren't bugs so much as performance. Read on for my list of five must-have Vista corrections.

With Vista's first service pack due for wide release early next year, Microsoft is intent on addressing the many things which need to be fixed in its still-young operating system. The question is, are they going to fix the right things? I think not, since the problems this time 'round aren't bugs so much as performance. Read on for my list of five must-have Vista corrections.

  • 1) Good Performance From SP1.

    There's currently a debate raging about just how well the upcoming Vista Service Pack 1 works. (This guy says it stinks, Paul Thurrott thinks it's going to be pretty good.) You and I can't know for sure, since SP1 is currently in the hands of a select group of testers.

    However, a release candidate of SP1 is supposed to hit the Web very soon, at which time we'll be able to put it through its paces. Early word is that it focuses far less on raw performance than on fixing all the little nits that a first service pack for a new Microsoft operating system has to address.

    That's the wrong approach. Vista is actually fairly bug free. Where it falls down is in the performance category. Things in general (as well as some specific tasks, like boot-up, which I discuss below) are too slow and hog more processing power than they should. If you have a performance meter as one of your sidebar gadgets, you see how both CPU cores -- my main machine is a dual-core Pentium D 940 box -- often rise to 90% when a new app is launched. (I could see one, but both? Is the gadget reading things incorrectly? )

  • 2) Faster Boot-Up. The more I use Vista, the more I enjoy its look and feel. I'm sorry; maybe I'm shallow. I know many people have criticized Vista's glitzy Aero interface, which relies on good-looking eye candy that sucks up a lot of graphics processing horsepower. OK, so in computer terms Vista is as wasteful as a GMC Yukon. Get over it.

    More to the point, Aero's computing requirements have nothing to do with Vista's lengthy boot process. It's the fact that the OS is starting so many darn services. Can't it launch the essentials, and do the rest in the background after the welcome screen has appeared? Oh yeah, it already does. Which just reinforces the idea that there's too much going on here, and it's too slow. Paging Linux.

    Vista's second welcome center appears after log-on, following the too-long boot-up process. (Click picture to enlarge and to see more Vista screen shots.)

    Since Vista doesn't crash anywhere near as often as earlier Windows incarnations, you may be wondering why I don't just boot up on New Year's Day and leave my PC on. Mostly, it's about the heat and fan noise (and secondarily about electricity costs). Plus, I like to pretend that I have some time at home where I'm not thinking about or using my computer. So, when there's just one last thing I absolutely have to check after I've logged off for the fifth time for the night, I'd love to be able to boot up in 30 seconds. That's not asking for too much, is it?

    Sadly, I realize getting Microsoft to focus serious on fast boots is going to be a nonstarter. (An early test on PC World Canada found a nine-second reduction in boot time.) Which is why I'm proposing No.3:

  • 3) Performance Profiles.

    This one's actually an interesting proposal, which I haven't seen elsewhere. It keys off a great site called, run by a guy who describes himself as an unemployed 35-year-old who "enjoys computers." (Hey, somebody give this guy a job.)

    He apparently enjoys Vista enough to have posted a really interesting, detailed discussion of Vista configuration settings. The idea is to turn off unnecessary services with an eye toward boosting system performance.

    Anyway, my take-away is that Microsoft should have built-in performance settings, which you can select by clicking on them in, say, the sidebar. So there could be "full Vista (aka a complete but slow configuration), "reduced" (say, diagnostics turned off), and "screaming" (just the basics).

    I know, you're thinking that this defeats the purpose of Vista, because when you get down to the fastest setting, you'd be shutting off necessary security features. OK, so make novice users jump through hoops to get to this "performance profiles" dashboard. But give it to the rest of us. Please.

  • 4) Remove The Intrusive User-Account Controls Already.

    What I wrote in August still holds true: Vista's user-account controls are a joke. They're faux security warnings, which protect computer users no better than the TSA's confiscation of tiny liquid bottles wards off air terrorists.

    Better to implement some intelligent protections, which assess whether an executable is from a signed (trusted) app, and pop up a dialog box only when that's not the case.

    I've beaten this argument to death already, so I'll leave you with this:

    WARNING: Are you sure you want to read further? Click "page down," or scroll your mouse wheel, if you wish to proceed.

  • 5) Fix Internet Explorer 7.

    OK, I realize Internet Explorer 7 ain't Vista. But if Microsoft can tie apps a bit too closely to its OS, why can't I mix and match my arguments? My gripe with IE7 is that it's one of the few apps which consistently crashes under Vista. Of course, my ideal fix would be that IE7 not lock up.

    However, if IE is going to screech to a halt -- maybe "screech" isn't the correct word, since its performance isn't exactly screaming to begin with -- it'd be nice if it had a "restore session" feature. That would obviate the need to redo my eight previously open tabs following a every crash.

    On the one hand, I love the fact that, with IE7, Microsoft has finally caught up to -- and indeed surpassed -- Firefox's user interface. However, until IE7's performance issues are fixed, it can't be called the best browser, no matter how big its market share.

    P.S. Read my earlier posts, Five Things Microsft Should Fix In Windows Vista Service Pack 1 and

    Top 5 Things About Windows Vista That Still Suck.

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