Carl Camera

A Geek's Top Ten: Why Vista

Although I expressed disappointment with my computer's inability to support some of the new Vista features, I would like to post a follow-up expressing my overall enthusiasm for the new operating system.

After reading Jay Kimble tear apart Microsoft's marketing list, I realized that the coolness in Vista that appeals to me is not in transparent windows or full-motion-video backgrounds. It's the geek factor. Blame it on my fascination with operating systems, but Vista packs a gaggle of geekiness into their sleekly-marketed package.

  1. A single DVD for all editions

    The feature sets for the various flavors (Home, Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, etc.) install based on your registration key. For someone who is tech support for an extended family, this is a great improvement. As a software developer knowing that the operating system will be distributed in a hundred different languages, I appreciate the elegance of a single DVD per language.

  2. Streamlined installation

    Vista asks all questions up front, then it tells you to (my words) take a coffee break and come back in a half-hour. No more waiting to enter the US keyboard information at the end to complete the installation. No more DOS screens during installation. I never really liked that part. Glad it's gone.

  3. Instant Search

    It didn't take too long to adore Instant Search. I start typing in the search box and the results screen clears and starts populating with the results as I'm typing. This is so cool, now I'm disappointed when I actually have to press an Enter button to see results. I want every search box in Vista to be instant search now. More. More. More.

  4. Drop-down Breadcrumbs in Windows Explorer

    This is so obvious and so simple and so elegant. No more directory-up icon needed -- I can navigate up three levels, or navigate up two and over one, right from the address bar.

  5. Address Space Layout Randomizer

    One hundred percent geeky. System files are loaded into different memory locations upon each boot of the system. Attackers cannot predict where in memory any specific system routine will be placed.

  6. IE7 Protected Mode

    IE7 on Vista runs in a special protected mode with fewer rights to resources than other applications. Not available under XP.

  7. ReadyBoost

    I put a 2GB USB stick in my computer and it goes faster. That's exactly what happens, and here are the geeky details: Once configured, your USB drive becomes a RAM cache - allowing faster fetch times than going to your hard drive. This results in a faster overall system. This also allows for additional hard drive spin-downs to improve battery life. Michael Fortin of Microsoft says that PC manufacturers will start placing non-volatile RAM on the motherboard -- allowing ReadyBoost to save RAM across suspend/resume cycles and reduce resume times.

  8. SuperFetch

    A low-priority thread in Vista monitors your habits, noting which applications you use and when, and manages RAM so that your most used applications are at hand or readily available. If background processes run while you are away from the keyboard, SuperFetch will protect your favorite application's RAM from being removed by memory management, and once the background process ends, it will kick out of RAM any of the application's associated blocks of memory, restoring pages that it predicts you will need when you return to the keyboard. This is an uber-geeky must-have feature.

  9. Improved Backup and Recovery

    I've never used built-in Windows backup features before, but I've used Vista's and I see no reason to purchase Norton Ghost anymore. It's built in now. The native Vista recovery app will copy from the backup image to a new drive. I've done it, and it worked well.

  10. Mobility Center (notebook computers only)

    In one convenient location, I have the ability to turn WiFi on and off, sound on and off, switch to external projection mode, view battery status, and other similar Mobile tasks. I use this. Thank you.

Some of those features are UI convenience factors and not Geek factors. Oh well, I think they're compelling or a big enough improvement to be mentioned. Did I leave out any cool geeky features?