Windows Vista — A pilot’s view

I realize that it has been a while since my last post and my thinking about aviation certainly does not echo the frequency of my posts here, however, I recently got a new computer and thought I would share a few quick high level notes on Windows Vista. Maybe my new system will allow me the time to post more frequently here.

Read all about my initial Windows Vista experience after the jump.


First I must say that it has been 9 years since my last computer purchase. I previously had a Dell XPS R400 — Pentium II 400 MHz 384 MB RAM — that was as maxed out as I could get it. At well over $4000 9 years ago I decided to go less aggressive this time around. Last Friday my Dell XPS 410 arrived — Duo Core 2.4 GHz 2 GB RAM — with Windows Vista. I had no choice on choosing Vista or not, but after hearing people talk about the betas for the last year I gave it a go.

A couple of notes about the computer from Dell: Thank you Dell for allowing me to order a computer system without much pre-installed software. This is the first computer I have owned/supported that I have not formatted and re-installed the OS right out of the box because there was so much other junk loaded. I still had to uninstall some of Dell’s “support” software but the uninstall process was painless. I think Dell is doing more and more to stay competitive in the market and a “no pre-installed software” feature helps a lot!

On to Vista:
Out of the box I was pretty impressed with the Aero interface. Aero is the high performance graphics card, RAM sucking, very “MACish” looking interface that all-in-all really looks pretty nice when you get over its resource sucking requirements. After hearing that lots of people had turned it off in the beta tests, I decided to leave it on after using it for a few hours.

One thing you will notice right away is all the alerts that frequently pop-up. This feature is called User Account Control (UAC). This feature restricts the permissions that applications run at and requires “admin” approval before they launch. Let me put it this way: have you seen the MAC commercial called Security with the security officer that is intercepting the PC/MAC communication? Vista is a lot like that out of the box. I think it is a good step for Security, but if you have not seen the video check it out at http://www.apple.com/getamac/ads/

I would encourage you to enable the DEP which was on for only Windows Programs/Services on my machine. If you have the hardware that supports it I would enable it for all applications as it helps protect you from buffer overflows or overruns which is a frequently used technique to get viruses and other junk on your computer. Make sure you understand the implications first, but if you can, I’d recommend you enable it. To learn more, check out the Security Now! Podcast episode number 78 titled DEP in Depth.

Software Troubles:
I did have some problems getting some older software installed from my old XP machine, but some things just took a little extra effort that any power user could overcome. Office 2003 even gave me a few fits if the CD was not in the drive when it needed to install something. I was most disappointed that iTunes was not formally supported for Vista. Did Apple not test with the very public betas that were released? I think 1 month after the public launch and 3 months after the release to manufactures (RTM) they would have had more than enough time to get their software ready to go. Moving iTunes and my music was the biggest headache and took me 2+ hours. iTunes v7.0.2.16 will work under Vista, but it will take a few trips to the Apple support site, a special file permissions tool from Apple and some searching on Google. Before you even start, make an extra copy of your iTunes folder! If I was not already so locked into my iPod/iTunes I might give the Zune a shot based on this experience alone! Apple you really disappointed me here!

The only other problem I had was issues installing my pilot logbook software called Logbook Pro. It is not formally supported under Vista but after trying the install a few different ways I did get it to load. I hope they have a formal Vista version soon, but their XP release was very stable! It seems to work pretty well in Vista with only the install process giving me fits initially.

Overall:
I like the changes that Microsoft has made. I would not upgrade an old computer, but I think it works on a new system purchase just fine. The OS has been very stable and outside of software problems that exist only because there is not formal Vista version available I have been pretty impressed. I like the enhancements and UI changes that Microsoft made and the software stuff will work itself out as Vista gets a larger install base. Overall I give it 3 out of 4 stars for the OS itself.

Author: Michael Whaley

I am a Private, Instrument Rated, pilot living in the Kansas City Metro area with my family and Siberian Husky. I work as a Network Engineer supporting data and voice infrastructure components here in Kansas City. In my spare time I fly.

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