My Secret Life as a Spaghetti Coder
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Even though I know many of us have a slight anti-Microsoft bias in our hearts, I'm going to go out on a limb here and ask, "Is Windows Vista all that bad?"

You've seen the Mac-PC upgrade to XP advertisement:

You've heard the horror stories of Vista. Perhaps you've even experienced them?

I've only been using Vista "heavily" for a few months, but my experience hasn't been the same as what I've heard and read from others. In fact, I kind of like Vista. To this point, I've had only 3 problems:
  1. My second monitor will not run at its native, high resolution while in Windows. Instead, it runs at much too low a resolution, and the downgrade is choppy looking. It ran correctly one time, but never since.
  2. I cannot simply connect a projector and present - I have to boot up with the projector connected for it to be recognized.
  3. I can't get SQL Server 2005 to install the database server
From what I can tell, two of those can be chalked up to Apple's NVidia Bootcamp drivers for Vista. I think that because I know people who have the older MacBook with the ATI card and both of those things work fine in Vista. For me, even trying to present from MacOS caused my computer to freeze.

Eventually, I'm going to have to get the presentation thing fixed, and the 2nd monitor resolution is so bad I never use it on Vista, so that will need to be fixed too. The SQL Server problem bothers me from a principled standpoint, but it doesn't break up my day to day work since I can easily use the client tools to connect to a different SQL server instance.

That's been my experience. Maybe Vista only works on a Macbook.

What has been your experience? If you've had these problems, how have you fixed them?

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Where shall I start. Poor backwards compatability and inflexability of the UAC are the biggest pains I've come across.

You can't test your apps on IE6 in VISTA (you can if you upgrade to Vista Ultimate and then run IE6 on a Virtual PC but that's not very practical while you're developing).
Installing/running Apache, Macromedia Studio can be problematic too (install as administrator and run as XP compatable)and often involve turning off User Account Control - the crux of a lot of the user security features in Vista.
Vista is a bit of a memory hog too. IMHO you need at least 2gb of RAM on VISTA if you want to be a web developer.

It's not all bad news - there are a lot of features I like but the above are a right mess that really should have been sorted before release.

Posted by Martin on Dec 17, 2007 at 06:57 AM UTC - 5 hrs

Until they fix the programs menu like windows XP (in the native Aero... not the classic view), I will forever despise Vista. I've bee using the OS for over a year and loathe the new embedded programs menu with a passion. I've given the OS a long standing benefit of the doubt, but if MS doesn't fix the menu in SP1, I'm downgrading back to XP on all my machines. The sad thing is that I can live with the slow printing, slow file transfers, long network detections and even the disabled UAC, but that menu slows down my productivity tremendously!

Posted by Rick Smith on Dec 17, 2007 at 07:40 AM UTC - 5 hrs

I do have 2 gigs of RAM. I wouldn't consider running it on anything less either.

Thanks for the comments guys - keep them coming! =)

Posted by Sammy Larbi on Dec 17, 2007 at 07:47 AM UTC - 5 hrs

I've been running Ultimate on my desktop for about 8 months, and Home Premium on my laptop for close to 3 -- and haven't had too many problems with either. I'm getting as much as I can out of the ultimate box though -- Windows Media Center to Xbox 360, backing up all my home PCs to it as a server, lots of cool stuff.

I haven't looked into running multiple versions of IE as of yet, but that'll come soon. I know on XP you can download a utility to run ie3,4,5,5.5,6 and 7 on the same PC, so i'd imagine that's available on Vista as well.

Biggest annoyances so far have been working with the file system. The whole folder view is more annoying in Vista -- especially since it hadn't changed dramatically until then. Where's the Up button? Lately I've been annoyed that folders can't seem to default to detail view even though I've told it to. Odd quirks when trying to select multiple files sometimes make it not let you. I'm sure there are fixes for all these, but those are my only current issues.

I haven't regretted going to Vista though. I'll probably upgrade my girlfriends computer in 3 months when my new copy of ultimate gets in:

Posted by Adam Fortuna on Dec 17, 2007 at 08:24 AM UTC - 5 hrs

@Rick - to clarify, which menu are you talking about? I like the incremental search available when clicking on the Windows icon (the old start button), and have had no problems with the menu there.

@Martin - It was my understanding you had to have the same fix to run IE6 and 7 side by side under XP. Has something changed, or was I wrong in the first place?

@Adam - I guess they got rid of the up button in favor of the bread crumbs. I'd also like to see it written out so I can just erase or type to get where I'd like to go. In any case, I'm glad to hear someone else is having minimal issues as well.

Posted by Sammy Larbi on Dec 17, 2007 at 08:28 AM UTC - 5 hrs

I'm running Vista with Boot Camp and have a second monitor in portrait orientation. The only way I could get it to work properly in portrait at native resolution was with a program called "Pivot Pro". It's a bit pricy ($39.95), but it's the only thing I've found that worked for my set up. You might download the demo and give it a try:

By the way, I too think Vista is a good OS. Vista and OS X both have their own strengths and weaknesses, so I use both.

Posted by Paul on Dec 17, 2007 at 08:31 AM UTC - 5 hrs

I should note that it appears I've fixed my 2nd monitor problem with the drivers available at

@Paul - thanks for the info!

Posted by Sammy Larbi on Dec 17, 2007 at 08:46 AM UTC - 5 hrs

I give it a B+ so far. Some of the UI changes take some getting used to, but some are actually kind of helpful. I never used top menus much. Windows has always been about the right-click anyway. And of course you should be running hardware that's well above minimum spec.

If you need to run old browsers, you should install VMWare. End of story. MS shouldn't be required to support old browsers in Vista. I can't run many old versions of Safari on my Mac either.

Posted by adampasz on Dec 17, 2007 at 09:03 AM UTC - 5 hrs

My biggest issue thus far has been the speed for file transfers and its Zip utility which is incredibly slow if not completely broken. Supposedly SP1 will fix that, which was just released to as a RC last week. I will not bother with RC though and just wait for final SP1 next spring.

The secondary thing is that many of my programs i must run as Administrator to get them to run correctly. Which causes that annoying prompt asking if I approve. I am pretty sure I can turn that off somewhere, but I have left it on for now just to continue to evaluate. CuteFTP dies every time I close it. I need to see about a different ftp program or an upgrade I guess.

Vista's media center is a nice upgrade from XP visually and I have not encountered any DRM issues, though I hear they are a pain for others.

I also concur that you need at least 2GB RAM.

Posted by joshua on Dec 17, 2007 at 09:14 AM UTC - 5 hrs

I don't know that I agree with AdamPasz. My Google stats show me that a lot of people are still using IE6 - there needs to be some backwards compatibility.

Tredosoft has a program to allow you to run multiple versions of IE on XP but it doesn't work on Vista: see for more info.

The problem is Microsofts IE behaves SO differently with each version that you'd be an idiot not to cover at least 6 & 7 when developing an app.

I agree with running VMWare for testing, that's why I upgraded to Vista Ultimate BUT when you're writing CSS and viewing as you go it's a pain to keep making changes in two places i.e. in a real invironment & then a virtual one, especially when I didn't need to do this in XP.

I normally test IE6, IE7, Firefox, Opera, Safari (Windows version) and AOL. I could run ALL of these side by side in XP, I don't see why VISTA shouldn't.

Posted by Martin on Dec 17, 2007 at 09:25 AM UTC - 5 hrs

I'm not fond of their solution for running multiple versions either. If they'd not tie it so deep into the OS, I don't think it'd be a problem.

Posted by Sammy Larbi on Dec 17, 2007 at 10:06 AM UTC - 5 hrs

I just bought a new Lenovo and thought I would give Vista another try.

I installed apache on it, edited the .conf file and went to save. Windows asks me if I wish to overwrite the existing file. I click Yes. Windows gives me an error that it can't find the file at c:\programs\apache group\apache2.2\conf\httpd.conf

So then, I close without saving, use Windows Explorer to navigate to the /conf folder and open the file. It opens fine. I edit 1 line in the file and save. It asks me if I wish to overwrite the existing file, I click Yes. Windows gives me an error that it can't find the file at c:\programs\apache group\apache2.2\conf\httpd.conf.

So then, I close without saving, use Windows Explorer to navigate to the /conf folder and open the file. It opens fine. I edit 1 line in the file and save. It asks me if I wish to overwrite the existing file, I click Yes. Windows gives me an error that it can't find the file at c:\programs\apache group\apache2.2\conf\httpd.conf.

So then, I close without saving, use Windows Explorer to navigate to the /conf folder and open the file. It opens fine. I edit 1 line in the file and save. It asks me if I wish to overwrite the existing file, I click Yes. Windows gives me an error that it can't find the file at c:\programs\apache group\apache2.2\conf\httpd.conf.

See how annoying that is? ;)

I think I would prefer the Red pill.

Looks like another upgrade to XP for me.


Posted by Dan Wilson on Dec 17, 2007 at 10:24 AM UTC - 5 hrs

I'm certainly no Microsoft fan but I've been running Vista Ultimate on VMware Fusion for months and it's certainly pretty stable and I rather like the new UI (although Aero won't run on VMware yet so I just get the basic UI). It is a memory hog, it is slower than XP but it isn't completely horrible to use. I run CF8, BD7.NET and SQL Server 2005 Express on it all the time with no issues. I even use Eclipse on it from time to time.

The UAC was annoying at first but now I've gotten used to it and I don't find it intrusive at all now. I *do* find the file system permissions model frustrating tho'. I checked a project out of SVN under Eclipse and ColdFusion couldn't even read the files because it didn't have permission! That's just stupid - I can understand it not having *write* permission but it's a desktop for goodness sake! This is not a heavily secured server!

I also find it frustrating that to edit the hosts file I have to Run as Administrator on Notepad first and then Open File... and navigate to the file. Why can't I Open as Administrator by right-clicking on the file itself?

Overall, my anti-Microsoft stance has not changed. I still lose a lot of work time to Billy-Boy's continual security update-and-reboot processes and I just can't get productive on Windows (despite having used every version since 3.1 back in the day) whereas I'm extremely productive on Mac OS (and I've used System 6, 7, 7.5 and three versions of OS X so far). The Windows UI just doesn't work the way I "expect" and I miss the powerful command line of Unix whenever I'm doomed to work on Windows.

Posted by Sean Corfield on Dec 17, 2007 at 01:52 PM UTC - 5 hrs

Yes, the windows orb. I'm well aware you can use the search once clicking on the orb... I find that annoying as well and simply don't use it so I click to programs which forces me to scroll through all my applications instead of being able to see them all at once. Whoever thought that embedding the programs in the start menu would be a good idea AND not giving the consumer the option to put the normal feel back was complete moron! The thing that disturbs me most is that I've reported it to Microsoft and all they've done is say that "research says the new menu is faster and easier for users because it reduces clutter". Research according to whom? I wasn't asked and reported it as a nuisance in every single beta. Further more it doesn't reduce clutter, it removes the ability for me to select what's on my menu easily... I have to scroll through everything. I'll reemphasize... I utterly HATE the new programs menu. Funny thing is every average user I've spoken with hates it as well, although they all seem to have a far greater tolerance on the issue than I do. Again, if it ain't fixed in SP1, ba-bye Vista. I've had enough.
>@Rick - to clarify, which menu are you talking about? I
>like the incremental search available when clicking on the
>Windows icon (the old start button), and have had no
>problems with the menu there.

Posted by Rick Smith on Dec 17, 2007 at 02:24 PM UTC - 5 hrs


Firstly - the old addage of "it uses SO much ram!" is just utter dribble these days. You spend more on a night out than for what it costs for 2gb of decent RAM. I'm running on 4gb - just because it's so cheap compared to yesteryear. My mouse cost more than 2 gb of RAM!

Secondly - there will always be people who don't like change. There will also be people who like change just for changes sake. Yup, I'm the later. The Start menu still lets me start my apps.

Thirdly - Vista looks so darn pretty it must be made from Unicorns!

My experience has been without problems. I have had a blue screen - tests proved it was picasa choking on an mp4. I find it overall fairly snappy, networking is brilliantly simple and laptop power management is well ahead of XP.

Things that do bug me a little; copying large numbers of files can leave you with un-copied files, folders with media like movies etc. can be hit with an unwelcome overhead as explorer scans all the media properties and prepares thumbnails. Bit of a PITA.

Otherwise - neato!

Posted by Brendan on Dec 17, 2007 at 05:28 PM UTC - 5 hrs

I have a middle of the road toshiba that came with vista.

Not. A. Single. Problem. I run DW CS3, PS CS3, CF8 server, mysql 5 server, ftp, explorer windows, heidi sql, and a few others all day long...

In fact, I kinda like it now that I have been developing on it. I HATED XP when it came out, and skipped from 98 -> 2000 Pro -> 2003 server on my workstation at home....

It's not perfect, but I have no problems with it. I do not feel held back, locked in, beaten down, or otherwise abused by microsoft as some would lead you to believe...

Posted by Kevin Sargent on Dec 17, 2007 at 06:00 PM UTC - 5 hrs

Not sure what your issue with SQL Server 2005 is. Have it running fine on Vista Business Edition. What edition are your running (both Vista and SQL Server).

Posted by Peter Tilbrook on Dec 17, 2007 at 10:45 PM UTC - 5 hrs

I got my wife a new laptop a month ago with Vista Home Premium. We turned off all the fancy stuff to speed it up. Then it blue screened. Every time I tried to make a display setting change it would blue screen after that.

I tried using the back feature and found that you can't specify what folders to backup or even figure out what all it took in the backup. On disk four of five of the backup it quit so I had to start over. Now to restore I have to restore everything, I can't choose.

The laptop also loses its wireless connection everytime it goes to sleep and you have to run the wireless repair wizard to get it back online.

Not impressed.

Posted by Ian on Dec 19, 2007 at 07:16 AM UTC - 5 hrs

Vista is good but just because of its eye catching design. But for many softwares its not even working :(

Posted by Ilyas on Dec 23, 2007 at 12:27 PM UTC - 5 hrs

I have only had three prob. with vista. First i had to update my driver for my printer the one i was using didn't work. Next i lost my address book. It's now called a contact file and it didn't have all my phone numbers in it. I lost most of them. (thank god i had them on my phone for the most part)
Next back up sucks. I used it once. I didn't have a disk handy so i did it on computer. It would only do it to D drive. so i did and filled it up and had to find a way to undo it so it would quit telling me i was low on memory in D drive. AUGH!

Posted by Rachel Humphrey on Dec 24, 2007 at 12:48 PM UTC - 5 hrs

@Sam: I'd also like to see it written out so I can just erase or type to get where I'd like to go.

In fact, if you click on the far right side of the address control in Explorer, the breadcumb view will switch to a classic text box (and you'll be able to type or change the address like in older versions of Windows).

I really like Vista, I'm getting used to it and would never switch back to XP. I too had some problem with video drivers and the 2nd monitor, but they were solved by a simple driver update. The best thing IMHO is that hibernating the computer finally is reliable and works perfectly: I hardly reboot the computer anymore. :)

Posted by Lorenz Cuno Klopfenstein on Jan 01, 2008 at 06:10 PM UTC - 5 hrs

Well, lets see. First, on vista, some things like brand new printers that aren't
compatible with vista are a waste (unless you can return them), many kinds of games, programs , or even mp3 players. Also, the new design gets the attention of people and most of the memory is being wasted on other things. My opinion is to try to buy a pc with windows xp.
One more thing, if you think vista is good , buy it and your stuck with it for good.

Posted by nova on Jan 15, 2008 at 05:59 PM UTC - 5 hrs

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