Let's Not Repeat the Vista Mistakes in Windows 7

Tuesday Jun 24th 2008 by Ronald Barrett
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A veteran Windows IT administrator gives Redmond seven suggestions for improving Windows 7.

I can’t say I feel like everyone else about Vista. However, I can understand the frustration of the masses. Vista was to be the new standard for Operating Systems. Most would agree that didn’t happen.

But with the recent preview of some of the “new” bells and whistles Windows 7 promises, I thought it would be nice to throw out a few ideas for some improvements that should be added.

Let’s call them my 7 wishes for Windows 7:

1. Fix UAC

It is not a very good thing when users choose to disable a security feature and leave themselves vulnerable, rather than use the very tool meant to protect them. UAC needs to play nicer. It becomes quite a nightmare when UAC stars prompting you for elevated privileges to open the control panel.

Even if you can live with that annoyance, certainly it will start to get to you when you need to OK elevated permissions the second, third, fourth or more times. Many server security standards use the idea of time-outs; why not add that functionality to UAC?

The idea of the Administrator account having to be prompted continuously is a bit over the top for me. I understand accounts can be compromised. However, any IT Admin worth his salt should be using minimum 8 characters (alpha numeric, CAPS, and symbols). That said, password expiration on these accounts provides the extra layer of protection to feel safe enough to not have to add any more stress to an IT Admin’s life.

2. Kill the Bloat

I like Media Center, I enjoy the sidebar, and the Vista Ultimate extras (games especially are nice). I think Microsoft can take a lesson from their Vista Ultimate Extra’s strategy. With high-speed Internet everywhere, why not leave something out of the initial bells & whistles and let users choose to spend the time downloading and installing the extra features?

It would be nice to offer the option to give a streamlined OS.

I know in the enterprise I spent a lot of time creating group policies or outright uninstalling items I didn’t want my end users to access while on the network.

For everyone I speak to that dislikes Vista, the first or second complaint they have is the large size of the OS. I suggest downloading components as an option not to have the other very frustrating alternative. What I am I talking about? Well, the many, many flavors of Windows Vista…

3. Keep the Versions down

In Vista, we have 5 editions to choose from. Windows XP was initially 2 editions, and then came Media Center, Tablet and Pro 64 bit. Windows 2000 and earlier came in 1 desktop edition. The way things are going one can only fear that Windows 7 will not just be the name of the new OS, but will indicate the number of versions.

Now I agree with a Home edition (with today’s homes being just as wired and networked as some offices) but we wouldn’t want to be lacking in the networking subsystems on the Home edition. I equally think that there should be a more robust Enterprise version. Personally, tablets can fall into one of these two categories. Moreover, as far as 32- and 64-bit goes: Put them on the same disk. You either have a system that will support 64 bit or not. If you tie the single license to either installable version, it won’t matter.

If you install and activate, the 64-bit the 32-bit should be disabled for activation ability. I believe we are sophisticated enough in this 21st century to handle that kind of activation model.

4. Windows Open

Now let’s not get ahead of ourselves here and believe for a minute that Windows would go Open Source. But perhaps a Windows 7 Open version (OK so we would have 3 versions, it’s still better than 5). It might be interesting to see if Microsoft could combine perhaps even some open components to allow people who are code monkeys the opportunity to enhance, improve, and customize Windows.

Now I am far from the guy to get into that, though I enjoy some Open Source products. Nevertheless, I am not a coder – far from it. However, it could be interesting to see either a version or some limited ability to build upon, improve, and add to Windows from a community perspective.

5. Snapshots Please

Granted, System Restore has come a long way from Windows 2000. Now I don’t know about anyone else, but I was never able to restore a system in Windows 2000. Windows XP was spotty at best, and still a far cry from reliable. In Vista, we continue on this path of system restoration and it’s still difficult to put full faith in a technology that has been spotty for so long.

Perhaps Windows 7 can move into the realm of snapshots. Snapshots create a point in time “picture” of your OS. Now disk space will be needed if this technology is added. Is this really an issue though? What does a half terabyte cost these days – 5 bucks? NO! However, it is considerably cheaper than trying to replace all the hours of lost work. In addition, storage will continue to grow exponentially and prices most likely will continue to drop.

6. A Real Beta Testing Period

Get the software into IT’s hands. Never mind TechNet subscriptions and signing up for Betas. I find it hard to believe that Microsoft does not have the marketing power to push out the beta to end all betas. Make the cycles short; let the beta expire after 45 days. Make sure Enterprises, SMB’s and home users are well represented in the cross section of users.

Whatever the number of beta testers for Vista, add 5 to 7 times more testers. Let them kick the tires and test-drive the thing. Moreover, do it early – we have XP around until 2010. That gives us more than a year to get to know, learn, and quite frankly, complain about what can be changed and fixed.

To me I think this would be even better than the Windows Open suggestion. Mainly because I believe this is a possibility if the boys at Redmond will let us all play.

7. No More Registries?

Now I know this is a mere dream but one can still hope. No offense to the boys at Redmond and not to sound like a traitor to my PC roots, but a few years back I had to support a graphics department for a dot-com I was working for at the time.

Of course, the designers used MAC’s so I had to support them. Coming across the MAC, there was actually one thing I really liked: The idea of removing software by simply removing the files and a configuration file is genius. There is no worrying about leftover files of registry settings, some of which (you know the legacy settings) never get removed from your system.

Wrapping Up

Windows 7 so far seems to be promising some cool new features. What would be new is more input from the user community, and in particular from one user. (You might know him; he had 7 good suggestions for Windows 7.)

Well, let’s see if we can get even some of those in our next Windows version. Most of all let’s get a solid OS that people will not avoid like the plague.

As I said at the start, I like Vista, but I ache for a few of those features to be addressed. I would hate for 2010 to be another call to extend Windows XP. I liked that OS, too, but it’s time to move forward and to do it with an operating system that is going to work well.

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