A post from Tim Anderson's ITWriting blog  pointed me to a very interesting article (it is a 9  pages PDF)  by Microsoft , the specific author unnamed.  The document is titled "Five Misunderstood Features in Windows Vista". Now while it is certainly true that there are some misconceptions and urban myths about Vista, the document adds a lot of confusion, with misguiding statements and some totally false claims of its own. Yes, you can counter FUD by spreading some counterpoints, but adding to the confusion about Vista will only delay its adoption.

Beside some specific technical elements I'll get to later (and there are already quite a few in Tim post I won't repeat) it is overall tone that I noticed. I remembers a dozen years ago Bill Gates claiming Windows 95 was a perfect piece of software, any criticism coming to it was only because the users were unable to use it properly. At the time, this was somewhat of a mantra at Microsoft, blaming users. The same happened again a few years ago, with claims that Windows XP was secure, provided its users didn't make any dangerous operation... maybe including connecting to the Internet!

Now let's get to the specific issues raised by the document. There are so many that I'll focus only on a few I noticed and experienced directly, as a long time (over 1 year) Vista user (well, I still have XP on the home PC I'm blogging from at the moment).

On User Account Control

"One way to think about Standard User mode versus Local Administrator mode is to consider a home with or without locks." Now are you talking about using a FireWall or about not letting applications change an INI file in the Program Files folder? Come on, this comparison is totally misguiding. It gets even worse: "With Standard User mode ... you help ensure intruders are unable to get to the family jewels." Protecting from viruses and trojans is great, but mistaking those for intruders seems a good way to confuse users in a document meant to clarify things.

"With UAC, any action unable to execute in Standard User mode is either blocked or flagged to the user". Well, this is false. Elevation (executing a specific operation like a file copy that would be illegal) is available only for a separate process. The illegal (that is, to Program Files) file copy operation invariably fails. Programmers have to introduce extra specific code to get the UAC prompt. And running a process for copying a file is not a smart and fast operation, but probably slows down the copy considerably (I'm wondering how much this impacts Resource Explorer's own copy operation, with are darn slow in Vista). In any case, the documents keep drumming on this and suggests that "In some cases, prompts are triggered by third-party applications that have not been written to run with Standard User privileges" which is technically false (again, old third party applications trigger no UAC requests) and totally misleading. Blaming third party programs is a good excuse, but the single applications with more UAC prompts is Resource Explorer!

"A key goal of UAC in Windows Vista is to help nudge ISVs towards designing applications that function in Standard User mode." How comes? Old applications bypass most of the UAC thanks to virtual storage (and there are many programs using it). New applications need to be rewritten, or you can suggest your users to disable UAC. The document does the same: "IT Pros who regularly perform administrative operations can change the behavior of this prompt for their workstations". I'm not sure this is a good idea...

On Searches

Searches are in my opinion the worse feature of Vista. They may have made easier to find a word inside your email, but a simple operation like finding a file in a folder has become a total mess. The incipit of this section is great (or astonishing, depending on your point of view): "A complaint often lodged at Windows Vista is that it seems to run a bit slower than Windows XP." It seems to run a bit slower? In some operation is way slower than XP. Try copying a couple of small (< 10K) files. It takes ages, if you are lucky not to copy in a location in which it triggers UAC (yesterday I kept getting UAC prompts while copying to an external drive... probably I had an "offending" folder name somewhere in the path, but this is another story).

"Windows Vista is doing a lot more than any previous operating system." OK, this is why it is slow, but why is it doing more with no real benefit to end users, as most searches are bogged (and probably slower, if not only because you often need to enter the advance search section to turn on various options)?

"Indexing for near instantaneous search results for desktop files, even embedded in email messages, is a resource-intensive task". Near instantaneous search results? That's not my experience at all... I see a progress bar zooming through the first 90% of its length, finding nothing... then Vista takes a huge amount of time for that extra 10%, while finding (at times) what I was looking for. Maybe my Search configuration is totally messed up, but I never touched it, so I guess its default configuration is far from great.

"In Vista... the search engine is set up as a service rather than an application. This approach reduces the burden on system resources..." are you sure? I'm not an expert in services, but I really doubt the document got it right.

I found a very good piece of advice in this section: "Because of the processor overhead required, it is unwise to have multiple desktop indexing technologies operating simultaneously." So it means I'll disable Microsoft one and install something else...

More Fun, Lot's More Fun (and Errors)

"64-bit computing is definitely the direction of the future... Windows Vista x86 will be the preferred operating system for the next couple of years... over-time there will be a great variety of 64-bit device drivers available". A little discouraging, to say the least.

"32-bit Windows is limited to 4GB of memory " Sorry? AFAIK a single application can address only 4GB, but your PC can have more and use it!

" Application compatibility is the biggest issue preventing IT Pros from adopting Windows Vista into their organization." OK, so they get it! But immediately after this they write "Part of this is perception based on fact" which is a self-contradicting statement. Is is a fact or a perception? Pick one!

"The OS version number changes with each release, which might cause issues with applications that check for a specific version number upon installation." First, the number did not change from Windows 2000 to XP, so this is not factually correct. Second, this is hardly causing any application to get in trouble, as the compatibility feature of recent versions of Windows does just that, return an older number. But of all the programs I've had trouble running on Vista, none was fixed so easily.

"Windows Resource Protection (WRP) —this enables applications to function properly by redirecting attempts to write to protected files or registry locations." No, wait. WRP is the protection that causes a plain file access error, the virtual storage is where the redirecting occurs and it occurs only for non-themed applications. Again, confusing rather than clarifying.

"New driver model—drivers moved out of the kernel, so applications need to be modified to address the new location." What exactly do you need to change in a Vista application to access to the new location of the driver? Can you name one single application affected by this change? I cannot!

"Applications written with undocumented APIs may fail at runtime." More random blaming! Either it's users fault or ISV fault....

Apples, Oranges, and Operating Systems

And a final gem: "We‘ve heard some of you say that Windows Vista runs slower than Windows XP on a given PC. First, we need to avoid comparing apples to oranges—Windows Vista is doing a lot more than Windows XP". Comparing apples to oranges? They are comparing two operating systems from the same vendor! Two versions of the same operating system! Again, if you added extra useless and hard to disable features to Vista, that make it slow, it is exclusively your fault! The alternative users have is to compare, for example, your file system with the UNIX file system (used by Linux and the Mac) and I'm pretty sure you won't like the results! Maybe comparing apples to windows was what they meant!

Microsoft (and dear author of this paper) let me tell you a story. This morning I booted my Vista laptop. It took time, as I do shut it down at night to conserve power. After logging it, I went to do other tasks. As I got back to the computer it was asking me to press OK to restart Explorer that had crashed. I did (and this is not uncommon). Worked all day. At shutdown several hours later, Vista complained it could shut down because it could not stop a process (don't remember the name) that had failed to start! If it was a joke, I didn't laugh!

Still wondering how the Mac has doubled its market share over the last year? Or why I'm spending my time downgrading my friends Vista PCs to XP?
Sorry if I tell you, Microsoft, but Cranking out crappy documents won't help you make Vista better!