Visual Tour: 20 Things You Won't Like About Windows Vista

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6. Media Center isn't all there and falls flat.

I have no problems with the way Microsoft has implemented Media Center in Windows Vista Beta 2, except for one little detail: On my three-week-old Media Center test machine, the act of launching any kind of live TV in Vista Media Center brings down hard the device driver for the PC's ATI X1400 128MB/256MB video card, which fully supports Aero Glass. The picture displays for a split second and then the screen goes black, which was not exactly the transition I was hoping for. The same PC displays live TV perfectly when launched in Windows XP Media Center 2005 Edition. The drivers for the TV tuner and remote control and other Media Center goodies configured impressively and rapidly under Windows Vista. But if it doesn't display TV, well, what's the point?

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The new Media Center home screen.
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(Click image to see larger view)

Other reviewers have complained about the color scheme and the increased use of horizontal (left and right button) controls, but I actually prefer those minor changes. They result in fewer clicks in some cases, and I always prefer fewer clicks.

The important issues with Media Center are that it needs more content, should be easier to install and configure, and must be 100% reliable. Not all Media Center PCs are created equal, either -- something that the average PC buyer may not be fully aware of. The marriage of two complex areas, Windows PCs and consumer entertainment, doesn't make either area easier to deal with. So far as I can tell, Vista's Media Center doesn't raise the bar on anything significantly. It appears to be more of a check-off item than a big selling point for Vista buyers. I'll look at it again in the next major prerelease version of Vista, though.

Update: As this story was nearing completion, I got wind of new ATI video drivers for Windows Vista Beta 2. After installing them, the video device driver stopped crashing, but live TV still showed lots of dropouts and inadvertent freezes, looking like the signal was Internet-video streamed instead of arriving via my cable company's digital coax.

5. Faulty assumption on the Start Menu.

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Shutdown option on the Start menu.
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(Click image to see larger view)

In its supreme state of being, Microsoft knows precisely what's best for you. It knows that because its well-implemented new Sleep mode uses very little electricity and also takes only two or three seconds to either shut down or restart, you want to use this mode to "turn off" your computer, whether you realize it or not. It wants to teach you about what's best. It wants to make it harder for you to make a mistake. That's why it crafted the Shutdown area at the lower right-hand corner of the Start menu to make the large red Sleep button and the large blue Lock buttons very prominent. Meanwhile, the button that offers a pop-up menu with options like Switch User, Log Off, Restart and Shutdown is a teeny-tiny little arrow hanging off the edge of the Start menu. They know you'll find it there, but they're making it just a little harder for you to access by making the surface area so small that it's harder to click. So long as Microsoft gets you to do what it wants you to do, it doesn't matter that it's torturing the user experience in the process.

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