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

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8. Problems without solutions.

Vista Build 5384, the official Beta 2, was the one tested most extensively for this story. I also examined Build 5381. Although Beta 2 is far more functional and performs more quickly than the last widely offered pre-release of Vista (the February CTP, or Build 5308), it's worth nothing that 5384 is less reliable. That should come as no surprise. A lot of code that was merely a placeholder in the February CTP is fully operational in Beta 2. The Johnny-come-lately Vista features and functionalities haven't been tested as thoroughly as other modules.

Microsoft's new Problem Reports and Solutions utility, which relies on Vista's welcome built-in diagnostics tools, keeps track of device driver woes and some software failure events. The tool automates the process of searching for online-based solutions to Windows problems. So far, I have yet to see it really do anything helpful for me. But it has logged numerous problems with all of my test machines. And I suspect its main purpose is to help Microsoft evaluate device driver problems. At this point, it's hard to get past the fact that of the 21 problems recorded by Problem Reports and Solutions on one machine and 16 on another, not a single solution has been found so far. I expect that experience to change after Vista ships. But the issues, and the fact that there are no solutions, aren't confidence-inspiring.

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The Problem Reports and Solutions utility.
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(Click image to see larger view)

On one machine, Windows attempted to install a ThinkPad customization utility and didn't complete the process. Although it is listed in Vista's version of Add or Remove Programs (now the Programs Control Panel, the Installed Programs option), Vista was unable to uninstall it.

You expect problems like these with beta software. But experience teaches that if they're not pointed out in the Beta 2 time frame, they tend to become the norm when the product ships.


7. Lack of Windows Sidebar Gadgets.

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Sidebar's Add Gadgets facility.
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(Click image to see larger view)

As I write this, there's a grand total of 21 Gadgets available for Vista's Sidebar. There are 280 Gadgets available for Windows Live, but they aren't compatible with Sidebar. Microsoft is considering some sort of unified Gadget model, but that appears to be something down the road. While the overall design of the Sidebar is excellent, and it should be generally easy for programmers and Web developers to write Sidebar Gadgets, so far not many have been created. With the exception of a stock ticker, a currency conversion tool, RSS feed viewer, an analog clock, a calculator and a notepad, Vista Gadgets are primarily trinkets, games and eye candy. So, right at this moment, the Windows Sidebar is pretty useless. In comparison, Google Gadgets and Plugins for Google Desktop Sidebar number almost 300, and there are nearly 2,000 Dashboard Widgets for Apple's Mac OS X Tiger.

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