Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Vista update

So, today was my first workday using Vista. I'm beginning to enjoy the new breadcrumb bar in Explorer—you're ten folders deep but wish you were only four; just click on the name of the parent folder in the list and you're taken there. There are several similar little niceties that I'm enjoying so far, and it's pretty. But, its betaness is really starting to show. The icons on my desktop refresh themselves with ridiculous frequency, and the pretty new windows start to bog down when you've got a lot of them open. It doesn't seem to be any better at staying fully responsive when the hard drive is grinding away than previous versions of Windows; I don't know if this is a flaw or just something you have to deal with with current PC hardware architecture. Then, of course, there's the fact that translucent title bars are just not a smart idea; Mac OS X had them, but Apple finally admitted that they were dumb and got rid of them (at least by default), and Apple's even more stubborn than Microsoft.

But, I have to step back and remind myself that it's beta 1. Windows XP wasn't too much better when it was in beta 1, and XP is a lot smaller change from 2000 than Vista is from XP. Still, I worry. I worry about a lot of things. I have high expectations.


Anonymous said...

What sorts of Glass effects are we talking about here; I know of the translucency and the 'genie' effect, but overall how does Glass impact the usage of the system. I've been pretty curious about this, given the hard-core graphics card requirements for the fully enabled effects. My machine has nifty pixel based effects (translucent windows etc.), but I don't have a l33t video card by any means. No fan-boyism here, I am just trying to understand what differentiates this from Quartz in Mac OS in such a way as to justify the much higher-end requirements.

All I have been able to find from the internets is a bunch of fan-boys who don’t shed much insight beyond “[Steve Jobs | Bill Gates] is Satan and all of their products suck!”.

Travis said...

The reason that Glass requires a relatively new video card is because the stuff behind the translucent window frame is blurred, which you can't easily do without pixel shaders (AFAIK), and just because of the RAM requirements of having pictures of every window on your desktop stored as textures. My video card at work is worth less than $40 and glass runs on it, but not well.

The main difference between the Vista glass effects and Aqua in OS X are little things like windows tilting toward the close button in 3D and so forth. Vista can also scale up applications that must run at 96dpi to still be readable on higher-resolution monitors, which would be very painful without hardware acceleration.

The practical impact of glass is (1) it's slower, at least on this low-end video card, and (2) windows don't have to keep repainting themselves. Windows traditionally used a paint-on-demand model, so pixels that weren't visible didn't exist, unless the program buffered them itself. With Glass, everything's kept in memory. So, on a faster machine, it should be more performant than XP. Whether or not they've reached that goal I'm uncertain.

Boy, that was rambling.

Travis said...

Wow, that text just sucked. I guess the real question is what glass is supposed to do under ideal conditions, and besides look pretty, the effect is that windows don't have to keep repainting themselves do everything's smooth and seamless and fast. I believe that the latest iterations of OS X do this already, so either it works and things are better, or it sucks and isn't any faster, but no one's willing to actually admit it...