Something curious happened during Microsoft’s PDC in 2003 (See ‘geeks bearing gifts‘). They unveiled the then-exciting and anticipated Longhorn operating system that was powered in large part by the GPU. That is, each “window” of Windows would no longer be rendered in software. They would be rendered as full 3D planes using the GPU.
Why? Stability for one, also to offset the (GDI+) window draw that would otherwise consume CPU, to the GPU, for which it should be a relatively trivial task. Of course, the “Vista Capable” lawsuit proved otherwise, as a somewhat powerful GPU was required to enable Aero.
PDC 2003 even had a worthless but informative demo showing all of the various aspects of the “Longhorn” UI floating around and being manipulated in 3D with ease. No doubt using a powerful graphics card at the time.
It is this evolution that allowed Windows Vista and 7 to have the Rolodex-style “Flip 3D” effect achieved by holding down the Windows key and Tab simultaneously.
Aside from the stability and performance benefits, Microsoft’s decision to include a clever hardware-accelerated blur representing “frosted glass” looks beautiful.
Strangely, this feature which existed in both Windows Vista and Windows 7, is gone entirely from Windows 8. Ironically, the frosted glass blur effect is being introduced in Apple’s iOS 7 as a feature which provides “context” to your content. (Advanced users can follow these steps to bring back aero mostly in Windows 8).
The decision to remove (frosted) aero glass in Windows 8 makes little sense, and provides no benefits to the end user. Moreover, using the keyboard shortcut WinKey + Tab no longer reveals the somewhat-useful Flip 3D, but instead triggers an awkward “Modern” flat looking task manager which only switches between apps, not windows.
I had the great misfortune of having to set up two Windows 8 machines recently. Both were set up with Modern Mix and StartIsBack. The end result is a workable version of Windows 8, but flat and devoid of character. It feels like a broken version of Windows.
We’ve reached a point where shuffling around the UI is the end result. Windows 8.1 introduces a few badly needed new features, such as the new All Apps screen, dynamic lockscreen, more tile sizes, desktop wallpaper behind the Modern start screen — but this a company with over 61 billion in assets (after liabilities, see archive of their balance sheet, September 28, 2013). These changes seem trivial, hardly the monumental changes we’ve seen in the past from companies with much fewer resources.
Customization has been at the heart of Windows since the very early days of Windows. Even Windows 95 had a feature permitting users to simulate the Win 3.x experience (program manager). Those days seem to be long gone, and relying on third party applications to keep Windows in working order seems to be the only way to be productive going forward. From Windows to Gmail, oversimplification leads to a dramatic reduction of productivity and craft.
The state of user interfaces has reached the point of diminishing returns. In retrospect, it is clear that many user interfaces reached their peak balance of ease and complexity in 2007. Since then, it seems that balancing new features has been a very difficult task for many companies. There’s a curious trend to hide functionality to an obsessive degree that inhibits average users from being able to find often rather obviously necessary features. The learning curve continues to grow tremendously despite the superficial trend towards “simplicity.”
It’s worse than I thought.
The new ASUS U47A comes with a whole host of “security” features to prevent downgrading of the operating system, Windows 8.
This particular U47A system was purchased in preparation for a federal criminal trial in Las Vegas in which I will be relying heavily on the system to serve up dense amounts of information. I learned my lesson from my last case to not rely on Windows 8 (more on that later), so, downgrading was part of the plan all along. ASUS’ position that “No,downgrading from Windows 8 to Windows 7 is not an option,” was unacceptable for me.
I’m not one to be easily confused by UI decisions. Comfortable with the command-line, and having used dozens upon dozens of different distributions of Linux, and nearly every version of Windows since 3.11 for Workgroups (and MS-DOS before that, v. 6.22) — I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like Windows 8.
Granted, that’s how Microsoft wants it to be perceived. Perhaps they’ve succeeded in that cursory endeavor.
You’ve been brainwashed. Brainwashed by clever marketing and the classic underpromise-and-overdeliver strategy employed by Microsoft to fix the mistakes they made with Vista.
I know, I know, everyone told you Vista was bad. You maybe even used Vista pre-SP1, on a “Vista Capable” machine way back when it launched and concluded that it was horrible. Or, maybe you heard all the bad press and skipped on it altogether? Stuck with XP, then switched straight to 7. Is that what you did?
Well, regardless, I am convinced that Vista is the superior operating system. So vastly superior, that I am going out of my way to ensure that it replaces all the systems that I have been tricked into installing Windows 7 on. At work, at home, and for my clients. I am going to make an argument in this article as to why I believe that Vista remains superior.
I challenge someone to list 7 reasons why Windows 7 is better than Windows Vista. Actual reasons. “Features” like Aero Snap, Jump Lists, and the new taskbar do not necessitate an entirely new operating system, so they don’t really count. Those could easily be implemented into Vista, if it were not abandoned in the wake of Windows 7 by the new CEO, Steve Ballmer. So, we begin with a mini history lesson: