The Vista's OK
Now that Vista SP1 is released I finally decided to bit the bullet and upgrade my recently new hardware PC to Vista/XP dual boot PC. I've now been running it for a few days and my impressions (bearing in mind I'm IT support tech and got it so that I could learn the ropes for implementation at work) are:
1) If you've go the right hardware, installing it is really easy. I had to manually install the LAN driver as the manufacturer's installer didn't work, but everything else went in fine. It felt like it installed easier and quicker than XP did on the same machine. If you've got old hardware, you'll have to dump the old stuff and get new stuff.
2) It's intuitive. It is quite different from XP in some respects, but pretty much everything is still there if you know where to look (ie Google). The switch from XP to Vista is much easier than from XP to MacOS.
3) It takes ages to boot up.
4) Some things are faster in Vista than XP. Office opens noticably faster, as do several other apps. If you see the boot time as a way of cutting down app loading time it actually makes sense ;)
5) It looks nice. It does! Nicer than MacOS to my eyes.
6) Get rid of the stuff you don't like so as to make a happy Windows experience! I turned off that windows shrinking/expanding from the taskbar effect because it was giving me a headache. Now windows snap into and out of visibility faster than XP, and apps load faster too.
7) Flip is pointless. Translucent windows look cool. Sidebar is quite nice (after finding the Tetris panel!)
8) Extra security level isn't that annoying once you get used to it - you can turn it off for certain apps.
9) Networking is a peice of p*ss. I had heard really bad things about wireless on Vista, but I was on my home network in about five minutes after installing the wireless drivers.
10) Some nice touches (eg, you can directly alter the exe file by changing the properties on the shortcut).
So far I am very happy with Vista - it has crashed once (I don't know why yet), but I have tried installing several apps that aren't really Vista compatible!
Conclusion: if you have a new machine (less than 1 year old) with dual core processor, a good graphics card, at least 2Gb RAM and a good, quick, quiet HDD (Vista hammers the HDD esp on boot) then Vista will not feel any slower than XP for most 'normal' use. Some things are slower, some are quicker. Turn off the windows fading in and out thing as this makes the OS feel much slower than it actually is. However, if you don't have a newish PC you should stick with XP. The worst mistake M$ made was trying to pressure/fast talk consumers into using Vista on unsuitable PCs (see Intel M$ Vista spec conspiracy).
Don't buy Vista for a computer with XP unless you have money to burn or have an over-riding need to do so (eg DirectX 10). As an upgrade it really isn't worth £100 plus because there simply isn't enough extra functionality.
Install XP as a virtual machine. Running Vista means you will have to abandon some apps and games (eg Juice podcast, Diablo II) but if you really miss them you can run them from inside Vista on a Virtiual PC. I have decided not to go dual boot after finding this solved pretty much all my issues.
Microsoft really, really got the marketing and deployment of this wrong. I really don't think Vista is that bad, and if M$ had done things differently they could have avoided most of the bad reaction. Confronted with the problem of selling a new OS that only ran well on very new machines, that didn't have proper driver support and was well behind schedule, M$ made the critical error of giving the OS the 'hard sell'. Instead they needed to sweeten the deal with discounts for early uptake, and to soften the blow by being honest about the heavy load the new features put on hardware. I bet that if they'd done something as simple as set the vanilla installation with the extra interface features switched OFF, Vista would have got a much warmer reception.
So, I'm not missing XP on my home PC at all - much against my expectations. I'm sure extra annoyances will crop up, but I expect to get a few more pleasant surprises as well. Overall, I don't think its worth the upgrade for most users, but I would take Vista over XP on a new machine.
Having said all this... we need to move away from the continual cycle of OS + hardware replacement. I replaced my home PC because old one broke, but I was happy with it until then. For many uses a five year old XP machine is still OK, and will be for another five years (if we can somehow stop websites clogging up with Flash junk). In fact, I see no reason why we shouldn't demand that increasing the usable life of a typical home PC be a duty of hardware and software industries. In my house we have one workhorse PC that does high end stuff like video encoding, coaster-free 16X DVD burning, playing games etc whilst the rest are really just web browsers and word processors. When I replace my old laptop I don't need to buy a laptop capable of running Vista because it would be redundant processing power.