I'm a PC and, yes, I love Vista

* Ryan Naraine is on vacation. Guest editorial by Todd Hooper It's true - I'm a PC.
Written by Ryan Naraine, Contributor

* Ryan Naraine is on vacation.

Guest editorial by Todd Hooper 

Todd Hooper
It's true - I'm a PC. Searching through my 2006 emails recently reminded me it was two years ago this month when I loaded a beta of Windows Vista on my laptop. At the time we were primarily testing the NAP functionality in Vista while developing the Napera N24, but I was immediately smitten with the Vista interface and the overall experience.  In 2007 I switched to Vista full time on a new Sony Vaio.

Reading Dan Lyon's recent Forbes article A Gloomy Vista for Microsoft makes me wonder if I've led a charmed life. Apparently some folks are mired with problems that I've never seen. I'll come right out and say it - I love Vista, and I've had none of the problems others complain about. Let me count the ways Vista has made a difference.

  1. Speed. From day one, and even on my existing laptop, Vista has been lightning fast on startup and shutdown. Microsoft's new TCP/IP stack is also supercharged, and overall the networking has been solid.
  2. Security. Nobody can argue that Vista security is massively improved over XP. My favorite feature is Bitlocker, Microsoft's integrated disk level encryption and key management, which erases the threat of losing confidential data via laptop theft. For someone who keeps a lot of confidential data on their laptop, Bitlocker is a no-brainer.
  3. Network Access Protection. The NAP agent is available in XP SP3 now but for a while, Vista ruled supreme as the only operating system with a built in health agent.
  4. The new Windows Explorer. The searching, exposed metadata and dedicated views for different media are way ahead of anything else I've seen. Every time I use my wife's Macintosh running OS X 10.4, I'm reminded why I prefer Vista.

As someone who thinks, lives and breathes security every day, the security features alone were sufficient reason for me to move to Vista. When Windows XP was under development at the turn of the century, the state of the art in security threats was radically less serious than the issues any IT manager regularly sees today. In 2001 we began to see the first inkling of the potential for organized cybercrime but the top ten security threats for 2001 were still mainly concerned with default OS settings, lack of backups, weak passwords and which firewall ports to allow. Today’s challenges such as daily operating system and application exploits, hostile websites, botnets, phishing and wholesale theft of personal information via Trojans, keyloggers and spyware were comparatively rare.

Beyond Bitlocker, new technologies in Vista like Address Space Layout Randomization combined with Data Execution Prevention have made traditional overflow and stack smashing exploits practically worthless against Vista systems. User Account Control asks my permission before performing a privileged operation – and also lets me know if a piece of code tries a privileged operation on my behalf. UAC may cause some users to complain but it’s no different to the constraints that system administrators have lived with for decades. The combination of these technologies with Microsoft’s Security Development Lifecycle has forced the bad guys to focus their attentions elsewhere, and this is shown clearly in Microsoft’s latest Security Intelligence Report which shows a quantitative improvement for Vista over Windows XP. Should this level of security have been built into every version of Windows from the beginning? Sure, but pretty much every vendor in the industry has faced same challenge with security, and Microsoft has the enviable position of being the number one target by several orders of magnitude.

There is room for improvement of course. A couple of items in Vista are less than intuitive to find. I've had one video problem that is probably due to Sony's drivers. HP decided not to support my 2001 era Officejet's scanner, but I don't blame Microsoft for that.

I'm not a platform bigot - once upon a time I worked for Apple, my previous company Trillium Lane Labs was Macintosh based and I've used Unix and Linux for most of my career. But at the end of the day Mac OS X just doesn't work for me as a laptop OS. The combination of Vista plus great Office 2007 applications (especially OneNote) is unbeatable, and I like having my own choice of hardware rather than being tied to Apple's hardware roadmap.

The Napera engineering team runs Windows, Macintosh and Linux, and for every complaint I've heard them make about Windows there has been another about the weak applications or wireless support in OS X, not to mention continual problems with Apple hardware.

No operating system is perfect. I love my iPhone but it crashes like clockwork. As a Vista user I've overall been pleased with the experience, and I intend to stick around for more. With Windows 7 Microsoft should be able to shake the stigma that got attached to Vista, and more users will get to enjoy the fruits of their hard work, as well as a more secure computing environment.

* Todd Hooper is CEO and Founder of Napera Networks, a Seattle based network security vendor. He has worked with networking and security technologies since the early 1990’s in Australia and the US.   He blogs at http://www.napera.com/blog.

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