As I slowly tweak my installation of Vista Ultimate (64-bit) I’m beginning to realize that I really like the Ubuntu Linux desktop environment.
I keep finding myself tweaking things that are basically already there in Linux. For example, I have dual screens (multiple monitors) on my desktop computer and I hate the fact that Vista will only allow my to have one task bar and in only one monitor.
My solution was to install UltraMon, which allows me to have a task bar on the second monitor that even holds it’s own window list. So now my windows that are open on monitor #2 don’t show up in the task bar of the other monitor. It’s much more organized! This can very easily be accomplished in Linux without the need to install extra software.
On top of that, UltraMon adds some cool little buttons to the top of each window near the minimize, maximize and close buttons. The two buttons that are added allow me to do the following:
- Stretch the window across both monitors for a double full screen effect. This can be handy at times!
- Move this window to the other monitor. This is very handy indeed. It just switches screens and even holds the same place on the other screen as it did on the first one. This works back and forth.
I would also have them install more gadgets by default in the Windows Sidebar. I had to go and download several that I thought were very useful.
- System Monitor, which allows me to keep track of several things including: CPU, RAM, Wireless connection with a progress bar for strength, IP Address and External IP Address and even Battery Monitor (which I obviously don’t use on my desktop, but it would be great for my laptop…if it would even hold a charge, lol).
- Wireless Network, which just shows a better signal meter and percentage as well as the network connecting name. It just looks better than the one you can use with System Monitor.
- Volume Control, just a meter that looks similar to the wireless signal meter, but you can scroll through the meter to increase or decrease the volume very easily. I love it cause I hate clicking on the tray icon to change the volume setting (you can scroll on the tray icon as well, but there is one cool thing you can’t do with the tray icon..). You can even middle click on the volume gadget meter and it will toggle mute on and off! Very handy and quick!
- DriveInfo, shows you a hard drive with a progress bar below it indicating the percentage of the drive used. It also shows the amount used in MB/GB/TB what ever you may be using, the drive letter and a number percentage. Just pretty cool for keeping a close eye on your drive…but not wasting any time at all.
- The last one that I added to the list was the GMail Counter gadget. I love this one. It just gives me a count of the unread messages I have in my inbox and there are others that give you previews (GMail Checker), but I don’t need the previews really. I really like the fact that when it finds new mail, I get any kind of notification sound I want and currently it’s the classic “You’ve Got Mail” alert! I love it!
After adding those gadgets to the list of available ones and adding them to the Windows Sidebar, I had to add a couple weather gadgets. One for home and one for school. That just topped it off!
One thing that also irritates me is the fact that when I’m downloading updates I can’t tell which update it’s currently downloading and how much of it is downloaded other than a rough estimate in the form of a percentage. I loved how in Ubuntu I could drop down a list of the files that are being downloaded and see in real time how much was downloaded for each file as well as over all. Sure they want to keep it simple in Windows, but a drop down arrow with more details wouldn’t be all that hard to add on and would be out of the way.
I also wish that Windows would come with a couple other browsers installed by default. I’d like to see Firefox, Opera, Flock and Safari installed along side Internet Explorer by default. I know Flock is just a derivative of Firefox, but the difference in uses of the browser are enough to make it worth adding.
This would clearly add to the needed space for installations, but I ‘ve got to tell you that Microsoft has never been good at using hard drive space. I’ve currently split an 80GB drive into a partition of 50GB for Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit and 28GB for Ubuntu 8.04 64-bit and ~2GB for Linux Swap space. Of those, Ubuntu is currently fresh installed with about 10 extra installed applications and it’s only using ~6GB of the 28GB available to it. Windows Vista is a fresh install with about 10 installed applications (most of which are the same as the ones I added in Ubuntu) and it’s using ~30GB.
Okay, so I just finished installing Windows Vista SP1 and had to do a couple reboots in the middle of posting this and apparently SP1 actually clears some junk from your computer, because now I’m using ~28GB! That’s almost 2GB less than what I was using before and that’s even after an update with a service pack! It would be really cool to see the installation size continually shrink as the other service packs are released! Maybe to something under 10GB would be great! The fact that Vista is still using ~28-30GB on a fresh install with the exception of ~10 applications (UltrMon, flash, browsers and messengers) is just crazy when you compare the graphically updates to Vista vs. XP and then compare Vista to Ubuntu and the installation size of Ubuntu.
Now that is just sad. Ubuntu supported my wireless card straight from the first time I logged in. In Vista I had to logout, login to Ubuntu, download the drivers and save them on the NTFS partition, reboot into Vista and install them. How sad is that? With all that hard drive space used there wasn’t a single supported driver found! The driver that I had to manually download works perfect, but the fact that it wasn’t already installed with Vista makes me wonder what the ~28-30GB of space is used for!
I’d also like to see a repository similar to the “Add/Remove Applications” feature in Ubuntu and several other Linux distros. This would be a great way to provide alternative applications without wasting installation space by installing them all initially. In Ubuntu, the list is broken down into categories such as Internet, Accessories, etc. and makes the task of finding and searching for new applications very simple. This would probably never reach a Windows system (integrated with the operating system by default), but it would be a major improvement!
In a quick recap, here are the things I’d wish for Vista to be a little better:
- Microsoft should either buy UltraMon and work it straight into the operating system or implement their own support for handling multiple taskbars and making workspace functionality better. In Ubuntu I use four workspaces on a daily basis and I find it hard to work without them. Since Windows doesn’t even have spaces it should at least make the best possible use of the limited space available.
- The gadgets are a little lame, but they are definitely promising. They can be very handy and I listed a few gadgets that are actually useful and serve a purpose. They speed-up my activities in Vista a little and they should help anyone really. I think Microsoft should be including a larger selection of gadgets by default. Only the best of the best, but a wide range of default ones would be great!
- Windows Updates should be a little more helpful and informative. Sometimes I want to know the exact update that is being downloaded while it is being downloaded and even watch the download progress. I want to be able to see what my operating system is doing and not just be told about what it is doing.
- I think a wider selection of applications should be installed by default. I listed several of the major web browsers, but I’m not just mentioning this to boost the web browsing industry. I’d like to also see alternative messengers such as Pidgin, Miranda, Trillian, Digsby, etc available for the users to choose from. Maybe even Yahoo Messenger and Google Talk.
- Installation size is becoming less and less of a problem or issue these days, but don’t we all like to see that the applications that we are using are optimized as much as they possibly can be? I know I have three other hard drives and almost 2TB of storage space on my desktop, but that doesn’t mean that I want my operating system wasting space when it could be using it much more efficiently.
- Microsoft should handle a repository list similar to how Linux does so that we can look through a list of applications that we can install that are very popular. This would mean that we have fast access to installing a wealth of applications and at the same time are not wasting space by having them pre-installed. I know this will probably never happen with Windows since it has survived so long without this feature, but it would dramatically improve the end-users experience with finding and using new software that they may have never heard of before.
That’s about all I care to write about right now, but Vista could use plenty of other improvements such as workspaces and wobbly windows. These can most likely be added on with third party applications, but they should simply be available by default like they are in Ubuntu!