Random Features I Like About Vista and Some Other Thoughts

So a few things here. As always there are just my personal opinions. Nobody writes this stuff for me – or edits, etc. Just me here on my couch.

Also before I start I think my next post will go into how we get features into the product and a bit about coming in late to a project such as Vista. Let me know if this sounds like a good topic.

I had a thought today as well. There has been a lot of negative things said about Vista. What I’m not sure people realize is that Vista is still a Beta product (beta meaning NOT released). It has to be one of the most widely used and scrutinized pieces of Beta software ever. There have been so many eyes and such high expectations that any Beta release would be a let down. Software development is an ugly process. Every milestone you build to a certain level of quality and then immediately tear it down right after the milestone is over with new check-ins, etc. You don’t tear all the way down but I like to think of each major milestone in software development as spending ½ the time getting back to the quality of the previous milestone and then another ½ of the time getting to twice the quality of the previous milestone. Every time you take a bunch of new code on a large project your quality will always suffer for a bit.

We’ve been releasing over and over again in between milestones – essentially showing our dirty laundry. So you see the dips in quality and then it is easy to get hyper focused on issues you have or others have. Vista isn’t perfect – but I think it is actually getting to be pretty good. RC1 is running well and I’m using it on my laptop now. Remember what you’ve seen of Vista is Beta. Oh and Microsoft has been listening. I can speak to that, especially on the Media Center team.

Okay, off the soapbox. Sorry. Here are a few things that I like in Vista in random order. I’ll continue to post them an as I blog in the future. Oh one more thing. Above all using the XBOX 360 with CableCard is killer. I’m watching HDTV through two different 360s and it just make me happy. Very happy. Even without CableCard the XBOX 360 implementation is just cool. Everyone should get this…

Browsing music by artist in MCE – I know this is a small feature but I think this is the coolest thing ever. Why? Well I was always kind of slob with my CDs. I’d throw them into the wrong cases and onto the shelf in the random order. So I’d pull out my copy of “The Wall” and end up with John Denver. I was just too lazy to keep things in the proper order.

I know this view was in Media Center XP but without album art. Album art is key for me. That’s how I know what albums I have. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t really know track names – just numbers. 🙂

Aero Glass – I’m a UI sucker. I love cool new UI. I think Aero Glass just looks really nice. The transparency is pretty and the effects are nice. Along the same lines with the new video drivers I like the new video driver model. The live preview feature has really come in handy several times (think IE downloads). Very cool. I also like the new “alt+tab” features with the live preview and window stacking.

New Windows Games – no comment. My manager might read this. 🙂

Windows Update – I think the new simplified model is much nicer and easier to use/navigate. Having worked on Windows Update years and years ago this is nice to see.

And a few things I don’t really like:

User Account Control – Now I get this for newer users or less experiences users. It helps people know that their operating system is being changed. But me – well I know enough about computers that I don’t need the extra help. I should be careful too because I know the architect for this feature and he works out a lot.

Now Playing Preview in Media Center – this seems smaller to me in Media Center and I miss the bigger preview that I used to have in XP.

Display Settings – I mess around with my monitors a lot. In XP the display settings were just a right click away on my desktop. Now in Vista I have to right click to personalize and then I have to go to Display Settings.

That’s enough typing for now. I’ll post more soon. See you in the comments.

Note: One minor clarification. This list is not meant to be complete or to focus on the big features of Vista. I'm just pointing out some stuff that I like. Sometimes, for me, the little things make a big difference. I imagine this is the same for others. There has been some much coverage of Vista that some of the nice touches get overlooked and I've been using Vista long enough to appreciate some of these smaller changes. I edited the title to make this more clear.

Comments (10)
  1. Adam says:


    After 5 *years* of development since XP, and almost 2 years since MCE 2005 (October 2004?), 2 of the first 4 good things that spring to mind about Vista are some new bundled games and "Browse music by artist" in the media player software? Really? "Browse music by artist" is one of the most memorable 4 new things in Vista?

    Talk about underwhelming.

  2. Peter Near says:

    >Oh and Microsoft has been listening. I can speak to that, especially on the Media Center team.

    I was pretty excited to read that at the beginning of the post but then didn’t see it followed up anywhere.  If you could dig into that one a bit more in a future post, I’d find it very interesting.

  3. MSDN Archive says:

    Adam – I’m not pointing out the "top" features of Vista. Just some little things that I like. My intention here is to talk about things ongoing. If you read my post these are just a few things that I like.

    I’ll add more. It would take way too long for me to get everything covered and I feel that a lot of the big features are already covered very widely in other posts.

  4. MSDN Archive says:

    I’ll also go into how we are listening. I think you’d be surprised. I can talk about this in a future post as well.

    But to touch on that a bit – we have blogs, newsgroups, beta feedback, usability studies (Media Center has a rather large usability team), peer feedback, conferences, etc.

    Granted some feedback fails to change things or isn’t taken into the product – but a lot of other feedback is taken to heart. As I’ve worked on my features I’ve used comments from customers as reasons to make changes and it is taken very seriously.

  5. rapture says:


    The TiVo S3 will soon hit the market offering dual CableCard support, HD recordings, and home media networking.  The rumored price is $800.  While that’s a lot of cash, so is a box that will run Vista MCE.

    I run MCE2K5 and have an XBOX 360 to stream HD.  

    But, I’m really curious about the S3.  I’m even making room in my budget to buy one.  

    Please talk me out of this!

  6. MSDN Archive says:

    Well I’m not sales guy and these are just my opinions, but I use Media Center becuase:

    Tivo plays in just one room. So your recordings will be stuck in that single room.

    I have my Vista PC in my office and XBOXs in other rooms. Very nice having access to everything throughout my house.

    Oh and our guide is free. You can close to an XBOX with the cost of the TIVO guide for a year.

    One more thing. Since Media Center isn’t a totally managed platform like TIVO you can get all sorts of extensions for Media Center whenever you like.

    Lot’s of counter arguments, I’m sure, but this is why I personally use Media Center. Usually takes a key scenario for me use something.

  7. Bill says:

    The Pre-RC1 install went very smooth for me and I like the new install screens over the previous betas.  At least I can see what is happening now.  Glad to finally have working sound via digital output.

    My dislike is not being able to see the video names displayed along with the video screenshots in MCE (like it is in MCE 2005).  I have dozens of videos and trying to find one certain video makes for a not-fun scrolling experience.

  8. MSDN Archive says:

    Bill – glad you are happier with RC1. For your video issue – you can either right click on your mouse or press "moore info" on your remoete to bring up a menu. On that menu select "View List" and you can see the video names.

    Hope that helps.

  9. Anonymous UK says:

    Since you are in the Media Team, how about fixing bugs (one existed in MP10 for WMA Only) in Beta 2 of Media Player 11 (which will be Mp11 in Vista) ?

    *Tracks that have no number show as 0 for MP3 and WMA

    *Tracks where you use Advanced Tag Editor to blank a track number out return after pressing OK (Only happened on WMA in MP10)

    *Cover art not resized if bigger than Playing Now window, just cropped off.

    *Is the GMT date bug fixed yet ? (Release year entered then MP10 and MP11 take one off the year if in GMT (UK) zone eg 2006 becomes 2005 on libray scan or import to another PC and scan.

    *Will the Year Released field make it into the Advanced Tag Editor along with Publisher/Label like it should be as its meta data !!??

    *MP11 shows the composer names when track is playing by alternating information, except that the separators are show as is between each name if multiple composers eg "Fred A;Fred B" (MCE does this with multiple artist names)

    Just a few bugs….

  10. Bill says:


    That tip helps out tremendously.  Thanks much! 🙂

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