The Sounds of Vista

I actually didn't think this would be a big deal.  Shows you what little I know.


It started yesterday afternoon.  I had an errand to run (Parent Teacher conferences), so I left work at about 12:00.  When I got back, I noticed a NorthWestCableNews van sitting outside our building.  I'm used to limos outside the building (we sometimes get celebrities and other dignitaries showing up in the building and they usually come via limo), but not TV news trucks, so I wasn't quite sure what was up.

Then  got to my floor of building 50, and I realized that there was a television crew in Steve Ball's office.  And they were talking about the Vista sounds!

And then I noticed that Jim Allchin had posted this post describing some of the creative process involved in the Vista startup sound.


And this morning, while listening to the radio as we got up, Valorie shouted out: Hey, that's Steve Ball on NPR! (ok, she didn't shout, when I came back from feeding the cats, she asked "Did you hear the article about the Vista sounds on NPR?".

And Long Zheng posted up a phenominal comparison between the XP and Vista sounds which clearly shows off the work that the sound design team did to work on improving the XP sounds.


I had no idea that this would be this big.  Cool 🙂


And thus the tidal wave of Vista truly begins.

Comments (18)

  1. Anonymous says:

    One topic that has come up occasionally during the tail portion of the Vista beta was around the sounds

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Larry,

    Speaking of audio output, may be you have an answer to this,

    Does Vista allow you to set the output level like VolumeLogic does?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m sorry, but the XP spunds are a lot better than the vista sounds, they all just sound the same (The Hardware insert/remove/error sounds for xp are so much better)

  4. AC: Interestingly enough, I actually disagree.  It’s taken me a couple of weeks to get used to them, but on average, I like the Vista sounds better.

    In particular, the hardware sounds are some of the ones that I think improved :).  Go figure.

    I also really like the IE click (navigation) sound, and the logon/logoff sound.  They’re much more subtle now, and don’t intrude as much.

  5. vince says:

    Tidal Wave?

    A horrible disaster that destroys people’s lives and causes billions of dollars in damages?

  6. Anonymous says:

    I read a newspaper article along the same lines as the TV and radio reports described here.

    I have nothing against tailoring sounds but the sense of priorities is still absurd.  The computer will sound so much better before it BSODs on a "won’t fix" bug.  Wow, what an improvement.

  7. Norman, the "priorities" are different.

    There was one developer that worked on moving the startup sound early in the boot cycle, and another that worked on tightening up the timing of the logon and logoff/shutdown sounds, and that was IT as far as developers were concerned.

    There was a bunch of work done by some program managers, sound designers and overall user experience designers, and a virtual-team that provided detailed feedback and suggestions on the individual sounds, but the new sounds involved almost no direct involvement from the software engineering teams.

  8. Anonymous says:

    > [and that was IT as far as developers were concerned.]

    But that still wasn’t IT as far as the company was concerned.  If I recall correctly the newspaper article said that Microsoft had worked on the sounds for 18 months.  Suppose the company had hired a few more programmers and a few fewer sound artists for those 18 months.

    (Actually programmers wouldn’t be enough.  I think the people who decided "won’t fix" and worse responses often weren’t programmers.)

  9. Norman, please read Brooks Mythical Man Month.  If the company had hired programmers instead of the 2 or 3 sound people, it wouldn’t have made a difference in the schedule.

  10. Anonymous says:

    > If the company had hired programmers instead of the 2 or 3

    > sound people, it wouldn’t have made a difference in the

    > schedule.

    That is correct.  But remember, we’re talking about 18 months.  The same 18 months would be taken but the result would come closer to being what it was supposed to be.

    I’m reminded of the joke about a woman who was married 4 times but was still a virgin.  I don’t remember 3/4 of the joke but 1/4 was the husband who was an IBM salesman.  All he did was sit on the edge of the bed and talk about how great it was going to be.  Of course IBM’s story is history, that’s why I mentioned Fred Brooks’s book in a comment to one of your other blog entries a few hours before you told me here to read it.  Now it’s Microsoft’s turn.  Microsoft keeps sitting on the edge of the bed talking about how great each version is, while each version keeps destroying the contents of hard disks and keeps BSODing etc. etc.  No version of Windows has actually been completed before passing out of its period of pretended support, though NT4 SP3 came pretty close.

  11. Norman, you also seem to believe that people were doing nothing but working on the sounds during those 18 months.  

    They weren’t.

    They were authoring some sounds, then sending them out for review, then waiting for the review feedback, then modifying the sounds, sending them out for review, waiting for the feedback, changing the sounds, waiting for the feedback, sending the sounds for legal approval, waiting for the feedback, etc.

    There was a TON of "waiting for feedback" in the loop, as is necessary for ALL collaborations.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Some comments on what happened in those 18 months.

  13. Anonymous says:

    > Norman, you also seem to believe that people were doing

    > nothing but working on the sounds during those 18 months.

    A newspaper article gave that impression, but I accept your correction.  After accepting your correction, I’m still trying to figure out "so what?".  OK there was a ton of "waiting for feedback" in the loop, as is necessary for all collaborations, which surely includes debugging Vista since that was a collaboration.

    I looked at the gapingvoid site that OO pointed us to.  2,000 sounds of 3 seconds’ duration were experimented with.  OK, maybe an hour to prepare each production or analyse an average functional failure, 3 seconds to record a sound or edit a line of code, some length of time waiting for feedback and signing off on the eariness or correctness, etc.  Now only maybe half of all average bugs can be fixed by editing a single line after some random number of hours of analysis, so my opinion gets cut in half in this setting.  Still, if Microsoft would give sound coding a higher priority than coding sounds, and had hired different kinds of people, maybe Vista would have 1,000 fewer bugs.

    Wow I’m really glad that the computer will sound so much better before BSODing.  The cause for this cynicism remains unchanged.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Norman, don’t be so hard on Larry because that was neither his choice nor his fault. You gain nothing by pushing your cynism down his throat anyway.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Saturday, November 18, 2006 12:30 AM by Igor

    > Norman, don’t be so hard on Larry

    Well I was speaking to him because he was speaking to us and the topic just made the observation unavoidable.

    > because that was neither his choice nor his fault.

    In principle I agree, which is why I was just talking to him but not blaming him.  I was amazed when he defended the policy, but after that I still don’t think I was blaming him, I was still just pointing out how useless the policy was.

    Nonetheless I agree that it was unethical of me to post this:

    > Wow I’m really glad that the computer will sound so much

    > better before BSODing.

    The reason why it was unethical to post such a statement is that it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.  All the advantages were on my side.  I KNEW what was going to happen, I didn’t even have to work at it, and the fish didn’t have a chance.

    On Friday Microsoft’s e-mail said that Vista wouldn’t be what it was if I hadn’t contributed bug reports.  That was a lie.  Vista is almost exactly the same as it would have been if I hadn’t contributed bug reports.

    On Friday and Saturday I downloaded.  On Saturday I burned two coasters[*] and then DVDs.  On Sunday I did half of an install — wow, RTM is worse than betas.  Then on Sunday I finished an install.

    Yes indeed, [observation censored because it’s like shooting fish in a barrel].

    [* The coasters were the fault of Toshiba and Samsung and Dell, not Microsoft.  A firmware upgrade is downloadable from Dell that makes the drive read DVD+R/RW media, but the drive still can’t write them, and the DVD+RW logo on the bezel still looks like a lie.  A different computer with a different maker’s DVD drive burned the working DVD+Rs.  By the way if anyone knows a drive that can really burn DVD+RWs correctly, please kindly say.]

  16. Anonymous says:


    The solution to your problem is obvious. Stick to NT4 SP3 if you believe it’s more stable than anything more recent.

    The rest of us can move ahead and take advantage of recent developments – which, for most computers I’ve seen, include many fewer BSODs.

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