Having switched to Windows Vista full-time, I’ve now had an opportunity to run into most of the little “daily annoyances” that detract from the general experience (at least, my experience, anyway – your mileage my vary). Many of these problems existed in Windows XP, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re annoying and/or frustrating. Some of them are new to Vista. Following is a list of some of the big annoyances that bother me on a regular basis:
- Vista’s 1394 support is mostly broken. Specifically, the 1394 storage support (a-la sbp2port.sys) in Vista is pretty much horrific. This sad state of affairs is carried over from Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, and isn’t really new to Vista, but it’s highly frustrating nonetheless. It seems that the 1394 storage support is prone to randomly breaking (in my experience), and when it breaks, it breaks badly; usually, you end up with either a bluescreen in sbp2port.sys due to it corrupting one of it’s internal data structures, or the I/O system grinds to a halt as all IRPs that make their way to a 1394 storage device get “stuck” forever, essentially permanently pinning (and freezing) any process that touches a 1394 storage device. Since there are an amazing number of things that do this indirectly by asking for information about storage volumes, this typically manifests itself as an inability to do practically anything (logon, logoff, start programs, and soforth).
This problem is particularly prone to happening when you disconnect a 1394 device, but I’ve also seen it spontaneously happen without user interaction (and without cables becoming lose, as far as I can tell). I’ve experienced these problems on Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Vista (x64 and x86), across a wide range of 1394 chipsets and 1394 storage devices.
In order to recover from this breakage, a hard reboot is usually necessary, since shutting down is virtually impossible due to any I/Os hitting a 1394 device getting frozen indefinitely.
This is really a shame, as 1394 is a pretty nice bus for storage devices. Other uses of 1394 on Windows are fairly stable; kernel debugging works fine, and networking (used) to work fine, although Vista removes support for IP/1394 (this negatively impacted me, as it was fairly handy for transferring large amounts of data between laptops which typically have 1394 but not gigabit ethernet. Not the end of the world, but it is a feature that I used which disappeared out from under me).
- Hybrid sleep takes forever to complete the low power transition on a laptop with 2GB (or 1.5GB) of RAM. Microsoft advertises it as powering the system down in a few seconds for a laptop, but as far as I can tell, this is pure marketing fiction. It regularly takes 30-45 seconds (sometimes more) for hybrid sleep to finish doing its thing and transition the system to a low power state. I’ve observed this on at least two respectable laptops, so I’m fairly sure this isn’t just bad hardware and just a limitation of the hibernate-based technology. Still, despite the annoyance factor, I think hybrid sleep is an overall improvement (especially with being able to swap out batteries without fear if your system went into suspend due to low power).
- The Windows Vista RDP client has an ill-advised default behavior relating to the selection of the account domain name sent to the remote system when logging on. Unlike previous RDP client versions, the Vista RDP client requires you to enter credentials before connecting. The problem here is that if you don’t explicitly specify a domain name in the username part of your name, and you aren’t connecting to a target system with its netbios name, then your logon will virtually always fail. This is because the RDP client will prepend “hostname\” to the username sent to the remote system, where “hostname” is the hostname you tell the RDP client to connect to. This results in all sorts of stupidly broken scenarios, where mstsc provides an IP address as your logon domain, or a FQDN for a computer that isn’t a member of that domain, or a different FQDN that leads to a computer but doesn’t match the computer name. All of these will result in a failed logon, for no particularly good reason. The workaround to this is fairly simple; specify “\username” as your username in mstsc, and the local (SAM) account database of the remote system is used to log you on. Still, there is almost no reason to not default to this behavior…
- Credential saving in IE7 is unintuitive at best. Specifically, even if you check the “save my credentials” box, the credentials are mysteriously not used unless you explicitly put the target site in your Intranet zone. This is highly annoying until you figure out what’s going on, as the credential manager UI in the control panel shows your credentials as being saved, but they’re never actually used. At the very least, there needs to be some kind of UI feedback on the save credentials dialog if your current settings dictate that your saved credentials will never actually be used.
- Switching users will kill RAS (dial-up) connections. There used to be a nicely documented way for how to suppress this behavior on pre-Vista systems, but from disassembling and debugging Vista, it’s abundantly clear that there is no possible way to suppress this behavior in Vista, at least without patching rasmans.dll to not kill connections on logon/logoff). Vista does have an explicit exemption for a connection shared by Internet Connection Sharing (ICS), that prevents it from being killed on logon/logout, but even this is stupidly buggy: there are no checks done to make sure that dependant connections of the ICS RAS connection aren’t killed on logout. This is especially ironic, given all of the work that has been put into developing routing compartments for Vista and “Longhorn” (culminating in the nice advantages of them being completely ignored on Vista). For me, this is a real problem, as I often use a dependant RAS connection setup for remote Internet access: A dial-up connection through Bluetooth to my cell phone (EVDO) for physical Internet access, and then an L2TP/IPSec link on top of that for security. Unfortunately, this means that no matter what I do, each time I switch users in Vista, my mobile Internet access gets nuked. I’ve been pondering writing something to patch out this stupidness in rasmans.dll…
- Something seems to cause Vista to hold on to IP addresses after their associated adapter has gone down. I’ve noticed this with my Broadcom NetXtra 57xx gigabit NIC; my previous laptop had a similar problem with its Broadcom 100mbit NIC as well. I don’t know if this is a Broadcom problem or an OS-level problem, but what ends up happening is that tcpip still claims ownership of the IP address that you had assigned to you while that interface is disconnected (media unplugged). Normally, this isn’t a big problem, but if you have a setup where VPN’ing in and plugging into Ethernet will net you the same static IP on a network, you’ll occasionally run into bizzare problems where the VPN connection doesn’t get an IP address. This tends to be a result of Vista claiming that same IP address that you would be assigned via the VPN on an ethernet interface that is now media-disconnected (but was previously connected to the network in question and had the IP address in question). This problem isn’t new to Vista; I’ve seen it on Windows XP as well. I’ve pretty much given up on retaining the same IP for remoting and just being plugged directly into my network as a result of this problem…
- You can’t use runas on explorer or IE anymore. This means you’re forced to use Fast User Switching for things that UAC doesn’t have a convenient UI for, which also means that you’re in trouble if you’re using RAS for Internet access. Doh.
- Managing RAS connections is a royal pain. In order to make a copy of a RAS connection, rename it from the default name (“original name – Copy”), and edit the properties (presumably, you wanted to actually change the connection without just duplicating it for no reason, right?), you need to go through no less than three elevation prompts in rapid succession. This isn’t so terrible if you’re logged on as an admin, but having to type your admin password three different times (if you’re logged on as a limited user, the “recommended” configuration) is just stupidly redundant and annoying.
- There is a no way that I can tell to change the default domain name used in UAC elevation prompts (if you’re a non-admin user providing over-the-shoulder (OTS) credentials). This sucks if you’re on a domain, as the typical “recommended” scenario is you would be logged on with a domain account (and a limited user) on the local system. If you need to perform an administrative task, then you elevate using a local admin account (presumably, you don’t give all your users domain admin accounts). Unfortunately, Vista always defaults to your domain as the logon domain, instead of the local domain (for elevation prompts). This means that in the “recommended”, “secure” configuration, you have to type computername\ before your account name every single time you get an elevation prompt. This is a basic convenience thing that really needs a way to change the default logon domain, as you pretty much always use one or the other, and if you aren’t the network domain for elevation, you’re stuck doing completely redundant extra work each time you elevate.
- You can’t scroll down in the bottom pane of the “Networking” tab in Task Manager anymore, if you have enough adapters to cause a scroll bar to appear. Each time Task Manager refreshes, the listbox scrolls to the top and blows away whatever you were looking at. This (minor, but still annoying) issue is new to Vista.
- There is no way to modify Terminal Server connection ACLs. The tool to do this (tscc.msc) isn’t shipped on “workstation” systems. It’s there on Windows Server 2003, but not Windows XP. I suppose this is a “business decision” by Microsoft, but I happen to want to be able to make myself able to perform session connections from the command line or Task Manager without going through the switch user GUI. This is a pretty minor gripe, but it’s still something that wastes a bit of my time each time I need to switch sessions.
Okay, enough ranting about things that aren’t quite the way I would like in Vista. Despite these shortcomings (which you may or may not agree about), I still think that Vista’s worth having over XP (there are a whole lot of things that *do* work right in Vista, and plenty of useful new additions to boot). Nothing’s perfect, though, and improving awareness of issues can only improve the chances of them getting fixed, someday.
Oh, and if anyone’s got any suggestions or information about how to work around some of the problems I’ve talked about here, I’d be happy to hear them.