Since ancient man painted his stories of mammoth slaying and female conquest on the cave walls, he has been looking for a more efficient interface of documentation and communication. In short, he needed a better OS than his dried fecal matter on sandstone could provide him.

Some will tell you that Windows Vista has been 5 years in the making. In light of recent forced analogy, the timeline should start at a more reasonable 7 million years. Hit the jump for the Frankenreview - the one review you need to read about Microsoft's new OS, because it's assembled from the important ramblings of MSNBC, CNET, PC World, PC Mag (photos), Electric News and Stuff Co. There's no filler, just good, old fashioned dinosaur proteins.

Vista's Aero engine exploits translucency as nicely as, well, the Macintosh OS X, where it has appeared for some time...and improves them. For instance, when you open a folder in Vista, you view the files as thumbnail depictions of the actual content—great for photographs and uniquely formatted documents.


This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

Shoulder-surfing admirers were incredibly impressed with the 3D Flip. This is a new technique for changing between active applications. Applications appear to float on an invisible rotating wheel as you scroll through them. It is visually very stunning — like the computer interface one might see in a high-budget sci-fi blockbuster. Ultimately though, it just does the same as holding down alt and tab.

Also different is the file path displayed within Windows Explorer. Gone are the backslashes, replaced with arrows that offer drop-down menus of alternative folders. We liked this efficient feature.


...the Start menu now includes a built-in Search function. We would have preferred to have access to Search directly from the desktop rather than digging down a level or two.

The other big change from XP is Windows Sidebar. This sits on the right side of the screen as a place to put Microsoft's gadgets - little programs that sit on your desktop and grab information from the web, like weather or news, or show your other software like media players.

So far, most of this is just eye candy. The most important improvements in Vista are behind the scenes, particularly in its security.

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As the most popular operating system on the planet, Windows is a natural target for hackers and other evil-doers. Vista beefs up Windows Firewall to shut down suspicious activity, like your PC sending out spam emails, before it occurs...It also makes it harder for malware to install itself on your PC. Even if you're logged in as an administrator, most programs will run at restricted privilege, meaning installing new software requires you to manually enter your password.

Microsoft has included its new Defender anti-spyware software with Vista. First impressions are that it's a very well-built piece of software: powerful yet discreet...In a quick comparative test, Defender identified and cleaned up as well as the reliable Adaware tool from Lavasoft, and PepiMK's Spybot-Search & Destroy programme.

One part of Vista that lamentably does not exist, however, is virus protection: You have to (and you should) add a separate program to keep out those software infections.

Even the sub-$1000 Dell C521 and CyberPower Gamer Infinity 7500 could handle features such as the new, translucent Aero Glass effects.

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

Under the hood, Microsoft has moved device drivers for DVD burners and printers out of the system kernel; Microsoft says that a majority of system crashes can be traced to improperly installed third-party device drivers. Thus Windows Vista hopes to vanquish the dreaded Blue Screen of Death common to earlier releases of Windows.

With a hybrid drive, applications should also launch more quickly, as Vista will be able to access information from the solid-state part of the drive without experiencing the latency inherent in accessing a rotating disk... But hold your horses: None of the early Vista systems we saw featured a hybrid drive

The lack of Vista drivers for some peripherals could be a major issue for many users. For example, with the beta drivers in our tests, games ran significantly slower under Vista than under Windows XP. In earlier testing...this system ran at 143 frames per second in the game Far Cry...Vista managed a frame rate of just 108 fps—some 24 percent slower.

At the foot of the start menu is a simple search box. Vista includes a system-wide and application un-specific searching engine it calls indexing.

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

Windows Vista relies on can create virtual file folders based on a variety of search terms. Say you're doing a report on mountains, any file that is keyword-enabled to include "mountains" will be grouped into a virtual folder without physically dragging that file to a new location...imported data...will have to be retroactively metataged.

Although this new search system is leaps and bounds ahead of Windows XP — especially in regard to its snappy responsiveness — it still does not quite live up to Google's Desktop Search. It is a welcome addition nonetheless, as it will undoubtedly increase users' productivity. Millions of man hours have been wasted trying to find stuff on XP over the years.

Other Vista features include a mightier means of handling photos—offering editing and organizing features like you find in Apple's iPhoto or Google's Picasa, along with the ability to quickly burn photos on a DVD disk.

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

Windows Sidebar doesn't offer anything beyond what Yahoo or Google already offer for XP...

Windows SuperFetch—another feature new to Vista—should complement ReadyDrive by learning what your most commonly launched applications are and preloading them into memory.

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

We would have preferred fewer features executed extremely well rather than an uneven mix of this and that, a one-size-fits-all operating system. And we disagree with Microsoft's seemingly arbitrary division of features within individual editions We disagree with the exclusion of Windows Fax and Scan from Windows Vista Home Premium; you'll now need to buy third-party fax software to send that occasional facsimile. And Home Premium users will have limited use of the built-in Tablet PC features; this feature seems better suited for the Business and Ultimate editions.

...there's no one compelling feature within Windows Vista that cries out to switch over...

I can't help shake the feeling...that Vista was rushed out the door.

Perhaps we're spoiled, but after more than five years of development, there's a definite "Is that all?" feeling about Windows Vista. Like cramming an info-dump into a book report the night before it's due, there certainly are a lot of individual features within the operating system.

The true message of the overwhelming majority: the reviews don't matter anyway, Vista is coming and will soon be adopted by the masses. Sure, most of the "new" features have been around in other OS's or third party programs for some time, but a bit of copycatting isn't necessarily a bad thing when it will benefit a majority of computer users around the world.