I got my hands on a beta build of LongHorn (the next desktop release of Windows – the one after XP, slated for a 2005/6 release) and as is usual for me, I was too impatient to wait till I had a test machine and went ahead and installed it on my production machine :p So guess what happens? I end up with this beta build of Windows that I didn’t like, was too slow and with no way to get back to my original Windows installation since the installation of LongHorn simply renamed the Windows directory for the original installation and put it aside – talk about stupid (I mean on my part … can’t blame MS on this one) <vbg> I spent most of yesterday trying different approaches with the system recovery console in Windows XP and trying to rename the existing LongHorn installation directory to something else and then rename my original Windows installation folder to what it used to be but I never got it working right.
I finally gave up today and reinstalled Windows XP as an upgrade installation into the backup location that the LongHorn installation created so that I wouldn’t have to reinstall my software. That worked as far as being able to get back into Windows XP was concerned but I had no dial-up connection now and no way to set up a new dial-up account since that was totally disabled :p So I decided to take this chance to do a fresh install of XP and wiped my C: drive, reinstalled XP and have just a little while got back to the stage where my computer is once again useable :p I will have to go through the whole installation cycle again to get all of my software in – not to mention all the online update stuff that I have to do to get all my software up-to-date but I’m just happy to be back in business for the moment.
So what are my impressions of LongHorn? I hate it at the moment – and not just because of all the hassles I had :p In fact, I would have kept it as my OS if I’d liked it in the first place and would not have needed to get back to XP. But I hated the UI enhancements, found it to be extremely slow and sluggish on my Pentium III 1GHz machine with 256MB of RAM and generally was very unsatisfied with it. Microsoft seems to be taking a leaf out of the IRIX UI manual for this particular release in that they have two features from IRIX that I’ve always liked but the way they’ve implemented it for LongHorn is atrocious. OK, the first one’s not atrocious – that’s being able to resize thumbnail views on the fly … In IRIX you can resize your desktop icons to suit your needs instead of thumbnails (a much more useful feature actually) and I would have liked the same in LongHorn but what you get instead is the dynamic resizing of thumbnails. The second feature from IRIX is the ability to navigate to any folder level from the current folder to the root in Explorer. In IRIX this is done via a simple and elegant set of buttons which closely mirror the folder levels on the IRIX equivalent of the address bar. In LongHorn, this is implemented via a series of dropdowns on a toolbar below the address bar but I just hated how it looked.
The same is true of the new filtering feature which allows you to filter a list of files in Explorer by simply typing in part of the file name or any other criteria that is displayed. Each attribute column also has a filter column but again I just hated the UI – it looks so clumsy. I guess all this filtering is made possible by the new SQL Server based filing system. I saw the SQL database which probably held the file system information but didn’t get a chance to delve into it due to all the other problems I had with just getting access to the system. I guess as usual MS is simply going to up the hardware requirements for the next release so that you have to have even more memory and a more powerful machine if you want to use it. As far as I’m concerned however, unless a lot of major changes are made and the UI is made a lot more attractive, I’ll stick with XP for the moment, thank you