I have to vent a little bit here. I'm back home for the holidays and helped my grandmother set up her new laptop with Vista on it. This is just venting, if you love Vista that's fine since everyone's got opinions. This is mine.
Vista = usability nightmare
If I was a product manager at Microsoft and someone came to me with Vista and said "we've been working on this for five years!" I would have taken them out back and had them shot. It has got to be the most user hostile environment I have ever come across. I say this having used CDE and Windows 3.11 extensively.
Tooltips - I do not need a tooltip to pop up over everything my cursor happens to rest on for more than a second. You can't just disable tooltips globally with one setting, you have to disable them for half a dozen different situations. Everything has a damned tooltip on it. I cannot think of a reason I would need a tooltip to come up if my cursor is on top of the "Internet" icon in the start menu. Notification balloons are equally inane and useless, unless you disable them Windows wants to let you know whenever it does the simplest of things, oh shit I plugged in a USB stick! Really? I wouldn't have ever remember that I performed that action a second prior without the friendly reminder.
Control Panel - It seems Microsoft rearranged the items in the control panel to be categorized in the least intuitive ways possible. Even the classic view of the control panel is oddly reorganized. Where's Add/Remove Programs? Oh it's "Programs and Feat...", awesome. I don't want to play a text adventure to find a particular control panel. If a control panel brings up a dialog box somewhere on screen it ends up being application modal so you can't access other windows without dismissing the dialog which has no physical association with it's calling window.
Wireless - While the wireless setup in Vista is marginally improved over Windows XP, why the hell do I have to go through multiple menus or the "Connect to Network" pane to connect to a wireless network? Give me a dropdown list of networks and let me choose one or type in a non-broadcast network name. Even better is dial-up and ethernet connections are available in the "Connect to Networks" pane. My grandparents are still on dial-up. Setting up the laptop at my parent's house with WiFi and getting the laptop to not break at my grandparents house was a chore. The actual DUN setup in Vista has not changed since the Windows 2000 days. That is to say it's needlessly complex and you have to click through multiple tabs and/or properties windows to set up multiple phone numbers.
Start menu - I've never been a fan of the start menu, it's just a hierarchal folder view with a bunch of submenus for subfolders. Not only is this a completely broken UI concept it is maddeningly unfriendly. Trying to show my grandmother how to launch Spider Solitaire was great fun. Click the Windows bauble, then click "Programs", then click "Games" (why did the menu change?), then click Spider Solitaire. I ended up making a shortcut on the desktop because the start menu is ridiculously complicated anymore.
UI ugliness - I can't understand why windows supposedly filled with text to be helpful have ten different font sizes with different background colors. It makes it supremely difficult to figure out which text in a window is important and which isn't. It's also difficult for an older person with less than perfect vision to figure out what is going on. That text has a beige background, it must be a warn...no it's just a general warning message that in no way pertains to the current situation.
Text selection - I'll admit I'm used to the Mac way of selecting text (single click in an inactive text field sets the cursor at the end of the line) but the Microsoft way has to be the dumbest I've seen in a long time. Selecting an inactive text box selects the whole text box. Pressing the ← key (left arrow) puts the cursor at the right end of the text. This makes no sense at all. It should put the cursor at the beginning on the line of text.
There's a bunch of other little issues I won't bother putting in bullet points. A lot of these issues can be fixed by tweaking settings in various controls panels and property panes but finding these is a chore and completely non-obvious to novice users like my grandparents. When they place the cursor over things and shit pops up under them they think they did something wrong because that sort of behavior is unintuitive and non-obvious. Out of the box I found my grandmother's laptop bordering on unusable. Without my help she would have never got her dial-up working or any of the trialware off the machine. I know a lot of people here might scoff at some of my complaints but really sit back and think about the amount of time it takes to make Windows just not suck. Wizards on top of convoluted interfaces does not fix the core issue of the interface being overly complicated.
Vista has its redeeming qualities. It's reasonably more capable and secure than previous incarnations of Windows but it has a hostile interface. I'm extremely glad that I do not have to use it on a daily basis and I feel sorry for those that do. I think a lot of the backlash against Vista is its interface sucks so damned much. Glossy translucent windows and soft focus animations during file copies don't make the system any more user friendly. They're just special effects on top of a movie with bad acting.
Rant over for now.