I scored a refurbished Gateway computer from Woot last week, which I intend to use as a server. I was kind of excited, because although I intended to wipe the drive and install Ubuntu (Windows Vista is nowhere near stable enough to be a good server), it came with Windows Vista Home Premium. Since I have only used Vista at Best Buy and CostCo, I was pretty excited to give it a thorough try.

I clicked my agreement to numerous things I paid no attention to and Vista took a deep breath, and 15 minutes after hitting the power switch, I was up and running. Only a few more EULAs to agree to, and off we go–where?

First–and this is not Microsoft’s fault–it took me about an hour to clean off all the crapware that Gateway installs by default. And that was just the time to clear off the immediate annoyances. It made me remember the day I received my non-bloated Lenovo ThinkPad wistfully.

After I cleared off some of the bloat, I did some playing around with Vista. From a user perspective, it is basically just Windows XP with window dressing. It feels like little more than a service pack upgrade. I understand that a lot has changed under the hood, but that does little good if the end product feels pretty much the same.

The constant prompts are also annoying and useless. In Linux, you are prompted for your password for administrative tasks. This guarantees that only those with administrative-level permission can make administrative-level changes. Vista just asks you to push “Okay,” which does not provide much security at all, especially since I started ignoring the content of those dialogs right away.

There are numerous tweaks to the included programs. I guess I am spoiled from using Linux, but I was disappointed to be reminded that a new install of Windows is nearly useless if you want to get any work done. It will be at least half a day of installing programs before you can do any work.

The included programs are nicer, however. There is a separate program for e-mail, calendar, and other stuff I will never use. So I guess that is nice, although it is nowhere near as useful as the full office suite that comes with most Linux distros.

It looks pretty good. But not that good. Nothing I was very excited about. So, after a few hours of playing around, I spent 30 minutes wiping the drive and installing Ubuntu. Ten more minutes later, I was working on my business files and enjoying Ubuntu’s beautiful Compiz eyecandy. Plus, I had an extra 20 GB of space on the drive that I regained by wiping Windows Vista.