Today is Friday, September 22, 2017


Fred's Views

Vista Woes - Part 1

My trusty five-year old computer died the other day. It had been ailing for some time. Both of the DVD internal drives were not functioning properly (I was relying on an external drive) and then the computer simply refused to boot up. I installed an old CD-ROM drive so I could attempt to load Windows from a CD - but to no avail. It said it could not find a hard drive on my system. So, maybe one of my hard drives has failed.

Any way, I decided to bite the bullet and buy a new machine. I bought an Acer with a Quad-core AMD Phenom processor and 4 gigabytes of RAM. I know there is some issue with the Phenom, it apparently has an inherent flaw which may shut down the system at rare times and it isn't up to snuff with Intel's quad-core CPU's, but the price was right and I'm a sucker for the underdog. Anyway, as far as I can tell, the hardware is working perfectly. The machine is cool and quiet - two factors not found in my old machine.

It will soon be 24 hours since I unpacked the machine and Corel Lightning (the program I'm using to write this) is the only application I've managed to install so far.

One of the reasons I had been dreading buying a new machine (besides the expense) is the fact that they all come with Windows Vista. After about a day trying to work with Vista I can honestly say that every bad thing you`ve ever heard about Vista is undoubtedly true. It managed to find and connect to the Internet and it even found the only other computer running Vista on our network. But it can`t find any of the other computers nor can it find my My Book World 1 terabyte networked hard drive where I store all my data.

The user interface is terrible. Worse than XP - and that`s saying something. Would that I could get back to the classic Windows 98SE-Millennium interface that was so much nicer and more intuitive to use.

They`ve ruined MyComputer. There doesn`t seem to be a driver for my scanner. (I`ve heard about these kinds of problems and others have blamed HP - but I blame Microsoft. It seems to me that if Microsoft introduces a new OS that breaks current drivers, it has the responsibility to supply new drivers that work with its ornery OS.

Course, I just wish Microsoft had left well-enough alone. XP, for all its faults, worked. (Incidentally, I upgraded my scanner when I had to start using XP - since XP wouldn`t recognize the parallel port. I`ll be damned if I`m going to buy another new scanner just for Vista. There are at least four perfectly usable scanners in my home, but only if you run them on older computers with older - and better - OS`s installed.)

I`ve just discovered a new problem. My keyboard won`t key in certain symbols like the normal slash (it prints an acute e) or some of the brackets. How will I fix this! Well, this, at least, appears to be a problem with Corel Lightning and not Vista. The keyboard works fine in Wordpad. Update: It wasn't just a problem with Lightning. I haven't been able to track down the problem, but it hasn't reoccurred since day 2. The problem surfaced in several programs but went away when you restarted the program and/or rebooted the computer. Knock on wood, it's gone for good.

It's now been a week since I bought the new machine. I finally got the machine to recognize the other computers on my network and my storage drive. Unfortunately, it just took a week (almost) and it was purely by trial and error. I installed Network Magic - and it saw my other computers, although it thought my notebook was off-line, but Vista still couldn't see them. I installed MioNet, which came with my storage drive. Still Windows couldn`t find the rest of my network. To some degree, it was my fault, sort of. In the process of installing the network, reinstalling the network, adding new computers, troubleshooting and what not, I actually had two networks (two different group names). When Vista set up its network, it arbitrarily set up another group and named it without my imput. (Can anyone say "typically Microsoft"?). So, now I had three networks. I finally found some help - don't ask me where, it was strictly trial and error. Anyway, according to Microsoft, Vista can find all the networks you have set up (which, of course, it wasn't doing at all) but XP can't (which of course it wasn't doing either. It could see the new computer.) There was a program you could download from the Microsoft website that you run in the XP machines so they can see the networks. While the program didn't work as Microsoft claimed, it did work. Voila, my Vista machine could now find all of the other devices on my networks.

While I was writing that last paragraph, my problem with the keyboard - or whatever - resurfaced. The solution seems to be to exit the program and start it up again. Wish I knew what was causing the problem to begin with.

Windows still, of course, won't let me decide where I want to store my data, but that's an old complaint that I fear will never be addressed. (Knowing what I know about Apple - which isn't all that much - I bet that OS won't let me decide where I want to store my data either. Makes no sense to me, but I guess that's life.

Managed to do away with the distracting (and pointless) transparent title bars. Guess they're part of the much-touted but, as far as I can see, totally useless Aero whatever it is. Put back the classic Start menu. It's not that I thought this aspect of classic Windows was so great, I'd still prefer for the "Programs" option to be in a handier place and stand out more, but Vista's Start Up menu is no shakes either. I guess I'm "old school". I still prefer to boot up the program and then load in the file (or start a new one) to work on.

All right, I must say something good about Vista. I must say something good about Vista. I must say something good about Vista. Here goes: My e-mail in Thunderbird looks great, much classier than in XP. There, I've said it. So far, the computer starts up, loads programs and shuts down more quickly than any other computer I've seen. But how much is that the Quad-core 4 gigabyte hardware - and how much, if any, is it Vista? And how much speed will I lose by dumping Internet Explorer and using Firebird?

I spent most of a day downloading and trying out different "gadgets" for the side bar in Vista. Found a few that seemed useful. I won't go so far as to say this gadget thing is truly useful, but it isn't all that bad. Coming from me, that's high praise for Microsoft. But don't get me wrong, I don't hate Microsoft. I hate many of their products, and much of their manner of doing business. I think it's a crime what they charge for upgrades to their programs (in most cases). I think it's a crime how each new operating system is still full of bugs and requires a quantum leap in computer resources just to run. I think it's a crime they spend so much time creating usefless "features" like Aero and the new user interface, but don't fix obvious flaws like not giving us the right to choose where to store our data. And I think it's a crime how they treat paying customers in an attempt to stop piracy. As long as you unnecessarily price your product beyond the reach of most consumers, you won't stop piracy.

A side note of the gadget thing is that I discovered a whole slew of add ons for Thunderbird and Firebird. I knew they existed, I just didn't know there were so many of them. I've downloaded a bunch, but I haven't installed any yet.

I'm still having problems getting my Apache web server running (I use it to test out scripted web pages before uploading them to my host server). The main problem is that I want to store the files somewhere else than on the C drive inside the programs folder. There's supposed to be a way to do it, but I have not discovered it yet. (Reading the manual is not much help - too much techno-speak.)

It pains me somewhat to say that aside from my keyboard intermittent problem (which, I suppose, actually could be the keyboard) and my Apache configuration woes, everything else seems to be running okay so far. There are still a bunch of programs that I haven't installed. I'm trying to stick with the tried and true (and free) as much as possible. Besides Firefox and Thunderbird I've installed Open Office and Filezilla and a great game - The Battle for Wesnoth. All are open source and free. Who says you can't get something for nothing! Part of me would still like to get Microsoft's latest iteration of Office, even though I know it's overpriced and offers virtually no advantage over Open Office. It's that stupid male part of my brain that always wants the latest and greatest - which usually just turns out to be the shiniest (with little real value) and priciest.

When my son bought his computer, he paid the folks at Future Shop almost $200 to set it up, give him a copy of Microsoft's One Step and make back-up disks of the operating system. Then they wanted at least four hours to get it ready. At the time, I thought it was a major rip off. I still think (and most experts I've read agree) that One Step isn't worth the price, but I may be changing my mind about the rest. Four hours pales next to the time I wasted getting things set up. (Of course, many of the things I was trying to do they wouldn't have done anyway.) and I've found no way to make a back-up of the system files except to send Acer $40 for a set - which I also think is highway robbery. Anyway you look at it, the back up disc(s) should come with the hardware. I blame Microsoft (the salesman blamed the manufacturers). I think it's just another way to screw paying customers while they attempt to curb piracy while ignoring the real rerasons for piracy. But that's just me.

Getting my own Vista based machine has made me acutely aware of just how true the Apple (I'm a PC - I'm a Mac) commercials are when it comes to Vista. How accurately they portray the Macintosh OS is another matter. My next computer may still be a Mac - if I can afford it.

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