Today is Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Fred's Views

Vista, an Update

I've been working with my Vista based computer for about three months and I'm slowly getting used to the many differences between Vista and XP, none of which have made my life easier or, by any stretch of the imagination were an improvement on XP (which, in many respects, was NOT an improvement on 98SE or Millennium [me]). I'm not talking about what's "under the hood", just about the user interface.

On a positive note, I still like the side bar and its widgets. In particular, I check out the Dilbert comic strip daily, glance at the weather, and sometimes remember to peruse my schedule. I also have a small slide show running, an address book that I seldom use and a "sticky note". I also liked the shortcuts that could be added to the navigation pane of "Computer" - until it no longer worked. Now it's just an empty pane that I can neither reload with the favorites I saved nor add new ones to. And, as usual, I have no idea how to fix it. Can't find any controls for it anywhere. When will Microsoft get its act together and put all the customization features in one big tabbed interface? I've already mentioned that I like the look of my e-mails. Apart from that, there isn't much positive to say about Vista.

Lately, I've discovered that many tried and true programs that never seemed to crash under XP are now crashing unexpectedly with Vista. I've also noticed that some of the earlier downloaded upgrades (read bug-fixes or security fixes) didn't install properly, which, admittedly may be part or even all of my problems. But how do I get them to install properly? Why must I read through pages of "knowledge base" articles, most of which make little sense and are not directly related to my problem to try and find a solution. Now, even tried and true Thunderbird won't upgrade to the newest version.

In short, Vista is a mess anyway you look at it. Oh, and did I mention I no longer have any sound on my machine? Yes, it will play the sounds that are associated with certain actions (at least when you test it out with the audio control), but it won't play any of the music or sounds associated with any games nor will it play CD's. And, oh yes, "Windows Media Player" crashes - even when it is not supposed to be running. Yet, for some reason, I am resisting the temptation to go back to XP, install Linux or throw in the towel and buy a Mac.

If I had had more disposable income, if my old computer had not completely died, and if I had really believed life with Vista would be this bad, I would have seriously considered a Mac. Right now, I think Vista is Apple's best salesman. Yet, there are people out there who like Vista just fine. They think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. I wish I could say the same. But even if it ran properly, even if it ran faster than XP (which I really can't test), I still wouldn't like the Vista experience. Too many things have been changed - and none of them represent an improvement (unless you consider what I mentioned above). Why change something that wasn't broke and make it harder to use? I don't understand Microsoft's thinking.

And yes, I still have that app running that says "Do you really want to do that thing you just did" (or words to that effect)? It bugs me, but if that were the only thing that bugged me about Vista, I'd be in seventh heaven.

But how's this for the scary part: Vista is the result of over five years of development. What disaster awaits us with Windows 7 which may have been only in development for about two years by the time it's released. Yes, I know it's to be based on Vista (which is certainly no comfort), but what are the chances Microsoft will actually fix what's broke? If their track record is any indication, a snowball has a better chance of surviving hell than we have of getting the operating system we should have had when Windows 95 was released about thirteen years ago.

Yes, I know an operating system is a complicated bit of programming - one only has to check out the size of an XP or Vista installation to discover that, but that's what we've been paying Microsoft the big bucks for. If it were easy, I'd write it myself. Somehow, Linux gets written by amateurs (and professionals) as a hobby, without getting a cent in payment. Linux may still lack many of the niceties of Vista, but it may also lack many of Vista's bugs and peculiarities.

As a legitimate, perhaps somewhat more literate than average computer user, I can honestly say that Vista is, at best, a major disappointment. If you are in the market for a new computer, I'd recommend seriously looking at an Apple Macintosh. It will cost you more, but it couldn't possibly be as cantankerous as Vista - could it? If you must have a Windows operating system (The Mac can run Windows programs, but I don't know how well it works or what programs are supported) then buy a computer that gives you the option to "upgrade" (yes, I said upgrade) to XP. And don't forget about Linux. It's still an option as well.

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