Monday, January 14, 2008

Vista Woes

Truffles, Turtles, Tunes - and now Technology. Don't worry though. I have no intentions of becoming a bona fide technology blogger. I'm hoping this new category won't have many posts. Seriously, I'm a lay person when it comes to technology. Because I worked as an implementation project manager in several software firms, I learned a bit here and there about how systems work. I have mucked about inside the computer in very minor ways - installing a network card, a CD-RW drive, memory, etc. - and I have reformatted a few hard drives. So ok, maybe I'm a rather advanced lay person. Nevertheless, I believe people should be able to use computers without becoming experts. That's why I'm so unhappy with the Windows Vista operating system.

Vista contains many new security features. Microsoft claims that's what people wanted. But who are these people? I venture to say they're business people and IT professionals, not the average user. Most of us don't want to spend hours learning how to fine-tune our computers in order to avoid the frustrations of slow opening programs and slow responding internet pages. Seriously, does the auto industry assume we'll lift the hood and reconfigure our engines in order to make our cars run satisfactorily? I feel a rant coming on, so let me back up and explain.

I replaced my husband's five year old laptop with a new Lenovo T61, which I expected to be a pretty zippy little machine considering the processor, memory, and hard disk speed:
  • 2 Duo Core T7500 (2.2 GHz, 800 Mhz, 4 MBL2)
  • 2 GB PC2-5300 DDR SDRAM, 667 MHz SODIMM Memory (2 DIMM)
  • 100 GB Hard Disk, 7200 rpm

I read all about the advantages of dual processors before I placed my order. Regarding Vista, most websites I read advised against upgrade your existing computer's operating system, but they said if you were ordering a new computer, there was no reason not to get Vista. I looked at the various flavors of Vista and selected the 32-bit Business version.

When the computer arrived, I ran through the installation procedure, configured the wireless settings, and took the little 14" widescreen T61 for a spin on the internet. To my utter horror, it was slower than the laptop I was replacing - and that was BEFORE I loaded and turned on any anti-virus software!!!

Since then, I purchased Windows Vista Inside Out, an 1100-page tome detailing Vista's configuration options. (It was on sale for half price. That should have been my first clue.) I've read approximately 200 pages so far and have spent countless hours backing up the old computer, running the Easy Transfer Utility, loading data and settings, downloading 200-megabyte Vista updates, tweaking and testing, and obtaining Vista-compatible versions of programs my husband uses. In the last 2 weeks, in addition to my full time job, mind you, I've spent somewhere between 40 and 60 hours fiddling around with what I had hoped would be the machine of my husband's dreams - his happy dreams, not his nightmares!

One feature which worries me is User Account Control. Whether you work with a standard login or a login with administrator privileges, UAC asks you to supply an administrator password if you start to do something that will make a systemwide change. This convention was designed to be a safeguard against viruses and spyware which install themselves without your knowledge or consent. The theory is: if you receive a request from the operating system to elevate your login to administrator status and you didn't do anything to trigger that request, you can deny the request and prevent bad stuff from happening on your computer. OK. I grant you it seems like a good idea. The practical issue is how often my husband would see these prompts in his everyday use of the computer. Would the annoyance outweigh the risk? Microsoft says yes. I'm not sure.

Another thing that concerns me is compatibility. Last night I read about someone who could print but not scan or fax. That article made me realize that loading software without incident is apparently not a true indication of compatibility. Little "surprises" could interrupt his work any time my husband used a feature or a function that hadn't been used before. The unpredictability could last years! Since the compatibility problem is largely outside my control, it makes me even more uncomfortable than the UAC issue.

After all these hours spent learning Vista, I hate to admit that I'm seriously considering going back to XP. For a fee, I can return this laptop and get another one configured with XP Service Pack 2. Or I could just wipe clean the hard drive of this laptop and load a previously purchased copy of XP. This second course of action would allow me to keep the copy of Vista I've just purchased. Perhaps sometime in the future I will want to re-load it.

My husband prefers to stick with what he knows. I'm sure he'd be grateful not to have to learn anything at all about Vista or about Microsoft Office 2007 (needed for compatibility with Vista), which has a very different look and feel from the Office 2003 version he's used to.

It does seem as if I'm leaning towards joining the many, many people all over the world who have decided NOT to accept Microsoft's latest contribution to the world of computing. I have a few more days to make up my mind, particularly if I want to exchange this laptop, What would you do?

© 2008, Linda Mason Hood
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1 comment:

Half Sigma said...

I have Office 2007 because it was only $60 and I use OneNote 2007 (which has its flaws, true...)

Anyway, Word 2007 loads noticeably slower than the last version, and the new "ribbon" is annoying. I hate wasting 5-10 minutes to figure out how to do something I knew how to do in seconds on the previous version.

OTOH, Word 2007 does have some improvements, such as the save to PDF file, and a useful full-screen reading mode.