A Taste Of Vista II
Now that I’m using Twitter, I’m often trying to work on something important while Tweeting and writing blog articles and reading feeds and fielding e-mail and phone calls. It is no surprise, then, that I’m not receptive to calls that waste my time. Neither is it a surprise that my laptop’s 512MB of RAM is nowhere near enough for me any more. But I’m 2,000 miles away from home (since April), and not willing to deal with trying to explain to a telephone order taker that I want the product shipped to a hotel in Ohio instead of my home in California. So I went down to a retail store and picked up an HP something-or-other with 3GB of RAM.
Unfortunately, it came with Vista pre-installed. Fair enough. It has been a year since I last struggled with with it. Perhaps SP1 has fixed some of the most glaring issues.
First impression: All sorts of unwanted stuff is automatically starting, from first-run licensing wizards to “update your software” wizards, to the “welcome center”. Control-Alt-Delete will still let you bring up the task manager, which you can use to kill the wonderful tell-you-about-your-computer video. Now to turn off the welcome center’s run-at-startup function. Huh? Where is it? Oh, there it is, in the control panel. I realize that every application on the system (in addition to the operating system) needs to have someone accept the license. However, having them all pop up at once (modal dialog boxes, the most user-unfriendly thing on the planet) when you turn the computer on is not a good first impression. I do think that some of this is HP’s fault and the fault of the application vendors like Symantec, rather than the fault of the OS vendor. [Note to Microsoft: for more satisfied consumers, stop selling the OS bundled with the hardware. When a user buys the OS on CD and installs from scratch, they won’t have to deal with the vendor-supplied crapware that mars the experience of using Windows.]
All right, let’s update the system and get it ready to use. I’ll just connect to the hotel’s WiFi network, the thing that was so problematic last year. This year, it connects quickly, but after a short (but varying) time period, drops the connection. It does not usually re-connect without being explicitly told to do so. It can be really frustrating. Is it better than last year? Undoubtedly. With difficulty, I’m able to get updates, reboot, get antivirus updates.
Next, I have a particular set of applications that I like and use, which is different from the set that came with the computer. So it is time to download the new Firefox 3, Opera 9.5, Thunderbird 2, and Safari. With the up and down networking, that took one whole evening. You’d think after so long that every browser would have implemented Opera’s download restarting feature, but that is apparently not the case. Dowload 7-zip, KiXtart, Python, Rebol, VisualWorks Smalltalk Non-commercial version, NetBeans and Java SDK, Squeak. (Tonight, for a change, the networking seems to be more stable.) Remove MS Works and ‘HP Games by WildTangent’ and several other non-useful applications.
This computer has an “experience index” of 2.6, so there is only a single desktop–pretty limiting when compared with the Linux and Mac OS X desktops–it is hard to deal with. It feels like I’m back in 1998 or something. That in itself defeats the purpose of buying the laptop. I’m going to resize the partition and try dual-booting for a while. For someone that only browses the Web, types a few documents, and uses e-mail, the single-desktop interface is great. For someone who does much else, it stinks.
This isn’t a Vista failing, but something that HP chose: the screen resolution is only 1200×800. I’ve gotten used to higher resolutions with newer computers, so this is a step backwards.
How is Vista SP1, compared with the original Vista?
- UAC: Still there, still annoying. Still defeats the purpose of security by teaching users to mindlessly click “allow”.. No change or improvement.
- Wireless networking: The computer does know its IP address and can browse the Internet. Wireless connections drop after a short time, and must be manually re-connected. Not quite unusable, but close. An improvement, but not nearly enough.
- Peripherals: I plugged in my external keyboard, a couple of different mice, and a graphics tablet. Everything works without fighting system security over drivers. This is a tremendous improvement.
I’m not much of a media consumer, so I couldn’t say whether the emphasis on TUR (technological usage restrictions, also known as DRM) for media has hurt the utility of the system. I could ship it home and let the family media consumer test it out, but he’s got his Mac and would probably not even turn on a Windows machine any more.
Overall, I’d say to skip Vista if you can. It is still not ready for most users. I still recommend Dell’s Ubuntu computers, or you could get a Mac Mini for under $1,000. The user experience is so much better with these products as compared to Vista that you can save yourself hours of aggravation. If you go with Mac, chances are the neighbor’s 13 year-old has one anyway, so he’ll still be able to set things up for you.
Entry filed under: Software.