Wait, Marc… didn’t your new computer come with Vista? I thought you said nobody in his right mind would keep Vista? True, but I wanted to use it myself in a non-repair context and see if I could put up with it for at least one day.
Was I able to? The answer, believe it or not, is yes and no. Let me explain:
Issue 1: Proclamations
I boot it up and the first problem was the speed. My computer is ridiculously capable, but at first taste, Vista was a bit sluggish. (I’ve noticed that some people have better luck than others in this regard, for whatever reason.) So, I immediately began removing startup programs (I’ll write a detailed article about how to do that pretty soon). Basically, whenever a program is installed on your computer, it thinks you want it to be your best friend forever, and so it starts up automatically every time you turn on your computer. Install a few doozies such as Adobe Reader and QuickTime and your new computer will become slower than molasses within a week. I thought I was home safe, but that was not the case. The next time I restarted, Vista was SO proud of itself that it did what I… told it to do, that it couldn’t stop declaring it! Here’s what I saw:
I wouldn’t mind if it bragged once or twice… but EVERY TIME I START VISTA, AND EVERY HOUR OR SO IT PROUDLY DECLARES… LOOK AT ME! I HELPED YOU GET RID OF AN ANNOYANCE! AREN’T I GREAT? AREN’T I GREAT? AREN’T I GREAT? What does it want me to do… thank it?
Issue 2: Wireless Switch
Back in the ancient days of Windows XP (2 years ago), one could jump onto a wireless network fairly easily. In Vista, you’re greeted by an endless loop of empty windows that say “Sorry, we can’t help you!” Here’s why…
I click on the network icon on the bottom-right of the screen, hoping to see the usual list of available wireless networks (there were plenty around me at the time). Instead I’m greeted with a digital shoulder-shrug.
I do what it suggests and I click “View network computers and devices.” I’m greeted with this drawing by King Obvious:
I take a moment of silence to mourn the sanity of all those who AREN’T experts and have to figure this out on their own.
A big yellow “titlebar popup” comes up and says, “HEY! Connect to a network, why dontcha!” I think my troubles are over.
I do what it next suggests and click on “Connect to a Network.
It taunted me, “What, did you think it would actually work this time?”
I was taken through this mad cycle several times before finally clicking “Let Windows diagnose the problem for you [I’m a big boy now! I can do it; watch me!]” It told me after a painstakingly long time, that it thought my wireless card was switched off. So, I roamed around the computer for a little while searching for the previously-easily-located “Manage Network Connections,” and I tried to disable then reenable the wireless card:
(Meanwhile Windows felt it an appropriate time to announce to the world that it blocked my Startup programs again!) So i disable then re-enable the wireless card. Nothing. Hm, that’s funny, this happened to my friend’s Vista computer the other day. I thought it was her computer but something’s really fishy…
It’s important to note here that under Windows XP, one was able to enable/disable the wireless card via the software toggle OR a hardware button, but apparently Vista can’t do that. So, a few more vicious cycles later and I locate the wireless button next to the power button on my laptop and poof! We’re in business. Now, normally I wouldn’t have made such a big deal about this, but three things are noteworthy here:
- Windows XP was able to co-control wireless cards in conjunction with most hardware buttons. This is no longer the case, on at least two different computer models I’ve used so far.
- The reason why I didn’t immediately look for the hardware button is because, as you can see in the picture above, Vista said the card was enabled. This was not the case. Again, XP would’ve told me that it was disabled, even if it was the hardware button that did it.
- Vista did suggest after its little self-actualization stunt that I should turn on the wireless card via a button, but I almost never pay attention to computer messages anymore, because they’re rarely relevant anymore. Later on, it thought it was my best friend and showed me a whole slew of windows offering completely irrelevant and unsolicited advice:
Issue 3: Chaff
So I finally get connected. But then I learn Vista does an excellent job of alarming people for no reason! It declares that i’m connected to a wireless router, but I can’t get beyond it to the Internet. Why? It just felt like upsetting me, of course. I made sure my time and date were set correctly, and they were (routers don’t let you on the Internet if your clock doesn’t match theirs, because if your time is off you’re obviously a terrorist). As soon as I popped up a Firefox browser, it told me I could get on the Internet and that was that.
Issue 4: Preloaded Viruses
In the 1990s, a man named Peter Norton donned a shirt and tie and started selling books and software. Since then, he’s come out with some pretty okay stuff, except for one awful, terrible, horrendous abomination known as Norton Internet Security. It’s not only an AntiVirus program, but it monitors everything you and your kids do on the Internet, just hoping for a nice juicy threat. The problem is, Norton Internet Security IS the threat. it slows your computer down by about 30% and is practically useless. Anytime I see it preloaded on someone’s computer I promptly remove it and replace it with something less intrusive. It was no different for my new Averatec.
Issue 5: Resurrecting Windows 98 zombies
It’s one thing for a computer to be unstable. You can blame it on poor programming and that’s that. But it’s another thing altogether to have poor design: There’s really no excuse for it. The dialog box above was introduced in Windows 95/98 and requires the user to pull down a menu to see all the options (shut down, sleep, etc.). It was jettisoned in Windows XP in favor of a much nicer take-your-pick window. However, disabling the awkward new Vista start menu in favor of the Classic one forces you to re-adopt this shutdown dialog box. Earlier versions of Windows that employed this box would remember your last selection (which was inefficient enough), but this one just assumes you want to put the computer to sleep, every time. So does pressing the “Power” button on the Vista-style start menu. Come on, guys. Stop changing things for the sake of changing them.
Deleted Scene: King Obvious Strikes Again!
On the Whole:
In many ways, using Windows Vista is exactly like being harassed by a school bully. Things look fine on the outside, but when you least expect it, you get a jab to the side or a knock to the head in the form of confusing menus, incessant declarations of its vigilance, and paranoid-neurotic “Are you SURE?” confirmations. Maybe most people just fail to acknowledge them for fear of getting beat up by an army of IT-students-turned-Microsoft groupies. Thankfully you have me and my screen captures to bring the whole situation to light!
I look forward to testing Windows 7 some more to see if they’ve cleaned up the Vista mess or just spilled buckets in different places.
While I personally believe installing Windows Vista on someone’s computer is human cruelty, I’m going to keep it on here for the time being. Ubuntu is my OS of choice on this machine, but Vista will be here for those rare times when I have to use a Windows-only utility, and I’m familiar enough with it now. Sure, I could put XP or Windows 7 on it, but either one would take time to install and I’m just lazy right now. It seems stable enough so far. Besides, it’s so damn pretty…