Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Microsoft Through New Eyes

Windows Vista has been out now for well over a year, and I have been reading about it and trying it out as I can. My parents have it on their new desktop and as I mentioned, my mother-in-law has it on her laptop. I've always been interested in computers and how they work, and have been satisfied with the way Windows works, mostly. The crash-heavy days of the late 90s were sometimes difficult to bear, but like most Windows users, I was only really interested in Web and word processing features. Really, until February, I was a basically content Windows user, subscribing to antivirus and firewall programs, paying for Windows cleanup utilities and new versions of Office, patiently removing all of the autoupdate programs that automatically load at start up and use up precious memory by constantly running in the background.

When Vista came out, I accepted the idea that I would eventually be using it, either at home or at work or both, because I had seen how Windows versions get phased out. Software developers stop supporting it and develop features that only work on the new OS, and the OS includes features that users of the previous version cannot access. This is the business model that Microsoft and its universe of programs have worked on for the past15 years, and until Vista, it seemed to be working. The problem is that Windows XP is Microsoft's best OS so far, and users want to keep it. Since many new Vista users (including Microsoft Executives) discovered that much of their hardware was not supported by Vista, and that many new computers that were considered "Vista Ready" did not run well. Both my parents and my mother-in-law have computers that I would drool over were they running Ubuntu, or even XP. 2GB of memory, large hard drives, and fast processors are exactly what I want for what I'm doing. However, I've learned that Vista needs these kinds of specs for basic operation!

I've used Vista enough to see good reasons why I wouldn't want to use it:
  • After the eye candy factor wears off, I see that it works a whole lot like XP with program load times, crashes, etc. When I configured my mother-in-law's laptop it crashed three times in the hour or so that I worked on it. And that was right out of the box.
  • The warnings! Whether I was downloading software, configuring start up options, or even surfing the web, I got warning after warning that what I was about to do might put my computer in danger. DANGER!
  • Every program on there, from antivirus protection to QuickTime, wants to have an auto-update feature run in the background and pester you until you update to the version of the week.
I guess the most annoying of these is the unnecessary warnings. They truly make it seem that if you download (gasp!) Mozilla Firefox, for instance, you are putting your computer at risk!

Really though, after a few months now of using Ubuntu as my main OS, Vista just feels really corporate to me, which I guess is how I've felt about Windows for about a decade now. Maybe I don't like Vista because it's the Uber-Windows, in all its hyping, scaremongering, and gluttonous glory.

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