Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Vista rant

If finally bit the bullet and bought a new laptop. I have avoided doing this for years because of the tremendous time investment necessary to load software and configure the system to do the things you need to do. Since I only do this every few years, I generally buy on the cutting edge of technology. It's pretty clear that x64 is the future of PCs so I opted for Vista Business x64 on a loaded Lenovo T61 (4gb, fast drive, etc). I finally have it under control, but it has been a struggle.

There are a lot of 32 bit programs that won't run on Vista x64 and the x64 versions don't exist yet. For example, we use Quickbooks for accounting and I use the Quickbooks timer to record billable time when I am working. I used to use it, apparently. It won't run on Vista at all.

You run into lots of issues like this, especially if you upgrade rather than do a clean install. I am fortunate that mine was a pre-install on the new laptop because I have found in my research that many programs I need and that are supposed to be compatible will only run on a clean install.

If you are thinking about Vista x64, you have to make sure the software you need is available on x64 before you buy.

As a prelude to my rant on Vista itself I want to mention that I am not a knee-jerk Microsoft basher. I make my living supporting a Microsoft product. But I am not an apologist either.

Microsoft has not made Vista an intrinsically more secure operation system. They have merely shifted the responsibility for doing unsafe operations from the OS to the user. Vista was probably designed by their legal department. Every time you start a non-MS program or change any sort of configuration option, you get a pop-up warning; Likewise when you open a website.

Now, I am a geek. I have been using computers since the days of 64k CPM programming. When I can't understand what the message means, how is a casual user supposed to know what to do with the pop-up?

Vista locks your computer down to an unusable degree. If you take all their defaults, you won't be able to do much with your computer.

The item that took the most time to resolve was the change in Remote Desktop. There are a lot of people on the web complaining about it, but I didn't find the answer there. It took trial and error to discover that in many circumstances you must use a full qualified domain name or ip address for the target machine on remote networks over a vpn connection. Just the hostname doesn't work. the vpn opens just fine, but then you cannot see or connect to any machine on the remote network.

Networking in general is a problem. The GUI interfaces and terminology have changed substantially.

Worst of all is the abstraction they have laid over the file system. It requires some effort to see the actual folder hierarchy. I know there are a lot of users out there who don't understand a hierarchical file system. They save documents and can't find them. However, I disapprove of dumbing down the user interface to make it more difficult for an expert user to do what they need to do.