No, I don’t think that Bill Gates is the devil (he’s actually one of my favorite people in the world) and I’m not one of those militant anti-MS nutballs. I’ve used Windows since 3.1 and I’ve never really complained much. Enter Vista stage left—little did I know, the mother of all train wrecks in the history of the computer OS was about to take over my life—and not in a good way. If I can save one person from upgrading or buying a machine running this steaming pile of dog doodoo, then it’s all worth it.
Yes I’m an early adopter geek who decided that by January 2007, I would completely restructure my entire life to be the pinnacle of high-tech organization. I would go completely paperless by digitizing every piece of paper that entered my house, I would rid myself of CDs and DVDs and instead run their content from a media server…I would even toss my Tivo box and let the system run my TVs throughout the house. I drilled holes through the house like swiss cheese to lay enough cat 5 cable to go from earth to the moon and back, built a new server, and bought a fleet of Xbox 360s to serve as media extenders to deliver content throughout the ol’ homestead. The software that would run everything: Windows Vista of course.
How did it all work out? It was a complete disaster. I developed a hard-core addiction to a dozen Vista problem-solving forums, my buddies howl with laughter watching me struggle through the arduous task of making a football game appear on the TV screen, and I’ve lost my voice several times shouting obscenities at these innocent little boxes that have done nothing wrong—they had no choice but to accept the poorly-assembled string of zeros and ones that I force-fed them that day I decided to dive head-first into that shallow, murky pond known as Vista.
In planning my exit strategy from the mess I had created, I (re)stumbled across Ubuntu Linux, which I’m now convinced will be the savior to pull me out of the Vista-infested hole that I fell in. What about Mac? That was definitely a tempting life preserver, but considering the cash I’d dropped on this whole botched Vista experiment, the thought of buying all new machines and software made me shudder. So Ubuntu Linux it is—my light at the end of the tunnel and exterminator of choice to rid myself of the Vista infestation once and for all.
Yes, I’m angry. Here’s Vista in a nutshell:
1. Bloatware Supreme Supersized With Cheese
This beast is more bloated than Jabba the Hutt leaving a Vegas buffet. I thought my top-of-the-line AMD X2 dual-core chip running in a box stuffed to the gills with ultra-fast RAM would do the job, yet still my machine is sluggish. I did some side-by-side tests of this machine vs. Ubuntu Linux running on a six year-old Pentium 4 machine with 1/8th the RAM. Hmm… the tired old box running Linux danced circles around the sparkling new Vista box. The Linux machine actually opened apps like Google Earth in less than half the time.
2. More Security Than Gary Coleman Guarding A Mall
Vista’s solution to security vulnerabilities assumes that I will have no problem clicking OK several times and typing in my password every single time I want to do something as simple as moving a file. And any videos I happen to be watching will freeze during the whole process. I wonder if anyone has had the patience to make it more than a day with this UAC nightmare turned on before shutting it off for good–RIP UAC. Microsoft also insists that, to maintain a secure machine, I create a user account for myself and not use the admin account for day-to-day work. Makes sense…but wait a minute–more than half of my software doesn’t work now!
3. The GUI—Graphical User Interference
Sometimes my files display as gigantic icons, sometimes as file details, but hardly ever the way I want them to display. And when I display by “details” it’s a crapshoot which details I’ll get. Windows thinks it’s smart enough to figure out which details I want to see based on the folder’s primary type of file. Can’t you just friggin’ show me filename, the size, and the date??? Is that too much to ask? And where did the “up folder” button go? Oh forget it, just give me a DOS window—I can do everything much easier with that. And the whole Aero interface thing? I just shut it off after seeing the resources it was hogging up. Besides, the Aero theme just looks downright boring after using Linux’s sleek Compiz Fusion GUI.
4. No TV For You!
Vista Media Center is that module of Vista that runs through a TV screen via remote control and is meant to handle TV recordings, play my music, display my photos, and deliver online content. Everything is sent to TVs throughout the house via extender boxes (Xbox 360s). Now a dose of reality: the system sometimes forgets to record my shows, and when it does, about one in five recorded shows has incoherent audio. The system needs constant hard-resets to recover it from crashes. And my all my Xbox 360 extenders? Well they don’t wake the server like they should, they can’t play any video codecs except WMV files (unless I transcode—a real mess), and without fail, they will always disconnect from the server when first trying to connect. The system always decides to start self-maintenance at the worst times which makes the picture stutter constantly. To add insult to injury, the setup wizard will actually refuse to go to the next step until my Microsoft-brand remote is plugged in, even if I don’t want one. WTF??? And the one plugin I use (to watch Diggnation) always ends up crashing, sending the whole system down in flames in the end. The simple act of watching a TV show has never been so complicated. Oh how I miss my old TiVo box….life was so much simpler in the good ol’ days.
5. Windows Mobile Device Center—Anybody Home?
After I couldn’t get my good old Treo 650 (Palm) to sync with Vista, I gave in and switched to a Windows Mobile device. What could possibly go wrong with a Windows device talking to another Windows device? Aaarrggh. It’s bad enough that Microsoft now forces me to purchase the full-version of Outlook just to make use of my synced mobile device’s data, but the problem is that the whole thing just doesn’t work most of the time. Every time I plug in my phone, I cross my fingers as the little sync icon starts spinning. And 9 times out of 10, the little red X appears, indicating a failed sync. Go ahead and click “details…” and you’ll get a “page not found” error on Microsoft’s website. Thanks for the help.
The unexplainable lurks around every corner of Vista. When copying a file, the countdown timer will go from, say, 30 seconds remaining, to 976 days remaining, and back again. When selecting multiple files in a folder with changing files (files coming in by download, for example), my group of selected files will mysteriously change, leading to disaster when I hit the delete button and find that I just deleted a bunch of files I never selected to begin with–D’Oh!!
7. Oh Draconian Licensing
Purchasing an “upgrade” no longer means simply feeding it my XP disc during the install to prove I am truly upgrading. To do a clean install, Microsoft actually expects me to first install XP, then install Vista on top of it. This is a real pain in the butt if you’ve had to do a total of five clean installs like me (fortunately there’s a trick to get around this that the geniuses at MS missed). But after a horrific crash and reinstall, I ran into a huge problem—Vista wouldn’t activate. It no longer recognized my machine with the new hard drive I was forced to install. While yakking with my new tech support buddy in India, it became apparent that the only solution to my problem was for them to issue me a fresh activation code. But first, I had to prove that I had purchased a genuine copy of Vista. “Where did you buy it?” “Costco” I shot back. “What is Costco?” “Oh, well let me tell you…” The interrogation went on and on, but I seemed to be passing the test. It all came down to one final question: “Does your disk say ‘Do not make illegal copies of this software?’ ” “YES, YES, I see it right here!” I joyously replied. “Ok, here’s your new activation code…” Victory at last! But wait, what had I actually just won? I was back to square one.
8. Screech…Crash—No Airbags In This Thing?
The Blue Screen Of Death is back with a vengeance—this time more damaging and frequent than ever before. But the fun only begins there. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard the sound of a frozen MP3 when the machine locks up—how dare I attempt to scan documents and listen to music simultaneously! There must be somewhere between 31 flavors and 57 varieties of crash types with this pile of crap.
9. Video Files Not For Videophiles
With all of the hundreds of video codecs out there, it seems that Vista is only good with one—native WMV files. Running codecs galore was effortless under XP, yet somehow has become rocket science under Vista. Opening avi files often launches a multitude of “avi chunk viewer” windows that never stop even when I check the “do not show again” checkbox. What the hell are chunks and why would I want to view them anyway? Mpg files frequently trigger Rundll32 errors which, as an added bonus, lock the file from being modified or deleted until I reboot and carefully modify it using the command prompt (hope you didn’t forget your DOS commands). And I’ve given up trying to view .mov files—they play for about two seconds before giving me a “buffer overflow” error. I usually end up sending videos over to my Linux or XP machines just to view them.
10. The Ultimate Ipod Brick Maker
It turns out Vista does not play well with Ipods. I use third-party software to sync my music library with my Ipod. I have even tried different software and tried three different machines thinking it might be a hardware issue. Problem is that Vista will often completely freeze during an Ipod sync. I leave the room and pray to Lord Gates every time I hit the sync button. When I return to see the frozen screen it only means one thing: my Ipod is now a brick in need of reformatting and complete rebuilding. I’ve been through this laborious process more than a dozen times. I have now imposed a restraining order that states my Ipod is not to come within 30 feet of Vista.
11. ON/OFF & Everything In Between
Microsoft’s promises of powering on or off in a matter of seconds actually relies on the S3 sleep mode, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to work properly on any motherboard in existence. Half the time I power on out of sleep, I end up with no internet connection. And half the time I power down to sleep, the system wakes right back up again. Talk about insomnia. Even worse is when I attempt a full power down—the system appears to ignore my command and sits idle for an eternally long period of time (while apparently trying to resolve some process I guess) until it finally shuts down—I often have to start killing left and right with the Task Manager to successfully shut down. And when it’s time to turn the evil machine back on I get the fun of gazing at an endlessly long-lasting “Welcome…” screen.
12. Ouch, My Credit Card Is Burning!
Ok, so to get started, I needed two copies of Vista Ultimate—one for the “main” computer and one for the media center server. Gotta have Ultimate, otherwise no remote desktop access ability (shouldn’t this be a basic feature?) $240 each. No problem. Now my Palm doesn’t work…need a Windows Mobile device phone. Chi-Ching. Now I can’t see my calendar or contacts…need Outlook 2007 for that. Chi-Ching. Time to set up the media center…need three Xbox 360s because no one else has dared make Vista media extenders. Chi-ching! Chi-ching! Chi-ching! Well those didn’t come with remotes—gotta have those. Chi-ching! Now to set up the media center. Hmm, can’t run the setup wizard without a Microsoft-brand remote. Chi-ching! But when all is said and done and I’ve dismantled the beast I’ve created…the experience of running my Vista install disks through the shredder? PRICELESS!!!
Disclaimer: your experiences may vary…for better or worse.