Saturday, 1 March 2008

An unexpected rant about technology

It's not very often that I am moved to rant about technology; mainly I ignore it, but when we are forced to interact I usually win. But. You may recall that some time ago, I mentioned that I was having laptop trouble (hence the infrequency of posting lately). Well, I decided to treat myself to a new one, which has happily now arrived.

This new laptop came complete with Windows Vista pre-installed. I'm not the biggest fan of Windows, but since it was bundled, I thought 'OK, might as well'. Since the hard disc is nice and big, I can always make it dual-boot and have a decent operating system, such as Linux, on there as well. I have to admit that Windows is nice for multimedia, like watching DVDs and so on; also, Linux is a bit crap for syncing with iPod, so all in all I figured the dual-boot thing would be a winner. And heck, Vista is just XP jazzed up a bit - XP's quite nice; this new one can't be that bad.

(Of course, one must always be mindful of the old joke:
Person 1: "Here, I got this Windows install CD, played it backwards and it sounds like they're singing about Satan."
Person 2: "You got off lightly. I played it forwards and it installed Windows.")

So anyway. I fired up Vista to start playing. Oh. My. Life. Has there EVER been a worse operating system, on any computer, ever? The fact that they were finding bugs at the rate of something like hundreds a day about 6 weeks before release should have been a warning. So far I've used it for approximately 4 hours, and it has already crashed twice. And that doesn't count the times the mouse has just frozen dead in the middle of the screen for a few seconds before going beserk, opening a few files and then returning to where it should be. It's pretty slow (and my laptop is pretty fast, so it should be going like lightning) - all sorts of time seems to be dedicated to making things dance across my screen, rather than making anything useful happen.

And it's fecking patronising. If I try to do ANYTHING at all that it's not entirely keen on (like scroll off the top of a page, say), there are beeps, flashes and warning messages all over the place. When I download an installer (for, eg, a decent browser like Firefox), and then try to run it, it asks me for permission and then gives me a lecture about how I shouldn't really trust things like this, and am I maybe not being a bit naive in trying to use my computer to actually do things when there are nice pretty pictures to look at instead. And it's the devil himself for 'tips'. Everything I try to do gets a full-on running commentary, none of which is of any use at all.

Vista is of course meant to be very good on security. My favourite story was the one about how they made it so it had built-in voice recognition to do things like copy, open or delete files at the user's command - and then realised that if anyone opened a website that had audio saying 'delete all files' or something along those lines, their entire system could be wiped. 'Security' seems to involve questioning everything you try to do, no matter how ordinary; I can only assume that this is designed to either (a) make you so paranoid that you give up trying completely or (b) make you so irritated that you lob the computer out the window; to be fair, in either case you will be unlikely to pick up a virus. It keeps running scans of my computer, to alert me to anything that might be trying to hack in; this takes so long that the hackers will easily be in and away with my admittedly-not-very-interesting files before my mouse has even started working again.

This wouldn't be so bad if it was an OS mashed together by a 16-year-old on work experience and handed in as part of his GCSE coursework or something, but Microsoft have the cheek to spend years developing it and then to charge people to use it. People complain about Linux, but at least it's free and it's not going to let people run off with your data faster than you can say 'HM Revenue and Customs'. Nor does it generally crash, unless you try to do something VERY ambitious.

So, the moral of the story is that if you're getting a new computer, you should not get Windows Vista. You will do nothing but regret it.

9 comments:

Sean said...

You are not alone. Almost anyone in our office who installed Vista "downgraded" to XP soon after (there were a few managerial types who stuck with it, but they don't count)

For infor, am only using XP because I need to. At home, I am still with Linux.

Max O'Malley said...

Max O'Malley feels your pain. He can't think of what you might do instead....

espero said...

Max, try to hold yourself back from this question I have for WNS....
Why did you not think about a Mac? Seems like everyone we know is crossing over to the other side and we would too had we the finances. So what made you stick with PC?

whynotsmile said...

Well, macs are too expensive, and also I wanted it to be dual boot with Linux, which is hard with a mac.

Kinda regretting it now. Still, Vista looks like it should provide more blog fodder even than the builders, so it has that in its favour.

QMonkey said...

Yeah, I’ve a similar experience with Vista... but after a few months it’s integrated itself nicely into my world... I tend to use Virtual PC to run other servers and op systems. I think part of the problem is... when you run 90%+ of the worlds computers you need to make your new op system reasonably upgradeable... so you can never go for big paradigm changes. Also unless you want to go the Mac uber-closed-source route and control everything and not even let things like iTunes recognised a non-ipod then there are always gonna be ‘issues’ with reliability. If apple were so confident they would let OSX be installed as a dual boot on my Dell!
I’m with you on the security thing... I think I’d rather have less secure and less annoying.

whynotsmile said...

I don't think I'd mind the annoying security things if they actually did any good - last night (to be further discussed in an upcoming post) my laptop connected itself to someone else's wireless network and started downloading things!

I see your point about Apple; the one thing in their favour is that their stuff generally does actually work really well, and integrates nicely. Whereas Windows stuff doesn't even work that well, and doesn't manage to be compatible even with itself.

Max O'Malley said...

I run Windows XP perfectly well using Parallels on my mac... without having to boot up again. Works flawlessly. And does linux as well. So you can have windows, linux and Mac OS x all running at once and memory is dirt cheap (55 quid for 4GB of RAM tha flip) so why not?

Why have hassle... ? iTunes reads mp3s.... and any of your CDs in itunes can be reexported into mp3 and you can burn your purchased music to CD and rerip if you (gasp) decide after owning a mac to go back to the darkside. There is nowt to worry about.

Vox O'Malley said...

I know this is shameless but:


http://www.parallels.com/en/products/desktop/

does the job for cheapo monetas.

whynotsmile said...

Maxo, I think I wish I'd asked you earlier!! Next time...