Monday, July 6, 2009

Cruising the Vista

It's been a while since the introduction of Windows Vista, and I've successfully managed to avoid it.

Until now.

My Dad, on my advice, bought a Dell about 3 years ago. The idea was that if he had trouble with it, he'd have someone to call. Well, this weekend while I was home helping him figure out why his backups weren't working to par, his installation of XP Home just died utterly. Every time you attempt to start, no matter which way, you got the Stop 0x000007B, which translates, more or less, to "I can't find your boot disk." Never mind that starting the recovery console and running chkdsk worked just fine.

Ok, so just reinstall XP. Well, that failed because when it got to the point where it had booted the installation software from the hard disk (after it copied that stuff from the CD), it couldn't find it.

So I said to myself, "Why am I killing myself with this crap? Mom switched to a mac years ago and hasn't had any trouble like this." So we went through the list of things he does with his machine. And it boils down to all the stuff that comes free with OS X, Office, Quicken and (eventually, but not right now) TurboTax - all of which are available on the mac.

But it sucks to spring him with a bill for a $600 machine (actually, since his monitor is starting to show symptoms, I'd probably have steered him to an iMac, so it'd be $1200), plus an additional $175 worth of software on a holiday weekend, so the compromise was to first go to Fry's and buy the cheapest copy of Vista we could find - Home Basic Upgrade.

The installation went well enough, but one problem sprang up immediately. We were legitimately allowed to use the upgrade version, since this was a machine that was running XP Home before, but because XP Home was not bootable, we needed to perform a clean install of Vista - something the license key did not allow. That resulted in spending an hour on the phone with Microsoft for them to engage in the workaround that makes the installation think it was upgraded.

Now, let's set aside for a moment the fact that they've wasted an hour in the life of a paying customer. That's not the sort of thing that you talk about in the sales brochures of most successful products. Sure, some products require maintenance, but this entire waste of time was of Microsoft's own invention. It serves no purpose that advances my Dad's computer's ability to do what it needs to do. No, this is just the 2009 manifestation with Bill Gates' personal vendetta against the perceived evils of software piracy. Bah.

But let's look at this another way. What does it cost Microsoft to staff the call center that needs to handle all of these issues? How much of the cost of a copy of Vista goes towards paying for the licensing bullshit that does me, the paying customer, no good at all - in fact, wasted (so far) an hour of my time? Since the vast majority of Windows Vista installations are done by OEMs, would just dispensing with the licensing bullshit really cost Microsoft that much?

Next on the hit parade is UAC - User Access Controls. The "Cancel or allow?" dialogs that sprinkle out of virtually every administrative task in which you engage. Now, to be fair, when you perform certain system updates and administrative changes in OS X, it pops up an authentication dialog, which is more or less the same thing. But in OS X, there are far fewer of them, and they're really built around security related things that really should be gated.

To quote Irving Berlin, it's spinach, and I say the hell with it.

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