It’s Hard To Get Away From Smoke and Mirrors

After my last post I noticed a significant drop in communications between my friends and family and me. This concerned me, so I did a short poll. The results are in and, with an error of ± 3%, they’re split down the middle. Forty-seven percent of the persons polled are angry with me and forty-eight percent are confused and think I’ve changed parties. The last five percent think that I need more ruffage in my diet.

Well, I can’t do anything for the ones who are angry, but I will assure the rest that I’m still a Republican, albeit not a very happy one. In an effort to let things calm down a bit, I’m going to step away from politics for this post, mostly. But, it’s hard for me to get too far away, so I’m still going to stay with a topic that involves prodigious use of smoke and mirrors.

Recently, Microsoft has been running a commercial that shows their own version of the Pepsi challenge.  Four or five obviously “casual” computer users are seated around a table.  An unseen technician is walking them through a dog and pony show for the “next” version of Windows, code-named Mojave.  The targets of the demonstration give appropriate oohs and aahs about this marvelous new operating system, including it’s ease of use and amazing graphics.  Just as they seemingly agree that Mojave is the next best thing to sliced bread, the demonstrator reveals that Mojave is really Windows Vista.  The subjects are aghast.  They can’t believe that this beautiful, elegant operating system and interface is the same “Vista” that they’ve been avoiding for the last eighteen months.  The commercial ends with an invitation to visit a website for a closer look at the real Vista.

Hey guys, news flash.  I have looked at it.  I’ve used it. I’ve installed and uninstalled it several times for myself and others.  Vista sucks.  OK, OK, it’s not as bad as Windows ME, but in value versus expectation, it’s pretty close.  I didn’t notice any of those users in the commercial installing a new application, hooking up an older piece of hardware or comparing the performance of Vista to XP on a graphics intensive game.  What I saw was Microsoft using smoke and mirrors, as it has many times in the past, to hide the shortcomings of it’s products.

I’ve been a computer nerd since years before it was fashionable.  I remember programing an IBM 1130 with punch cards, I built a Cosmac Elf SBC, I remember who Cromemco and Altair were and I watched over the years as Bill Gates and crew systematically screwed their competitors and the world of computer users time and time again.  Windows Vista is just another example of that culture.

I recently had a young lady ask me to help her pick out and setup a new laptop computer.  The first thing that I did was tell her to avoid Vista and do whatever she had to do to get Windows XP.  “Whatever she had to do” involved by-passing the normal big box stores and buying directly from the computer maker.  Even then, she had to get the computer with Vista installed and then pay for a “downgrade” disc.  Of course, if she had been a business user or a school district then she would have been allowed to get the box with XP installed at no additonal cost.

Just for grins, before I did the downgrade I tried to install my CAD system on the new laptop.  Now, this is a older program written for Win 98, but it works fine running under XP.  It’s fast and does everything that I need a CAD system to do.  I see no reason to spend $2500 to replace it with a newer version.  It didn’t run slow under Vista.  It didn’t run at all under Vista.

My next test was to load a massive spreadsheet filled with macros and complex reiterative statistical calculations into Excel under Vista.  Loading the sheet took over three minutes.  Then I changed the values in a few cells and did a recalculation.  Refreshing the sheet took thirty five seconds.  After I did the downgrade I repeated the test.  Loading the sheet took less than a minute.  The same recalculation took nine seconds.  That’s real world testing and Vista fails miserably.

This laptop wasn’t a bargain basement model.  The young lady wanted a computer that would meet her needs for years to come and she paid the price to get that.  It was a fast dual core with four gig of RAM, a fast video upgrade and a 7200 RPM high capacity hard drive.  Even with that, Vista drew down the performance.

Microsoft doesn’t get it.  Pretty displays only impress people for a short time.  It’s the little things like slow performance, the need to replace perfectly good software and the need to buy new peripherals that act as sand in the shoes of computer users.   Vista’s SP1 solved SOME of the more agregious issues with the operating system but, if you’ll allow me to be politically incorrect, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a hockey m…. Uh… pig.

Microsoft knows this.  That’s why they’re accelerating the release of the Vista replacement.  It’s also why they’ve committed to support XP until 2014 and why they allow business users and school systems to continue to buy XP today.   What they still need to do is allow regular users like you and me to continue to buy an operating system that works instead of forcing us to buy a white elephant and then go to the time and expense of downgrading.  It wouldn’t hurt if they’d give the rest of us some credit for being discerning consumers and put away the smoke machine and mirrors.

Of course, this is all just my personal opinion and an observation on why Linux continues to gain support and Mac sales are going through the roof.  (I love those Mac ads)

See Ya,

TD

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