Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Windows Vista is bullying me

Windows Vista - it hates you too. Gone are the days of operating systems that sit there while you scream at them, as placid as a pod person on the management fast track. With Windows Vista, it's personal.

Wonderfully, it hates you straight out of the box. I got my laptop from PC World in a slightly too-good-to-be-true £400 offer (It's quite something when you find yourself wishing “if only I'd paid less, I could have had a slower machine running good old Windows XP.”). It turns out that 512Mb of RAM is just enough for Windows Vista to tell you how inadequate you are.

“Cheapskate!” was its first word, as it scored my computer 2/10, before launching a pop-up demanding I upgrade to Windows Home Premium. It's a pattern – abuse followed by extortion.

Remember how DOS had the command prompt? Windows Vista has a suggestion box – it's called the Desktop. Clicking an icon is merely a polite invitation to open Windows Media Player. Which Vista thinks about carefully for a full minute before declining.

Bruised, I went back to PC World where, after waiting an hour for service from their strangely intangible staff, I took to wandering up to people about to purchase the same laptop and explaining why they shouldn't. Eventually a member of staff threw off his cloak of invisibility and told me what to do and where the exit was. Sadly, purchasing an extra gig of RAM merely gave Vista more power to express its displeasure.

Vista isn't just disloyal, it's a sneak. Frequently, the user (you) will try and do something. It will immediately report you to the administrator (also you). “Sir! Sir! User just tried to delete a folder! Permission to cane him!”. Sighing, you'll explain that actually, you're quite happy to see that folder gone. Vista will come huffing back with a blatant lie - “The administrator won't let you do that. You're for a beating.” But, I'll sputter, surely there's some mistake – I'm also the administrator, and I really want to delete that folder. “Is that cheek, boy?” Vista will ask, before offering a choice between a dead arm or six of the slipper before prep.

On top of its sneaky, sullen nature, it's also lazy. It takes forever to copy files (see illustration). Conspiracy theorists suspect that this is because Vista is scanning every file for evidence of fraud, piracy, Communism or the Winchester Vice. Tempting as it is to imagine Vista scribbling notes (“Dear Ms Minogue...”), this isn't true. As I type, I'm sat on a Cornish hill about 10 years away from the internet - and transferring files is just as slow (I suspect it's getting some of the new bugs in the Lower Third to copy them out by hand).

The tyrant is also stupid. Initially, it grabbed Quick Time files with Media Player, before throwing them back crying “these are rubbish, don't waste my time.” I tried putting a stop to this, carefully assigning all the right file types to Quick Time, but every time I try and open a mov file, I get a peculiar message from Quick Time about reassigned file types. “Is there something you're trying to tell me, Quick Time? Now, don't be scared. Is it Vista, again?” Quick Time will make a couple of stammering denials, and then run off for a good blub behind the cricket pavilion.

Sadly though, like all bullies, Windows Vista is insanely attractive and good at games. At the end of a hard day failing to do the impossible, like copy files or write a letter, it'll give me a last playful punch on the arm, ask if i've got any tuck money left, and then suggest we play cards. I know it cheats, but I'll still say yes.


Armand said...

Like all operating systems, you have to learn to speak its language. Then you can coax it into quiet submission.

There's some good tips on Check it out - you can reduce security settings, tweak other bits and pieces and generally make it work better for you!

I don't particularly hate Vista, though I do think it needs a few more patches to make it fully functional.

Skip said...

oh thanks Armand - it is amazing how this is the first operating system i've popped open the bonnet on.

i really had no firm idea what a registry was, or how to alter the keys of it - but suddenly, in order to make the thing function, i'm foodaddling around. satisfyingly, you can make it look almost like Windows 3.1 - which is when I was happiest. How old am I?

Arcane Thrust said...

I absolutely clucking loathe Vista and in an act of extreme unusualness I nightly thank a God that I don't believe in that at home I have good old fashioned, forever-collapsing, thick-as-two-rhinos XP.