Thursday, February 7, 2008

Vista, a vergence among the Windows

As ICT manager, I have to deal with the arrival of Vista. So naturally I tested Vista like a manager can test it. I attended to several demo organized by IT suppliers, watched them showing me Vista, accidentally listened to them while they pushed for it, ate and drank what they could offer, chatted a lot about how everyone preferred staying on Windows XP, joked about Micro$oft and so on, and so on.

Afterwards, I started reading more reviews of Vista in various IT magazines, attended more demo, asked my team to test Vista in our virtual environment, and congratulated them for doing so. One year passed and I had still never installed my own Vista or used it for more than a few clicks. Of course, like (almost) anyone today, I could recognize it at first glance but how serious is that for an ICT manager ?

But it all changed yesterday.
Yesterday, I replaced my old computer (a Pentium II-300 with WinXP and 128MB RAM) that I had generously given to my wife with a brand new Dell Inspiron I just purchased with her. Needless to say that today’s consumers computers all come with a nice Windows Vista onboard. The Vista Family Premium they call it. Ain’t that sexy ?

I started unpacking the beast around 8.00pm, mentally ready to stay up until one or two o’clock in the morning. It took me half an hour to re-cable the room like I wanted, passing wires behind various pieces of furniture. I then booted it up and everything came on nicely … until I wanted to import the old data.

I had forgotten the network cable … so I could dig all under the desk once more, try a first cable, found out it was defect, plugged a second one to test if it was the cable or the router and finally plug the “final” one. By then the computer showed a lot of signs of activity. Hard drives don’t lie, do they ?

So I retried to import data … and the typical Micro$oft mess started all again. Control Panel freezing, import guide freezing, 30-days demo version of McAfee antivirus freezing upon registration, IE7 freezing when trying to connect to MSN live (default page) and so on, and so on. The good side is that it allowed me to see how responsive is the new “CTRL+ALT+DEL” of Vista. At last, Windows obeys promptly! Sadly, it is only to telling that is searching for a solution, not about finding one or even solving the problem. Well … bad habits seems to be resistant in Windows and therefore, I had to use the old trick: when in doubt, just reboot. At 9.30pm I rebooted Vista for the first time and it worked just fine. It told me it installed 14 Windows updates successfully and started running like … well like a common OS should run: just fine.

From that point, everything went faster and smoother. Importing the gigabytes of data took less than half an hour, including the large PST files and the favorites. Indeed, recognizing the old Pentium on my home network was immediate and the transfer could start within two clicks (but only after changing the group name of my Pentium to match the one from the Inspiron as I could not find that under Vista in a snap).

Ok, it was 10.00pm and I had still to install a network printer and Office XP Pro (the complete version). I started with office and – O Miracle – it went so smoothly I did not believe my eyes. It took only 5 minutes to install the first CD and no reboot was required. I then started the installation of all clip arts and stuff available on the second CD. It took more time but only because there were so many files to copy. Afterwards, the installation of the network printer was incredibly fast. Only 4 clicks to have it detected and installed. This is progress.

11.00pm, the end of the tunnel was in front of me as I only needed to create a second user account, import a few more data, login, set up a mail account or two, check that everything is perfect in my virtual world, then go to bed. On paper it sounded nice. In practice, I forgot about the automatic updates and the installation of Office XP Service Pack 3. I had to reboot right in the middle of my nice course of action and there, I had the bad surprise: a black screen after the Bios boot. Not one of these all too familiar blue screens of Microsoft with a frightening “FATAL ERROR” message, just a black screen indicating nothing happens.

I cursed.

I rebooted the computer and it agreed to start normally. I could log, see the SP3 installation failed from a pop-up event message, even if I had largely guessed it beforehand. Nevertheless, I tried reinstalling the SP3 and it worked like a charm. It asked to reboot afterwards and I complied – while hiding a heavy hammer behind my back, just in case. And believe me or not, Vista behaved like a good OS should. No more errors, no more unresponsive programs and not even midnight yet. I could go to bed.

What can I conclude from all this ?
Well that Vista is easier for home use; less clicks to perform to achieve the same results than before, less time to set it up (remember doing the same with Windows 98 or 2000 and Office 2K). Vista looks shiny and it is certainly for Home usage but I am not ready to roll it out at work yet. Microsoft progressed with Vista on some fronts but the war is far from finished.

Until next time...

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