I now remember why I don’t get new operating systems right when they are released. My gadget geekiness got the better of me, though, and since I was due for a new laptop anyway, I got a new Dell XPS M1210 with Vista Ultimate. I got one that was fully tricked out since my last laptop, a Thinkpad Tablet, was great but a bit slow for as hard as I pushed it.
The good news is that the system is very fast. When it works. Unfortunately there are a litany of small and large problems with it. It seems the blame can be spread around pretty evenly among Microsoft, Dell, and various software & hardware vendors.
- The driver situation isn’t very pretty. I get repeated messages from my system at bootup that at least one driver has been disabled because of compatibility. Which might be understandable had I installed it, but the offending driver belongs to the Roxio DVD software which came pre-installed by Dell. Score one point in favor of Vista for finding the problem and disabling the driver so it doesn’t cause more problems; subtract one each for Dell for shipping a product with a bad driver and the Roxio driver folks for not being ready for Vista.
- A big black mark for Cisco for failing to come up with an updated version of its VPN client that works with Vista. But, hey, I didn’t really want to access the company network from the road anyway, right?
- I have yet to figure out what caused it, but I got a couple of Blue Screens of Death yesterday. I haven’t installed much software yet — just a handful of essentials. The good news is that after several semi-automatic reboots, Vista had solved the problem and returned the system to a stable state. The bad news is that it undid a number of changes I had made to the IE Toolbar and Outlook (using only Microsoft options).
- The system came with integrated Verizon Wireless EVDO. Since I’m on the road almost every week, that’s great news. Unfortunately, I tried to activate the service and it took me to the Verizon Wireless web site, had me fill out a long form, and told me it could be up to 5 minutes before it finished processing. Over 20 minutes later I bailed out and tried again — being forced to fill out the long form from scratch again. Same result. Apparently I will be subjected to calling customer support on this one.
- It doesn’t appear to be related to the EVDO problem, but I do get periodic warnings that some driver is causing problems. It looks like it is either the EVDO or the WiFi driver, but in Googling it I haven’t gotten a good answer yet. This one I’ll let go since it hasn’t blocked the use of anything as far as I can tell so far.
- The Windows sidebar with widgets frequently pops up a message saying it has to close because of some problem. But then it seems to stay open. And I haven’t touched any of the setting for it. Until last night when I figured out how to shut it off entirely so I didn’t have to worry about it anymore.
- I keep getting messages from Windows that the Windows and Norton Firewall are both disabled. The OS apparently doesn’t recognize that Norton is running (or at least it says it is) or Norton isn’t providing the right information to Windows.
- As noted above, Vista seems to do a pretty good job of finding and solving problems. I wouldn’t quite call it “self-healing” but it is the best I have seen from any version of Windows in graceful recovery.
- I really like Office 2007. Outlook only has minor interface adjustments, but the creation of more of a true dashboard view around my Inbox is very welcome indeed. Word has great features, including a minor but very useful word count feature that automatically adjusts if you select text. For those of us who write columns and such with a specific word count requirement will find this much more friendly than previous versions. The UI for Word and Excel does take a little getting used to — certainly a learning curve there that will likely frighten the less technical among us — but they become intuitive fairly quickly. And features are much easier to access than before.
I’m not ready to give up on Vista just yet, but I do wish that I hadn’t rushed into it. It’s a reminder that those of us who live on the bleeding edge of technology will spill some of our own blood, sweat, and tears dealing with it.