15 Jun Picking Vista sure seemed like a good idea at the time
I’m exhausted! I’ve been running hard up the Vista/Office 2007 learning curve for the last two weeks, and I’m just plain worn out. Productivity is in the basement. Frustration has reached all-time highs, and all I’m trying to do is write a column, synchronize my e-mail, launch a presentation, and review a financial spreadsheet.
It’s the stuff I’ve been doing for years. The challenge started when I got a new laptop. My three-year old ThinkPad was showing its age, and I seriously contemplated making the switch to a MacBook Pro after 15-plus years as a Windows user. I flipped back and forth, but when a cracked screen forced a quick decision, I stuck with ThinkPad and Windows. For better or worse, I thought, I know Windows and I don’t have the time, at least right now, learn a new OS. When the new ThinkPad XS60s arrived, I was excited to get a fresh start. I didn’t realize how fresh it would be.
The laptop itself, the third I’ve purchased in the last eight years, is the reliable workhorse I’ve come to depend on, though some design changes in this model bewilder me. The processor, for example, is apparently placed in the front right of the laptop, where it keeps my palm toasty warm as I type. The battery is essentially the same with just enough design change to ensure that my investment in extra batteries doesn’t transfer to this machine. Same goes for the extra power cords; the new ThinkPad uses a different connector so that the extra power cords I keep at home and office do me no good with this machine. Still, I can live with these minor changes.
It’s the software that turned my computing life into a soft-focus, film-noir hell. My once crisp, business-like Windows is now all fuzzy and round-edged and translucent. Tons of features and functions of the OS have been brought to the surface, only to bury the capabilities that I understood and relied upon nearly daily. In fact, it took so long to find the familiar tools that at one point I found myself pining for the DOS prompt.
I appreciate the attention Microsoft engineers paid to security, but I have come to believe that the plan was to make certain connectivity features so difficult to configure that you would choose to avoid connecting through public networks at all. What could be safer?
Where the engineers locked down Internet usability, Microsoft’s interface designers went wild, hiding the 20 percent of often-used features in order to make the 80 percent that so few people use be easily accessible from bloated tool bars.
For reasons that mystify, icons have been randomly and gratuitously rearranged so that no feature in any Office application is where it used to be.
Maybe all this change is for the good, I don’t know. I found some aspects of Vista to be very useful and I’m beginning to get comfortable using Office apps again. But all this came at the price of time I could ill afford to spend re-learning how to use key applications.
If I had realized that I’d spend two weeks re-acquainting myself with Windows and Office, I might have opted for the MacBook after all.
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Shipley has covered the personal technology business since 1984, and is regarded as one of the top analysts covering the technology industry today. She has worked as a writer and editor for a variety of technology consumer magazines, including PC Week, PC Magazine, PC/Computing, and InfoWorld, US Magazine, and Working Woman.
She has written two books on communications and Internet technology, she has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence, and was named the No. 1 newsletter editor by Marketing Computers two years in a row. To subscribe to DEMOletter please visit: http://www.idgexecforums.com/demoletter/index.html.
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