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A Computer with Vista is A Room with(out) a View

A Computer with Vista is A Room with(out) a View

• By Ashe Lockhart
• March 11, 2011

>> NOTE: Originally published on Sunday, November 23, 2008 on AsheLockhart.com. Republished here because sometimes a good rant cleanses the spirit and because the folly of Vista is as instructive today in the new normal of 2011 as it was in the giddy days of 2007 – 2008, perhaps even more so.

[START RANT] In the movie A Room with a View (adapted for the screen from the novel of the same name by E.M. Forster), Miss Lucy Honeychurch and her chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett, arrive excitedly at the The Pension Bertolini in Florence Italy expecting a room with a view. Then they open their window and are distressed to find they have a view only of the courtyard – nothing like the vista they were so looking forward to.

Now, I’m nowhere near the first person to write a piece criticizing Microsoft for its lousy execution of Windows Vista. In fact, quite possibly the last. But I might be the first person to draw on the classic Forster novel as an intro to a criticism of a modern computer operating system. Yet, it’s a good analogy. The women were disappointed to the point of distress. How many Windows Vista users would say they have had the same experience?

And like Miss Honeychurch and her chaperone, Windows users have the opportunity to take a different room by switching to Mac or Linux. But unlike the women in the novel, this is a major undertaking and a pricey alternative for a computer user – especially a business or corporate user.

Microsoft could have taken the well established Windows XP operating system and freshened up the interface and beefed up security. Maybe on some technical level, that’s exactly what they did. But the stability and familiarity of the Windows operating system was nearly eviscerated in the process.

So much ink and bits and bytes have been spilt on lambasting Microsoft for the inscrutable Vista system, it’s hard to imagine why I would waste my time with further comment. Well, it’s just such a shock to think Microsoft could be so tone-deaf, so arrogant, to have released Vista, I just can’t restrain myself.

The Vista interface is pretty to look at. It has glassy, glossy graphics; it has some really cool new features. Vista even has the much ballyhooed aero effect, where borders of windows are somewhat translucent and a user can see through the borders to whatever lies beneath (or should it be “below”?). It’s neat eye-candy, but it’s functionally insignificant…um, unlike most of the rest of Windows Vista, which is functionally significant mainly in that it is more than merely annoying to see how much has changed for no good reason other than that Microsoft decreed that it could and should be changed.

If Microsoft had only mucked around with and messed up the graphical interface and certain user experience issues, it would still be unforgivable. However, not to be outdone by whatever prior stupidity Microsoft might have been remembered for, the brain-trust at Redmond rewrote the core software enough to make it unstable, buggy and crash prone. This corporate misstep is akin to the kid in school who wasn’t just an idiot, he delighted in reminding everyone that he was an idiot, and he apologized for being an idiot and appeared all the more an idiot because of his ill-timed and idiotic apologies. [/END RANT]

There now, I feel a little better. And I didn’t even have to drill down on specific issues.

Epilogue, July 2009. Now, some two years after Microsoft sold the world a room without a view (not unlike the rooms without a view that can be had through Expedia, Hotels.com, and Travelocity et al., but that’s another rant), Gates, Balmer & Co. have released Service Pack 2 for Windows Vista, which has finally put enough functionality issues to bed that Vista is a stable operating system and worth your consideration. Oh, but wait, didn’t I hear something about Windows 7 being just around the corner? So I guess, like Ms. Honeychurch, we’ll all go back to Florence, hoping this time to get a room with a view. However, unlike Ms. Honeychurch, we won’t be blissed-out having eloped with our new love, so we will care if the next trip leaves us looking out the window at a crumbling Tuscan wall.

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