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Windows Vista Annoyances 399

stoolpigeon writes "It has been well documented that the reception for Microsoft's Windows Vista has not been all that warm. Yet, visiting the web site of many PC manufacturers or visiting a retail outlet selling computers will show that most new hardware is being offered with Vista as the primary if not only option. O'Reilly's newest in their Annoyances series, "Windows Vista Annoyances", by David A. Karp, seeks to alleviate some of the pain for new Vista users. For the Vista owner who is able to put the book's suggestion into place, the edge should be taken off. For the individual considering a purchase of Vista and wondering if it can really be that bad, this book seems to indicate that yes, it is that bad." Read below for the rest of JR's review.
Windows Vista Annoyances
author David A. Karp
pages 641
publisher O'Reilly Media, Inc.
rating 8
reviewer JR Peck
ISBN 0-596-52762-4
summary Tips, Secrets and Solutions.
I've read a decent number of O'Reilly titles over the years. My bookshelf for technical books is a rainbow of the various volumes, each with their wood carving style cover. I don't think in all those years I've ever read an introduction like the one in annoyances. O'Reilly authors tend to be enthusiastic about their topic and are often well known proponents of the technology discussed. I can only guess that Karp is not a huge fan of Vista. The preface begins with a section labeled "Why am I annoyed?" and that section concludes with the question, "Would Microsoft be making decisions like these if it had to compete fairly for your business?" The first sentence of the first chapter is, "Windows Vista is like a papaya: sleek on the outside, but a big mess on the inside." And Karp never lets up. Throughout the book, from start to finish, he never tries to gloss over the ugliness of Vista. This book may be hazardous to the health of Microsoft fanboys. I would imagine that too much time reading would lead to high blood pressure at the very least.

In view of the mess that is Vista, Karp informs the reader that, "Whether it goes down smoothly or gives you heartburn is up to you." The point of the book is to give the reader the information that they need to make Vista palatable. This may sound simple but it brings up what I thought was the most difficult issue for Karp. Vista Annoyances is written with a level of detail and explanation that marks it clearly for the user with casual knowledge of personal computers and how they work. Karp takes the time to explain things like what it means to zip a file, what happens when defrag is run on a hard drive, networking basics and so on. This is great for someone like me, who is sure to start getting a slew of calls from friends and family as some of them move to Vista. The problem is, many of the solutions revolve around steps that are not necessarily a good idea for the pc novice. A large portion of the solutions revolve around editing the registry. The third chapter of the book deals solely with the registry. How it works, how to navigate within it and how to alter it. For some people this could be a great route to take, for many it could lead to much more serious problems than they had in the first place.

For the technically proficient, this book will seem a bit bloated. They don't need all the explanation given for the beginner. Many of the books solutions are not just Vista specific. They give information and work arounds for Windows issues that have existed in XP and possibly back to 98. The saving grace is a thorough index. The person who buys this as a reference to help out others, or deal with some specific issue will find that the extensive index helps to not waste time working through what could feel like a lot of extra material.

I don't think this issue of complexity is necessarily the author's fault. Many of the changes users will want to make to Vista just can't be made any other way than through the registry. Where it is possible to use a programitic interface (gui or command line) Karp gives thorough and detailed instructions, with screen shots on how to do so. But for many options those tools don't exist or have been removed, leaving direct editing of the registry as the only solution left. Another issue, that is somewhat similar, is that for most home users, some of the better solutions wont be available as they wont have access to tools available in Vista Ultimate and Business editions. This isn't Karps fault again, but it means for many the book will have a lot of information that they just can't use.

Dealing with the various editions and their features is handled immediately in the first chapter. That chapter, "Get Started with Windows Vista", also covers installation. Karp goes over the various types of installs and gives tips on how to deal with failed installs, how to best set up prior to an install and how to deal with licensing. Throughout the book, Karp makes note when he is talking about a feature, choice or tool that is limited to a subset of the Vista family. Keeping track of it all can be a bit confusing. Once again, I don't really see this as a shortcoming on the part of the author. It's just the nature of the beast.

The title of the second chapter threw me at first. It is, "Shell Tweaks." When I hear the word shell my mind immediately brings up bash or ksh. In this case Karp is talking about Windows Explorer. As this is the primary interface for users working with the Vista file system, the chapter holds some vital information for attaining a sane and consistent user experience. Karp points out that many of the defaults are not going to endear themselves to many users and in many cases do not make much sense. When Karp discusses explorer he explains how to modify it when opened to various folders and also in the context of the desktop and taskbar.

Karp points out many third party tools that he feels will help the user. Many are free, some are not. The tools mentioned more than any other are Creative Element's Powertools. Powertools can be downloaded for a free 45 day trial period but costs $18 to license beyond that time frame. This is important as many of Karps solutions can be managed without this software but would be very cumbersome. This is especially true of all the editing done in the registry.

The registry chapter is thorough and offers a detailed explanation of what the registry is and how it works. This material could be useful for anyone using any version of windows. The issue of trying to make Vista useful for non-technical users rears its head here quite a bit, as I mentioned. I found myself reading explanations of hex and binary as well as reading how to create a patch file for the registry. This could be useful information for me, in helping others with Windows issues. But when I consider my parents, there is no way I would want them trying out half of what is in this chapter. They would in all likelihood need a complete reinstall in no time. What reading this said to me, more than anything was that most people are going to just have to settle for Vista the way Microsoft gives it to them.

The chapter on dealing with multimedia was interesting and could prove helpful for users with less experience. There are solid explanations on codecs, players and how to get the most out of media, especially video. There is very little said about Vista and DRM. There is no mention of possible problems with hardware due to DRM. In fact the discussion on DRM was primarily limited to a short mention of Tunebite and MyFair Tunes for DRM removal. I assume that this is because finding and explaining such issues would have required a lot more time, research and hardware. Vista annoyances pretty much sticks to the basics of media use.

I had to chuckle a bit as I read the chapter on performance as many of the recommendations involve turning off much of what differentiates Vista from XP. It is useful though, as Karp explains what the configurable options are and how much one can expect in gains. He does make it clear that the initial defaults are less than ideal and it is worth the time to dig in and make adjustments. The same can be said for security and in that regard the chapters on networking and users are indispensable. Once again, getting all the tools will involve having Ultimate/Business and installing third party tools to bring Vista into line.

I've rated the book 8 out of 10. This is due to two issues. The first negative I have explained quite a bit and that is the book speaks to the novice but requires someone with more experience in many cases. While this is may not be the fault of the author and a necessity brought on by the subject matter, it still makes the book less useful. The second is that quite often I found the author bringing up points only to say that he would explain more later in the same chapter or in another chapter. This is because the chapters themselves are built around topics like performance and troubleshooting. But when Karp is working his way through each option of a menu it branches out into other topics, as many options in Vista are spread all over the place. Once again, this seems to be more of a Vista issue, but hinders learning none the less.

After finishing this book, my first thought was that I am going to do all I can to make sure that no family or friends buy a machine with Vista if possible. Service Pack 1 will address just a few of the issues that Vista brings to the table. From what I've read about it fixing activation 'loopholes' it could make some things worse. Should I find myself approached by someone who already has Vista and wants help, I would recommend this book if they have some idea of what they are doing or can learn without getting into too much trouble. For that classic parent or grandparent always brought up as an example, I think I would just tell them Visa is the way it is and hope that they adjust. If I like them enough, I'll pull this book off the shelf and head on over to help them out.

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Windows Vista Annoyances

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  • Seriously? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by LighterShadeOfBlack ( 1011407 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:17PM (#22237370) Homepage
    Somebody actually wrote a book on the things they don't like about Vista? A subject that doesn't even make for an interesting blog entry has been padded out to 641 pages and is being sold for $20+? Unbelievable.
  • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:19PM (#22237382) Homepage
    It's actually a book about the annoyances, and how to fix them. Just listing annoyances would be stupid. Listing the annoyances, along with giving details of how to get around them, so they are no longer annoying, is actually quite useful.
  • Re:Seriously? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LighterShadeOfBlack ( 1011407 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:26PM (#22237480) Homepage
    But as the review explains, many of the fixes probably aren't suitable for the intended audience of the book, which kind of makes that a moot point.

    That issue aside, when it comes to making changes that you're not entirely comfortable with (which presumably you wouldn't be if you needed a book to tell you how) it's usually a lot more useful to have an interactive environment (ie. IRC, web forum, mailing list) in which you can fire back questions if things don't go according to plan. Books are great for reference, great for providing large swathes of information that might be difficult to find all in one place online, but for troubleshooting problems on something as changeable as an operating system it seems like a book is simply the wrong medium.
  • by blueZhift ( 652272 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:33PM (#22237582) Homepage Journal
    That a book like this would be written and actually published seems more evidence that Windows Vista is the next incarnation of Windows Me which proved to be a nasty little speed bump on the way to the next "good" version of Windows. It's a real shame to do this to the users. Microsoft is full of talented, bright people to whom Vista is giving a bad name. It's almost never a good idea to push an incomplete product out into the market.
  • Two things (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PhrostyMcByte ( 589271 ) <> on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:34PM (#22237592) Homepage

    The two things I find annoying are UAC and enforced DRM. Yes, you can be affected by DRM even without buying any DRMed media--just try to load an unsigned driver in 64-bit.

    Everything else is more disappointment than annoyance. With how much time they had to bake it, Vista could have come out amazing and full of great features. It was disappointing that it didn't live up to the hype.

    It may not have been revolutionary, but it is still a solid improvement on XP. In my opinion.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:36PM (#22237622)
    I am a first time Mac buyer. I'm a big Linux fan, and use it for my home machine. At work, I'm stuck with Windows. My wife had a Windows XP box as well, but she wanted a laptop to use for scrapbooking. Over the years I have tried many times to deploy various Linux distros on laptops, with mixed results. I suppose I could lock down an exact configuration that someone else has already declared to be trouble-free and go buy the same thing. But as far as taking any old machine and putting Ubuntu on it, then educating my wife on the use of Linux, that's more time than I want to spend. Getting stuck with Vista is a non-option, so I bought her a Macbook.

    I mention all of this because the Apple store was PACKED. I had never even visited an Apple store, but in past years I would walk by and see lots of empty space. Not anymore. When I see the pain of Vista (not even our MS-loving IT dept. will touch it), I can't imagine Steve Jobs scripting it any better. "Gee, I would like the market leader to squander their advantage by breaking compatibility with old hardware and software. Make things more complicated, add in some DRM, slow it all down, and let the poor customer sort out the mess." MS strategy with Vista is beyond Steve Jobs' wildest dreams.

    If Linux can't make serious progress on desktop market share in this market, then it will never happen. Opportunities like Vista don't come along every day of the week.
  • Even Cheaper (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Toreo asesino ( 951231 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:46PM (#22237744) Journal
    Don't sell Windows at all, and make most Linux PCs? That's got to be the best possible license price, right?
  • Re:Seriously? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:48PM (#22237762)
    After I switched to Vista, I didn't have any problems or annoyances ay all.

    Wow, could it get anymore fanboy than claiming Vista works perfectly? And if you're not saying it works perfectly, then why doesn't it annoy you when it doesn't work right?

    Why would anyone waste money to read about some other guys annoyances and how to fix them?

    For the convenience of being able to read things like this while commuting on a subway or other public transportation? Maybe to read while on the toilet? There's a lot of reasons to buy something in dead tree format that you could get for free through google. For example, you could learn about history using google, but sometimes it's nice to read something that has a consistent presentation and communication style. Reading things through google can lead you to articles that are written by people with shitty writing ability and who don't take the time to be complete in their description/documentation of things. It also can lead to a lot of time wasted digging through crap returns and crap forum postings and just plain crap. Google is great, but it's not perfect.
  • by mugenjou ( 912908 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:55PM (#22237846)
    Ever heard of those "Anti Virus" that slow down your system by scanning everything you read or write, third-party "personal/desktop firewalls", and other spyware/malware cleaners? Products like "Norton 360" ?
  • by headkase ( 533448 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:57PM (#22237862)
    I'm addressing all the posts that go along the lines of "Windows Suxxors" here. Linux can be technically superior to Windows in every way and that is still not enough. It's a Windows world and it's going to stay that way for the forseeable future. The reason for this - and pointing out that comparing Windows to Linux alone is myopic - is that people don't really buy Windows, they buy compatibility with software. Or what Ballmer refers to as the "ecosystem". Linux is great but I can't walk into a BestBuy and buy anything software wise for it. How to go about getting around this feedback loop? Well, virtualization at the application level is the single approach that can actually break the loop. Things like Thinstall [] which was just purchased by VMWare or the ubiquitous Wine project. Weaning people off of the Windows dependence does not begin with Windows, it begins with it's applications.
  • by MishSpring ( 1230094 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @04:01PM (#22237936)

    If you have specific annoyances, you search for them on the Internet and find solutions. That's like having a giant constantly-updated index at your fingertips.

    Microsoft will have released a new operating system, with new flaws and workarounds and fixes, before such a paper book becomes worn.

    So why spend the money, unless you are a collector of books?

  • Re:Two things (Score:2, Insightful)

    by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @04:01PM (#22237938)

    most of the stability problems in recent years with Windows are due to shoddy drivers.

    if a shoddy driver is affecting stability beyond the device in question it's not the driver that's to blame. You may as well also subscribe to the BS microsoft spewed about old file formats being insecure rather than the program that reads them.
  • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CellBlock ( 856082 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @04:15PM (#22238102)

    Maybe, but newbies are also the ones who aren't particularly comfortable with asking questions, often can't completely explain the issues they're having (It don't do nothin'), and might have screwed something up which would prevent them from accessing the Internet.

    A book, which can be propped open next to the keyboard and monitor, can be followed like a cookbook, minimizing the headaches of searching forums (and then trying to find those forums again after Windows asks you to reboot for whatever reason).

    This sounds trivial to everyone here at /., but it's not for us.

  • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @04:25PM (#22238198) Homepage
    But as the review explains, many of the fixes probably aren't suitable for the intended audience of the book, which kind of makes that a moot point.

    It's not the books fault if the solution to a particular problem is perhaps too sophisticated for some users. Unless there's an obvious simpler answer that the book overlooks, then this is simply a fact of life. The whole point is that they're trying to help out with an annoying piece of software they didn't write. What else could they do? Do what you originally said and just list the annoyance and show no solution? Or even worse -- list the annoyance, say that there's a solution, but then don't say what it is on the basis that it's too hard?

    If the book can help users get over some of their problems, then it isn't a moot point at all. If by providing solutions that may be beyond the average reader, they encourage some of those readers to push their limits and become more comfortable, then that's even better.

    That issue aside, when it comes to making changes that you're not entirely comfortable with (which presumably you wouldn't be if you needed a book to tell you how)

    Some people are a lot more comfortable doing things if they have a book to tell them how. E.g. I'm no tool maven, and I would be terrified of actually trying to fix any of my plumbing if left to my own devices, but I am confident enough with tools that given an appropriate book explaining what to do that I could do it.

    I get your point about a static book not necessarily being the best companion to a dynamic piece of software, but for some people especially beginners a book they can easily refer to and work through at their own pace is a better starting point than a web forum where they have to deal with human factors of entering some geek forum as well (e.g. the way I'd feel walking up to a group of contractors and plumbers and going "Der, how do I stop my faucet from leaking?" and then being confused by their answer).
  • by MrJynxx ( 902913 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @04:25PM (#22238206)
    Personally I've been an OS junkie since the DOS 6.0 days / slackware 1.0 (can't even remember how long ago that was) and I've more or less tried every OS for the x86 platform (hell I even tried OS/2 and BeOS!!)

    The one thing about Vista that has been DRIVING ME INSANE, is the fact my vista clock keeps going forward by 4 - 6hrs (it's random but at a minimum of 4hrs). I've tried everything to correct this issue and have even come across users who have the same issue and still no avail. fix. I've tried new drivers, confirmed the time zone, checked in other OS's, etc etc but Vista will not remember the time for the life of it. It's a huge nuissance and is about to force me to go back to XP. I can't believe I've lived with Vista this long (bought it on the day it came out. . . yes I paid real $$$ for it). There is a bunch of other random issues but I won't bore anyone with the details as I'm sure it's already been beaten to death with the "I hate Vista stick"

    When I find the time to reinstall all of the windows apps on XP I'm throwing Vista out.
  • by gnutoo ( 1154137 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @04:53PM (#22238552) Journal

    Run a utility that makes the Registry changes for you. Where are you going to find that? [or] Edit the Registry by hand. At least the option is there.

    Wow, thanks Microsfot for the great options. Somehow Apple, KDE, Gnome, BeOS, Windows pre registry all manage to provide a way for users to change settings on their computer without typing Hex into some crummy database manager that might brick the computer. I'll take a well commented text file over that mess. Text configuration files are the reasonable third option that's sadly missing in Windows.

  • by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @04:57PM (#22238606)
    Six books about the problems with Ptolemaic astronomy and how to work round them by assuming that the Earth went round the Sun and not vice versa.

    The workrounds for Vista are actually considerably simpler.

  • Re:Two things (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ADRA ( 37398 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @05:02PM (#22238670)
    Mod this guy up. You took the words out of my mouth.

    Considering that Daemon tools still runs on Vista, I don't think that anti-piracy measures was the main point of the driver signing.
  • Re:Seriously? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @05:11PM (#22238776) Homepage
    Interestingly, there's none on Linux annoyances.
  • Re:Seriously? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jonbryce ( 703250 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @07:03PM (#22240220) Homepage
    You can use UAC over an RDP or VNC connection. If vncserver can send the appropriate signals to the dialogue box, I would have thought anything could.
  • Re:Seriously? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pugugly ( 152978 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @08:34PM (#22241212)
    Oh, there could be. I'm an Ubuntu fanboy, and I'll be the first to admit that.

    Try figuring out how to fix Ubuntu after pulling a USB Drive/MP3 player out without dismounting it. Easy fix - took an hour of winnowing terminology keywords down to find it though.

    I've had several experiences like that - literally annoyances type stuff that you put up with for a few weeks because you're busy with other stuff and don't feel like messing with it. Another one - I have an ATI 9800 card, which needs a proprietary driver for a lot of openGL stuff. Without it, they run for awhile, then randomly lock up and crash.

    With it - things look *much* nicer, nothing crashes, works great . . . except . . .

    Mplayer won't run, and random video files that ran fine on Mplayer, VLC, and Totem without the proprietary driver won't play. Spent hours working through forums, and haven't found a good solution yet! (Although, as a workaround if anyone else has this issue - the *same* files will sometimes run fine on the windows version of Mplayer, running under wine!)

    So, yeah. I like Ubuntu, but it has it's share of annoyances - {G}.


  • Re:Seriously? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @09:40PM (#22241732)
    Why cant the double click on the Icon use that security level feature... I would understand if it was an autmated process of an open app but this is a double click on a provided icon. If Double Click from Actual mouse then open app with no questions...
  • Re:Seriously? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LighterShadeOfBlack ( 1011407 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @12:12AM (#22242700) Homepage

    This is an O'Reilly book. If you don't know what that means maybe you are new around here. O'Reilly books are consistently authoritative 'cut through the crap' books on the topics they address.

    O'Reilly has published _the_ authoritative books in so many software categories that it goes without saying that in this community (Slashdot) anybody who stumbles out of the woodwork attacking a book like this looks like, well, somebody stumbling out of the woodwork. O'Reilly is a traditional Unix book publisher. For instance, they published the X11 manual set. For Unix people trying to make sense out of the 'doze the O'Reilly books are often the first one to reach for. Further, the 'Annoyances' book series has been a cut-through-the-crap series for people forced to deal with Windows since the Windows 95 days.
    To me it goes without saying that anyone who would refuse to even question the usefulness of a book purely because they like the publisher behind it is someone who is not helping anyone or anything. Sadly, there are all too many people in this community who, like you, will refuse to even discuss certain things based on their own merits because they've already picked their "side" and decided that this thing or that thing is either with them or against them (Gee, where have I heard that before?) and will blissfully remain ignorant in favour of having their clearly defined lines of what is Good and what is Bad.

    Does this book have a legitimate purpose? Maybe. Does it have a customer base? Probably, even if as others have stated it is more down to some people's own tendencies to prefer a non-judgemental block of paper than risk the chance of being thought stupid asking people online. Whatever the case, it would be nice if the book could be judged on its own instead of people throwing in the ridiculous notions that is must be good because it's from O'Reilly and declaring anyone who disagrees to not be part of the community.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 31, 2008 @12:46AM (#22242954)
    In this particular case, I know exactly what I am talking about. They DO love MS, practically all the way to the very top. We should be so lucky as to have Unix running the business. Instead we have MS, and all of the suffering you would expect from such a strategy. With any luck, the next generation of systems will be OUTSOURCED to people who know enough to keep Unix at the core. We actually need to PAY someone to tell us how to proceed. Sad, but true

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. -- Thomas Jefferson