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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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  • by Stone316 ( 629009 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:27PM (#22237504) Journal
    My only Vista complaint is that it 'forgets' about my printer. Every now and then, usually when I need to print something asap, I sent a document to my printer and nada. I take a look and it thinks my printer is offline. The only solution I have found so far is to delete the printer and re-add it. I have a dual core system and at times i'll notice 1 core 100% busy with spoolv.exe (or some such).

    Other than that, there are a few things that annoy me but nothing that royally ticks me off like the printer issue. I should say, i'm a casual user. I use the system to read email, browse the web, play around with a few vmware images and burn home videos. Since I got my xbox 360 at xmas, I rarely play games, so even tho vista is a resource hog, I haven't noticed much.

  • by Cy Sperling ( 960158 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:28PM (#22237510)
    I had to replace my home laptop a few months back and Vista was the only OS offered by Dell. Since it is our wireless 'internet and email only' computer, I opted for a not-so-powerful build. My experience w/ XP led me to believe that I could fairly quickly tune the machine how I wanted and get by just fine for the low impact tasks I wanted to achieve.

    So, now my wife and I both say "I hate this f*cking computer" on a daily basis. First boot of the day often takes 5-10 minutes to simply stabilize and remain consistantly responsive with nothing but Firefox running. I am completely clueless as to what the hell this machine is doing on it's own that takes up all of its processing power that it can't handle simultaneously opening Additionally, the security package keeps annoying me over and over that my computer is not fully protected!!! because I turned off features that don't apply to our usage of it.

    I would love to know a good resource to consult on how to tune the OS to get better performance w/o having to get into non-novice registry tweaks. I doubt this book could help me. Can anyone recommend a good resource for some more basic level Vista tweak advice?

  • Re:Seriously? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Bahbus ( 1180627 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:32PM (#22237564) Homepage
    Yeah, but anyone with half a brain can Google their Vista annoyance and find a FREE solution. Why would anyone waste money to read about some other guys annoyances and how to fix them? I personally use Vista Ultimate now, and for comparison I have also used Ubuntu for a while. In fact in my approx 6-7 months of using Ubuntu, I had plenty of annoyances. After I switched to Vista, I didn't have any problems or annoyances ay all.
  • by dtolman ( 688781 ) <> on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:43PM (#22237706) Homepage
    I'm just getting annoyed at Vista Whiners.

    Seriously - did I get the magic copy of Vista that works just fine or something? It runs smooth, starts up OK, I like the default sleep feature, the added security (oh no - i get a popup everytime I install something - the horror), the photo gallery, the built in firewall, etc.

    Its not a giant leap forward or anything - but then again - I didn't think XP was a big advance over Win2K client either. Just another incremental advance of the NT Client OS.

  • Re:Shock Horror (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sepluv ( 641107 ) <> on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @04:02PM (#22237950)

    I would've thought Linux would be even cheaper right?
    If your company wants to have any dealings with MS ever again, it is actually more expensive. All of Microsoft's agreements with OEMs charge based on how many PCs are shipped by the OEM, rather than how many PCs are shipped with an MS OS on. And that's leaving aside the fact that MS forces all OEMs to "recommend" the latest version of their OS and has consistently penalised any who ship with a non-MS OS using various lawful and unlawful means.
  • Re:Profit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @04:10PM (#22238046) Journal
    Yeah never mind the fact that Vista has only sold 100 million copies to the end of December and that Microsoft had it's best quarter in history.

    Yeah, but how much did they pay the developers to write it? They released XP in October 25, 2001. They released Vista to the public January 30, 2007. That's over five years of paycheques to recoup before they actually start to turn a profit on this release.

    Of course, it's the big media companies who paid for Vista. Microsoft saw the writing on the wall, and they sold out their install base. They didn't put the new features in for the benefit of the consumer, they put them in because they hope to get a few points on the dollar from the copyright industries once they've created an infrastructure for total information control. I imagine the US government threw a lot of money in the pot too.

    Hopefully, this will all just collapse under its own weight. If it doesn't, eventually, it is going to be necessary to send ground troops after these people and force them to stop what they're doing.
  • by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @04:26PM (#22238218) Homepage Journal
    I don't usually chime in with the following opinion, but I want to throw it out there and see how people react...
    At the time, when Windows ME was a product being sold, I admit, it was garbage. They removed access to underlying DOS, compatibility issues arose where they absolutely shouldn't have, and honestly, it didn't offer me anything over Windows 98.
    As a programmer, I do, however, have a handful of clients that use win9x, for whatever exotic reason, so I dug up my install CDs, found an unused Pentium III 800, and made a tri-boot system, with Windows 95C, Windows 98SE, and Windows ME, all with whatever updates were available.
    This is, of course, years after 9x was dead, and probably no one cared, but seeing all three of these OS's run on the exact same machine, I have to say, I prefer Windows ME out of all of them. I will give you a few reasons why:
    People seem to have forgotten how readily Win9x bluescreened. Sure, we all still joke about it, but there is a slight amnesia to how it really was. Windows 95 most specifically would bluescreen out of nowhere... just sitting there, doing nothing. And every so many bluescreens, something in the system directory would get corrupted, and you would have to reinstall... and did you ever notice that bringing up a DOS window, or running a native DOS app started your system on the downward spiral to hell? I have. But really, I am just talking about Windows 95 and 98... not ME. I have yet to have ME bluescreen on the described system. And if something happened to your system files? There was the Windows File Protection people now take for granted in Windows, so reinstalling wasn't necessary like it was on ME as it was with it's older brothers
    Nextly, something you can only notice in the kind of setup I have... the GUI was flat out more responsive... both under load and not. I know that sounds kind of funny, but on Windows 98 especially, clicking a button took about 100ms to register... something you don't really notice, until you use Windows ME and see that clicking on everything causes a reaction more readily. Also, for whatever reason, my network throughput when booted into Windows ME is much much better. Under Windows 95/98, playing Quake2 over a cable modem, my lowest ping was practically the same as Windows ME, but the consistency on Windows ME was so prevalent, that if I play such on that machine, it HAS to be booted into Windows ME.
    Honestly, I could drum up a multitude of things that I see NOW, that make ME better... but then, I agree, it wasn't. It is almost like it hit its peak abilities well after the market was gone.
  • -1 Shill (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Stoutlimb ( 143245 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @04:37PM (#22238346)
    Slashdot needs a moderating system to identify possible paid shills. This guy hits way too many marketing points to be a real user. Vista has SPEECH RECOGNITION? He must have gotten that from the glossy brochure. Nobody uses speech recognition but it's a great advertising gimmick.
  • by dtolman ( 688781 ) <> on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @04:44PM (#22238424) Homepage

    You will probably have to make sure that the buyer has a similar level of patience as you do when all those pop ups start going off. (you might know what they are asking, but my dad thinks he has done something wrong every time it happens)

    See - thats EXACTLY why I must have the magic copy of Vista. I never get any popups - and I have UAC fully enabled. I run plenty of legacy software that predate XP, let alone Vista, so before I installed it I figured I'd see it all the time. About the only time I ever see the popup is when I launch Visual Studio...

  • True (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @05:50PM (#22239268)
    I worked at Dell from the period of time beginning with Windows 95 and thru Windows 98.

    What you describe is a well established business principle in high-tech. It wasn't just Microsoft doing it. It was Intel too.

    You see, AMD is - quite literally - right down the highway from Dell. Dell Engineers know/hang out with/went to school with AMD engineers. But was there ever an AMD machine? No. It was a decade and a half before the first Dell/AMD machine came out. Was it technically possible? Of course it was. I saw the prototypes. The Fab (literally, the people who MAKE the CPU's) was in Austin at the time and engineers were readily available to help since they wanted to sell as many CPU's as possible. But again, it never happened. (sidenote: the fab has since been shutdown and moved)

    Do you know why? It has nothing to do with technology. It's because if Dell sold a single AMD processor, it's prices on ALL Intel processors went up (significantly). Since Dell runs on thin margins, that was a pretty big incentive NOT to sell AMD. So we never did. This was back in the day of Pentium 66 and Pentium 90 thru 100's and ultimately into the P233 and PII CPU's.

    It's only recently that Dell has begun selling AMD. And even then, you'll notice it's not the full lineup. This post isn't to whine or say it's unfair. It just is. But it's very important to understand this goes on a lot, rightfully or wrongly.
  • I must be God... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AdamReyher ( 862525 ) * <adam.pylonhosting@com> on Thursday January 31, 2008 @12:37AM (#22242886) Homepage
    ...because I'm running Vista on 4 machines in my house and I have yet to come across any significant issues. Two of these installations are 64-bit. I've only gotten a BSOD once on any one of them and that was because my memory timings were a bit too tight.

    Seriously. Am I God? Because according to all the PR out there, you have to be in order to get Vista to work.

    If anyone remembers (and how quickly we tend to forget in the world of technology), much of the same thing happened when XP launched. People that were running 9x kernels absolutely hated XP at first. Why? Because it was different and required you to "relearn" some stuff, most of which ultimately will make you far more productive (which I think everyone can agree XP did over any 9x version).

    Working in retail I hear it all the time: "I hate this new Vista." When I ask why, the reply is always the same, "It's too different from XP." Not "it crashes all the time" or "won't let me do anything." I even had one lady tell me she hated Vista because it automatically made her monitor's resolution 1280x1024 instead of 800x600 which she wasn't used to. You wouldn't believe how difficult it was to even explain what the heck resolution was to her.

    There's this overwhelming impression out there that Vista is utter garbage. And while I won't doubt that some people are having massive issues with Vista, I would wager that, for the most part if 1) they actually did more than 5 minutes of research they'd realize that Vista isn't the culprit and stop assuming it is, or 2) stop being so computer illiterate and learn to adapt to the changing technology industry.

    Oh how quickly we forget about how horrible Windows 95 or ME actually was. I can't even get ME running properly in a virtual machine. Windows 95 keeps barking about system files missing. Comparing Vista to THAT is completely and utterly uncalled for and absolute ignorance to the true situation.

    I'm a Windows Vista x64 user. And I have been since Beta 2. And I've not had a single issue. Call me lucky or call me a God, but I'd rather call myself educated in technology.

"The following is not for the weak of heart or Fundamentalists." -- Dave Barry