Miscellany 40: A Critique of the New Microsoft Vista Operating System
© 2007 Joseph George Caldwell. All rights reserved. Posted at Internet web
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Commentary on recent news, reading and events of personal interest.
I had not been planning to buy a new microcomputer until, a
few weeks ago, my two-year-old Averatec 6200 (1.8 GHz
processor, 512 megabytes (MB) of random access memory (RAM), 60 gigabyte (GB)
hard drive) started giving me some problems (it was overheating and cutting off
sometimes, and the Internet access was slow).
I have another microcomputer – an HP Pavilion zv6000 (1.99 GHz
processor, 512 MB of RAM, and an 80-MB hard drive), which I bought about a year
ago – but it is used by my wife and I really need two fully functional
computers for the sake of reliability.
So I checked the newspaper ads, and Best Buy was offering an HP with the
It was a very good buy – an HP Pavilion dv6233se, for just $699. It has a 1.60 GHz processor, 1,028 megabytes of random access memory and a 120-gigabyte hard drive – and the new Microsoft Vista operating system (“Home” edition). The regular price was $899, and the sale price was $699 – a good reduction. It is not quite as “fast” as my two older computers, but it has twice the RAM and hard-drive space, and it can copy dual-layer DVDs. I also noticed that the price of computers having the XP operating system had dropped a lot – many for $450, and one (a Toshiba) as low as $350. So I proceeded to the store and purchased the computer.
Little did I know, but I was in for a wild ride.
Connecting to the Internet
I took the computer home and set it up. My other computers accessed the Internet via
an Alcatel SpeedTouch high-speed
(“broadband”) modem, through AT&T/BellSouth ADSL broadband. I have used that modem since about 2001, when
I returned from working in
So, unable to connect my new Vista-operating-system to my
broadband modem, I called AT&T/BellSouth (BellSouth took over AT&T in
December, and has renamed the firm as AT&T). They told me that I would have to buy a new
modem, but their DSL installation software was not yet ready for
There was, however, one slight problem. Since my two computers are “backups” for each other, I keep them connected all of the time using an unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) “crossover” cable, connected to the RJ-45 communication ports (the so-called “Ethernet” ports). I suppose that I could have done this via an “ad-hoc” wireless connection, but I have been keeping them connected via cable for so many years that I never bothered to do it any other way (e.g., using a hub and Ethernet cables, or a wireless hub). An alternative for keeping the computers up-to-date is to copy recent files from one computer to a hard drive (or “flash drive” / memory stick), and then download these files to the other computer. That method works fine, but using the cable obviates the need to connect and reconnect the hard drive to the two different computers.
Years ago, I used to connect my computers using either serial cabling or parallel cabling (“crossover” cables), and communicate using “Laplink” software. At some point, RJ-45 “network” ports were included on microcomputers, and Microsoft included the ability to communicate peer-to-peer between these ports. This could be done, for example, with the Windows 98 and Windows XP operating systems (by establishing a “local connection” in the control panel’s networking / communication software). There was then no need to purchase the Laplink software or cables. Once people got used to communicating over twisted-pair cabling through the RJ-45 ports, and Laplink was driven out of business (I assume, since I never see Laplink systems for sale any longer), however, Microsoft withdrew the functionality from the system, including it only in the “professional” version of the operating system.
(Microsoft has a history of taking full advantage of its monopoly in the microcomputer operating system business. I once purchased, for example, the Visio graphics software package. This package was so useful for making diagrams that Microsoft purchased the company and included the Visio software in its software repertoire. When it released the next version of it operating system, however, it introduced a feature that prevented you from using the original Visio software, purchased before Microsoft had purchased the Visio company. The total value of my Visio package was destroyed by Microsoft. To use Visio, I had to pay a couple of hundred dollars to purchase the new Microsoft version. This was not necessary. It was not fair. It was motivated by strong greed. The world needs only one microcomputer operating system, and I have no problem with Microsoft’s having a near-monopoly in this area (Apple and Linux are distant seconds in this field). But it is irritating to me when it uses its monopoly position to destroy the value of products that I have purchased, with perpetual license, before it took over the company.)
Up through the Windows 98 operating system (and perhaps the ME and 2000 systems – those operating systems were so bad that I rarely used them), you could set up a “peer-to-peer” network using a cable (a serial (RS-232) crossover cable, a parallel (Centronics) crossover cable, or twisted pair (“Ethernet”) cables) between two computers, or a hub (concentrator, router) for connecting three or more computers. This approach works fine for a small number of computers, such as two or three or four in a home or small office. For large networks, the “peer-to-peer” system does not work well (since all traffic is routed to all computers), and it is better to use a “client-server” system (in which messages have addresses, and are routed to their specific destinations). A client-server system would be massive overkill, however, for a home or small office environment.
Microsoft evidently did not like to see people having such a powerful ability as setting up a peer-to-peer network, or even connecting two computers via a twisted-pair “crossover” cable (with RJ-45 connectors to the RJ-45 jacks now available on all microcomputers), however, and so, with the introduction of the XP operating system, it removed this ability from the operating system. It did so by introducing two versions of the operating system – a “home” version that did not support peer-to-peer networking, and a “professional” version that did support networking (either peer-to-peer or client-server). You could buy the home version for about $100, but the full version cost about $300. The irritating thing for people such as I who have been using microcomputers for many years is that the ability to communicate via cable (serial or parallel initially, and twisted-pair later on) has been available since the dawn of the microcomputer era (1974), and it is not friendly to require customers to pay an extra $200 dollars to have a very basic capability that has been there forever.
There was a problem with the new Netopia
modem. I could connect it to my old
HP/XP computer using either a USB cable or an “Ethernet” cable (twisted-pair
cable with RJ-45 connectors – I realize that “Ethernet” is a communication
protocol, not a cable type, but most nontechnical
people now refer to twisted-pair cabling as “Ethernet” cabling), but it could
be connected to the new HP/Vista computer only via an Ethernet cable – either
connected directly to the modem or connected to the Internet through the old
HP/XP computer. In either case, however,
I could not use the Ethernet cable to communicate directly between the
computers (RJ-45 port to RJ-45 port) to transfer files. That is evidently considered “networking” by
Microsoft, and is not allowed by the
So what to do? It
appeared that I could either upgrade to the full (“professional”)
My Internet-access problem was solved, and without the use of a cable, and so I proceeded to determine whether I could now connect my old HP/XP computer to my new HP/Vista computer via the Ethernet crossover cable. I cannot. Although the old HP/XP computer has just the “home edition” XP operating system, it can “see” other computers on the network, but the new HP/Vista computer, with the “home edition” operating system, can see only itself. As a result, I am forced to keep my computers synchronized by backing up and downloading from an external hard drive or flash drive (memory stick). I tried setting up an “ad hoc” wireless network, but this requires giving each of my computers a fixed IP address, and the Netopia modem / Linksys hub setup requires “dynamic host configuration protocol” (DHCP) to automatically set the IP address. Having to change the transmission protocol each time I want to communicate between computers, and then back again for the Internet access to work, is a major “pain” – it is easier to use the external hard drive. In its quest for greed, Microsoft has abolished the ability for two computers to communicate easily, unless several hundred dollars extra is spent on the “full” operating system.
(Serial ports (DB-9 jacks) are still included on microcomputers, and so it may still be possible to connect two microcomputers together over these ports. I will check this out, if I can find my old RS-232 crossover cables (Laplink serial cables).)
So, at this point, in order to accommodate the
Printers and Scanners
I have two printers – an HP 450 deskjet
portable and an HP officejet 4215 all-in-one
printer-fax-scanner-copier. These have
drivers for the Windows XP operating system, but not for the Windows Vista
operating system. This is not a major
problem, however, since
I have two scanners – an HP ScanJet 4400c flatbed scanner and a Canon CanoScan LiDE 35.flatbed scanner. Once again, it is not possible to install from the CDs. In this case, however, the lack of the user interface is debilitating. If you go to “Scanners and Cameras” in the Control Panel, the system can detect either scanner. Without the user-interface software, however, it is not possible to do anything with the scanners – copy, save (in various image formats) or optical-character read.
I checked the HP website to download drivers for
So, my HP scanner, which works perfectly well under the XP
operating system, is useless under the
I visited the Canon website for drivers and a user interface. The site indicates that there are downloads for the LiDE 35, but when I downloaded them, they failed to install.
So, my Canon scanner is also completely unavailable under
I paid perhaps $100 for each of the scanners, and so now I
will have to spend an additional $200, perhaps more, to have a scanning
In addition to the printers and scanners, my only other
peripheral (other than external hard drives, which all work) is my
I have a lot of application software, some of it rather
expensive. This includes application
development software such as Microsoft Access, Visual Basic, Visual C++, and
FoxPro, and a number of mathematical / statistical programs, such as SPSS, Statistica, and S-Plus.
These packages cost several hundred dollars originally, and the current
versions of some of them now cost much more than this. Many of these programs will not install under
Installed Software Checklist
Microsoft Intel-based Operating System
Computer Description: HP Pavilion dv6000 dv6233se (computer name GeorgeHP, referred to as HP2 (or____________________________________________________)
CDs (should play – no software to install):
As you can see from the above, much of the software fails to
If I wish to acquire the same functionality under
For most of my software applications, such as the statistical
software packages and Adobe Acrobat, I have absolutely no need to purchase an
upgrade, except for the fact that it will not work under the Microsoft Vista
operating system. Much statistical
software changes very little over the years, and the versions that I have could
be used indefinitely, as long as the operating system permitted. All I use Adobe Acrobat for is to create pdf-format files, using the “Distiller” printer – I do not
need to upgrade this product, unless I wish to use it under
For a number of my applications, I use the Microsoft Access
database development system. This is a
part of the XP Office suite, which installed without problem. Unfortunately, it does not work, except to do
routine word processing. If I try to
create a .pdf file using the ScanSoft
.pdf converter add-on to Word (as an alternative to
using the Adobe Acrobat Distiller), it fails.
None of my Access programs that worked in XP work in
In addition to the software listed above, which is my “core”
software, I have scores of other software CDs that work under XP but not under
I do not like the
The location of many items has been moved. I assume that there is a logical reason for this, but it is not always clear what the rationale is. The Windows Explorer closes when you close an external hard drive or flash drive, rather than remaining open and simply closing the folder for the now-closed device. So you have to open the Windows Explorer again.
The “Connect to” wizards are poor. I am still not really sure whether I am
prevented from communicating between two computers using a crossover UTP cable
connecting the RJ-45 ports, or whether I simply have not discovered the way to
do it in
Many of the windows used to “browse” to a folder location are so small that it takes two or three times as much time to find a folder as it did under XP.
The Overheating Problem
As I mentioned, the problem that motivated me to purchase the new HP Pavilion dv6000 computer was that my Averatec was overheating. When it overheats, the “blue screen of death” appears, and the machine cuts off. It is not possible to turn it back on until it cools down (say, after 15 minutes); sometimes, it is necessary to “reset” it by removing the battery and holding the “on” button down for a minute. The Averatec had an overheating problem when I first purchased it, and I returned it to the factory. They cleaned the fan, and when this did not fix the problem, they then replaced the fan. The fan is very loud (unlike the HPs, which are very quiet). When the recent overheating occurred, I opened the computer to examine the fan, and it was clean as a whistle. Since I could not see any reason why the computer was overheating, and the one-year warranty period was passed, I decided to replace it.
You can imagine my chagrin when, a few days after I purchased the HP dv6000, it overheated! The familiar blue screen of death appeared, but, unlike the Averatec, the computer did not automatically shut down. I had closed the computer, since I was leaving the room for a while. As long as no peripherals are connected, the machine is supposed to go into hibernation, and it always had before. This time, however, it did not go into hibernation, and evidently it is not designed to remain closed while running. When I returned to the room, the computer was “hot as a brick.” If you are not careful to close the top of a portable computer all the way, then it will remain on. With the HP dv6000, however, there is no latch, and so the top closes all the way by itself (from spring pressure). It is not clear why the new HP did not go into hibernation when I closed it – there were no peripherals connected to it, and it was definitely closed.
Having spent several days working with
To obtain functionality comparable to what I had under XP, I will have to spend many thousands of dollars. Were I earlier in my career, I would do this. At this stage of my career, however, I have no intention of spending thousands of dollars that I do not have to spend. I will simply continue to use the XP operating system.
In 1988, Joseph A. Tainter wrote a
book entitled, The Collapse of Complex Societies (Cambridge University
Press), in which he describes the fact that societies evolve to increasing
complexity, to the point where they eventually collapse, primarily because of
that complexity. In my view, Microsoft
has committed a gross blunder with its
I used the word “blunder” above, but it is not the correct
word. Microsoft and the
Users of the Microsoft Vista operating system will have to
upgrade not only their application software packages, but their hardware
drivers as well. In some cases,
Microsoft has included new drivers, as it did for my late-model HP printer. The problem with hardware drivers, however,
is that they are produced by the hardware manufacturer, not by Microsoft, and
the manufacturer has absolutely no incentive to upgrade them for
The introduction of the
I, for one, will not be participating in this wasteful
endeavor. I will simply install the old
XP operating system on my new HP dv6000 computer, and continue to use all of my
hardware and software. It will be
interesting to see what the general reaction of the public to the
The OpenOffice.org Writer program does save files in .pdf format (“Export as PDF” menu bar, under the File tab). Thanks to my reader for this very helpful
information – the Sun OpenOffice.org suite not only works under Vista, but it
is free! I will take a closer look at
the database module (“Base”) to see whether it can run, under