Are you a Windows Vista beta tester? Have you noticed that startup sound that plays just as the PC gets to the point ready to accept your logon password? Yes. OK. It's a strange example of an arrogant "Microsoft knows best" attitude displayed towards both home users and enterprise customers Well, have you tried to disable that sound? If you do, you'll discover something odd - that there's no way to disable it. No check box, no button, no setting.
Nothing. Zip. Nada.
Doesn't that beg the question - why?
First off, let me admit to something. I HATE unnecessary sounds coming from my PC. I'm a visual person and I detest (with a passion) all the clicks, whirrs and little jingles that Microsoft puts into Windows and their applications. One of the first things that I do when I install Windows is to head off into Control Panel, find the sounds applet and kill off all the sounds. This way, if an email comes in or someone starts talking to me on MSN while I'm on the phone, I don't get treated to some inane jingle or irritating sound. Put simply, I just don't like my PC experience being randomly peppered by event-generated sounds.
However, under Windows Vista, the thinking seems to be that we'll have to live with this annoying jungle at startup (short of hacking the file). So why does Microsoft think that we need this jingle at start up? Well, Robert Scoble discovered something interesting the other day when he talked to Steve Ball, Group Program Manager for the Windows Audio Video Excellence team:
“Why the hell would you want to do this in the first place?” he told me is a common question. It boils down to two sides of the coin.
1. A spiritual side of the branding experience. A short, brief, positive confirmation that your machine is now conscious and ready to react. You can turn on your Vista machine, go eat some cereal, while your machine is cold booting and then this gentle sound will come out telling you that you can log in. You won’t need to wait for your machine to startup, he says.
2. Volume control in a Windows machine is a wild west. A mess. The startup sound is designed to help you calibrate or fix something that got out of wack when you startup your machine. Let’s say you muted your machine, and you don’t hear your startup sound, you know you aren’t ready to listen to stuff. The Xbox has a hard-wired startup sound. There is one way to mute it: to turn down the speakers that are connected to your Xbox. Same will be true for Windows Vista.
So, to calibrate out sound levels, Microsoft thinks that we need a sound that plays at startup - each and every time Windows starts up (cue jokes about the number of times that this sound will play due to reboots following crashes, and that if it was a record it wouldn't be a problem because it would have worn out after a day or so). Ummm, I might be mistaken, but isn't there some better, less obtrusive way that this could be done? I don't know about you, but the idea of a jingle blaring out of the speakers while I'm waiting to log into my system doesn't sound like a good speaker volume test to me.
It also doesn't make any sense having a sound at startup to set your speaker levels by because there's no such thing as normalization for sounds within Windows. You can set the volume so that the annoying startup jingle is at a bearable level only to find that you have to jack the volume levels up or down to hear something else. I know, I've tried. If you use headphones regularly (in conjunction with a particular application, for example), this startup jingle makes that hazardous to say the least.
Also, volume levels and branding and marketing aside, there are plenty of scenarios, both at home and at work, when you want your PC to be quiet. The scheme also falls apart for notebooks, where the speaker volume is controlled through software that you can't get at until the system has booted up.
You know what I'm beginning to feel about Vista - that it's been in the pipeline for far too long and that far too many people are trying to leave their mark on it, like an artist's signature, only not in the form of an unobtrusive squiggle in the corner, but instead as annoying fixed features. It's a strange example of an arrogant "Microsoft knows best" attitude displayed towards both home users and enterprise customers (part of this stems from the fact that too many people working at Microsoft have never actually been enterprise customers who have worked elsewhere).
Microsoft - give us a way to kill the startup sound. Vista already has a great in-built system that allows users to test their speakers.