It's been a rough week. The drama club is performing the musical Into the Woods starting Thursday and was only able to practice with the band for the first time last night. Let's just say it was a little, well, discouraging.
Then there was the "Linux sucks" talk I had with my eldest. A crushing blow to Dad, for sure, although my 5 year-old piped in with "I like Linux, Dad!" My middle two sons have yet to weigh in.
Finally, yesterday I received a call from our central office. "So and so needs a laptop - order whatever makes sense and doesn't cost too much." My principal had made a similar request at the end of last week. Fortunately for them, I know what "makes sense" means, so I got a few quotes. Here's where my problem starts.
I know the laptops need to run Windows. Despite what many people believe, I'm not a typical ABMer. The Windows part is OK, even if it's not my personal preference; we have mission-critical Windows applications that both of these machines need to run and I don't have time to train the users in the alternatives (one will be outside my building and the other will be a machine shared by a large, heterogeneous group of users).
The problem lies in which version of Windows. There are some really sweet deals to be had on business-class notebooks with solid configurations (dual cores, 2GB RAM, big hard drives, etc.), but the deals largely require the use of pre-configured systems running Windows Vista. Configuring a system through Dell or one of the other major OEMs directly to get Windows XP Pro tends to really bump the price up.
I purchased a couple of Vista laptops a few months ago for our central office staff, again because of some great deals that were available at the time. While both users were able to make the leap to Vista with a reasonable amount of training, both have complained about performance. I've uninstalled the crapware, minimized the intrusiveness of antimalware applications, and the machines are still not performing as well as their hardware configurations would suggest. Notably, the two users are relatively savvy (at least as end users go), but they are hardly power users who would be pushing up against the capabilities of the machines.
Sure, I could downgrade to XP, but that requires a full re-install and purchase of appropriate licenses. So I'm buying laptops with Vista Business installed because budget and procurement constraints prevent me from purchasing laptops with XP Pro. Of course, XP Pro isn't much of a gem either. It's certainly getting a bit long in the tooth, but at least performance is fairly snappy. Can you say rock and a hard place? Chicken and egg? Until application support increases for Linux, there will certainly be times when there aren't viable alternatives to Windows. Windows XP Pro is on its way out and Vista performance (as well as compatibility in some cases) leaves something to be desired. I don't know about you, but I'm not holding my breath for Windows 7, rhetoric from Bill Gates aside.