Your Mileage May Vary - Is this the best we can expect from Vista?

Your Mileage May Vary - Is this the best we can expect from Vista?

Summary: Your Mileage May Vary! Is this really the best we can expect from Vista? Is this really good enough from a 21st century operating system?

TOPICS: Windows, Microsoft

Last Friday Robert McLaws (Windows Now) posted an interesting piece of Windows Vista as a response to a news item on AP entitled Six months on, Vista users still griping.  The piece is based on Chris Pirillo's experiences with Vista.  Both pieces are worth a read but one thing that struck me was how McLaws closed his post:

So, while it may be fun to write a sensationalist article about the "problems" with Vista. It's also great that this article gets Chris some exposure right before Gnomedex. But unless the AP is going to have Zogby do a customer satisfaction survey (or unless they do some, uh, investigative reporting, and get both sides of the story), I think the best way to explain the public's experiences with Vista is "Your Mileage May Vary". [emphasis added]

Your Mileage May Vary!  Is this really the best we can expect from Vista?  Is this really good enough from a 21st century operating system?

The two sides of the argument here are interesting.  Here's McLaws' take on Vista:

I've been using Windows Vista for just as long as Chris has (if not longer), and while my beta testing problems were well documented, I haven't had too many issues since RTM. I'm running with UAC on, and I don't run into UAC prompts all that often. I've rarely had driver issues (except for the first few weeks when Acer didn't update their US support site), and all three machines in my house are running it. Overall, I love Windows Vista, and I can't stand touching Windows XP. Heck, my mom and kid sister use it every day too, and they've hardly ever called me about tech-support issues.

And here's Pirillo's take on Vista:

Chris Pirillo leaned away from his webcam and pointed to his printer/scanner/fax machine, which stopped scanning and faxing after he installed Microsoft Corp.'s new Windows Vista operating system.

"I can't live in Vista if the software that I use in my life for productivity does not work," said Pirillo, in the third minute of a 52-minute video he posted on YouTube.

Both views are opinion based on personal experience.  Both are equally valid, and both are valuable to readers wanting to know what to expect from Vista (because, after all, take away opinion pieces like this and all you have left is Microsoft's own take on the OS).  I can also toss my own mixed feelings about Vista into the public arena (as I have done, on several occasions) in the hope that this helps others solve problems, or at least helps them come to a decision as to whether Vista is right for them or not at present.

I think that the negative press Vista is getting comes primarily as a result of subtle but important social changes since the launch of XP back in 2001.  First, while most people coming into contact with XP had an opinion about it compared to their previous operating system, it wasn't as easy for these people to get those opinions out into the wild and in front of others as it is today.  Nowadays it's a trivial task to share your thoughts and opinions through web pages, blogs and forums and get those opinions in front of thousands of pairs of eyeballs, and today users aren't afraid to tell others how they feel about something. 

The second difference is that the average Vista home PC user is more tech savvy than the average XP home user back in 2001.  More people have an expectation that they can move hardware and software from their existing XP systems to Vista, and this means more people are having problems.  Chris Pirillo's a pretty smart guy, and if he's having problems with his printer/scanner/fax machine, he's not going to be the only one.  Sure, he nit-picks a lot of small stuff, but that shouldn't be used as an excuse to trivialize the important points he raises.

I'm really bothered by the fact that McLaws' chose to choose the phrase "Your Mileage May Vary" because it sounds so inadequate and is almost telling us that we should give up on expecting Windows to offer a high level of compatibility, performance and reliability and just settle for something less. 

If that's really the best people can expect from Vista then maybe sticking with XP (or switching back to it) is the right thing to do.  After all, what matters is productivity, not what operating system you happen to be using.

Personal note: For the record.the Windows Experience Rating score of my main Vista machine is 5.1 and the reliability index is 9.92. It was dragged down from a perfect 10 a few weeks ago when I installed Safari on it.


Topics: Windows, Microsoft

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  • I think the phrase Your Mileage May Very ....

    ... is appropriate because there is still hardware that the manufacturers have refused to or are late in providing drivers for. In the case of 32 bit Vista this can generally be remedied by using the equivelent XP driver. This is not true of 64 bit. I think in general the critics should take a deep breath and remember back to the introduction of XP. Many of the same issues were as bad or worse.
    • This is the Same Headache just 5 Years Later

      You are right. I remember going from Windows 98 to Windows XP Pro and how much I loathed it at first. I pushed it forward though because I was frustrated with many of the issues that came with Windows 98. After some time and as more applications were geared towards Windows XP, I was the first to push rolling it out company wide and to get rid of Windows 98. Granted, I still like Linux or FreeBSD and my Macs have been good to me as well, but in a Business environment Windows still reigns and Windows Vista will slowly leak through the flood gates until it forces them open and takes over the corporate networks the same way Windows XP did 5 years ago.
      • Vista is really a replacement

        but not for XP. Vista is actually a replacement Windows Me.
  • A few things need to be said

    I am a bit tired of hearing rants about Windows Vista when in fact what's really happening is lack of knowledge. So let's talk:

    1- I have never heard of old hardware (1-2 year old) running faster under a new OS. If anyone can prove otherwise I want to hear it.

    2- Microsoft makes software... not PC hardware. So if your scanner or printer does not work, it's the manufacturer's fault not Microsoft. They had ample time to make compatible driver and I will even go as far as to say that the manufacturer's are counting on the "it's cool to hate Microsoft" to hide the fact that they make crappy drivers. I know a small company that does that... they make video cards.. starts with a "N"...

    So bottom line, folks have the right to "hate" Vista but for the love of God make it so your arguments are based on the OS itself. For example, I personnaly hate the fact that vista renamed the "add-remove" feature... made me look like an idiot trying to uninstall stuff.

    If you are wondering why your crappy 700$ computer runs slower with Vista... you have to make a reality check.
    • Responses

      1. Maybe other new OSes don't make things much faster, but I've never seen an OS other than Windows that takes such performance hit with an upgrade. And actually newer installs of Linux do slowly but surely increase system speed because drivers get better (actually I use Gentoo, which means I'm in a constant state of upgrade, there are no new installs per say).

      2. Microsoft makes an operating system, and it's the operating system's job to communicate with the hardware. We can debate all day long as to who is at fault here, but the bottom line is that it is MS's problem if there are hardware issues, especially when you consider the fact that their kernel changes so dramatically with each new release that hardware vendors are struggling with the changes. I'm not saying the hardware folk are 100% innocent on this, but MS needs to look after its own customers by making sure their hardware works on their system. If Linux can handle old hardware on its kernel upgrades why can't Windows? (By the way, this is why I laugh every time some Windows guru proclaims Windows to be the king of hardware recognition. It just shows how little they know.)
      Michael Kelly
      • Responsibility

        You wrote:

        "... it is MS's problem if there are hardware issues, especially when you consider the fact that their kernel changes so dramatically with each new release that hardware vendors are struggling with the changes."

        How would you expect Microsoft to prevent problems with the hardware. Write drivers for every device itself?

        Vista was available in beta for a long time. Hardware makers were encouraged to update drivers. Companies were reminded by Microsoft directly. Microsoft has been maintaining lists of working and non-working drivers.

        Non-working drivers are a problem, but saying that Microsoft is automatically responsible is a criticism that shows you have the luxury of not being responsible yourself.
        Anton Philidor
        • I didn't say they were automatically responsible

          I said they share in the responsibility. And it is their problem, because they are the ones getting bad press about it, and it's their software that people will avoid if they know their hardware will not work with it. It may not sound fair, but them's the breaks.

          My point is that other operating systems don't seem to have as big a problem as MS does. Whether it's because the others handle most of the driver coding themselves or because the kernel does not change as rapidly from release to release, I do not know. MS certainly has a right to do what they want with their kernel, but they need to so a better job of communicating with hardware makers, because the current state of affairs is unacceptable. I can't imagine that the hardware makers are intentionally trying to bamboozle MS on this, because it hurts them every bit as much as (if not more than) MS. It is difficult, and expensive, for these hardware vendors to keep up with the changes, and since it is MS making the changes, they need to bear responsibility in helping with the implementation.
          Michael Kelly
          • No Linux user has ever complained about drivers?

            Their availability or quality? At install of a distribution or after a kernel change? Whether produced by open sourcers or a commercial company?

            I'd read of Linux enthusiasts congratulating each other on improving driver quality, and thought it had been an issue.

            You wrote:

            "My point is that other operating systems don't seem to have as big a problem as MS does. Whether it's because the others handle most of the driver coding themselves or because the kernel does not change as rapidly from release to release, I do not know."

            Mac does not have this problem as significantly, for obvious reasons. But even though Linux is only 0.7% of the desktop market, it should be included in the discussion.
            Anton Philidor
          • Never say never

            It does not occur nearly as often on Linux as Windows, and when it does it gets fixed much more quickly. But yes, there are driver breakages on Linux kernel upgrades from time to time.

            But you also don't see Linus and Co. crying to the hardware makers over something that's their fault.
            Michael Kelly
          • Also with Linux

            I have the option of sticking with an older kernel until a newer kernel supports the hardware that I need. The modularity of the GNU/Linux system is a huge advantage over its competitors. If an upgrade/update breaks something I am not at the mercy of a bunch of proprietary companies who may or may not choose to address the problem.
            Michael Kelly
        • Of course the manufacturer of a product

          Is NEVER RESPONSIBLE if it doesn't work, no matter what the reason.

          Reading your Microsoft EULA will give you a very clear understanding of exactly what Microsoft is responsible for....... that is> exactly nothing.
          Ole Man
          • The same can be said of Open Source

            What are they responsible for if things go wrong?
          • What is the subject of the article?

            Linux? Or Vista?

            Would you expect the same warrenty from a company that distributes a product gratis as you would a company that charges through the nose for their product?

            Or would you think it asinine to compare the two?

            Do you know the difference? There is a difference, you know?


            his document has been written in an attempt to review and contrast the samples of licenses made
            available by Microsoft and the Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) community. As these two have
            now become the most prominent purveyors of platforms and software application technology in the
            computer industry worldwide, we feel it would be instructive for business and organisational users to
            have a plain-language analysis of these key components of the software they use. We will also
            attempt a very simple quantitative analysis of what portions of both licenses devote to giving users
            rights, taking away user rights, and limiting the extent to which users can make legal claims or sue
            the purveyors of the software from both camps.
            The Microsoft Windows XP Professional End User License Agreement (the EULA hereafter) was
            selected as representative of the current-generation license provided by Microsoft for business-grade
            systems. The GNU General Public License (the GPL hereafter) has been selected as the most
            commonly-used Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) license. The GPL is used by well-known
            platforms and software technology such as Linux, GNOME, KDE, and MySQL
            Ole Man
          • I am responding to you.

            You are faulting Microsoft for not being responsible for issues that arise through problems with Windows. I am saying that OSS provides no such responsibility either. With no difference between the two your point is moot.
      • All your showing is your ....

        .... own ignorance of Vista. With the exception of the video and audio drivers the old XP drivers will give you full support. By the way, there is more hardware supported by Windows then all the linux distros combined. Many of the hardware that Vista is credited with breaking never was supported by Linux.
        • If that's the case

          then why are people still complaining that their printers, scanners, and cameras won't work with Vista? Could it be that everybody is ignorant of Vista's capabilities? And if that's the case, whose fault is that?
          Michael Kelly
          • Possibly

            "Could it be that everybody is ignorant of Vista's capabilities?"

            I wouldn't be surprised if many people don't bother to try XP drivers with Vista. Most people look for the specific version and if they don't see it they don't try something for an older OS.

            I used the XP network driver for an IBM T-22 system. Worked fine. As to complete feature support I don't know if it was present but everything seemed to work fine.

            On an older Dell system I used a Windows 2000 driver. There was no XP specific driver due to XP containing the necessary driver on the XP CD. Dell GX1. Odd thing is the system has a built in 3COM 3C905 controller which was very popular. I'm surprised it's not supported by Vista OOTB.
          • Further...

            if you buy a new machine with Vista, and your printer/scanner doesn't work, who
            would even think of trying to find older, XP drivers?

            Unfair or not, people will blame Microsoft, and not the device manufacturer.
          • If you buy a new machine and your printer/scanner...

            ...isn't supported why would you expect it to work? Why would you blame Vista? It's not supported. It's no different than expecting an unsupported device to work with OS X. Or Linux. Or whatever OS your desire. If it's not supported it's not supported. So don't whine about Vista or Microsoft. Whine about the manufacturer. Fact is I have a brand new HP Pavilion computer that shipped with Vista pre-installed. Not a single incompability. Why? Because it's all supported. The people whining about Vista are whining because something they want to be supported isn't. Chris P. should stop whining that his printer/fax/toaster is unsupported and buy one that is. Then he can get on with using Vista.
          • "don't whine about Vista or Microsoft"

            Great selling point!

            Don't whine if it don't work.... just don't buy it!
            Ole Man