How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Windows Vista

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Windows Vista

Summary: The Mother-in-law versus Vista battle cold war never ends. Every week, it's something different that goes wrong that brings us to the brink of annihilation, and I have to swoop in on the weekends to fix the inevitable new problem that comes up.

SHARE:

strangeglove-vista.jpgThe Mother-in-law versus Vista battle cold war never ends. Every week, it's something different that goes wrong that brings us to the brink of annihilation, and I have to swoop in on the weekends to fix the inevitable new problem that comes up. Fortunately, I have the system more or less stabilized, and I finally figured what was going wrong with her Multiple Listing System printing out all sorts of HTML garbage issue. You care about how I figured it out, right? No? Well, too bad.

You see, being as protective and sensitive to virus and spyware issues that I am, I installed Mozilla Firefox on mom's laptop, in addition to a virus scanner and spyware sweeping software and some other general crapware cleaning utilities. This has always been my standard operating procedure on my own XP systems, which I maintain primarily now as VM's running on my servers. Naturally, I carried forward the same methodology to mom's Windows Vista laptop.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

When I installed Firefox, I answered the following question when prompted - "Use Firefox as the default system browser?" - naturally, I answered yes. Unbeknownst to me, with this single click of a mouse, I screwed up mom's line of business application.

You see, as it pertains to Vista, when you do this, a number of default file associations get set in the registry to use Firefox instead of Internet Explorer 7. While this may not affect a lot of web sites, it did happen to affect Garden State MLS, the main web site she uses. I had to do a lot of Googling to find out just exactly why this was happening, but eventually, the solution to this problem was  "Uninstall Firefox". EDIT: Oh, I tried the expected path of using Control Panel and fixing the file associations in the GUI. Didn't work.

On her previous XP machine, I had her using Firefox and IE 7 for different uses. IE 7 for GSMLS, because it was an IE-only site, and Firefox for her other uses. Everything worked fine, and I even had Firefox set as her default browser. Spyware and Virii were kept at bay, and everyone was happy. But clearly, when installed on Windows Vista, the application installation and registry interaction clearly does not behave the same. Granted, her older box used Firefox 2.0.0.14 and the new one 3.0, but when I regression tested 3.0 as the default browser on my own XP systems and with the GSMLS site, it worked just fine. The problem reproduced itself on a Vista VM running on my ESX 3i box and on my father in law's new Acer laptop running Vista Basic. So this is clearly an issue that only manifests itself on Vista.

I had thought I had finally isolated all my Vista woes until this last week. My wife's PC, a HP XW4100 workstation, a dual 3.0ghz Pentium 4 system, is starting to show its sign of age. I recently upgraded it to 2GB of RAM so she could use her DVD Slideshow maker program and Blurb for making self-published photo albums, both of which are very CPU and memory intensive. Her copy of XP is also starting to exhibit signs of 2 year crotch rot, which means it's facing a re-install.

I decided rather than to re-install the old box with XP, that I would order a new PC and recycle her old machine as a Linux test box or NAS server. COSTCO, as it turns out, is running a nice system on sale, a DELL 4GB SDRAM Intel Core2 Quad with 500GB hard drive, sans monitors, for $599  which is preloaded with Vista Premium. As much as I wanted to get Lenovos, these particular Dells ended up being cheaper than my own corporate discount for an equivalent machine, so I picked one of these up for myself. Rachel is going to get my current Taiwanese Frankenstein special ASUS M2N-based machine with an Athlon X2 5000+ with 4GB RAM and whatever other spare parts I throw into it, with a fresh XP SP3 install. No need to make my wife suffer with Vista when her current environment works fine.

I, on the other hand, will image the Vista install that comes with the box, throw a second 500GB hard disk in it, re-initialize the drives, run RAID, and install Ubuntu as my primary OS. Vista can sit sandboxed on a 4GB VM on Hyper-V or ESX 3i where it belongs on my server. Keep that evil beast in its cage!

Have you finally submitted to Vista as your post-apocalyptic zombie overlord or are you seeking refuge in your XP SP3 or Linux bomb shelter? Talk Back and let me know.

Topics: Browser, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

264 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • in its cage where it belongs

    Why Vista is the secondary OS on my Dual boot with openSUSE. Lets talk xp driver compatibility or lack there of rather, I thought ok I will sacrifice the flash card reader since I was sure the drivers there wouldn't work but I couldn't even get the wireless drivers working after roughly 6 hours of googling. Blackberry as a tethered modem on linux? Forget about it. Vista sits in its cage /sda2 with grub as the key I can keep it locked up untill I need to get online in bfe where no one even knows what 802.11 is.
    anonymousx2
    • try xp drivers

      I have a TRENDNET TEW-424UB wireless g usb doggle. I used xp drivers to make it work. I never got my X-FI fatality to work on UBUNTU 8.04.1. Vista works fine, even the Vista64 has newer driver than Vista32. Even my flash card reader works fine. My Sony Ericsson phone's memory card is detected.
      bananatwinkie
    • I bought vista 64x business only for one application - it is on dual boot

      I bought vista 64x business only for one application - it is on multiple boot with xp 32, xp 64 and my test system of XP embedded - which is the thinnest and fastest version.
      coffee junky
    • wireless and flash cards

      I spent 3 hours trying to get ubuntu to run the atheros drivers on my laptop yesterday even though it said they were already enabled how is this easier than vista every single copy of any linux version I have tried(suse 9,10,11, ubuntu server and desktop 7 and up Knoppix vector linux puppy dsl and several others) have required much bs to get any wireless connectivity to work what kind of crap is that!!? all my wondows versions from 2K and up 32 and 64 bit have either already had some preinstalled support or at least drivers available to download. If I don't have wired enet handy (using my laptop for one) ican't download anything or even search for solutions. as for xp driver compatibility try using compatibility mode this has worked for even some obscure HW I have (century CD disc storage device and a very generic video capture card as well as X-10 software that doesn't run all that great on xp)
      stuoutlaw1
  • Not here!

    I guess I just know how to make things work right away? I have been using Vista for a long time now and haven't had any issues. My mom uses it and I have less calls from her than when she had XP. I also have about 10 people here in the office using it and I don't have any calls to look at those either. It really is a crazy world out there and I must just be the lucky one.
    OhTheHumanity
    • Well ..

      [i]I guess I just know how to make things work right away?[/i]

      Everyone thinks they know how to make things work, until it hits the fan. Then it's "were the hell did I leave that damn install disk?". This ritual is usually performed at the worst possible moment.

      [i]It really is a crazy world out there and I must just be the lucky one. [/i]

      Somebody has to win the lottery, right? ;)
      MisterMiester
      • If you cant....

        If you cant get vista to work then I believe your pretty sad, its way better than xp and certainly better to look at, Dont put it on an old machine, dont try to run old software, that simple.I am also aware of dozens of people using it and have heard of no problems.
        judgesinel9
        • Don't try to run old software?

          [i]"dont try to run old software, that simple.I am also aware of dozens of people using it and have heard of no problems."[/i]

          Perhaps you are a teenager who lives at home with a family that buys you anything you want, no financial responsibilities, and no prior investment in software?

          Those of us with incomes, debts, and other financial responsibilities and large, prior investments in software must, of necessity, "run old software." If Vista is so weak it can not handle it, then it is a wuss of an operating system. Most of us stick with XP for the Windows we are forced to use and Linux for freedom from corporate tyranny.

          The make and model of Linux is per the choice and idiosyncrasies of the user. However, for the non-technical, Ubuntu/KUbuntu is a good choice; for the adventurous, openSUSE has many options and protections; and for the more technical, there is a myriad of Linux mods from which to choose.

          If, on the other hand, you enjoy Big Brothers Microsoft, your local police, your local county and state governments, and your federal government tracking your online and offline computer activities, please enjoy Microsoft Windows Vista!
          Isocrates
        • Please read the post ...

          [I]If you cant get vista to work then I believe your pretty sad, its way better than xp and certainly better to look at,[/i]

          I don't own Vista and I have XP running as a VMware session. In a virtual session XP boots in 15 seconds, runs flawless because there is no interaction between the hardware, and if I get a virus or piece of malware it takes about 2-3 minutes to roll back the OS to a previous state.

          It's easy to feed and care for a wild animal when it's in a cage. ;)
          MisterMiester
    • Not here either!

      Since Vista came out I have set up 11 assorted computers/laptops since Jan 31, three for our house as I fazed out our 3-5 yr old PC's, seven for family, friends and a few to sell. I too have had less Help calls with Vista. I have 15 yrs of software, mainly kids games and the only problem was Dogz4 on one computer because of a video issue. I had to use generic drivers for my 5 yr old HP all in one because HP said buy a new printer or use the drivers they gave MS, my flash drive U3 software wasn't going to be updated but I didn't use it for that anyway and have since had to buy a larger size one anyway, the HP has since died of scanner click death. My older games for the kids actually did better with compatibility mode then XP did, so I guess I have been lucky too.

      I like Vista better, it manages memory better to open and close things, I am running it on a gig of ram on some pc's, the look is so much smoother on LCD screens, now when I use XP it looks less refined.

      Some are Vista Basic, some are Premium which I dumb down to Basic anyway because I don't need all the fluff.

      My old Kodak digital camera worked better, I have since bought one of the more compact models. I love the ease of rip and burn for my music and seem less use with an iPod and my two MP3 players. I do a lot of photo work for home and work it all works well with the all the programs I use for that.

      I will say I fought the change for about a month but as I started finding out how things were going better I stopped looking back.
      Northlite
  • Malware virus and Trojans

    Are not nearly as hard to control as you think in Windows. Everybody makes such a big deal out of it, because they arent paying attention and get burned. I have been windows computing since Windows 3.0, have never had a single serious problem, along with 8 other computers/laptop/desktops thoughout the family houshold. If you call yourself a geek, you only need to step up to this small challenge.
    Crestview
    • Lions, tiger and bears

      Are a lot safer when they're in cages and you keep an eye on them. Same goes for viruses under vista. Don't do anything stupid and it won't blow up in your face.
      Spiritusindomit
    • Blame the Victim?

      [i]Everybody makes such a big deal out of it, because they arent paying attention and get burned.[/i]

      So it's my fault because I clicked on a DRM infested file or a harmless looking link that was filled with malware? Typical Windows mentality is to "blame the victim" since any innocuous act that render the system useless is not the fault of Microsoft. It's like a rapist saying "you know that Nun was looking for it with that habit thing and all".

      Since I switched to Linux those problems are a thing of the past. In fact the worst thing that can happen now is that my home/$user directory [b]could[/b] get infected or [b]maybe[/b] even a directory that has $user rw permissions, but even then it would be localized and I can take care of the problem in a matter of minutes.

      [i]If you call yourself a geek, you only need to step up to this small challenge. [/i]

      Teach your grandmother to suck eggs? My first computer was an IBM 8088, yes a 5150 with dual floppies. I use to think I was even a "computer person" until I used a *nix system. Now I know that windows is a toy compared to a properly configured *nix system.

      I don't need thirty different versions of the same OS. Do you need Basic, Home, Premium, Pro, Ultimate, CE, Server, HPC, Salsa, Guacamole, or whatever flavor monkey boy up in Redmond decides to push? With Linux the same OS runs on tiny cell phones all the way up to massive supercomputers. Now [b]that's[/b] scalability.

      Windows isn't a challenge, it's a nuisance. Kind of like those little dogs that nip at your heels. You can easily kick it, but it keeps coming back. It's just better to put it to sleep. ;)
      MisterMiester
      • Yes. Yes it is.

        "So it's my fault because I clicked on a DRM infested file or a harmless looking link that was filled with malware?"
        Sleeper Service
        • It never ceases to amaze me ...

          You need a refresher on what "blaming the victim" is:

          [i]Victim blaming is holding the victims of a crime, an accident, or any type of abusive maltreatment to be entirely or partially responsible for the unfortunate incident that has occurred in their life, oftentimes when the victim had performed no actions to facilitate the incident.[/i]

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victim_blaming

          See how that works? Now run along and play with the kiddies, mkay? ;)
          MisterMiester
          • Reading comp?

            "So it's my fault if...."

            Yes, yes it is. Said nothing about "blaming the victim." That was you.
            laura.b
          • Read the title of the original post ...

            Remember, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. ;)
            MisterMiester
          • Caveat emptor

            {NT}
            Sleeper Service
        • take advantage of the tools...

          ...Vista lets you take advantage of hardware Date Execution Prevention, can be set to ask you to approve every program's request to run, works hand in glove with many antivirus programs, including the antimalware which comes with Vista in Windows Defender... it's the most bulletproof version of Windows there is - the user stats bear this out. Vista users have significantly less trouble with malware than XP users.

          Recently I DID click on malware-infested Email that was posing as a "greeting card" - had a link to Hallmark's site and everything - slickest phish I've ever seen. Vista saved me. I never got close to infecting my system. Under XP, I would have been toast.

          I'll wait for SP2 of Vista to get the added goodness that comes with more experience, same as I did with XP. I think that when the bugs are ironed out, Vista is going to really kick ass, owing to its built-in support for multithreading, multicore processors, all the other high-tech goodness.

          Has everyone forgotten what a sloth XP when it first came out? How fast a system had to be to get even mediocre performance from it?
          jlafitte
      • Yes, actually

        AVG is free. Updates on it's own, scans on it's own. No excuses.

        Don't click on untrusted links. Common sense.

        Don't open email attachments from unknown sources. Common sense.

        ......

        Yeah, that's pretty much all you have to do.

        If you can't bring yourself to pull off all of that, well...I have no pity for you. :)
        laura.b