Windows Vista, meet my Mother-In-Law

Windows Vista, meet my Mother-In-Law

Summary: Every weekend I return home from traveling the country working at the 10,000 foot level of enterprise architecture for Fortune 500 customers, there is at least a fifty percent chance that I may be called upon to do some in the trenches desktop support work.Such drudgery is occasionally required, especially if you are to maintain your status as a Good Son-In-Law.


angrygrandma-vista400.jpgEvery weekend I return home from traveling the country working at the 10,000 foot level of enterprise architecture for Fortune 500 customers, there is at least a fifty percent chance that I may be called upon to do some in the trenches desktop support work.

Such drudgery is occasionally required, especially if you are to maintain your status as a Good Son-In-Law. I now find myself having to do this increasingly often, since I set my 70-year-old semi-retired mother-in-law up with a new laptop so she can continue her real estate work at home.

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

"Jason, I'm having problems with AOL Instant Messenger, its doing that weird thing again. And now I can't print anything right from the Multiple Listing Service, it just prints out garbage."

"Uh, okay, I'll come look at it".

The dreaded AOL Instant Messenger problem seems to be unique to Vista. Apparently, there is some random error that occurs on certain machines where you sign into AIM, and all the messages it sends across is total XML gobbledygook. It has to do with losing file type associations or something, I forgot exactly what the exact diagnosis was. I was able to fix it a few weeks ago, but every time AIM updates on her machine, it keeps coming back. So I finally decided to toss AOL IM and gave her the Windows version of Pidgin, an Open Source multi-protocol IM client. Windows saved by Open Source -- not the first time this has happened. Mom also runs and a few other programs that she needs to do her work.

Now printing -- that's another problem entirely. I thoroughly tested printing out documents and pages from other web sites -- no problems. Then using Internet Explorer 7 I logged into her MLS, did a sample house query, found a record, and printed. Sure enough, it came out as HTML gobbledygook.

"What the hell is wrong with this computer? I thought you said a Lenovo ThinkPad was a nice machine when you had me buy it only a few months ago."

"It is a nice machine, Mom, it's the same kind I have. It's just that you happen to be using Windows Vista, which is a piece of crap."

"It was able to print until a few days ago when they upgraded the web site."

"Well then its a problem with the MLS. Did you call them up?"

"Yes, and they said it must be something wrong with my computer. You told me to do that Service Pack thing and let the computer update."

"Yes, you needed that. Your computer is functioning fine. Its just that Vista has a number of issues that they are still trying to resolve."

"Well then why I am I running this horrible software instead of the old version?"

"Because I couldn't configure it with something else when I ordered it from the web site. Microsoft won't allow companies like Lenovo to buy copies of it anymore."

"Well XP with Internet Explorer 7 in the realtor office works fine. Why the hell would they stop supporting it?"

<GROAN>  "I have no idea, mom. I guess because they want to make people upgrade so they can make more money?"

 "It sounds like the basis for a class-action suit!"

"I'm pretty sure they are doing one already."

 "Is this all happening because Bill Gates stopped working at Microsoft?"


 "Are you gonna put that Ubuntu thing on my computer like you did with dad?"

"Maybe, maybe not. I might have to give you one of my XP entitlements from MSDN and downgrade your system."

"Oy vey."

Is Vista causing grief for your loved ones? Talk back and let me know.

The postings and opinions on this blog are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Topics: Software, Browser, Windows, Software Development, Operating Systems, Microsoft, Hardware, Collaboration, CXO, Social Enterprise


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.

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  • It's not Vista Stupid It's You

    I hate when people try to blame problems on Vista that don't belong to it. If you're having problems with AOL IM working with Vista, then the problem is AOL. They have had over 2 years to get their software to work in Vista, and haven't. There are tons of 3rd party vendors who have done the work and their software works fine. The bandwagons want to say it's Microsoft's fault that openoffice, AOL, Yahoo messenger and Weatherbug don't work, when those aren't projects Microsoft is responsible for.

    XP is garbage that needs to be taken out and that's why Macs are selling like hotcakes. Vista when installed properly and on the right hardware works wonderfully. We have upgraded over 100 machines without any trouble, and no one is having any trouble running Office 2007 or Live messenger.

    Quit trying to kick Vista along with all of the Mac Fanboys and get in gear. This isn't Windows ME, so stop whining and point your finger where it really belongs - at the lazy developers and IT consultants waited too long to jump on board. Don't let them tell you the Emperor is wearing new clothes when they have done nothing but leave it Naked.
    • It's not Vista that's stupid, it's you

      "We have upgraded over 100 machines without any trouble, and no one is having any trouble running Office 2007 or Live messenger"<br><b>Wow, I'm impressed!<br>You can run the latest version of MICROSOFT office and MICROSOFT live messenger on Vista?<br>That is truly amazing work by Microsoft.<br><br>Your comments are a joke...
      • Both Vista and Grandparent are Stupid

        I agree with the parent; it's no big deal for Microsoft to get its own software to run with its own operating system. After all, they have the FULL API's (not abbreviated, not distorted) to work with. It has been thus for a long time. It's part of their dominance strategy; keep everyone else in the dark (or at least the dusk) and keep the target moving while their own products are on target.

        Remember what happened to WordPerfect? It's documented that MS first limited access to the API's in Windows 95, and then CHANGED THEM in the final product. WordPerfect never had a chance to compete fairly. (See the Microsoft v. Comes archive at .)

        As for the breakdowns in AOL Instant Messenger and such, that is also an example of programming for a moving target. Perhaps it's not worth it to support programs written for Windows 3.x, but certainly something that works well on XP should be able to run under Vista--unless MS doesn't want it to.

        I have a perfectly fine Lexmark all-in-one given to me by someone who got a new PC with Windows Vista but couldn't use it because the new driver model in Vista made his existing drivers unusable, and Lexmark had no intention of writing Vista drivers for his all-in-one printer. That's not Lexmark's fault; that's MICROSOFT'S fault for changing the environment so radically that drivers that worked under the IMMEDIATELY PREVIOUS version of the OS no longer work.

        Windows 2000, and MAYBE XP, will be the last versions of Windows I will ever use. And them only part-time. I'm already in process of moving to Linux. And I'm not looking back. If I use Windows apps, I'll use ones that can run under Wine/Crossover Linux/ReactOS or won't use them at all.
        • Actually what happened is with 2K/XP

          MS posted a guideline of how software should be written for their OS. With Vista those guidlines are enforced. So it is not MS's fault but the writer's fault.
          Michael L Hereid Sr
    • Not Others

      It is not the responsibility of vendors to conform to companies as big as Microsoft who have a monopoly as they do. ?They have had over 2 years to get their software to work in Vista, and haven't.? (An Example I know of) Actually Adobe did get there stuff together and made Adobe 8 Compatible with Vista, Microsoft then introduced SP1 for Vista, it is now a shot in the dark on whether you will get Adobe 8 to work with it or if you will need to get Adobe 9. Here are a couple key suggestions for any programmer, a couple that Microsoft refuses to listen to:

      1) Listen to your customer base, if they want a green background, do not give then a blue background that you can change to green if you register for the service, buy separate licenses if you are running more than one processor, download the 90mb patch, that will also fix??..

      2) Send out a complete product, do not go on the cheap and release a product so your customers can test it for free, while you rake in the money. Unlike Microsoft who has a monopoly on several Key real world software package, you will probably not get called back.

      3) FOR GOD SAKES. Do not over bloat your system out and give your customer things they could care less about.
  • RE: Windows Vista, meet my Mother-In-Law

    I have been working with various types of computers since 1981. My first computer was a Commodore Vic 20.

    I have had several friends beg me (with cash in hand) to remove Vista from their PCs and install a purchased copy of XP OEM SP2. It takes a couple of hours but they love it.

    I still have the Vista disk that came with a custom unit I ordered from TigerDirect for my music/video production projects.

    I'm planning on using it as a coaster for my Mike's hard lemonade.

    Manny G
    Systems Programmer
    • Same BS different day.

      I'm sure since they are PAYING that you would love to keep up the charade. I have too many computers running Vista with out problem to believe that nonsense. The major problem I've seen are people getting the Home Version and then trying to use it on a Network. Business or Ultimate are the only 2 we support on the net.
    • So What!

      If that is the context of your IT experience, I believe I can place you in the lazy consultant category.

      Rather than educate and improve, it appears that you have taken the easy cash and supported the myth. The truth is that what your friends say really doesn't prove your point. You are supposed to be the expert, and yet you don't know how to make it work properly for them.

      That's not Microsoft's fault, but yours for not knowing any better.

      Maybe you should have stuck with the Vic 20.
    • a Vic 20!??!

      Wow, that takes me back.... my first machine was a Commodore Plus 4 (a C64 with a ROM of programs built in and a black case).

      I recently bought a new computer to replace my old XP machine. After hearing all the horror stories, I had the XP CD ready to go. It took some time, but I was able to find XP drivers for all the hardware. I did this while surfing the web on my new machine. As I went along, I decided that I needed to install Opera real quick to help me organize my download pages and saved files. Then as I went along I made a few adjustments here and there to improve performance. Next thing you know, I didn't want to go back to XP. Vista works well when it is implemented correctly, and you scrape out all the junk that comes pre-loaded from the factory. We use AOL and have no problems, I use all my custom built apps, VPN software, etc and things work fine.

      Anyone need help tuning up their Vista machine?
  • RE: Windows Vista, meet my Mother-In-Law

    Frankly I marvel that anyone in business can afford the time it takes maintain a computer in working condition to accomplish many of the tasks that need to be done. Most business users of computers add an IT professional to their staffs or at least employ part time contractors to keep their systems up and working. This is what your MIL is doing with you. So either get use to it and quit complaining or put her in touch with someone who can keep her up and running without breaking her bank - -
  • RE: Windows Vista, meet my Mother-In-Law

    Oh my God, OMG, you sound just like a salesperson WORKING FOR MS!!!! I guess you could just be a FOOL, though. Ha, ha, ha, ha.
  • Vista isn't a problem for my friends/family

    Vista isn't an issue for us. We warned family/friends to steer clear of it. DRM, WGA, UAC. Too much BS. DRM is to be avoided, in my opinion. Using an OS with DRM bolted on is not an option. WGA is another issue - also unacceptable.

    Some are friends who are asking for advice on purchasing a new computer, since theirs has become too slow. Instead, I show them what a fresh install performs like.

    Those that listen continue to run their XP systems as a limited user. Those that don't get reloaded periodically, with the choice of moving to Linux.

    Used to give home users Suse, but now I load Mint. Linux Mint is Ubuntu with all of the multi-media drivers pre-installed. Zero problems after that. Haven't had to reload one computer with Linux, other than to move to a new version. (Mint 5.0 just came out)

    Vista may work for you. That's great! I don't want to use it, even if it does work. Not when arguably better alternatives are available. Isn't competition great!
  • RE: Windows Vista, meet my Mother-In-Law

    >>> gave her the Windows version of Pidgin, an Open Source multi-protocol IM client. Windows saved by Open Source ??? not the first time this has happened

    So, AOL has problems, an open source - does not... Ok, here is how my professional-IT-journalist brain works: if it is Open Source, then it must be superior,.. obviously, to... Vista, what else?! Oh, wait a second, we were talking about a third-party app A, which din't work on OS X, and another third party app B, whcih worked on the same OS X. Err... it seems that it is AOL that is "saved" by a well-written open source app, which can indeed run OK on Vista. So it must again be some Vista crap. And conspiracy. Sometimes. Only I forgot when. But all my friends tell the same.

    >>> "dreaded", "seems", "apparently", "or something I forgot exactly what" ...

    It "seems", "apparently", that we know only one word: Vista. Thank you Microsoft, you made it easy again. Everyone recognizes Vista. If there is a problem in Vista - oh, we know, what you're talking about, everybody talks about it. Even if you're have *no clue* about what's going on, you're still respected as a professional, may be even more so, because it is Microsoft's fault, anyway. Nobody wants to hear about AIM or MLS or possibly printer drivers, and nobody wants to fix bugs - may be genuine bugs (pardon pun) - in that software. Those guys are simply victims of Microsoft conspiracy of world domination.

    >>> and they said it must be something wrong with my computer.

    Of course. They are professionals, too. Professionals trust each other, not Microsoft.

    Sorry, but thanks. This story has zero IT-related professional value for me.

    I miss BYTE.
  • RE: Windows Vista, meet my Mother-In-Law

    I would be curious how many windows Vista Machines you support in a Business environment, and not the bloated number you are about to tell me, the actual number. I can tell you it is not a walk in the park, like it is made to seem. I seen flaming from people who like and dislike Vista. Show me some evidence. Show me the Pros and the Cons.

    I bet you can not.
  • Bought my Mother-In-Law a Mac

    Really, first got her a MacBook for portability, then a year
    later got her to replace her PC tower with an iMac. She's
    57, has used Windows all her life, so it's taken awhile for
    her to get use to the keystrokes, menus, and such. But
    she's a convert. Especially with iChat, she can see her
    grandchildren with ease (she had a webcam with her PC,
    but she always had problems). Even my father-in-law, who
    has to use Windows for his work, is impressed and happy
    he no longer has to worry about installing drivers,
    rebuilding registries, etc. He's been a PC all his life, yet it
    was his idea to replace the PC tower with an iMac

    My aunt-in-law just retired at 65, and wanted to buy a
    home computer. She also had used PCs/Windows all her
    life, yet she choose to buy a Mac. Set her up with a
    MacBookPro. She cannot believe how easy things are.
    Another convert.

    I know Windows will always dominate the business/IT
    market. But people don't want to deal with Windows at
    home, and that's where Apple is making great strides. I'm
    not saying OS X is perfect, but people, on a day-to-day
    personal level are much happier dealing with OS X than
    Vista. And with every convert, the word gets out that that
    maybe Windows/PC, even though they have greater than
    90% market share, is not the only option.