No more Vista whining, please

Over the weekend, I read yet another Windows Vista whine that managed to hit the Slashdot front page. In this case, it was my longtime colleague Jim Louderback, who decided to push the "Vista sucks" button as he was bailing out of PC Magazine. Here's why I'm unimpressed.

[See my follow-up post: We need less whining, more complaining about Vista]

Over the weekend I received three e-mails and one online request for comment on outgoing PC Magazine editor Jim Louderback's farewell column, in which he trashes Vista on the way out the door:

The upshot is that even after nine months, Vista just ain't cutting it. I definitely gave Microsoft too much of a free pass on this operating system: I expected it to get the kinks worked out more quickly. Boy, was I fooled! If Microsoft can't get Vista working, I might just do the unthinkable: I might move to Linux.

It's the usual mishmash of Windows whining. Sleep doesn't work. Network settings are too complicated. I'm having problems with my network. Whaa whaa whaa whaaaaaaaaa.

So what's the problem? Well, I've divined a few clues from Jim's column:

"The brand-new dual-core system I built a few months ago..."

"...hours tweaking and optimizing it..."

"strange and nonreproducible system quirks"

To understand why I'm unimpressed with yet another anecdotal review, realize that Jim's talking about a homebuilt system put together out of bleeding-edge parts (with a motherboard "designed to help overclockers tweak the most performance possible out of their components") as documented in this April story in ExtremeTech. My experience says that there's nearly a 1:1 correspondence between those who try too hard to build the ultimate system and those who complain when it doesn't work. There's a reason they call it the bleeding edge.

I also groan, deeply, when I read about all those "tweaks and optimizations." You shouldn't need to spend hours tweaking any computer, regardless of operating system, to get it working properly. In fact, any time I hear some self-professed expert talk about how much time they spent on tweaks, I brace myself for the complaints.

Oddly enough, back in April, when Jim first wrote about his experience building this system, he loved it:

I love my new system. It's fast, and surprisingly—with three fans and a power supply—really quiet.... It's also over 5.0 on Vista's performance index—an imperfect tool, but it makes me feel good anyway. ATI's catalyst drivers are still uneven, but I'm driving two monitors and both work great. ... [F]or now I'm happy. It sure took a while, but I learned a lot, and I ended up with a great new system that'll last me a long, long time.

I guess "a long, long time" is four months.

In fact, just last March Jim loved Vista, too, and he was ready to wait until October or even December for Microsoft to fix the exact same annoyances that have suddenly become unacceptable:

I've been using the shipping version of Vista for about three months, and although I'm impressed overall, it's still full of nagging annoyances.

[Whine about sleep, whine about networking, whine about video drivers, whaa, whaa, whaaaaaa]

Still, despite the problems, I do love Vista. It's absolutely the wave of the future. ...

So please, Steve [Ballmer], reconsider a first service pack. It doesn't have to offer much more than your aggregated fixes. But do deliver it by October. You played the Grinch last year, delaying Vista and stealing Christmas. This year, you can play Rudolph and save the holidays with a shiny new service pack. That way, by December most of these problems, like my old Civic, will become just fond memories.

Now, call me old school, but I always thought one of the perks of being editor of a big national computer magazine was being able to get personal support from Microsoft, and more importantly, being able to pass along what you learn to your readers. Hey, he might even have tried installing these two hotfixes, which were released two weeks before his Vista rant was published and have reportedly solved performance and compatibility issues (especially sleep-related issues) for lots of people.

And of course, this is the same guy who said:

I'm so paranoid about bots that I recently rebuilt one of my home machines because it was exhibiting strange symptoms, including weird hard drive accesses and slower-than-normal operation. This could have been caused by many things, but I was just suspicious enough to reimage the hard drive.

Hooooooooo-kay. Fine troubleshooting there, Jimbo. You're the frickin' editor of PC Magazine and you don't know how to secure your own system or scan it for malware? Pathetic. (And don't miss the part in that March story where Jim explains why he doesn't need to use encryption on his wireless network. Yikes!)

Lessons learned:

All anecdotes are equal, but some are more equal than others. The Vista system I'm working on right now sleeps and resumes perfectly, It's a model network citizen. It doesn't crash. I've been amazingly productive with it. I have two notebooks and three more desktop systems working equally well, and I could introduce you to friends and neighbors who tell nearly identical stories. You won't read any of those Vista success stories on Slashdot or Digg, though, because they don't fit into the accepted narrative.

Vista-bashing is the ticket to online success. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: I could literally double my income if I went into the Vista-bashing business. Want to guess how many times Jim Louderback's writing was featured on Slashdot in the last four years? Only once, until he pushed the "Vista sucks" button.

The new standard of success for Windows Vista is absolute perfection. Any problems that occur, regardless of whether they're actually caused by a lack of drivers, by faulty hardware, by incompatible software, or by counterproductive "optimizations," are Windows Vista's fault. No, Vista is not perfect, but issues are inevitable when dealing with millions of combinations of components in the Windows ecosystem. If perfection is your standard, you should not build your own PC, and you should definitely not run Windows Vista on it.

I can't wait to read Jim's account of his experiences switching to Linux. It should be pure comedy gold.