XP to Vista? No, if it ain't broken, don't upgrade it

A campus-wide Vista upgrade to all PC's has left students angry, annoyed and unable to log on in a reasonable timeframe. Why couldn't they have just left XP running? Considerations
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
The question I posed a few months ago was whether Windows Vista would live to die another day? It seems no, no it shall not. Today, through first hand experience on two occasions, it died entirely of its own accord.

My place of work and education, the University of Kent, went through a major upgrade over the summer which prompted me to write about this in the first place. Quoting from the original article, they announced:

"It is intended to roll Vista out on our student desktops during the summer see the Information Services’ paper to be presented to the University’s Computer User’s Panel next week."

Although it seems that the upgrade has been performed well and everything went smoothly after speaking to IT staff earlier on, the subsequent student and staff reaction to the operating system has been mostly critical.

I logged into a Vista-running public PC for the first time today. Well, I say "logged in" to the point where I entered my username and password but got no further as the remaining 12 minutes was waiting on the folder redirection policy. I gave up in the end and went to my lecture.

My lecture revealed another flaw in the upgrade. My lecturer logged on at the beginning of the lecture. But not only should he have attempted logging into his machine before the lecture had started but doing so would have had very little difference. The projector was on and I could see the same thing going through the motions as before. I clocked it opening up his desktop no less than two minutes before the end of the hour lecture.

Our "message of the day" page which provides the latest, breaking news on the state of the all-important and hugely popular range of IT services on campus showed:

Now don't get me wrong. There is no doubt in my personal and professional opinion that Windows is still the best operating system to be running on a mass scale in a corporate or university environment. But in this case the supply cannot necessarily meet the demand. Allow me to digress.

There are a number of reasons as to why this sticky logging in issue occurred. One of the main ones that I see is today was the start of the academic year, with last week being freshers week. Students were eager to get started with work and by logging in all around the same time period the network was flooding.

But even when the machines were running XP along with the same Windows Server 2008 back-end infrastructure, there were no issues. The mass Vista upgrade is the only change in the equation.

Also, as I experienced when I first logged in when I started at the university, it takes a while to load everything up for the first time on a new computer. With the roaming profiles that the network uses, initially it will take a few minutes to gather your data and settings together and from thereon in, things will pick up in speed.

Not in this case. Once I retried logging in and successfully accessed my desktop (which took 34 minutes), I logged off, had a cup of tea and a smoke then tried on a different machine in another part of the campus. This time it took 12 minutes to logon and access my desktop. The irony of it was that I was using a "quick access service" machine and that my allotted 10 minutes would have expired already.


Even after using the "new" operating system it is clear that the hardware cannot fully support it. Three-quarters of the 2GB memory installed in the machine (or any of the machines, they are all the same hardware specifications) was used up just after gaining desktop access.

The problems have been numerous and countless and as my colleague put earlier on, a representative of the students in the education sector, he was, "f***ing livid".

Perhaps the most annoying part of this story is that the one and only reason for the upgrade was that the support for Windows XP would be ending soon and this fitted in with the university's timeline to upgrade. Windows XP had been used on all public PC's since two years of it initially launching in 2001; way before my time there began.

Because of the software support lifecycle, according to my colleague Mary Jo Foley, switching to Windows Vista or 7 will save them costs because free support is available for those operating systems and won't be phased out for a number of years, as explained here.

Even though Windows 7 is a glass of cold water to someone in Hell in comparison to Vista, regardless of this, Vista will be used in our university for at least the next four years, according to internal sources.

In my opinion, if something isn't broken then think very carefully whether you truly need to meddle with it. Once something is done, it is often difficult to truly undo and in situations such as these when dealing with thousands of computers on campus, one change can cause havoc on an unrecognisable scale.

I'm aware that this is a wide scale issue in a small environment; a storm in a teacup if you will. Vista has been nothing short of a pain in the arse since the word go here at the university. Even though many students have used Vista for years now, many of those I spoke to today did not like the fact they had to use it at "work" as well as home.

Frankly they should have kept it how it was for at least another year. It seems those in middle-management may have been pushed before they jumped.

Are you a student who has been forced into an upgrade which you can't stand? Or are you an IT professional who has rolled out an upgrade which has caused more trouble than it seems worth? Comments make the blog monster om nom nom nom.

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