This Monday my corporate laptop was upgraded. Last week I was in proud possession of an HP/Compaq NC6400, this week I have an IBM Lenovo R400 Thinkpad (an absolute Boer of a laptop, compared with the sleek and polished Compaq). It’s ugly and the control button is in the wrong place (which is inconvenient), but it has more RAM and a larger harddrive so I guess I’ll live with it.

Unfortunately, with the new laptop I was also downgraded: from Windows XP to Windows Vista and from Office 2003 to Office 2007. And no, those are not typos; I’ve been given new software with my new laptop and I hate every little bit of it. Vista is designed to kill your productivity and break your existing software. And even if you have software like Office (guaranteed to work due to the close ties between development teams), they make sure the new version is so bad that you can’t use that either.

Among my favorite bugs, failures and stupidies so far are the following:

The LAN mystery

At my current project, I used to connect to the corporate LAN. Nothing spectacular there: I just plugged in the network cable and set up the proxy script, filled in my username and password when prompted, done. With Vista, it doesn’t work anymore. Not even in Opera, which doesn’t even share network access configuration with IE7! The damn thing simply ignores my proxy server settings, doesn’t prompt me for a password and then cannot connect properly to the internal systems. Is it a new browser version? No, because I used the same browsers on XP. It’s Vista.

But don’t think I’m locked out though — my wireless can connect. Slower than LAN, but still. Mind, I don’t think it works properly; I think I’ve just lucked out in that I have to enter PEAP-authentication details for the wireless and those settings get passed on to the proxy. Because I don’t think the wireless stack is picking up the proxy settings correctly either.

Opera and Media Player

On my old laptop, I used Opera 9.64 and Windows Media Player 11. Worked together just fine. In Vista, I suddenly need a special plugin to enable the same combination. Sorry, but there’s no way you get that without doing it on purpose. Come on, European Commission, why do you keep screwing around with these guys? The maximum fine is 10% of their gross, well over $700 million a pop!

Ribbons…

So after all that joy, I needed Word today. Word 2007, my first application-related WTF moment on my new laptop. Who the hell came up with that damned ribbon? I can’t find ANYTHING anymore! My normal working day includes IDEs, text editors and browsers. Mostly, I don’t need Office. So when I DO need it, I don’t want to be tossed into a bloody maze of having to find out where they put everything. Thankfully there are tools available online that send the ribbons back to the hell they came from and give you back the menus intended for human beings.

I am NOT a moron

While trying to work out why my network connections weren’t working, I stumbled on this great new feature: not only have all the real settings been hidden beneath at least five layers of useless windows, but now you have to give yourself permission to access most of them. I AM NOT A MORON! I DON’T NEED A NANNY, NOR A KINDERGARTEN COMPUTER! I HAVE AN ADMINISTRATOR ACCOUNT SO JUST LET ME INTO THE FUCKING SETTINGS!

God, I want a Linux distro on my laptop.

And finally… shadow files

This one was the final straw that convinced me to spew my wrath in a blog post. One of the more brilliant innovations in Vista is a built-in revision system called Shadow Files. It makes regular copies of all your files so you can rollback any mistakes. Everybody who has ever used Subversion will understand the benefits. But of course, Microsoft got it wrong: After I got done installing all my software, end of day Tuesday, I had 105 Gb free (out of 147). By midday today, it was down to 91,4 Gb. Turned off the miserable Shadow Files and shot back up to 113 Gb. 22 Gb just for useless revisions. So here’s my top tip for the day:

TURN THE DAMN THING OFF

Seriously. It devours your harddrive, for a feature that you don’t need. No, I’m not kidding; you’ve lived without it for years for the stuff you never touch (most of your system) and if you have files for which you really DO have to save revisions, Subversion does a perfect and controllable job. You’ll be fine without it, so save your harddrive and the aggravation.

Is there any salvation?

Well, not for me at least. I’ve asked and I cannot get my old laptop back. Nor can I install WinXP on my own, or any other OS. So I’m basically screwed until the next system upgrade. But at least I can offer everybody else this wisdom: don’t downgrade to Vista. If they offer you a new system, resist. It’s just not worth the gray hair.

2 thoughts on “Upgrade woes and frustrations

  • August 10, 2009 at 7:50 am
    Permalink

    Chuck,

    True, Ubuntu would. But under Ubuntu, or any other *nix flavor, I would not be logged in as a user with sysadmin rights. Under Windows I am and being asked for extra permission is irritating in that case. If for no other reason than that it reinforces the sense of being treated as a toddler.

    Mind you, I agree with your general statements about Windows security and user rights — in the end, it all boils down to *nix being a series of operating systems in which multi-user use is natural and Windows being a series of OS’es in which multi-user is an unnatural feature that is bolted on top of a single-user core.

    Like I said, I would also love to dump Windows. But it’s a corporate laptop; not my choice. :-(

    Reply
  • August 7, 2009 at 12:48 am
    Permalink

    Frankly, if you were using Ubuntu, it would prompt you for permission (sudo) to access adminstrative features as well. That is a GOOD thing. The reason that Windows has been so gawd awfully insecure is the default admin configuration. Your user applications should NOT run as root.

    As for all the other stuff, I ditched windows 2 years ago and wiped Vista from my harddrive when I got a new laptop recently (coincidently a Lenovo T400, which I love).

    Reply

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