Friday, May 23, 2008

Vista Sucks

The main reason I didn't post on Thursday is because I got my first experience using Vista. Mind you - I'm a diehard XP user - and I'm not about to EVER install Vista on my own personal machine - but I set out to help a colleague who needed a print driver installed.

It was easy enough - or so I thought. Just go to the Dell site, download the driver, double-click, put in the printer IP address and done.

OK - so finding and downloading the driver took about 10 minutes (not bad). The instructions from the Dell site for the 1710n print driver installation:
  1. Double-click the new icon on the desktop labeled
  2. The Self-Extracting window appears and prompts you to extract or unzip C:\DELL\DRIVERS\R147083. Write down this path so the executable (I.e. Setup.exe) file can be found later.
  3. The Self-Extractor window appears.
  4. Click OK.
  5. After completing the file extraction, if the Self-Extractor window is still open, close it.
  6. Click the Start button and then click Run.
  7. Type C:\DELL\DRIVERS\R147083 in the Open textbox and then click OK.
  8. Follow the on-screen installation instructions.

These directions are very specific, and on the surface, look very helpful. Until you actually try to follow them.

First of all - it assumes you're using a circa 1998 OS that doesn't have the built-in .zip utility that treats the file like a folder. Second of all there IS NO "Setup.exe" in the download. Instead, there are two .exe files with stupid names that mean nothing to a person that doesn't work at Dell.

OK - so I do what any self-respecting geek would do - pick the first one, and double-click and see what happens. This is where the glory of the Vista experience starts to play out.

As soon as I double-click - Vista gives me a warning dialog that verifies I want to run an installer. It helpfully suggests that installers can "install applications" and those applications can do bad things to your computer - so don't blame us if you hose yourself.

With a chuckle, I murmur "cute" under my breath and proceed to install. As soon as that dialog is dismissed there is another one from "Windows Defender". I need to click to give this program access to install itself - because, you know, installers can install applications, and applications might hose your computer, so don't blame us!

Slight chuckle again.

So this beast installs itself and opens the "Add printer" wizard. Of course there are no Dell print drivers on a Toshiba machine, but the "Have Disk" option isn't there (like on the old Win 2000 and below wizard). Then I notice that Dell helpfully
launched an instructional window with instructions that include the admonition to click the "Have Disk" button and follow the prompts.

Ummmm... there is no "have disk" button. So, I clicked the "Cancel" button to exit the installer (so I could Google and find where the "Have Disk" button went in Vista.

Then, Vista helpfully tells me it appears as if the installer didn't finish all the way and do I want to re-launch it. Ummm... NO. That's why I clicked "cancel." Thanks for trying to be helpful, but if you don't know what I intentionally did (click "cancel") - then don't try to "help" me.

OK - so I found out that you have to click "local printer" (even though this was a network printer), and then when it can't find anything, you click "Next" and then you have the "Have Disk" button.

Right. That's intuitive.

So, I relaunch the installer - get the same helpful warnings as before, get to the "Have Disk" button - specify the directory the driver is in... everything says it's ready - and I print a test page.

Or try to. Nothing happens.

Then the print queue errors. The good news is that I get a helpful Vista dialog telling me that there was an "unknown" print error. HEY! Thanks! Wow! Helpful!

Now, I'm not the most geeky geek ever, and I only have a novice understanding of Windows (after 10 years using it) - but I know how to go into the printer control panel and muck with the port settings. So I go to the control panels - try to open the Printers - and Vista gives me yet another "warning" and asks if it's OK to modify the resource.

Slightly cursing under my breath now - I click yes, and muck with the port setup, etc.

So it now works - and printing is fine.

Then there was an issue with the wireless network - it wasn't connecting. So, I went into the wireless connection panel, and simply wanted to check the settings for the wireless setup. Guess what? Yep, Vista helpfully informed me that WiFi is dangerous and people can steal your crap and don't blame us if you hose your computer.

Ok. The connection settings were correct - then it showed a "Wireless connection troubleshooter" link. Finally! This is helpful! In context! When I actually need help! Click...

The help loads - cursor spins, the "Wireless connection troubleshooter" help topic appears... then... a message:

"The help file you requested cannot be found because you are not connected to the Internet."

I am NOT kidding. If I were able to connect to the Internet, I wouldn't need this help topic!

I get the fact that Microsoft is getting its ass kicked for being a leaking toxic tank of security flaws, patches, fixes, bubble gum and bailing wire - but if they take 6 years to "re-write" their operating system - you would think it would be better, not worse.

If you want to include these "helpful" dialogs and wizards - make DAMN SURE that:
  1. They actually work
  2. The user has the ability to turn them off in an EASY way
  3. Make them smart enough to know what the user intended to do (or has intentionally done)
or SHUT UP and don't try to be "helpful."

I finally got everything working in SPITE of Vista, not because it helped, nor was easy, nor guided me through the process. I got it (and everything else I tried) to work because I'm a bit geeky and generally know what to touch and what not to touch - after 10 years of experience.

I just absolutely SHUTTER at the thought that new computer users - or people who upgrade - or people like my parents will be assaulted by this utterly confusing, dialog-laden, piece of crap as their main way of trying to get their work done (or just surf the net, or whatever).

I'm going to recommend both Macintosh and Ubuntu Linux to all my friends, neighbors, in-laws, and family the next time they ask for OS advice... in fact, my next box just might be a Mac...


Netbob said...

This has not been my experience with Vista but I've been working with it since the beta and I can do anything I used to do in Xp (and more) with Vista. Turning off the user authentication mode would be my first recommendation. I have a dual boot with Ubuntu 8.04 LTS as well as Vista Enterprise on my Toshiba P205 and I use the OS that best fits what I am trying to do. After a year of Vista, XP seems like Windows 95 to me.
Just my 2 cents man. ;-)

Bob Cusick said...

Thanks, netbob! Yeah, I found another article that is very interesting as well entitled "Fixing Windows Vista, one machine at a time". It might very well be the case of the hosed install by the OEM, but it's really a shame - since first impressions are usually the longest lasting ones.

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