I consider myself a bit of a Windows fangirl, at least in the sense that I dislike Macintosh (Linux, you’re cool in my book). I love the practical aspect of the PC. I just want to be able to work on my computer without programs being bulky (I hate opening iTunes) or favoring form over function. I love command keys, shortcuts, back-clicks and basically having control over every aspect of my computer. I had an amazing Windows computer that I loved. I never imagined the torment I would endure from the slimy vermin-pit that is Vista.
Several months ago, I was carrying my old, beloved laptop from my couch to my room when it slipped and fell on the corner of my coffee table. I picked it up and was distraught: more than half of the screen had cracked and was nonfunctional.
I am against consumerism (my last computer was a 95, and I had wanted this one to last as long), so even with a damaged computer I was hesitant to buy a new one. After deteriorating to only a quarter of a functional screen and the donation of my grandma’s unused external monitor, I realized the hassle was becoming too much.
I went to Fry’s Electronics, which I had been assured was a reputable establishment. I had a laundry list of features I wanted for my computer at the top was XP and not Vista. I had heard mutterings about Vista. Unfortunately, all the laptops there had Vista pre-installed, and I allowed myself to be pressured into settling.
I started out with an optimistic mind. The first thing I noticed on opening her up was the design and layout. It was actually quite pretty, but the pleasing visual facade seems to just be an attempt to mirror Macs and woo the shallow computer users who prefer flash and shine. Still, I have to admit that I liked it. The other thing I enjoyed was the corner touch pad functions that would minimize or resize windows. Strangely, that one function I really loved about Vista turned itself off after a routine computer update and, after plenty of searching, I have no idea how to turn it back on.
The controls of the computer seem to be purposefully hidden; as though Microsoft was trying to protect you from yourself. It’s hard to describe, but it feels like for every little thing you try to do to change your settings, the computer throws broken glass in front of you. Functions are often hidden in non-intuitive places, and several settings present you with a popup that asks you to confirm your decision. This focus-stealing popup is repeated for every program install, widget running, and update prompt. The command prompt (which I use often) has been moved from the Start Menu to Accessories. In an attempt to idiot-proof directories, files are now arranged by inconvenient arrows, which means that if you want the filepath to something you can’t just copy-paste it from your window; you have to remember it and write it out yourself.
One of the biggest reasons that I love Windows is that most games are made for it. I am a bit of a gamer: I love playing old or obscure games on my laptop. Predictably, most of my games needed downloadable patches to make them Vista compatible. A few independent games I had downloaded from the Internet wouldn’t work, and only after a ride on a lucky star I found that running them on Vista’s Windows 95 emulator fixed the crashes. (Not even the creators knew that this was the way to fix the commonly reported problem).
The worst thing for me is that drawing on my new laptop was almost impossible. I moonlight as a webcomic artist with my own site (DryIceSnowmen.com) and being able to draw is important for me. But it just wouldn’t work. First of all, I had Photoshop Elements3, for which an Adobe does not have Vista patch and does not plan to make one. Photoshop documents canvases would not display properly: strange lines and a grey shadow would appear on the canvas, and scrolling blurred the image. I fixed this problem by installing my friend’s Photoshop CS2. Next, I have a Wacom drawing tablet that attaches to my computer so that I can draw with a stylus pen directly on Photoshop. Wacom offered a patch, but eventually it ceased to work entirely. It worked in a crippled manner for awhile, but now it just doesn’t. Not only that, but the patch has changed my computer into thinking it is a Tablet PC. There’s a Tablet floating box that Iâ€™ve tried to get rid of, but I just can’t find the controls for it. It’s really frustrating for me because I have a responsibility as a webcomic to draw and provide timely updates.
The entire problem with Vista can be summarized by the trial version of MS Word 2007. I opened it up and was greeted by a horrifically changed menu. Gone was the File, Format, View, Window, Tools, Table and Help drop-down menus. In their place was a strange, morphing header. It looks nice and offers a quick and dirty way to format your files, which would be useful if you knew nothing about how to use MS Word. However, it’s much more difficult if you want to do anything more complex: you have to either navigate the morphing header or find the hidden Options Button. I think this format works well for people who are unfamiliar with computers, but it basically gives seasoned MS Word users the middle finger. After grudgingly working with this new MS Word, I realized that others couldn’t. The Word 2007 documents were not backwards or Mac compatible. If I wanted to send something I’ve written to someone without Vista, I have to copy-paste it into my email or notepad. All form and no function.
All I want to do is downgrade my new computer to XP. Unfortunately, I have to find a computer repair shop that will do it; if it’s possible at all. I am a bit worried because the bookstore sells XP with a nice “upgrade only!” sticker slapped on. Dark thoughts race through my head; what if I can’t downgrade it? What if I’m stuck in this nightmare forever? The nightmare becomes rapidly macabre for the rest of you. Windows will stop selling XP after June 30th. Offices, siblings, and on-campus computers will all be stuck with Vista as the only choice. The next version of Windows, Windows 7, won’t come out for at least another year (probably three).