Friday, August 1, 2008

Whose PC Is It Anyway?

Has this happened to you? You return to your Vista PC and find that either the screensaver is running or you have the log on screen on your monitor, and you realize that the computer has rebooted in your absence?

If all you have to do is log back in, it’s a mild inconvenience but it’s still a bit creepy…

But if after you log in, your entire desktop is GONE? That happened to me recently. Being fairly experienced, I located the actual files in my Desktop folder under my user name, so I knew the data was safe. But suddenly Vista had given me a whole new blank desktop with the default wallpaper.

And, for good measure, when I opened my browser, I found that my start page was back on MSN and my history was gone. Cool, huh?

Obviously this was the result of an update, necessitated by Microsoft’s well founded security concerns.

But it’s a lot like the manager of my building coming into my apartment and rearranging the furniture while I’m gone – or locking the doors and windows.

I don’t like it, and combined with the other inconveniences of Vista, I’m sure lots of other people don’t like it either.

What are those other inconveniences? They are too numerous to mention but how about incompatible hardware and software, new CD and DVD formats that don’t work, and interminable file transfer times?

What makes it worse is that as always, there are no solutions. I recently had a data dump, otherwise known as the blue screen of death, and when Windows returned I was told it had recovered from a serious error (it had used System Restore – the same way I got my desktop back from the other incident) and did I want to know more details…

Sure I clicked Yes, figuring I’d get the usual inscrutable information that told me nothing but this time NOTHING is exactly what I got. Nada. Zilch. No explanation whatsoever is available for a “serious error.”

How long has Windows had a blue screen problem – how about EVERY INCARNATION? Maybe it’s impossible to correct given the disparate hardware on which the platform is located, but how about providing a clear and understandable EXPLANATION of how it happens and what you can do to recover?

Here is what I mean by clear and understandable. NOT “you had a fatal error or system exception at memory base 4M60XQIC0M;’T.XOM.”
No – here is what I mean: the last program you used was _____________________________.
When you clicked ___________________________ it conflicted with ______________________.
To prevent this from happening you should uninstall ______________________________ or reconfigure ______________________________.
Alternatively you could delete _________________________ from StartUp under MSConfig.

System Restore is nice but scary. It’s like you’re waiting for the patient to come out of the ER. And there is no chance to talk to the surgeon afterwards – “Oh, we took out some malware and now the system is fine.”

I would feel a whole lot better with a clear and concise explanation of using System Recovery and Safe Mode – I know they exist but they are documented only for IT professionals. When a “normal” user crashes he may as well invoke a voodoo chant to get his system back.

It is wholly inexcusable for Vista to reboot and destroy your desktop on the one hand, requiring System Recovery, and provide no clearly understandable information on how to protect your system or bring it back from a data dump.

"Windows 7" promises a whole host of new features, including a touch screen "coffee table" interface -- I have a better idea, how about an understandable, reliable system that just works consistently?

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