Yesterday, I spent several hours helping my friend Tucker set up his new computer and get connected to the Internet. That gave me my first chance to have a hands-on experience with Vista, albeit with Vista Basic. I have, of course, seen some online video demos of it, but I hadn’t been able to sit in front of a computer on which it was loaded before then. Since I’ll be going back to Tucker’s some time at the first of next week to help him get oriented to being online, I look forward to being able to explore it in more depth then.
My first impression is that it is a bit different, but not terribly so. Despite my familiarity with doing things in Windows, I found I had to search for where things are now and couldn’t figure out how to turn some things on or off. Ordinarily I’d know how to do that kind of thing easily in XP, but I couldn’t find the magic words to make it happen in Vista. So while my time at his computer will be primarily intended to instruct him, it will also be a learning experience for me. I found it was a bit like the experience I had when I was doing tech support for BellSouth’s FastAccess Internet Service from 2001 until 2004 and hadn’t yet installed XP on my home computer. Calls from customers who had XP were more difficult for me since I couldn’t visualize what they were seeing as well as I could for older Windows OSes with which I was more familiar.
In typical Microsoft fashion and (giving them the benefit of the doubt) I’m sure with the intent to be helpful, some of the things in Vista feel a bit intrusive. For instance, there is a panel that opens each time you arrive at the desktop that provides links to a number of explanatory things, such as what’s new in Vista, etc., that I, as an avid reader of documentation might not mind, but for someone like Tucker, who is just wanting to get familiar with doing things on the computer, that panel seems analogous to an insistent demand that you read the entire operations manual for your car before you ever take it out for a test drive. When I go back, I’ll see if I can find a way to turn off that panel’s automatic loading while still maintaining the ability to call it up when you are in the mood to “study.”
Another intrusion is the User Account Control that is designed to help with security. I suspect that it will prove to be a bit like the old DOS confirmation dialog that used to come up when you entered a command in DOS that asked “Are you sure? Yes/No.” And I’m afraid that like that request for confirmation, users may tire of being asked and develop the habit of just clicking “Allow” when prompted by the UAC, just as many of us automatically clicked yes, sometimes to our detriment, in response to the “Are you sure?” question in DOS.
One positive reaction I had to Vista was that when I chose to download something, Windows intelligently designated it for storage under Tucker (the user’s name) –> Downloads. I’ve always made it a practice to create a downloads folder into which I download everything so that for me there was never a question where that newly-downloaded file lived. Vista seems to have adopted that practice too.
As with any new paradigm, the biggest obstacle to being comfortable with it is one’s own preconceived ideas about how things “should be” based on old learning. The more one immerses himself in any new world, the more quickly he’ll be able to adapt to it. Since my current computer doesn’t have the horsepower to run the new OS, I’m not faced with the decision, but even if my computer were up to snuff, I’m not sure I’d be too eager to move to Vista just yet. I’ll get used to it, I suppose, when I must because I buy a new computer on which it is loaded or when situations such as I’m involved in with Tucker dictate that I understand it well enough to explain it to him. As they say, the best way to learn something is to have to teach it to someone else.