I was just glancing at the Back to School ad by Dell for all its specials for the new college entrant – and the prices were good $800CAD for a dual core notebook with 1GB of memory, and 80GB drive. Desktops dipping as low $400 and all wrapped in the latest version of …. Vista. No Linux, no Windows XP, no Media Center (XP Profesional ++).
Now Dell is supposedly listening to its customers; but I have a suspicion they are walking into the great Vista Venus Flytrap. Vista was released before its time – and I am not saying this because I have to constantly rescue MBA buddies with new machines loaded with Vista. Jim Louderback, editor in chief of PC Magazine ,is saying it too:
“…my beef is with Vista. Maybe it was something in the water? Ive been a big proponent of the new OS over the past few months, even going so far as loading it onto most of my computers and spending hours tweaking and optimizing it. So why, nine months after launch, am I so frustrated? The litany of what doesnt work and what still frustrates me stretches on endlessly.”
Jim has problems in networking, a real concern for college IT operational administrators:
“Networking, too, gives me huge headaches. In XP, a simple right click on the system tray icon put me one click away from IP settings and connections status. Now that same icon brings up a menu of options that ultimately lead to the Network and Sharing center—sharing in the Sirius Cybernetics, “Share and Enjoy” obfuscation mode, not any sort of network sharing Im familiar with. Ive configured every PC on my home network to share drives and printers, yet owing to some undiscovered element, theres no guarantee that any of them will be visible at any given time.”
The situation is actually bad all over the place and leads to a major admission of guilt:
“I could go on and on about the lack of drivers, the bizarre wake-up rituals, the strange and nonreproducible system quirks, and more. But I wont bore you with the details. The upshot is that even after nine months, Vista just aint cutting it. I definitely gave Microsoft too much of a free pass on this operating system: I expected it to get the kinks worked out more quickly. Boy, was I fooled!“
Now just to add a second opinion – here is a slideshow from eWeek on the serious problems confronting Vista and the five recommended “fixes”.
Dell and Microsoft may be inviting a college networking and usability disaster. Just when students want to be maximally productive they will find that the PC they brought to campus to give them a competitive edge is whats holding them back. I have seen a microcosm of this with my MBA and other “buddies”. Students should stick with XP if they can get it (Dell has some XP-based systems on offer- there is no price cut though). And systems with Linux on board (either Ubuntu or Novell SLED) are available with some attractive discounts but you have to look beyond Dell for maximal choice. Also you have to check with your college and university if you go Linux – not for connectivity, that will be no problem, and not for Office or Mail usage -Linuxs free Open Office outputs to a wider range of Office formats than Microsoft Office plus adds PDF and ODF XML file formats. No the real problem will be educational apps like SPSS, Matlab, SAS, and dozens of others which may not be available to run completely successfully in either Windows Vista or Linux either.
It all adds up to Dell and Microsoft, partners in damaging their brand names.