For example, Vista is supposed to be great at trapping errors and problems and reporting them to Microsoft so they can identify and fix obscure problems. But a recent driver conflict did not get trapped, though it froze my machine repeatedly. (I believe my HP printer and ATI graphics card drivers just didn't get along; more on that below.) And now Windows Explorer and Word are crashing very frequently and not reporting the news to the mothership. And the Event Viewer is still as hard to read as always.
And the bad news doesn't end there.
Hasta la Vista
Outlook lost my carefully arranged shortcuts more than once. For awhile, I had to rebuild them every day. Now, for some reason, they seem to have been successfully saved.
Internet Explorer can't keep track of my tabs. How hard is to to always reopen my pages, instead of prompting each time I quit the browser?
The system also refuses to remember that my second monitor is on the left. Every time I reboot or reconnect the monitor, I have to remind it. Even more vexing, the laptop often won't wake from sleep or hibernation.
I can't backup files to a network hard drive. I can write small, individual files to it, but for some reason really big files (such as my Xbox 360 hard drive image) and scheduled backups won't copy. And it's NTFS, so it should work.
And for some reason Outlook wants to save all of my personal POP mail to my business Exchange server account unless I create a complex series of filters; the opposite should be true (just deliver to my local personal folders unless the mail comes from Exchange!) And sometimes messages sent via my personal POP mail accounts are archived in the Exchange server's Saved Items folder, which isn't really appropriate. And for some reason, my Slashdot summary mails are inexplicably cut short.
It's not all bad
Enough of the annoyances. Let's talk about what's great.
OneNote - This Office Pro bonus application is like Notepad on steroids. Not only can you jot down notes and save pictures, it can recognize text in pictures and save and scan audio recordings. It's been great to record meetings while typing my notes, just in case I need to refer back to what was actually said. OneNote really helps me bring order to chaos when managing my various consulting projects. I just don't understand why it can't transcribe audio, if it can search it for word matches.
Outlook - Despite my gripes, Outlook does a great job of managing my nine e-mail accounts, including Hotmail and Gmail. It's not perfect by any stretch, but so far it's the best software I've found for the job.
Free Software! - I managed to get Kapersky Anti-Virus and QuickBooks Simple Start 2007 essentially for free by watching the newspaper ads for rebate offers. Fry's offered the anti-virus software (which seems to be the best choice today) and Staples had the business software deal. You end up paying only the sales tax after the mail-in rebate. Nice.
Games! - Games are smooth so far. I've enjoyed demos of the high-def exclusives from MSN Games. The neat thing is that most of them work with an Xbox 360 controller, but it's unnecessary except for Geometry Wars and maybe Luxor 2. So far I don't see any "must buys."
I tried the Half-Life 2 demo, and it ran smoothly. Very smoothly. I suspect I'll have to break down and buy this. For some reason, my Steam account vanished - poof! - around the time of the driver crashes. It wasn't hijacked, there just was no longer any record of it. Fortunately, I was able to recreate it with the same name, and my downloads were all still intact. Whew!
All in all, the laptop is a bit bigger and heavier than is wholly practical. And the case is slick to the touch - I had expected it to be a bit more ruggedized, something you could easily haul around without risking it might slip from your hands. But it's worth the extra bulk and weight when I get my work done in record time while watching Tivo via Slingbox and then have time left to play some high-end games that run smooth as silk.
If I can just work out this latest crashing binge….
By the way: If you're interested in my battle between ATI and HP, as best I can tell the new Vista drivers for my HP C4150 printer don't get along with ATI Radeon drivers.
Shortly after installing the HP drivers, my laptop screen started showing static and then freezing up. This usually occurred upon waking from sleep. One time it looked like my screen was melting away as it slowly turned all white. I quickly uninstalled the beta DeskScenes software for Vista Ultimate (a beta extra that displays animated video backgrounds - cool as hell, but not worth the risk that they might destabilize things). I also upgraded my ATI drivers, but I'm wary of reinstalling the HP software. I will wait a few months; in the meantime I can print via shared connection on my XP machine and simply do without the scanner.
I'm still troubleshooting the frequent Windows Explorer and Word crashes. I tried rolling back the system to a restore point from well before the problems started, and it didn't fix anything. I'm concerned that Microsoft isn't aware of this problem since the system doesn't submit any data to the solution center when these crashes happen - sometimes every few minutes. (Yeah, I know the dialog box says it's "checking for a solution," but there's no record of an actual error submission to Microsoft.) These crashes happen when I open my Documents folder (which contains thousands of files) or edit a Word document's properties tab or even just open certain Word documents.
If I don't do any of these things, I can run for days and days without any problems. In other words, Vista is great when it's not crashing. Let's hope these stability problems get ironed out sooner than later.