There’s one fortunate thing about Microsoft Vista, early adopters are vocal.

For the past 48 hours, I’ve been immersed in Vista — knee-deep in all its intricacies and early adoption menaces. I’ll try to recount the litany of things I’ve tripped over in the program, if only to serve as a warning to IT managers to not rush to dispatch Vista-laden PCs to your remote workers.

Day One: I was thrilled. I had gotten a new HP Pavilion dv2000 with all the bells and whistles . . . and Vista! As I headed to the checkout, one of the salespeople came up to me and in a hushed tone said, “Don’t worry if the screen stays black for a while when you first turn it on. It’s just Vista starting up.” I don’t remember anyone taking me aside to tell me anything about XP when I bought a computer with that OS onboard. It was ominous.

I came home and started it up. Luckily, he told me about the black screen or I would have taken it straight back thinking something was wrong. Eventually Vista booted and I began exploring. The first thing I wanted to do was hook it onto my wireless network at home so I could go online. Silly Vista user.

After multiple attempts to get my four-year-old wireless Linksys router — which had handled my XP upgrade just fine — to accept the new laptop, I gave up. I had tried every configuration I could think of: WEP on, WEP off; MAC address filtering on, MAC address filtering off, and so on.

So I broke down and called Linksys for help. A nice man came on, took my information and then left me hanging for about 15 minutes. Then he transferred me to his supervisor, another 10 minutes or so of waiting. Finally, she came on, extracted more information from me and it started to sound like we were getting somewhere. Then she says, “Ma’am, since your product is well out of warranty, to go on any further will cost you a fee of US$29.95. However, I cannot guarantee that we’ll be able to solve your problem.”

I did a quick calculation in my head that a new router that definitely would work would cost $60 — only double the cost of the information that might or might not help me solve the problem. I thanked her for her time and hung up.

That night, the only program that successfully loaded out of the full roster of apps I use everyday was Office XP. I went to bed proud that at least that was on my shiny new computer.

Day Two: I wake up and remember the night before, like a bad hangover. I still haven’t solved my wireless problem. I head to OfficeMax to grab a new router and on the way dial my former network manager. He loves a good challenge. Although he sounded sure he’d be able to solve the problem of the incompatible router, I ran into the store and grabbed a newer 802.11g router — just in case. I got home and dialed him back up. He had me try some more configurations. Again nothing worked. I told him I’d give him the old router the next time I saw him so he could troubleshoot it for other people. At that point, I was weighing my lack of productivity against the cost of the router. The need for productivity won out.

As we were ending our conversation, he told me that QuickBooks Premier, another main application I use, does not support Vista other than version 2007. To load anything else might crash the machine, he told me as I held the CD for the app in my hand. Whew!

Sure enough, right on Intuit’s site, it says that the company will not make older versions such as my 2005 compatible with Vista. My almost $400 product was down the drain. I got on the virtual horn with Intuit — via online chat — and asked if they were doing anything to assuage the anger over this. They offered me $50 off if I bought 2007 right then and there. I thanked virtual “Rita” for her time and clicked the close button on our chat box. Strike Two.

I had to run back to Best Buy for another non-Vista related issue. However, while I was there, I tried to get some tips out of the Geek Squad. The techie looked at me, pet the computer and said in his most earnest tone, “You will grow to love Vista over time.” He said it in the same way a shelter encourages a family to give a puppy who’s been acting out one more try. He was probably right, but timing is everything. I let out a big guffaw and walked off.

I came back to my list of applications I aimed to load onto the computer that day and picked Microsoft Publisher 2003. Figuring I had luck with Office, I thought my chances might be good. Silly Vista user. The setup stalled out but offered no information as to why. I checked the Microsoft message boards and found nothing of help. After several more tries, I gave up and did something simple — configured my e-mail. SUCCESS!

Again, I ended my day with Vista on a high note, not wanting to go to bed angry.

Day Three: Up early and before I even showered, I booted up the shiny, new laptop. Somewhere during my sleep it came to me that a Service Pack might be in order for Publisher 2003. So I downloaded Service Pack 3 for XP and voila! Publisher 2003 magically installed correctly.

I decided to go ahead and upgrade to QuickBooks Premier 2007, albeit reluctantly. So I bought the software online and would pick it up later at the Best Buy near my house. Best Buy was offering it at a better price than virtual “Rita” and even was willing to throw in a $50 gift card which I knew would be useful as I stumbled onto more incompatible software.

In the meantime, I had to print out my purchase confirmation. Silly Vista user!

My HP LaserJet 1012 was not immediately Vista compatible. You don’t say! I searched frantically through the message boards and HP’s site to find an answer. Guess what it said: 1012 is not supported. However, after downloading every other driver and trying my CD again, somehow, some way the 1012 appeared on the Printer list. I swear I don’t know what I did to make it happen. I think it was the 1015 driver set, but I’m not completely sure.

To save myself future heartache, I took out my applications list, which was only half done, and started rooting around the message boards for more tips and warnings. The online Vista crowd is an angry and frustrated lot, to say the least.

My feeling is for every frustrated Vista user, there’s an equally frustrated IT manager. I suggest that all IT managers planning on upgrading their minions to Vista take an inventory of what each remote worker has in terms of software and hardware. That way you’ll know what workarounds you’ll need, what equipment prices you’re going to incur and what software licenses you’ll need to upgrade.

But maybe, just maybe when your brood is riding the Vista high, you’ll smile thinking that the Best Buy guy was right after all, You did grow to love it.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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