An anonymous reader writes: Author: David A. Karp
Format: Paperback, 641 pages
Publisher: O'Reilly Media, Inc. (January 4, 2008)
Review by James Pyles
December 27, 2007
To read all the buzz on the Internet, there are a lot of people who are annoyed with Windows Vista just now. My son is a Marine serving in Iraq and the last day he was home, we bought him a laptop with Windows Vista installed so he could have a means of communication once he was deployed. Since then, he's been calling periodically asking what he can do to "fix" it. His latest outcry was to ask for a copy of Windows XP so he could "repair" his problems. I thought about that this morning as I picked up my review copy of Karp's book and wondered if the answer to these sorts of problems, (and my son isn't the only one complaining) could be found between the covers of Windows Vista Annoyances. Let's find out.
The back cover's summary seems to indicate that the book is designed more to "enhance" the Vista experience than to actually fix any of its (perceived) flaws. Still, I proceeded hopefully. I think the problem might be Redmond's attempt at making an operating system that "solves" all of the usability problems the average end user has complained about over the years. I suspect that the effort has gone horribly wrong, but then I use Ubuntu as my home desktop and Windows XP Pro at work and I'm used to and like both of them.
The "annoying" side of Vista (at least from the writer's and probably Microsoft's point of view) might be just that too much about the interface has changed and people can't leverage their Windows XP (or horrors, Windows 98) skill sets to get around the UI and do what they want to do. Also, with millions of lines of code, despite Redmond's best efforts, I don't doubt that bugs exist in the first edition and have continued to persist after the first service pack (see Chapter 6, the "Green Ribbon of Death"...just when you thought that blue screens were bad enough).
The entire purpose of this book isn't to declare Windows Vista a ghastly failure, but to offer solutions to the many difficulties that users seem to experience when trying to use Vista. I tried to shake the sense of impending doom and take at least a neutral if not optimistic stance about this review and Vista, but the first sentence of the first chapter seemed to seal my fate: "Windows Vista is like a papaya: sleek on the outside, but a big mess on the inside." Oh well, there goes the neighborhood.
The author goes on to say (in so many words) that the book exists because Vista is the current operating system being offered by the world's largest software company and like it or not, we'll all (or almost all) end up using it (once Microsoft pulls support for XP as it has for previous versions of Windows). Karp isn't a total naysayer, though and does outline the pluses of Vista as well as the minuses.
Chapter 1 goes into how to perform a clean install of Vista as well as creating a dual-boot system. That's probably helpful for some of us but the vast majority of people who find Vista annoying are people who either bought their PCs with Vista "pre-installed" or people using Vista in a work environment (for or against their will). Time to move on to actually using the thing.
True to the book's subtitle "Tips, Secrets, and Solutions", this book is a collection of tasks designed to try and correct the pain-in-the-neck operations of an out-of-the-box Vista. I tried to temper my view of Vista as I was reading by making sure that O'Reilly actually has an "annoyances" series of books and that the title wasn't unique to Windows Vista. I did indeed find a series of "annoyances" published by O'Reilly including books addressing Windows XP, Access, PowerPoint, Excel, Word, and so on. I began to feel like another victim of the "negative hype" focused on Vista. On the other hand, I remember that all the "negative buzz" about Windows XP died down after the first service pack was released. That hasn't happened with Vista.
The good news is that David Karp does list a wide variety of Vista annoyances and their solutions and workarounds so that you, as the owner or user of Windows Vista, can tweak your system and try to get it to go more effectively. While the book is reasonably technical, I can only hope that a companion book called "Windows Vista Annoyances for Geeks" will soon be available for IT administrators and technicians that will need to support these systems in the work environment where end users won't be willing or able to touch the system configurations (there is such a book for Windows XP).
The bad news is that there just seems to be so many "annoyances" associated with Vista, that those people who have elected to use it and the many more who will eventually be compelled to use it will have their work cut out for them to make Windows Vista more usable. How ironic that the Microsoft operating system that was designed to make computing easier and more usable has had the opposite effect. If Windows Vista is in your present or future, I'd suggest getting Karp's book along with David Pogue's Windows Vista: The Missing Manual to augment your Vista experience and hopefully develop it into something positive. I think I'll mail my son these books and if need be, a copy of Windows XP should Karp and Pogue fail to solve my son's "annoyances".