There Oughta Be a Law Against Monopolies

I spent part of the day today trying to figure out whether I want to "upgrade" from Vista to Windows 7.  I run Vista on a Toshiba laptop and I've had a lot of problems with Vista: it's really a complete piece of garbage. 

Vista simply doesn't do some of the simplest things well.  For example, I can switch from one user to another, but not switch back.  And shutting it down is a dice roll: sometimes it goes smoothly, sometimes it doesn't go at all.  I've gotten used to just hitting and holding the power button, though it gives me the willies every time I do it, because the disk activity light invariably is flashing at that moment.

And here's my story for today: I got so annoyed at the "Low Disk Space Warning" today that I finally decided to go to the trouble to turn it off.  A quick Internet search showed how to do it via a not-too-complicated registry edit.  Fine.  The prescribed registry key was under HKEY_CURRENT_USER.  However, Vista wouldn't let me add registry keys under my normal account.  So, I switched to the Administrator account and applied the procedure.  But that didn't help me in my non-Administrator account, because modifying HKEY_CURRENT_USER under the Administratior account only helped the current user of the Administrator account.  <head slap>  The information I saw on the Internet didn't mention that little detail - you heard it here first.  So I tried a similar procedure under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, and that worked.  Oh, and then it was time to reboot, since I can't switch back to my user account.

Anyway, I've been reading good things about Windows 7: it sounds pretty much like what Vista should have been.  OK, so why isn't it "Vista Service Pack 3" rather than "Windows 7"?  The reason is obvious: the street price for the Windows 7 upgrade aka Vista Service Pack 3 is about $110.

Normally, paying $110 for a system software upgrade would be within my level of pain.  But I don't really want an upgrade, I just want Vista to work right.  If it did exactly what it is supposed to do today - little things like switching users and shutting down - I'd be reasonably happy with it.  (I can live with the fact that they moved a lot of things around in the user interface for no good reason...)  And I really don't care about whatever new "features" Windows 7 has.  Just fix Vista.

Normally, when I'm unhappy with a product or a vendor, I vote with my dollars by taking my business elsewhere.  For example, I've had some bad experiences with Sony products, so I won't be buying Sony again.  Luckily, Microsoft is a monopolist.  That means we get to have poor quality foisted on us, then we get to reward them for it.  They haven't made any money off my copy of XP since I first bought it because it's worked OK and the service packs were all free.

Some of you will ask, "Why not just run Linux?"  Long story short: I've tried it several times and each time I find that the cost of Linux administration is far greater than the purchase price of Windows.  For me, at least.  In fact, I've already got Linux running as a dual-boot on the very Vista laptop in question.  But it won't connect to my wireless home network.  And OpenOffice still has a lot of catching up to do.  Linux simply doesn't meet my needs.  Or, I could go to Mac, but that costs even more than Windows.

So Microsoft has me right where they want me.  Was Vista a conspiracy or incompetance?   According to the old saw, it must be the latter.  And I believe it.  But should I reward them either for conspiracy or incompetance?  I don't think so, Tim.

Today, I considered various ways to get out of Vista purgatory.  The most gratifying option would be to buy a used XP machine on eBay: then, Microsoft wouldn't get a dime.  But looking at this purely objectively, I'm thinking that the Windows 7 / Vista Service Pack 3 is the thing that costs me the least overall, considering the value of my time.  And it will be useful for testing of Iowegian products on Windows 7.   So even though I hate to reward Microsoft for bad quality, I've pretty-much decided to fork over the $110 for a Vista Service Pack 3. 

Since the US Department of Justice wasn't able to break the Microsoft monopoly, we can only hope that the half-baked schemes of Sun and Google will eventually pay off.  Maybe the next laptop that I buy, a couple of years from now, will be a Linux netbook that runs OpenOffice on the Google cloud.  In fact, I looked at some cheap netbooks today...