Windows Vista – give me back my computer

A couple of weeks ago I decided that I would like to try the Windows Vista RC1 release to see whether it is going to be worth my while reformatting my PC again to get it up to date with the latest Windows OS. I currently run Windows Server 2003 and find that it is much nicer, and more stable, than Windows XP and thought that it would be an interesting time to compare the old with the new to see what Microsoft has managed to develop this time.

Microsoft seem to have once more lifted the basic UI from the latest OS X and then applied a paint brush to it is evident. Just go to your My Documents and see how you navigate through it. There are also a new set of icons that are bigger and take up more of your desktop as a result. The Sidebar is another OS X rip off – Apple introduced the widgets idea a couple of years ago and suddenly it has appeared in the latest version of Windows!
The Start Menu has been upgraded and now sports a built in find/run bar at the bottom making it even quicker to load a command prompt or notepad or…. It has however put a button that “looks like” the Shutdown button in the corner but is actually a standby/sleep button instead. In order to shut down your computer you need to click the arrow to the right and then click shut down from there. This is incredibly annoying!

Adding further to this annoyance is that the computer automatically protects your system from anything you try to change. “Windows has detected that you are trying to open the Device Manager. Are you sure?” Of course I’m sure – I just clicked on it!!!! This happens all over the system wherever you see a little shield next to an option Windows will ask you for permission to use it. Well why not just disable it? I did and for about 20 minutes I had a more relaxed time looking around the computer. Then I had to reboot. When Vista started back up again a nice red warning was sitting in my system tray. “You have turned off the features you just disabled. Im going to tell you about it with this annoying balloon popup” There seems to be no “I’ll monitor it myself” option as per Windows XP SP2 Security Centre and this became even more irritating.

The aforementioned reboot had been due to the installation of GriSoft’s free AVG – a really quite useful alternative to McAfee, Norton or Sophos. This however brought about my next grievance. The idea of automatically updating your anti-virus when you log on is a fairly standard practice. Vista is now so paranoid that when AVG is trying to update in the background it stops you from what you were doing to alert you to the fact that “A program is running in the background. Do you want to check what it’s doing?” NO ITS MY ANTI VIRUS LET IT RUN IN PEACE. I can see the use of this however – it can help people to see when malicious programs are running in the background that shouldn’t be there but I didnt feel that i needed it running and I didnt want to face a barrage of “Do you want to do….” as I searched for a way to turn it off.

One of the more positive things that I had noticed about Vista a while ago was that if you setup user accounts for children then you could stop them having access to system functionality (like Device Manager) and as an administrator you would need to enter your password to give them access. I didnt get a chance to test if this was still a feature but I am fairly sure that it is which means that this new OS will become a success with the home users who want to make sure that their precious little children arent looking at the latest erotic website or buying viagra off ths internet.

Vista doesn’t strike me however as an instantaneous replacement for Windows XP in the workplace. XP & Server2003 work well together and I can see that for the larger corporations to shell out on site licenses for Vista to install on all their workstations is a while off because they will need to trial it on a small group first to check for teething problems. After which they will probably keep to the old WinXP because the process of upgrading an entire workplace would be more trouble than it’s worth.

After a week of using it I have decided that IE7 is no improvement on IE except for the addition of tabbed browsing which isn’t as nice as Firefox anyway so no need for that. WMP 11 is nasty and so completly different from WMP10 that it’s hard to understand where half the options have gone to so I wont be using it anyway.

Windows Vista does make a lot of improvements over the WinXP interface but at the end of the day I still like to be in control of my computer and when I give it an instruction it shouldn’t question me about it. Amazon have been listing the different variants on its website for a couple of months now and the Ultimate version which I was testing comes in at £325 which is an insane amount of money to spend for a very small upgrade.

If you really want that Vista look download a visual style that has been made to look the part and use that – it then gives you £325 to spend on something more useful!

M3100 arrives tomorrow

After a while of waiting I should hopefully be able to get my new mobile phone tomorrow.

The desire for a new, preferably a 3G, phone has been going since the end of April when my contract came up for renewal. Back then I was faced with the £130 for the N80, £50 for the V3i and £99 for the M600. [ Original post ] Since then I had been waiting for the appropriate phone to come into stock so that I could order it. On the 7th September my M600 arrived. During the 7 day “cooling off” period I found the M3100 was available and on the 15th September I sent it back.

When Orange received the M600 back the M3100 was out of stock and I was placed upon the waiting list for the new phone. At about 4pm this afternoon I received a call from Orange Customer Services to say that the phone was in stock and would be with me tomorrow. All I had to do was spend £50 to get it sent to me. So, as I write this the new phone is in the post and should be here between 9am and 5pm tomorrow.

When it arrives I will write more about it and compare it to the phone it is replacing. Needless to say I am incredibly happy.

New phone tomorrow but why didn’t someone tell me about the other one…

Each year around the start of May I start to decide what the latest must-have mobile is. I currently have the Motorola V3 RAZR which has served me very well until now. It has been able to take any abuse from me spliing things on it to accidentally throwing it across the floor. It’s only recent floor has been that the battery life has been reduced from around 5 days to 5 minutes. As soon as a call is made it starts to flash “Low Battery” and beep every few minutes to remind me that if I don’t plug it back in soon then it will have no battery but it is happy to waste its precious resources and tell me this. As a result it spends most of its time connected to the mains and when I go out I hope that if anybody tries to call me it will be for about 10 seconds otherwise they will be cut off.

My other activity at this time is to see if Orange can give me more minutes/texts than i previously had and, at the same time, reduce my monthly bill. I tend to find that this helps a huge amount when trying to get the latest phone for free! However this year Orange refused to budge and when I threatened to leave for another network they told me that they had already put me on their best plan last year when I was upgrading from my V600.

So, i’m not getting a better deal on my calls but maybe they will give me a free phone anyway – afterall I have been with them for 7 years now. No. In order to get the same model phone (V3i) just with a slightly upgraded camera I would have to pay them £50 for the privilege. Furthermore if I wanted to have a more powerful phone such as the Nokia N80 this would set me back £120. It was then that I remembered about the phone one of my friends had. The O2 MDA mini was a PDA smartphone running Windows Mobile 5 and would let you send emails as well as make calls, send text messages, take photos etc. The closest phone Orange had to the MDA was the SPV M600 which was the same size, looked the same and had similar features. The only noticable difference was that the M600 didnt have the qwerty keyboard to aid in message writing. The M600 also would have set me back £100 so I decided to leave it until after my exams and then see what was happening when I got back from Durham.

Upon my return to Leatherhead I found that the M600 was no longer in stock. I phoned Orange every couple of days to see if it was available – No luck. They said they would contact me when one came into stock – i missed their call. Checking the Orange website I noticed it had come down in price and was now free – it was still “Out of stock”. By now it was too close to my holiday in Africa. I decided that there was no point ordering one in case it arrived whilst I was away. Instead I waited and on my return the answers were the same – out of stock.
Now, after almost four months of waiting for the phone to be available a chance call to Orange this afternoon has revealed that it is IN STOCK and will be free. I have agreed to a 12 month extension of contract (I’m not about to throw away 500 mins and 120 txts/month) and I will be able to take receipt of the precious at some point tomorrow between 9am & 5:30pm.

I was overjoyed that this was now available to me but upon finding a link to the phone for this blog I have discovered that Orange have now made a shinier precious that is the same size and dimensions as the M600 and features the qwerty keyboard that I had wanted. The Orange SPV M3100 is the same as the MDA mini except they have put different coloured plastic on the front and back. If I hadn’t checked to for the link in the full Pay Monthly section I would not have known about it. I now want this phone!

Thankfully I am allowed a 7 day cooling off period to decide whether or not I like the phone. If, after the week, I am dissatisfied with the phone I have decided to upgrade to I can arrange to have it sent back to Orange and trial a new one! I will try to see whether or not the M3100 is available as an upgrade. If not then I may try the old “Well I could leave and rejoin Orange” tactic to see what happens!

Either way I will eventually get a nice shiny smartphone to replace the battered old V3.