Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

IT is a strange field in which many of its experts have surprisingly little formal training or academic experience. Most do not have a degree in the subject (unlike yours truly). However, with the right sort of mind, a specialism in IT is something that can be largely self-taught through tinkering, research, and above all, experience.

What this unfortunately means is that there are a lot of people who seem to know a lot about the subject, but may in fact have key gaps in their knowledge. The presence of these gaps is difficult for a layman to discern, which can prove fatal when soliciting advice or assistance from someone who professes to be able to solve all your IT problems.

For the last 2 years, however, I have had a foolproof method of determining whether someone really knows what they are talking about when it comes to IT support. I ask them what they think of Vista.

If they say they hate it, then it is entirely likely that they have barely used it (if at all), and are simply repeating the same trite whinges that much of the IT press has been trotting out since every idiot software reviewer at a two-bit IT magazine tried to install it on hardware they’d bought 2 years ago without enough RAM, and discovered, unsurprisingly, that a state-of-the-art operating system ran slowly on it. In short, such a person is talking out of their backside. Manufacturers were just as bad; with more than 5 years between the releases of XP and Vista, they’d become complacent, routinely specifying machines with the latest processors (as demanded by marketing hype), but insufficient RAM, knowing full well that XP wouldn’t struggle. Vista, however, expected a truly modern specification. The resulting poor performance should have been unsurprising to anyone with half a brain.

Even putting aside performance, I’m tired of hearing people say Vista is garbage. We ran it on more than half our computers at my last school. Specifically, the newer ones. Guess what? It not only ran fine, but had serious tangible benefits for both end-users and the support team. Sure, there were niggles (and still are), and some people do encounter serious problems, but generally, if your Vista experience has been nothing but bad, you are doing something wrong.

Very shortly, the successor to Vista will be released to the public: Windows 7. There is no doubt whatsoever that it is a great improvement. However, it is not a revolutionary product. Vista was the revolution; Windows 7 is an evolution. Which leads me to my final point. While the public has to wait until October 22nd, many businesses and schools were given access to Windows 7 in mid-August. Ever since, I’ve been hearing scores of Vista-haters either bleat about ‘new’ technical challenges that they never considered before, or heap praise on ‘new’ features in Windows 7 that they wished they had years ago.

I think you know where this is going. Most of the things they are suddenly jumping around about were in Vista; they just never bothered to use it long enough to discover them. My message to these people: get your heads out of the sand. I’ve been administering a wide-scale production deployment of Vista for nearly two years, which puts me nearly two years ahead of you on Windows 7 experience. Have fun catching up.

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About The Angry Technician

The Angry Technician is an experienced IT professional in the UK education sector. Normally found in various states of annoyance on his blog. All views are those of his imaginary pet dog, Howard.

11 responses to “Separating the Wheat from the Chaff”

  1. Craig says :

    Thank you for this perfect example of the nonsense I come across in my job as well. Staff and pupils in my school fear Vista like anything, yet can never give me a clear reason why.

    As you pointed out, Vista does have some niggles, but by goodness it is far better than XP. If I had any choice, I would roll out Vista at my school.

    Concerning what you say about IT specialists hating Vista, I’ve come across it and it concerns me. It makes me question whether I even want to listen further to what they have to say…

  2. Kristof Mattei says :

    Amen to that brother. I couldn’t say it in a better way.

  3. William says :

    In my experience, whilst not ‘horrible’, Vista could be described as ‘unnecessary’ and ‘unfinished’.

    Unnecessary: As a school IT technician my observation of the use of PCs in the classroom is that teachers and pupils want Windows to stay out of the way as much as possible. They treat Windows as a glorified application launcher and don’t want to understand advanced features which may to useful to them.
    In this function Windows XP outperforms Vista, as it will run everything (including ancient software and hardware) with less overhead (whilst up-to-date machines run Vista quickly, they’ll always run XP faster).
    In addition many of the user visible changes in Vista do nothing more than confuse. For example the Control Panels. Renamed for no reason (what was wrong with Add/Remove Programs?) with many settings buried (eg changing the function of the power button on the start menu (which I’ve seen default to hibernate and sleep but never power off), and configuring IP addresses).

    Unfinished: Best illustrated with an example. The Backup and Restore Center in Vista is great for a home user to backup their documents, pictures and music. But to replace NTBackup with a backup system that does not allow file/folder selections? This is corrected in Windows 7 where you can select specific folders be included in a backup.

    Whilst I agree that Windows 7 is not revolutionary, I would contend that is the first release of the technology in Vista to make the pain of leaving XP worthwhile.

  4. tmcd35 says :

    I’m going to admit here and now to being one of those who denouced Vista without hardly using it.

    But then again, I did try Vista before forming an opinon and can atleast point to the “features” that do my nut it. Most notably the UAC – Why do I have to say yes three times to change an control panel settings? Yes I am sure and yes I do have administrative rights! The other feature being the off switch that puts the computer into stand-by (which the computer then refuses to come out of without fully powering off). Also, I’m a Mac lover so am contractually oblidged to hate Vista ;)

    All that said I am now using Vista 64 (because 7 has driver issues) and with UAC turned off it ain’t half bad! I don’t like the new address bar, but hey Win7 is the same so I’ll have to live with it.

    What makes 7 great (and why Vista haters rave about it) is the watered down UAC (it knows your an administrator without having to be turned off completely) and the new taskbar. Seriously that taskbar (OS X dock?) makes 7 and is pretty much the defining feature.

  5. Giles says :

    My problem with Vista – after trying very hard to like it – was that it refused to work with a few key essential programs. The UAC bleated at me every five minutes and if disabled caused other problems. I was wasting more time than I found it was worth so after two weeks I went back to XP and it was a relief!

    • AngryTechnician says :

      In my book that’s not a reason to dislike Vista, it’s a reason to demand the software developers do their job properly. If a piece of software is causing multiple UAC prompts, then it’s badly designed or incorrectly implemented. Fact.

      • Giles says :

        True- but as my productivity isn’t suffering as a result of using XP I’m sticking with it until software developers and OS developers start being friendly again! :)

        Fingers crossed that 7 is the perfect solution…

  6. Sanguinor says :

    Loved Vista to bits, it had it’s share of problems (when doesn’t a microsoft product?) but overall it was excellent and did me proud.

    Windows 7 is even better.

    I can admit to never using either in a network managed enviroment but I can’t wait to because I know that it’ll be easy to work with.

  7. Russ T says :

    I stumbled across this post as I had added your blog to my favourites a few years ago and hadn’t visited for a while.

    I am one of the aforementioned people who has no degree etc but pride myself on my IT skills, and my ability to resolve practically any problem thrown my way.

    I have to respectfully disagree that whether someone likes Vista or not is a method of determining whether they know their stuff.

    In my experience, Vista was pretty bad – UAC was badly implemented, compatibility was poor, but mostly, that file copying bug which is well documented drove me to distraction. A lot of home users I know had issues too, that just don’t occur on Windows 7.

    I agree Windows 7 was a revolution; but it’s definitely how Vista should have been from the off.

    A better judge of skills is how people who have the qualifications actually translate this into real life. I’ve met people with CCNA and MCSE and SOON and SOFORTH – they’re great at the theory, but give them real world problems and they’ve no idea.

    Love your blog for the most part, but occasionally you do get that IT geek streak of “I am right and that’s that” – this is definitely one of them ;)

    • Russ T says :

      Oh and I’ll note my conclusions were drawn from running Vista on my own work PC for several months – and it had 4GB RAM (when RAM was expensive) which I then upped to 8GB (and tried 64bit Vista).

    • RocketGeek says :

      This isn’t a geek streak. That’s because TAT *is* right about Vista. 98% of any issue with Vista was because of companies that knew about changes (and specifically UAC) YEARS ahead of release time AND DIDN’T change the way they wrote code. I couldn’t tell you the number of deprecated methods from 95/98 companies were still using with XP software, even though MS told them not to.

      I dealt with dozens of large companies, many even claimed Vista compatibility and never delivered. One of the largest package shipping companies in the United States even said “Well, we put Vista Compatible on the software because eventually we’ll get there”.

      Why did Windows 7 work better? Because upon release, that meant XP was officially dead. And so were any chances of companies back-dooring old drivers or making the OS think that the Windows for Workgroups 16-bit driver was native to Vista/Win7.

      Can’t wait for Windows 10 to come out, and have this argument in another 10 years.