Living with Vista – part 2: more niggles

I promise I’ll write up some of the good things about Vista at some point, but I have to get the bad stuff out of the way first. These are going to seem a bit nit-picky, but I think they’re pretty symptomatic of what the regular user’s going to experience once they get their mits on Vista at the end of the month. Don’t forget that Vista Ultimate will set you back £250 – for that kind of money I expect it to work.

Firstly, I have a Microsoft keyboard with an integrated fingerprint reader. Not for any sense of security (we all know how rubbish they are), but for convenience – it makes logging on and signing into web sites and email a lot easier. I was pretty pleased to see that Microsoft have a proper release of the "DigitalPersona" software available for download for Vista. Logging on (initially) worked just fine with the reader, however if I locked the screen and then tried to unlock it again by fingerprint, I’d just get an error "invalid username or password" (regular password worked fine). Great.

I could *just* about deal with this, however I started to find that when I was using IE7, it would crash on exit with an error about ntdll.dll and then decide to restart itself. I was trying to close IE in the first place, so I’d quit it and it would crash again, and again, and again… I found some posts where other people had had similar problems, and lo, the problem was caused by MS’s DigitalPersona software. Off to the junk it went and the problems went away.

This is pretty amazing – a Microsoft produced product, running on their flagship OS with one of their premium bits of hardware. And it doesn’t work. What does this say about their quality control and testing?

Next, yet another Microsoft mess. I have a copy of Vista Ultimate (albeit from MSDN, but still not cheap) – I like Media Centre. I love the design, the fancy graphics, the fact it can play and record TV… Perfect! I have a Hauppauge Nova-T USB2 which is touted to have drivers in the box for Vista. I plugged it in, Vista found the drivers and away I went.

I started Media Centre and started scanning for TV channels and it found all the regular ones I’d expect, except I couldn’t watch any of them. Well, apart from some shitty shopping channels which might as well be nothing. I couldn’t understand – with digital TV, if it finds the name of the channel during the scan you can be pretty sure it’ll be able to view it. I ran up TV on an XP box and it worked fine, so I doubted it was the aerial.

It transpires that the Microsoft supplied drivers tune themselves to the wrong frequency – it’s only off by 1mHz, but it’s enough to make it unusable. The beta drivers from Hauppauge themselves cause Vista to bluescreen too… You can’t blame Microsoft for Hauppauge’s rubbish betas, but you can blame them for shipping wonky drivers in the first place.

If I’m an average user, I’m going to expect things to "just work". When I plug something in and it appears to work but then later transpires not to, I’m going to be pretty pissed. I’m not going to want to be trawling dodgy hardware manufacturer’s forums in the vain hope of finding some broken beta driver from a slow FTP site that turns out to make my lovely new Vista PC more unstable than Windows ME!

Don’t even get me started on the shocking state of Vista technical documentation. Even if it does exist, it’s poorly written, wrong or just plain contradictory. Want to phone them up and get help? Well, you can’t because Vista "isn’t released yet", not even if you throw money at them (which currently stands at £200 per incident).

Well, I suppose it’s no worse than open source ;)

Next time – some good things to say!