[Tutor] OT: need computer advice from wise Tutors

Marc Tompkins marc.tompkins at gmail.com
Sun Jun 27 09:21:57 CEST 2010

On Sat, Jun 26, 2010 at 4:46 PM, Steven D'Aprano <steve at pearwood.info>wrote:

> Apart from:
 The OP was asking about upgrading from Vista to 7, so let me answer your
objections here...

 having no default email client (what sort of two-bit operating system
> doesn't have an email client in 2010?);
Jesus, you _miss_ Outlook Express?  Seriously:  the new default is webmail.
Like it, don't like it, but it's really not as if you can't get your mail.

> the automatic upgrades that run silently in the background with no easy
> way to turn them on or off

Just like XP and Vista, you're asked during installation whether you want to
allow or disallow automatic updates.  If you breeze past that question, then
- just like in XP and Vista - you can right-click on the little icon that
appears in your system tray (oops, I mean "notification area.")  True,
Windows 7 is proactive about hiding stuff in the tray... but it does still
appear there.

A more legitimate gripe is that, after downloading those updates, Windows
insists on applying them when you shut down the computer.  If you're in a
hurry, that can be a PITA.

> (always fun when your Internet download cap
> is completely used up TWO DAYS into the month -- especially when you
> don't know because you can't read the email from your ISP due to not
> having an email client,

To paraphrase, "what sort of two-bit ISP doesn't have a webmail site in

the gratuitous UI changes (am I missing something, or does Internet
> Explorer no longer have a menubar?);
That's IE, not Windows.  Windows 7 comes with IE 8; Vista came with IE 7; XP
came with IE 6.  I don't care for the look myself, but then I never use IE
if I can avoid it (Firefox for mail and searching, 'cause I love me some
plugins; Chrome for everything else, 'cause it's fast as hell.  IE when I'm
on a client machine and there's nothing better.)  IE 8 is being rolled out
to all versions of Windows in any case, so that's not a reason not to
upgrade - unless you were planning to turn off Windows Update in Vista,
which is a bad idea for security reasons...

the use of third-party applications like Adobe Acrobat Reader which have
> become overloaded with *stupid* security vulnerabilities *by design*
> (years after Microsoft themselves got burnt, time and time again, by
> allowing the web-browser and mail client to execute random code found
> on the internet, somebody at Adobe apparently thought it would be a
> good idea for the PDF reader to do the same thing *facepalms*); and
Microsoft doesn't provide a PDF reader of its own - I'm not sure, but I
suspect that's for legal reasons - so whatever PDF reader you use, it HAS to
be third-party.  Why Adobe?  Probably because it's called "_Adobe_ Acrobat?"

Now, I hate Adobe products for the same reasons you mentioned, so I use and
recommend the free Foxit Reader (www.foxitsoftware.com).  But that was the
same under XP and Vista.

> consequently the proliferation of adware and spyware (even
> the "legitimate" anti-malware companies fill your browser with ad-laden
> toolbars and try terrifying the user with "your computer is
> unprotected" warnings -- no wonder the average user can't tell the
> difference between legitimate anti-malware and trojan horses).

 Again, not new in 7 - and, as a matter of fact, possibly somewhat better
than in Vista.

> On the other hand, it is quite pretty.
Screw pretty.  Pretty don't pay the rent.  First thing I do on any machine I
get my hands on is turn off the $%^&* Aero Glass - why would I take that
kind of performance hit for the dubious pleasure of a translucent titlebar?
But guess what?  MS introduced that piece of idiotism in - wait for it -

My reasons FOR upgrading:

- Better UAC.  UAC is never going to feel natural to users (like me - I
freely admit it) who came up from DOS, and are stuck in a single-user
mindset.  Users raised on *nixes, on the other hand, find UAC to be a
laughable baby step on the way to a real least-privilege security model.
That said, 7 does a much more natural job (than Vista) of asking for
elevation only when needed, and staying out of the way most of the rest of
the time.

- Faster sleep/hibernation and wakeup.  I have no idea what they did under
the covers, but on my laptop under Vista 64-bit, it took a minute or so to
hibernate, and 30 seconds or so to wake up.  7 takes 30 seconds or so to
hibernate, and 15 seconds to wake up.  Not astronomical, but coupled with
the next point, it's HUGE.

- Better wireless networking.  Coming out of sleep or hibernation, it used
to take up to a minute and a half to connect to a known wireless network (in
other words, a network I'd previously connected to and saved settings for.)
Now, I'm generally connected even before I can see the desktop - 3 to 5
seconds, maybe.  I carry my laptop everywhere, and connect to wireless
networks at my clients (and Starbucks!) all day long, so this is a MAJOR
deal for me.

- Seriously improved multi-monitor support.  I've loved using dual monitors
since XP, but it's always been a pain.  Windows would arbitrarily decide
that the external monitor was primary, or refuse to connect, or insist on
duplicating the desktop on both monitors even though I told it to extend...
In 7, it just works.  I plug into external monitors at home and in several
clients' offices, and 7 remembers the settings for each location (at home
the second monitor is 1024x768, sitting to the left and an inch lower; at
CCMG it's 1400xsomething, to the right and up a couple of inches, etc.)  If
I plug in the external monitor before I wake up my computer, I don't even
have to press any keys to make it work.  (If I forget, it's Fn-F4 on my
machine; might be something else on a different keyboard.)  (Mac people, I'm
sure you'll say that Apple has been getting this right for years.  All I
know is, Microsoft didn't until now.)

There are some downsides: the afore-mentioned insistence on applying updates
at shutdown (one reason why I don't shut down very often); legacy HP drivers
have been removed from the distribution disk (this one's a biggie for me,
'cause I do lots of installs, and I like to use the LaserJet 4 or 5 drivers
for Brother and Xerox printers); some other things that will no doubt come
to mind.

Would I pay to upgrade an older machine from Vista to 7?  No; I'd just wait
till it was time to replace it, and see what comes with the new one.  Would
I upgrade a relatively new machine if I had a free upgrade disk?  In a
red-hot minute.  (But, as previously stated, I wouldn't do an in-place

By the way - I love me some Ubuntu, and I dual-boot to it.  Unfortunately,
however, for me Linux is like pretty: it don't pay the rent.  My clients use
Windows, and (most of them) expensive vertical software that runs on
Windows, and MS Office.  So I use Windows most of the time.  And I can
honestly say that, if ya gotta use Windows, 7 (64-bit!) is your best bet.

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