Increasing frustrations of a bitextual (multi-platform) technology writer

Vista_logoApple_logoI have been using computers since the Apple II and the Tandy 100.  I have marveled at the evolution of the operating system and the increasing capabilities that have come with that evolution.  I have delved into the inner workings of each version of Windows since the ’95 days and fallen in love with the windowed interface and multitasking that it has enabled.  I have embraced the innovations that appeared with each new package of Windows and how it made my work easier and faster.  I have been an advocate of the Windows operating system for so many years and am out of sorts as I find myself becoming more frustrated with the current version of Microsoft’s OS with each passing day.  This frustration has grown the last two years and is even more of an issue given my experience running OS X alongside Windows.

I have long been an advocate of Microsoft’s products, from Windows to Office and even Windows Mobile.  I personally know many Microsoft employees who are all great people, totally dedicated to producing the best products they can.  Every time I write something considered negative about Windows or other Microsoft products I am assailed by those who call it bashing and anti-Microsoft but that is not the case.  Some of the technology I consider the best in the world is here strictly because of the innovation that Microsoft has brought to the table.  My favorite things are firmly Microsoft’s and I thank them for producing them.  I still find some of the most gratifying tasks I perform are the sole product of the good work that Microsoft has done.  Every time I pick up a Tablet PC and work away I thank Microsoft for that technology.  When I ink a complicated mind map or outline for an extensive project I marvel at how easy it is and also fulfilling to do even though detractors trivialize this technology that Microsoft has produced.

When I point out my frustrations it’s not bashing, it is a genuine desire to see the things that cause them to get addressed.  At the end of the day I just want to get my work done and also have fun when appropriate.  The frustration sets in when Windows gets in the way and makes it more of a chore than it needs to be.  The situation is worse because that happens every single day in one form or another.  I just want to sit down and do what I need to do and when the tools get in the way and actually impede that then the frustration mounts and mounts.  That is what I find happening on not just a regular basis but a continual one.  Even my favorite pastime of sitting down with my Tablet PC often turns into an exercise in futility as I fight the system to let me do what I need to do.  That is just plain sad to me given how much time and effort I have put into working with the tools that now grate against my nerves.

I repeat, I am not Microsoft bashing, I realize that a lot of the problems I have with Vista getting in the way of my work are not even Microsoft’s doing.  It is often the background tasks performing anti-virus, anti-spyware,  anti-malware or similar functions that get in the way of getting things done, and those might not even be Microsoft’s products.  I certainly don’t blame Microsoft for the need for such tools, that blame lies firmly with the jerks that create the malware that causes the tools to be mandatory.  But they are mandatory, a sad commentary on the situation so when they prevent me from getting my work done the frustration is there no matter who is at fault.  I also understand that Microsoft has to make the OS be all things to all people no matter what they do or how they do it.  That causes the need to have the system do all sorts of housekeeping in the background to protect us from ourselves.  Again, why Vista gets in my way is not important if you get right down to it.  It’s how I can’t just get on with my business when I need to do it.  That is so frustrating and such a common occurrence that it’s out of hand and driving me batty.

A lot of these negative experiences are caused by the hardware or the drivers to make them work with the OS properly.  That’s not Microsoft’s fault either and I don’t blame them for that.  It doesn’t really matter who is at fault because my point is not to point fingers or lay blame.  But I do feel that this whole situation has gotten worse with Vista and again, if it prevents me from having a productive (and satisfying) work session then who cares who is to blame.  It is what it is and I think many users have come to terms with the thinking that that’s just the way it is.  Even when we feel this way we just keep on going and live with it.

I am also not an Apple fanboy, although every time I write positive things about OS X I get accused of being one.  I also get the same accusation when I write negative things about Vista, I’m sure I’ll get accused of that here.  The simple truth is I am not a fanboy, there are many things I don’t like about OS X and other things that I think Windows does better than the Apple platform.  But using a Mac alongside my Windows PCs for over a year now makes one thing perfectly clear- the Mac does not frustrate me like Vista does.  I am not exaggerating when I state that something happens with Vista every single day that frustrates the heck out of me and that rarely happens with the Mac.  Yes, I have experienced some hardware problems with the MacBook Pro I use but no more than with other PC hardware I’ve used in the past. Sometimes hardware breaks no matter who makes it.  When I analyze my heavy computer usage, and it can easily get up to 18 hours a day, the Mac experience never frustrates me like Vista does.

When you get down to the simple basics the user experience is everything.  It impacts productivity and efficiency and determines how a given platform impacts your ability to get things done.  The Mac with OS X wins that battle hands down, it’s not even close.  It is so seldom that something happens on the Mac to frustrate me by getting in my way of performing the task at hand.  I am not saying that technically OS X is superior to Vista nor am I saying that the Mac hardware is any better than that on the PC side.  I am stating emphatically that the user experience is far better on the Mac side and it’s not even close.  That’s all that matters when you get down to the bottom of this thing we call computers.  How well it works the way we need it to when we need it to.  And the user experience with Vista is not even close in my view.

Sure I could turn off the Vista background tasks, stop using the advanced features integrated into the OS like file indexing, pre-fetching, auto-updating, etc.  I know those account for a lot of the frustrations using Vista but hey, if they are so negative then they shouldn’t be activated by default in the OS.  Plus, why should you have to turn off big chunks of the OS to get it to work properly?  I haven’t disabled anything on OS X and it works the way it should out of the box.

I know that there are many specialized tasks that are much better done on the Windows side.  I’ve worked with them and they blow the Mac side away.  I don’t do those regularly though nor do most people.  I am a technology writer who works heavily with both platforms, bitextual if you will, and I am more productive and get a more gratifying experience on the Mac.  That’s what I hope Microsoft is addressing in the work they are doing now on Windows 7.  I need something to rival what I get on the Mac.  The ball is firmly in Microsoft’s court here.

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