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.



Your posts were much better when you had a “real” job and was writing about your “real world” experience with mobile tech. I find myself frequenting this blog much less frequently than I used to.

Kevin’s posts were usually more “fluff” than anything else and haven’t changed.

Gavin Miller

Yep, I remember looking at that before James after you linking to it. I really believe that Vista has always had significant driver issues and doesn’t run best on a single core processor, all things you’ve mentioned before, but things do seem to have improved.

Vista does seem to have issues on a whole lot of different notebooks though, and I understand the frustrations. I can’t help thinking once again that the key differentiator is driver support. Mac OS has the luxury sandbox hardware support whereas Vista is supporting huge permutations in hardware. I suspect that I have solid drivers for my PCs which is why I’m running so smoothly.

Lorie Ghamy

Your are using a journalist way for light bashing : nice Windows people, nice products, but … desastrous user experience ??? Oh excuse me, nice experience but not equal to OSX experience. Maybe the need to preserve advertising, readers and so on….

You spoke about iLife :
“… I do the heavy lifting, audio and video editing/ encoding, on the Mac because it’s easier…” I confirm if on Vista you are just playing with MovieMaker and DVD Maker. But on Windows, there are a lot of optionnal products for video and DVD editing like Pinnacle Studio 12, Cyberlink PowerDirector 7, Magix Video Dell… for a fraction of the cost of the difference of price beetween a “Vista Core 2 duo-2 Go RAM-160 Go HD notebook”and a similar Mac machine… What about Blueray Authoring and burning with iLife on the Mac ??? Niet ! But available on those Vista video products i list. A well tester sould be able to install this kind of software. Not you ? But you aren’t used here to spoke us about them.

And remember when you add OSX on a Tiger machine iLife is not include. You need to pay again for it !!! iMovie 3 first edition was a buggy software but nothing to put instead, because no competition. And what a hell with iMovie 7, the whole interface is a completly new one, (maybe right for new beginners) with less editing functions, plugins from others versions are all incompatibles (not really funny !). But we can dowload the old version ! Yes but no ADVCHD support… Nice game party !

And what about PPC Mac users left on the road with “Snow leopard”… Vista is running on my old AMD Athlon 3000 + and maybe Windows 7…

If Max OSX is far better. Turn JKontherun in OSXforpleasure. Why working with unpleaseant environnement ? Just for money ???

Best regards


I forgot to mention, I use to come to this site for useful real-world information. I knew I could come here for useful reviews of mobile tech that dealt with facts. That has now changed and I hope it’s not for good.

I’m getting tired of the senseless and demonstrably biased Microsoft bashing that has emerged here. If I want that I can go to Gizmodo where I at least know it will be a bit tongue in cheek. I don’t know if this is a deliberate attempt to generate more ad revenue now that you rely on this blog as your sole source of income but if that’s true then it’s a dreadful shame.

Maybe it’s time for some more posts about iPhone applications. Everyone knows there are no problems on that platform. At least, that’s how you’d feel if you relied on JKOnTheRun for all your iPhone information.


Problems with Vista on a quad-core? Give me a break. Nobody’s asking for a tweaking guide here, just some proof to back up flimsy claims. Without some proof this article is just pointless.

If you’re annoyed at having to make changes every time you get a new PC then just write a script that disables the services you commonly switch off. How hard is that? The whole point of Windows is that it’s not restricted to a single basic hardware configuration. Part of your job is to review different installations of the software on different hardware and now you’re complaining that you need to play around with them.

I also can’t help but laugh when I see you write defensive replies when people question such a poorly written post.


I’m a Tablet PC diehard who moved fully to “mouseless” operation over a year ago when Vista made the pen/ink interface a joy to behold. Mac are not even in this market!
I also live my PC life in OneNote and Outlook so no switch for me.
However I would always recommend Mac over Vista (and did so only 2 days ago) to the non-techie who simply wants to own/use an everyday computer.
I own a Mac for use in the kitchen for “normal family” stuff – web browsing, emailing, i-tunes etc. I don’t need to run anti-virus software, I hardly ever need to reboot following updates and it has only crashed TWICE in over two years of daily, albeit, limited use. I need to reboot my Tablet at least every other day – a feature of such regularity that I no longer find it annoying but just accept it as part of the PC environment.
My recommendation will of course reflect my own experience of tweaking/conflicts/crashes arising from my desire to customise the system to the greatest nth degree.
As a unified system Mac avoids this – although it appears problems are beginning to crop up in the iphone world as 3rd party apps proliferate.
Vista greatest strength, the ability to customise it to your heart’s content is also its Achilles heel. The average user probably think using a pen to write on a screen is odd beyond compare but what do they know!
Maybe Windows needs to produce a locked down version a la Mac on their own hardware e.g. a true media centre/X-box combo experience to counter the “Mac is easier to use” argument. For non-techie folks i.e. the huge majority the computing power nowadays out of the box (PC or Mac) is more than sufficient for the average user.

Andy Petty

I have been annoyed by XP (since SP2) and Vista. I am always turning things OFF on both of them. But the biggest pain by far with Vista is that it is SUPER SLOW compared to OS X or Linux. You really do have to be running a very expensive PC to get acceptable performance from that slow dog. Almost every new feature added in Vista already existed in the old Tiger edition of OSX a couple of YEARS ago. Its hard to believe, with MS vast resources, but it appears to me that they are actually playing catch-up to the folks at Apple. Who woulda thunk it.


We probably have about 25-40 users of about 150 at my workplace on Vista (including myself on a notebook). I would say there are 3-4 that have requested a return to XP, but about a dozen that complain about the OS ( some more than others of course)


FWIW I’ve still never had a problem with vista. But I appear to be the only person on the planet in this situation with this “fundamentally flawed operating system” (thanks Jon Dee… Interesting phrase there)

Forgetting this – I still like to remember, I’m rarely using the operating system itself. But whatever it is that’s sitting on top of it. Kevin’s trial of web only applications should be testament to this for “lighter” applications, but the analogy still works for heavier stuff (like my use of Maya, After Effects, Reason, Cubase etc. etc.)

Jon Dee

As much as I love the idea of a Tablet PC and I’ve been using them since the very first Panasonic Toughbook, I have now given up on them and in the last week have made the full switch to Apple Mac.

I have grown tired of the constant crashes and the total unreliability of Vista. I don’t want to have to do a speech in front of people only to have my computer crash in the middle of the speech.

I want reliability and speed and ease of use. That I am getting in a big way with the Mac. As for Vista, I don’t need the hassle in my life of a badly designed operating system. I want more time with my family not more time fixing up a fundamentally flawed operating system.

There – that’s my tuppence worth of opinion.

Jon Dee


Nothing personal, but bmhome1, Tidair, and others have missed the point of JKs blog. His point is that his user experience with Windows – and Vista in particular – is not satisfactory. Whether or not you can tweak, modify, or change Vista to make it better is precisely his point: if you are doing “normal” activities that lie within the performance domain of a product or process, why should you endure a frustrating product?

Others make the point you should compare apples with apples. JK IS… he’s comparing the EXPERIENCE.


I think your negative view of Vista is based on your use as notebook O.S.,i owned a Q1 U with vista, swithced to XP..too much better, but on desktop vista experience is another world i don’t know why, i think it is related on disk speed more than other things a pc with 2 gb of ram and a compatible videocard could handle well vista, no problem (if you disable all oem’s autostart programs )even without optimizing tasks, services ecc ecc…i have a notebook (acer aspire range 600€) that work flawlessy with vista no problem no slowdown but it is a personal example, as for desktops i installed , configured ad assist say…40 pc with vista loaded, no one have problem…except 2 notebooks…an old acer that was reloaded with vista by oem and selled at vista shipping date and a new HP with 512 mb of ram…..really slow (i do not sell pc i only do the assistance).
My view is vista is good for desktops and now is good for notebooks but when it shipped notebboks were not quite powerful to handle the O.S, not mentioning Drivers obviously.

Brent Homer

I found your site about 4 or 5 years ago when I was researching subcompact laptops. You where using a mini sony at the time.

Anyway, about a year into use I got sick of windows, went to linux, broke my linux install, and bought a 12″ powerbook.

How I use computers and get things done changed completely after using the powerbook for about 3 or 4 months. Now all my windows boxes are gone, and I have 3 macs running.

What I think the negative commentators are missing here, is this article doesn’t appear to be a bash against vista on a mobile system compared to os X on a macbook pro.

To me this article is about going from a system that operates as intended and then having to use a system that isn’t very smooth.

My wife and I have been wondering how long it would take you to start having problems with windows, just b/c the os X way is so much easier in the long run.

People will never know how much fun computers can be until they give os X a few months of thrashing….

James Kendrick

Gordon, this was not lazy journalism, it was not journalism at all. As stated this is simply my own impressions of using Vista. This site is chock full of information regarding how to tweak and optimize Vista for maximum performance. Just search for it.

I don’t want to have to tweak Vista any more. I’m tired of it.

James Kendrick

This article was nothing more than me recounting my personal impression of using Vista vs. OS X. This was not intended to be a Vista tweaking guide, I said so in the article. I don’t want to tweak the OS to get an acceptable user experience and that’s what I said.

I test and use a lot of Vista machines and it is not practical (nor should I have to) tweak every single one of them to get a good experience. That is not a reasonable situation for anyone to be in. I have been frustrated with Vista on everything from low-end laptops to quad-core desktops. I have seen machines tweaked for Vista that run great for a while and then all of a sudden start slowing down for no reason, at least nothing I have done. As stated by someone above, I am done with my fiddling and tweaking when I know I do not have to do so.

BTW, I do the heavy lifting, audio and video editing/ encoding, on the Mac because it’s easier.


Wow it seems like the responses are often along the lines of …”All you got to do is xyz and windows is great”

Unfortunately most people do not want to do XYZ they expect it to just work.

And then we all ask for specifics, someone gives us specifics and then we ask them for more specifics? How many specifics do you need?

Those of us that are gearheads somethings think the general public wants to do what we do to make something “optimized” and productive, when in reality most really do not.

You can put up charts all day comparing photoshop rendering times or pricing differences etc etc, when all of that does not mean a hill of beans to most users.

Its the user interface, the user experience and how many annoyances you have to deal with that dictate the user experience, not how cool it is to “set up and tweak” your computer.

IMHO herein lies the issue that MS is facing and why Apple is gaining share.

Gordon Cahill

Lots of generalities and not much specifics. I really like the site but this is just lazy journalism.

I’m so, so tired of the useless Vista bashing. And yes it’s bashing. You have offered no specific instances where Vista fails compared to the MAc OS. Nor have you tried to offer alternatives or possible solutions to your readers.

Almost every frustration in Vista is simple to overcome. I’m on holidays using a GPRS modem to connect to to internet (on an HP Mini-Note) and have no problems, no slowdowns and no system interferance as I have bothered to change a few simple configurations and settings to ensure an easy and enjoyable user experience. And it took a whole 5 minutes. If you, as a power user, can’t be bothered to set up Windows to behave as you want then it’s your own fault.

Automatic Uptates can be set to notify only, superfetch can be turned off, indexing can be on low priority. I have no A/V as my exchange server scans my emails for me.

WIndows is built to serve a vast variety of users and is vastly configurable as a result.

Let’s start seeing some articles that will help users set up their machines so they perform at their best. With your experience you should be able to do that.

With respect…..



Used to use a Toshiba M400 Tablet PC running Vista, 2Ghz Dual Core CPU, 2Gb RAM, 200Gb 7200RPM drive. Does a lot of things well but sometimes it’s so slow. I have Outlook and IE open all day at work, I close them both down and even after a fresh install there is nearly a minute of mindless disk thrashing before it comes to a halt. I shut the lid, 20 seconds later the machine is finally asleep. Open the lid and it’s disk thrashing again even if it only slept 30 seconds ago.

Just bought an MSI Wind clone, stuck OSX on it, you have to do some dodgy hacks to get it to work, but when it’s running it’s day and night compared to a machine X times its power. I have Entourage and Firefox open all day. I close them 10 seconds later and they are both done. I close the lid, before my finger has lifted from the lid of the screen it’s asleep. Resuming it’s back on screen even before the HDD has finished spinning up, why does Vista have to take so long?!

I really think MS should make the OS more modular so that it can better fit the machine it’s running on and the user who is using it.


I agree with Bill. If you give us some specific examples then we might be able to help. Otherwise it becomes a bit meaningless.

For instance, based on earlier posts, I assume you’re using OneCare. Depending on your setup I don’t think antivirus is always necessary but if you disagree then you might like to try Nod32 as an alternative. It never nags you and has a very small footprint. As for antispyware, etc. I find that Windows Defender just runs in the background and it never bothers me.

Now to drivers. Under certain circumstances people did have lots of problems with drivers when Vista was first released. This certainly isn’t the case now and maybe you should spend some time checking that you have the most up-to-date versions. Of course, without specific examples it’s difficult to know what problems (if any) you’re having that are driver related.

Since Vista was released you’ve made a number of references to how much you dislike it but your posts are always vague. Perhaps you should consider not writing about what you don’t like until you can demonstrate exactly how Vista is preventing you from getting something done. As far as I can tell you hate Vista just simply because you hate it! Given the lack of detail it’s not surprising that people might think you’re behaving like a fanboy.


Ok, this will be an atempt to come with constructive critisism and I hope you take it as that.

Please, in the future, could you try to put a little more substance in there? I don’t want to be mean (I like this site a lot), but all you do is stating that you’ve been using products from mac and apple for a long time, that you don’t dislike any of the companies, that it isn’t microsofts fault that vista is frustrating at times and then you go on saying that you aren’t bashing or beating down on anyone. And you do it a lot of times although it was pretty clear the first time you said so. But, what do you want to say then? What is the point of the article? Pointing out that there’s pros and cons of all the OS’s and that the ones in vista mostly ain’t the fault of microsoft? Why not throw in some examples of what frustrates you? Why not add your experiences with linux? Why not analys what makes you frustrated? Why not add some thoughts on how to make things better?

I know you guys can do better. This article, to be francly, was almost content-less and a waste of time.


it’s not fair to be critical of Vista & praise OSX when you dont do the samethings on each of them. you dont ask near as much out of your OSX setup as you do your Vista setup.

if you could do everything you do on Vista on OSX instead you would run into the exact same problems. until the 3rd party software & 3rd party drivers you use are properly written they will hobble any OS.


James I can not agree more. If you would have told me as recently as 2004 that two out of five of my PC’s at home would be Macs running OS X, and that more and more my Windows machines would be idle, I would have laughed.

Hands down OS X is even more of a delight than Vista is frustrating and that says a lot. The overhead of working with my Dell Vista-based notebook, the crashes, the lock ups the just plain annoying-ware of it all is mind-numbing

Capturing video, working with audio and creating podcasts, burning DVDs, and editing video are all home activities that I find delightful on a Mac.

Even now, just for kicks I try some of these same activities on both XP and Vista machines and try hard to make my Xbox 360 the digital center of my household, but its just not like working with a Mac, not even close.

I hope and actually believe that Microsoft will get things right again and things will get better with Windows 7 etc, but by then I will be more and more Mac entrenched.

The Switcher campaign worked on me and I am really glad it did.


1) Try running OSX on UMPC or tablet hardware and see how Spotlight impacts overall performance. Comparing MacBook Pro specs to ultra-portables running Vista specs makes backround processing entire separate topic. WHEN Apple offers low-spec hardware running OSX comparisons will have validity.

2) Auto-updating ANYTHING is for users too indifferent to bother controlling their OS. Nothing MS puts out can’t wait a day to run when convenient. Those who choose letting OSX run their equally frequent updates as backround processes are universally the same experiencing issues (reference: after every OSX update).

3) When (NOT if) OSX requires anti-virus sanity protection, that subject becomes moot. Smart Vista anti-virus products simply suggest updates and selected when with one click.

4) Prefrecthing trades off few seconds loading for speed gains later.

5) Hibernating eliminates #4 above.

What high-spec PC laptop loaded with RAM running Vista is being used to compare MacBook Pro running OSX? Anything less is apples vs oranges.


This is long on generalities and short on specifics and therefore a polite rant but a rant nonetheless. While i find vista slow on older machines, it is at least as easy to use as OSX, which is also a good product but far, far from perfect. What made your blog useful was the specifics particularly being a mobile user. Thx


Sounds like some one needs a dose of whatever it was Microsoft was slipping those poor folks in their coffee at Project Mojave. ;-)

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