Farhad Manjoo takes readers' questions about Microsoft's sly new PR campaign for Vista.
New Orleans: I like Vista overall and think it's an improvement from XP. My complaint has to do with the peripherals as well. My HP 1210 printer works with Vista only on the most elementary level. I can't scan with it, can't adjust print settings, and so on. I place the fault on HP, though, not Microsoft—I feel HP could've updated their drivers if they cared to, but they want people to buy new printers. Even on the troubleshooting page for this problem, HP recommends an upgrade as the solution.
Farhad Manjoo: You're right. I just went over to the support page for your printer and I saw this message: "You might find that some of the advanced features are no longer available when using this basic driver. You can upgrade to an HP product that is fully compatible with Windows Vista if the advanced features are necessary."
That's ridiculous! The blame here is HP's, not Microsoft's, but it suggests a word of caution: If you're thinking about buying a new Vista PC, make sure that all your peripherals will work with Vista. (Usually you can Google the device's model number, find its support page, and look up Vista compatibility.) You don't want to buy a new PC and then discover that you need a new printer, too.
New York: Actually, it is incredibly easy to buy fully licensed copies of XP in stores and on eBay. It's just not on new machines anymore.
Farhad Manjoo: Thanks for the tip!
Indianapolis: I dual-boot between Windows XP and Vista SP1. While I agree that Vista is not as horrible as die-hard XP users claim, I would submit that Vista is less stable than its predecessor. This most likely is because of its advanced GUI. This past weekend I experienced the "blue screen of death" in Vista for no apparent reason. I know XP never would have crashed as easily as Vista had. Vista still needs improvements in terms of stability.
Farhad Manjoo: Thanks for your comment. I've got nothing to add, but I wanted to publish your post as proof that users experience problems with Vista.
New York: Does Microsoft still have any relationship with Slate? If so, shouldn't you disclose this?
Farhad Manjoo: No, it doesn't. Microsoft sold Slate to the Washington Post company at the end of 2004.
"It drives me absolutely crazy that there really aren't any good alternatives out there.": Uh ... how about this Ubuntu or Mandriva Linux GUIs? The lack of games and iTunes support are the only reasons left to skip past Linux. Microsoft knows that better than anyone and is scared witless. Witness their heavy-handed tactics on the Eee PC. Steve Ballmer wakes up in a cold sweat every night at the prospect of an entire generation of kids in developing countries growing up on Open Source. All of the drudgery that Windows users take for granted—robotically checking for security patches, getting nagged by your OS to do this and that, buying ever more expensive computers to keep up with the code bloat, etc.—will be completely foreign to them.
Farhad Manjoo: But wouldn't you agree it takes someone relatively skilled in tech to set these up? I agree they're alternatives, but I'm not sure if they're viable for many computer users. But if you're sick of both Apple and MS, by all means, folks, take the Linux plunge.
Farhad Manjoo: Well, my time's up, folks. Thanks for all the questions. Have fun with whatever OS you're using!