You could say it wasn't Microsoft's finest week. But you wouldn't have to. In a way, Bill Gates managed to say it for you.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

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Bad news for Vista users: Problems with games, upgrades, MP3 players and QuickBooks — and that's just Week 1

Feb. 11, 2007

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, The Post-Standard

   PC users planning to migrate to Vista, the latest version of Windows, could get some rude shocks a week after Microsoft officially launched Vista. Based on reports I've compiled on problems with Vista, some unhappy surprises are ahead for many users.
   Upgrades can be a royal pain, games might not play properly, the most popular financial software for businesses can fail, MP3 players sometimes won't work with the new operating system and even the software that architects use might slow to a crawl.
   In Korea, the banking system, converted to Vista, has already suffered sporadic computer failures because of problems with the software.
   You could say it wasn't Microsoft's finest week. But you wouldn't have to. In a way, Bill Gates managed to say it for you.
   Gates, Microsoft's multi-billionaire founder, lost his cool during a Vista-launch interview when he was asked about Apple's anti-Vista TV and Web advertising. Gates claimed Apple, led by Steve Jobs, had stolen parts of Vista for its OS X operating system -- an obvious impossibility, since OS X predates Vista by many years.
   "If you just want to say, 'Steve Jobs invented the world, and then the rest of us came along,' that's fine," Gates told Newsweek, prompting Macworld magazine to headline its report on the incident this way: "Bill Gates loses his grip on reality."
   The bad news started with a serious setback to online game players who want to use Vista. Alex St. John, CEO of the online game publisher, WildTangent, said his company found that Vista is "breaking online games and disrupting gameplay."
   "It is my view that the security restrictions of Vista are having a significant impact on the online gaming community," St John told Jim Goldman of CNBC.
   The upgrade problems could become nightmares for some users.
   Microsoft took out a long-standing option in Windows that allowed easy upgrades from one version of Windows to a newer version. Users could buy the cheaper upgrade version to perform a clean, "from scratch" installation simply by inserting the old installation CD when the newer version of Windows asks for it during the install procedure.
   This meant you saved money by buying the cheaper upgrade version, of course. But the main advantage was an immense saving of time and effort. You didn't have to reinstall the old version just to prove that you qualified for an upgrade.
   But Vista won't let you prove your upgrade eligibility that way. You have to have the old version physically installed on your computer before you can upgrade.
   Scott Finnie, Computerworld's Windows expert, poses this scenario: "What if your hard drive fails and you decide to upgrade to Vista as you replace the drive? What if you wiped your hard drive to install Linux and now you want to install Vista? You'll have to reinstall XP first, then upgrade over it, opting then for either a clean install or an in-place upgrade."
   Even the popular financial software for businesses, Quickbooks, from Intuit, has major problems with Vista. Intuit's senior vice president for QuickBooks, Brad Smith, told Quickbooks users they could have problems with versions of the software dated 2006 or earlier.
   "This will impact Simple Start, Basic, Pro, Premier, Payroll and Point of Sale, as well as other QuickBooks products and services," Smith said. Intuit's Web site has details on how to deal with the problems, but in many cases the fix requires disabling Vista's protective security.
   Tech blogger David Berlind points out that this increases the risk "that malware could enter the system and damage precious system files, thereby destabilizing or ruining a PC altogether."
   The Korean bank problem stems from a switch to Vista by the entire Korean banking system. Vista blocks so-called Active-X transactions during Internet banking, which is very popular in Korea.
   "Internet-based transactions of some banks are unavailable with Vista," said Suh Byung-jo of the Ministry of Information and Communication. Korean officials said they expect a fix sometime in March.
   Many architectural programs will run much slower on Vista than on Windows XP, according to Ralph Grabowski's CAD newsletter, UpFront. Several computer-aided design (CAD) programs "slow to a crawl under Vista," UpFront says. Specifically, UpFont's tests show Pro/Engineer running 6.7 times slower, SolidWorks running 9.0 times slower, TeamCenter 9.1 times slower and UGS NX 50 times slower than under XP.
   Finally, even some MP3 players won't work under Vista. Apple, maker of the iPod, advised its Windows iTunes users to hold off on upgrading to Vista because iPods could be damaged by bugs in the way Vista works with portable players. Apple is revising its Windows iTunes software to get around the problem.
   And Samsung, which makes small MP3 players, said some of its MP3 music player models are incompatible with Vista. "Our own tests showed that some MP3 models including the YP-20s are not being recognized" in Vista, a Samsung official said.
   Other companies that make players reported similar problems. They all said they were working on ways to avoid the bugs.