blarg?

First Impressions Continue To Matter

I hadn’t really had a chance to do a side-by-side comparison of the unboxing experience of Macs and PCs until just recently, but listen, PC manufacturers: what the hell? Have you ever taken a good hard look at the thing you’re shipping these days?

It’s really hard to tell if it’s Vista that’s shitting on my user experience or just the fact that this laptop comes encrusted with tons of crap I didn’t ask for and don’t want. And when I have to compare that to the Mac unboxing process, it just infuriates me.

A boxed Mac is easy and elegant to open, nice and clean, everything comes out of the box easily and smoothly. It all fits together very elegantly, and when you’re done, the first thing you see is a very pretty “Welcome” animation, it asks you a few questions and that’s it. The attention to detail is astonishing, and when you’re done you have a clean install of the OS and you’re off. It verges on the ceremonial, especially when you compare it to the competition.

Open up a new PC, fight past a container that has obviously been optimized for cheapness, plug it in (making sure you didn’t get those mouse and keyboard PS/2 ports mixed up, if it’s a desktop!) and fire it up. The very first thing you get is threatened. Install an antivirus! Your machine is outdated! And insecure! Firewall! Symantec Norton McTrendGate! Make backup CDs yourself, they’re super-important but not so important that we can’t cheap out and make you work instead of just shipping media! USE AOL, PLEEEEZE.

Even ignoring the crappy packaging, this is still one of the main reasons that if I have any say in the matter, the first thing any PC does is boot into a clean install of an OS, whatever OS it’s going to be. What a waste of time, but the alternative is so much worse; God help you if you want to uninstall only <i>some</i> of the crap that came with it. You’re looking at literally hours of tedious not-fun just to get a machine that’s not quite as much of a sewer. Because you don’t have an original copy of the OS media, no. You’ve got “recovery” or “restore” CDs, that just put all that pain right back where it was.

It’s awful.

So far, my experiences with Vista (Professional edition) have been… bad. I didn’t intend to buy an interactive billboard pimping dozens of goods and services at me, thanks, I just wanted a computer. But unless I buy a computer from Apple, it’s guaranteed that whoever I buy it from is not only willing but totally enthusiastic about fucking my user experience right up in exchange a couple of bucks per unit shipped. The OEM preinstalled-garbage problem has gotten way worse in the last few years, not better, and I’m convinced that it’s one of the reasons that Apple’s market share has been steadily rising all that time. Not because their stuff is so great , but because all the alternatives are so bad.

15 Comments | Skip to comment form

  1. Mike Kozlowski

    Clearly, Microsoft needs to vertically integrate, and ship Microsoft branded PCs that are entirely under their control.

    (Actually, it occurs to me that this is pretty much what the Xbox is, and it’s great, so maybe I’m not joking after all.)

  2. mhoye

    At the time my eyes got to the end of your first sentence, my reply was going to be your second sentence.

  3. Adam

    Not to be too self-aggrandizing, but if you look back at your past blog comments, I bashed Vista quite openly a whlie back (while discussing my shift from Windows to Linux) and got my head ripped off by some other commenters. They were touting Vista as some sort of second coming. My point was just that Vista is more than “a little bit” worse than XP, which certainly isn’t tollerable in this day and age (of for that matter, any day and/or age) Let’s see if they rip your head off too. I’d expect nothing less.

    But unlike me, you’ll fight back. I’m looking forward to the ensuing madness.

  4. Mike Hoye

    The thing that kills me is that it’s _slow_. It’s been years since I’ve scrolled down in a window and seen a mess of default icons slowly replaced by the correct ones, but here we are.

    It was pretty clearly built by committee, and not a committee of people with good taste or user-experience expertise.

  5. Ken Gerrard

    Adam: I didn’t look back, but I suspect one of those praising Vista would be Mike K., who already posted above. He does defend Vista all the time, but I don’t know many others who do.

    I’ve heard SP1 is bad, too!

  6. Adam

    Yes, it’s certainly very slow. What kills me about the whole thing is its memory requirements. Who ever could concieve of a time when an OS alone would consume more than 700 MBs of RAM. Just thinking back to the days of Windows 2000 where the recommended system memory was 64 MBs makes me want to puke (I think the recommendations for Vista are 2GBs).

    I challange anyone here to defend the point that we’re 32 times (or 5 binary orders of magnitude) better off with Vista than we were with Windows 2000. In fact, I’d suggest that we were better off with Windows 2000 not even taking into account the memory issues.

  7. kev

    I still think it should be pronounced “veeeeeeeestaaah!”

    then it’d sell like hotcakes… to everyone at waffle house.

  8. Mike Hoye

    “Vista. Rhymes with fisted”.

  9. janice

    My 2 cent’s:

    In my experience with Windows developers (not necessarily MS devs, now, but I suspect they learned from the same source), I observed a stubborn tendency to go with the ‘easy button’, meaning using MFC for everything, regardless of the existence of a class or interface that was ‘just what was needed’ rather than crafting (and I mean that – I consider sw development to be a craft/art more than a science) one that was properly designed for the intended use and ONLY for that intention.

    So, my take on the memory hoggedness of MS O/S’s is just a side-effect of the whole OO ‘silver bullet’ mythology. I’ve watched that kill several promising products, meaning the business case was sound and the design plan was good, but the implementation with OO was a disaster: memory and performance (real time telephony systems was/is my playground) shot to hell.

    I could be completely off-base. Maybe MS Vista is really written in tightly coupled C.

    But I doubt it….

  10. Mike Kozlowski

    Re Adam and K-Jar: I’m not sure how a post about the crapware habit of OEMs count as anti-Vista. It’s anti-the-actual-real-life-Vista-experience, but that’s not really Vista’s fault. (And I continue to like Vista more than XP. I view all complaints about “speed” and “bloat” and “too object-oriented” as being fundamentally unserious.)

  11. Ken Gerrard

    It’s true that this post isn’t about Vista itself, but it’s still part of an overall dialogue that includes that.

    Your insistence that Vista only be used on systems on which it came installed narrows the focus to a place that most people aren’t at.

    You are the only person I hear that praises Vista. I realise that complaining is the norm, but I’d think there’d be a few more positive voices in my vicinity.

  12. Mike Hoye

    Koz: That _is_ the actual real-life vista experience. You don’t install vista on machines that don’t come with it preinstalled, and whenever it comes preinstalled, it comes with all that other crap around it. That may not be the pure vista experience, but it’s the one everyone gets. And they get it good and hard, because PCs don’t ship with real, clean install media anymore. They ship with restore CDs.

    This is on top of the fact that Moore’s Law ain`t what it used to be, and to make Vista work reasonably well on anything that doesn’t have three gig of RAM and a directX 10 video card in it, you have to deliberately turn off most of the things that make it worth looking at in the first place. On our test machines here at the office, brand-new boxes with brand-new processors and two gigs of ram, Vista Pro absolutely crawls.

    No joke, and no exaggeration, when I say that I cannot abide the fact that the hourglass comes up and spins when I do nothing more than scroll down a fucking window.

    XP with 2 Gig RAM, by comparison, is now screamingly fast, and as far as our various exotic peripherals are concerned, far better supported.

    This won’t be true forever, sure. But it’s very, very true right now.

  13. Mike Kozlowski

    Well, I really agree with you on the crapware thing; it’s just a matter of saying “OEMs suck” instead of “Vista sucks” to keep ire focused on the ones who are actually taking money to make your life worse.

    As for the Vista speed, well, I just don’t have the same experience. I use it on little tablety laptop with integrated Intel graphics, and I have no problems at all. Yes, I do have 3GB of RAM, but that’s not really a big deal these days, and I’d view any modern computer that comes with less as sadly deficient.

  14. Mike Kozlowski

    (Also just for nuance re crapware, note that Sony at least will apparently let you take it off if you order direct from them; Lenovo’s custom restore gives you options about what you want on your custom restore, so it’s possible to decrapify things that way. But this is still ridiculous, yes.)

  15. Jamie

    Dell ships a plain jane OEM install disk with its Vista boxes. If you want all the crapware, you have to load it yourself from the Drivers and Utilities disk.

    I’ve been running Vista on my Latitude D820 for a year now, trouble free, and I don’t have performance problems other than Nvidia’s spotty support for the graphics chipset, but I can’t fault MS or Dell with that.