Bear with me here. I just finished my first two weeks with Microsoft Windows Vista and the Microsoft Office 2007 System, and I’m moving kind of slow. I got a new job and a new laptop to match and the laptop “had Vista preinstalled,” so I’ve been taking a lot of abuse.
Speaking of which, I’m still not sure what the difference is between installed and preinstalled, and I’ll pay ten bucks to anyone who can tell me. Do you know? I keep hearing people use the term “preinstalled” rather than “installed” when talking about Vista, as if it’s some sort of secret best-friends handshake, but I don’t get it. And whenever I ask about it, the group gets weird on me and ignores the question, as if I never asked it. It’s creepy. Then again, I’m still struggling to get the difference between flammable and inflammable, so maybe it’s just me.
At any rate, I got this new laptop and it had Vista preinstalled, which is another way of saying that I had no choice but to use it. And as this was a full-time job, I would have to use it all the time at work, for dozens and dozens and dozens of hours.
And for the last two weeks, that’s what I have been doing.
I have to tell you, though, that I’m not a hundred percent sure who’s been the client and who’s been the server in this twenty-first century arranged marriage. I’m pretty sure I know who’s been suffering more greatly, though.
I wish you could have seen me in those first few minutes. I was shocked. I was surprised and stunned and flabbergasted to find the interface so familiar. It had a desktop and a task bar and a Recycle Bin and a Start button (without the annoying word “Start” on it) and a profoundly uninspired default desktop wallpaper, just like my XP machine at home. I literally stared at it for several moments, just wondering if I were the only person not getting the joke. “Mary,” I said to my co-worker, “there’s no Kick Me sign on my back is there?”
This was the fabled Microsoft Windows Vista?
This was Vista? It took five years to develop this?
But my boss had set it up for me, so I figured maybe he had enabled a Classic look. Yeah, that must be it. There must be gold in them thar hills, I would just have to get on my hands and knees and dig for it. How could all the hype be wrong?
So I went to work. Or tried to.
I soon realized that I was in for a long day. The Microsoft Windows Vista beauty was only skin deep.
Everything I tried hit a wall.
For starters, I couldn’t find my programs. Whenever I hit the Start button, a list of a whole bunch of programs and folders shot up violently, none of which I wanted and half of which unhelpfully started with the word Microsoft. Clicking on them didn’t help, either—if anything happened, it was too slow and I lost patience waiting and ended up clicking again just in time to untoggle what I had toggled.
Worse, the popup that did pop up was a fixed width, like some kind of Monospace Windowette on my Sony VAIO typewriter. I felt like I was peering into a house through a thin opening between the curtains inside—inside, where I couldn’t move them out of the way. For four hours, my productivity was zero, and it was in danger of being placed on Injured Reserve.
I began to wonder—again—whether someone was playing a practical joke on me. This was the fabled Vista?
Fortunately, I had thought ahead. I had attended the Microsoft 2007 Launch Event just six weeks before. I remembered that helpful man at the 2007 Launch Event. He showed us Launchees how to get out of this jam. (Creepy how he knew I would have this problem.) He said you could type the name of a program into the Search box right at the bottom of the-list-that-no-longer-expands so you could find your favorite needle in its new haystack. I even saw him do it. So I tried it and it worked, and it was fast! I had forgotten how fun it was to execute programs by typing their names. I had gotten used to discovering them on menus, buttons, and links.
I worried that even though I had succeeded in launching Notepad from the command line, I still didn’t know where it was or how to find it. I didn’t want to search for it every time I needed to use it; I wanted to set it right in my favorite spot, where I liked it. But I couldn’t solve that right now. I had work to do. So I told myself, “Remember, it’s n-o-t-e-p-a-d-.-e-x-e”, and moved on.
Installation of my applications was a scrum. First I had to find the setup executables—no small task when you don’t know how to spell them. Then, several of my attempts provoked an outright rebellion: “Vista doesn’t like this application. Stop it.” And strewn throughout and among those shoving matches was this persistent, passive-aggressive questioning of my authority, as Vista would ask me for permission to do the very thing I had just told it to do. It takes a seasoned parent to know just how wrong this is:
Me: “Son, please remove your socks from between the cushions in the couch and put them in the hamper.”
Son: “FATHER! I WOULD LIKE TO PLUCK MY SOCKS OUT OF THE COUCH AND PUT THEM IN THE HAMPER. MAY I DO THAT NOW?”
I am only speculating here, but I believe there to be a psychotically malicious management person hiding among Microsoft’s finest.
Halfway through that first day, I was so mentally exhausted just trying to find the executables I wanted to run, then getting them to run, then getting Vista to run them, that I resolved to get a book on how to tame this Cape Buffalo of an operating system. It would have to wait till later in the week, of course, but that’s what I would do. That’s what I always did when baffled by easy-to-use products—I read the manual.
“Dad,” my kids tell me, “nobody reads the manual but you.” But they’re too young to understand. When you’ve been abused by software as long as I have, you develop certain survival mechanisms.
Besides, in my defense, this was the first time I had ever seen Vista up close, with my own eyes. Until Monday, April 9, 2007, it had always been a magazine article or a slide presentation. But now it was right there in front of me, standing between me and my work. I could ignore it no longer.
A little after lunch time, I was getting worried. At some point in every new job, you have to start looking like you’re doing work. Being in IT, the best way to do that is to create folders. The more competent you are, the more folders you create.
I had not yet created any.
Awareness of this pressed upon me like an overdue birthday card. As I typed e-x-p-l-o-r-e-r.-e-x-e in Vista’s micro-cmd-window, I prayed I would find the new Windows Explorer as familiar as the anticlimactic screen that first greeted me.
But when I saw it, I knew what a naďve and foolish man I was. It took me only a few minutes to find and launch what I knew to be the Vista equivalent of my beloved Explorer. But the monstrosity that stared back at me didn’t work anything like the bad habit of a file system navigator I was used to, and I fumbled and tripped my way through two frustrating hours of clicking in circles. I saw more gorgeous clickables, flybys, popups, and ghosties than a 60’s junkie, but they turned out to be more of a yellow submarine than a yellow brick road. I could find nothing that said, “Here! You can put your stuff over here!”
Day 1 ended with a sickening thud. I was so overwhelmed by the sheer number of Precious Moments gizmos in Microsoft Windows Vista that I actually began to gag physically. I choked. I had to get a drink. It turned out to be a good excuse to go home.
The next day, on Tuesday morning, Day 2 of my shiny new job, I got a migraine headache. That is the complete truth. To put this in context, consider that I am nearing 43 years old, and in that time I have gotten a grand total of two (2) migraine headaches. That’s right, in my whole, technology-saturated life, I have had two migraine headaches. I got the first one on the day I heard from the director of HR that I was being laid off a little over a year earlier. I got the second during my honeymoon with Microsoft Windows Vista.
The next 13 days have been something of a blur. I have made a little progress learning the landscape that is ironically called “Vista.” But I am a long, long way from home. My bones and my muscles ache. My brain feels like it’s on the brink of aneurism. My feet and hands are covered with Vista blisters.
You know, I mentioned that I have also been using Office 2007 for the first time. To tell you the truth, I’ve been struggling with that transition just as mightily. I was planning to tell you about that one too. But I’m afraid I’d better not. I feel a migraine coming on.