Operating Systems Keep Getting More Complex

My father-in-law's brother just got a new laptop computer from a major manufacturer. Said laptop came installed with the new Windows Vista Home Basic edition. The sales person that sold them the laptop also recommended Windows Live OneCare to make sure that the computer's health, security and all that stuff that non-technical folks don't do would be taken care of. This was the first time I've had a chance to see Vista for anything more than a couple minutes in the store, so I was interested to see how much had changed.

First off, the interface looked much more stylized than previous windows versions. Certainly not as much as I would imagine Windows Vista Home Premium would be, but the default theme seemed sort of like some of the acrylic coated stuff I'm used to seeing from the Apple side of the house. However, there are zillion icons on the desktop for software or services that I can't believe most people would care about. Also, there are a ton of icons in the system tray with all sorts of pop ups and windows starting up once the laptop has booted. This is part of the reason that I like to assemble my own systems. Obviously, with a laptop, it's a little more difficult to do this, but I wish that hardware vendors would integrate their services more nicely into the OS. So many icons and programs really do not make things simpler. It just contributes to the fear that inexperienced users feel towards the computer.

Next, before we did much else, I recommended we install the Windows Live OneCare software to make sure that all the defenses were up before starting to venture out too far on the Internet.
This process was actually pretty annoying for a couple of reasons. First off, Vista stopped everything and warned us that a program was trying to run called "Windows Live OneCare" and did we really want that to be allowed? Umm, yeah, we started that process! So of course, we clicked "Continue" to allow it to run. I sure hope that doesn't happen every time I launch something, because that would probably drive me crazy. Next, of course, OneCare required that we be connected to the Internet before installing. So it was off to enable the wireless network before continuing.

Wireless networking was a no-brainer. The laptop included a free Buffalo Wireless-G MMIO router which didn't take long to get working. Then, back on the laptop, simply switching the wireless card on, then selecting the wireless network we set up, and entering the key for WPA-AES was all that was needed. The laptop could now get out to the Internet.

The set up of Windows Live OneCare continued to be annoying. Of course, when OneCare went to try and go out to the Internet, an alert popped up warning me that a program called "Windows Live OneCare" was going out to the Internet. Thankfully, Windows automatically allowed this to happen since it must have already trusted Windows Live OneCare.

After downloading some updates to the install process, we were then prompted that we needed to have an account set up with Microsoft to use the OneCare service. We started on that process to enter user name, password, email, secret question and answers, etc. At that point, we had to leave because the kids and wife were getting too tired, so I don't know what else needed to be done. I do know, however, that there were still a bunch of programs starting up that needed to be disabled, or at least made more silent, plus I hadn't even launched Windows Update to make sure everything was up to date. Hopefully OneCare will take care of that for them.

After going through this process and watching my father-in-law and his brother confused by the whole thing, I realized that operating systems are getting way too complex for the average user. The average person wants to get online securely, maybe use some word processing apps, download photos from their cameras, and maybe print. Although in the past I would have balked at the idea, but I think that Apple is much more on the right path for this sort of stuff than Microsoft. I have some misgivings about only being able to go to basically one vendor for Mac stuff, but the ease of use makes me really think twice about just accepting Windows. There is a real opportunity here for Apple to gain some ground. Maybe even a few Linux offerings. Someone has got to be able to address these basic needs in a more simpler fashion than is being done in Vista.


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