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Mailbag: On the Hunt for XP

Now that most of you have thrown up your hands at Vista, Doug asked what you're doing to get XP. Here's what some of you had to say:

Here's a vote for staying with XP. We are finding it easier to buy XP now than a year ago. Dell and HP have seen the light, for example, and make is easy, but ONLY if you go through their business portals. We have found, and many IT people agree, that if we are forced to, we will save and reuse licenses we have already purchased when systems go out of service. OEM agreements be damned. Call it a piece-by-piece upgrade if you want to split hairs about OEM license restrictions.

The effort to wipe a Vista system and install XP is nothing compared to the headache of supporting it. It isn't about being new, misunderstood or not giving it a chance. It is fundamentally flawed. What we see on the consumer side is that people will buy Vista for personal systems and then fight with it for months and then give up, seeking out people like us to fix it by installing XP. Bad press had nothing to do with it. Sooner or later Microsoft will realize that by not selling XP, Vista is not competing with XP -- it is competing with the XP license I already have.

Sticking with Windows XP certainly has some challenges. Often our effort to "downgrade" PCs, laptops and tablets to XP results in missing out on key features of the original load or compatibility issues. We've learned to provide proven XP laptop/desktop loads, but there are still some issues. We also stick with Lenovo for most of our needs, because they do provide XP as an option. I'm betting other vendors are also seeing improved sales by offering to pre-load Windows XP. For example, on some of their laptops even consumers can choose: "Genuine Windows Vista Business with Windows XP Professional Downgrade." Fully supported by their help desk and repair centers.

Well, this month I had to buy a new laptop. I really tried to avoid Dell, because you have to pay an extra £60 for a downgrade. So I went to Lenovo, and they still have some Thinkpads with XP; they're not as cutting-edge as the "19-hour battery life" from Dell, but for school/work it's more than welcome!

Vista is a no-go zone. Microsoft cannot assume the role of bully in this debate. First, it dumps an OS onto us that we did not have much say in developing. The good features of XP were removed and the bad features of Vista were marketed as if it was some sort of rock god. Vista is slow, no matter how Microsoft spins it. It has nothing over XP except more cost -- significant additional cost, at that. I don't care about eye candy or Aero; that's just fluff and nonsense and I am not paying for it.

I provide advice to Victorian government agencies and my advice has been: Do not, under any circumstances, get into Vista. So far they all agree with my view so I think Microsoft has more than just a major perception problem on its hand. We will not be held ransom by Microsoft executives thinking they can market or bully us into submission.

But a couple of you think that the complaints about Vista are much ado about nothing:

Amazing. I read the stories and see the commercials every day bashing Vista. Jacksonville IT Services is the largest IT services company in Jacksonville, Fla. and we see no problems with Vista across hundreds of companies and thousands of users. In fact, most users would not dream of going back to XP. Is the Vista perception being controlled like the stock market?

I am using Vista without problems. I think all the bad rap about Vista is nonsense.

I'm keeping the existing client PCs on XP Pro, but new machines are being deployed with Vista Business or Ultimate. I don't like supporting two client OSes, but I'm not crazy about putting money into obsolete technology, either. The new Vista machines are going to our most tech savvy and enthusiastic users. As the early adopters, these users will not object to minor deployment issues, and will eventually help train their co-workers on Vista as we replace more PCs.

At the same time, I'm moving away from vendors whose software or drivers don't work well on Vista. This late after release, there's no excuse for poor Vista support, and I don't want to invest with vendors who choose not to embrace new technology. Love Vista or hate it, but if you don't fully support the currently shipping Microsoft OS over a year after release, I will not limit my options by becoming or remaining your customer.


After Microsoft announced that it was offering 24x7 support, Doug asked readers whether they trust Microsoft to solve their IT issues:

Yes, absolutely! I have consistently found MS technical support to be extraordinary. Do not feel the same way about TechNet's ability to assist me, nor do I feel MS leverages the outstanding opportunity it has with Event Viewer to solve technical issues.

Jeremy responds to a letter we ran yesterday regarding Microsoft's backward compatibility:

I'm sure I'm not the only one to respond to Fred's letter. A lot of us in the IT community are begging for Microsoft to cut the umbilical cord already and reduce backward compatibility. I for one look forward to "Midori."

Fred, install VMware. If you haven't heard of it, it is great for those that want to maintain compatibility while still being forward-thinking in our overall architecture. Install Windows 3.x in a VM, convert your docs and be done with the 16-bit days.

Finally, a reader experiences a problem with missing audio on Internet videos. Got any tips for him?

I was hoping you might know an expert (if you don't know the answer yourself) who could help me with a problem that I can't seem to get an answer to. I have Windows XP home edition with Service Pack 2 and it's running on a Dell XPS 410. Everything has been going great with it until the last week or so. A couple of days ago, I acquired a Trojan virus and was almost immediately able to get rid of it, thanks to the anti virus I have running. I also found some remnants of it in the registry and cleared that out. I also found three or four files left in a Windows folder and deleted them.

After this event, I noticed that when I go on the Internet and view a video (from YouTube or anywhere else), there is no sound. I can hear all sounds on the PC, including music CDs in Windows Media Player and RealPlayer, and any of the other sounds that Windows makes on Windows events. The only thing I can't hear is the audio from the Internet. I really think the virus thing has NOTHING to do with it, but I wanted to throw that in just in case. I have searched the Internet for answers and found a few that have NOT solved my problem. I have made sure "Play sounds in Web pages" and "Play videos in Web pages" are checked under Internet options. I have made sure the proper sound card is selected and the volumes turned up (not muted). I'm frustrated and don't know what else to try, so I'm looking for some real experts that might have some answers. Can you help me, or know who can?

Got any advice for Paul? Want to share your thoughts any of the topics we covered? Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on August 21, 2008