Category: Techie Stuff

MicroSoft tries to make an Apple, but they end up making a Lemon

A long time ago computers were complex machines capable only of running text based programs. Someone with a view of the future came up with DOS (Disk Operating System), which was a way to get away from text and allowed the user to view actual images. The system was fed by large floppy disks that held the information, and included programs such as Word-perfect and accounting programs, as well as a few games.

An up and coming computer company came up with an operating system that would make computers usable to the masses. They called this method ‘Windows’. The first few versions of the program (Windows 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0) were miles ahead of the old DOS system, but still lacked user friendly components.

The next OS (Operating System) was known as Windows 3.1, which came out in 1990. This system was easier to use than it’s predecessors, but was still difficult to use for the most part. Loading programs on Windows 3.1 (and it’s predecessors) was done via a floppy disk but still depended mostly on DOS. This made the OS slow and difficult to use.

Then came a technological marvel called Windows 95. This operating system changed everything that we knew about computers. With a start menu that allowed the user to choose which program they wanted to use, a multitude of software that could be installed via a CD. People everywhere were running out and buying computers.

Windows 95 put computers in people’s homes. With the popularity of the OS, other manufacturers were jumping on the bandwagon and creating software that could be run on the new OS. Windows 95 was (and still is) without a doubt the greatest achievement Microsoft ever produced.

How and why would the ever expanding company ever top this magnificent technological marvel you ask? Well, at first they didn’t. A brand new OS was created in the fall of 1997. The new system was called Windows 98, and it featured advancements to the already great Windows 95, but with a few ticks. In fact, Win98 was not all that great at first, and a ton of people who were comfortable with Windows 95 refused the upgrade.

A few tweaks and upgrades to the system actually made 98 a better OS, and by the time the first three upgrades were made available for download, Microsoft had a winner on their hands. At this time Microsoft held a monopoly on every computer manufacturer in the land. you would believe that this would be enough for the multimillion dollar conglomerate, but alas, in the search for more gold, the geniuses at Microsoft tried their hand with yet another OS, Windows ME.

Windows ME (Millennium Edition) came out in the fall of 1999, and promised consumers an Operating system for the new century. What they promised and what they delivered were two very different things. I remembering working at the local Radio Shack store, and having customers pre-order computers with the new OS, hoping that it would be even better than it’s predecessors, even selling their Windows 98 computers and investing in ‘the future’ of computers. I also remember these same people coming back a few weeks afterwards looking for refunds.

The Operating System was the first major failure in Microsoft history. Programs failed to run on the system, others ran for awhile and then crashed. The system was slow and unpredictable, and acted as if it were actually made prior to Windows 3.1. Of course Microsoft was quick to come up with a solution, and a great solution it was. Windows XP was born out of the ashes of Windows 98, ignoring ME completely.

Trouble with this was that anyone who had purchased a computer with ME on it were not offered the new OS for free. If they wanted their computers to work properly, they would have to purchase the new system at their own expense. There is a saying that once a man achieves power, he soon forgets about all the people who helped him get there, and this is especially true for Microsoft. But people did buy the new Operating System.

Windows XP is still my favorite OS. It did everything it needed to, ran programs quickly, and was easy to use. Why you ask is Microsoft still not making this system?

I guess society is partially to blame for this, as we always want something new and innovative. I myself still have a few systems that run Windows XP. I find the system dependable and easy to fix. Of course Microsoft no longer supports the operating system, they washed their hands clean of the program just a few years after it was introduced, only to introduce yet another ‘advancement’ to the computer world, a brand new operating system that would change everything we knew about computers. This new OS was known as Vista.

Like Windows ME, Vista flopped big time. The program required tons of space and memory, programs crashed, hell the entire OS crashed big time. People were seeking out computer techies to uninstall Vista and reinstall Windows XP on their home computers, after they experienced all the flaws that came with this new OS.

Again, a quick fix was needed, and this time, Microsoft delivered. Windows 7 was not only a fix, but it was also the OS they wanted to build when they worked at Vista. Dependable and fast, the newest generation OS gave consumers what they asked for. But with Apple Computers and tablets featuring Android Operating Systems (introduced on Cell phones) becoming more user friendly and dependable, Microsoft decided to ‘improve’ their OS one more time.

Changing everything we now know about Windows, Microsoft came up with a new OS that was radically different than anything it has ever produced. Gone was the friendly and easy to access Start Button. In its place was a large splash screen similar to what you see on various SmartPhones. Of course once you click on Desktop, everything looks almost like the old OS.

Windows 8 was this new Operating System. Gone were the delays at startup. Prior to this system, Windows took forever to load. Users were treated to a system that restarted in seconds, the splash screen popping up in seconds within pushing the power button.

I have been working on computers for the past fifteen years, and I never seen anything so difficult to use. I run a computer consulting service where I assist customers in the purchase of computers, and tutor clients on the use of the device once they get it home. On one occasion, it took me over three hours to figure out Windows 8 well enough to show it to my clients, but the system was such a memory hog that it ran slow despite the great system that they had purchased. With an Intel i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and a 1 TB hard drive, this system should have been as fast as a rocket, but it sank like a rock.

Most programs would not run on the system, such as the client’s printers, scanners, and even their wireless mouse. The antivirus program that was provided by the ISP would not run either, the internet service provider promised an upgrade in a few months, which did nothing for the here and now.

A week after the PC was purchased, I got a call from the customer. They said that their computer simply went from running (slowly) to shutting down and turning on. They told me that it began at 8:30 in the evening, and all night. Apparently Windows encountered an error and was trying to fix itself, but kept failing. In doing a bit of research I found that this OS was not ready to be released to the public, but in an attempt to get the new product out before Christmas, it was released early. This means that millions of people will be receiving new computers for Christmas, only to later discover what a heap they have on their hands. Or it could mean that Microsoft chose to use consumers as it’s test mule, and once all the bugs have been worked out (hopefully by Christmas morning), nobody will know that there was a problem in the first place. This wouldn’t be the first time consumers worked out the bugs in a computer program.

When I got the computer to my house, I was confident that I could easily fix the problem. I knew that the Repair program was running, but it needed a bit of help to continue. I figured if I could open Windows in a state known as ‘Safe Mode’, I could fix what ailed the program. With Windows computers in the past, hitting the F8 key during startup brought me to a mode of windows where only the basic drivers were loaded, and I could do troubleshooting on the system to determine where the problem was. Unfortunately Microsoft made another change I was not aware of, they removed any chance I would have to go into this mode.

In the past, punching the F8 key worked fine, but due to the fact that Win8 started up in seconds, the user would have to hit the key in a millisecond, basically by fluke, if they wanted to boot the system into Safe Mode. According to web documents, this is impossible. Here were my customers with an $850 computer on their hands, less than a week old, and virtually unusable. In one web document I read, a techie tried calling Microsoft about the issue and was told that at the time, they did not have anyone trained in Windows 8, so they couldn’t help them with the problem.

The first part of being a decent computer tech is knowing when to quit. I called the store where they purchased the device, and was told that if they wanted a refund, they could bring it by today. No problem, no arguments. Could it be that this was not the first issue with Windows 8 and rather than lose a customer, they opted to simply refund the money? I was amazed. The client returned to my house later that day, asking if I could fix their old computer, the one with Windows XP. It ran great, and the customers chose to run this one to the grave, and then go out and buy an Apple. Great job Microsoft!