Vista SP2: Seamless, Simple, but Search Still Lags

I’ve been talking here about the upgrade to Windows 7, which has been quite pleasant so far. It’s quicker, with some nice UI improvements, and other bits and pieces I’ll talk about in other posts before long, I suspect. But being the glutton for punishment I am, this evening before dinner I decided to try the other big Microsoft OS change this month – the new service pack (SP2) for Vista, which I run on my iDell (the XPS, if you insist on correct nomenclature.) My conclusions? Read more of this post

Adventures With Windows 7 – Smarter UI, [Confusing] Symantec Beta License

In the first post in this series, I talked about the install process for the Windows 7 RC. That is not what users will experience, so it’s only of marginal interest, except insofar as it shows whether the stuff “works.” Windows passed that test just fine. This time out, I’m exploring the user interface to see what kinds of everyday improvements Microsoft has made. And puzzling over a 14-day license for Norton 360’s beta version. [The title of this post was updated on 6/7/09 – see last paragraph for content change.] Read more of this post

Adventures with Windows 7 – Installation of the RC

Microsoft made a Windows 7 release candidate (RC) available for download in May. RCs precede the ready to manufacture (RTM) stage, so there are still issues to fix and tweaks to be done. Microsoft has instrumented this version to phone home when users are online, and usage tracking gives them a chance to see interactions with the myriad of machines, options, and software environments that will occur in the wild. Read more of this post

HP Support Gets it Right

We all have our horror stories about the machines we live with. And we’ve all wrestled with Windows, Google, Skype, or [your personal favorite software whipping boy here.] But sometimes, things just work right – and they should be acknowledged when they do. Hence this story – a brief happy tale about a positive experience with HP. [No disclosure necessary – I am not doing any work for them right now, and no ethics were bruised in the writing of this note.]

I needed a new laptop. After deciding I was not going to get a best gaming laptop under 1000, but rather a strictly work computer. Once that was settled, I was wrestling with the form factor (big? small? netbook?) and coolness (those Macs are gorgeous, but…) and price (….too expensive. By a lot) I headed off to Fry’s (a California electronics store  geeks love) to do some shopping. Had my specs in hand, and started browsing – when I saw it. A nice big HP Pavilion DV7 series laptop. Refurbished. (Cue ominous music…)

That’s right. I said “refurbished.” I know some people steer clear, but I do trust HP enough to think I had a good shot at a working model, and there is a good policy for returns when things go wrong.  And the deal was very nice – a couple of hundred bucks less than I would have paid for a similar configuration new. So I plunged. Got home. Plugged it in. Started it up. And…things didn’t go so well.

Somehow the install just didn’t get off on the right foot. One or two things failed early, most notably the HP-provided setup routine. So when all the whirring and clicking was done, some things were just not right. The 90-day Norton that comes with it was already expired (maybe they don’t reset license dates on refurbs – need to fix that, guys.) And I couldn’t get a browser to start – but Microsoft Update could(!) And, once there, I could type in another address and go anywhere. But that was not a workaround I wanted to live with every time I wanted a browser.

What to do? I contacted support.

And I got through in less than 2 minutes.

And found someone helpful immediately.

We discussed the options. I’ll never get the time on that first setup back, but we agreed the best approach was to reinitialize the machine – there’s a full copy of the setup on the hard disk, as many of us know (and we usually complain about the space it takes up.) Reboot, hold down F11, and reinitialize. And they set up a call to check in with me about how it all went.

They called right on time. And my report? “Everything is working fine.” It was. The setup routine loaded properly. Vista updates (tons of them) took only two passes to load. Norton started up fine, and a separate session with them using my existing Norton account (for my other machine, and my kids’ machines) provided my bona fides, and we were off to the races. I got Skype going, and Tweetdeck, and of course WordPress, and I’m in business.

It’s nice to be able to say that sometimes even the big vendors can indeed get it right. Kudos, HP. I’ll be back.