Garbage in, garbage out

Does anyone want to help me take up a collection for Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal so he can replace his crappy Sony notebook? Every time he looks at Windows Vista, he runs it on this miserable crapware-infested machine and pronounces Vista worthless.

Latest installment is today’s look at Vista Service Pack 1, which Walt dismisses with this wave of the hand. Mostly because it’s not a Mac.

SP1 doesn’t resolve some of the most annoying flaws in Vista, including slow start-ups and reboots, and a security system that nags you too much and requires add-on anti-virus software. I guess these problems will either never be fixed fully or will have to wait for SP2.

My offer to Walt still stands:

[I]t seems downright unfair to pick this one sluggish machine and continue using it as the benchmark. But whatever. Walt, if you’re really interested in fixing this machine’s slow startup times, keep reading. Or call me and I’ll help walk you through it.

Somehow I don’t think I’m going to get a call.

21 thoughts on “Garbage in, garbage out

  1. Ed, I suspect that you do what I usually do for any system that I want to work properly. I install a clean copy of the OS on a bare system. (Might as well, we either get them for free from Microsoft, or can afford an MSDN subscription wit a candy jar full of them.) That approach has worked well at least since Windows 95, and results in a lean, mean, fighting machine.

    The problem is, only home-brewers and experts get the luxury of being able to install a retail build. Everyone else gets an OEM build delivered with their system. When I got my first Toshiba computer with Vista installed, I tried to do just what a typical user would do. I left UAC enabled and did not uninstall all the crapware. That is the Vista OOBE of most users. They start out bloated, and have to fight their way out.

    You are mischaracterizing Walt’s take in his article about a crapware-laden machine. He actually praises Vista in a couple of places. His beef is with Sony, and he makes it clear that the practice of crapping up the system isn’t unique to Sony but an industry-wide pestilence.

    In my own case of the Toshiba, I finally couldn’t stand it anymore. I went in and cleared out all the crapware, the piggish Symantec leechware, and unwanted Toshiba utilities. It’s like a 50 ton weight has been taken off the system. Yet I feel bad for all the people who don’t know how much better their system can be, and I now can understand how the typical user thinks “Vista sucks.”

    As Walt says, “The problem is a lack of respect for the consumer. The manufacturers don’t act as if the computer belongs to you. They act as if it is a billboard for restricted trial versions of software and ads for Web sites and services that they can sell to third-party companies who want you to buy these products.”

  2. Dave, all Vista machines I’ve purchased (six in the past year, from three different vendors) come with full, installable copies of Windows Vista. The machines I have purchased from Dell have perfectly fine OEM installs. I’m using the OEM install on an XPS420 right now and it is impressively clean and fast. My Dell notebook was the same way, and so was my Asus Tablet PC. All those machines are still using the OEM installs. I do clean installs for test machines, but I take great care to buy and use OEM installs. If a machine is junk-laden, I won’t buy it.

    Yes, Walt’s original article was about Sony. But his two follow-ups talk only about Vista. In fact, Apple has pulled a quote from the follow-up article he did and is using it on their TV ads: “The Wall Street Journal says OS X is faster than Vista.” That’s bullshit. If I had bought a machine that acted like the Sony Walt describes, I would have returned it within a week. He chose not to do so, but his complaint is with Sony, not with Microsoft.

  3. My own Sony VAIO notebook came preloaded with Xp and a bunch of junk that I didn’t need, much as any computer these days comes overstuffed. It ran Vista wonderfully on a clean install.

  4. Ed, I’ve heard that Dell is a convert to low-bloat setups but I haven’t seen a Dell system since that happened. Remember that PC Decrapifier was originally called Dell Decrapifier, so they weren’t always so clean.

    Our CEO took a fun look at bloatware on systems last June, and here’s what he found:
    If you are using the OEM installs without having to remove any bloatware on the Dell and ASUS, then I think I will be buying from them in the future. I don’t think I’ll ever buy Toshiba again.

  5. Even though I’m a Windows NT fanboy, I have to agree with the view that PC manufactures have little respect for the consumer. I just bought a laptop from DELL. It’s an XPS M1330, which is quite high end. First thing I get when I boot for the first time is the “you’re computer is at risk… blah blah” message. Then the Trend micro antivirus starts installing. OK. So far, it’s an unfriendly beginning but I can live with it. One day later Vista says that it blue screened because there is something wrong with that antivirus and points me to the Trend micro webpage. It’s great that Vista tells me what’s going on, but is bad from DELL that sends me a machine that blue screens due to a known cause. To make matters even worse, the update that I downloaded for the AV didn’t install, so I decided to simply uninstall the software. The uninstall process hang half way and not even ctrl-alt-del would work to kill it. In the end, I had to do a manual shut down and couldn’t uninstall the AV program. Eventually, I went to the dell tech support webpage and found a non-standard method for removing this AV. This experience should be easy to replicate by anyone, as the hardware and software are well defined.

    So, Ed, there is some truth to the whole thing, unfortunately.

  6. Yeah, Toshiba is pretty bad with their crapware. Lenovo does tend to bloat things up, but at least many of those applications are useful utilities. I don’t have any experience with Dell laptops, but their desktops are also very clean these days.

    While Walt’s complaint may inevitably be with Sony, it really belies a thinking he has that does not allow him to objectively review Windows based products. I haven’t read Walt in a while even though I subscribe to the WSJ, but he had a rant a while ago which basically pointed out, in his eyes, how the end-to-end experience that Apple provides is superior. What is troubling is that he purports himself to be a general reviewer of all things tech (hence the site), but all too often he only sees tech through fruity colored glasses.

    If he continues to use that bloated Sony laptop as his benchmark, that is for shame. A lot better choices exist, and they don’t even have to cost very much.

    Ed, have you left comments on these articles stating your offer?

    Quite frankly, MS should just back up a truck of various laptops to Walt’s office and let him choose a few representative examples, because this is ultimately bad PR for MS. MS, if you’re listening, send him a Lenovo T61, FWIW. And thanks Ed for your continued diligence on this matter.

  7. Ed:
    I am volunteering to be your second in the coming duel between you and Mossberg, since you have challenged his honor and he must defend himself or skulk off into the sunset. Will you be using pistols or epees?

  8. Ed thanks again for exposing the hypocrisy of tech ‘media’.
    Everyone knows Mossberg is complete Apple shill.

    If steve jobs were to walk on stage next MacWorld and pull his pants down and lay a huge one and christen it the iTurd….Walt would immediately call it the most ‘elegant’ and ‘intuitive’ POS he’s seen.

    Of course the Blogosphere(fanboidom) trumpets his views as being “Mainstream” as he’s the voice of the WSJ.

    Pogue isn’t any worse but atleast he has some tact.

  9. Diego, I have two Dell machines here that came with Trend Micro AV software installed. They’ve worked fine since day 1, with no blue screens ever. I don’t have that particular laptop, so I can’t say whether it’s a widespread issue, but my guess is it was a short-term problem. Dell is pretty good about fixing issues like this.

  10. You failed to mention that he also used a “two-month-old Dell XPS One desktop” for testing.

    Frankly, I don’t see much of anything wrong with the review, which is mostly positive while pointing out that SP1 isn’t a Big Deal and won’t change fundamental aspects of what Vista is. Most people couldn’t tell if they were on an SP1 system versus RTM if I held a gun to their head (and no cheating by checking version numbers or meaningless things like the “Search” item no longer being on the Start menu).

  11. Rick, my beef is that Walt continues to flog Vista for its slow start-ups, and in fact he seems somewhat obsessed with the subject. Ironically, he doesn’t mention any results from the XPS One that he tested. In my experience, that computer should boot in a minute or less. Very comparable to a Mac.

  12. No Ed, what we need to do is get Mike Cox and his crack team on MCSEs over there – they’ll show him every Wow! aspect of Vista. Then later, over cigars and cognac, they’ll watch as Walt throws out his Macs and replaces them with systems running Windows 7.

  13. I’ve gone back and re-read my notes when first installing Vista when I ran it as RC1 on a home-built desktop in ’06.

    Compared to my recollections of XP when it was new in ’01, Vista then was already far better in it’s “rough” state than XP was when it went out into the marketplace.

    I’m now runniung Vista SP1 on a ThinkPad T60 with 2 gig of ram and a nice little 7200 rpm drive. The service pack was not a “blow my doors off” experience, but it runs trouble-free. The T60 has always shown me 4.0 experience scale due to the video card, I suppose, and the other numbers are in the 4.7-4.9 range.

    Sleep and Hibernate are a little long-ish in Vista, compared to XP, but all in all the operating system is doing ok in my view.

    File copy isn’t much faster now, but I’m a RoboCopy man anyway.

  14. Something else came to mind – why is Walt complaining about how long it takes to boot his machine when you scarcely need to do a cold boot these days in the first place? My desktop and notebook both come out of sleep mode and are at a desktop in a matter of seconds.

  15. @Serdat – Good point, I never shut down my systems, its either sleep or hibernate. My HP2710p tablet pc comes out of sleep in seconds and out hibernation in about 30 seconds to a minute

  16. Good idea Ed. I’m in. I’ll send him a large check as well, I’m sure it’ll help him wake up and realize how great Vista is. don’t worry I’m onto this.

  17. Someone should give each PC a crapware rating so buyers can know 1) how badly crapware affects its performance and 2) how easy it is to do a clean install of Vista on that PC.

  18. You put the security into the operating system, they complain about constant nagging. You take it out and they complain about the lack of security. Walt needs to wise up.

  19. Since SP1 provides APIs to hook on x64 systems – now the malware guys can also patch it easily and may be faster than the legit third party s/w since they don’t care much about system stability.

    May be the EU, Google and bunch of other guys are to blame here than Microsoft, but still….

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