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New version of the Windows Operating System by Microsoft
"Free Upgrade to Vista!" they say. Advertising towards the end of 2006 by various places that sell computers suggests it's somehow a free bonus they are giving you. I'd suggest being a bit cautious as it's far from obvious that Vista is better than previous operating systems by Microsoft. I would suggest instead going for a Free Upgrade to Linux! Linux started out better by being based on operating systems on big mainframe computers in the days when computers were real computers, whereas Microsoft has always felt more "micro" and to some extent "soft", being based on old CPM and some ideas borrowed from Xerox. New versions of Linux (given away free) go on improving, whereas I've noticed an alarming tendency in Microsoft Windows to be more restrictive. Beware of the Palladium problem.
I'm not saying Don't get Vista, and I would acknowledge that in the end the way the market is set up may be such that forces will conspire to make it compulsory, regardless of what anyone thinks. Try getting a computer from a box-shifting place in 2006 without Microsoft being lumped in with it?! Paranoid conspiracy theories might help to explain the way this has been done, but surely if Microsoft are charging money for the operating system then it should be cheaper to buy the computer with no operating system and install whatever operating system you want?!
What I'm suggesting is we try to slow down the rate of spread of increasingly restricted variants of the Microsoft operating system. For a limited period we have the freedom to Just Say No.
* At around the time of 2006/12 the 64 bit version was sold as if it was a separate product with a separate licence to the 32 bit version, and because of compatibility issues you'd got to buy two versions of the operating system to allow various things to work. (At the same time, Linux was given away free in both the 64 bit and 32 bit version).
* Some suppliers (I'll not mention them by name) were selling a crippled version which did not have the proper installation discs. So, if you made any mistakes installing a multiboot system for example, you could end up scuppered and they would claim it was just hard luck. You can spot there is potentially a problem if instead of a CD/DVD there is a piece of cardboard. My advice is: If you find this, ask for your money back!
* Vista used to be called "Longhorn". I would admit that the alteration of the name is an improvement. Besides a Vista being a view of scenery, which you might conceivably see through windows, the change also escapes various problems which might have been associated if the operating system had been named after a bovine species.
There's now something available which is a set of patches to correct the holes in Vista, a bit like Windows 98 Service Pack 2, but instead it's known as Windows 7. Also see Windows 7 Sins
* Not everyone is fooled by the hype. See Bad Vista (welcome back!) comments by the Free Software Foundation. Also see Windows 7 Sins
To sum it up, if you are buying a computer from somewhere that has computers for sale, be sensible and buy something which you have a good idea is reliable.
Footnote Update 2007/02: One theme which is very common in critique of Microsoft Vista is how Unremarkable it is. In contrast to the Microsoft sponsored ads which claim it's got something impressive or unexpected about it, people are actually saying "...but it's no different to XP!". So, nothing Wowee about it then. But I have heard that this advertising technique is a common ploy by corporations where they make a claim which directly contradicts the facts, for example if it was a restaurant which had uncomfortable seats, they'd have ads saying how comfy the seats were. (as if people are still fooled by that?!)