Thursday, July 17, 2008

new vista: button button, where is the button?

At work I have a new computer with the Vista operating system. I have heard a lot of complaints about it but I have found it to be very much like XP whenever I want to do something. Vista looks much nicer and has a few new things that are nifty.

One reason for fewer issues, however, may be that my machine also came with My Documents from my old computer as well as a number of programs already installed and set up. Most importantly, my web browser (Firefox) and email client (Thunderbird) were set up and ready to go as if they were on my old desktop with XP (i.e., bookmarks, add-ons, contacts, previously customized toolbars, preferences and options transferred).

As you can see, it is much, much prettier than XP. A good background pic for the wallpaper helps. (Mine was a shot taken by this young beauty's grandmother.)

The problems I have had have been minor. However, trying to solve them proved to be almost comical. Each had to do with the inadequacy of Vista's Help and Support program.

On my initial logon I was asked if I wanted an on-screen keyboard. I didn't know what it was so I clicked yes, thinking it would be no big deal to turn it off. Baaaaddd assumption. Every time I logged on, a keyboard would pop up on the screen that could be used by the mouse. I could close it but then with each new login, it would pop up again.

I searched Help and Support. Nothing on how to get rid of the unwanted item. I search through the various folders on Control Panel. The various icons were similar but renamed, but no luck. I called and emailed the campus IT helpdesk. No one knew.

Finally, into my office came two IT people, very bright students that I know. They did more sophisticated searches, tried all sorts of things. They found the offending file (osk.exe) but were afraid to delete it since it may just give annoying error messages.

After a good long while, after exhausting all options, one finally said, "Let's try googling it." Googled it we did and found a very simple solution on some discussion board in India.

All we had to do was click a button after choosing an option in a folder in Control Panel. Vista put it under Ease of Access Center. Selecting the correct option, we found a button there to choose the on-screen keyboard and we just unclicked it.

The funny thing is that Vista's Help and Support doesn't give this option as a way of enabling the keyboard. It leads you to another place that has no way of turning the keyboard off.

Even funnier we had been in the Ease of Access Center before. At the top of the page, in a large font, is "Start On-Screen Keyboard" but clicking that doesn't let you turn it off. You have to scroll down and chose among the small-print options buried in the page.

The option had to do with using the computer without a mouse.

Ease of Access. Right.

The next day I had another problem and spent a good long while trying to solve it. Again, Help and Support was no help and no support.

Then I remembered: Google it!

Problem solved in seconds.

Earlier, I heard one of the students from IT, a young man from Kenya, muttering to himself as he left my office, "How did he ever get so rich?" Only in America could a Bill Gates get rich by knowingly putting out a flawed product that would be fixed later, after users suffer the consequences. The thing is, this has been true of all versions of Windows.

Be blessed.

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