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Windows Vista Diary: Caught In A Vicious Update Cycle

When we last left our hero, he was grappling with an annoying Vista activation problem (eventually solved by a Microsoft patch). This week, he's caught in Windows Update hell, and he's apparently not alone.
When we last left our hero, he was grappling with an annoying Vista activation problem (eventually solved by a Microsoft patch). This week, he's caught in Windows Update hell, and he's apparently not alone.Here's the deal: The more time I spend using Windows Vista Ultimate, the more I can see I'm going to like it, when I've got it all buttoned down on my desktop. However, to get to that end point, I'm having to spend an increasing--and increasingly annoying--amount of time dealing with, er, stuff that should have been patched, updated, coded, validated, or fixed before the operating system was officially released at the end of January.

Makes one wonder whether Vista isn't some kind of Microsoft experiment in spiritual growth--you know, the journey itself is the point. My latest "trip" involved downloading more updates--KB928089, KB929427, KB890830, KB905866, and KB929735. They're the usual mix of the trivial and the more substantial.

Two caught my eye. KB929427, entitled "Windows Vista Application Compatibility Update," is a fix to enable a collection of legacy apps--Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Java Control Panel, Adobe Create Suite, Roxio Easy Media Creator, Palm Desktop, and Opera 9.02--to run under Vista. The problem for which KB928089 is intended is identified as "The computer may respond very slowly as the Phishing Filter evaluates Web page contents in Internet Explorer 7."

It's my sense that Microsoft will be pushing down numerous such updates for the next month or two. To be fair, Windows Updates are pretty much transparent to most people, downloading automatically (unless you've opted to shut off that feature). They only pop up when you're prompted to allow an install to continue or to do a restart to finish updating your computer's configuration.

Few patches are as significant as last week's Windows Genuine Activation patch, or an earlier update to the crucial Windows Display Driver Model. (WDDM supports Vista's translucent, 3D graphical user interface.)

However, it is fair for consumers to wonder why Vista still seems to need so much tweaking. Don't just take my word for it. Troll the two most prominent user question and answer boards--Microsoft's TechNet Vista forums and its less technically intensive Windows Vista forums--and you'll see a litany of user woes.

Indeed, many of the problems these users are facing, though perhaps not showstoppers in and of themselves, are nuisances enough to take the sheen off the new OS. Anecedotally, I'm beginning to hear tales like that of a colleague, who bought a new Vista laptop, only to have it kick down to low resolution after she installed AIM 6. (To convey the wasted time, one must note that, as is typical in such cases, it was only after futzing around with phone support and with the machine that she finally realized it was the AIM install that had degraded her set up.)

Bottom line: The issues of the past few months are crystallizing into what I'd characterize as the recognition that migrating to Vista is a chancy venture, rather than the smooth, deterministic upgrade process it should be.

Editor's Choice
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor