Windows XP + Home Business = eXasPerating

Unless you’ve been in a coma for the past decade, you probably noticed that Big Bill and the Microsoftketeers designed Windows XP with the point-and-click user in mind. Point-and-clickers have the home computer basics covered, and that’s the extent of it. They know how to surf the internet (well, provided you gently guide them to the pretty blue “E” icon first). They can usually type a letter in Microsoft Word without breaking a sweat. And some of the more investigative point-and-clickers among us have even figured out how to add email contacts to their address books without consulting the Outlook Help center.

I�m not trying to be glib or poke fun at anyone here. But you have to admit that the majority of computer users know very little about computer functions, which inevitably turn out to be laughably elementary once you’re finally “shown the light.” And I�ll even go out on a limb and say that Microsoft prefers its users to stay naively green. A user who isn’t quite sure where the computer’s Power Button is, let alone ever heard the words “freeware” or “shareware”, isn’t likely to stray from the herd of passive automatic-update downloaders.

However, if you run an online business like I do, then you’ve likely advanced well past the point-and-click user phase. In fact, you’re probably no stranger to pulse-quickening activities like spyware-hunting at twilight, jump drive backups on holiday weekends, and combing online pc malls for the best deals on OEM software. An enlightened user of the home business owning kind recognizes that he has choices. He’s no longer dribbling into a little cup waiting for Bill Gates to climb out of the monitor and personally hand him another software update (although I bet if we give old Bill some time, he’ll figure out a way to do this).

Microsoft recently made a public announcement that they will discontinue support for Windows 98 as of July 11, 2006. So, like any diligent internet business owner who wishes to sustain delivery of uninterrupted, high quality service to clients, I bit the bullet and sprang for a new computer that runs Windows XP. Mind you, I dragged my feet. For the last eight years, I’ve enjoyed a mutually respectful relationship with my old friend Windows 98 and wasn’t looking for a replacement, a.k.a. “Why fix it if it isn’t broke?” But now I need to let off a little steam over the way Windows things have been going, and even worse, where they seem to be headed.

As a web business owner whose needs are decidedly different from the recreational computer user who just wants to play video games and forward the occasional email joke, I find Windows XP overaccommodating, over-stimulating, over-attentive and just plain overbearing. And now, with the fazing-out of Windows 98 and Vista’s next generation looming on the horizon, it seems that we can say goodbye forever to the old way of life– when knowing a few things about computers actually worked FOR you instead of against you.

How is XP exasperating? Let me count the ways! Too many choices, too many questions, too many interruptions and far too many panic alarms going off at all hours. Anyone who spends 10-15 hours a day doing work on the computer will agree… the Windows XP operating system illicits plenty of gutteral noise and tooth-grinding. It’s not unlike that overzealous coworker who wanders into your cubicle every five minutes to point out the typos in your document, tells you to get up at inopportune times so they can install programs you didn’t ask for, and issues various warnings about whatever life-threatening disease could potentially be circulating through the air vents.

In contrast, you may find as I did, that Windows 98 was a work mate who always respected your boundaries. Tell it what to do, and it cooperates. Search for something using the proper terminology, and it locates the item swiftly and with no further complication. That, to me, shows a program designed by people who account for and respect human intelligence. Unlike its fretful, codependent XP counterpart, Windows 98 doesn’t second-guess your decisions with a barrage of questions. And most importantly, Windows 98 would know better than to ask you to download 27 antivirus updates when you’re deep in the throes of web site publishing.

To add insult to injury, the Windows XP home computer security partner of choice is McAfee, designed to strike fear into the hearts of all who dare purchase a machine that has the factory version pre-installed on the operating disk. When your McAfee Security Center is fully staffed and engaged, it’s a nail-biting, nerve-wracking High Terror Alert on your computer 24-7. And for those of us who rely on email as a way to connect with new clients, send and receive ezines from our colleagues and manage important business accounts via our email inboxes, to say that the latest anti-spam technology works a little TOO well is an understatement.

Today’s anti-spam and maximum protection firewalls are a double-edged sword. If you keep the high security programs running, you’re driven to distraction with constant alerts, warnings, updates, etc. that pull you away from important work functions so you can click OK eighty times in a half-hour and still make no progress. And as you’re frantically clicking, you’re likely missing more than half of your important online communication due to its being mis-routed to the spam folder. But if you shut off your security features, you’re vulnerable to virus attack and system/file destruction from a million spammers who found your business email address online and are standing by with their fingers on the detonate button just waiting to take you down.

I tried to disengage the firewall portion of my McAfee system yesterday because I got tired of the constant clicking games. What should have been a simple process took me probably ten hours due to one of those silly alerts crashing my “RAM-jacked” new computer in the middle of the uninstall process, and subsequently resulted in my having to reboot the Windows XP operating system and reinstall ALL of my applications. Sure, Windows XP works great… just as long as you don’t mess with anything, choose your preferred Security vendors, or try to run things the way that YOU like them.

It all boils down to this: there exists an ever-growing population of home business owners who require an operating system in their price range comfort zone (most home biz owners are do-it-yourselfers because they’re on a limited budget), that not only acknowledges their user-savvy, but gives them the freedom to navigate their computer settings however they choose (and without a slew of unforseen complications cropping up in the process). Someone should seriously think about marketing to these people.

The most ironic thing about today’s Windows-based machines is that they have enough RAM and disk space to run a business from the comfort of home using advanced technology… but the package that it arrives in is designed for the low-end user who can’t find his way out of a cardboard computer box.

Copyright 2006 Dina Giolitto. All rights reserved.

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[tags]windows xp,windows 98,microsoft windows xp,windows 98 support[/tags]