What Mom Wanted for Mother’s Day: Downgrade me to XP!

Last Mother’s Day I was commissioned to pick out the best laptop in the world for Mom by Dad. I did, or so I thought. It is an amazing IBM Thinkpad and we got everything for her.

Mom is a former computer teacher and pretty proficient, but she has a temperamental satellite internet connection and doesn’t like to be a “geek,” she raised one (me) so she’s earned the right to let me do it.

So, we went with Vista because that was “the thing” (and IBM recommended it – now they’ve posted information on downgrading on their site however Mom just called and they said “there is nothing we can do for you legally, mam, and if you downgrade you will have a mess.” )

Buying Vista was a big mistake!

It has been nothing but trouble! It upgrades and updates every moment. The joke was when my sister got broadband cellular this week that I would borrow the card and blog on trips, she’d teach her online course for SCAD and Mom chimed in and said,

“Hey, Microsoft Vista can update while we’re on vacation.”

Vista has been a Disaster

To say VISTA is unusable is an understatement. I set Mom up personally and as soon as I leave, sometime during the week it asks a question that she doesn’t know how to answer and she’s down again.

I turned off the nasty user interface only to have it come back again like an awful hangnail.

And this week was the final straw. We’re all on gmail so we can chat and my daughter tried chatting her grandmother.

Despite the fact we’ve chatted before and I set it up, now Vista is blocking gmail chat — the point was, things work and then they somehow stop working.

Mom is no dummy — she’s taken over 500 hours of computer related courses at the local college from A+ certification to every application known to man. The problem is, she’s not a geek because it would take a geek to make the darn thing work.

Maintenance Nightmare
Four months a go, I just had her bring me the laptop once a month to do all of the updates and fixes here, just to keep it working.

We have three Vista laptops on our campus of 85 computers and 3 servers. I’ve spent more time on the Vista computers than all of the other ones combined this year.

I’ve stayed quiet on the VISTA bashing, however, I’m completely fed up. I don’t like doing things that make Mom’s life miserable and that is what I’ve done.

If this is what Microsoft is going to do without Bill Gates, they are in trouble. I have no “dog in this fight,” however, I will not have another VISTA computer on campus.

Mom asked me to give her this for Mother’s Day:

“Will you downgrade my computer to XP so that I can use it?”

My answer: “Yes.” And when I figure out how, I’m going to do it at school too.

I’m issuing this Complaint on Behalf of My Mom
Mom also asked me how she could best complain to Microsoft and that is when I promised to make this blog post. You see, computers are our lives now.

Mom’s computer is her link to her grandchildren, her cookbook that she wants to publish (and can barely work on) her e-mail link with her family that lives out of town, and her calendar. It is simply her life.

And this part of her life is broken. I don’t know why, but it is.

And the answer isn’t in sending another enormous update that will cause her computer to freeze, stop responding, and be unable to use anything and for me to drive out there AGAIN… the answer is in having some programmers work out a way for every single person to downgrade and send them a CD.

As for now, more people than ever are looking at Mac’s and Linux alternatives.

It is not just because Microsoft has released a bad operating system, it is because they are messing with our lives, and amidst all of the great tools that do work, we just don’t have time for one that doesn’t.

I’ve been using Microsoft since Windows 1.0 in 1987 and computers since the TRS-80 in the 1970’s when I was eight and have never, I repeat, never had an operating system upgrade that I didn’t eventually get used to and take to — but this is it.

I’ve listened with interest on the “techies” I love like Leo Laporte and John C. Dvorak but this is the most important opinion. Windows Vista … if Mom hates you, so do I.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. This blog’s for you.

Update at 8:19 pm: Mom called IBM to ask for the downgrade CD and they told her there is nothing they can do for her and “If you downgrade, you will have a mess, Mam.” Mom is upset and says “Why bother, Maybe I should buy a Mac.” This was a $2000 computer — she should be able to use it! (They will only downgrade OEM Professional or something like that.)

Update at 8:53 pm: A friend of mine from Microsoft is helping me out with this problem. I am so grateful that I’m in tears. Although I was ready to take time off tomorrow and go get XP, Mom has already spent enough money on this and to have Microsoft do the right thing, even if it is in a roundabout way will restore her faith. I’m going to call her now.

(I have to add this — I adore Windows XP and I LOVE Office 2007, they did get that right. Smart Art is amazing! I also really like the Expression web product as well that we taught in my class this year but this is just WRONG!)

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17 thoughts on “What Mom Wanted for Mother’s Day: Downgrade me to XP!

  1. I hesitantly bought my Vista laptop after my XP system was sent for repairs (hardware, not software). Vista does “weird things”, but it hasn’t disabled me…yet. That said, why is it that I feel the need to have an XP system, a Linux system (on an old Pentium 2, no less), and my school’s G4 iBook? I thought Vista was the standalone answer to all life’s troubles!
    I wish you the best of luck.
    Wish everyone Happy Mother’s Day!

  2. I have to add my comment to this as I am appalled by Microsoft’s answer to my mom. (Yes, I am proud to call Cool Cat Teacher my sister! She is the greatest!)

    I as well have supported Microsoft through the years and a long time ago begrudgingly swapped my Windows for a MAC. (However, after experiencing their OS and their user friendly environment, I am not about to turn back.) I still own a personal computer with Windows XP but with this type of service that they are consistently offering (or lack thereof) I know for certain that I shall not ever repurchase another Windows Operating System machine again.

    Although I am biased about this treatment happening to My Mom I still think it should not happen to anyone. If a behemoth company creates and sells a product, they should stand behind it and iron out the problems, even if it is their own. They should stand behind the fact that they made the mistake and the consumer is having to pay.

    What ever happened to Making the Customer Happy. What would make the customer happy in this case is to buy something other than Vista!

  3. This wasn’t harsh, Vicki, this is quite accurate of the experiences I have seen. I also have a long experience with Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. I am primarily a Mac user, with time spent on various Linux distros. I use Windows only when I am working with teachers in the field.

    Any time I have come across teachers using Vista, it has been a total disaster! I won’t bother getting into details, but I find it impossible to get a teacher to do anything but the basics when using Vista. It’s a horrible operating system, and not conducive to classroom technology integration. There are just simply too many issues.

    I am sorry to hear about your experience, and I feel bad for your mother. I hope you get it resolved soon.

  4. good article, you share some of my frustration with Vista. I have a serious dilemma, if I downgrade, I lose the “tablet” functions of my HP tx1419 tablet PC. I need to use Cisco’s VPN client, though, and Cisco hasn’t released a Vista version of their VPN stuff. Arrrrrgh!

  5. Wow, that is some good Vista bashing, sorry that your Mom is having so much trouble. I have been using Vista for 7 months now and haven’t had any of the problems you describe. I love it and wouldn’t think of going back to XP.

    Anyways, good luck solving your problem,

  6. @robert – We’ve done everything and tried everything — after a year, we’ve completely exhausted all hope. It is just too much of a pain.

    If you’ve read me a while, you’ll know that I just never rant. I don’t. But right now, I’m upset. We all have a soft spot for our Mothers.

    @imaginethatsolution –
    Hey, little sister, it always delight me that you’re my family member who reads all of my blog posts. Getting a comment from you always makes my day and you’ve taught me SOOOO much about computers (even though you’re 13 years younger!)

    You and I both know Mom and how reasonable and learned she is on the computer. We’ve heard her try to work this out and we’re upset because she’s mistreated. I’m sure some people will criticize and say they love Vista and we both know people who like it, however, in Mom’s case, she has a $2000 computer that is a brick and is looking at buying another one.

    We have been raised to stick up for the “little guy” and in this case we’re the “little guys” and it makes us angry. Thanks for offering up your support. I know that Microsoft will be angry at this post, however, their unhelpfulness has left me no choice and nowhere to turn.

    Blogs mean that the powerless can at least have some power to speak up for themselves. If they will do something for Mom and others like her, I’ll be happy to eat my words. Meanwhile, you and I and our other sister and entire family are extremely angry at this situation and the interference it has caused in our inability to IM, email and talk to Mom.

  7. @imaginethatsolutions — Oops, sister, that is 11 years younger. (Maybe I just feel older – thanks for correcting me via IM.) Love you!

  8. I agree entirely, Vicki. I have always used Microsoft but Vista has been a pain in the proverbial. It’s just bizarre that they could take such a huge step backward from XP.

  9. @Alec – The problem seem to be the user interface, windows firewall and their combination with any sort of firewall or extra antivirus you may have as well as the extra large updates — the large number of patches combined with the many decisions to be made regarding them seem to be the problem I have to fix when I get her computer for the monthly tune ups.

    @yatpundit – Downgrading is never welcome and something we don’t like to do. However, we’re so frustrated at this point, we’re ready to do something drastic. She’s tired of me coming to fix it and then it not working again. I’m tired of not being able to IM or email her it has been going on for a year.

    @Nick – I tried to outline it in the blog post as well as in the comment above to Alec. Again the problem is with the multiple “allow” “unblock” or “block” decisionmaking in combination with antivirus and firewall issues. Although I’m always able to get it to work eventually, much of the problem is also coinciding with updates that are causing her computer to come to a creeping halt over her temperamental internet. We’ve been very patiently trying to work through these issues but do not see any end in sight.

    Vista should be usable by a non-geek. Although I’ve turned off user interface and followed nearly every document on the microsoft help site to permanently fix her problems, every time she installs an update something stops working again. Her applications are fine usually, the problems have been with her internet connection, connection to gmail and gtalk, gadgets, and her computer freezing and slowing down during updates.

    I’ve run a lot of diagnostics on the computer and don’t see anything wrong with the hardware. I’ve experienced similar issues at school as well.

    I’ll be happy to document each individual issue, however, I’m looking at the overall Meta issue. I’ve spent over 50 hours on this computer just trying to keep it up on the Internet and the OS working. Mom has had her own laptop for years — never had trouble with her xp computer – I never had to be so involved. The only thing at this point that has changed is the OS.

    I’ve looked at a couple of alternatives and at this point, I’m going to see if I can locate an extra hard drive, install xp on it to see if all of the drivers will work and see if I can get it going. Until then, I’ll probably run Ubuntu on CD and get her on the Internet and e-mail permanently without being knocked off.

    I have to have a permanent solution for her and every time I go get her up and working it goes down again.

    The biggest issue is that she called IBM and they said “you don’t have the right version of Vista for us to downgrade you – there is nothing you can do.” She got very upset, we got Home premium, she didn’t need ultimate.

    If it doesn’t work for her and XP does, why shouldn’t she and others like her be able to downgrade to a very stable, incredible, usable platform like xp?

  10. @DJ – I don’t like to “bash” anything. I think the frustration that I have is that when it doesn’t work and it just plain doesn’t for some people, that is evident… that they should be helped into an OS that does work.

    It is the unwillingness to help, “sorry, you’re just stuck” attitude that has most upset me.

    She shouldn’t be stuck with something that doesn’t work for her, even if it worked for me.

    And for as much as she paid for the laptop, they should be willing to downgrade her through the customer service line without giving her grief.

    It is about listening to the customer and helping them with their problem. And it is my Mom.

    She’s not hacking her computer or using it for gaming — e-mail, internet, im, and word. That is it. I don’t understand what is so hard about her OS staying up and stable.

  11. My husband got me a new laptop, with Windows Vista, in January. I haven’t had very serious problems with it, but I do think that Vista has turned my computer paranoid with all of its block/unblock/continue notifications. I’ve also noticed that my computer runs much slower than I think it should and that my computer freezes more often than my old XP machine. I’m not ready to switch to a Mac, because I sometimes work on Macs at school and I experience “the spinning pinwheel of death” more often than not. I’m beginning to think that my next system will run Linux.

    @robert and @alec, what do you feel are the pros and cons of using Linux?

  12. A nagging doubt about Vista and the fact that my college freshman son would be far away from my loving tech support got me to spec his Dell Vostro with XP last fall. A story like this reaffirms my intuitive senses. Especially in the area of networking and communications, you just want to keep the potential problems to a minimum. Good luck with the downgrade. BTW, I believe Dell still might ship systems with XP, but I’m note sure.

  13. It has been interesting reading your experiences Vicky. I have heard both sides of views on Vista. It does seem more problematic definitely than XP. There is a petition to save XP from extinction for anyone interested.

    “Close to 200,000 people have signed the petition since January 14. However, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer thinks we’re not serious about the Save XP movement, nor does he seem to take the people who signed it seriously. That’s where you come in. Help us meet our goal of 300,000 unique petition signatures by June 2008. Please ask your friends, family and colleagues to join the movement by signing up at http://www.savexp.com.”

  14. It is so simple: For “Cool Cat” teacher: surely you have read the many reviews (Consumer Reports, NY Times, PC Magazine, et al)that rate the Mac easy-to-use, reliable, and just plain fun.
    I use Windows XP (on my Intel Mac) occasionally, – and have used MS Windows since the beginning – but the Mac OS is far superior.
    We can complain about Microsoft as a company forever, but until we let our $$ speak, they will continue to produce an inferior operating systems that frustrates Mothers everywhere!

  15. This was a fascinating rant, Vicky and I’m sorry to hear that your Mom had such a hard time. I have been running Vista on my laptop for a year now and in the beginning I had lots of problems with it running slowly and freezing in IE7. I reinstalled Vista and ditched my ISP’s recommended security suite for AVG. I use the Windows Firewall and Windows Defender without any problems. I don’t use the sidebar on the desktop which I find really slows down the system too. I do get all those warnings every time I want to install something etc. but I guess I’ve gotten used to those. I understand you can run the machine as the administrator though so you don’t get those warnings. I don’t notice Vista updating any more than my XP machine. Lately, the updates have been far and few between. With all that said, I’m in Second Life, Skype, IE7, Firefox, etc. with no problems. I guess I want to say, there is hope out there for Vista users.

  16. Unfortunately, the way that company has treated your mom seems to have become the norm. But at least she heard about the downgrade option… I just heard about it today, 5 months after getting my laptop. It was a replacement for my old laptop, a great Acer dual-core media centre XP, ran like a high-class eventing racehorse, that was stolen from under my feet at a skytrain station, along with the rest of my backpack and some valuable CDs for school that I had no legal way of replacing. The salesperson told me there was no way to switch to XP short of buying a full version, which wasn’t on sale anymore. Apparently he didn’t know either that Acer had been offering XP for their laptops, which, again, I only found out months later!
    He was a vistazombie, could only say how great the system was. I told him I didn’t want Vista on idealogical grounds because of the way M$ had been treating its customers lately.

    He didn’t have anything to counter that.

    I’ve never had problems with Windows before Vista. 98SE is still one of the most serviceable systems I’ve ever used, and XP was at least its equal. Now, I’ve been seriously looking at Linux, and considering a dual-boot with the copy of XP that I hunted down at a small-time computer shop and purchased using student loan money.
    Desperate? Yeah, that about fits.

    I’ve been trying to find drivers for a while now, and dealing with a full courseload, but downgrade is on the horizon for me.

    Microsoft has become a cold, manipulating monopoly. I no longer want to support that, and I’ll likely switch to something else entirely for my next system.

    There goes my youth.

    And I’m not even having nasty problems like your mom, just windows explorer randomly shutting down when I hadn’t clicked anything for 10 minutes.

    It’s good to hear that the techs want to help, and I wish you all luck. Tell your mom we’ll put M$ back in their place together!

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