Microsoft desperately wants us to love Windows 7. And running on a machine with no other software, we do. It's also adorable on a PC with all-Microsoft applications. But the more non-Redmond programs you rely on, the less loveable computing's new kid is. For months we have been trialling the pre-release version on a test machine, and there's no denying that version 7 is sweet. It's better organised and more nimble than Vista ever was. Since Bill Gates needs the money and we don't, we readily shelled out $380 for the Pro version and took the leap of faith of installing it over Vista on our main machine.
The first hiccup came when we accepted the installer's stern warning to let it search online for installation updates. The PC hung in cyberspace for a long time and repeated the performance several reboots in a row. We decided to forgo the updates and just install.
Next we were warned that four installed applications would be problematic after the upgrade.
The loss of Logitech's web cam software didn't concern us, and the fact that a ZoneAlarm anti-virus and firewall upgrade is required was alright too. The recommendation to uninstall iTunes was more of a worry since our iPhone depends on that installation for its syncs and back up.
Finally, we were told to expect VMware desktop to play up, but we were already aware that we'd need a Windows 7 compatible version of that. Overall, the damage didn't seem too bad.
Then we completed the upgrade and hit the real world.
Several key applications broke immediately. Our ever dependable mail server Kerio was first to fail even though we are running almost the latest build. Since we had updated ZoneAlarm, we allowed that the server might not be responding due to a firewall issue, which cost us half a frustrating hour.
We later discovered that only the very latest tweak works with Windows 7 but that information wasn't easy to find. Since that server is our main email link to the world, its sudden demise was unsettling to say the least.
Next we found WebDrive was kaput. This is a gem of a utility that we've relied on for years. It maps a Windows drive letter to an internet file server. Long before the rest were storing their data in the online cloud, we could save a work folder to our W drive and have access to it from home in Windows Explorer as if the two computers were on a single local network. Gone, all gone with Windows 7 and no news on the developer's site as to when it may be compatible again.
It got worse.
Our word processor of choice is OpenOffice, which we run as a VMware thin application. Thinapp is a revolutionary technology that creates a single file out of a big application. It then runs on any Windows machine without installation.
When we set up the Vista box a year ago, we had some 60 programs available in minutes since they were single file Thinapps that needed only to be copied and pasted from the old XP machine. We keep Thinapps on USB keys for use on netbooks and borrowed desktops. We keep some on network drives for easy access in the office. We've come to depend on them.
But OpenOffice wouldn't open. Neither would Thunderbird, our Thinapped email client. Or our single file version of Firefox browser or any other of our prized Thinapp library.
They all ran fine under XP and Vista but Win 7 didn't want to know them. Research suggested that the developer may have a compatible version ready by first quarter next year but with the alarming rider that all applications will probably have to be built again, probably a 30-hour job in all.
Whether anything else was broken we didn't hang around to find out.
With no mail server, no mail client, no word processor, no simple file transfer system and all our Thinapps decommissioned, we decided to roll back to a working Vista set-up.
The 150-word Microsoft easy installation love letter that accompanied our disc and signed off "That's it. Now you're running Windows 7" was a cruel tease. No doubt in a few months, we'll have forgiven each other and try again.
But for now, at our place, it's Vista.
Peter Moon is a partner in Logie-Smith Lanyon Lawyers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org