Windows 98 to XP – 8 years on it’s still the same…


As part of my job I administer the company’s website, and although I enjoy doing it, it’s not one of my strengths.I do know html & css pretty well, but the changes that the site needs next year, coupled with the fact that you must keep your skills polished, necessitated the need for a refresher course in Dreamweaver.This isn’t the first time this has happened. About 8 years ago, the company I was working for at that time, paid for me to attend a course in website construction. Back then Dreamweaver either did not exist, or had not solidified its position in the web-site creation market, so the course mainly consisted of running over the more advanced features of hand-coding html.It was a 10 week course, quite comprehensive, and I earned the qualification using those skills to great effect since. However the one problem that surfaced was the technology used to get that qualification.The class consisted of about 20-or-so Windows PC’s, running Windows 98. Being a Mac user, this irked me greatly, but I had little say in the matter, so gritted my teeth and soldiered on.The one thing that I did gain from this experience, other than the qualification, was a deep, deep hatred for Windows.Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had daily experience of both Mac and Windows, so I was no Windows-newbie, trying to wrestle with an unfamiliar environment.The Windows PC’s in that classroom just simply did not work. I mean at all. God knows how anybody gets anything done in Windows. Out of 20 PC’s, you could guarantee that only a half (sometimes a third) of them were working at any one point.The general scenario was this: You would start working on a html document, saving it as you went, when all of a sudden the PC would crash, or refuse to print, or the keyboard would be unresponsive, or the monitor would flick off.So, you would tell the instructor, and they would call IT support. About 10 minutes later (whilst you are sat there doing nothing on the course you paid money for) they would turn up. After fiddling around for a further 10 minutes, they would tell you to use another PC (if you could find one that worked).We were told to constantly back our work up throughout the lesson to a floppy disk – I can see why.By the end of the course, only third of the PC’s would even switch on, and of those that did, half of those would not log in correctly.I walked away from that course with total confusion – why do people put up with this? At that time I ran a successful, trouble-free studio with 5-10 Macs running OS8.Fast forward to the present day, and I have just finished attending another course. This one is to brush up on the Dreamweaver skills that I have learned in the past 8 years or so.Guess what? Even though this is a completely different college, with completely different PC’s, running Windows XP, it’s still the same.Out of 25 PC’s only 20 of them worked at the start of the course. A good start, but it all goes downhill from there. It’s a good job that some people dropped out of the course, because slowly but surely, over the 18 week course, PC’s just kept dying.I’ve only 2 weeks left of the course, and there are only 10 (out of 18) people still on the course. It’s a good thing, because there’s only 10 PC’s left working consistently enough to get work done. This aspect tends to shed some light on market share numbers, doesn’t it?Things have changed a little though. Instead of saving to a floppy disk, we now save to a central server, so if one of the PC’s stops working we can simply move to the next one and log in and our work is still there. Except on one occasion it wasn’t. Myself and a few others’ work simply disappeared half way through the course. Luckily (for me) I kept a backup on a thumb drive, the others weren’t so lucky.I know most PC users will say that they have used PC’s for many years and if you know what you’re doing you get no problems, or that where they work, the IT department are knowledgeable enough and everything runs smoothly.And that is the problem. They excuse the Windows PC for all its shortcomings, because it either a) makes them feel superior in that they know how to keep their PC working, or b) the IT department are shielding them from some of the horrors that Windows can throw up.You use a computer as a tool to get work done, that once took aeons longer. In my case, it replaced cameras, bromides, film, paste-up boards, scalpels, glue, marker pens, rotring pens, spray mount – and it replaced them successfully. I don’t have to worry about keeping my Mac’s working, they work just as reliably as those old tools I used 20 years ago.I’m a graphic designer, not an IT trouble-shooter.PC people are accountants, administrators etc, and they should not be IT trouble-shooters either, but because of Windows they are (or have to employ people who are).At the end of all this, is the promise of Vista. Microsoft are saying that after all this time, they’ve got it right, honest. I’ve never believed them, and it’s high time you did the same.When I attend my next website creation refresher course in 5-10 years time, I wonder if I’ll be still using Windows? Y’know, for the first time ever, I’m beginning to doubt it.


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