Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Windows 7: An Inconvenient Truth

Amid all the hoopla of Windows 7 there are a few things that were left unsaid because they could put you off. It may be the "best version of Windows ever" but that doesn't make it perfect. There is the DRM cost, the hardware cost, and the download cost.
You would think that an Acer laptop with Windows Home Basic 7 64-bit and Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 pre-installed would be ready to run without much updating. Wrong. So far the download bill is 560MB in updates and service packs.
So what's wrong with half a GB of downloads? Nothing much (R150) if you have a DSL connection, but a lot more if you have a 3G card plugged in. That could have wiped out your entire month's bandwidth, or cost you R190, R250 or R1120, depending on your contract and how much you have already used. Bandwidth costs in South Africa are non-trivial.
The downloads included Microsoft Security Essentials, their new antivirus package, and some of Windows Live Essentials because Office Home and Student 2007 doesn't include Outlook.
Then there is the additional hardware bill. This is because there are plenty of printers and other devices that don't have 64-bit drivers. In addition to the new laptop, Penny's aunt has to buy a new printer, a printer cable and a mouse. So a R5000 bargain became a R6000 bargain. There are more drivers available than at the launch of Windows Vista, but don't hold your breath.
If you are going to upgrade with a clean install, or if you plan to retire your old PC, what happens to all the WMA files with DRM protection? I have 5 audio books from Simply Audiobooks that are not available in MP3 format, as well as 2 from Clear Audiobooks. Fortunately I haven't bought any music this way. The total replacement cost is around $150, because the DRM doesn't transfer from one machine to another, or back to the same machine if you do a clean install. I'm glad I used Total Recorder to convert these files to MP3. It costs $17.95 which is a bargain considering how much more the DRM replacement cost is.
Isn't it wonderful how one Microsoft technology is used to destroy another? The sooner we get rid of WMA DRM the better.
Update: It seems that my audio books from Audible.com and Borders are unaffected, because their DRM is different. But I have 4 Borders books in WMA format so who knows? Time will tell.
Update 22 December: I just purchased AllMusicConverter Platinum for $20, to convert the .WMA audiobooks that I have bought. It is pretty nifty, and quite quick, given the length of the books to be converted. It claims to work on .aa files, but doesn't. And my emails to their support address have bounced. The WMA conversion works perfectly, although it insists on converting mono files to stereo.


Ahqar said...

Hi i was just googling the Acer 5332 and your blog came up. seeing that you have some experience with laptops what is your overall evaluation on it?
i thinking of purchasing one.
is celeron processors as slow as can be??
please advise

Donn Edwards said...

@Ahqar: If you aren't doing anything "high powered" like games or video editing then a Celeron is fine. Running normal office applications will work just as well on a Celeron. If you go to a computer shop and try out the Celeron machines and the other processors I'm sure you won't find any major differences in doing normal computer stuff like browsing, listening to music, working on spreadsheets, and so on.

BUT: remember to make sure you have at least 2GB RAM for Windows 7. Also, remember that laptop hard drives are slower than desktop hard drives, because of the need to protect against movement, so you cannot expect a typical laptop to be as fast as a typical desktop. But it isn't sluggish either.

I have used plenty of Acer laptops and I like them. I refuse to use a HP laptop because HP blocks access to the S.M.A.R.T. interface on the hard drive, so you can't always use programs like Spinrite or HD Tune to monitor your hard drive temperature or health.

My wife has an HP laptop and I plan to replace it with an Acer. That Acer Aspire 5332 is a VERY nice machine. I nearly bought her one after setting up her Aunt's one. It is definitely not slow. It played a DVD movie just fine.

Ahqar said...

thanks for your valuable input.

Duncan Bouwer said...

Hey Donn. Clicked on your total recorder link and it takes me away from your site. Why not make the target "new"? lol
Left a message for you on Facebook but you don;t seem to go there a lot... would love to hear from you!