Thursday, August 09, 2007

The New Computer

Well, after a short period of mourning I had to replace the recently deceased laptop. I shopped around and found a nice HP Pavilion 17-inch model that wasn’t nearly as expensive as I had expected. Two problems: 1. It (and all others, as well) came loaded with Windows VISTA, and I had heard many negative comments about VISTA, and 2. It came loaded with few really important programs, as is the way of the world these days.

That’s not to say that the software that came resident on the machine wasn’t interesting, useful and even neat, in some instances, only that it didn’t have a word processor, spreadsheet, etc., other than MS Works, which if that’s all you can get will work, but which is woefully deficient. That meant I had to buy MS Office 2007 if I wanted reasonable productivity.

So I bought Office, too, and off I went to set it up.

The basic machine is very nice, and has some great features, mostly due to the advances in technology over the last five years. And, honestly, I’ve had far more trouble from the “upgraded” and “improved” Office 2007 Word than with VISTA. For example, without warning Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, took all of the familiar commands and hid them where you can’t find them, replacing the old and very user friendly menu system with a mystery system. As many of you know, I have degrees in education and taught many years in secondary and post-secondary classrooms. One technique taught to prospective teachers is the “discovery” method, where students are left to learn things on their own without too much guidance from the teacher. This is a great mechanism in the classroom; it isn’t a great mechanism with computers, causing much frustration where frustration is neither needed nor called for. One wonders precisely what it is that software designers have in mind when they update programs and make radical changes like this.

I have yet to dive into Excel or PowerPoint yet, so who knows what nightmares await?

And, VISTA had a big surprise that I just stumbled on today. When I was shopping for the computer and Office, I came across some voice recognition software, and was intrigued. This is something that I’ve been interested in for a few years, and seeing the software reawakened this urge. Given that VRS would cost $90 to $190, I wasn’t moved to buy it. But guess what? While looking in the Control Panel, there for all to behold was an icon titled “Speech Recognition.” So, even though today was Newsletter Thursday, I couldn’t resist the temptation to dive into it.

It takes a little getting used to, and it is somewhat cumbersome, in some respects, but for me, the way I work and the way I write, it will be helpful.

So, despite the idiocy in the new Word version, and despite the irresistible allure of speech recognition in VISTA, the newsletter was published on time, and with not much more difficulty than usual. And the new computer … well, let’s just say that so far, the transition has been fairly painless.

So far, that is.

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