Friday, March 23, 2007

Well, That's One Way to Clear Out an Inbox...; Vista, Office 2007 

So after returning from my short-circuited trip to Key West, where my room was burgled and my laptop stolen, entailing the loss of my email inbox and archives, I took an extra day off from work to shop for a new laptop -- I should say 'notebook'; apparently, no vendors say 'laptop' any more -- in order to restore my day to day support of the Locus Online website. Fortunately, the area where I live happens to be near a cluster of home-electronics shops: Fry's, Best Buy, Circuit City, even Comp USA, though the last seems to be going out of business as rapidly as possible ('last one' stickers on half the notebooks on display, and a 'no refunds no returns' sign at the exit). I started by shopping online, of course, after perusing two PC magazines bought at the Ft Lauderdale airport on the flight home on Tuesday...

After many adventures, comparing the slightly different models that each store separately stocks, driving back and forth, rejecting opened box stock, I ended up with virtually the equivalent of my previous notebook -- the lowest end model of the highest-end model line of HP notebooks, specifically the HP 9210 model -- for almost exactly what I paid for that previous notebook 3 years ago, though now of course the new machine has a faster processor and far more RAM (2 gig). It has the wide-screen monitor and the full keyboard, with the numerical keypad on the right, that I can't live without.

More to the point, the new machine has Windows Vista, and I also sprung for and installed Office 2007 (much as I did 3 years ago for Office 2003...), and so in addition to resurrecting my local copy of the website and my email interface, I'm challenged this week with learning the details of a new operating system and overhauled Office programs. Actually, my previous laptop was rather decrepit and I'd figured on replacing it soon anyway...; silver lining.

About Windows Vista: it's very cool, in at least a superficial sense. It's shiny and sleek; new windows open with little swoops, their borders semi-transparent, and every action makes cool tinkly noises. On the other hand, it's security-conscious to the point of paranoia and obnoxiousness. I've already experienced IE 7, where every time I click on my Links Portal page, even my local copy, it makes me click an extra couple times in order to allow the dangerous active-x content (the ads) embedded therein. Windows Vista does this everywhere possible. It assumes you can't be trusted not to make some awful mistake that would destroy your computer's integrity. Click click click. Yes, yes, yes, I know what I'm doing.

On the plus side -- the rather patronizing personalization of the previous Windows, XP, has been removed. No longer do you click on 'My Computer' and 'My documents'. Now it's 'Computer' and 'Documents'. Thank you.

Office 2007: the major change is that the menu drop-down lists, standard on Microsoft products since time immemorial, have been replaced by context-sensitive 'ribbons', which display options appropriate to whatever you happen to be doing at the time. It's probably a good idea, though the change will take some getting used to. It took me 10 minutes last night to figure out how to remove a filter on an Access query that used to be two clicks away from the old menu bars. At the same time, the Vista paranoia assumes anything called a 'macro' must be something Very Dangerous Indeed, and so now every time I open one of my databases, I have to click a couple times to permit using those functions that used to be routinely allowed. Maybe there's a way to customize these settings and avoid these endless permission-clicks... though I can't say I've found a way to do so in IE 7.
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Mark R. Kelly

The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Mark R. Kelly, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine.
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