After beta testing Windows 95, David Karp was impressed with how much better the operating system was than Windows 3.1. Still, he had a gripe or two.
To share his experiences, Karp started a Web site called "Windows 95 Annoyances" where he posted some of the pet peeves, as well as some workarounds.
What began as a hobby to make his work computer better, eventually became his work. Karp has written nearly a dozen books chronicling the annoyances of each Windows release.
Needless to say, Vista has given Karp another book's worth of material--664 pages worth, in fact. Windows Vista Annoyances is fresh off the press. Karp took a few minutes to chat about the year-old operating system. Below is an edited transcript.
You also wrote a book or two on "XP annoyances." Did you have more or fewer things to write about with Vista?
Karp: Vista was a little bit of a change of pace for me. I've written Annoyances books going back to 1996. Windows Vista posed a little bit more of a problem for me, or I should say a challenge? It wasn't that it had more annoyances or fewer annoyances. The issues with Vista were more complex. With earlier versions of Windows, you had simple things like programs crashing and features not working.
The problems in Vista are tricky and, with a book like mine, I don't just write about problems. I only write about problems that I can solve or at least that I can work around. The ones in Vista took a little bit more time and a little more creativity to solve.
For example, there's a problem a lot of people have with Vista and that's what's affectionately been coined the "green ribbon of death." It's the little green progress bar that goes across the top of Windows Explorer and sometimes it just seems to linger there and everything stops working. That little green ribbon is the symptom of a lot of problems and they are all quite different. There's one having to do with codecs for video files and there is one that has to do with security when copying files over a network.
A fair number of people have been annoyed by Vista. What's on the top of your list?
Karp: The thing that ticks me off most about Vista is probably a minor quibble to most people. But it hits me every day. There is a feature--it's kind of convoluted--that allows Windows Explorer to show folders containing different items in different ways. For example, if you look at a folder full of photos or videos, you see thumbnails. If you look at a folder full of MP3s, you'll see a detailed list of artist names and track titles and track numbers. Basically, Windows Explorer is designed to automatically show you a different view for different types of files to show you the relevant information. The problem is it gets it right infrequently. It gets it wrong most of the time. It will show pictures as music files. It should be something that's so simple, I think that's part of why I am annoyed by it.
When you talk to other people about Vista, what do you hear most often?
Karp: There's kind of two camps when you are talking to people who use Vista. There's the "I can't believe I upgraded to Vista; how do I get back to XP?" What's funny about that to me is that I pretty much heard exactly the same thing when XP came out six years ago: "Oh my God, I hate XP. How do I get back to Windows 98?" What I think whenever I hear that kind of a comment is, "Yeah, I get it, it's frustrating to use and a lot of the things don't work, but the previous version wasn't any better, you're just used to it. You are used to all of the problems. You know how to get around all the quirks."