Technology Tuesday is a publication of the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®. The first Tuesday of every month we will cover at least one technology issue in depth. If you have any questions about these or any other technology issues, please contact the free MAR Tech Helplineat 866-232-1837.
Get Ready to NOT Install Vista
This month, Microsoft has finally released its much-delayed new operating system, Vista. Many companies are now wondering just how to deal with it. If the fact that the system was "delayed" repeatedly by Microsoft itself doesn't give you a clue, perhaps your memory of the last time a new OS was released will. Remember when Microsoft XP was released? Take a deep breath and let it all out - and say to yourself: Not again!
That's the approach we think every REALTOR® should take regarding the release of Vista this month: Do nothing - for a good long while. Vista is a serious and substantial change in operating systems, which means a lot of the old rules are being thrown out. Also being thrown out will be support for many "old" programs, hardware and networking. If there's anything that's certain about Vista, it's that you're going to need a lot of new stuff - including new training and technical resources. So if you can't part with your old stuff just yet - or you don't have the budget for lots of new stuff - then just stick to Windows XP for a while longer. Unless you really like being a "tester" for Microsoft.
Now, don't misunderstand: Microsoft Vista is going to have a lot of powerful new improvements. There will be a snazzy new interface with cool graphical features, enhanced search functions, customizable filing methods, new networking and internet security options. Add in voice commands, multimedia tools, data backup, synchronization and teamwork tools and Vista promises lots of opportunities to take your business to the next level. Every one of these changes is going to make your life easier, more efficient and more productive: Someday.
But that day is not today. Perhaps you're still muddling along fine with Windows XP, and your software is content to chug on your two-year-old processor with sleepy dial-up internet access. Maybe you have some software - email, MLS, online database - that aren't fully tested with Vista yet (have you checked?). Whatever the case, if the last four operating system upgrades taught you anything, it's that stuff is certain to break, become incompatible and require lots of support for those who upgrade early.
For those tempting the fates - and especially anyone about to buy a new computer with Vista pre-loaded (just ask for XP) here's a diagnostic checklist to see if you're ready for the upgrade:
1. Make a list of every hardware, software and internet tool you rely on every day. Verify each is compatible today with Vista. Do this by visiting their website or calling their technical support and getting specific information about the version of Vista you should use (there are four versions). Check that the model/version of your product was specifically tested, not just the latest version. For example, if you think your PDA "should be compatible" look up the actual model. Many manufacturers will have no plans to release updates for older models. Repeat this for all software, printers, cameras, scanners, whatever: Check every last one of them with the manufacturer.
2. Now, go back to Step 1 and do it again. That's right, again. Why? Because most people "fudge" Step 1 or forget about a software program they take for granted. That's fine if you've got a big checkbook to back yourself up; if you don't, do yourself a favor and double-check Step 1.
3. Don't even think about upgrading an older PC. Nope. Sorry. Not gonna happen. Microsoft Vista is a power freak. It needs a lot of everything. Forget what Microsoft says on their website, too: That's slippery marketing that represents the bare minimums that Vista needs to operate; Microsoft probably doesn't want to scare anyone off. Relying on minimum specs would be like upgrading your Masserati for a tricycle. Vista will operate on a Pentium IV with 512 MB of RAM and a 50 GB hard drive - if you don't mind waiting five minutes for it to boot up and frequent visits by the "new, enhanced" blue screen of death.
So if your PC is more than a year old, leave it on XP until it dies (that's next year anyway) and by then you can get Vista on a new computer (after doing Step 1 of course!) On any model - new or upgraded - get out your credit card because you're going to need some premium equipment to run Vista, including:
a. 2 GB of memory, although more would be helpful
b. 128 MB or more of dedicated video memory. You need dedicated video memory to handle the super-cool graphics in Vista. Shared memory (that's split between programs and video) just won't work well enough.
c. 100 GB Hard drive (more if you can) because Vista does all sorts of cool things with organizing files on your hard drive; you'll need lots of room
d. A "dual core" class processor or greater. Essentially these are processors with "two brains" that replaced the older Pentium IV class. Newest models run well into the 3 GHz range, which is needed for processing voice commands and other background tools. Single-core (P4 PM, PIII) processors won't handle the workload.
4. Get a budget together. Most likely, you're going to have to replace some stuff other than just the computer. Plenty of companies will use the release of Vista as an opportunity to discontinue support for older model accessories you may still be using. The first company I can think of who will be doing this is, um, Microsoft, who will likely discontinue support for Windows 98 (they already killed W95) and maybe even Windows 2000 soon after. And if a company with the resources like Microsoft is going to stop supporting older products, you can bet that some software and hardware companies are not going to have the money to create upgrades for their older models as well.
5. Order any new computers today with Windows XP and a "certificate" for a discount when upgrading later. It's just too new to know what's yet to be discovered, yet you may not want to wait on a new computer for six or more months. So get new hardware - with higher specs - but with Windows XP in the meantime.
6. Get a professional. Isn't this what we tell clients all the time? Don't try it on your own - you need professional help! So, if you're still intent on doing an upgrade, take a dose of your own medicine and let a professional do it. And don't expect it to cost whatever they quote you, because it won't - it will be a lot more. That's because even the professionals have not had a chance to use Vista much to experience its features in the real world. It's new, even for the pros. And waiting six months will make it cheaper for you to upgrade since the pros will know how to quickly and effectively eliminate problems during your change-over.
For now, however, the best plan to deal with Microsoft Vista is NOT to deal with it at all. Like they say, good things come to those who wait.This article was authored by Matthew Ferrara of Matthew Ferrara Seminars Inc.
Reprinted with permission of Matthew Ferrara Seminars Inc.