July 23, 2010

New Windows laptop rant

From a very experience friend of mine who knows Windows and Mac very well, has worked at Microsoft as a software engineer for several years. He prefers to remain anonymous. Sadly, my experience is about the same, and I am very happy living on a Mac (sometimes using windows in a VM, and sometimes not):

[Company] bought me an HP Envy 17 windows laptop because I realized that I couldn't take my primary windows development machine (a mac pro) to meetings and demos. It was only $1200, so I figured it was worth it.

The specs were nice -- slightly slower core i7 than I have in my MBP, but 6gb ram built in and a 1920x1080 display. All the reviews I read basically said this was the closest you can get in build quality to a mac without buying something from Apple. A similar MBP 17 starts at $2k.

Holy crap, this thing blows. It _looks_ like a Mac, except it's made of plastic and flexes dangerously when held in one hand. They've shamelessly ripped off the apple packaging experience, except forgot the little things (like having the battery be pre-charged so you can use your computer right away, or designing a power brick that (a) doesn't look and weigh as much as a real brick and (b) plugs into the computer on the right side via a hard plastic connector that sticks out 2-3 inches from the machine and looks terrible).

Then you boot Windows.

The first time through, you get a bunch of HP popups that are a ripoff of the Apple FTUE, except the design is atrocious and in fact the screens don't really match from one to the next. Fine. You get through that, and 14 -- yes 14 -- different preinstalled crapware apps want to update themselves. I have the entire Corel suite on this machine.

You can't connect to an 802.1x wireless network via the HP Wireless network utility. This may be a limitation of the windows home premium that ships on this laptop, but the result is I have no in-office wireless. Fine. I plug in an ethernet cord, BUT THE ETHERNET DOES NOT WORK. It turns out that you need to get a Windows wizard to run that lets you choose if your new connection is a Home, Work, or Public network. I manage to get the wizard to run by Disabling the ethernet port and then Enabling it. I assume at this point that most people would have called HP by now.

I go into the control panel and change the name of the computer on the network, since 'pc-8994892x' wasn't something I could remember. Once I actually find the correct place in the Control Panel for this (don't get me started on the control panel having grown to nearly 100 applets in win 7), the machine wants to reboot. Fine, it's 2010, and Win7 has a brand new networking stack that was developed from the ground up for Vista, but we still haven't solved the problem of changing the hostname requiring a reboot.

So the machine reboots. The SECOND TIME USER EXPERIENCE is that the user DOES NOT BOOT WINDOWS. You boot some kind of crazy HP overlay OS that lets you browse the web or read email, I assume through some kind of Linux-based layer that "boots faster" (not really). I have to dig around to turn this thing off.

I am now convinced that the "Apple Tax" is incredibly worth paying for all computers, even if you intend only to run Windows. At least then you get a Windows without all the crapware.