Computer Guide

Should I upgrade to Vista?

by George Skarbek - 3 April 2007

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Q: I have a one year old computer running XP that should be capable of running Vista. Should I upgrade to Vista?

In my option, you should not even consider this option unless you have some special reasons. For most users the operating system is not important. What is more important to most users are the applications they use. The more common applications are word-processing, mail, financial records, anti-virus and similar software, possibly games etc. as well as being able to access all your existing hardware. When you upgrade your operating system these applications do not change but in some cases may not run with Vista. Also there will be some new learning required.

One of the advantages of Vista is an improved visual display called Aero if your video card is of adequate standard and you are not using the Home Basic version. Security, diagnostics and searching have been improved, and most of the bundled applications such as WordPad, Paint, Recorder, Calculator, Movie Maker and others have also been improved. Some new applications such as a Calendar have been added. Outlook Express has been replaced by Windows Mail which has a number of improvements. Speech recognition is now in Windows and not part of Office as before. The Media Centre, which is only available in the Home Premium and Ultimate editions, has been upgraded significantly and may be a reason when some users may wish to upgrade as the other reasons do not present a good reason for upgrading.

Although there is a free program to test if your computer is ready for Vista that you can download from the Microsoft site, I have one report of a computer that was passed as completely ready then had three problem areas after Vista was installed. One was a well known TV tuner card that refused to work, even after the Vista ready drivers were installed.

So before any upgrade consider what you will gain and what you may loose. If your version of XP is reasonably stable then staying with XP is no loss and saves spending money to obtain worthwhile tangible benefits. The money spent on an upgrade may be better spent on a faster CPU or more RAM to noticeably improve the performance of your existing system. Also in a variety of benchmarks on relatively new and older hardware Windows XP was faster than Vista in most benchmarks.

However, when you purchase a new computer, I recommend that you purchase one that has Vista installed as there is no point in purchasing a superseded operating system. However, even then you may have some problems. My copy of MYOB (Accounting v 13) failed to install stating that it runs only on Windows 98, ME or XP. MYOB sales could not help and a phone call to tech support will cost a minimum of $25.

In such cases, right click the Setup.exe file for MYOB, or any other program that you are trying to install, choose the Compatibility option and it will install as a Windows XP installation and will work correctly. Using this method you can run many, but not all, older programs on Vista.

Also some older hardware such as scanners may not work.

 

Q: I would like to know about "SKYPE".  I'm interested in using "SKYPE" instead of ordinary international phone call. Have you heard any reputations about it?  Actually, what sort of materials do I need to use "SKYPE"? Is it costly? How about set up? Is it hard to set up? Any other information would be appreciated.


Skype is by far the most widely used VoIP communication in the world. As for equipment, apart from the sound card and speakers that every computer has, you need a microphone or a headset. They start from $5 but I recommend you spend about $10 to $15 spending much more does not seem to improve the quality for the listener at the other end. In the tests that I have conducted there is a lot of data compression in order to keep the bandwidth low. You should be on broadband as with dial-up the quality can be poor.  Typical use would be 1 MB of data for every two minutes of conversation, and remember that this will be included in your traffic usage.  

As for the cost, it is free to call other Skype users, anywhere in the world. The setup is very simple, just download Skype, install it, register a username, do a simple test and you are on Skype. If you purchase a low cost webcam (well under $50) you can have free video as well.

Skype Out allows you to call normal phones using the Skype Out service, but for use within Australia there are better options such as Engin, Freshtel, MyNetFone, Pennytel and several others. All of the above do not need any additional hardware apart from the microphone, and allow you to talk to anyone in Australia for 10 cents for unlimited time. Overseas rates vary a bit so I suggest that you look around at various costing. Some providers charge a monthly fee for lower priced calls but unless you make very many calls, or ring many mobiles, this option is not worth it.

As an example, MyNetFone charges 12.5 cents per minute for untimed local and national calls with no monthly fee. For $9.95 per month the calls drop to 10 cents. This means that you must make more than 400 calls each month to break even. On both plans international calls start at 2 cents / minute.


To look at the e-book in PDF format, Computer Guide, based on these columns click here