- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2009

Of course, the 64-bit version of Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 7 Beta software, a copy of which landed on my desk last week, isn’t really “Dolby Stereo,” for which usage I apologize to Dolby Laboratories even as I press the analogy. What a 64-bit version of an operating system is, however, is the full-force version that’ll run on a 64-bit Intel Corp. i7 Core Duo processor, the latest chip from the powerhouse firm.

I’m revisiting 64-bit operating systems for PCs because of reaction to last week’s salvo at the 64-bit version of Microsoft Vista Ultimate, which I still think should die, and quickly. Some readers and online comment-writers blasted your columnist for having put on his “cranky pants” that morning. Others said they had nothing but bliss with their 64-bit Vista installations. Several said I was a fool for putting — gasp — the Beta version of Safari 4 on a Windows computer to begin with, even if Safari 4 is available for Windows users (www.apple.com/safari).

Some answers: This column is primarily — though not exclusively — devoted to critiquing computer hardware and software, so crankiness helps. But again, it’s 2009, kids, not 1989. We’re more than a quarter-century into the personal computing revolution; some might claim we’re about 30 years on. Regardless, I believe we, as users, are at a point where things should simply work, especially if they are made by companies that have a market capitalization of about $171 billion, as of April 8, said company being Microsoft.

As to the Beta argument, dissenters may have a point, but consider: Safari 4 plays nicely in the digital sandbox with other versions of Microsoft Windows, and with Win7 in both 32-bit and 64-bit incarnations. Why not with Vista? Let me interject a simple manifesto here: If something in technology costs more than $10, maybe $20 if you want to be generous and/or a spendthrift, it should darned well work, and work well. If not, it should be fixed. If it’s not fixable, you should get your money back — and maybe an apology.

Remember, friends, I wasn’t reviewing a $300 bargain-basement PC found in your local big-box store. The HP model tested is being touted at $1,500 apiece, and that’s a chunk of change for just about any of us. Nor is Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate a low-cost product: I’ve seen mail-order ads for it at $199 a copy, the price single-user mortals pay, and one presumably reduced in cost for PC manufacturers. Regardless, at these prices, things should work.

Now back to Win7: In the 64-bit realm, it does work, and quite nicely. Safari 4 is running without a hitch, and so is OpenOffice.org’s version 3 office suite. To be fair, the 64-bit Beta version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 is also running well and behaving itself.

My other “test” application, the E-Sword Bible reading program (www.e-sword.net), also performed well. And I think this supports my thesis: Well-written software, from creators large (Apple), or small (e-Sword’s Rick Meyers), or collective (OpenOffice.org), should work with a well-crafted operating system. It’s not a stretch, therefore, to suggest that Windows 7 is a well-crafted OS, and that Vista just isn’t.

That’s not just my opinion. On April 2, the Texas Legislature gave provisional approval to a budget rider forbidding state agencies to upgrade systems to any version of Vista without said Legislature’s written approval, a development reported by Eric Lai of Computerworld, a leading trade newspaper. Mr. Lai also reports that several dozen Texas agencies already have spent about $6.1 million on Vista upgrades, so how much of an imposition this is remains to be seen.

One other reader complaint was that in comparing Vista with, say, Apple Inc.’s Mac OS X Leopard, I’m unfairly positioning Leopard, designed to work only on hardware built by Apple, with Windows Vista, which has to support unknown numbers of PC configurations and makers. Perhaps so, but, again, look at your calendar: By 2009, such issues should, well, be far less of an issue. Besides, Win7 is on the way, rendering Vista, one hopes, moot.

E-mail mkellner@washingtontimes.com.