Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Warning To Those Assistive Tech Users Thinking About Running Vista On Day Of Release

Okay it’s more of a plea really. In a word if your thinking about downloading Vista Beta 2 on May 22nd and you use any kind of AT product for your daily computer access hear this remark.. don’t! In fact if you answer my next question with “I don’t know” or “lost” or a five second pause stop reading this post immediately because you my young Pa’ta’wan are not ready. And my question is..

“Where is your restore CD or Windows cd right now and can you lay your hands on it in less than 30 seconds?”

Again if your answer is “I don’t know” or “I lost it” then do not pass Go, do not collect $200 because your going directly to Tech Support jail. Individuals like you should be ashamed of yourselves and you should march right upstairs and go to bed with no supper. Beta testing of any kind requires or even compels you to reinstall multiple times. And trust me you lose at least one file no matter how careful you are. So if your allergic to your 50 digit Windows serial number I can honestly say you should hold off even daydreaming about Vista until this time next year at the earliest.

Now if you do know where your drivers and all your backups are and you still feel up to the challenge I have another word for you… don’t! But seeing how you are going to do it anyway I will try and persuade you with Vulcan logic rather than the Vulcan neck pinch.

Chances are you might not have the specs under the hood to run Vista well. There’s a fine line between Vista Capable and Vista Compatible. One implies that your machine can take on the 3D super graphical and memory intensive aspects of Vista. Another says that you `could` run Vista but it will be so scaled down that you may end up fighting the system for resources every step of the way.

Still not convinced? Okay buddy let’s try this..

There are only 2 companies even close to working medium well, that’s a thin line of pink with a baked potato full of limited access on the side, with the current CTP builds of Vista. And even then you really need their private beta editions of software to have a better fighting chance at a halfway enjoyable romp through the land of the new Operating System.

I can guess that some are just hell bent on doing this no matter what I type here. So I already hear you saying “Who then works and who doesn’t?”. Fine you drive a hard bargain Dr. Jones. I your humble servant will tell you, however, it’s on your own head as to the fate of your hard drive and data. May a thousand defrags be in your future!

Window Eyes: If you’re a WE user then your in luck. WE 5.5 gives you some good support but rumor is that the impending WE 6 is even better. Out of all the choices in the non tech supported world of Vista yours is probably the easiest path. Easy being defined as a ride down a razor blade banister into a pool of alcohol that is.

JFW/Magic: Your road is bumpy enough with JAWS 7.1 public beta isn’t it? Well if you do decide to try your hand at things then baby your in for a rough ride indeed. Your best hope is to run the latest builds of JAWS 7.1 if your going to have any luck. Magic users should hold off as only the basics are available to those in private beta.. well not really but they have a better chance than 9.5 users do at any rate.

Zoom Text: No freaking way dudes and dudetts. ZT isn’t supporting Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 for Windows XP. With that in mind and the fact that IE7 is a key part of Vista.. I think you get the picture. An upgrade later on this year should have support for IE7 and some other programs but if you’re a ZT user save yourself pain and suffering now.

Supernova: Dolphin is just now starting their moves on looking at Vista. The guys at the Supernova family are hard at work on the 7x line of products. So making them look good for current generation is a priority. Their track record does show that they adapt well and fast, see Pocket HAL for Windows Mobile 05, and they too will probably go the upgrade route for Vista support sometime in the future.

Other AT: It’s going to be a real dice roll with no saving throw if your using other products I haven’t mentioned here. I don’t suggest anyone running Vista out of the gate no matter what they are using let alone them using it with a product that isn’t working closely with Microsoft to boot.

What does work you ask? Windows Magnifier and Narrator, you can hear it now “foreground window”, work fairly well with their own basic limitations that comes from using .. Windows Magnifier and narrator. I don’t belittle or knock these tools by any means. They have saved my bacon on numerous systems dozens of times and I am super glad their in all flavors of Windows XP and up. I just wouldn’t want to use them for daily applications is all.

Beyond the access issue..

So your going to ignore my warning and take the plunge anyway huh? Then again take heed at my recommendations at system specs for your attempt from the high dive with a degree of 9 on the difficulty scale.

Processor: P IV 3.06 with Hyperthreading or higher or AMD equivalen.
RAM: Start at 1 GB but better with more.. how much much as you can get actually.
Video Card: 128 is the VERY least I would attempt. 64 and below need not apply.
Sound Card: Running a Soundmax or any other integrated sound? Forget it as shared memory components will fight you every step of the way. A true blue Sound Blaster compatible card, made in the last year preferably, will do you much better.
Hard Drive: 60 GB or better, however, having all your files on an external drive or RAID array would be much much safer.

And some I know in the industry would tell me that I am actually underestimating those numbers. No.. I am not kidding. Some have told me point blank that in this stage of the game even 1 GB of RAM isn’t enough for some programs. Of course that’s why they call it a beta in the first place.

If you don’t believe me on this point then fine by me. Windows will be the ultimate judge, jury and executioner as it’s Windows Advisor will give you the news as to what will work early on in the process. Two year old components or older will find some hard terrain ahead as not all drivers will cary over into Vista. My brand new one month old Dell just posted an update for my motherboard 3 weeks ago for Vista compatibility. So ponder that nugget of joy for a second. What thrills me even more is that I have to upgrade my video card in 07 for me to be Direct X 10 compatible. Weird Al was right “it’s obsolete before you opened the box.. it’s all about the Pentiums baby!”.


This is a beta piece of software. It isn’t ready for general use. It’s buggy. It WILL CRASH on you. And it will do it often. And it’s not Microsoft’s fault, your AT access software’s fault or anyone else’s for that matter. It’s a beta and beta testing is a slow and generally frustrating process.

Just keep this in mind when you watch that progress bar flowing along on the gigs of data you will be downloading on May 22nd. And if you do decide to go it alone in the great digital blue yonder I wish you the best of luck. We’ll all need it!

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