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The Moon On A Stick


Even knowing the risks involved, a couple of months back I thought it would be a good time to try out Windows Vista properly, by installing it on my home PC. I'd just built a new system and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to really get to grips with some of the hidden wonders of Microsoft's latest. Thankfully, unlike Benny, I found the experience was absolutely faultless and within a few hours I was merrily typing away on my spangly new PC. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's the easiest Windows installation I've ever undertaken.

However, after a few weeks, things started to take a turn for the worse and as of a last week, I've reverted back to XP. But, before you assume that this is going to be another diatribe on the perils of Vista, I want to ensure you that nothing could be further from the truth. At its heart Vista has some huge improvements over XP and eventually I will be happy to go back to it. What actually drove me from it was not the operating system itself but the software that I was trying to run on it.

You see, I'm quite a fan of iTunes, which I first started using when I bought my first (and only) iPod back in 2003. The combination of a really easy library interface, the wonders of CoverFlow, and some really basic keyboard shortcuts (Spacebar for play/pause just makes so much sense) made for a pretty seamless and pleasurable user experience - and that's not even mentioning the integration of the iTunes store and podcast downloads. Sure, it had its idiosyncrasies and even some out and out problems but none of the competition could compete when it came to the full package, so I kept coming back.

All that changed, though, when I started to use it on Vista. CoverFlow became more like a slideshow, scrolling through my library required the patience of a saint, and the less said about load times, the better. Put simply, it was slow. No, scratch that, swimming through treacle is slow, this was glacial!

Of course, I wasn't going to dump Vista based on this alone and it wasn't until I found Bioshock didn't play nice with Vista as well, that I decided enough was enough and reverted back to XP. But, that didn't change the fact that iTunes poor performance under Vista had really narked me and only served to highlight the other problems that iTunes has.

For instance, iTunes installs two services that run constantly in the background, even when iTunes itself isn't open (iTunesHelper and iPodService for those that are interested). Call me a pedant but if I'm not using a program, I don't want it to be using up my computer's processing power - after all my work PC is only a single-core Pentium 4. Then there's the fact that you can't just synchronise your music library. So, if you delete an album using Windows Explorer, or move your entire music folder, iTunes remains blissfully unaware of the change until you go to play the track. So, you either have to go through manually and remove tracks or albums that you've moved or deleted or, if you've moved your entire music folder, delete your entire library and re-import it. With alternative software, this can just be done with the click of one button.

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