More Annoying Vista Upgrade Hassles

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Yep, it's another Windows Vista newsletter. You know how I feel about Vista. So why, you might be thinking, is he going to kill another week talking about it? (Coincidentally, I got a note from a chap who threatened to unsubscribe if talked about Vista again anytime before November 2009.)

I sometimes pretend to be a reporter and have to balance what's news with other topics. And like it or not (I don't), Vista's still news--and from the e-mail I receive, it's still on people's minds. If you keep reading, you'll see I have also a handful of juicy "Dig This" items. And I promise: This issue is the last I'll spend on Vista upgrades.

Firewall and Upgrade Hassles

I have more ammunition for waiting to upgrade. It came by way of an e-mail I received from Deborah G., a systems application analyst in Michigan:

<blockquote>Hi, Steve. In your last newsletter, you suggested checking out some third-party firewalls. Neither of the two you suggested are actually compatible with Vista yet! In fact, I've been looking every day for a Vista-compatible firewall and, unless I'm willing to use a bloated 'total security' solution, I can't find a compatible firewall. So if you know of any stand-alone, Vista-compatible firewalls, please share.</blockquote>

I accused Deborah of being picky (you know how those systems application people are). But I looked around and she was on target. Except for a handful of companies, there are few Vista-compatible firewalls. This week I'll tell you what I found out.

But it's not all bad news... Microsoft just starting giving away a terrific tool that lets you run two OSes on your PC--so you can try out Vista, for example, before you completely ditch XP.

Dig This: Reader Kris said: "Just read your PC World column about Vista. Thought you might get a kick out of this smart and efficient way to install Vista." Kris is right. This upgrade method works with all previous versions of Windows, including 3.1 and late versions of DOS.

Vista-Compatible Firewalls not Up to Speed

For an amusing couple of minutes, read though Microsoft's list of "Certified for Windows Vista" programs and count the number of firewall products you actually recognize, such as Zone Alarm or Kerio.

I sent a note to folks I know at Check Point (Zone Alarm) and Sunbelt (Kerio), the two products I mentioned in the newsletter: "What are you guys doing, sitting around drinking Mai Tais, while the world is waiting for Vista versions of your firewalls?" (Bet you didn't know that's the tipple of choice for people who write code.)

Alex, at Sunbelt, said, "It's true--firewalls are not the easiest thing in Vista. But it's a very high priority and we're on it. We'll have the Vista 32-bit version first in the near future, and then the 64-bit to follow."

I'm guessing that coding a firewall for Vista is a bear, and can't help but wonder how much support these companies are getting from Microsoft. Either way, it's something I'm glad I don't have to do.

ZoneAlarm's Jordy had a different approach.

"Here's a haiku I made up while sipping Mai Tais:

<blockquote>ZoneAlarm goes deep<br/> Packets, ports, and protocols<br/> Vista coming soon</blockquote>

"Seriously, the complexity has been in porting over the OS firewall. But we have a technical beta available, and it's rapidly getting better and more stable."

When I forwarded the note to Alex, he was jealous: "Geez, now I have to think up something in iambic pentameter to outdo ZA."

A Few Vista-Compatible Firewalls

I did some digging around and found very little on stand-alone firewalls that work with Vista, but I think I found a few. Keep in mind, I haven't tried these.

Norton Internet Security 2007 is the only brand-name product I found that has a Vista-compatible firewall, and has been available since January. Unfortunately, it's not a stand-alone product; at about $65, the bundle includes antivirus, anti-spyware, and other tools.

PC Tools Firewall Plus is supposed to work with all versions of Windows, including Vista. I worry, though, because this text shows up right above the download link: "We encourage you to use this forum to report on successes, problems or issues encountered with PC Tools Firewall Plus."

There are a slug of firewalls in beta. Here are a couple:

Quick Aside: If you're using Vista and need help with the built-in firewall, you'll want to take a look at Microsoft's useful Vista firewall tutorial.

Dig This: Two weeks ago I mentioned a video--"Why You Need a Pet"--and some of you couldn't view it. I found a better link.

I have a couple more videos to keep your mind off Vista: The first is a about a smart dog who doesn't want to get very wet; the next is a pooch who understands how to scratch his own back.

Free: Microsoft's Virtual PC 2007

Microsoft's giving away Virtual PC 2007, a tool that will let you run more than one virtual PC on one system, without either knowing the other exists. And no, it's not a dual boot program.

That's one solution for those of you wanting to stick with XP while experimenting with Vista. I see it as Microsoft kinda-sorta acknowledging that not everyone's jumping on the Vista bandwagon.

One teeny little problem: According to the license, neither Vista Home Basic or Home Premium can be used with virtualization tools, even the one distributed by Microsoft. You can read about a work-around in "The Most Annoying Things About Windows Vista."

Honestly, I haven't tried Virtual PC 2007, so I can't give you a first-hand evaluation. But it's from Microsoft, so you know it's safe. (Sorry, I didn't mean to be snide, but it was just so easy.)

Dig This: I enjoyed the heck out of "Shift Happens." It's a 6-minute video of computing and how it's made an impact on our lives. It makes me want to retire and pick up a good book (and read it slowly).

Dig This, Too: I had lots of fun with April Fools stuff this year. Check out my blogs on new offerings from Google: "Exclusive: Google Announces Free In-Home Wireless" and "Exclusive: Google Announces Gmail Paper."

ThinkGeek's April Fool page is still live. They have eight gems you can supposedly purchase (my favorite's the Vilcus Plug Dactyloadapter). And offered to let you have Asimo, a fully functional, humanoid robot, for a six-month trial.

Steve Bass writes PC World's monthly "Hassle-Free PC" column and is the author of PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer, available from O'Reilly. He also writes PC World's daily Tips & Tweaks blog. Sign up to have Steve's newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.
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