Q: Is upgrading to Vista worth it?

A: One of my favourite slogans in my business is: “Computers is a people business.” While this may seem a technical question, it is really a people question, and will get a people answer.

In the late ’90s, the operating system of choice was Windows 98 and it permeated the computers of the world much like Windows XP does now. The release of Windows ME never became popular and was generally considered a failure. Windows 2000 came next, but it also lacked the popularity XP was to gain.

It is still too early to say right now whether Vista will follow Windows ME to failure or Windows XP to success.

I was answering phones for a help desk when XP came out, and I distinctly remember the vast majority of people being extremely frustrated during their learning period with XP.

Even though XP has proved to be better and more popular than Windows 98 ever was, the initial opinion of XP was about the same as that of Vista is now. Many of the things I hear about Vista now are what I heard about XP then: current computers aren’t good enough to run it and there just isn’t time to learn it.

It is the nature of humans to resist change. So the first thing to realize is that if you migrate to Vista, or any other operating system for that matter, you will almost certainly not like it at first. The process of learning where things are and how things work will take at least several weeks, maybe even months, and is guaranteed to have moments of total frustration.

The quality of the machine will factor heavily into the experience, as well. As Microsoft has released updates for XP, it has required better and better machines to run it. Vista requires a good deal more resources than XP and, as updates are released, the need for those resources will undoubtedly also increase.

A high-quality computer is a certain requirement to use Vista, don’t bother if your computer is more than a couple of years old.

Microsoft plans on discontinuing XP before the end of 2010 and already they are working on Windows 7, the successor to Vista. If you do not migrate to Vista now, you will migrate to Vista, Windows 7, Mac or Linux within the next few years.

Just like a cube van and a smart car will both get you from point A to point B despite being very different vehicles, every operating system will let you do e-mail, web pages, documents, presentations, spreadsheets, music, video, printing and more. It is a combination of familiarity, requirements and aesthetic preferences that determine whether you like it or not. The job will still get done in the end, but different operating systems have advantages and disadvantages for different jobs, just like the cube van and the smart car do.

Most people, once they become familiar, will grow to like the new system, just like they did with XP. This will probably also happen if you switch to Vista. But it is important to keep in mind that this transition takes time.

Almost everyone who migrates to a new operating system regrets it at first, but after some time, will grow to like it better than their previous one.

Q: I need to be able to check my e-mail from multiple locations. What’s the best option?

A: IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) allows you to set up a single account on multiple clients (a client is a type of software that connects to a server) where all clients will reflect that account’s activity.

For example, at work you can set up your e-mail address using IMAP on Microsoft Outlook. Then set up the same account at home, using Thunderbird, also using IMAP.

And you can treat the webmail interface, or the web page at which you can check your mail, as an IMAP capable mail client.

No matter which of these three e-mail clients you send mail from, all three will contain the message in the sent items folder.

No matter which client you reply to a message from, all three will report the message as replied to.

IMAP is a service provided by your e-mail service provider. If IMAP is not supported by them, you can use a webmail interface exclusively. Most e-mail service providers will have some method of checking your e-mail via a web page. This is a more universal method, like Hotmail, but often webmail interfaces do not have all the features of regular e-mail clients.

Lastly, if you must use POP (Post Office Protocol), you can leave a copy of the messages on the server. POP, in it’s default setup, will move all mail from the mail server to the computer you check your mail on. Leaving a copy of the mail on the server will allow the mail to be checked from multiple computers, however, deleting a mail from your computer does not delete it from the server, so you can easily exceed your disk quota if you are not careful.

Bob Miller is owner and operator of Computerisms. Send him your questions at [email protected] Join him at the Linux User Group Meetings on the second Wednesday of each month, at 7 p.m., at the Polarcom training office at Strickland and 2nd.

-30-