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QuickTime 7, Vista, and Toshiba's Tablet PC an Example of What's Wrong with Computing Today:: :: Articles News Information

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QuickTime 7, Vista, and Toshiba's Tablet PC an Example of What's Wrong with Computing Today

You've been there before. After installing the program you want to use, it either doesn't work or causes something else to break.

It doesn't matter if you're using a Mac, a PC running Windows or Linux, or any other computerized device, the result is the same - a jumble of multiple companies you turn to for support, each blaming the other for the problem.

Here is my most recent example, though by no means is this an indictment of Apple, Microsoft, Toshiba, or any other individual company, just of the commodity nature of the industry today and of software complexity in general.

Anyone who has read my recent columns knows that I own a Tablet PC and have installed Windows Vista on it. Tablets are quite cool technology that allow computer use in a number of environments where a conventional laptop is just dead weight, and Windows Vista greatly enhances the tablet-specific features like handwriting recognition and speech recognition.

Of course, none of that matters if the applications you use on a daily basis don't work or the hardware or software are unstable.

As far as business productivity goes, I've had no issues whatsoever with Windows Vista. I didn't upgrade my application software, with the exception of things like disk utilities and security that are OS-specific, but kept on using my 4-year-old version of Microsoft Office and numerous other pre-Vista applications. Vista even helps by providing a "compatibility mode" that allows the OS to mimic earlier versions of Windows.

QuickTime Video and Vista

iTunes - more specifically, the QuickTime Video Player that iTunes uses - is my only issue.

Now iTunes isn't essential for business, and even if it were, there are plenty of alternatives for media playback. In fact, while there were far more serious compatibility issues with iTunes and Vista last month, they have mostly been resolved. I can play music in iTunes with no issues. My iPod syncs without error. The problem is that as soon as I try to either download or play a video from iTunes, my computer just shuts down, either immediately or after a blue screen.

If you said, "but iTunes isn't officially compatible with Vista", you would be correct, but that isn't the issue. iTunes has a few known Vista bugs, but they relate to iPod sync and using the iPod as a hard drive. There are also bugs relating to "poor video playback performance" in Vista, but no mention of sudden shut-downs or blue screen errors, which are far more serious than choppy or slow playback.

The problem isn't iTunes or QuickTime per se, but how iTunes or QuickTime is interacting with something on my computer.

Passing the Blame

The problem could be Toshiba's, as iTunes and QuickTime work fine on a clean install of Vista without any drivers or security patches installed. Then again, it could be one of the third-party component suppliers, like Intel for the graphics, whose driver may be causing the Vista crashes. It could be Microsoft in one of their security patches, or the problem could in fact be Apple's for something in the QuickTime code that's at fault. The trouble is, when I go to Toshiba, they say its an Apple problem. When I go to Microsoft, they say its an Apple problem. And when I go to Apple, they say it's a Toshiba or a Microsoft problem.

If something went wrong with my car, I would simply take it to the Ford dealer, and regardless of who made the given component that failed, which could be Ford or any of dozens of component suppliers, Ford is obligated to take care of the problem.

Who is obligated to make iTunes work on my Tablet PC?

It's a Universal Problem

Now before you say that this is because I'm using Windows or because it's a tablet or because I installed Vista (clean install, never do an upgrade), I'll point out that I've had similar problems with applications on Macs and on non-tablet PCs running everything from Windows 2000 to Linux. Sometimes, like Catch 22, you just can't get there from here.

I have an external DVD writer that works great on all of my PCs and worked great on all of my Macs except for the G4 Mac mini, which would not recognize the drive under any circumstance. That Mac mini works fine with everything else and has been one of the most reliable computers I've ever owned; it just won't work with this external drive (yes, Macs use drivers too, they're just hidden).

The moral of this story is that computers remain far more problematic than they should be. If you can keep everything within a single vendor, it should work fine, but even on a Mac that's rarely possible, as Apple doesn't make all of the software and peripherals that most people need. Microsoft is even worse, as they don't make the hardware and thus have even less control.

Can I blame Toshiba? Are they responsible for testing their hardware and software against every possible application in general circulation? What about Intel, which authored the graphics driver? Is Intel or Toshiba responsible for their chipset driver being incompatible with QuickTime Player, or is Apple responsible for not making the Windows version of QuickTime more robust and compatible with more PC hardware.

Blaming Apple

I'd say both, but I place the blame more on Apple, the author of the offending application.

If several video applications had problems, it would be a different story, but I've used WinDVD, VLC, Windows Media Player, Real Player, and Nero, and I've had trouble with none of them. Streaming QuickTime video from the Internet works too, just not locally stored files, which crash the system every time.