Windows XP in Virtual PC: Always a huge step backwards

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
February 13th, 2004 • 12:57 am

… And I am not talking about speed.

Whenever I have to launch Virtual PC to use a PC-only application or preview a web design or Word document, I am reminded of how painfully backward that computing environment really is.

You need to understand that I use the system as little as possible, which means that I have customized almost nothing and am just using the Windows XP Home environment as it was installed as part of the Virtual PC installation.

Today, I just wanted to fix the keyboard layout so that it would recognize my Canadian CSA keyboard instead of using some kind of bastardized “Enhanced Keyboard” layout where shift-2 would produce a quotation mark instead of the @ symbol.

Of course, I could not find anything about keyboard layouts under the “Keyboard” pane in the Control Panel. I launched the Help environment, which somehow, at some point, caused a program called “On-Screen Keyboard” to launch. This is a program that looks like our good old Key Caps accessory.

I thought that this would be a useful little program to have, to I went to the “Start” menu in an attempt to find where exactly it was stored on my “C:” hard drive. This “Start” menu is supposed to be the beginning and the end of everything in Windows — but there was no sign of this little application anywhere, not under “Accessories” under “All Programs”. Oh well.

Then I decided I would try and find the application manually. After all, I had seen it in action, so it was obviously somewhere on the hard drive. So I went to the “Start” menu and chose “Search” in the second column. (Yes, menus with columns — another great Microsoft innovation.)

I got some kind of stupid dog welcoming me and asking me what I wanted to search for. I cannot be bothered with assistants, so I just typed “On-screen keyboard” in the “Search” field at the top of the window and pressed Return.

The stupid thing went looking for things on the web and returned with a search results page from! Argh!

That’s when I found out that, in order to clearly distinguish between searches on the web and searches on your local hard drive, you need to switch to “Advanced” user mode in the Search window. Yes, searching for files on your local hard drive is considered an “advanced” function in Windows. I even got a warning repeating: “This is only for advanced users. Are you sure you want to do this?”

Gee whiz. Apple attempted to combine local searches and Internet searches a while ago with its Sherlock application and realized, after a couple of years of experimentation, that it was a mistake. Now Sherlock is exclusively for web searches for specific services (air plane tickets, movie theaters, etc.) that are mostly US-specific, and searching for files locally is handled within the Finder, with a simple “Find” function.

I guess by the time Longhorn comes out, Microsoft will come to the same realization and distinguish between the two types of searches again, even for “Home”, non-“advanced” users. Then again, since Explorer is going to become even more integrated into Windows, I am not so sure.

No wonder ordinary Windows users are completely confused about the interface about where things are and how to look for them.

Comments are closed.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.