Microsoft Vista a problem for Penn

New operating system not compatible with many U. programs

· February 23, 2007, 5:00 am

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Windows Vista sits on the shelf at the Computer Connection at steep student discounts. Penn is advising students not to buy the product yet.


Microsoft says that its newest operating system, Windows Vista, is visually appealing and easy to use.

Easy to use, that is, unless you're a Penn student.

Information Systems and Computing officials are cautioning students and faculty not to upgrade to Vista, warning that users with the upgrade will not be able to access AirPennNet, the University's residential wireless network.

In a notice posted on its Web site, ISC "strongly recommends" that users adopt a "wait-and-see" approach to Vista.

Also listed with this notice are seven University applications that will not work with Vista and two that are only marginally compatible.

AirPennNet's authentication software, SecureW2, as well as BEN Financials, Business Objects, E-mail Interface to Penn Directory, Office XP, older versions of Symantec AntiVirus and Symantec Ghost all will not work.

Eudora and Palm Desktop will suffer from limited functionality.

"We are working with the developer of [SecureW2] to develop a Vista-compatible version," Executive Director of Technology Support Services Mark Aseltine said.

In addition, Aseltine said ISC was warning students to stay away from the Home Basic version of Vista, citing a lack of important networking and security features.

But all these warnings haven't stopped some Penn students from installing Vista.

Engineering and Wharton sophomore Danish Munir has had Vista installed on his MacBook for three weeks now.

He's also managed to make AirPennNet work after changing some core Windows DLL files and registry settings, with the help of some Web sites.

"Someone who's computer savvy or is a computer science student could do it probably very easily," Munir said.

He added that, with a step-by-step guide, "An [Information Technology Advisor] could do it in ten minutes."

According to Aseltine, however, ISC has tried this fix on multiple computers, but it was not consistently successful and thus ITAs will not be trained to help students modify the program.

"I would be uncomfortable trying to put that out there as a standard fix," Aseltine said.

Even after a fix for SecureW2 is available, ISC will still not lift it's "wait-and-see" recommendation until all "critical incompatibilities and key bugs have been addressed," Aseltine added, which may occur by the time Microsoft's Service Pack 1 Vista update is released.

"We'll just continue to track issues that come up," Aseltine said.

SAS Computer labs here at Penn will likely be making the transition in the summer of 2008, according to Vice Dean of Administration and Finance Ramin Sedehi.

"It typically takes us at least a year after [software is released] to begin the transition," he said.

Microsoft officials did not return calls for comment.

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