I have largely avoided problems with Vista by only running it on PCs on which it comes preinstalled. At least I avoided problems until a few weeks ago. With a total of five PCs and laptops now running Vista in my house, the constant avalanche of automatic updates seems to break something every day. The latest issue I’m fighting is one that causes ASP.NET apps launched in IE 7 from Visual Studio 2008 to sometimes start with JavaScript disabled. It’s pretty hard to teach an ASP.NET class when LinkButtons don’t work.

But worse than having ASP.NET broken on my development box is what IE 7 has done to the PC in the kitchen. For more than 20 years my wife has used my hand-me-down PCs. Last week I bought her her first-ever new PC:  a Dell quad-core with 3 GB of RAM, a 500 MB hard disk, a 20-inch LCD monitor, and Vista Home Premium. (For the first time ever, I’m envious of her PC!) At first I was a little hot when Vista didn’t support my trusty USB wireless network adapter, but $70 and a new adapter later, Vista was happy and so was I.

The smiles didn’t last long. My wife fired up IE 7 on her new computer and went to our high school’s parent portal to check my son’s math grade. IE, however, wouldn’t let her get past the login page; it kept insisting “Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage.” She asked if this was another Vista problem. I knowingly assured her it wasn’t, and informed her that she had been running IE 7 on XP for a long time. Just to make sure, I downloaded the latest version of Firefox and went to the parent portal. Much to my surprise, Firefox let me log in and view grades just fine! I spent the next couple of hours toggling settings in IE 7 trying to get past the problem, and a couple of hours after that doing Web searches and analyzing HTTP traffic to find out why IE 7 couldn’t display a page that Firefox had no problem with. (It has something to do with “302 Temporarily Moved” responses coming back over SSL/TLS, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten with it.)

My wife can still check our son’s grades with IE 7 on her old XP PC. She can check grades with Firefox on her new Vista quad-core. But she can’t use IE 7 to check grades on Vista. She’s confused, and so am I.