In a surprise criticism of Microsoft, the UK government’s schools computer agency, has warned that deploying Vista carries too much risk and that its benefits are unclear. Becta, the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, said on Wednesday that it ‘strongly recommends’ schools do not deploy Microsoft’s next operating system within the next 12 months. And in a further dig at Microsoft, Becta argues there are no ‘must-have’ features in Vista and that “technical, financial and organisational challenges associated with early deployment currently make [Vista] a high-risk strategy.”
Government Agency Tells Schools to Shun Vista
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2007-01-11 7:28 amCoxy
This organisation seems to just give advice to UK school IT teachers, I think this advice (although obvious to you and others here) was probably made to help IT teachers justify to Headmasters and School Governors the resons why their computers haven’t been upgraded to Vista.
Edited 2007-01-11 07:28
I’d agree that Vista just doesn’t have any “must have” features for the bulk of users (assuming they are already running a more recent MS OS). Microsoft seem to have reached a plateau in OS development where most users needs are satisfied and I can only assume their release cycle is more about revenue generation than substantial leaps forward.
Assuming Vista continues Microsoft’s long, lamented history of OS monpolisation, kids are going to need to know about it.
2007-01-11 3:04 amunoengborg
Kids would probably be much better served by money being spent on better educated teachers, better books, fewer pupils in each class, less drugs… Upgrading the OS of the computers they use seams not all that necessary in comparison.
People was able to learn to read, wright, count and get a grip on the workings of society long before there was any computers at all. Some might even argue that they learnt even more when they couldn’t rip off their essays from the internet.
I’m not saying that a computer can’t be a useful tool, but it is probably a lot more important how it is used in a teaching situation than what OS it runs.
Even if Microsoft manages to get out Vista everywhere they want it, what about the next version. Vista will most likely not be the only version of Microsoft software the children will encounter during their lifetime and the school will not be there to help them all their life.
Much better if they spent time on learning things of more long time value.
2007-01-11 8:16 amstestagg
People was able to learn to read, wright, count and get a grip…
2007-01-11 5:12 pmraver31
Yes, I agree.
Kids learning IT today are actually only learning which menu the spellchecker is in, how to format cells for integers, where to get a data list for a chart.
All using msoffice.
They leave school as trained monkeys.
This is useless. We need our schools to actually teach IT, and the first thing would be to ditch microsoft.
2007-01-11 6:58 pmGooberslot
This is useless. We need our schools to actually teach IT, and the first thing would be to ditch microsoft.
I disagree. They need to teach what most people are going to use and, for better or worse, that’s Microsoft. OTOH, I don’t think it would be a bad thing to teach and expose students to alternatives either.
2007-01-11 9:16 pmDoc Pain
‘This is useless. We need our schools to actually teach IT, and the first thing would be to ditch microsoft.’
“I disagree. They need to teach what most people are going to use and, for better or worse, that’s Microsoft. OTOH, I don’t think it would be a bad thing to teach and expose students to alternatives either.”
I have to disagree. First, I’d like to mention that I worked several years in the educational sector. Your selection “what most people are going to use” makes me thinking you don’t really know what you’re talking about. “Are going to use” – future (not present). Software used in schools usually is outdated and obsolete. It’s not what anyone else uses.
It would be much better if children learned generic techniques providing them means to solve problems, not stupid clicking around. Trial and error is no concept for productive work – and that’s what they are expected to deliver when they leave school. So it’s important to know, for example, about office applications. If you are familiar with the use of OpenOffice or StarOffice, you won’t have any problems using “Microsoft Office”, except that you need to search for some functions in places where you don’t expect them. Or if you’re familiar with the use of KDE or Gnome, you surely would be able to use “Windows”, except that some concepts would seem to you like they came from the history of computing, especially when you have learned to use a Mac… 🙂
These generic concepts would teach a pupil getting his work done with any OS or application program. Instead, if they sit infront of another “Windows” or another “Word” version, they don’t know what to do.
The actual form of teaching IT produces computer illiterate people, expecting the PC telling them what they should do (because the PC knows itself and knows it better than you)…
But finally I agree. If schools use MICROS~1 products, they should even mention that alternatives exist. I won’t discuss the not-use of MICROS~1 products for the benefit of Linux or UNIX or MacOS X now.
2007-01-12 2:56 amphoenix
People need to be taught how to structure documents (headers, headings, sections, paragraphs, footers). Not how to change a font size, or use bold, or italics via toolbar buttons. They need to know what the difference is between memos and letters. Between internal communications and external communications. How to spell and to find grammar errors, without looking for squiggly red/green/blue lines.
People need to learn how to structure web documents, so that using CSS to change the look/layout of a site becomes possible. Not how to drag/drop images around in FrontPage.
People need to learn how to structure spreadsheets (using paper to begin with), and how to write proper formulas. Not just click around at a bunch of EasyButtons that autocalc everything.
People need to learn … how to learn. How to seek answers, how to do proper research, how to do things for themselves. Not how to blindly punch toolbar buttons like mindless automatons.
What would be really cool, would be a class that taught office products using MS Office all year, but gave the final exam using OpenOffice.org, or WordPerfect. Just to see which students learnt the concepts and how to use Help, and which students only learnt where MS put options in Office products.
You wouldn’t believe how many teachers were against our move to Linux in the elementary schools (and now secondaries) simply because “we have to teach MS Office, that’s what businesses use”. Thankfully, most of those teachers have now retired / moved on, and we have more “let’s teach our kids concepts” teachers onboard.
What’s really fun is reading all the e-mail from grade 8 students complaining about having to use Windows/Office after using Linux/OpenOffice.org for 3+ years in the elems.
2007-01-12 5:06 pmDoc Pain
Great answer, I completely agree. Allow me some additions and comments.
“People need to be taught how to structure documents (headers, headings, sections, paragraphs, footers). Not how to change a font size, or use bold, or italics via toolbar buttons.”
But that’s what they usually do. The most comfortable way, i. e. using the templates, is never used. And it does not matter if you use “Word”, OpenOffice, StarOffice, Word Perfect or even GeoWrite – all of them are able to do the work the right way. But as long as the users are not able to do the same, the result won’t be much impressive. Many people don’t even know these template functions exist. And if it’s about changing the design (e. g. “Set these headings centered, please.”), they have to redo the work.
“They need to know what the difference is between memos and letters.”
See applications (e. g. for employment). I’ve seen things… oh man… 🙂
“How to spell and to find grammar errors, without looking for squiggly red/green/blue lines.”
This reminds me to one of the famous “programming concepts”. They are (1st) trial & error and (2nd) change the source code until the compiler does not complain anymore. We have a high rate of functional illiteracy in Germany. The result: People rely on what the spell checker suggests (or usually autocorrects), but because this is only semantics (not grammar, expression etc.), the spell checker does not know what the user wants to express. So often correction is simply incorrect and generates more errors as if the user would be familiar with his native language. And as you might know, German is not the easiest language around. So most Germans do not care about spelling and grammar, they “just write”, no matter if it’s accaptable correct. This trend is increasing and can be found especially in e-mails or chats.
For example, “morning hour has gold in the mouth” would be correct in grammar and spelling, but it does not make sense because it should be “the early bird catches the worm”. Do the same with “bogu do privyeta” in russian. Or in programming, the compiler would not complain about “int a, b, sum; sum = a – b;”, but that’s nonsense.
“People need to learn how to structure web documents, so that using CSS to change the look/layout of a site becomes possible. Not how to drag/drop images around in FrontPage.”
Therefore, people have to know what’s behind these “pictures” (a reference to “web page(s)”). But for most of them, it’s just to complicated, to irrelevant or to boring. They want it to work, at once, by itself and out of the box. Your point is correct and very important for a barrier free web so that people with disabilities can use it as well. Most people just don’t get this idea. “It works for me, don’t care about others” is a popular opinion. BTW, “FrontPage” does not generate valid HTML, so it should be avoided anyway if you want to produce something that somebody might want to have a look at.
“People need to learn how to structure spreadsheets (using paper to begin with), and how to write proper formulas. Not just click around at a bunch of EasyButtons that autocalc everything.”
Oh, allquantified expressions, how I like them! 🙂 Another example from Germany: If pupils leave school and start a professional education, they have to go to what we call “Berufsschule” (professional school?), where they learn the basics of their job, next to the things they learn in the company. Can you imagine what they’re learning? No joke! Counting, reading, writing! And they have to, because in most cases it’s necessary.
At this point, let me state this: If the schools fail to teach the basics, they should not have any computer available for the pupils. The basics first, clicking around after that.
The use of paper is something you won’t see very often because it’s to complicated for some pupils. They must write theirselves! And think! First think, then write. Uh… oh pain… my brain… 🙂
“People need to learn … how to learn.”
YES!!! That’s completely right. But do you know what’s the problem behind the problem? The teachers. They have to learn how to teach. Here we should have a look to asia (Japan, China), where the educational systems deliver better results than ours in Germany (and the one in the US, sorry) do.
“How to seek answers, how to do proper research, how to do things for themselves. Not how to blindly punch toolbar buttons like mindless automatons.”
Click around until it works. If it does not work, blame the application.
“What would be really cool, would be a class that taught office products using MS Office all year, but gave the final exam using OpenOffice.org, or WordPerfect. Just to see which students learnt the concepts and how to use Help, and which students only learnt where MS put options in Office products. “
Nice concept! I would like to see this happening. 🙂
“You wouldn’t believe how many teachers were against our move to Linux in the elementary schools (and now secondaries) simply because “we have to teach MS Office, that’s what businesses use”.”
The proper educated ones know: The MICROS~1 “Office” version used in schools is to old, therefore the knowledge pupils got from learning it is worthless, because it’s incompatible with the newer MICROS~1 “Office” versions.
“What’s really fun is reading all the e-mail from grade 8 students complaining about having to use Windows/Office after using Linux/OpenOffice.org for 3+ years in the elems. “
Ah, I know this from my ex girlfried who graduates to the Abitur and learns outdated “Windows” stuff – after using UNIX for some years. 🙂
As an example: When I was at the university (long long time ago), we saw presentations and papers that looked like 5h1t (or, as we say in Germany: “hingekackt und hingeschissen”): small serife font, black on a dark blue background… And papers in 10pt ugly “Comic” font, set left (instead of justified) without title page, table of contents, page numbers, and paragraphs, enumeration done “by hand” (bold, underlined, italics)… I don’t need to say more, do I? 🙂 In applied statistics (mandatory in psychology, diagnostics and intervention) we had to set some formulas. Stupid things in fact, but the “professioal ‘Word’ users” didn’t get it. Finally, they drew the formula theirselves (on paper), scanned it and pasted the image. And needed more time for it than it would take to get familiar with, let’s say, LaTeX typesetting where formulas are no problem, as I cound experience myself and see from a friend whose thesos paper for the diploma was done in LaTeX within two months – and he had never seen any LaTeX line before. So it can’t be that complicated.
To state it again: It does not matter if you use an old fashioned computer system with old programs, or the usual MICROS~1 memory garbage – if it’s about concepts, you can teach them even without a computer. Concepts are the basics which are neccessary to seek knowledge in new fields of education. They are important, not the version number of “Windows” that is used. If you don’t know about the important things, “Windows” makes it only worse. For you and for others.
I am very surprised at the lack of benefit that Vita offers.
Another note for companies. We have MS Software Assurance, gives you free upgrades to products you have paid assurance on. We have been covering our windows os with software assurance and now MS has said that we have to pay for the upgrade to Vista anyway. I know other organizations that were on the fence about upgrading even when they thought the upgrade would be free. I’m sure now that they have to pay for it the decision not to upgrade will be a no brainer.
2007-01-11 4:22 amjayson.knight
“We have been covering our windows os with software assurance and now MS has said that we have to pay for the upgrade to Vista anyway.”
I’m not arguing with you or trying to be difficult, but is this documented anywhere? Sounds like a huge lawsuit waiting to happen if indeed this is the case, and this is the first I’ve heard of it anywhere on the big bad web…seems that it would have made headlines somewhere.
I’m not sure why zdnet made a title for the article that was blatantly wrong, other than the fact that they’re not a reasonable source of good journalism, but I agree with BECTA: You shouldn’t install it within the first 12 months!
I’ll be up front here, if this were a new version of OS X I’d probably say it’s safe to roll it out after a couple of months (maybe even only a month).
Do I make a difference because I’m anti-Microsoft? No I don’t. The reason is simple: Vista is a product 5 years in the making. A new version of mac would be a product less than 2 years in the making. Vista is introducing a whole new windowing system which took Apple two extra iterations to get right, so why should we expect Microsoft to get it immediately?
Vista is simply too big of a change to trust without a lot of testing.
Why don’t they just install Linux ?
2007-01-11 12:52 amtonywob
Linux isn’t the be all and end all you know!
2007-01-11 1:23 amsnaker
No linux isn’t the end all, but if you are a tax payer it does make sense. All of my children use mac, windows and linux without any learning curves needed. So all this article is about is securing your systems.
2007-01-11 1:58 amflanque
Every operating system, software, hardware or in general terms product or service has a learning curve.
2007-01-11 4:48 amdylansmrjones
A quick’n’dirty switch to GNU/Linux would be just as unwise as a quick’n’dirty migration to Vista, unless one doesn’t depend on any particular functionality in Windows.
2007-01-12 4:01 pmwalterbyrd
>>Why don’t they just install Linux ?<<
Apps and drivers. Windows has them, Linux doesn’t.
A few things…
// “technical, financial and organisational challenges associated with early deployment currently make [Vista] a high-risk strategy.” //
Any large-scale large-change deployment without proper due diligence, research, testing and verification is a high-risk strategy. This is not specific to Vista.
The benefits being unclear makes me wonder how much research they’ve done. The Wikipedia article on Vista clearly gives good definition of the additional features at a high level. It’s then up to the department to investigate these further and at greater depth, which all can be done with the assistance of Google and a phone call to their Microsoft representitive.
There’s no “mission critical stable” Windows release that would be useful on the desktop, so waiting out for this I think is misguided. There are other options if the current environment, which I’d suspect based on market percentages is Windows 2000 or Windows XP, such as Linux, MacOS and more. None of these however are “mission critical stable” all the same.
Stability and security doesn’t start and stop at the OS. Choosing the appropriate hardware, drivers, software, periphials, network firewalls, network proxies, network architecture and policies (not to mention user education) all play a significant role in the security and stability of an IT environment.
2007-01-11 1:23 amjtrapp
The article was based on an interim report which is linked to from http://publications.becta.org.uk/display.cfm?resID=28199
It is just saying wait and see. On the OS front they seem only interested in Windows, no one else gets mentioned. On office suites they look at half a dozen differnet options. While stating that the alternatives offer less functionality than MS Office, they mostly all offer the core functionality that they need. Interestingly, they even evaluated Google’s online productivity tools.
The report itself is not worth the hype. It states the obvious, wait a while to deploy Vista/Office.
No sane person would recommend a switch here’n’now. Wait and see. That’s the sane choice – hardly surprising, nor worth an article
It always shocks me that any upgrade is considered, without thought to the students actually using the software.
12 months..or now would leave the students with an expensive upgrade, and requires retraining mid-year when students have little enough time on the topic as is.
Honestly, any self-respecting network admin would wait until Vista SP1 before even considering deployment onto a ‘test’ network. Where I work, we waited four years before upgrading to XP, simply because 2000 was sufficient.
In corporate situations (and I take it education is the same) the latest and greatest tech usually means more trouble and instability than it is worth. I would question the motives of any admin that deployed Vista onto a network before SP1, it is just too much of a risk!
2007-01-11 8:25 amstestagg
There is a serious argument against waiting for too long in the Education sector. If you teach young people with old, tried-and-tested tools, at an age when they most easily pick up new skills, then they won’t be comfortable using tomorrows technologies.
Windows Vista marks a fairly significant departure from the the look-and-feel and even some of the general philisophies of 2k, Teaching children using tools that they will encounter in future life is imperative.
BTW. I’m not disagreeing with the article, just suggesting that if you’re a teacher still using a BBC (Or Win 3.1?), then you should be seriously concerned for your pupils’ educations.
2007-01-11 10:34 pmarchiesteel
If you teach young people with old, tried-and-tested tools, at an age when they most easily pick up new skills, then they won’t be comfortable using tomorrows technologies.
I tend to disagree. Changes in interface, unless radical, are usually transparent to users.
The one thing that makes me mad is when they move stuff around without apparent justification (it took me a while to get used to how network connections are handled/configured in WinXP compared to Win2K, for example). However, what you want to teach is not how to use a *specific* tool (because one day it *will* be replaced by another), but rather to develop a good sense of how to accomplish tasks.
To give an example: let’s say I learn how to do 3D modeling in Maya. If I get a job where they use 3DSMax, I will need a training period to understand the new interface, however I won’t need to re-learn how to make a good model, how to deal with normals, vertices, etc.
I learned computing on a TRS-80 Model III and an Apple ][…and yet I had little trouble using a number of different computer interfaces after that: C64, ZX81, Sinclair QL, Lisa/Mac, Amiga, DOS, Win3.0/3.1/95/98/2k/XP, Unix CLI, KDE, Gnome…so really, learning a specific interface is not that important – in fact, ideally they *should* expose the students to more than one, so that they learn that the UI is just that, an interface, and that three is something else going on behind all the pretty widgets…
Edit: dang, Doc Pain and others beat me to it…
Edited 2007-01-11 22:38
>Why don’t they just install Linux ?
uh, probably because the results you
get are even worse when running applications
without breaking them.
Edited 2007-01-11 08:29
I can understand being cautious when installing a new OS or a new version of the OS.
No problem there, but when he says there are no major new features, he is being a total moron.
Here check this out:
That is a ton of major new features. Just because you are too ignorant or too lazy to look and see what features are new does not mean there are not any.
2007-01-11 8:41 amcyclops
Apart from being sick of that link. I would like you to pick out the *must have* feature for schools.
I’m actually genuinely interested in what you have to say.
2007-01-11 10:31 ambiteydog
Kids don’t need features -they just need to learn to use computers. Any computer that has a modern GUI will do. Features can come later, at work.
I have never found any child of any age having any difficulty changing from a Windows/Mac/Linux/BSD machine to any other OS. Immediately, without training – because kids aren’t scared of anything that looks slightly different. (Though teachers usually are.) This is personal experience with miscellaneous assorted kids.
Scenario: Kid comes home from school, does her/his email, downloads stuff, googles, watches online videos, types up project, etc.
“What did you do in IT at school today?”
“The usual, a pointless Powerpoint presentation – boring.”
2007-01-11 10:54 amcyclops
@biteydog I laughed more than you know.
It bothers me because I’m not sure what to think…and I’m focusing on Office because I suspect the students will do very little OS based stuff, if at all.
The choice of Linux+OpenOffice+etc etc from a cost to both the school, and access/cost to student make it a winning combination. Its an obvious choice.
Whether it is *right* to choose this when Microsoft’s Monopoly is so strong, even though this reinforces this monopoly. I’m lost. I think the pricing of Office products to students is criminal…but I’m in the same dilemma. I couldn’t make a choice on the whole thing.
If Linux ran across all now this generation consoles and HD was ready and common enough in the UK. I suspect that the benefits of Linux should be properly looked at..but its not the case.
2007-01-11 11:41 ambiteydog
@cyclops. Glad I gave you a chuckle.
IMHO the most important thing you can give kids is to teach them how to use a file manager. Any file manager, Windows Explorer – Konqueror – Nautilus – Thunar, whatever. They will be OK on any computer then, because the file manager will open the file in whatever that operating system decides is the best app for it.
Serious disclaimer – I am not a teacher of kids (though I have done some adult education work).
2007-01-11 11:06 amayeomans
That’s pretty close to the conclusions of Becta’s own reports on Open Source software in schools:
The next time they want to buy a brand new PC for that new teacher or replacement for that dead PC guess what it will come pre-installed with…….Vista.
Unless the Admins make a conscious choice to try another operating system for their institution they are locked into the Microsoft vortex. Microsoft choir boys like Dell and HP will make sure you get nothing but Vista in your next new PC.
2007-01-11 5:24 pmraver31
From your post I can see you have never worked in a corporate environment.
A company, (school board), buys licenses and support contracts for their systems, and when they upgrade the hardware, the supplied OS gets wiped and the supported version gets installed.
You might go into PC World and buy the top of the range laptop with Vista install, only to get slapped by the admin, and formatted. You end up with a laptop with Windows 2000 running a bit faster than your old laptop.
2007-01-12 3:25 amphoenix
That’s what we do. No matter what comes pre-installed on the computer, we nuke it at the site and image it with the standard image for that site. That way, we get computers that all have the same software, network settings, security settings, etc. And with the elems that run Linux, we get donated computers with Win98 or Win2K licenses included, and just remove the harddrives (the Linux boxes are all diskless hybrid-thin-clients).
No computer goes on our network without being vetted by a tech, and even then, it gets imaged with out setup unless it’s a personal laptop (but there’s a lot of hoops to go through before you can use a personal laptop on our networks).
Home setups are a different matter.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volume_License_Key#Volume Activation 2.0
Starting with Windows Vista, VLKs will be replaced with Multiple Activation Keys (MAKs) that either activate copies through a local Key Management Server (KMS), which in turn reports back license usage to Microsoft, or activates directly in communication with Microsoft. Hosts activated via a KMS have to report back to that key server once every 180 days. This change in design was made in order to deter piracy, as pirated copies of products often used VLKs. This differs from previous Microsoft products in which VLKs simply bypassed product activation and will aid Microsoft in tracking down and disabling key access for companies somehow violating their license agreement.
However, these new local key servers are known to already having been used as new attack vectors to enable piracy, such as opening them for Internet access, which is a violation of the EULA. It’s possible such “rogue servers” will be, or are, modified to not communicate with Microsoft, and rather report that generated MAKs are valid. Such keys would likely still fail Windows Genuine Advantage tests though.
Microsoft Office 2007 Enterprise Edition will still use the Volume Activation 1.0 system despite being released in the Vista timeframe.
So now MS has made it equally as annoying for admins to deploy as pirates.
From your post I can see you have never worked in a corporate environment.
Totally beside the point. I know and you know that the adoption of Vista will not be determined by it’s quality or lack thereof but simply because It will soon be the default OS on most PCs thanks to Dell et al . It will therefore take a deliberate well thought out policy by the technical folks in BECTA to swim against this tide.
My point is that 85% or more of institutions which choose to keep running a Microsoft OS will eventually upgrade to the latest version which now happens to be Vista. My other point is that BECTA criticising MS is just hot air until they decide as a body to compare the benefits of XP/Vista with those of other operating systems like Linux or OSX
2007-01-12 3:26 pmraver31
I stand by my original post. you know nothing of the corporate world.
Vista might be installed on 100million computers over the next year, so what ?
Until Vista can prove to be safe, reliable, compatible and secure, it will not be installed on corporate networks.
Most companies still run Windows 2000. They did not upgrade to Windows XP, and it will take mountains to move before these companies install Vista.
Like I said before, it is irrelevant what comes on the machine, it will be formatted and the companies supported OS will get installed.
When you need to do some real work, every upgrade is painfull. I never understood people who are happy when new release comes out. In fact, I believe that there is something seriously wrong about them.
Forced upgrades were the reason I abandoned Windows in 1999. It was NT4. I moved to RedHat 5.2, then RedHat 6.0, RedHat 6.2, RedHat 7.3, RedHat 9.0, FC4, and FreeBSD 6.1. in the end.
Each time I upgraded, I had to change the way I do certain things, and each time I didn’t like it one bit.
2007-01-11 10:18 pmcyclops
I understand the importance of a *standard* interface that does not change.
Its why a switch between OS is so hard, but I would be tempted to argue that Linux the OS…and Windows+Office is different in the way they upgrade.
Microsoft do occasional upgrades every few years, nearly 6 in the case of Vista which is quite a large change. Where Linux made up of Lots of pieces gets upgraded regularly. Linux every 3 months;X-org 6 months;Gnome every 6 Months.
I think change is easier to cope with on Linux, although I suspect it comes down to the individual.
Pascal programing language was initialy ment for CS students to help them learn programming. Couple of years ago, I heard that Python was chosen in some schools. There was Logo, too.
There should be an OS, or OS variant, or distribution, specially engineered for education needs. To teach kids what the computer is and what can they expect from it to do for them. Kids are probably distracted by “special features”, and their percepcion is, maybe, obscured. There should be something basic, that implements the basic and relevant features of the todays computer systems and software.
would agree with the advice given, its better to wait for a bit to see how things turn out then to risk an early jump.
As someone who works in Education managing networks and machines, I can tell that most of us won’t be doing this anyway.
I’m still running Windows 2000 on most machines just because it’s nice and stable and does the job, there’s only a handful of clients running XP, and even then I wish it was Win2k.
Nearly all Educational, Government or Large business’s won’t upgrade from the requirements of Vista alone.