I know I'm tempting fate by even mentioning this, but...

The latest set of patches and updates for Windows Vista, mentioned recently, really do appear to make the system noticeably faster and more responsive.

In addition to eliminating (so far) the chronic previous crashes when my laptop went into or out of hibernation, they seem to have reduced another big annoyance: the interminable periods when the computer appeared simply to be paralyzed -- "it's thinking," is the more charitable way my wife once put it -- and would not respond to keystrokes or commands. In real time these could last 30 or 40 seconds, which seemed like centuries. Such brain-dead spells -- for a fast computer with a lot of RAM -- have been cut way down.

Similarly: the new version of Lenovo's Rescue and Recovery utility (available through the ThinkVantage Update software that comes on new ThinkPads -- more info here) is a big improvement. This software makes frequent backups of everything on your computer, which are obviously reassuring to have. But its original version was a significant culprit in my first big problem with Vista on a ThinkPad -- that it gobbled up every bit of available disk space. The latest release works faster, takes less disk space, and is easier to use.

The Vista patches will be part of the "Service Pack 1" that is circulating informally and is supposed to be officially released soon. New ThinkPads presumably come with the latest Lenovo utilities installed. If my first exposure to Vista and the Lenovo utilities had been to this new, improved incarnation -- and I hadn't had the last year of hatred-inducing frustration behind me -- my impression would have been much more positive, and I would now own fewer Macs. I suppose I've merely re-proved the principle that wiser souls discovered long ago. Never buy or use a new release of Windows, or perhaps of any major system software, until it's been on the market at least a year and has gone through its first "Service Pack." Live and learn.