Multitasking means running multiple tasks at the same time. Or at least, that should be the standard definition. But I'm starting to think Windows Vista doesn't believe in that.
I'm a manager, and I write a lot of documents. Often, I'll need to print a copy of a document so I can make edits, or bring a copy to a meeting. It's not hard - click on the MS Office icon, then click Print. I usually send documents to the laser printer right outside my office. Since I don't want to watch Office print, I immediately Alt-Tab back to another application (usually Firefox) and work on something else until the document has been printed.
But Windows doesn't always print. At least, not unattended.
Imagine my surprise when I try to print a document, and nothing comes out of the printer. The printer isn't claiming it's processing the document - and in one instance, while waiting for my document, I saw the printer fire up and spit out someone else's document. On these occasions, if I go back to my desk and flip back to the Office application that was trying to print, only then does the document print. In fact, I can see Word finally display the status message "Printing page 1 of ..." at the bottom of the window.
If this had happened only once, then I'd be willing to think it was an anomaly, and forget about it. Likewise, I'd assume it was "workload" if the problem only occurred when printing long documents with lots of diagrams. But I've experienced this at least 8 times in the last 2 weeks, and almost all have been fairly short, simple documents: no diagrams, only bold/italics/indenting, less than 10 pages long, the only image is a banner graphic we use at work.
So there's definitely something going on. I don't think I'm taxing my system. If I'm referring to other materials while writing a document (typical for me) I may have a dozen Word and Excel documents open at one time. I usually also have a Firefox window open to check webmail and browse the web.
I think it's a design problem. Under Linux (and any UNIX-based system, even Mac OS X), programs rarely manage printing by themselves; instead, print data is sent to a "spooler" which actually manages the print queue (that's what "lpd" does, by the way.) Maybe that's how Windows manages printing, I don't know. But if Windows does this, then why does printing from MS Office take a back seat the instant I switch to another application?
This "Windows" thing doesn't seem like it's ready for prime time in an office environment.