Archive for September, 2008

Windows Vista – Not so scary after all

One of the (many) draft blog posts I never got around to posting was entitled “Vista – Not so compelling”. In it I documented how Vista really didn’t offer anything that made me want to upgrade to it; in fact I thought of it as nothing more than a prettier version of XP that used more memory.

I was happy with XP, and I suffer from operating system conservatism, I never upgrade to the latest and greatest versions for the longest time. I continued to use OS/2 for a couple of years after NT4 became available; similarly I ran Windows 2000 Professional for a couple of years after XP was out. Unlike some people I don’t enjoy reinstalling everything every couple of weeks, I tend to accumulate so many programs that reinstallation becomes a real chore.

So what changed my mind?

The primary reason was simple, bit rot. The longer you use Windows, the more applications are added, updated, removed and changed, the more it starts slowing down. It has survived two motherboard upgrades thanks to keeping with nVidia chipsets (their unified drivers really are unified), and so much software had accumulated that the start menu was four columns wide, and I run at a high resolution! I did contemplate simply flattening XP and reinstalling it, but it didn’t help with my other reasons.

Reason two: I needed more memory. I’m what can be called a power user, not only do I develop software, I also play games and edit lots of photographs. All these tasks are improved by adding more memory, even though I had 2Gb installed I wanted to use more, and the limit of 32 bit operating systems is 4Gb, a significant chunk of which can’t be used. I had tried XP64 on a trial basis last year, but the experience wasn’t ideal due to the lack of drivers and software incompatibilities. This left me with only one choice, Vista x64.

So, I performed a full backup (using Acronis True Image Home), replaced the RAM to bring the machine up to 8Gb, inserted the Vista SP1 DVD and installed.

All in all, it was anticlimactic. All the hardware (bar one, a cheap serial card I use for communicating with a UPS), already had drivers or installed after the first Windows Update. I only had one major issue: ironically the nVidia chipset drivers stopped Vista from booting at all – even in safe mode – and I had to resort to booting again off the DVD and recovered from the last system restore point.

I’ve had some software issues, ZoneAlarm isn’t available as a x64 application, with Zone Labs in no hurry to release one, so I use the free Comodo firewall, which does work. Sorry Zone Labs, no more money from me for you! Similarly I couldn’t get Executive Undelete working, but I’m not that bothered so I’ll live without it, Vista does include the Previous Versions system, and the computer is backed up daily using Windows Home Server

The only other problem I was having was getting it to sleep automatically, which turned out to be quite an interesting journey in itself and I will be making a follow-up post on how I solved it.

Beyond that everything has been trouble-free, Photoshop isn’t 64 bit, but it is large memory aware so is happier on the new system, and the new Lightroom 2 is available in a 64 bit variation so I will be upgrading to that shortly. The few DirectX 10 games I have play nicely, and going back to XP without integrated search is a royal pain.

So, ignore the nay-sayers comparing Vista to Windows ME, give it a go, you may actually end up liking it!

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September 20th, 2008


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