I will never use Windows Vista again, if I can help it…

Today was ANOTHER final straw…  I had unplugged my Windows Vista machine about a month ago (coincidentally the same time the Mac Pro came home), and it hasn’t been on since. 

This weekend, though, I needed to get something off of the Vista machine.  Never has a more painful experience been had. 

First up, everything screamed that updates had not been done since 8/15.  Ok, fair enough.  Well, the first thing that had to be updated was the updater itself.  Ok.  Wait a sec, it requires a REBOOT after the updater updated?  WHY!?!  So, reboot.  Then 4 updates to install.  Another reboot.  Grr… Video card update.  Another reboot.  Tried updating the audio interface drivers.  Well, I utterly failed at that.  Did I mention that each reboot took close to 5 minutes EACH!?!  So, instead of a simple 10 minute process, I ended up spending almost AN HOUR futzing with the computer.

Again, I’m not an average user.  I have a LOT of patience when it comes to dealing with computers.  And, I’m now at my wit’s end.  Fortunately, it’s just time lost, not data.  Still, I wouldn’t recommend Vista to ANYONE, and have been working on getting my customers over to OS X.

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One very overlooked good Vista feature that may also bring some headaches

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, my computer’s motherboard decided to die on Monday.  So, today consisted of trying to find a replacement motherboard, but I had no luck.  Fortunately for me, I have an old motherboard and video card that I removed before upgrading to the latest and greatest.  I popped the old board back in, and at least the computer fired up!  Ok!  So, hook up all the cables and stuff, and set Vista to boot.  Why did I do that?  I had read on a blog that a clean install of Vista installs *all* the drivers from the DVD, and that it can do a pretty good job of figuring out what it’s running on when starting up.

So, I crossed my fingers and said, "Here goes nothing…"

Fortunately, they were RIGHT!

Vista started up, did a big auto-detect, and ran fine.  I had to reload one (1!) driver, which doesn’t even come close to supporting Vista anyway.  Everything else just reinitialized fine.

Holy downgrade, Batman!

Finally, Windows can be machine agnostic (or at least learn to believe what box it is on when it starts).  This is probably one of the greatest features that Microsoft could bestow upon us.  How many times has a tech done an upgrade, and then had to reinstall Windows because it BSOD’ed when starting up?  Those days are *GONE*.  (Well, at least until some standard changes the machine boot information or sequence.  I give it 1 to 2 years before it goes back to the old way smile_wink)

Unfortunately, there IS a dark underbelly to this happy story.  Almost immediately, I got asked to reactivate my copy of Windows, as the hardware had changed rather radically.  I’m lucky in that I have multiple activations (MSDN!  Yeah!), but this is going to cause problems.  What happens when I revert to the fixed hardware??? I’ll probably lose another activation.  This is a real Pain In The A**.  I realize that Microsoft wants to protect their software.  But being punished for hardware failure is certainly NOT COOL.  I hope the guys on the phones doing activations are halfway nice about this stuff, or it will be real easy to render a copy of Vista dead.

Cool Vista feature: Windows Photo Gallery

I don’t know why this feature from Vista isn’t being talked about more… it’s Windows Photo Gallery.  I had overlooked this feature until just recently. 

Here is why I found the Photo Gallery.  One of the neat features about the Windows Sidebar is the gadgets.  I had put the picture viewer gadget on the Sidebar, but had gotten tired of looking at just the basic sample images.  So, I finally transfered over my pictures from my old XP hard drive.  I had forgotten that my picture files were a mess.  I thought that I had read somewhere that Vista had an enhanced picture manager, but I couldn’t remember the name.  With a little bit of help from the help system, I found the Windows Photo Gallery.

Windows Photo Gallery is a great addition to Vista.  It allows for tagging pictures, searching, renaming, moving, and fixing of photos.  I was able to reorganize my photo library pretty quickly, get things tagged, and rename the files to something useful.

Nice job Microsoft!

Life with Vista full time for one week

Ok, here is my one week update with Vista.  Once I was able to get my audio capture card working, I’ve been pretty happy.  Office 2007 installed without a hitch.  Microsoft Money already has a second service pack which fixes the ‘endless service pack install’ issue.

So far, here is what I like:

  1. The gadget bar.  It’s very un-obtrusive, and actually adds some nice functionality.  I have the weather, Usage monitor, and clock all running.  In fact, I have the weather running for here and where my mom lives.  Right now, it’s 24 degrees F, with snow flurries… I’m glad it is 64 degrees here!
  2. Aero glass is nice.  The screen effects are great and smooth.  There are still redraw problems when the system gets bogged down though.
  3. Search.  The search feature built into the main menu works wonders.
  4. The new windows explorer.  Except for a couple of bugs, this has turned out *very* nicely.

There are a couple of things that I think that OS X does better:

  1. Expose.  I’ll leave it at that.
  2. The Dock Bar.  Maybe OS X users don’t have as many programs installed on their PC, I don’t know.  All I know is that the Dock is a much nicer way to see if programs are running, and where they are located at.

Finally, there are some things that one must realize when running Vista:

  1. 2 Gigs of memory is a minimum requirement.  Even as I type these words, they shock me.  I have a reasonably fast machine, but with only 1 gig of memory.  It’s not enough!  Just running the OS and Outlook 2007 will usually eat my memory.  Add in VMWare, RSSBandit and a couple of other programs, and the memory goes bye-bye very quickly.
  2. UAC is your friend.  Turn it on.  It’s annoying, but it will definitely help keep unwanted programs off the computer.

I’ve switched to Vista and am not looking back!  Next stop, Vista 64!

Discoveries in Vista…

I may be able to switch over to Vista sooner than I thought.  I finally figured out how to get my M-Audio FW-1814 working with Vista.  Here’s how I got it to work…

  1. After downloading the latest XP drivers, I ran the install program.
  2. The install program chokes with ‘this version of windows is not supported’
  3. After I closed the program, I got an interesting little dialog box.
  4. It asked whether I wanted to run this program in ‘compatibility’ mode.
  5. I said, sure what the heck.
  6. The drivers installed perfectly.

One caveat… I am running my normal account with LUP (Least User Privileges).  I had to log into my Admin account to get the drivers setup correctly.  One interesting thing with Vista is that ‘normal’ users cannot install device drivers AT ALL.  That’s actually a pretty damn good idea in my book.  Now a program can’t install low level driver hooks without the Admin knowing about it.

Now that the audio card is installed, I started playing around with one of the new features… Application based volume.  This is one of the GREATEST FEATURES EVER in Windows, and Apple needs to shamelessly add this to OS X 10.5.  Clicking on the Volume tab brings up all the applications running, and a slider associated with the app.  All one has to do to change the application’s volume is move the slider for the given application.  That selects the PERCENTAGE of the master volume that the applications Volume gets pumped out at.

No more Windows sounds BLASTING out at me when I least expect it!

Life with Vista – Weekend 1

My experiment of trying to live with Vista and cheap is in progress.  So far, so good.  I have updated information to add after working a bit with some software.

First off. I have to take back a bit about my rant on Windows Live Mail Desktop.  Two things that I said have turned out not to be true.  Number one, the ads.  I had tried a previous version that had huge ugly graphic ads that took up a large portion of the space.  Now, they changed it to targeted ads based upon content of the email, just like gmail does.  At least they are text.  The graphics ads are still there, if you turn off the targeted ads.  Second, it picked up and configured my AOL email automatically.  Nice!  Now, if it would just do that for my *other* emails.  WLMD is not too bad, once I started working with it.

Now, on to Vista.  I *still* don’t have drivers for my FireWire Audio card, so it makes it impossible for me to use the OS as my primary.  Which truly sucks, because Vista is nice.  The search feature alone makes it worthwhile to switch.  Windows Desktop Search is a good system, but Vista’s search is built in at the OS level.  It is *very* nice.  Now, it’s easier to tell users how to find a program… ‘Click on the Windows button, and type ‘x”.  No more ‘look for menu x,y, and z’.

Vista also seems faster.  Maybe it is because I don’t have that much loaded on my Vista partition yet, but it feels snappier than Win XP on the same box.  Networking certainly seems faster.

Finally, the games included with Vista are definitely cool.  Between Chess and Mahjong, Vista could eat up a significant amount of time up for me.

More random thoughts on Vista to appear soon!

Why do I need THREE mail clients to choose from?

In an interesting article about having ‘too many choices for turning the computer off’, Joel Spolsky opened up a big can of worms on Vista.  While the OFF buttons are trivial (except for the fact that what LOOKS like an off button is actually a hibernate button), Joel hit upon a subject that is near and dear to my heart.  Giving users choices.  ‘Wait a sec, aren’t choices a GOOD thing?’  Read the article…

On to my little rant…

How many freakin’ email clients do we need!?!  Up through Windows XP, if you wanted a free email client that was almost guaranteed to be installed, you used Outlook Express.  Of course, people got the name confused with Outlook… but that’s a *completely* different topic.  Outlook Express handled all types of email accounts (correct me if I’m wrong, I rarely used Outlook Express), and was a fairly decent newsgroup reader.

Ok, so for Windows Vista, Outlook Express is gone… Bye, bye!  In it’s place is a brand new email client, Windows Mail.  Windows Mail’s functionality is ALMOST the same as Outlook Express.  One interesting difference is that Windows Mail DOESN’T WORK WITH HOTMAIL… Uh… WHY?  Because of Windows Live Mail Desktop (I’m not sure if that’s going to be the final name)

Windows Live Mail Desktop is Windows Mail with support for Windows Live Mail (Hotmail), and RSS feed reading capabilities.  And built in Advertisements.  Ummm… Ok…  What purpose was this built?  2 reasons that I can see.  One, to update Outlook Express on XP.  Ok, laudable goal.  Two, to generate Ad revenue.  Sorry, bzzzt, bleech.  Watching the Channel 9 interview with the team that built this, someone had sold THEM a bill of goods.  When’s the last time you heard a dev team working on a cool new product that their primary mission was that ‘developing this software cost money, so we have to have ads’!?!  Ummm, Outlook Express is free.  Aren’t you getting paid by the sales of Vista?  Isn’t that *enough* money to fund a team writing a piece of client software?

Now, we also have a third Microsoft Option… Outlook.  Awesome product.  The changes to 2007 are incredible… And I use less than 10% of what’s there.  It does everything Windows Live Mail Desktop does, plus LOTS more.  Ok, so it’s not free, but it doesn’t contain blatant advertisement (until you use the help system).

Don’t forget to throw Thunderbird into the mix…

Gawd, just thinking about this give me shivers.  If I was a Windows Tech, I’d have nightmares about configuring email clients.  And having mailbox info moved?  Cold sweats, and I’d be thinking about a new career in something simple, like nuclear physics.

Since I’ve installed Vista, I’ve been trying to work like a normal, cost-conscious, home user.  I set up an Admin account and am running as a Standard User.  I don’t want to spend money on Outlook, and hate adware.  I do have a Hotmail account.  Looks like Thunderbird is going to be tried out on *this* Vista machine.

‘End-of-line’

End rant

Vista First Impressions

This weekend I installed the ‘Release To Manufacturing’ (RTM) version of Vista.  This is the same disk that will be shipped to the general public at the end of January.  This disk is provided to MSDN Subscribers early, so that developers can make sure that their products work with the new version.  And I’m lucky enough that my company has purchased copies of MSDN for us developers. 

The Good
  • The install was *very* easy.  Not too many questions, setting up the disk was easy, it recognized almost everything, and the process was very smooth.
  • The new UI is nice.  The effects for opening and closing windows are cool.  The live previews on the task bar is pretty cool.
  • The Sidebar looks like it might be more useful than I first thought.  It will *definitely* make Widescreen monitors a hot commodity.  One thing that differentiates the Sidebar from Apple’s Dashboard is that the gadgets can be displayed while other programs are running.
  • IE 7 on Vista looks good.
  • Games are fun, and addictive.
  • Per application sound volume!  Yeah!
The bad
  • Windows Mail that is included with Vista DOESN’T WORK WITH HOTMAIL!!!!!!  Why the hell did they create Windows Mail or re-create Outlook Express if it’s not going to work with Microsoft’s main email provider?  What kills me is that to use Hotmail/Live mail, you are supposed to use Windows Live Mail Desktop.  Why develop 2 email clients?  Is it the fact that Windows Live Mail Desktop includes Advertisements?
  • Sound card drivers.  Ok, so this isn’t a peeve with Microsoft, it’s with companies that support Microsoft.  And really, I can’t blame them, they only got an RC1 a month or so ago.  And, the drivers have to be re-written (again!)
  • The install *still* did not create a password protected Admin user, then a Lower Access User.  Grrr!!!
  • The interface is VERY different.  I’m glad they’ve made the changes, but I can’t help but think people are going to be confused.
  • The little button that looks like the power button on the main menu is actually a ‘suspend’ button.  I agree with Joel Spolsky about the Off menu.
  • Why didn’t Powershell get included ‘out-of-the-box’?
  • Migrating settings from my old OS to my new OS.  Why, oh, why, can’t moving things be easier?
The undecided
  • UAC (User Access Control).  I like the concept behind the feature.  The RTM version is a LOT less annoying.  I don’t like the fact it can be turned off.  If you want to run with no UAC, you should run as the super user.  Anyone else should be *REQUIRED* to input passwords to install software and do things that can mess up the machine.

I will continue to try working with Vista.  Once I get my software setup on Vista, and get the audio drivers for my Firewire card, I’ll have more thoughts.