Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Upgrade, part 2 (updated)

I won't belabor this whole upgrade process much longer, but there are a couple of things I want to say about it.

First, the bad part:
- A lot of my older software is no longer compatible, neither Pinnacle Studio 9 or the Pinnacle PCTV video box driver will load. There's an online Beta for the PCTV box, which I haven't tried yet, but it sure looks like I'm going to have to pay to upgrade to Studio 10. And for some reason I cannot find my Corel Paintshop disk, I have no idea what I did with it. I like this program much better than Adobe Photoshop, and it is seriously chapping my ass that I can't find it. If you see it, let me know.

- I hate how the Start Menu now works. I liked the old 'fly-out' menu of XP much better. There may be a way to make the Vista Start Menu/Programs menu work in fly-out mode, if so, I haven't found it yet.

- Some functions, such as disk sharing, have become a huge pain in the ass. I'm still not sure I've got the sharing functions working right. It is much less intuitive in Vista than under XP.

- Not even remotely impressed with the Windows Media Center. It has the most idiotic interface I've seen from Microsoft since Word 2.0 for MSDOS. What the hell were they thinking with this? It's like the whole WMC development team was out smoking pot behind the building or something. It's so dammed dumb that I'm not going to waste words attempting to describe it here.
Update: Ahhh! I suddenly understand - it's for TV! If you pipe WMC through a media server onto a TV screen and control it with a remote, then the interface makes more sense. OK, scratch what I said above, I'll go back and look at it when I get some time, maybe it's not so stupid after all. My bad.

- Windows Defender. It's not a total POS, but I'd get me some third party software if I was you.

Second, the good part:
- Uh, just about everything else. So far I like Vista, I've had almost no problems with it. I set up a machine for my dad a couple of months back, with Vista and didn't much like it - but it was a much less powerful machine and it was Vista Home Basic. Vista Ultimate on this machine is a whole different story. As I said yesterday, it does take some getting used to; the Vista interface is similar to, and just different enough from XP that it takes a while to figure out what's what. However, the help system is very good and as I get used to it, I am more and more impressed.

- The Aero interface is exceptionally cool (about the only downside, is that it makes my XP interfaces on the other machines seem instantly primitive). And you do have to have a fairly powerful machine to enable Aero, one of those $400 E-machines from Walmart isn't going to support it. There is plenty of integrated help in Vista to assist you in evaluating your machine's capability, and guide you in upgrading or tweaking your system to support Aero.

- I've heard some disparaging things regarding the Intel Quad Core processor and Vista, but I'm not seeing it. So far the Quad Core running under Vista Ultimate blows the socks off any other home machine I've ever used - and I've used and owned a lot of machines. I downloaded a Gadget (and we'll come back to Vista Gadgets in a minute) that shows the processor load across all four cores - then I started a number of processor intensive operations and watched the results. The processes were as follows: 1) import of 89,000 music files into WMP, 2) download and installation of a 127MB Service Pack for MS Office, 3) a hi-res label burn on the Lightscribe drive, 4) a 400MB file transfer from the firewire backup drive to the secondary internal SATA drive, and 5) I surfed the web while all this was happening (not processor intensive, but it gave me a feel for how loaded the machine was). It was as if the programs were running on four different machines, the Gadget showed Vista easily distributing the load across the cores and there was no appreciable slowdown in overall machine performance. Even with the Quad Core fully loaded, upload of my music files into WMP only took about two hours, this is about a 4 hour improvement over the old Dual Core/XP machine. Installation of the Office Service Pack went smoothly and quickly. I think the file transfer from the backup drive to the internal SATA drive took a little longer than it would have if it was the only thing running on the bus, but it wasn't significant. And the Lightscribe label burn worked perfectly. So, all in all, I'm impressed with both the Quad Core, and Vista's ability to use it - at least in my circumstances. It may be different for others, especially gamers.

- I prefer a clean desktop. About the only thing I ever have on the desktop is the recycle bin/trash can icon. I prefer my commonly used programs as shortcut icons on a toolbar docked on the Windows Taskbar, and I usually have the Taskbar in auto-hide mode. So, I wasn't too interested in the Vista Gadget Bar, but because I'm now using the wide-screen flat panel and I've got the screen room, I thought what the hell, let's give it a try. Hmmm, I've got mixed feelings about it. Most of the gadgets that come with Vista are silly crap, just more junk cluttering up my screen. I hate cutesy interfaces, i.e. notepads that look like a paper spiral notebook, clocks that look like kittens, etc, and that's what most of the stock gadgets are. However, there were some useful ones on the Microsoft Gadget Download page, and hundreds more available elsewhere on the web. Some are actually useful. Currently I've got a processor monitor and a local weather Gadget loaded - both of which I downloaded from the web instead of using the ones that came with Vista. The Gadget bar is obviously version 1.00 here. It needs some improvement: resizing and autohiding would be a step up, and some more utilitarian gadgets instead of the cutesy crap. The Gadget bar may stay on my desktop, and it may not, we'll see if it begins to annoy me after a while.

- Hardware integration. Vista's ability to handle new hardware is a major improvement over XP. All three printers installed perfectly and seemlessly as soon as the USB cables were plugged in. Same with both scanners, and the external firewire drive. About the only thing I had to fool around with was the Creative Live Ultra Webcam. The drivers loaded OK, but the Creative Webcam Center Software doesn't work quite right, and I can't turn the camera off. It's on all the time, which I don't like. I'll see if I can fix it today. The camera works fine with Windows Live Messenger though, so it's not real high on my priority list.

Well, I think that about does it for now. The good news is that I have successfully restored most of my core network functions and I've got full access to the main network printers and all of my data, the bad news is that I spent a buttload of money doing it, and I'll have to spend a little more to upgrade some software to run on the new platform. All in all, I'm pretty happy with both the Intel Quad Core processor and Windows Vista Ultimate. Is it worth it for the average Joe to upgrade to Vista? Probably not, but there's no reason to fear it either. And from what I can tell, Vista's bad rap is undeserved. It's not a revolutionary upgrade, but it's not crap either, with the right machine Vista is pretty dammed slick.


  1. Hello, I just got the m8100y with the blu-ray writer. I see you have one. I have yet to get a blank blue ray disc. I wanted to know how well it worked and what the front of your dive said. Mine says blu-ray disc but does not say writer on it. How do you know if it writes? Thank you in advance for your review. mgeinitz@yahoo.com or mgeinitz@hotmail.com

  2. Matthew,

    I unfortunately jumped on the HDDVD bandwagon when the two formats were still slugging it out.

    I've got a high end HDDVD player in my entertainment center and a couple dozen HD DVD titles. Now that the industry has basically abandoned the HD Format in favor of Blu-Ray I've been orphaned and don't feel like spending the bucks to switch over to blu-ray. My HDDVD player up-converts regular format DVD's so well that I really see no reason to buy a blu-ray anyway.

    As such I have never burned a blu-Ray disk in the drive, though I have played a number of both blu-ray and HDDVD disks in the drive and both worked just fine.

    The front of my drive says Lightscribe DVD Supermultidrive/CD-Writer. The specs are: DVD940i Super Multi DVD Rewriter, LightScribe Ready, 18x DVD+/-R, 12x DVD-RAM, 8x Double-Layer DVD+/-R.

    Both blu-Ray and HD formats are double layer, which the drive is capable of burning. You need to have burning software capable of whichever format you chose. Both Corel and Pinnacle produce excellent, hight end software capable of both formats, as well as all the older ones. I have both, but prefer Corel, because I like the interface a bit better than Pinnacle's Studio software.

    I have burned a number of HD DVDs with video taken from my Cannon HD digital camcorder using Both Corel and Pinnacle software, both worked exactly as advertised.

    The easiest way to determine the capabilities of your drive is to call up it's specs using the Windows Control Panel, Device Manager and then run a Google search on the hardware specification. However, the drive I have listed above is pretty standard in high end HP machines, and I suspect you have exactly the same one.

    Hope this helps.


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