Thursday, April 24, 2008

Upgrade Day

As most of you know, when I purchased a new server several months back I installed Windows Vista Ultimate.

The Upgrade Part II
The Upgrade Part I

So far I've been pretty happy with it.

I haven't experienced the problems many folks have reported - probably because I know a great deal about this stuff and made damned sure that the new machine would support Vista.

After a few months of playing around with the operating system I decided that I mostly like it. I like the interface in particular a great deal, though it did take some getting used to and in some cases it's not exactly intuitive the way XP was (then again we've all had years of experience with XP, so I'm willing to be charitable in this regard).

However, I do have several beefs with Vista:

1) Indexing Process: Indexing pisses me off. I appreciate the concept of indexing, and considering the shear volume of information stored on my machines, some of it dating back nearly twenty years, I really want to be able to find and access information when I need it. However, I don't like the way indexing is handled in Vista, even though Microsoft has improved the process over its previous operating systems. I demand better control over the indexing process. For example, I don't want Vista to decide when it will index the system, I want to specify an exact time (like, say, 2:00 AM, when I'm sleeping and the machine is sitting idle).

2) Idle and hidden processes: Look, it's my machine. I bought it and I paid for it. It's mine. And I Goddamn well want to know what it's doing - and it's doing way too much stuff without telling me. I want a better, integrated process analyzer. Nothing pisses me off more than the idiotic process viewer currently included in Vista, which is basically the same uninformative piece of crap from XP. I want each process spelled out in detail, I want to know what program it's part of and I want to know why it's sucking resources from my machine at any given moment. I want to know exactly what each process is doing and why. I want to know the total amount of resources the process uses over a given period of time, i.e. a process histogram, so I can decide if I want to keep that program active on my machine. What I want are the process management tools I had fifteen years ago with DEC/VAX and MPS/X systems. And yes I know I can download programs to do this, at least to some extent. If I was sufficiently motivated I could code up a C++ or Visual Basic program myself to do it. I don't want to do either, I think Vista Ultimate should come with an integrated utility and a suite of process management tools, real ones - it's the Operating System, damnit, that's what it's supposed to do.

3) Networked Volumes: Vista has this annoying habit of querying attached storage volumes on a semi-random basis, and this more than anything else just chaps my ass. I'm running Vista on a high end Quad Core Duo machine, that's four processors, four gigs of RAM, and some serious bus throughput. I have four internal 500GB SATA drives installed and one external drive connected via firewire. Additionally, I have mapped a number of drives on the office machines upstairs via the network - because I use those drives for backup and specialized data storage (Yeah, like I said above, I have a lot of data). Every once in a while, Vista will decide that it just has to go check the status of those volumes - and when it does, the process sucks 100% of system resources for about 30 seconds. Additionally, Vista will do this every single time I click on the 'Save As' or 'Open' functions in any program. I cannot begin to tell you how much this sudden and random pause irritates me. I want this to go away, or I want to be able to specify my working volumes and have Vista check only those in real time - and leave the other ones alone unless I specifically request a status check.

4) Drivers: the driver library for Vista is growing, but it's still limited. I have a number of older peripherals that I use upon occasion and when I need them, I need them. However, I don't need them so much that I'm going to run out and buy the latest hardware every time Microsoft updates their OS. I want to be able to use my Pinnacle Systems A/D digitizer box - no driver, and the old XP ones are incompatible. I want to be able to use my big flatbed HP scanner and it's attached film negative feeder. The old XP driver will work, sort of. But half the front panel functions are unsupported. I want to be able to use my Western Digital external firewire drive, and I can - but only as a storage volume, the front panel manual backup controls and the integrated USB port are unsupported. Is this Microsoft's fault? Yes. There's no reason why the older drivers shouldn't work - even if in XP compatibility mode, Vista wasn't that big of upgrade.

Anyway, long story short, I'm in the queue for Vista SP1 today. I've put off downloading it until the inevitable bugs have been worked out. It won't address either the indexing or process viewer issues I have, but supposedly it will fix the networked volume and at least some of the driver issues, along with a host of other things that are mostly invisible to me. So, I'll be offline for a while, downloading and installing SP1. I let you know how it goes.


  1. Microsoft know best...

    Even though it might be your hardware, it's not your Operating System. You just licensed it from it's real owner. Said owner can screw you anytime it wants.

    Oh, and by the way, it's not your data, either. You have given them the right to remotely check and delete any file that they think is "illegal." You don't believe that? Read your End User License Agreement. It's explicitly spelled out there.

    I'd keep lots of backups, if I were you. But, that shouldn't be a problem, because you indicated that you do. I'd just make sure some of them were off-line at all times.

    But I love Microsoft! Really, I do!

  2. You're doing better than me; I still HATE working with Vista.

    It's not quite as bad on my personal laptop, but on my computer here at work? GAH!

    Logging into any of the local networks is enough to make me want to throw the machine across the room--instead of a dialog box providing all available networks, I have to type in the network and then my user name--which means I have to remember which freaking network is which. Then I have to remember which freaking slash to use, and if I mess up any of that process it tells me "no network available"

    In fact, I hate dealing with anything having to do with the Network on Vista. We have a complicated network, and it's hard to find your way around as it is. Adding Vista to the mix makes me want to hurt something.

    And.... I gotta go. :)

  3. Tom, I run custom firewall software in my router, ain't nobody, including Bill Youbetcha Gates getting in to delete nothing, and I don't let any software report back to it's makers. I'm very leery of that MS "Customer Improvement Program - let Windows sends data (non-personal) back to HQ." Uh, sure. But, yeah, I do have off-line backups and complete disk images - because, it is my data :)

    Michelle, yeah, I don't know what they were thinking with the networking part of Vista. It's a major step backward and a huge pain in the ass.

    I will say this - I sort of understand where they're coming from. They get sued for everything. Their software gets hacked a million times a day (and saying MS should make their OS bullet proof is the same as saying Boeing should make their planes hijack proof. It's the shithead hackers and spamware idiots who are responsible, not MS. And don't start with the Mac or Unix bit, both of those OS's would be hacked just as much, if they were in as wide of use). Their software gets pirated, hell, even before release. So I understand their position on trying to make Vista more resistant, but sometimes that results in major backward asstardary.

    But nothing, nothing, explains MS Bob. Nothing.

  4. Jim, I was off base on the "delete your data" thing. That came from an old Windows Media Player Security Patch that contained a new EULA that gave Microsoft the right to do just that. I figured it was inherited by Vista, but I can't find that anywhere in the Vista EULA.

    However, you mentioned a Quad Core Duo, and I did find the following in the Vista Ultimate EULA from Microsoft's own web site:

    "You may install one copy of the software on the licensed device. You may use the software on up to two processors on that device at one time."

    I wonder if your machine could be considered to violate that? :)

    I also wonder why Microsoft felt they had to include that specific restriction.

    Sorry about being a bit too ranty. :)

  5. Tom, ranting is not only allowed at Stonekettle Station, it's encouraged :)

    The quad core is considered a Dual Processor, hence the name Duo. The quad cores are sub processors of the main dual processing system, kind of like the old 80287 math coprocessor was to the 80286. So, no license violation - and Vista does check for that.

    Microsoft would get into all kinds of legal trouble for deleting data and software - even if doing so was legal per se. One mistaken identification and deletion of critical data or software and they'd be liable - and they've got a enough legal troubles as it is. Plus that would be fairly high handed, even for MS. What they have done though is to detect illegal installations of their own software - which causes Vista to shift into brain damage mode (limited access). This is acceptable to me, since I only run licensed software.

    So far the installation is proceeding without a hitch. But it's a monster download, nearly 500mb, and even with my stellar, (stellar, Jeri, stellar really) GCI broadband connection, that's taking a while.

  6. mac mac mac mac mac mac

    Some of us don't have problems like this. Some of us have no problems at all!

    Sorry to hear you're having problems. Perhaps it's time to upgrade again?

  7. Sheila, Macs just don't work for me, because they're boring. Boring boring boring. There's no adventure, no excitement with a Mac.

    Today? Today will I see the fabled blue screen of death? Sadly, with a Mac, no, no you will not.

  8. Also? No right click menu by default.

  9. Holy crap, are you guys (specifically Jim and Tom) speaking another language? It makes as much sense to me as Swahili would. Then again, my husband received his computer training under what I suspect were reasonably similar circumstances as yours (Jim's), so I don't have to understand. I may work in the medical devices field, but computers function as black boxes for me (sort of like the kidney...).

    I have Vista and have been pretty pleased with it, but I am such a low-key type of user, that I don't strain it.


  10. Natalie, my motto is "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit!"

    But seriously, it's just jargon. I wondered a long time why the Radiologists were looking for CoWs inside people's heads. We have a need to speak precisely about things others aren't interested in. But it's not Brain Surgery! (always wanted to say that to a Neuro Doctor) :)

  11. Hah! Yep, Doc, I would suspect that your husband and I received similar training and experience - at the same place, and same time no less. For what it's worth (not much) I also have a Masters in CompSci, though it's pretty badly outdated these days. But like Tom said, it's just jargon - nobody really understands this crap.

    No right click menu by default. Yeah, that one button mouse is just weird. Weird, man, weird. Alien even.

  12. Sorry, what is this VISTA you speak of?
    I'm a Mac girl myself, although did invest in a new system in January that will run both...if i ever find the need to do that sort of thing.

  13. Tom said: "But it's not Brain Surgery! (always wanted to say that to a Neuro Doctor) :)"

    But I don't do brain surgery -- I don't get my hands dirty. :-) I have a friend who is (actually was) a neurosurgeon. Her husband has always said that he should have been a rocket scientist, so their kid would have no excuse...

    Tom also said: "I wondered a long time why the Radiologists were looking for CoWs inside people's heads."

    You mean they don't? :-) (snarky radiology comment deleted, I am behaving nicely today)

    I was a Mac-head until I met my husband, who is rooted firmly on the Dark Side. I had the choice of a more expensive computer without free repair or a cheaper (Dark Side) computer with free repair. My wallet voted on that one...

    And yes, Jim, the husband agrees with you about being in the same class. He has his class picture somewhere, but has yet to locate it.


  14. I'm a linux fanboy. Been running it on my home computer for years, and being the network guy for the place I work I've been running linux servers (web, file share, dhcp, and email as well as a linux router or two) for years. It is exciting sometimes - and the progress on the free desktop applications is exciting to watch.

    But being an autocad jockey and photoshop user (not good at it) those two apps have kept me with a windows (now XP) install. I used to dual boot, then got vmware-server working to run XP virtualized from linux. (I use Gentoo to really keep me on my toes). At work I have to use XP on my desktop just because of autocad, arcview, and a not wanting to take the time to set up linux and virtualization on their dime. But haven't used MS Office in a number of years - relying on openoffice even at work.

    I've got network attached storage at home, a wacom tablet, card readers for cameras, USB drives, all that works just dandy. There's still a problem I bump into occasionally - I have a tabloid sized inkjet that is parallel port and my new computer doesn't have one. So I bought a usb to parallel port adapter cable but it isn't recognized. So I'll have to just purchase a printer port card.

    Bought my wife a Mac and she likes it but I don't for the simple reason when something does go bad, support always wants money for things. I'm spoiled by all the free support for linux. But for every little thing they want to sell you some utility to fix it. Last issue was she was doing an update that broke her bluetooth keyboard and usb drive connectivity. They wanted to sell me a $100 "utility" to fix it, but finally figured out how to reinstall the operating system myself and avoid losing her data in the process - but it was a struggle finding that info.

    Anyway, no point in this rant I guess but you said you like to encourage them. It is wonderful to be free of sending money to MS. Gentoo upgrades continuously so there are no new operating systems to buy or install ever - because it is all incremental. (there could be some advantages though every few years for clean new installs - but you don't have to). Always exciting to manually install your own kernel. cheers- JD

  15. [cue spooky music] Speaking from almost 4 years in the future...

    On #2, oh HELL YEAH. Windows 7 didn't fix that problem. In fact, I think it's worse. MS is trying to be TOO helpful in all the wrong ways. I know the boys and girls in Redmond think we're idiots, but it is not too hard to make a comprehensive list of what's running with a clear explanation of what it does and why.

    And furthermore, I want a STOP EVERYTHING button. Something that would say, "HEY! Quit doing everything else and pay attention to what I, your owner, the guy who paid for your sorry ass, is telling you to do. Come to think of it that would be great for my teenagers too.

    Anyway, another great post. I'm enjoying starting from the beginning. Please keep up the great work.



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