Monday, February 04, 2008

I just upgraded from Vista to XP!!

So I got my new laptop a few months ago, it's a work PC that I use everyday. It came with Windows Vista Business on it, and I have to say that as doubtful as I was of Vista I do like it. Vista can be best summed up by saying "It's Pretty". While there are other great features of the OS, there are a lot more detractors in my opinion.

Visual Studio doesn't work right
How do you sugar coat this one? Microsoft's own IDE doesn't work well with Vista. I managed to get mine to work, but you have to make sure to always run it as an Administrator. For some reason there is no OS patch to fix this! While this wasn't a huge problem for me as I do have admin rights to my notebook, I have a lot of friends at other companies who don't have those privileges on their local PCs. In fact most users at my company except I.S. don't have even power user rights to their PCs. In this setting Vista just won't work for IT.

2003 Server Admin Pack
Don't bother. It's not really worth the headache. I got AD Users and Computers working (mostly, don't bother with Exchange). In the end though it was just easier to RDP out to the server and do my work there.

MSTS
On the lighter side I like Microsoft Train Simulator. It's fun. It was also written in 2001 and requires less than 128Meg of RAM. Why on earth does it run slowly on my Duel Core laptop, with 2 GIGS of RAM and more VRAM than was ever thought of in 2001! Why? It's not to the point of being unplayable but it's annoying in that it's so choppy.

File Copy
If you watch your network monitor you will quickly see that as soon as your PC starts playing any sound files your network bandwidth drops to less than 10% capacity. I run on a Gigabit network, why doesn't my laptop take advantage of that? Oh, it doesn't because Microsoft thought it more important that my MP3s sound good than I be able to copy an ISO image to the server in a timely fashion. Oh well, at least I can listen to the latest Big and Rich while I copy my files.

RAM
I checked out my laptop when it first came from the factory, granted it had a bunch of utilities from Dell pre-installed, it would idle after boot at around 1200 Megs of RAM in use. I understand that this is some sort of Pre-Cache method to make sure that the apps I need stay in memory, but it caused my PC to seem to do a lot of swapping. The HDD ran nearly constantly. Under XP with all the Dell tools re-installed the PC idled at 380 Meg

In the end what pushed me over the edge was a co-worker of mine saying that he loved his Vista laptop, and that he had very few problems with it. So I asked what issues have you had?

"Well iTunes crashes a lot and my MS Keyboard causes a BSOD when it gets plugged in. I live with that because I love how it looks. If XP could look like Vista I'd switch in a minute."

This is the guy who loves vista in my office. All that he really liked was the Look, and our Network Admins hate it and don't want it on the network at all. So I started poking around for XP to Vista total conversions. I went with a Brico Pack from CrystalXP.net called Vista Inspirat Ultimate 2. It's neat in that when turned on to Ultimate it really makes XP look just like Vista. It's really missing on a few things and there are other utilities that make up for that.

Visual Tool Tip gives you the Vista like window icons when you mouse over the task bar. VSE makes the XP Start Menu minic the Vista version. While cool I did not use it as I liked the XP menu, the only thing I really miss is the search box built into the vista menu. VSE does have the search box but you have to make sure that all links are in your local Profile and not the "All Users" profile. Finally Vista Drive Icons gives you that nice windows explorer drive icon with the blue full/empty thermometer bar.

There are lots of other options, I went with good looks for the lowest price. Most if not all of these are free. Some of my co-workers chose to use StyleXP or WindowBlinds, both good products and both worth the $20 registration fee. I just didn't feel like dishing out more money for something that really should be a MS utility built into the OS.

In the end, yes I lost a touch of functionality, primarily in the start menu search box, but I gained a great deal of performance. My hard drive no longer churns constantly, and all of my apps work. Which at the end of the day is really the most important thing to me. If I can't admin my databases and apps effectively and efficiently then my PC is getting in my way. There are plenty of obstacles in business to overcome. My OS shouldn't be one of them. So I'm proud to say that this week I Upgraded to XP!

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