For you, John

My buddy John, over at “For Your Entertainment” suggested writing this after I’d spent a little while with the new PC and more… with Windows Vista.

Windows Vista, my opinions –
I like it!

Oh, sorry, you wanted some depth did you?

First things first. Realize that I’m coming from a Celeron 1.6GHz processor on a crappy Intel main board. It had 384 Megs of RAM, the CD burner had made nothing but coasters for nearly a year (even at 4x). The floppy was dead. It was on it’s 2nd power supply. The sound card would only work with the 2nd revision drivers, not the ones that came in the box with it when it was new, not the latest drivers, just that one set. Either the amp on the speakers or the sound card had been taken out by a close call with a lightning surge (I actually heard the speakers roar like the ocean before they quit making any noise at all.) In other words, we’d dug the grave and were just waiting for the old bastard to topple over into it….

Ok, the details about this system are down the page some, go look if you’re really interested. In short it’s a 2.01GHz dual core AMD with a Gig of RAM. DVD burner. On-board sound and graphics and a media card reader.

Wow, a computer without a floppy drive, this is the first weird thought that settles in my mind. I’ve had a floppy drive on every computer I’ve owned except for the Commodore Vic-20 and I had the hated DataSet tape recorder for storing and loading my programs.

So… set-up’s easy-peasy, out of the box and onto the 2nd desk. Five minutes and it’s connected to the antique Packard Bell 13″ monitor I’ve got saved for emergency. Yeah, that didn’t quite work. Even in safe mode the machine’s in too high a resolution for the monitor to handle. So I needed to swap the PCs from desk to desk, pain but not too horrible.
Case is fairly handsome. Chrome, white and grey/silver. Vented sides in the front look like this is going to collect dust like mad. Gotta get canned air and clean it out every quarter. Someone remind me, ok? Ok, we’re up and running, signed in, created account and password. Poked around a little. Got the Start Menu and Control Panel into Classic Mode so something looks familiar. Windows Explorer is DIFFERENT but fairly configurable. After a few minutes I have it looking and config’d in a workable way. Now we begin the tedious task of moving around six or seven Gigs of data from one PC to another using only a 512 MEG SD memory card. Annoying but the 2.0 USB ports connection on the new machine means there’s only one slow down in copying the data, the 1.0 USB card reader on the old PC.

I’d asked questions before getting the new machine here and was able to determine that I could just copy, lock, stock and barrel my e-mail client’s folders and dump them on the new PC and not lose my message count or any saved messages. This, surprisingly works rather well. I do have to “OK” the running of the application when I start it as it’s ‘not installed properly’ but I only have to do that every couple days. The program I’d used for years as a file manager and image viewer ACDSee is a failure on this machine. It just won’t work right and plays error tones with every view change. Ah well. I can, for now, use the Windows Photo Gallery to view stuff.

Wow there’s a SHITLOAD of drive activity, over and over and over and WOW that things going to wear that HD out in a week if it keeps going like…oh, it’s indexing the entire drive, the contents of every text file… WTF it’s also saving thumbnails of every image (several thousands!) I have on the drive. Okley-doklely THAT’S going to be turned off, and is, easily. Along with all this automatic updating crap. I’ll update when and what *I* want to, not what the PC decides to download. As an example Dell’s ‘urgent’ updates for my computer are urging me to install the RAID driver updates… even though I don’t HAVE a RAID array…

Hey, Microsoft got rid of the “My” on the Documents, Music and Photos folders, that was a bright idea. You can also remove Client for Microsoft Networks from the network setting and NOT get yelled at for having an incomplete network like 98 used to do.

When accessing ‘Administrator’ type functions Vista’s mildly annoying asking you to confirm/ok the running of the task. Not that big a deal, I don’t know why it seems to have so many people’s panties in a twist.

I’ve got my files transferred over. Things configured pretty much the way I can be comfortable with. I’ve shut down a lot of useless things that were running when Windows started for no reason (Dear PowerDVD I really don’t need you running 24/7 in the hopes that I’ll insert a DVD movie into the drive. Thanks though!)

Let’s talk performance. I can’t say much. Remember where and what I’m coming from. Even my experiences with Windows 2000 were on minimally functional school machines. 98SE ran ok under 384 megs of RAM. Vista runs OK under a Gig. I’ve got Photoshop CS installed and it opens and functions faster than Photoshop 6.01 did on the Celeron rig. A couple of times my News/Email client hung the system while trying to scroll through thousands of usenet headers. It eventually recovered and returned to functionality. The on-board sound card isn’t the greatest but with a bunch of tweaking between it’s Realtek Audio Manager and WinAmp’s graphic EQ and pre-amp and I’ve got about 96% of my MP3’s sounding great through the Logitech Z-2300 speakers. My only complaint, and I’m sure I can overcome it is the Windows sounds play, even at 100% volume, much quieter than any other sound. Careful control over the 200 watts of power must be maintained lest we rattle mom off the couch…
The weak point in the system, which I knew and accepted in advance, is the on-board graphics board. It is Nvidia but it just can’t push even older games like ‘Serious Sam: The Second Encounter’ to acceptable performance levels. I was saddened by that but one of my favorite games “Rise of Nations: Thrones & Patriots (gold)” plays faster with as good as or better graphics than my old machine did. I haven’t tried SimGolf on this machine yet, I might or might not, I’m not a big gamer anyhow. The on-board graphics are more than enough for viewing and editing the photos off my digital camera.

I’ll probably come up with more to say especially if prompted in the comments section here. ALL my images and MP3s AND applications like my email client fit on one DVD. Burn speeds aren’t bad, it tries to target 12x and hits around 9.8x at peak. It plays DVDs full screen just fine though that’s not a feature I’ll often use. It does what I need and I got it for a price I couldn’t beat. Not counting the $75 gift eCoupon Dell sent me when I complained about the lack of functionality in the basic mouse. Altogether, shipped, delivered and counting the eCoupon they sent me, I paid $334 for a complete PC, less monitor and speakers.

I do plan on adding at least another Gig of RAM to it. I can get one Gig of RAM from Crucial shipped for $44 or two gigs, shipped, for $63. Way less than the $100 per Gig that Dell wanted.

All in all? I’m not at all unhappy with the new machine. I didn’t buy a hot-rod gaming rig or the top of the line multimedia computer. I bought what I could afford, what I could pay off THAT month without carrying any finance charges.

I forgot to mention the one time I did get Windows Vista locked up and it couldn’t recover. I was browsing my MP3 collection. There’s something over four hundred files in the main directory. On the taskbar at the top was a button labeled “Play all” next to the “Play in Winamp” button. I was, at the time, planning on spending some time messing around in Photoshop since I hadn’t used it much recently with the old PC ‘condition’. So I said, “Sure, play all my MP3s, that way I won’t have to swap windows every few minutes to pick a new song.” *I* figured it would enqueue all the files in Winamp… yeah, well, that’s not what happened. On clicking “Play all” Windows tried to, and made one hell of an effort at it, open at least four hundred instances OF Winamp all playing a different song each. I tried for about five minutes to get into Task Manager and head off the explosion of Winamps but finally I had to power down the system manually to get it to stop. A lesson learned….painfully.

Hawk (It’s what I could afford, that’s why!)

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