Saturday, September 20, 2008

The wild vistas of Vista

So after 8 years of my home computer I decide its time to upgrade. The olde computer was built by Scott Reschke of Frag Center (If you're ever in East Lansing and like to play computer games his place is the place to go). It gave great service but lately is developing an atittude and it is getting slow.

Unfortunately he's not building custom machines anymore and he gave me a few suggestions as to what to get.

I end up purchasing an HP Pavilion, AMD Athlon dual core with 4gb ram, 500 GB hard drive and a monitor that came with the package that is ridiculously big in size. Looks nice. It also comes with Vista 64 Home Premium on board. So far so good.

Plug it in and go, and we start having problems:

1. Adobe flash player if installed as a plugin to Firefox 3.0.1, or even downloaded direct from Adobe's website and then installed crashes Vista completely - we're talking the black screen of death, Vista repair runs and removes it and the computer restarts. This was not a fluke as I tried it multiple times and same result each time - install flash player and the computer gets it. Interestingly, and weirdly enough, flash player exists and works just fine in IE with no ill effects and it is not removed in the repair. Since I really like Firefox, this is a major annoyance.

2. Thunderbird - Vista seems to pluck Thunderbird's feathers, I install it, copy over the mail, and it looks like its working, after some tweaking. I then upgrade Thunderbird from 0.7.2 to the latest version and it stops working cold. Still have not resolved this one and my mail archive is stuck in it, which is not good.

3. Vista 64 is not backward compatible with a lot of my programs - my old, paid off, lovingly functional Photoshop 7 and Premiere 6.5 will not work so I'm going to eventually have to buy replacements for what was some darn nice and comfy software, and I hesitate to try and install my old reliable Microsoft Office 2000.
Thankfully Canon is on the ball and their camera software has an upgrade you can download as the software that comes with the SD1000 flips out on Vista 64, so that critical bit works for the pictures at least.

4. Every so often Vista does an automatic update of some Microsoft Vista or related product in the background and without notice, the machine restarts and bamn - back to the black screen of death with a required manual shutdown, windows repair and it sometimes repairs it and sometimes it takes everything short of lethal force to get it back to rights. I can find no log entries of these errors so it is a pain to track down what is causing it. In short this operating system is way less stable that XP and that is simply unacceptable and aggravating.

On the upside:

A. It is much, much faster than my old machine. I can actually multitask without slowing everything to a crawl. Working with video I've shot is a lot quicker. There is a real speed difference and it seems to handle memory leacks much better.

B. Installation of hardware is real nice, great ability to pull drivers, my Suunto Vyper Dive computer USB cable was recognized no problem, which is a huge improvement over the install process for it in XP. Wireless setup is a snap, adding peripherals like the camera, USB Hard drive is similarly easy etc, they've clearly improved the driver architecture.

C. Most of my applications and data transferred over with no issues.

So its a toss up. The lack of stability is the real killer though and certainly adds to the discomfort level as you never know for sure that when you turn it off you can get it back on again. If it was stable with a few issues is one thing, the instability however is not giving me warm feelings toward Vista 64.

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