One Month with Windows Vista

One Month with Windows Vista

Summary: One month and still going strong. I guess. One month ago, I pledged that I would try Windows Vista on my new PC for a month before deciding whether I would keep it or revert back to Windows XP as my primary desktop OS.



One month and still going strong. I guess.

One month ago, I pledged that I would try Windows Vista on my new PC for a month before deciding whether I would keep it or revert back to Windows XP as my primary desktop OS.

The verdict? I'm sticking with Vista, begrudgingly.

Since I resolved my initial issues with the machine, obtaining a faster video accelerator to do digital photo and video editing and upgrading to the 64-bit edition with all of Dell's crapware removed, its been running pretty smoothly. Of course, I've tweaked the box considerably, disabling UAC and adding a number of other housekeeping programs such as Advanced SystemCare and Norton Internet Security 2009 (Which I will note is a MAJOR improvement in terms of performance and systems overhead over previous Norton programs in the past, it's practically a complete rewrite). Besides photo, video and sound editing with Open Source applications such as GIMP and Audacity I primarily use my Vista box for running Microsoft Office 2007 and Internet browsing. Recently I've been experimenting with TVersity which is this slick free multimedia gateway application that allows your PC to be the central video, audio and feed hub for all your consumer electronics devices, such as DVR set top boxes, PS3s and XBOX units.

Still, there isn't much I do on that Vista machine that works any better than on my Windows XP systems. None of the software I run "requires" Vista. My company issued Lenovo T60 laptop runs on XP and most of the same software, although it's only a 32-bit Core Duo and not a 64-bit Core 2 Quad, so naturally it's not as snappy. My 4GB Athlon 64 X2 that my wife is using to run many of the same applications as the Vista box is also running smoothly, although it can only take advantage of 3.5GB of its total memory due to 32-bit limitations in the OS.

My servers all run various virtualized versions of Windows Server and different flavors of Linux, running the hypervisor of the week that I happen to be playing with, whether it be KVM, Xen, or Hyper-V.

I have no intention of reverting to XP on my Vista machine because at this point it would be a major hassle to re-install the system now that everything is stabilized. But that doesn't mean I am necessarily HAPPY with Vista or that I think my current computing experience is any better than my previous setup. I'm simply resigned to stick with it because there would be no net benefit for me to downgrade at this point. The machine was designed to run Vista, and its working, so I'm not going to mess with it. I'll note however that with 4GB of total system memory, I hover between 50 and 60 percent RAM available when I have Norton, Skype, Pidgin, UltraVNC and Advanced SystemCare running in the background with Aero fully enabled and my wife's 3.5GB  XP machine is 70 or 80 percent free with the same system processes running.

Now the question begs, do I intend to upgrade any of my other PCs to Vista? No, at least not until I need to get new desktop PCs. My wife is happy with XP SP3 and I have no desire to disrupt her perfectly stable computing environment  -- but if it goes south at some point, I'll probably put her on a combination of Linux and virtualized Windows applications using some sort of Thin Client.

My laptop Windows XP OS is corporate managed, and my employer provides me with patches and updates. I have a removable hard disk that I can use to run Linux on it when I need to, and the company I work for supports Linux for most of our internal applications, so I might consider migrating to it as my full time work OS once we get all the Microsoft Office format issues licked with Symphony to the point where we can completely eat our own dog food and safely exchange files with customers without things getting botched in the process. But in my current role as a Systems Architect I pretty much live in Visio and many of our customer deliverables are in complex Word and PowerPoint documents with lots of embedded stuff, and I just don't feel like virtualizing XP or or running CrossOver to make that stuff work in Linux on a 2GB laptop to futz with it right now. Maybe when they give me a new laptop that has 4GB of RAM on it.

Have you too "begrudgingly" accepted Windows Vista? Talk Back and let me know.

Disclaimer: The postings and opinions on this blog are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Topics: Operating Systems, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source, Software, Windows


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Way to go

    specially if you are a Systems Architect. As such, you cannot afford to ignore what's going on in the Microsoft camp in order to compare/evaluate with your other camps (Linux, IBM, etc.). The technology in Vista is nothing less than the foundation of the present and the future of Microsoft (Server 2008, Windows 7, etc.) and there is more than meets the eye. So it wouldn't heart to be familiar with it. Vista is a significant step in the Windows saga, not just an upgrade of Windows. I would say the major leaps were Windows 95, Windows 2000 and now Vista.
    I personally like and enjoy Vista (SP1) for 6 months now (after using XP for almost 6 years), not because is MS, it's because is, in one word, superior to XP, gets the job done, is extremely stable and compatible (I'm using an "old" computer with 2G of RAM) and there are many possibilities in terms of development and creativity (and not only with MS software!).
  • SuperFetch, that is.

    "SuperFetch monitors which applications you use the most and preloads these into your system memory so they'll be ready when you need them."

    Windows XP has PreFetch (the precursor).
  • Doesn't Vista allow the user to distinguish between the two?

    Using RAM as cache is a very old technique. For example, on my Linux box right now:

    total used free shared buffers cached
    Mem: 2076348 1485276 591072 0 100140 881160
    -/+ buffers/cache: 503976 1572372
    Swap: 2040212 0 2040212
    Total: 4116560 1485276 2631284

    So I have a 2 GB machine, "using" just under 1.5 GB and "wasting" the rest. However, there is also a line showing the memory usage "adjusted for cache", showing that my applications are actually using only 0.5 GB.

    Doesn't Vista provide anything similar?
    • Vista and caching

      Yes, caching is common and has been done for ages. For the most part, however, it has been on demand, which means nothing is cached until it has been demanded at least once.

      Vista, on the other hand, adds another layer to that: In addition to on demand caching, it also tries to predict what applications the user is likely to want to load given a set of circumstances, and will actually try to pre-load software it thinks the user will want to use in the near future.

      To answer your question, though, yes. In the task manager, in the performance tab, it does indeed list total, cached, and free memory. I have about 3 GB of cached stuff on my system (about half of my memory - I'm running 6 GB).
      • Not quite right

        You got one small but significant detail wrong in your description.

        "it also tries to predict what applications the user is likely to want to load given a set of circumstances, and will actually try to pre-load software ..."

        No, it doesn't pre-load any software. During lulls in activity, it fetches pages from disk and loads them into memory so that they can be accessed from fast RAM instead of slow disk. Those pages might consist of data or executable code, but the code isn't actually being executed until you elect to run it.

        So, no pre-loading of software, just caching of pages.
        Ed Bott
        • Actually it does preload software.

          You are right in a sense and you are wrong ;). It does indeed help with the prioritization of pages, but it also pre-loads files from the disk into memory.

          "The scheme relies on support from the Memory Manager so that it can retrieve page usage histories as well as direct the Memory Manager to preload [i]data and code from files on disk [b]or[/b] from a paging file[/i] into the Standby List and assign priorities to pages."

          This tells me it can pre-load from any file containing programs or data, not just from a paging file. That's the whole idea, in fact. It wouldn't be such a big deal if all it did was fiddle around a bit between memory and the swap file.
        • one thousand years ago

          I sort of did this by hand using vdisk in DOS 5.0
          I "installed" DOS and the applications to the RAMDISK (as it was then called) and then saved them to HDD.
          Calling an application initially caused a copy from HDD to ramdisk.
          Generally, I "preloaded" the applications that I was thinking of using to ramdisk - caused a vast increase in speed...

          plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose
          • I did the same...

            with DOS 3.2. Actually I still have that machine, from circa 1988, an HP Portable Vectra CE with 4MB (yes, megabytes) of RAM and an LCD screen. The battery is dead but the machine still booted last year when I tried it. Instead of a hard drive, it had two 1.44MB floppies, and since it had 'lots' (!) of RAM, I set it up to boot from a DOS floppy, initialize a 3MB RAM disk, SYS it as drive C:, copy DOS and the required applications, then everything ran from memory and the two floppies were free for use. I used to use it to make duplicate copies of disks for NSTL for server testing since it was virtually virus free (the DOS boot disk was permanently write protected). It still survives because it has a large, robust, friendly keyboard (for a portable) and I have some simple games that small children can play.
          • RAM Drives != cacheing

            SMARTDRV is the closest thing to Windows cacheing, not the use of a RAM drive. RAM drives are used for storage only, but work in a completely different way.

            Also, SMARTDRV wasn't the fastest disk/file cache around - there was a program called "FAST! Disk Cache" (version 4 was the one I had) which would store contents of files into RAM, and was exponentially faster than SMARTDRV.
      • Microsoft *adapts* to their bloatware...

        Using application caching rather than thinning the
        bloat. That's great! That way, they can keep driving
        the hardware industry and making the whole world think
        you need a 64-bit processor with 4 Gb of RAM and a 160
        Gb hard drive just to surf the Web.

        See you in the cloud with my Android handset and
        Google Linux.
        • I'm sure there is a guy out there with a Model T...

          ... who feels just the same way. Given your idea is to use a "not ready for prime time OS", just so you can stick with outdated hardware, (that probably cost you more at the time then current quality hardware) and still achieve high speed, I would say you miss the point completely.

          People do purchase new computers still. That event never came to an end a few years ago, or something like that. The problem your upside down backwards thinking supplies to the masses is that you are more then ready to limit yourself to avoid purchasing new "cheap" hardware. Good for you. You may have no clue; it seems that you do not. If you said that last statement to any one of the Mr. or Ms. average computer users:

          "See you in the cloud with my Android handset and Google Linux."

          They would tell you to put down the Kool Aid and get a life. Right after they asked you what in the world you were talking about. Your outlook has little interest to the vast majority of PC users. Once again...good for you. In your win. Big deal.
  • Funny that it doesn't work

    "This can greatly improve actual performance, as well as perceived perfomance."

    Despite all that memory the actual and perceived performance is slower. Vista, loaded on a fast machine, with lots of memory, can be lived with. But, even Microsoft people have admitted it is a slug.
    • but it does work

      On my Vista 64 box with 8 gig nearly 4 gig of it is often filled when doing nothing but surfing, presumably this is superfetch at work, all my favorite apps and web pages load almost instantly - much faster than my XP system on same box, which admitedly is only using 2 of the eight gig, anyway the point is I see no sluggishness on good vista boxes AT ALL. Laptops barely up to spec can be a different story but then again most of those also are choked with crapware, which also can turn XP into a slug.

      So MS position is that Vista is a 'slug' eh? Sorry, sounds you read something else and drew a conclusion of your own. MS commisioned a study which showed Vista and XP are pretty much the same in performance at this point. Game benchmarks have equalized (see extreme tech.
      • I bought Vista back when it was new

        before SP1, and performed upgrade intsalls, on my 3 computers, 2 desktop 1 dual core, 1 single core, and the laptop an AMD 64 1.6 gig.

        All of them showed improved performance, and only the dual core was Vista Ready machine.

        My lap having the intel graphics card cannot run the Aero, but it also cannot play my games either, but it does everything else I wanted it to do, just fine.

        My sony desktop the single core is over 3 years old, and the only thing I change was the Video Card, but that was changed when I was still running XP for games.
    • A slug? Not quite!

      Vista needs 2GB of RAM and a 2GHz processor but that doesn't make it a "slug". As has been the case for years, Microsoft's stated requirements are MINIMUMS.

      XP is supposed to run on a 300MHz, 128MB system but it NEEDS 512MB @ 800MHz, not to be sluggish from time to time.

      VISTA is supposed to run on an 800MHz, 512MB system, and it DOES (it even runs AERO) but it NEEDS 2GB of RAM @ 2GHz not to be sluggish from time-to-time.
      M Wagner
      • Not a slug...

        I run Vista Ultimate on a two-and-a-half-year-old Toshiba notebook. It's got a T2300 Core Duo 1.67 GHz processor with 4 GB of RAM, and a 250 GB hard drive set to dual-boot with Vista as the default, and XP Media Center (the original OS) as the alternative. In all honesty, Vista runs just as fast as XP does. The one difference is that Vista has almost twice the memory footprint that XP uses. I've got the RAM to spare, so it's not really a problem. But I will agree that Vista's more of a hog than XP, for what seems to be the same level of performance.

        So, in essence, you _can_ run Vista (with Aero) on something of less than 2.0 GHz, but it does run better at the higher speed. However, for my purposes its speed is fine, even when doing things like word processing, CAD, or multimedia. I use both XP and Vista on different PCs at work and home, and frankly, there's no compelling reason to upgrade to Vista, unless you just want to remain current with Microsoft's current OS. I guess this is a faint endorsement for Vista, but that's the way it strikes me. Unless you're getting a new PC, keep your XP installation unless you enjoy playing with the latest and greatest just for fun and challenges.
        • Agreed. No compelling reason ...

          ... to upgrade from XP (unless you just want to) but there is no reason to avoid Vista when you buy your next machine either. There is too much unwarranted FUD about Vista in this regard.
          M Wagner
          • None at all...

            In these days of tight budgets, the home user may be a little easier to convince that avoiding vista on your next pc purchase isn't so much of a problem. However, in the business world, getting your job done is king and the cost to do so is the primary mgmt issue behind it. I don't need vista to run any of the apps in my company (approx 85 users). The hidden cost to begin to use vista is to train all my users so they can be as efficient as they are now with XP. Since there are no compelling reasons to change my LAN pc setups to vista, then I still see no reason to buy it.

            I'm to the point of beginning to seriously consider buying desktops without an OS and transferring the OS from the pc's I'm taking out of service. I'm tired of being every software vendor's sugar daddy (not just m$).
          • Bingo

            You just said the bottom line in a nutshell.
          • home or corporate

   compelling reason for those at home - probably true - I have a windows XP and Vista machine at home - no interest in moving my xp machine.
   work - I've been on vista for over a year, and I can't imagine going back to XP. FUD is right. I think that Apple, IBM and Google have done a great job at creating FUD. Good thing Microsoft can't figure out to combat them....