Monday, November 12, 2007

Vista free...

Generally, I am very passionate about running latest and greatest - I am a very conservative dog fooder, but once the software ships, I feel really bad if I am not running the latest version. I installed all versions of NT from 3.1 to Server 2003 inclusive within a day or two from RTM. The same was true for Office, Visual Studio (which I faithfully upgraded even during the time it was shipping quarterly). Vista was the first exception from this rule...

When I left Microsoft, I felt compelled to spend my balance in the company store and bought a bunch of copies of Vista Ultimate, 7 or 8 boxes. I have tons of computers, most of them less than 1 year old, and so I started installing it on my daughter's PC, my wife's new ThinkPad T60p, my game box (where Vista was required because Halo 2 PC will not run on anything else), and 2 of my Media Center machines.

Then, as time went, I started gradually getting rid of Vista and replacing it with XP.

Media Center machines were first to go back to XP lineage.

As it turned out, Vista wound't play a bunch of video clips that I already have (and also Media Player and Media Center played different subsets). (Yes, I know how to install codecs. It's the file format that is the problem. Who tested this?)

Nero 6 did not work at all, so I'd have to buy an upgrade, and UareU Workstation (fingerprint recognition s/w which I use on my media centers to avoid fumbling with the keyboard when you want to watch a DVD) did not work, and there was no upgrade. And the same was true for my video capturing device, and the software that came with it.

Finally, I have all my DVD collection ripped to a RAID array on my server. On Media Center 2004-2005 all I had to do was to place a shortcut to a server share in My Videos folder, and bingo! the share would show under Videos in MCE shell, I could navigate the file structure, and it recognized the folders that contained VIDEO_TS folders and would play the DVD when the folder was selected.

On Vista, this does not work. Instead, there's a concept of DVD Gallery (which one has to enable in the registry), and then it shows all your DVDs in one list sorted alphabetically. All 200-300 of them. In one big list. How stupid is this?

Then my 8 years old daughter started to complain about the same basic things - that it's impossible to watch DVDs, that fingerprint sensor does not work anymore, that it hangs all the time (XP was sleeping fine on her machine, but Vista crashed every time the PC was supposed to go to sleep), that printing from IE does not produce WYSIWYG results.

I've spent hours on that last one, by the way, trying to figure out what could I have possibly done wrong with the printer driver - web pages printed from the admin account looked fine, but the pages printed out under a non-admin user's account were formatted incorrectly, and had parts missing - until I spoke to a co-worker who was a test manager for Vista printing. As it turned out, that was by design, and due to some security problem with UAC they could not reconcile.

My daughter was willing to suffer a bit longer because Vista played Geometry Wars, and XP wouldn't, but the moment they released that on Steam, Vista was gone that same day.

Then there was my Dad, who got his HP laptop pre-loaded with Vista. Most of the software he used did not work on it, so he asked me for a copy of XP and reinstalled it about 3 weeks ago.

My wife's suffered the longest. She's a dev at Microsoft, and she worked on Vista. That was her product. But it just did not work - from VMWare to even Microsoft's very own solution for logging into corp network remotely. She threw in the towel 2 weeks ago, and now her laptop is 10 times faster, running XP.

Speed is another thing with Vista. That "security" stuff they put in is not free, as Mark Russinovich points out on his blog here and here. I have a gaming PC that is an absolute speed demon - 3GHz Core 2 Duo E6840 running on 1333MHz motherboard with 4GB 800MHz dual channel RAM and Nvidia 8800GTS 640MB video card. Vista runs OK on it - but only OK - takes a while to boot, then a bit more to load the sidebar, then clicks on the sidebar take 10-15 seconds to show the link, etc. XP just plain flies. Boots in something like 10 seconds. UI is so snappy it feels like it responds BEFORE I click :-)...

So net net is...

Cons for Vista:
- slow
- media support is horrendous
- a bunch of s/w does not work, including a lot of Microsoft's own
- a bunch of h/w does not have drivers
- UI is different (I don't know if it's better, but in many places it's different seemingly without a reason, so you have to re-learn it again; and there's no "classic" mode)
- UAC mode is just plain stupid - it causes more harm than good (the registry entry to turn it of was the most frequently asked questions about UAC/LUA at Microsoft for quite some time)

Pros for Vista:
- eventually, we will all get used to it and it will be the future. Or maybe we'll migrate to Macs, as a whole bunch of former Microsoft people now working at Google did...

I guess my family and I will be staying with XP for a while. Good for me that I bought a whole bunch of copies of XP in the company store as well :-)...


DzembuGaijin said...

WO-hoo ! Serg !

You are one brave person :-)

Yes, you are 100% ( 120%?) right :-)

And just like Mario you went through the pain ...

I did not and I am not going to :-)

It was clear as day that Vista is what Vista is :-)

I am glad that you stop suffering :-)

While all computers suck on the moment, that's stone age of it :-)

Some seems suck more then other.

And some , like Vista go a LOOOOONG way :-)


Are you sure
is OK to use ? ;-)

DzembuGaijin said...

And congratulation on starting a blog !

Hope you will be as famous as Mark Rusinovich one day :-)

They will hire you back as technical fellow and you will just ... hey, just send me a check :-)

Anonymous said...

I still don't have a single Vista machine at home. It's an odd feeling to be right again and again.

Geeky Dragon Girl said...

Hi! I know this is an old post, but I just HAVE to know how you set up Media Center 2004 to read ts_video folders with dvd files inside. I know I'm operating on older version of media center, but there has to be a way...

I would email you with my question, but there seems to be no contact info in your profile, sorry.

Sergey Solyanik said...

To geeky dragon girl...

Copy the contents of the DVD into a folder (you need to use a decryptor if a DVD is encrypted; google slysoft). You need to preserve the structure, so you'd have \\server\share\MyDVDs\A DVD\VIDEO_TS\all the files.

Put a shortcut to the folder above (\\server\share\MyDVDs) in My Videos. You should now see this shortcut in Media Center shell. When you click on "A DVD", it will play (provided that you have a decoder installed).