Taking the Vista Plunge

A Jolt to The Operating System

Well today I’m finally taking the Vista plunge. I’m upgrading my home office PC to Windows Vista. By way of disclosure, a friend of mine at Microsoft, Charlie Owen (thanks), sent me the copy of Vista to try. I gave Charlie some rights to use some of my photos so you might say that I bartered for the copy.

So far my experience looks like this.

First hurdle was that the operating system was on DVD and the PC that I wanted to upgrade didn’t have a DVD drive, just a CD RW drive. This problem was quickly fixed though as I simply shared the DVD drive on my Media Center PC in my living room over my network and started the upgrade over the network.

The upgrade thus far has been pretty painless but it’s just taking a long time. This might be due to the fact that I’m upgrading over a network or that I’ve got a huge digital media library, not sure. But it’s taken about 4 hours now and the upgrade status tells me I’m about 74% of the way done.

Why am I upgrading to Vista you might ask?

Well, most significantly I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to search for photos by keywords with Vista. Recently I bought some boards approx 4 ft x 6 ft to begin making my first photo collage installations and it will be helpful to me to be able to search for photos on my drobos by keywords. I tried searching by keywords from my MacBook over the network (the drobos are formated NTSC and thus can’t be connected directly to my Mac which won’t read NTFS) but my Mac kept choking on the search queries. I think this is because my digital library is too large for the Mac to search it over the network.

I’m also upgrading though to try out Media Center on Vista. I’m hopeful (but not expecting) that Media Center on Vista will be more responsive in handling my large digital library (over 100,000 mp3s and close to that many digital image files).

If I like Vista enough I might buy a CableCARD Media Center PC later in 2008 and use XBox 360s as extender units in my home to handle all my digital media. This of course depends most of all though on whether or not I can get Media Center to effectively handle my large digital media library.

I was going to pursue an AppleTV option (I got AppleTV for Christmas but took it back to the Apple store — sorry Mom), but I think I’m going to give Media Center and Vista a chance first before completely throwing in the towel and trying an Apple strategy. I like the idea of the XBox 360 strategy that Microsoft has going for them as well as the fact that Media Center PCs can record HDTV which can then be distributed to the various televisions in my home.

I’ll report more on Vista after I get it up and working.

Have any of you upgraded to Vista yet? If so what do you think of it? Love it? Hate it? Indifferent? If you haven’t upgraded your PC to Vista yet, why not and do you plan to?

Update #1: Ok, Vista is now installed, but we’re off to a bit of a rocky start. First off, it looks really really slick. I like the design much more than XP. It did not seem to recognize my Dell 20 inch monitor — at least by name. It has it down as some sort of a default Microsoft monitor but that’s not much trouble. I was able to set the resolution to the highest setting and the desktop looks great. When it boots though the boot graphics are jagged and look kind of crappy on my monitor. No big deal of course.

I got the system up for about 2 minutes and tried to do a photo search by tag neon on my drobo drive. It got about 85% of the way through the search progress bar and then the screen went totally black. I couldn’t get the screen to come back on and the only way to get my system back up was a reboot (which I did).

My first observation is that booting up my PC takes a lot longer on Vista than it did on XP. I didn’t actually time the boot time but if the PC craps out again I’ll time the reboot next time.

Charlie (from Microsoft) told me that I should have run the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor before installing (which I never did).

Update #2: Ok, upon reboot and playing around with Vista, I have to say that my display has never looked better. The fonts look different, everything is sharper, especially when viewing my photos online they look 1000% better than they did before with the same display on XP. I’m still not sure why this is the case, but it’s a welcome improvement.

Especially when browsing with Firefox everything looks amazingly sharp on the display.

I’m running a search for neon photos on the Drobo again. It’s taking a long time but there is a disclaimer that it will take a long time on a non-indexed drive. Hopefully I’ll be able to figure out how to index this drive for faster searching of my photos in the future.

Update #3: Ok, tag search works brilliantly. My first tag search for “neon” pulled up almost 1,000 photos of mine that I’ve keyworded neon using Adobe’s Bridge. EXCELLENT! I’ll have much more to write about the OS later, but the fact that I can now do keyword searches for my photos in Vista adds a lot of value for me.

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19 Comments

  1. Karoli says:

    I’ll be interested to see what your impressions are. I just wrote a blog post about Vista being the biggest dog of a system that Microsoft has ever perpetrated on an unsuspecting public. We ended up buying a Mac after demoing Vista on comparable laptops and having a horrible experience just loading up one simple app. If I had to use it on a daily basis I’d backtrack to XP posthaste.

    Keep us posted!

  2. Wire says:

    Interesting, I want to hear your experience using Vista.

    As for me, well. I hate Vista, I bought a Toshiba Latop with Windows Vista and I´m very dissapointed. My system is very slow, I don´t even feel I have two cores on my cpu since it takes a lot of time to load an app.

    Is Vista the future? for me it´s far from it. The user experience it´s not very different from XP, but at least XP was responsive.

    I miss Mac OSX, and right now I´m checking my harwdware for a Ubuntu instalation.

    Good luck with Vista, you might need it.

  3. JC says:

    Pack it with RAM and it will be okay. I run Lightroom off 1gb and it is slow but pretty stable. Take advantage of readyboost, it makes things a little better.

    Good luck.

  4. barrettmanor says:

    Wow, commenting on two of your posts in one day!

    I installed Vista on my desktop system earlier this year. I got Photoshop PS3 for Christmas. The very first thing I noticed whas that my tags in Photoshop showed up as I browsed photos in the Windows GUI. Very cool. The app I’d been using before has been very hit and miss in that respect.

    The whole media experience has been interesting. We can send media (video, pictures, music, TV) from any computer in house to the living room via the Xbox. There are some limitations as the Xbox doesn’t support all video codecs. Yesterday I watched my son control the cable box in our home office through the Xbox. Not something I’d do on a regular basis, but it was one of those things we did because it was there.

    My biggest caution about Vista is that you have hardware that fully supports the OS. That was my biggest frustration as I moved to Vista. I’d built a system last fall with Vista in mind and was stunned to discover the tuner aspect of my video card wouldn’t work, although the manufacturer had promised support. Drivers for other devices were slow to arrive, but I was pleased to see Epson support my scanner after they indicated they probably wouldn’t. (I rolled my own device driver in the interim!)

    My biggest complaint is the UAC. You can turn that completely off, though you will sometimes need to enable it in order to install certain applications. There’s also the TweakUAC utility. I haven’t had the chance to sit down and toy with that yet. I need to do so.

    But as far as media goes, I’ve been very happy with Vista. Of course, you need Ultimate or Home Premium in order to take full advantage of the media sharing features.

    I hope it works for you as well as it has worked for us.

  5. publicenergy says:

    I upgraded to Vista in January (clean install really). I’ve got no complaints – I found using XP at work irritating because some of the Vista features were missing – the main thing that I love is the ability to hit the Windows key on the keyboard and start typing and have the start menu show me programs, files and emails that match what I’m typing. I am a keyboard junkie but this just makes finding and launching programs very fast.

    All in all, I love it really.

  6. TravisPUK says:

    I run Vista as a Media Centre PC for my living room and have my photo and music library based on it. I also run Vista Business on my home office PC and Vista Business on my work laptop. I actually love it and have no speed issues at all (see below). My Media Centre is high spec with the latest DX10 graphics card, 4Gb memory, dual tuners etc. It runs absolutely fine. My home office PC is a P4 3.2Ghz running an oldish (3yo) ATI Graphics card, 2Gb RAM and it runs absolutely fine. My laptop was delivered two weeks ago and is high spec also. Applications load extremely fast on it.
    I don’t work for Microsoft, nor do I love them. I just don’t have the problems that a lot of people clearly do. I do have the occasional blue screen on startup on my P4, but this is actually due to my graphics card. I know this because Vista tells me, the hardware is getting too old. The reset button on the front of the PC boots it back without the blue screen every time.
    I found that Photoshop CS2 runs a hell of a lot faster on Vista on the same machine that it used to run on WinXP.
    Thomas, re your Music Library, unfortunately I don’t think you will have success on Vista. My library is only about 10,000 songs and whilst I can easily tell it runs faster than Media Centre 2005, it is still a bit of a dog and that is running on a very fast machine. Well it is no Supercomputer.
    Having said that, Vista and photos works very well. EXIF data is used directly in the OS including user defined tags. I have been using both WMP11 and Live Photo Gallery and they each recognize the tags also. Searching for Photos, in fact any file types, using tags is really quite easy. It also displays my Nikon RAW files very well. Live Photo Gallery even allows you to publish pics straight to flickr.;)
    I don’t think Vista is perfect, but actually neither was XP. I guess I am just one of the lucky ones that haven’t come across all of the world ending problems that seem to be plaguing this OS.
    Look forward to hearing your experiences.

  7. TravisPUK says:

    Oh yeah forgot to mention… I also have an Xbox360 running as an extender. This works very well for me, but sometimes my home network lets it down a little also.
    This works very well now Xbox360 supports DivX. It was sort of the missing piece in the pie for me.

  8. brian says:

    I have to admire your balls for doing an upgrade on what sounded like a dated system. I had vista on a very nice desktop workstation at my last job and only had a few issues with printer drivers. Pre-April it was a little rough for some peripheral manufacturers getting stable driver updates, but nevertheless, I thought vista was very pleasing to the eye and easy to work with. Still, it sucked up 1gb of ram just to show me the desktop (I was running vista ultimate).

    If you have a gaming machine with fantastic graphics card and loads of ram, I would recommend vista if you were thinking of upgrading, but there is also other hardware to consider compatibility for.

    As painful as the mac os 9 to os X transition was, you got to hand it to apple for at least accommodating both worlds simultaneously. There are other things about vista I liked (haven’t used it in months) but I can’t remember them. Still not built in SSH client, though, I just can’t believe that. Who uses telnet anymore? I just remember that vista was very, very pretty. I use and appreciate both windows and macs, fwiw.

  9. Thomas,

    Knowing that you are a user of both Vista and MAC OS X I would be interested to hear your impressions of one vs. the other. I ask because I am saving up and considering a MAC as my next personal computer purchase for mainly photo editing and such. I generally am tired of all the problems I have had with Windows in general and feel Apple has the better road-map, what say you?

  10. “(the drobos are formated NTSC and thus can’t be connected directly to my Mac which won’t read NTFS)”

    I assume you mean NTFS in the first case. And no, Macs read NTFS, just not write to it.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hope that Vista works out for you. I have found it OK, but not really good enough after all the time.

    I recommend Paragon NTFS for MacOS X to add full read/write NTFS support to OS X. URL: http://www.paragon-software.com/home/ntfs-mac/

  12. Jeremiah says:

    Pardon my huge derail…..

    ….at a library of 100k + mp3’s, figuring a generous average of 4 minutes in length, you’ve got more than 277 days of contiguous listening material.

    Why?

  13. Mitchel Tyrell says:

    I’m also interested to hear your impressions. I do a lot of photo editing in Windows too, and theres a couple of essential programs and plugins that I recommend:

    Photo Info: to edit metadata in explorer
    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=B038D4B5-1D88-437C-9F54-1FB0D210B5EF&displaylang;=en

    SyncToy: to keep backups organized
    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=C26EFA36-98E0-4EE9-A7C5-98D0592D8C52&displaylang;=en
    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=50FA5932-0685-4FE3-9605-536F39BD6C86&displaylang;=en

    And if you use photo shop
    HD Photo plug-in:
    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=B157CA0F-083F-4957-9AA3-4DA1DE3DC20B&mg;_id=10123&displaylang;=en

    Keep us posted.

  14. Dave says:

    Try mediamonkey for managing your audio. It works great on my enormous collection.

    You’ll need to install the monitor driver, get it from Dell’s website.

    Tagging is limited, I believe, to only certain file types. I haven’t spent much time in Vista so I can’t verify that.

  15. Quikboy says:

    I was at first hesitant to install Vista after hearing bad reviews, but I gave it a try myself.

    I love Vista. Works super well on my new Sony Vaio TZ. And like some people said, I find the tagging feature very pleasing in Vista. I used to have a MBP, and I personally didn’t think Finder is as good as Vista’s Instant Search. I also heard that Microsoft had that feature since 2003, shown in an old Longhorn demo, and that Apple just put it in first, but that’s another story.

    I also like the games preinstalled in Vista. I don’t spend much on games, but the ones in Vista are quite nice.

    And Media Center is pretty cool. The one in XP SP2 didn’t work so well for me. Did a horrible job. But the one in Vista is a blast. Super easier to use, and though I’m not much of the media person, the stuff it does is pretty cool.

    And maybe for some it’s slow, but Vista runs very fast on my Vaio. I’m not kidding. I used to have an older laptop with XP, and it doesn’t compare to Vista’s speed at all.

    Vista’s AERO glass look is also another winner to me. It’s just super elegant and nice-looking and pretty fluid. You can download fakes on XP, but it’s doesn’t compare to the real thing. I also like ‘the look’ a bit more than OS X.

    And there’s a bunch of other tidbits I like about Vista, but I don’t want to bore you. Unlike some users who have ‘issues’, Vista works great for me. I love it.

    Good luck. Hope it works out for you.

  16. cfischer83 says:

    I love Vista! I’m glad you’ve found these features so useful. I love being able to tag all my photos. Windows Photo Gallery is an awesome app that they’re improving all the time. You can actually download the latest version at http://get.live.com/ which is better than the version that shipped with Vista.

    I’m also glad to see that there is a blogger online smart enough to notice Vista’s amazing rendering engine! That’s what makes your system look so much better than XP. You do some zooming comparisons with XP, Linux and OS X, and Vista comes out way ahead!

  17. Hubert says:

    Thomas – I am wondering whether installing the “Windows Desktop Search: Add-in for Files on Microsoft Networks” would solve your problem of slow Media Center access to files on your server.

    Have a look at the following link: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=f7e981d9-5a3b-4872-a07e-220761e27283&DisplayLang=en&displaylang;=en

  18. Piaw Na says:

    Why not try Picasa for organizing photos? I use it and love it. In fact, I reformatted my Mac and made it a windows XP box just to get Picasa running at full speed all the time.

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