​A blog/journal about my life and the stuff I like. Popular subjects include music, guitars, gear, books, movies, video games, technology, humor.

My Windows Vista RC1 experience

So, in the true spirit of the frontier, I decided to try out the new Microsoft Windows operating system in beta pre-release, because apparently I don’t have enough fun with computer and operator meltdowns at work. I used it for about a week and it wasn’t causing any major problems. I will say that I like the new graphical enhancements and the sidebar, but these are really just nice little aesthetic enhancements and not really worth upgrading for. One of the major changes to Vista is a real time search engine which constantly scans your computer for changing information with the apparent intent of being able to readily produce quick, context specific results to any searches you throw at it. It’s similar to the Google desktop search tool, especially in the “I’m now taking over your hard drives and you can wait your turn for whatever trivial task that you consider important” sense of the word.

This wasn’t such a problem at first because I thought it would eventually get done with the majority of the indexing and only need to update changing information. Well, in practice this seemed to result in the hard drive spinning CONSTANTLY regardless of what background tasks were or weren’t active. I tried shutting down everything except the bare minimums and still with the spinning hard drives. I would specifically try to shut down the search indexer, but it would always somehow restart itself and I couldn’t find a way to disable it (although I’m sure there is probably a very obvious way in the control panel or something in the interface, but I didn’t find it. If not, they need to provide this option or find a way to get the thing to get it’s indexing over with so the computer can be used for something else.

I don’ t know if this is directly related to the search indexer, but the straw that broke the wildebeest’s pinky hoof was the fact that I kept having problems with the audio engine freezing up which resulted in audio drop outs during recording. Nothing is more satisfying than finally nailing a take of a longish song (4+ mins), especially when you have had to try multiple times to get it down just right. Arguably, multi track recording and digital audio workstations eliminate the need for the perfect take because you can always tweak, tweak, tweak. However, in the world of solo acoustic guitar, I am a firm believer in the “nail it right in one take” school of thinking. I don’t mean you need to get it perfect the first time, but you should endeavor to be able to play the song perfectly and so it’s even more important to achieve this when recording. It makes the mixing process so much more straightforward than trying to splice clips and get the right volume, etc. levels. It’s much more difficult to fool the ears with an acoustic instrument that is basically recorded dry with little in the way of effects. Yes, I know you can do anything with digital audio, it’s just that I hate all the extra effort at the computer when I could expend the work at learning the song better and be able to play it in one take and forget about tweak, tweak, tweak.

Well, one of the “features” of Windows Vista RC1 is that the drivers aren’t quite up to par yet, and this combined with the hard drive on perpetual spin courtesy of (in my opinion) the search indexer, may have been the reason I was plagued with audio dropouts, especially when I had finally nailed a take. Because of these issues, I decided to let Vista work out it’s problems on its own time. This is where the fun begins.

Apparently Vista makes some changes to the master boot record of the hard drive (in hard drive terms, the holy of holies where thalt shalt not tread unlesseth thou knowest what the hell thouest is doingeth) (and thou doesn’teth) which Windows XP apparently gets very confused about and does what any good Windows machine does when it runs out of ideas. Yes, the BSOD. (That’s the blue screen of death if you were wondering). I had tried to reinstall Windows XP clean once I decided to rid myself of Vista, but XP wasn’t going along with my plan. I then tried my recovery disk courtesy of Gateway, which seemed to make better progress, but eventually led to the BSOD once again. As I type, my home computer is trying to perform a completely destructive low level format via the killdisk shareware program. It takes a long time, so hopefully it will be finished by the time I get home. If that doesn’t cure the problem, I may have just bought a 500GB paperweight in the shape of a SATA hard drive.

Yes, I had backups of everything important for those with the smug grins on their faces. It’s just a little frustrating when the XP format utility isn’t enough to wipe the hard drive clean and I have to go to these extra lengths. And no, I never wanted or expected to be able to recover the hard drive intact with the original files (hence, the backup was performed before I tried to reinstall XP).

All that being said, I will probably look at Vista once it’s finally released and had a chance to get a decent user base established to work out the bugs. It promises some nice improvements and there are a host of other features that I haven’t even mentioned. Time will tell.