Friday, March 21, 2008

Vista Disk Manager

Ok... so after playing around with Vista for a couple days, I did finally find a NEW feature -- actual useable functionality not present in XP!

The Vista Disk Manager can resize partitions without data loss. It does have an odd limitation that it will only shrink to 50% of the current partition size regardless of how much free space is available. It also won't move unmoveable files like the MFT.

Running Partition Magic / gparted on XP would allow you to resize much smaller since they don't have the artificial 50% limit and they will compact/defragment the drive including those "unmoveable" system files. However, just having the ability to resize your partitions is a welcome addition to the default Disk Manager even if the feature is less powerful than some of the much older commercial and free software out there.

This means for the most part you won't need Partition Magic which doesn't seem to work with Vista anyhow or gparted which only works with some voodoo requiring a Vista Installation Disc -- not a "Restore" Disc like Gateway gave me :-(

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cruftware - a quick survey of useless software on my new PC

So I bought a new PC with Vista and my first impressions of Vista were less than enthusiastic.

The other bad news is besides coming with Vista, it came preloaded with lots of trial-ware and bloat-ware including stuff which infests the "all programs", desktop, startbar, favorites, autorun, quicklaunch, explorer context (right click) menu, and run lots of background tasks and services. I need to spend some serious time "de-crapifying" my PC. Now, cruft isn't unique to either Gateway or Vista -- my last PC was a Dell with XP and that had plenty of crap installed as well.

The Apple Mac vs PC have never rung soooo true...

Crapware Installed
  • AOL
  • BigFix (crufty auto update)
  • Google Desktop
  • Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer
  • McAfee (90 day trial - works only after nagging/registration/activation)
  • Microsoft Office 2007 Home and Student Edition (Trial -- Note: Home / Student version does NOT include OUTLOOK!)
  • Napster (30 day trial)
  • NetZero
  • SpareBackup (monthly charge to use)
  • WildTangent (10 demo games with 60 minutes of game play)

Software that might be of some use

  • Adobe Reader (free)
  • CyberLink Power2Go (CD/DVD burning software)
  • Sun Java (free)
  • Microsoft Works 8.5 (does not come with Word or Excel)
  • Microsoft Money 2006

OK, I lied about the "some use" part -- Java and Reader can be had as free downloads but they both needed updating. Works is pretty much worthless… especially since the PC is setup to try to open all .doc files and spreadsheets using the "trial" version of Office 2007 that nags you to pay and even if you uninstall the "trial" Office, you'd still have to manually set your types for Works to open your files for you by default. I haven't tried the burning software yet so that is still a coin toss and Money might be ok even though I'm still using a 10 year old version of Quicken that works fine.

And speaking of trialware / missing feature, how about the OS itself? My PC came with Fax/Modem Hardware but Vista Home versions do not include Fax capability (that requires Vista Ultimate or Vista Business).

New PC - thoughts on Vista

So I bought a new PC. It's a Gateway GT5628 with QuadCore Q6600 processor, 3GB RAM, 500 GB 7200 RPM 16 MB cache HD. Pretty high end specs for a computer that I'll mainly use for browsing the Web, checking my e-mail, and doing my finances on Quicken.


It came with Vista Home Premium and I decided I am going to try Vista a bit before deciding whether it deserves to get wiped and replaced with XP. I'll probably keep it and suffer or dual-boot just so I can play around with DirectX 10 though. Some initial impressions of Vista:

  1. I had Vista only a couple days before SP1 came out. The SP1 install took a long time to download and a long time to install but it's the first time I've done such a huge update with multiple reboots where I could start it up and pretty much walk away and not have the computer sit there "waiting" for me to click "Yes Reboot" or OK continue.
  2. Vista (or maybe the preloaded Google Desktop software) seems to be nearly constantly throttling my harddrive. I'm getting 1-2% CPU usage but out of the box, the computer was agonizingly slow until I let is sit thrashing for about 24 hours to perform whatever drive indexing it needed to do before it would let me actually do anything productive.
  3. The new AERO Glass interface looks nice but seems to take up a lot of room with unused space while providing reduced functionality (you have a big unused clear pane at the top of the explorer windows but no longer a useful title bar or menus).
  4. I've decided the new "start" menu is great to use from a keyboard (type and search to run) but absolutely 100% worthless to use with a mouse. Navigation is a horror with multiple clicks to descend through the levels of nested start menus. The old XP "start" menu is bad but at least it's useable if you clean things up. Using the Vista start menu with a mouse is a total joke.
  5. UAC. Yep it's pretty annoying. Especially when you have to click it multiple times to do something very simple. Not to mention even with clicking OK through countless UAC pop-ups, somehow Vista wouldn't let me change the "icon" for a folder on the shared desktop. I had to make a folder in the user's documents and change the icon there and then copy the folder to the shared desktop.
  6. Disk Defrag - MS really neutered this program for Vista. They simplified it down to a single button with no display. You can't chose which disk to defrag (it's all-your-drives-or-none) so you're pretty much S-O-L if you just need to defrag a single drive. Plus there is no visible feedback to the program. XP's defrag had a display showing before and after defragmentation and a progress bar that would at least try to guess (if sometimes wildly incorrectly) how much progress had been made and how much time remained.

Well, that's all I have from playing with Vista for just a couple days but I'm sure I'll have more to post. From a User Perspective, I didn't really see much new that I liked other than the keyboard search on the start menu (which is negated by the mouse navigation of the start menu). So far, Vista basically feels like a slower, more annoying version of XP with a slightly prettier interface.