Vista Blues – sluggish PC!

September 10th, 2007

My PC is running so sloooowly it’s like trying to work in a vat of treacle – although not so tasty! 😉  Adrian and I both ran process explorer and compared results.  For some reason pretty much every running process that we have in common is taking 10–20MB extra memory on my Vista PC than his. 

Process explorerHe has more RAM than I do and a slightly faster processor.  He also has less hardware attached to his PC than I do eg. Canoscan LiDE scanner, Wacom Intuos graphics tablet, Logitech G15 keyboard, MX518 mouse, Hauppauge WinTV card and all their associated drivers and run at startup services plus numerous MP3 device-related applications.  Sure I’ve got a lot more crap running than he does and I could free up a lot of juice if I shut off some of those annoying services that run purely in order to keep their application in my face all day rather than offering me any extra facility by taking up all my RAM. 

But I’m just really stumped – after much searching neither of  us can figure out why every process is eating more memory on my PC than his. 

Board4quadandfanI’m not going to stress about it.  After finishing the build, I’ll be settling down to get my installation up and running on my new Quad Core PC this week.  So even if I didn’t have a new PC to look forward to I’d still be planning on spending my week installing Vista and all my applications.  Sometimes it’s not worth fighting with these things.   (My current PC will get downgraded to XP – one Vista PC headache is more than enough!)

iPod Touch. Creative Zen Touch on Vista

September 7th, 2007

Apple 16 GB iPod touch OK so I’m not going to get an Apple iPod Touch today after all like I’d expected … turns out they’re not going to be in stores till the end of the month. D’oh! As recently as yesterday the Apple store were expecting them to be on the shelves before the weekend.  I was so excited.  I had dreams about it last night.  (Which is really weird because just the day before neither I nor the world even knew they existed – hmmmm the Apple hype machine must be set on hyperspeed this time round!)

Synching the Creative Zen with Vista

So to avert the waves of disappointment I figured that instead I’d synch my old Creative Zen Touch. I’ve added a fair bit to my library since I upgraded to Vista and I just haven’t got round to installing the Zen driver yet, but I got a new Creative X-XFI sound card just the other day and I noticed it had installed all the drivers and software to go with their MP3 players (normally I’d find that sort of presumption offensive, but just this once I thought it was convenient).  As it turned out though it wasn’t just a matter of plugging the Zen into Vista as it gave me the “unrecognized USB device” message. Just dandy! 

Get the latest Zen firmware!

A little research led me to the conclusion that not having the latest firmware on my Zen was the problem stopping Vista from recognizing the Zen.  Of course there’s no way to install the new firmware via Vista as it won’t connect.  Lucky for me I had an XP machine as well, but not everyone will. (If you do have access to an XP computer you’ll need to install the driver so it recognises the Zen.) 

Bricking it when firmware update goes wrong!

But that’s where things started to go really wrong.  Installing the firmware starts out OK but after 20 minutes it was still not finished so I came to the conclusion that it had hung because the Zen was showing the dreaded “Recovery Mode” (I’ve seen friends’ Zens do this before and it wasn’t a good sign as they were just the owners of Creative Zen Bricks after that).   Choosing the option to Reload Firmware first deletes the firmware then gets ready to reload at which point you connect it to your PC.  But while Windows recognises that the Zen is connected the firmware installation program returns the message:

“Your player is not connected, please connect your player”.

This problem is caused because the PC you’re using has Windows Media Player 11 installed.  So now I had to find an XP PC that was still running Windows Media Player version 10.  (This is because of issues with PlaysforSure in version 11.)

Luckily Adrian doesn’t play music on his laptop much and so still had the old version and the firmware upgrade went through successfully in seconds. 

Vista Woes instead of Wows!

So alls well that ends well it works fine on Vista now, but it’s yet another in a long line of Vista-related woes (although not really Microsoft’s fault this time) and another in the collective sigh that it isn’t really Wow.  Yet at least… but I’m still hoping. (Update: OK, when I plugged in the Zen Vista started synching it straight away without me having to tell it to... so yeah I'll give it a bit of a Wow! for that. For now... )

Luckily for me I was able to borrow a second XP PC to do the firmware upgrade.  Again not everyone will have access to an XP computer with the right version of Windows Media Player.  If you’ve only got a Vista PC it’s a big problem for Zen owners. 

And likewise for XP users with Windows Media Player 11 it’s ridiculous that the firmware installer will delete your firmware but not allow to install the new version, effectively leaving you with a bricked player.   Creative need to get their act together to address both these issues.

Yup, Vista does suck!

July 27th, 2007

OK it’s official – Vista is driving me insane!!

It’s like the straw that broke the camel’s back.  That single extra User Account Control prompt that tips you over the edge into thinking “Vista Sucks”  (along with the 150,00 other people thinking it) and “hating Vista” (which nets 14,000 hits at the time of writing). 

What tipped me to type those words into Google to see just how many other people felt the same way was installing my brand spanking new scanner.  My anger was prompted in part I suppose because my old scanner didn’t work under Vista, but then again I have a shiny new Canoscan LiDE 600F – what have I got to complain about?  It’s a great piece of kit!

Start MenuBut, then when I’d finished admiring it I noticed that under All Programs on my Start Menu I now have 3 new items all relating to the scanner.  Now I don’t know about you but I like to keep my Start Menu organized – hunting for things among all those folders that are put there by installs takes time - and time, as I’m sure you know, is money. 

So every time I install a new program or piece of hardware I go in and move things to where I want them.  Yes me!  It’s my computer after all, I’m the person who has to work with it every day and therefore I should be the person who decides how the shortcuts in my Start Menu are best organized.  And no matter how important he thinks it is that there should be three folders for his one piece of hardware, this decision does not belong to the developer writing the installation software, it belongs to me. (Once upon a time not so long ago install programs ask you which Start Menu ‘group’ you wanted them to be installed under – where did that little courtesy disappear to?)

Under Vista however, moving or deleting shortcuts from your Start Menu is an occasion for UAC to jump in every time which is bad enough.  So each time I try to move Real player back to ‘Accessories’ where it’s out of my way or to move all those Canoscan folders into one folder under ‘Hardware’ I have to go through two prompts for each link – first the one that warns me I will need to go through UAC and then the second one which is UAC.

But that’s not the end of it yet – it seems there’s more to moving those Start Menu links under Vista.  In Windows previous versions you had links in ‘your’ Start Menu folder and also in the ‘All Users’ Start Menu folder.   If you wanted things moved you sometimes had to do it in one or t’other, sometimes both.  In Vista though it seems to be additionally stored in some third place.   There’s no option to Explore on the right click (only Expand or collapse).  That place doesn’t seem to be a folder that’s exists within Vista’s new file structure somewhere and likewise searching the hard drive for the application shortcuts doesn’t get yield me any locations that I could move or delete them from.  So I’m guessing these links are hidden in the registry somewhere … but right now I’m too pissed off to go searching. Someone somewhere thinks that it’s not my Start Menu – it’s theirs.  And that’s just wrong!

Vista is driving a LOT of people crazy and my stats show that my websites are getting a lot of hits from people searching for solutions to their Vista problems.  This is the first operating system since Win 3.1 where I feel guilty that I haven’t managed to help people out – mostly because I can’t even help myself out yet.  

Everywhere blog posts proclaim user’s dissatisfaction.  Web forums are bulging with posts from people desperately looking for solutions to all manner of Vista problems but there are so few answers out there.  It’s frustrating beyond belief. 

But it’s not just third party sites (like this one!) that can’t offer any concrete help to Vista users in trouble.  When Vista has a problem it helpfully offers up codes (like “0x80070456” “Media has Changed” when you use card readers with Vista) which at first glance looks like a useful nugget of information that you could search on and quickly get helpful advice and support with your problem (like you could with XP) but as yet if you search Microsoft’s site for those codes there are absolutely no answers to be had.  It’s more than frustrating – it’s heartless.  These consumers are all good people who have paid good money to buy Microsoft’s product in good faith.  They deserve better!!

So, that’s how I feel…  The BIG question is whether or not I go back to XP.  But even if I do decide to stick with Vista, that isn’t an endorsement of the product and no, Microsoft, it doesn’t make everything right.

Case Torture Testing Filming & Editing

July 26th, 2007

The case testing posts have finally gone live on Adrian’s Hardware 2.0 blog on ZDNet.  They’ve been a good few weeks work but as usual it was a lot of fun. 

video screenshot from the cutting room floorAs usual I had the honor of doing the filming.  The cliff drops were very cool as I got to watch the cases crash (and sometimes break), not to mention throwing big rocks up at me and digging themselves into the ground.  I had setup on the beach and was already to go when the video camera conked.  Luckily I had a low res digital that takes video which I was able to substitute in time for the testing to start.  It only took a few test drops to get the positioning right and then we were away. 

Adrian thought he was doing the hard work throwing the cases off the cliff but really I had the hard job running the cameras down below and recording the condition of the cases on landing.  When he finally came down to the beach he was amazed (horrified? impressed?) how close I was filming to the impact area.  Then when he saw the footage and some of the boulders getting chucked up I think he thought I was nuts.  But I knew I was well protected and, according to my math at least, sufficient distance away to be out of harm’s way. Personally I’d been more worried by the crush tests (as you can never tell if something’s going to give under the weight and it’s hard to predict which way a car is going to move if that happens).

The next round was more usual stuff … fire and explosions.  We’re still not quite finished with the testing – I won’t be happy until I know exactly what it takes to destroy those cases.  I’d kinda like the Storm Case im2050 to survive. I’m impressed and sort of attached to it by now…  We actually have a wager between us whether or not it will be destroyed in the final round.  I’m betting that it won’t be (after all I’ve seen how that thing performs first hand!) which is especially good because as usual if it survives I get to keep it AND for once he’s going to buy me a new one as well. (Hey I wonder if Hardigg make a pink one??) 

But if I win the wager and I do get a new one I’m definitely going to drag it along behind my car for a bit – I like that roughed up look.  Well, they say chicks dig scars - even on Storm Cases!


IE-HTML Summer ’97 Contest

June 20th, 2007

It’s Midsummer Night’s eve 2007 and it’s just hit me that it makes it ten years since we took part in the IE-HTML Summer 97 contest.  That was a big milestone for me work-wise – and for us as a family too!  Our eldest daughter was on ‘work experience’ with us in the run up to the contest for a project that she had to write up for school.  I think it was her first real taste of working in a team and it was a really fun experience for us all, lots of pressure, time constraints, late nights at the code face – and a lot of laughs. 

The competition – if I recall correctly, and bear in mind it has been ten years! – was to create a website around the theme ‘Midsummer demonstrating the capabilities of Internet Explorer (at that point it was still version 3 – IE4 came out a few months later) and Microsoft was the sponsor.  Client side scripting was still largely in its infancy, as was CSS.  The browser wars were Read the rest of this entry »

Adventures in Ubuntu!

June 20th, 2007

Last night I installed Ubuntu Feisty Fawn for the first time on a real PC. I’ve been running it virtually for a little while but a test rig freed up so that I could finally have a play! 

I was amazed how easily it installed.  Actually it took me longer to get Nero installed on my Vista PC so that I could burn the ISO to disc than it took to install it.

It quickly found the network and the web without me having to do anything – very impressive.  But having started pretty late last night I was dismayed to see that there were updates to come in once the install was complete.  Should I download the updates or not?  I decided to go ahead anyway figuring I would leave the PC on overnight if necessary, but again Ubuntu impressed me by downloading and installing 60 updates by the time I’d finished brushing my teeth. 

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Hauppauge and Vista

June 18th, 2007

I’ve been going around and around trying to install my WinTV HVR 1100 on Vista and it just won’t work! 

I’ve mentioned this previously but I came to the conclusion that it was defective hardware at fault.  When I eventually received a new card I had exactly the same problem.  I was pleased then when Hauppauge brought out a page and a download for installing the PVR but … unfortunately that didn’t work either. 

2007-06-18_hauppaugeI’m seeing the error “Drivers have NOT been updated. INF File Open Failed.”


At least some people are getting this error because they have not extracted the installation files to the correct location.  But I’m still seeing the problem even though the files are indeed in the right place…

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Vista can’t drag onto taskbar

June 15th, 2007

Is it me or can you not drag items onto the taskbar in Vista? 

Sure in XP you couldn’t drop items directly onto the taskbar (if you did you got the “You cannot drop an item onto a button on the taskbar...” message) but if you hovered over the taskbar button and waited for the application to restore you could then drag the item into it. 

In Vista this seems buggy at best.  You can hover forever and the application will not restore.  Sometimes it just starts flashing orange but doesn’t restore. And very occasionally it will restore the application and you can drag your item it. 

But what makes the difference? Who knows … perhaps it is the position of the stars???

How to squish 8 Gigs! Or not.

June 5th, 2007

Squishing a Corsair Flash Voyager GT - Destructive TestingHad some unexpected fun recently squishing a 8 GB USB key. Not that I realized it was 8 Gigs at the time. Or that it would still work afterwards!

Destructive testing is always fun.  Especially when I get to use heavy vehicles in the test!  I couldn’t believe it when Adrian told me it was an eight gigs I had just squished though.  Gah! Why couldn’t he have got destructive on a two-giger!!! Anyway surprisingly all turned out fine (you can read the results here) and what’s more he gave me the drive afterwards.  

I am now the proud owner of a – slightly dented, frozen, boiled - Corsair Flash Voyager GT.

Turn off IE7’s own RSS Feed Page View

June 1st, 2007

I received an email today from a Vex Visitor who informed me that Yahoo! doesn’t like my Feedburner link and won’t allow him to add my feed to his MyYahoo! content page.  I’ve found various solutions for this one of which involves clicking on the MyYahoo! chicklet on Feedburner’s RSS page.

Chicklets in Feedburner

However, if you use IE7 RSS Feed pages are displayed in IE7’s own style (see screenshot below).  So Feedburner’s list of other RSS tools and the other chicklets (including the MY Yahoo! button) are mysteriously missing.

IE7 RSS Page

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