Vista how do I hate thee ... let me count the ways

After a month of living with Vista on my new PC it has started to become bearable but there are still many problems that keep making me think about 'upgrading' back to XP.

Here's a list of problems/frustrations/wierdness I face from the f**king operating system (those also using Vista may or may not agree with the following)

Vista does not play nice with region-free DVD drives
Vista MCE/WMP will NOT playback any region-coded DVDs if the DVD drive has been hacked to RPC1 status (i.e. region-free). Funny thing is, it WILL still playback non-region encoded DVD (in other words, pirated pasar malam copies). Legal copies just return an error message and stubbornly refuse to play.

Vista refuses to play DVDs on RPC1 drives
Only workaround is to install software to circumvent the region coding on discs such as AnyDVD or install additional DVD playback software like PowerDVD.

Built-in Firewall
Vista's buit-in firewall is a considerable improvement over the one included with XP SP2 but it is still woefully inadequate and is overly complex to handle. By default it seems to still allow outgoing connections from programs installed on your PC (including spyware/loggers/etc) and closing them requires setting numerous rules.

I gave in trying to understand the settings and installed Zonealarm Personal ... nice, simple ... 'nuff said.

Aero effects
Vista's Aero feature works on my new PC (it requires a WEI minimum of 3.0 for graphics in order to run and mine scored a 5.0) but it is pure eye candy and does not really offer much improvement to the interface. The 3D program switcher is nifty but pretty useless.

My desktop running Aero
Aero also keeps disabling itself whenever I run older programs. This is understandably so because most older programs won't work very well on the translucent 3D-like desktop.

Vista the memory hog I
Previously, whenever I encountered computers running Vista, I'd used to complain about its inherent sluggishness. It was like driving uphill to Genting Highlands in an automatic Kancil that is loaded with 6 people. Thankfully, this PC changed my perception of that because it manages to deliver the snappiness I like. Why this change of heart? It all boils down to the amount of available system memory. Upon bootup Vista already uses up 956MB of memory and on average it constantly uses around 800MB, so those people using Vista laptops and 1GB of RAM know what they need to upgrade first.

Average memory usage ... scary huh?
I currently have 2GB of DDR2 RAM and so far have only once managed to exceed this value and start using page memory instead. As a test, I removed a stick of memory to leave behind 1GB and Vista slowed down to a crawl and required nearly 3 minutes to bootup. Restoring 2GB of memory reduced the startup time to around 20 seconds!! Other tricks that one might try can be found here

Vista the memory hog II
What if you don't have any more available memory slots for an upgrade? Next best thing is to enable Vista Readyboost on your PC. If you have any external drive (e.g. thumbdrive, memory stick, flash drive) that meets the Readyboost specs, this will definitely improve the overall performance of the PC. In my case, the least likely candidate for a Readyboost device was a 3 year old compact flash card which I got for free when I bought a 40-in-one memory card reader. Plugging it in increases available system memory by 256MB ... performance boost for free, so I can't complain.

Only problem with Readyboost are its strict requirements and most, if not all, devices unfortunately fail the Readyboost tests. Somehow I got lucky with this one.

This device passes the test

Update (12/05) : Seems that my 1GB Kingston SD card also meets Readyboost requirements ... not bad for RM29.

Auto eject CD/DVD drives
I tend to muck about in Windows Explorer a lot and keep on accidently clicking on the DVD drive. In this scenario, Vista automatically ejects the drive expecting you to insert a disc in if it is empty. After a dozen times or so, it gets very annoying having to bend down to close the drive door.

Pop goes the message, out goes the drive tray
It seems that this 'feature' only will occur if your drive is a writer (CD, DVD or BD) and Vista will not auto eject if it is a read-only drive. So the only workround in this case is to disable the built-in disc burning feature of Vista and use an external application instead (which I already do anyways) ... which brings me to the next point

Where the f**k is the GP editor?
Turns out in Vista Home and Premium editions, there is no group policy editor because it seems that the big guys at Micro$oft decided that home users will never make use of it. So the only way to affect any changes to items such as the one above is to directly edit the registry. Now, I'm pretty comfortable editing the registry (been doing it since Windows 95) but for novice users, the registry can be a confusing and scary place.

Where's the f*cking group policy editor?
Built-in applications
Having built-in zip/unzip capabilities in Windows XP was considered a big step as it remove the necessity of having to install applications like Winzip or Winrar. You'd think that at least they could have support for opening other compressed formats such as RAR, 7ZIP or TAR files. For now I just make use of tugzip to handle these files.

Other sadly out-of-date applications are the Paint program (replaceable with, calculator (upgradable with Microsoft's Power Calculator) and Disk defragementer (currently evaluating IOBit Smart Defrag)

Redundant directories everywhere
If anyone has noticed, XP started this phenomena by creating directories that are hardly ever used but cannot be deleted. These directories are under Program Files and include Xerox, movie maker, gaming zone, netmeeting etc. There are supposedly long-winded workarounds to permanently remove the directories at the expense of system stability.

Things get worse in Vista as additional default directories are required to get the OS running properly. There are too many of them to list here.

Vista Explorer is no elephant
I must be doing something wrong 'cos I can't seem to get Vista to remember the visual settings for Explorer. It seems to take on a mind of its own whenever I traverse directories in Explorer with one directory opening in "List view" whilst another in "Extra large icons". Minor annoyance but still an annoyance in my book.

Vista SP1 woes
After downloading the 434MB package, it happily informs me that the service pack will take around an hour to install at which I can't use the computer. Why the hell does it need that long? I can't slipstream the service pack onto the restore discs 'cos Acer uses a different method of restoring the factory image settings. What I could do is take my Vista Business copy and slipstream SP1 onto that disc but then I'd lose the MCE features found only on Premium ... frustrating. This basically means formatting the PC will take three times as long.

To date I've already formatted this PC three times (in a month, yeah ... I know I'm wierd like that, but I usually experiment until the system crashes) and only installed SP1 once with no noticeable changes in OS performance/features. Its still just as unstable/stable as before ... which basically means I can get it to crash just as easily.

Windows Mail
Windows mail replaces Outlook Express 6 which is found on XP but it has lost many of the features that I use especially the multiple account handling (it only handle multiple accounts by creating an entirely new user name/account on the operating system itself and I DO NOT want that). It does have improved security and better main handling which is a big plus though but its file format is not backward compatible with earlier versions of Outlook/OE.

An alternative is to use Windows Live Mail which is supposed to replace OE6 on XP. I'm still exploring this program but it seems promising and also has support to download from web based mail servers.

Drivers, drivers, drivers
Most people 'upgrading' to Vista probably would have faced this scenario of driver unavailability for older hardware. I face this situation with an old Soundblaster Live! soundcard which I have because there are no available drivers. I haven't tried installing it yet though but some reports online have stated that there are workarounds to getting the card to play nice in Vista though.

The problem here basically is that the integrated audio sucks big time - a Realtek HD audio ALC888S chip that provides 7.1 surround which is nice and all that shit. MIDI-wise it falls flat on its face by relying on the crap Micro$oft GS wavetable synthesis. Using the integrated audio with sequencing/composition software such as Cakewalk, Cubase, Finale or Sibelius results in really horrible sounds that are akin to an early model Nokia handphone MIDI capability. Finale isn't that bad if I use its own Smartsound libraries but that option fails too easily and MIDI notes tend to get stuck in playback until I reboot the PC. I have yet to try the Garritan sound libraries on this PC though but from past experience it would definitely be a marked improvement at the cost of processing power and memory.

Guess I'm forced to getting either a new SB X-fi or EMu soundcard to replace it soon but I'll give the SB Live option a go soon.

WMP11 crash
Vista comes with Windows Media Player 11. It works, it crashes and it can't be repaired/reinstalled/uninstalled. So what I'm left with is a buggy WMP shell which can no longer play video files. The program that caused this? I'm guessing its the latest PowerDVD v8 which forces the installation of unwanted codecs with no option of removal. Uninstalling the program also leaves the codecs behind.

Its so sad that Cyberlink had to go the dark side and followed in the footsteps of Ahead Nero and WinDVD. From a simple, lightweight and functioning application, these programs are now full-blown suites with numerous additional functions which are useless, create problems and are often complained about. Nero has the useless Nero scout service which does nothing but take up CPU cycles ... I do not know of anyone, anywhere in the world that actually uses Scout in real-life. Now PowerDVD has the utterly useless Moovie and remix option. Why would I want to rate a movie and upload the results for anyone to see? If I wanted to do that I'd join a site/forum/magazine and write about it and probably get paid.


So that's 12 'problems' with Vista after one month of use ... and I'm sure I'll find more. What's stopping me from installing XP SP3? I can't drivers to support the mobo and integrated network card. Heck, I might just install Linux or Mac OSX to replace Vista, but for now I'm coping with it.

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