windows

4 Reasons why Windows Vista is better than XP

by Shane Perris on Wednesday, 30 January, 2008

in Uncategorized

Windows Vista has attracted a lot of heat since its launch in January 2007. It’s been called out for nagging users with the User Account Control (UAC), being a resource hog, being slow, having an unfamiliar interface, incompatible with legacy hardware, incompatible with legacy software – you name it, Vista has been bagged for it.

However, in my experience it really has not been that bad. There have been high profile cases of people declaring that they were going to downgrade back to XP (Chris Pirillo is one popular example) but is it really the case that people have been this much of a hard time?

Google Trends reveals that, for many people, Vista works.

vista_trends

(Blue is “vista sucks”, red is “vista works”)

vista_xp_trends

(Blue is “vista works”, orange is “vista sucks” and red is “downgrade to xp”).

What is interesting to me is that downgrading to XP appears to have got the most attention online. Personally, I think downgrading to XP is a definite backward step and here’s why I think Vista is better than XP:

1. Great collection of bundled software: Vista (especially the Home Premium version that the majority of people will come in to contact with) comes with a wide range of applications that are designed specifically to play nice with the operating system and are handy for the general consumer. Windows Media Centre. Windows Movie Maker 6. Windows DVD Maker. Photo Gallery. Instant search. Windows Sidebar.

I know that a lot of these are also available in XP or have 3rd party equivalents but don’t underestimate the power of bundled apps. After all, isn’t one of the key selling points of Apple’s OSX the powerful consumer-level apps that come standard with the computer?

2. It makes better use of hardware resources: I accept that Vista has a heftier hardware requirement than XP. However, XP needed more resources than Windows 2000, which in turn needed more than Windows ME and Windows 98. A decent level of graphics grunt is required and 2 gigabytes of RAM is something of a sweet spot. The extra hardware resources are worth it as Vista puts them to good use. The shiny Aero interface of Vista utilises the Graphics Processing Unit of the computer that would otherwise sit there doing not much of anything outside of gaming. Aero makes looking at the computer screen just that little bit easier on the eyes. Vista also makes good use of spare RAM capacity. It might look like it has a big memory footprint but what it is doing is storing more things in the quick access memory that it thinks might be needed, giving the user faster response times and jumping back to the hard drive less (it’s quicker to fetch from RAM than from disk).

3. Vista is more secure: it’s very hard to argue with this one. Vista is not perfect but UAC makes it a lot harder for the general user’s system to be compromised. The regular pop ups can get annoying at times and Vista runs the risk of inducing “pop up fatigue” where users just click “OK” automatically. However, once you have the system configured just the way you like it, the pop ups happen much less than you think. Other operating systems employ similar security measures, for example OSX and Linux. While I don’t have experience with OSX I do know that in Linux I’ve had to use the command “sudo” to temporarily elevate user privileges many times, almost to the stage where it becomes habit to add sudo to the start of every command line action.

4. Vista has an improved user interface and other system tweaks: There are lots of little tweaks and improvements that make life easier in Vista. For example, when renaming files, Vista automatically highlights only the filename and not the file extension. Hit the TAB key when you’re finished and it jumps to the next file in the list and highlights the name, ready for renaming. Little touches like this go a long way. There are many more little Vista tips (for a great selection, visit The Supersite For Windows Vista page).

Caveats

I accept that Vista isn’t perfect. Despite being more secure than XP out of the box, it still does have security problems. Some of the user interface changes can be confusing if you’re used to doing things in a certain way. Old hardware may never have Vista-ready drivers (especially if the hardware is obsolete or the manufacturer has gone out of business). There are some lingering concerns about the impact of the inbuilt Digital Rights Management, but that’s not a wall I’ve bumped up against yet.

Conclusion

I enjoy using Vista. I hate having to use XP on my work computer. Although I’m a fan of Vista, I don’t recommend it unconditionally. If you have XP installed on your current computer and it works just fine, I wouldn’t suggest upgrading. However, if you’re buying a new computer, I see no reason to stick with XP. Vista will work just fine.

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Fixing Hibernate Problems in Windows Vista

by Shane Perris on Friday, 25 January, 2008

in how-to,tutorials

One of the most regularly reported problems with Windows Vista is that the hibernate function – one of the power-saving modes – does not work. I have been using Vista daily since February 2007 and although the experience has been generally positive, hibernation has failed to work a number of times. Through trial and error (and a lot of time spent trawling through blogs of both users and Windows developers) I have come across some solutions that seem to work for most people.

Hibernation problems on Vista fall roughly in to three categories:

  1. the computer fails to wake up from hibernation
  2. the computer fails to hibernate
  3. the computer keeps waking up from hibernation when it is supposed to be sleeping

Waking Vista from hibernation

Right from when I bought my laptop (a Dell Inspiron 1501, a mere matter of weeks before they sexed up the Inspiron range with colours, new gadgets and upgraded specs that make my laptop blush with shame at being so weak and puny and unworthy of calling itself a “computer”), my computer would not so much hibernate as enter into a terminal coma from which there was no waking.

The number one reason that Vista fails to wake from hibernation is a problem with video drivers. In my case, the answer was simple. All I needed to do was to update the drivers for my Radeon Xpress 1150 onboard video chipset. A quick visit to the ATI drivers page to download the latest drivers and I was back in business. As easy as that.

Making Vista hibernate

Sometimes the hibernation option is not available, or your hardware key combination (on my Dell it is Fn -> F1) simply does not work. The first thing you need to check if your computer supports one of the hibernation options. To do this, go to the start menu and type Command in the search box. In the results, right click and select “Run as Administrator”. When the command prompt opens up, type powercfg -a which shows you all of the available types of hibernation that your hardware supports. In the video below you will notice that my laptop supports s(3) which is the “deep hibernation” that saves the state of the system to disk before shutting the hardware down.

If your hardware does support hibernation but it still stubbornly refuses to bunker down for the winter, either the hibernation option has been disabled or the Hibernation File Cleaner has been deleted by the Disk Cleanup Utility. Both these options are easily fixed using the powercfg utility again. To turn hibernation back on, type powercfg -h on. The short video below shows you how easy this really is (toggle full screen mode on the flash player for best results).

I can personally vouch for this method as well. Like many people, when I first ran the Disk Cleanup Utility, I saw the the Hibernation File Cleaner took up around 1GB of disk space and I thought “Surely it wouldn’t be an option if it wasn’t safe to delete it? Surely?” Like many people I learned the answer was “Hmm. Not so much” which isn’t exactly grammatically correct but does get its meaning across while inspiring a healthy dose of Friends nostalgia and yearning for Courtney Cox that I thought had long since worn off. Not so much, obviously. But I digress. In my case, the option to hibernate had disappeared from my shut down options and Fn -> F1 didn’t work either. powercfg -h on worked immediately.

Vista Keeps Waking Up From Hibernation

This one is a tricky one. In theory, hibernation physically shuts down your machine so issues such as scheduled tasks (eg system updates, virus scans and so on) shouldn’t be able to wake the machine back up. However, I have seen reports all over the internet of Vista machines waking up and doing strange things. I have never experienced this problem myself but the following suggestions have worked for various people at various times:

  1. if your computer wakes up at a consistent time, make sure there are no scheduled tasks (Start menu -> search for “task scheduler”)
  2. check your BIOS settings to make sure that “Wake on LAN” (also sometimes known as “Wake on Ring”) is disabled. Check your bootup screens to see what key combination you need to hit to access your BIOS
  3. check in Device Manager (Start menu -> search for “device manager” – your life will be much easier if you run this program as Administrator) and see if any of your devices have an option that allows it to wake the computer. I’ve seen reports that blame everything from a wireless mouse to an ethernet device that isn’t plugged in to the network for waking a computer from hibernation.

If any of the above suggestions help, or you have an even better suggestion to make about Vista hibernation modes, why not drop me a line in the comments?

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