Archive for January, 2007


Do NOT buy the Vista upgrade

Posted in General at 12:45 pm by jw

I can’t believe Microsoft’s stupidity on this one, and the support costs are really going to hurt them in the long run.  According to their support site, there is no way to do a completely clean installation of a Vista upgrade.  You have to put a copy of a previous operating system down first, then you can do a “clean” install (which wipes your hard drive anyway) from the Vista CD.  Too bad if you’ve tossed your XP CDs out when you bought Vista.  Too bad if you don’t want to waste the hour or two installing a system that is just going to be erased anyway.

This is pure marketing stupidity.

So, now I can only reinforce my original recommendations – don’t upgrade to Vista.  It’s only worthwhile if you get it with a new PC.


Vista – the good, the bad and the ugly

Posted in General at 2:55 pm by jw

Everyone else has their Vista reviews up, figured it was time to put mine up seeing I get all worked up when I read some of the junk that is out there.

The Good

  • DirectX 10.  Nothing is going to truly use it for a while though and you need a GF8800 to take advantage of it right now.  Eventually, it will be the only version of DX worth writing to though.
  • Aero interface. I don’t care if it uses more resources, it’s pretty and smooth.
  • New streamlined graphics driver model. Allows multiple applications to make efficient use of the graphics card capabilities at the same time.
  • Search engine. Like Google Desktop’s search, but much better integrated into the shell – there’s search boxes everywhere that are practically instantaneous to use. I particularly like the search on the start menu – no more browsing through start menu folders – just type the first few letters and hit ‘Enter’.
  • ReadyBoost. Moves disk cache to USB memory sticks and aggressively prefetches common applications and files. Questionable benefit for gaming, but superb for office and development work.  By the way – most reviewers write this up as “providing extra memory”.  It doesn’t.  It’s disk cache only.
  • Reworked memory manager. Theoretically better, especially on multi-core and multi-cpu systems.
  • Reworked kernel and base system for more multicore efficiency. Again, theoretically better.
  • Sidebar. Gimmick really, but I do like the weather there, especially the weather in Brisbane, Australia…
  • Much faster boot times. Seriously.
  • More secure, especially if you can put up with the message box popping up every time you want to do something to the system that might lead to insecurity. Similarly, IE runs in a mode where it has no access to your system so malware can’t get to it (again, theoretically).
  • Virtualized sound drivers. This gives you an individual volume control for each application.
  • User mode USB and audio drivers. Bad USB drivers now only crash themselves, not the whole system.
  • Networking improvements, especially for laptops. System recognizes your network and adjusts security accordingly (Home, Work, Public etc.)
  • Improved power management. All systems sleep by default now, laptop battery use is improved, system doesn’t wait for bad apps when trying to sleep the same way XP does.
  • Theoretically equivalent 64 and 32 bit versions, though this is not really different from XP’s 32 and 64 bit versions.
  • Awesome new version of Minesweeper!!!!  (My wife loves this)
  • Full drive encryption if you have a Trusted Platform Module on your PC.
  • Previous versions of files.  Accidentally saved or overwrote something?  There’s a good chance the old version is still there!
  • Supports WebDAV over https.  I know “Web Folders” worked in XP, but you couldn’t map a drive to a https URL.  In Vista it works.  Weirdly enough, I’ve not seen Microsoft publicizing this at all.

The Bad

  • Even more intrusive activation/genuine advantage stuff.
  • Flashier UI does use more system resources (though if you want you can turn it all off).
  • 64 bit versions requires all drivers to be signed (indirectly) by Microsoft. No more quick beta updates or Omega hacked drivers.  Note that some people think this is “good” because it stops users putting untested stuff on their machines.  I disagree – it’s your machine, you can crash it if you want.
  • All the bugs that come with a new OS.  Let’s not fool ourselves.  Bugs will come out for a while.
  • New audio, USB and video drivers mean you have to make sure all your stuff is supported before upgrading.
  • Some incompatibilities with older apps, especially when using the Aero interface. Java pre-1.6 is a prime example as it likes both turning Aero off, and annoying you every few minutes to give it permission to check for an update.

The Ugly

  • DRM (digital “rights” management, more accurately termed digital restrictions management).  Lots of DRM.  Incredible amounts of it that can disable your machine, steal your sports car, kill your dog and marry your grandmother.  If you haven’t already read it, read this for a very accurate and from what I can tell unbiased report on what the DRM junk they’ve coded into Vista is all about.  If there’s anything that’s going to encourage people to get ripped copies of their movies, it’s the stupidity they’ve put into Vista.

My Summary

I’ve been running the release version of Vista on my laptop since November and I’m quite happy with the way it’s turning out.  Some of the new stuff takes a bit to get used to but it’s every bit as responsive as XP was and has only had limited incompatibilities.  I’m waiting for Saitek to release drivers for their P2600 gamepad and X52 joystick before I think about the upgrade on my home machine, but I’m pretty sure I’ll do it as soon as possible.

What I won’t be doing is using Vista for any sort of multimedia/video applications.  The DRM levels are just silly, and it’s pretty much encouraged me to finish building my MythTV box for a free alternative to Windows.  To echo the thoughts of one reader on the DRM link above, I won’t be going anywhere near a HD-DVD or Blu-Ray drive until I can either rip movies to disk and play them how I want, or HD-DVD/Blu-Ray are the minimum you can.


D20 Weapon Utility

Posted in General at 4:52 am by jw

After playing Neverwinter Nights 2 through twice, I thought it might be useful to share the little weapon comparison program I wrote for general D20 weapons with everyone out there.  It’s actually far more useful for answering my wife’s questions about which weapon to use that it was my questions (I tend to go by “gut feel” and what looks more fun in the game), but I know there’s a lot of min-maxers out there who would be interested!

Anyhow, here it is.  Have fun!

Just a note – it saves the weapons in your “My Documents” directory.  The damage codes are accepted in standard format, so “d8+5”, “2d6” and “8d12+4d20+3” all work.  If you want to count multiple attacks per round, just put the separate attack values separated by a slash (ie 14/9/4) in the attack column.

The “probable range” is one standard deviation around the mean, not the absolute maximum and minimum damage.


Moving again!

Posted in General at 1:52 pm by jw

Well, we lasted about 3 months in this apartment until we found a house we wanted to buy.  Plenty of pics in the gallery, but here’s the basic details:

  • 2 story house on 3 acres of woodland
  • 3 bedrooms (real size ones)
  • 2 bathrooms (one each upstairs and downstairs)
  • 2 car garage
  • Kitchen and bathrooms are both newly redone

Sure, it’s not perfect and is going to need work to finish off well but I’m happy with it and it’s definitely one of the best looking packages of house and land in our price range.  Closing is the end of January so we’ll be moving in sometime in February after Tahnia finished ripping up the carpets and polishing the wooden floors.

Oh, and we can get 10Mbps cable.  That makes me very happy!