August 26, 2008

Of Bygone Vistas

I have been a staunch defender and advocate of Windows Vista since it came out. I had been using Vista since the early beta days and I’d always found it to be better than Windows XP in many different ways. In fact, some people on various online forums went so far as to say that I was a shill for Microsoft and that I was championing Vista because my bread and butter depended on it :p (Of course, if somebody at Microsoft wants to pay me for championing Vista, I won’t say "No" – just so you know … :D)

I like Vista both for the little touches that it adds to the operating system which makes life easier (like the multiple clocks in the system tray) and for the speed enhancements in the graphics subsystem and the stability that it seemed to provide. The people I clashed with over Vista were people like the lady who claimed that none of their games would run under Vista and this had never happened when they first switched to XP. (I had pointed out to her that she either didn’t switch to XP immediately or had already forgotten the pain those of us who were early adopters of XP had in running games – that’s part and parcel of switching to a new operating system and that hasn’t changed since the Windows 3.1 days …)

Anyway, while I like a lot of things about Vista, I realized that I spent a lot of my time fixing minor niggling issues under Vista and that these minor fixes were eating into a lot of my time. While there were no major BSODs (Blue Screens of Death) as I’d have quite a bit of the time under XP, I would have something minor like a USB device not being recognized or a the drivers for the device not being installed properly. I’d spend a couple of days troubleshooting that and finally get it working and the next day, something else would stop working …

I suspect that most of these issues are because I’ve turned off the annoying UAC (User Account Control) feature in Vista. For instance, UAC got turned back on by accident on my machine and one of my startup programs refused to load because it no longer had read access to one of its data files – a file that I accessed everyday without any issue with UAC turned off, mind you. So perhaps somebody who uses Vista without turning of UAC or doing any of the other power-user stuff that I do probably would have better results with Vista. But for me, it wasn’t working …

So I formatted my OS partition (I have three partitions – one for the OS, one for applications, and one for data) and went back to using XP SP3. I got the old familiar BSOD as I was pulling down updates from Microsoft, even before I was fully up and running, but it does run faster in most cases (except with regards to the graphics subsystem) and it takes up a heck of a lot less space! My OS partition had about 2-3GB free after I got done installing Vista but with XP, I’ve still got about 10GB free :)

Only thing was, using Vista had spoilt me – I was no longer content to using the Windows Classic theme and I couldn’t bear to use the Lunar interface under XP either. Fortunately, it turns out that while I was using Vista and singing its praises, others had been busy getting the Vista look and feel working under XP. There’s individual applications like viStart, Visual Task Tips, and TrueTransparency which try to provide bits and pieces of the functionality that is present in Vista. Or, there’s projects like the Vista Transformation Pack, which combines all of the above utilities, adds in graphics and themes and gives you a one-stop-solution to getting XP to look like Vista.

So if you’ve had to switch back to XP and are missing the look and feel of Vista, the above might be a good place to start :)

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Tags: Software, Technology
Posted by Fahim at 6:01 pm   Comments (1)