Photography and Art

Monday, February 12, 2007

Windows Vista

My wife was out with the office gang on Friday night, so foolishly I decided to spend the evening installing MS Vista on my home machine. That's right, the one I use for all my photo editing and printing. As always, I pressed ahead without checking to see if all my drivers were supported, trusting to blind faith that the god of computers would look after me. As usual, the god of computers deserted me in my hour of need.

The installation actually started off quite well after I'd figured out how to open the fancy plastic box that contains a CD and a crappy little manual. Dear Bill, scrap the environmentally unfriendly plastic case and just let me download the software from the 'net.

The whole initial installation process took about four hours on my 2.8 Ghz home computer (with hyperthreaded processor) which wasn't so bad. The OS booted properly and nearly all my applications ran fine.

The first minor gotcha happened when I tried to adjust the speed of my mouse. It seems that Vista had loaded a generic mouse driver and I had to re-install the mouse driver using Windows Update. This was a little strange given that my mouse is a Microsoft mouse. Dear Bill, get your guys to talk to one another.

Then my wife sat down to play the new Vista version of Spider Solitaire. She wasn't able to drag and drop cards on top of each other. Of course, she immediately mocked me for installing Vista and taking a major step backwards. There was a clue. An error message told me that hardware acceleration wasn't enabled on my graphics card. After further investigation, it turns out that I was running a generic VGA driver instead of the proper driver for my ATI graphics card. Again, I had to update the driver (this time from the driver properties page) and the right driver was loaded. As soon as I'd done that, the Solitaire game started to work with all the flashy graphics and the ability to drag and drop.

Dear Bill, I'm not a typical user. Most people don't know how to troubleshoot a bad driver. Can't you make an operating system smart enough to figure out what's running on my machine and load the right drivers? Give Steve a call, he'll help you out.

Of course, that was not the end of the story. I loaded my favourite software, including Adobe Photoshop CS3. All worked really well. The new UI is nice (but my graphics card is too cheesey to support Aero). I edited some recent photos and went to print. No printer driver. I then had a look around at my other devices and found no scanner driver either.

Off to the Epson web site to look for new drivers. Good news on the scanner front - the drivers all seem to be present and accounted for. But, the printer drivers are not all there. It seems like they started at two ends (the pro end and the consumer end) and worked towards the middle. The prosumer printers (R800, R1800 and R2400) are missing in action. The last update to the Epson release notes is Feb 8th and there is no schedule for the release of the missing drivers.

Now, that's a gotcha. My good wife is full of joy. I won't be running down our chequing account with ink and paper purchases for a while. She's probably on the phone telling Epson support to take their time - no rush.

I'm off to Quebec for a ski holiday next week, so I can wait a little while, but it would sure be nice if the drivers were ready by the time I got back. Dear Mr. Seiko, did you hear me?

What else have I noticed about Vista? The performance is OK - no different than XP. 1 GB if memory seems to be enough. On the good news front, the hibernation capability works much better than XP. I had an issue where I couldn't use XP hibernation because of a hard disk that would shut off and not come back on. This seems to be cured by Vista and I can hibernate and power back up in seconds.

On the downside, the security is sometimes a pain in the butt. I spent some time tidying up my start menu folders and every time I tried to move a folder or a shortcut, I'd get an annoying security warning and would have to click not just one, but two buttons to approve the action.

The moral of the story? Check to make sure all the drivers are available for your peripherals before you install Vista. And, make sure you check all your drivers once you have the OS installed in case it has installed generic ones instead of the proper ones for your hardware.

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