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Caffeinated Coder A Grande, Triple Shot, Non-Fat Core Dump by Russell Ball

When given a choice between style and substance in software, I usually opt for what I consider to be substantive qualities such as speed, functionality, usability, and cost. Since I never saw a sentence about Vista without the phrase "eye candy", I casually dismissed Microsoft's long-awaited OS release as fluff when it first came out and was in no hurry to jump aboard the upgrade band-wagon.

Well despite my valiant effort at indifference, I am ashamed to admit that I have finally succumbed to the narcotic affects of the Aero and was compelled to upgrade both my work and home PCs to Vista last week. After less than a week, I now experience acute withdrawal symptoms every time I sign back onto an XP machine and am deprived of my glass translucency goodness. I could talk enthusiastically about some my favorite non-visual features in Vista, such as the pervasive search box (ctrl + esc) that I now use in lieu of Google Desktop to quickly find content and launch programs, but who am I kidding? My name is Russell Ball and I am an eye-candy junkie.

For those of you who are weak like me and are considering an upgrade in the near future, here are a few things to keep in mind.

At the Office

  • If you're going to take advantage of an MSDN license and upgrade your OS well ahead of the crowd, make sure you're nice to the IT Pro group. I got their blessing ahead of time by offering to give them a scouting report of any issues they will likely encounter when trying to upgrade the entire department. 
  • When encountering an application error in Vista, try restarting the app using the right-click 'Run as Admin' option. Several rather cryptic errors have miraculously disappeared after re-opening the app under elevated priviledges.
  • <tongueInCheek>Go paperless</tongueInCheek>. The IT Pros in my shop are understandably reluctant to risk upgrading drivers on the print server just for me, so I am currently remoting in to the dev box to print documents until I can get someone to punch a whole in the dev domain firewall and let me connect directly to the printer. 
  • Expect to have to spend a little time applying a new service packs and installing new versions of applications. PowerShell requires a new version and Visual Studio and SQL Management Studio both require service pack upgrades before they will properly work on Vista. 
  • Expect a few apps to not work. I had to turn off a visual affect in order to get the UltraMon title bar butttons to show up and shut down the Track-It agents on my machine to stop getting bombarded with error messages. Transcender won't work at all, so I'm having to remote into the development server to take practice tests for my upcoming certification exam. Considering that I probably have a hundred apps installed on my machine, that's really not that bad.

At Home

  • If you have a machine that is more than a few years, just let it go. I had a P4 that worked fine for remoting into the office and web browsing, but it was easier to just spend the $800 at my local computer store for a basic machine than fuss with tracking down incompatible parts as part of the upgrade process. After a quick $150 upgrade for a new video card that supported dual monitors, I found myself with a Windows Experience Score of 4.8 (not bad) and enough RAM, disk space, and processing cycles to power a small third world country. 
  • When your wife sees the bill for the new PC, cast an “Aero Translucent Glass” spell on her. If she isn't fully distracted, try the alt-tab spinning windows trick. If that doesn't work, then try defending yourself with one of the countless left-over non-Vista compliant parts that will soon litter the tech landscape.

See you at the Vista half-way house. 

Posted on Monday, August 13, 2007 12:18 PM Technical How-To's | Back to top


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