Friday, April 25, 2008

At last upgrading to Windows XP

I was one of the first to install Windows Vista over a year ago. My main motivation was to have access to IIS 7 so I could play around with the work we've been doing with Microsoft.

There are things I really like about Vista. For people who prefer typing over the mouse the new Search box in the Start menu is extremely productive. Also I really appreciate the sudo like functionality as I'm used to it from Linux/Unix (I know many don't appreciate it but honestly, it's a good thing for Vista users). And of course Aero - yes I know it may not be quite as sexy as the MAC OS X but they did a nice job in modernizing the interface but still keeping it familiar.

<side track>

I really like the new Office Ribbon. The usability experts really did a good job on that one. They gave a good presentation on it at MIX08 called "The Story of the Ribbon" which you can watch at

</side track>

Unfortunately I have regretted installing Windows Vista from the very beginning. I have probably lost hundreds of hours in productivity. The biggest mistake Microsoft made with Vista was to break device driver compatibility with Windows XP. Here are a few ways I have suffered as a result of the decision:

- Cisco's VPN still doesn't work well on Vista. I have tried at least 8 different builds and have experienced a variety of issues including blue screens, having to reboot in order to get wireless (diagnose&repair doesn't always work), having to try and connect multiple times until it works, etc... While the drivers aren't perfect on XP they didn't lead to this huge productivity loss.

- I still don't have my Polycom Communicator working on Vista. Initially drivers were planned for Q4 2007; Polycom pushed them out to Q1 2008, we are now in Q2 and they are giving Q4 2008 as their goal.

- My Cardscan software doesn't work on Vista. I have to buy a new version of the software in order to use it on Vista. Not that I mind spending the money as much as I just don't have time to deal with it.

- Acronis True Image let me install it on Vista although it didn't work. I happily purchased a version which works but was unable to uninstall the old version. No biggy but a real pain. It's unfortunate that on Windows forcing uninstalls is *way* harder than on Linux where you can do a simple rm -rf /opt/myapp and grep -R myapp /etc/ to be pretty sure you've gotten rid of most of the remnants.

These are just some examples of the problems I've had. Microsoft really missed the boat on Vista and I don't see anyway for them to resolve these issues unless they release a service pack which adds driver compatibility to the OS. I am sure the techies have lots of good reasons for why the XP driver interface sucked but that's where technical merits fall short from market requirements.

I am looking forward to significantly better productivity on XP. I hope that instead of trying to force their users to move to Vista, Microsoft actually finds a solution and makes the market want to move to their new OS.

For those who are curious why I don't move to the MAC. My brain is still too invested in Windows and I have a lot of applications I really like on Windows. That said the following are a couple of additional non-Vista related issues I have had with Windows:

- The Windows virtual memory manager & file system just doesn't seem to work well. Linux seems to be much smoother at managing paging, the file system cache and the file system itself. I've tried all sorts of settings on Windows including running it in "Server" mode but I think there's an underlying architectural issue. This is of course Windows on the desktop. Server 2003 & 2008 may not have such issues. Anyone who's used Linux knows what I'm talking about. Linux is very efficient in using up all free memory for file system cache and doesn't usually page before it really has to.

- What's up with Outlook keeping processes around in the background? None of the suggestions for working around this problem have really worked for me. Having 10 gigs of archives in Outlook not only means Outlook often gets stuck for a few seconds for bookkeeping reasons while I'm working. In addition, when I have to force a reboot and can't wait for the Outlook.exe process to dissapear (can take minutes), then my Outlook folders need to be scanned after reboot; a huge productivity loss. Strange that such fundamental issues exist with probably the world's most popular email reader.

While these issues won't be solved on XP, I know from experience that I will be a whole lot more productive. Looking forward to XP!


  1. You propably should rename your blog to "Andi bending over for Micro$oft" or something..and how the hell is this shit related to PHP?

  2. It's not related to PHP. I don't only blog about PHP :)

  3. My tips for Incredible Productivity Gains:
    - dump Outlook for Firefox + Lightning (unless corporate mandates it). The improvements in search and spelling alone are worth it
    - dump IE for FF (ok, I should not say that to devs, propbably...)
    - dump explorer for total commander (this is the easily the biggest improvement for the whole ms platform)
    - dump task manager for process explorer

    a soon as OSS tools are your daily bread and butter, the underlying OS becomes little more than a commodity anyway, be it xp, 2000 or svista...

  4. Thanks for the tips.
    I can't move away from Outlook right now but I am using Firefox and Process Explorer. Love them... Haven't tried total commander for a while so I will give it a try again.

  5. I'd advice waiting with Lightning for people used to Outlook for a bit. While things like invites, etc. are actively worked on and had significant improvement lately, they are still not 100% there last time I looked, especially when talking about handling Outlook-generated content properly. I'm using it myself and the progress is very good, but not complete yet. I hope in about a half-year/year it will be much better.
    Also, things like availability/resource tracking through Exchange, etc. doesn't seem to be there either.

  6. See Key Launch application if you prefer keyboard over mouse :)

  7. Thanks for the pointer. I am downloading Key Launch as I type :)

  8. HAHA what does this have to do with php? You think the guy lives, breathes, eats php. I don't blog about one topic either ;)

    I love my OS X it's sexy and it just works. Although I do like the features in Ubuntu but cannot install that on my Mac Pro as a dual boot due to it not working with the airport card. I have yet to try the latest released version though. Been waiting to see if anyone else gets it to work.

    I ditched windows about 2 years ago and have not nor will I look back

  9. I think Gmail is the best email client ever, fast and always available, better than Outlook.
    I use Windows Vista and for me it far away more stable than XP :)

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