Thursday, November 8, 2007

Welcome to VISTA -Land

This last weekend I ventured in to new territory.......... Vista-land...

Due to problems with one computer, and not knowing if it could easily fixed or have to be replaced, we decided that getting a laptop, that everyone could use would be a good idea, and help fill the void if we needed to replace one of the desktops. Of course thats not even counting the general connivance of having a portable around.
Any rate, the end result was, as usual, we spent less and got more. The choices for a laptop are varied and in some ways very few. One needs to think about what the primary use of the machine will be, and keeping in mind you eventually want to do more then you ever figured you would, and thus need more machine then you think you do..
There are several things to consider, the primary one for most folks is price, how much bang can I get for my buck? Nowadays quite a bit actually..
How much portability do you need? do you want some you can carry in a small bag and take almost anywhere, or do you need the bigger screen to run more intense programs and watch movies and screen big enough to see from a distance. Then there is the processor, the question is a little more involved; Intel, or AMD, and a desktop processor or a mobile processor. and then dual-core, and how fast. As you see, the choices in Hardware abound, depending on what you want to spend. You need lots of RAM, or memory as its often called. at least a gigs worth. more is better.
The primary reason for all the CPU power and ram is the operating system. Operating systems are famous for using too much of a systems resources. Every generation of OS had its quirks and problems. Vista, is no expectation.

A very brief primer; the operating system is the interface between the computer and the human using it. It converts what the user want to do into binary code which the computer can understand and act on. There have been a number of version over he years, first there was windows 3.1 which was a very early version of the GUI, or graphical user Interface, this made it relatively easy for the user to tell he computer what to do and have it do something useful. Then there was windows 95, then windows 98, each version was a huge leap in processor power and usefulness and functionality. However, all was not well in Windows land... Each version fixed problem form before and also brought new problems. I'm not going to delve int a history of the problems of earlier operating systems, they are well document. One can easily find volumes about older windows .
The Operating system in question today, is Vista, which I think is a stupid name, But then I thought XP was a stupid name too. not that anyone ever asked me. Name aside, XP was a huge jump from 98se. There several major improvements, the most important one to me was stability. Which meant it tended not to crash as often or as bad as older versions. Usually one program would crash and close and not take the whole system with it, forcing a complete reboot at a inconvenient time. There were other issues, which I'm not going into now, primarily security.

So, I went to the famous big box stores and shopped. We had set a budget, about 1/3 of what we had spent on the first laptop many years ago. and then it was seek and find..
The first thing I asked was if they had any XP units, None. so that left VISTA. then it was what they had on sale. and what features it had on it.
We finely chose a Compaq/HP that was on sale, This machine has a dual-core processor and a gig of RAM. Something VISTA needs, and even more is better.
I have not been looking forward to working on a VISTA machine, having spent the summer reading horror stories about it.
So far I have been impressed, and was not prepared to be a very happy camper.. I booted it up and and set it up and it found the wireless network. using Explorer, I downloaded FireFox and Sea monkey and then closed Explorer and haven't opened it since. I have deliberately left it plugged in and running and kept it going and it hasn't even blinked. I plugged in a very old web cam in the USB and it not only found it went out and found the drivers and installed them and it just worked! The promise of USB finely fulfilled..

As much as I hate to say it, at least, on this particular VISTA box seems to be working good. It seems to be responsive and it definably has a MAC like quality in the way it opens and closes windows and I get the feeling that it wants to emulate a MAC, without directly copyng it. Something that has been noted many times before. What will happen as time go on and its used more remains to be seen. I have a XP disc just waiting to jump in and replace VISTA if it ever becomes necessary. basically, when one a buys something like a computer they want it to just work and this particular one seems to be working right now. I am not going to use it as a excuse to vindicate the operating system as a whole, It is still bloated and full of problems that should have been solved long before it was released, if they had been, I wouldn't have spent the summer reading horror stories about it. Linux is also a option, doing s dual-boot and putting Ubunta, on a 2nd partition is something the geekier among us might do, a few will even get rid of windows altogether and run Linux solo, I can't bring myself to do so only because of dependency on windows programing for my pda , see earlier post about changing PIM platforms. In a ideal world I would be able to put the MAC OS on my XP/VISTA box and dual-boot, But I doubt that'll happen very soon.

I know lucky when I see it.. I just got lucky and got either a manufacture that knows how to install and tweak VISTA to work or just plain got a box that works.. at least for me. So Far....