Saturday, April 21, 2007

How do I keep on top of the technology world?

I was thinking that it would be a good idea to fill readers in on what I do to keep on top of technology.

Aside from the obvious, reading magazines, I find that the most productive way to keep on top of technology is to listen to pod-casts. In general, it takes me about 20-45 minutes to commute to and from work every day. So, what I do is listen to pod-casts during this time. I find this much better than public radio, and I get to learn at the same time. What about traffic reports? You might ask. Who cares? When I'm listening to something that keeps my interest, staying in the car a little longer is not such a chore.

Here is the current list of podcasts that I listen to:

I'm always open to suggestions so if you are reading this and you have a suggestion for an additional podcast, please feel free to post it as a comment.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Windows Vista after 2 months

Now that I have had windows vista for almost 2 months, my assessment is that I like it, but it is much more of a resource hog than Windows XP was. For example, prior to upgrading to Windows Vista, I used to have one Gigabyte of ram on my machine and World of Warcraft used to play very smoothly (60 frames/second). After upgrading to Windows Vista, my frame rate went down to 30 frames per second.

I did a lot of research on the Internet regarding this issue and read things about video drivers being slower in Windows Vista than in Windows XP, but nothing that I read seemed to indicate that I should have seen such a significant drop in my frame rate. Especially considering that I have an Nvidia GForce 7800 GS. I was puzzled.

Then, one night, while playing World of Warcraft, I realized that in addition to the drop in frame rate, I found that when I would hot-key out of World of Warcraft to look up information on a quest for the game on Google, I noticed that Internet explorer or Mozilla Firefox would take much longer to start than they used to on Windows XP. This got me to thinking that perhaps 1 Gigabyte of RAM might not be enough for the way that I was using my system. So off to the local Best Buy I went.

Initially I was thinking about purchasing only 512M of ram and using it to fill in the last available RAM slot on my motherboard (ASUS K8N-E Deluxe), but when I read the manual, I found out that this would slow down the RAM access from 333 Mhz to 200 Mhz . But, I found out that if I purchased 1 Gigabyte of RAM, I would be able to swap out one of the 512 Megabyte modules for the 1 Gigabyte module, resulting in a 512 Megabyte RAM increase while at the same time being able to retain the 333 Mhz speed.

When I got home with the RAM, I decided to experiment a little. Prior to inserting the RAM into the system, I booted the system and checked the Windows Experience Index. 4.1 was the measurement. I then shut the system down and added the 1 Gigabyte module to the remaining slot and re-booted. Just like the manual said, the ram would only run at 200Mhz. I even tried moving the module around to see if I could find a configuration that would result in a higher clock rate. I was unable to do so. So, I let the system boot with this configuration and then checked the Windows Experience Index. I was surprised by what I found, the experience index had gone from 4.1 to 2.0 even though I added 1 Gigabyte of ram. In addition, World of Warcraft had become almost unplayable. So, I shut the system down once more, removed one of the 512 Megabyte modules, and re-booted. The result was that the system was back to 333 Mhz. Here is one instance where adding RAM could slow down your system.

After the system rebooted, I checked the Windows Experience Index and found that it had returned to 4.1. The big difference being that now, when I hot-keyed out of World of Warcraft, Mozilla Firefox and Internet explorer, and just about anything else that I ran was much more responsive. In addition, the World of Warcraft frame rates returned to 60 frames per second.

Should you decide to upgrade your computer system from Windows XP to Windows Vista, I would recommend that you increase your system RAM by a minimum of 512 Megabytes in order to achieve performance similar to what you are used to on Windows XP. In addition, whenever you are thinking about adding RAM to your system, always check your system manual or contact support for your system to make sure that you will get the increase that you expect by adding the ram you intend to add.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Windows Vista, a first impression

I'm back to posting

Instead of the direction that I was going with my prior posts, I think that I am going to switch to posting about technology instead. I figure that there is probably more interest in my views on technology then there is on where I went on vacation and how the kids did in sports over the summer. So, without further adieu, here is the first of what I hope will be many, many technology posts to come.

Windows Vista

Being a technology professional, I felt that it was important for me to get a jump onto the windows vista bandwagon in order to keep on top of things.

Since I was one of the users plagued with Windows Genuine Advantage problems, due to a disreputable PC vendor that is no longer in business, I decided that I would purchase a full copy of Windows Vista Ultimate and see if I could get away with upgrading from Windows XP. While it turned out that I was able to run the upgrade process, I was unable to get the upgraded system to boot.

On the very first boot into Windows vista after the upgrade process completed, I was presented with the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) showing that something was wrong with my USB drivers. After several attempts of re-booting and some swearing, I decided to call Microsoft support to see if they had any information on this problem and if they could help me to overcome it. It turned out that they did not have anything to offer that would help me get through the upgrade install. Instead the support representative suggested that I perform a clean install.

During the clean install, the Windows Vista installation process found that there was another version of windows already installed on the comouter and offered to make a backup copy of it before beginning. Just to be on the safe side, and after checking that I had enough space available, I selected the option to make the backup. After about 40 minutes and a few prompts for administrator userid's, passwords, time-zones, etc., the system was up and running, with all of my old files located in a Windows.old directory.

While I was not too happy that I was forced to have to do a clean install, because I knew that I would then have several hours of application re-installs to go through, I was very happy that Windows Vista was up and running with the full aero glass interface and all. Isn't it pretty =)

For anyone who is going to point out that I should have made a backup of my system before I began the upgrade, I would like to explain why I didn't bother. Other than the Windows Operating system and hardware drivers, the only other applications that I install onto my C: drive are utilities (winzip, Acrobat reader, etc.). All of my important data files (pictures, finance data, etc.) and applications are kept on other drives on the computer so that even if the C: drive was completely re-formatted by the installation, nothing of value to me would be lost.

I Have been using Windows Vista for about 3 weeks now and I like it much better than Windows XP. The main reason for this is all of the additional security prompts that appear when you try to run an programs that will make a change to the system configuration. I'll be honest, for the past 4 years, I have been using Suse Linux for almost everything except playing games and handling support calls from work because it already had such prompts. These kinds of prompts are very helpful in preventing malicious software from having it's way with your system. As tempting as it may be to turn these new prompts off in Windows Vista, I would strongly recommend against doing so. Don't worry, after a while you will get used to them and you won't notice them so much. Lastly, your system will be much more secure because of them.