2/08/2009

02-08-09 - The Vista Lappy

The Vista lappy is a Dell Latitude E6400. I'm really pleased with it. (this is like useless information to most people, I know I'm living in the past; also this is Vista-32, I imagine there will be new fun issues with 64 bit).

The good :

I love the build quality of this thing. It's rock solid, doesn't flex or creak anywhere, the screen hinge is really stiff, it closes with a nice click, everything is good. The LED matte screen is 1440x900 at 14" and just about the right size. The keyboard is really nice, it's clicky and has a deep throw just like a real keyboard (one annoyance : the PgUp/PgDn is too far from the arrow keys). The thing runs really quiet; it is possible to get it overheated in which case the fans get loud, but that seems pretty hard to do. I like the external switch for the WiFi so you can just turn it off when you plug into a net and not have to deal with dialogs. I also like the way the volume buttons on the exterior just affect the system volume settings, not some other hardware volume level.

(fair disclosure : the viewing angle variation of the LCD is not awesome, and the touchpad seems a little unresponsive and not quite ideal).

The bad :

Holy crap it's loaded with malware. I knew that would sort of be the case, but the "business" models are supposed to have way less junk than the consumer models. Still stacks and stacks of crap. The worst thing were the two external products that Dell is now shipping on all their lappies : Wave Systems' "Embassy Trust Suite" and Smith Micro's "Connection Manager". Both of you can die in a grease fire. The Wave ETS piece of shit insinuates itself into every app (it is literally a rootkit). It's supposed to be for the fingerprint scanner shit BUT I SPECIFICALLY DID NOT GET A FINGERPRINT SCANNER but it's running all the time anyway. Good game Dell. The "Connection Manager" seems to serve the sole purpose of fucking up your networking settings.

If it was for me I would probably have just wiped it with a fresh install, but doing reinstalls on laptops is a bit of a problem sometimes due to all the nonstandard drivers (there are quite a few lappies that you have to Slipstream windows with different drivers in order to get a reinstall to work) - so I figured I should just leave it alone for Alissa.

Also, the stupid Recovery partition that Dell sets up eats 15 GB of the disk. Again if it was for me I would just reformat the disk to get rid of that.

Vista :

Seems fine. The boot up and shut down are a bit slow, but we don't really do that too often so it's not a disaster. I turned off Aero and all the new look stuff and it pretty much looks like XP. I also turned off Superfetch and Ready Boost. No idea if they are good or bad, but any time Microsoft claims to be doing something smart with my idle CPU and RAM space it screams "bad bad bad" to me. Oh you have to turn off Hibernate too, god Hibernate is such a worthless retarded feature, especially on laptops that can Sleep just fine.

BTW one stupid gotcha bit me. I kept changing settings and they kept getting reset and it was pissing me off. Under Computer->Performance->Visual Effects by defualt the box is checked "let Windows choose settings for me". The awesome thing about this setting is it will let you change things through other dialogs but when you reboot they will be stomped on. Ouch. Change it to manual right away and then you can roll.

There seems to be no good TweakUI for Vista; there is this thing called "Ultimate Windows Tweaker" which is pretty handy, mainly it aggregates a bunch of the settings that you want to change in one place, but it's missing a lot of the UI control that TweakUI has. Boo.

I've left on System Restore and Windows Defender for now. Both have been huge performance hogs in XP in my experience, but I want to see how they do for a bit. When I tried Defender a while ago on XP it would just randomly decide to take 100% of the CPU once in a while (and no it wasn't the time that was set for it to do a scan or an update). Oh, one thing that scared me about Vista is all the scheduled tasks. If you look in there, there are like 100 tasks from Microsoft on various schedules. Hrrmmm.

I have Ali running as a normal user. So far it seems pretty acceptable. I mean when you want to install something you just get a popup and say okay. One annoying thing is it's not very smart about the permissions. For example if you make a shortcut to something that's owned by All Users, then you try to rename the *shortcut* it requires admin access. That's dumb, the shortcut is my property, it's on my desktop, it shouldn't need admin access.

BTW Word 2007 is a fucking dog. It's ugly as hell in that fucking candy-bubblegum-graphics style of Vista and seems to not have a "classic" mode. It's also slow. Like just typing in words is slow, I can literally type faster than it can take input. So far as I can tell, this is the "print layout engine" ; if I work in "draft" mode it's acceptable.

Another BTW on Office 2007 : there are people putting together "Thinstall" releases of Office, so that you get just one EXE and you can run it and boom you're in Word without doing any install or anything. That's pretty sweet, but it is very slow. It is handy if you want to set up a USB drive or something you can carry around and have your favorite apps ready to run on any PC without installing, but it's not a good way to sandbox apps for daily use.

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