05-07-10 - New Lappy

I got my new lappy, a Dell Precision M6500 big 17" behemoth. I'm setting up Win 7 today which is mostly going smoothly.

First impressions of the M6500 : build quality is very nice, lightweight all metal like the Lattitude series. The screen is pretty great, 1920x1200 matte, pretty bright, decent contrast, the only complaint is that it's not super viewing-angle-independent. It is a very nice bonus that the lappy LCD res is the same res that I run my 24" external, so I can switch between lappy LCD and external LCD and it doesn't hose my layouts (however, on the minus side of that equation, because the lappy LCD is so pixel dense, I have to run in large fonts on it, and switch back to small fonts for the external LCD, boo). The internal peripherals and the case are well designed for popping things in and out. It takes two 2.5" thin lappy disks and has 4 RAM slots. The disks are easy to get in and out, and 2 of the RAMs are easy, but the other two are under the keyboard and take a bit more work. The thing is pretty amazingly quiet, the only auditory annoyance is that the fan oscillates up and down too much, I wish I could program the fan to just be on all the time in low speed instead of jumping up and down. The keyboard action is very nice, like the Lattitude series, but it is the standard fucking retarded 17" lappy thing of just using a normal 15" lappy keyboard and sticking it in the larger case. Jebus can't you people actually make a custom keyboard for the 17" form factor that takes advantage of the extra space to give me better layout!? Come on! Anyway, since I don't really use lappy as a lappy, this is mostly academic.

Win 7 reinstall went very smoothly - it autodetects all the hardware well enough that you can at least boot up. You then need to install a few things - the GPU drivers, the USB3 driver, the Touchpad driver. That's about it. Smoothest Windows install I've ever had, by far.

I had one minor annoyance during install - turns out the lappy came with 1066 Mhz RAM and I bought 1333 Mhz RAM to add. Well, when you do that the lappy boots right up and doesn't complain at all, and runs through memory check (and even the Windows heavy duty memory check) and doesn't find any errors. But it will in fact give you random RAM failures and blue-screen you. So I had to reformat the disk and pull the 1066 RAM and reinstall windows. Then I discovered that the lappy doesn't work with memory only in the C/D slots and not the A/B slots. So I pulled it apart again, and then finally got going. Sigh.

Make sure you switch the BIOS to AHCI, not Intel's fucking raid thing (*before* the Windows reinstall). Currently I am running the MS AHCI driver which supports TRIM. Unclear whether I will ever install the Intel driver.

I put in an Intel X25-M SSD. Holy shit this thing is so good. If you are a serious computer and you are not on an SSD - GET ONE RIGHT NOW.

So far I have disabled : Indexing, ReadyBoot, Prefetch, Superfetch, Indexing, Scheduled Defrag, Defender, Updater, System Restore, Page File, Hibernate, Wifi polling. That has cleaned things up nicely, but some fucking Win7 service is still pinging my disk every 10 seconds or so and I haven't tracked down what it is yet. (fuckers). When I am doing nothing on my computer, it should go to 0% CPU and never ever touch my disk.

Win7 is mostly good so far. As usual there's the annoyance that MS loves to randomly rename things and move them around. Perhaps the worst thing so far is that fucking Backspace is no longer "go up a dir" in Explorer. Yes, I know Alt-Up does that, but it should be fucking backspace god dammit! This was widely complained about during Beta, but like fuckers they refused to provide a config switch to let me have my damn old backspace behavior. I found an AHK solution to map Backspace to Alt-Up , but AHK is a fucking bloated beast of flakey crapware so I'm hoping to find another solution to this (probably just write my own).

The Win-# hot keys are almost a good thing, except that using a number which is their position in the task bar is fucking awful. You should let me assign my own hotkeys, that way I can use Win-V for VisualStudio and Win-F for Firefox or whatever, so that I can actually memorize the keypresses and be fast instead of having to count each time.

Finally, it annoys me to all fuck that MS refuses to give me the one feature that would make UAC usable : just a button to always allow promotion of a given app. When it says "do you want to allow?" it should be "Yes/No/Always" , not just "Yes/No". As is, the fucking Shareware "ProcessGuard" is much much better than UAC because with ProcessGuard you can actually say "always allow this app" or "always forbid this app" blah blah. It's so fucking obvious and such a major usability fuckup. The result is that 99% of power users just turn off UAC, whereas if you had a "always allow for this app" I would totally leave UAC on. I dunno, it just boggles my mind, it would be so easy to make UAC useful and functional. You just have to understand how computing works. I want to have a host of programs installed on my computer which I have marked trusted and let them do whatever they want. Then I want to be able to download random junk from the internet and run them in safe mode where they are forbidden from doing various things like installing stuff in startup or fucking with my windows dir. WTF, why do I not have this !?

Oh, I guess I'm going to try going to MSVC 2010. Since this is supposed to be my machine for the next 10 years, I'd rather just eat the pain of getting on new stuff all at once and then hopefully not have to do it ever again. We'll see about that...

ADDENDUM : Urg. I take it all back, Win 7 is a FUCKING ABORTION (later addendum : that might have been a slight exaggeration). I am in a constant hell of fucking file ownerships and user privilidges and shit. Here's just a minor sample :

You Map a network drive. Everything seems fine and dandy. Now you open a command prompt in "run as administator" mode. Your mapped drive is not there !? WTF !? Oh, brilliant fuckers that they are, the drive mapping is *PER USER* so the fucking administrator doesn't see it, so you have to remap it for the administrator account.

I install Perforce. Of course Perforce Server installs as "owned by" the Administrator account. So when I am logged in as my account if I try to do anything to those files it says "fuck you I'm going to pop up annoying boxes".

I'm trying to copy files from my old lappy's disk to my new one. Of course now Win 7 pays attention to the NTSF security tags and it sees those files are owned by some other user, so I get a bunch of random "Access Denied" messages with no explanation. Of course I can just go and do a fucking recursive "take ownership" of all those files, but that's really just a hack fix and if I plug that disk in somewhere else I'll have to do it again.

Jesus christ. Somebody give me an operating system where my files are just fucking files without some security or owner bullshit and I can run whatever I want and it just fucking works. I want Windows 95 please.

It's easy enought to disable UAC popups, but that's only the fucking tip of the iceberg. UAC is fucking you up back and forth all the time. Win 7 UAC also does some super nasty shit that most people don't know about, in that it remaps a bunch of virtual directory names *per user* (and also for 32 bit vs 64 bit and other compatibility modes), so depending on how your program is run it can see very different things on the same box. DO NOT WANT.


Gilles said...

Hm, win7 is a misery albeit better than its predecessor.. thats why i hacked xp until it worked on the new hw. I hate compromises. I put the work in initially but I dont want to meet the idiocy anytime I fire up my pc. I will wait until w7 sp2 or win 8 whatever comes out (or some decent linux distro). Congrats, dell is good usually.

cbloom said...

Another random Win7 annoyance : it no longer runs autoexec.bat ; that would be okay in theory if there was any decent other way to set the system environment variables. For example the most reasonable thing would be a command to say "take the current ENV settings in this CMD and put them in the global saved ENV". But no of course you don't get that, so you have to update your machine PATH in the ridiculously bad GUI.

Autodidactic Asphyxiation said...

re: disk pinging

Maybe you should try regmon, and see if something is hitting the registry or something.

Sly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sly said...

The Win-# ... You should let me assign my own hotkeys... Win-V for VisualStudio and Win-F for Firefox or whatever

--> Autohotkey can do that (and more, like letting you create small scripts to run either on shortcuts or when launching it or whatever). But I guess you already know that given you speak about AHK.

cbloom said...

Yeah AHK is useful, though I find it kind of janky. I usually wind up writing a custom C app to do what I want, but AHK is a nice way to prototype.

BTW this is how to turn off the built in Win-key functions :


cbloom said...

BTW on that same topic, Win 7 seems to have semi-broken the way keyboard shortcuts to programs would just activate a running instance and not make a new one. One solution to this is to use AHK :


MH said...

Our current security measures were built for multi-users on shared systems. Completely wrong for PCs.

HP has R&D with a neat system built around applications having permissions. It hasnt been implemented by anyone that I can tell though. This seems like a much better security model for modern PCs.

Oh, heres the talk. 2006, sigh. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7179100659758053865#

nothings said...

what was the reason you had to install win7 in the first place? to get it onto the ssd?

so should i stick to XP when I get a new laptop (if I can)? DX10+ though, sigh.

cbloom said...

"what was the reason you had to install win7 in the first place?"

I didn't have to, but I figured I will have to some time in the next 10 years so I may as well eat the pain all at once and get it over with.

And 64 bit is nice to get big rams.

And actually the kernel of Vista/Win7 is actually much improved. It's a way better driver model for example.

nothings said...

I mean, why wasn't win7 preinstalled, or if it was, why'd you reinstall it?

cbloom said...

Oh yeah of course it was preinstalled. Reinstall is crucial with all PC's because the OEMs install borked versions of drivers and crapware which is very hard to ever get out.

In the case of Dells the most nefarious bit is their ControlPoint and the Wave Systems security stuff. Ick icky ick.

Jon Olick said...

Whats so awesome about the SSD? The seek times are better, but does it really make that big of a difference? 10 second boot vs 20 second boot, or something like that right?

sly-id said...

> Whats so awesome about the SSD?

It's not only about numbers, it's about the machine reaction speed one feels, and the big smile on your face instead of the angriness + eagerness.

Also it's more valuable under XP than Vista & 7 which have a much better disk and cache management. At work I went from 5:30 down to 4:30 code rebuild time for example. But guys switching to W7 seem to have similar gains without the SSD.

cbloom said...

"It's not only about numbers, it's about the machine reaction speed one feels, and the big smile on your face instead of the angriness + eagerness."

Yeah, well said. There's really no number that can express the incredible difference in the total computing experience. It's almost like all your apps are preloaded in RAM all the time (but without the disadvantages of actually doing that).

Also NTFS on normal disks is just horribly broken for so many normal developer work patterns. You very easily get bad fragmentation even with lots of free space on the disk, and then suddenly your disk is grinding and you are left screaming and smashing things and wondering WTF is going on.

nothings said...

Ah, I've also reinstalled OSes on laptops to have a different OS anyway, I hadn't realized how bad they were if you actually used them. Thanks.

AndrewM said...

I thought you were against SSD a few months ago?

cbloom said...

No I've been a huge SSD fan for a long time :


though I had no idea just how awesome they would be in real use.

I am anti-SSD where SSD = Sum of Squared Differences as a distortion metric.

I do think off-brand SSD's are still very scary for data safety.

old rants