Category Archives: Vista

Vista Service Pack 2 Beta (Follow-up)


A few weeks ago I wrote I had installed Vista Service Pack 2 Beta and thought I’d give a brief follow up on my experience.  I could not tell that desktop Gadgets used any less memory than under Service Pack 1, but I could sure tell that it was faster reconnecting to wireless networks when coming out of sleep mode.

Currently I don’t have SP2 installed (I flattened my hard drive for reasons that have nothing to to with SP2), but I am looking forward to the release of the final version sometime this spring.  There does not appear to be anything exciting in SP2, but any small advances are welcome.

Vista Service Pack 2 Beta

As promised I installed Vista SP2, on my production laptop no less, almost as soon as it was available to non-TechNet subscribers.  In fact, I am typing this mere moments after my reboot from the install.  No smoke is coming out of the machine and nothing appears to be broken, but we’ll see.

I elected to install from Windows Update and the process was pretty painless.  You just grab the file SP2CPPRK.cmd.remove from here at TechNet, change the name to SP2PPRK.cmd and run the file as administrator.  It installs a registry change that allows you to get the service pack from Windows Update.  Then run Windows Update which should show a 4.1M update called Windows Servicing Stack.  Its not the SP but it is needed to install the SP.  When the Servicing Stack update completes, tell Update to search for more updates and it should give you a 297.5M update called  Vista SP2 16497 for x86 (KB948465), then comes the download, install,reboot routine.

I will post more about my experiences with SP2 Beta as they unfold.  I am particularly interested in improvements that are supposed to be in this Service Pack:

  • improvements in wireless networking when the computer recovers from suspend
  • improved use of memory by desktop gadgets.

Vista SP1 Debacle Continues

As if delays and mishandling of the release were not bad enough, now MS has announced it is pulling a prerequisite upgrade for SP1 from Windows Update because it may cause some computers to go into an infinite reboot loop.  Lovely.

Look, I’d really like to be enthusiastic about Windows Vista.  Really I would.  I use it every day and it does a lot of stuff I like.  I like the way it looks, I like the way it runs on my laptop, it gets the job done an looks nice doing it.  But if I wholeheartedly accept Windows, then I tacitly accept all the boneheaded screwups leading up to Vista.

And what monumental screw ups.  Vista shipped after many delays without most of the highly touted features and with a large number of bugs.  Then the fixes take a year, but we can’t get the fix yet, oh wait, yes you can, oh no the prerequisite fixes for the fix are broken.

MS is also not doing anything to help those of us who like to tinker with computers and networks in our spare time embrace Windows.  MS is not cool.  They want to be in the data center (running Exchange and MSsql) and they want to be on the desktop of the average suburban home (making picture albums and posters for school fairs), but they have nothing for the high end hobbyist.

By way of example, part of the reason file copy was so slow in Vista was that it was optimized for transfers over high latency networks like the ones found in large companies.  On the gigabit network a hobbyist has at home, transfers were painfully slow.

Controls for the Vista firewall are simple and allow the average home user to at least have one in place.  But if I want to tweak (I am a hobbyist, therefor I want to tweak everything) it I have to get to the Group Policy editor and the controls are a mess, to say the least.

The bottom line is, that between the screwups and the lack of love shown to people who want to like Windows and Vista, MS is shooting itself in the foot.  Loyalty and trust are earned and MS’s accounts are badly in the red.

More on Vista SP1

I continue to monitor the status of the SP1 release and the more I hear, the more I don’t understand what MS is thinking.  They have said they want to maintain a high quality customer experience and that waiting for a general release of the SP until late March helps them accomplish that.  I fail to see how.

Surely, if there are a large number of drivers that would be compromised by the SP then I can understand why they would be reluctant to put the release in Windows Update until the OEM’s have a chance to change the drivers.  But it makes no sense to me why anyone who wants the bits shouldn’t have them now, given they are actually the final bits and will not change.

One poster on the Vista Team Blog who identifies himself as an ex Softie, notes it may take 3,4,5 weeks just to put up a download page because of the internal testing and development MS goes through.   While I surely believe MS to be a bloated bureaucracy,  the level of institutional pathology implied by an inability to put up an ftp download site quickly boggles the mind.  No wonder Vista missed every release target and still had problems.  There are distinct process problems at MS.

So what is it MS?  Is the SP really final?  If so, why can’t we have it officially if we are willing to take some risks? 

NOTE:  I use Vista as my primary day to day operating system and I switched to it from Linux.  I am currently running what I believe to be SP1 RTM.  I got a file named Windows6.0-KB936330-X86.exe from Windows Vista Forums (its no longer there, don’t bother).  The file is 455,562,200 bytes on my disk and the MD5 hash is D597866E93BC8F80ECCA234C4E9CE5A2 (this is for the 32 bit version).  The MD5 hash matched the hash given on the forum and also matches the hash for the 32 bit version given in a post on ZD-Net by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes.  It works fine, in fact great, but absent an official download source how can I really be sure.

Vista SP1, No Soup For You

Not a member of MSDN of TechNet Plus, an official SP1 beta tester or a volume licensee?  Then you’ll be waiting 6 more weeks for Vista SP1 RTM.  Bah and humbug.  What a lousy way to treat paying customers.  We’ve fixed the problems you asked us to fix, but guess what, you can’t have the fixes for 6 more weeks.

In a blog entry on Keith Combs’ Blahg Keith delivers himself of this gem,"If Microsoft chooses not to release some software when you think it should be released, we usually have a darn good reason for the decision."  Does that strike you as funny?  Darn good reasons don’t need to be secret.  That’s how they work and the reason why they are darn good reasons.  When people hear a darn good reason most of them know it for what it is and say, "Hey, that’s a darn good reason."

I don’t think there are any reasons most of Microsoft’s customers would accept as darn good for not releasing SP1 now.  Here’s what I think is going on.  SP1 breaks something in a key driver or drivers in equipment from one or more major MS OEM partner(s).  The break is not necessarily bad or fatal but if SP1 were released to the unwashed masses, support calls to the OEM(s) in question would go through the roof.  The OEM(s) asked for and got a reprieve to push out patches to drivers and MS agreed.

So the bottom line is that MS is willing to screw the installed base in order to make this/these OEM(s) happy. 

Microsoft Vista SP-1 Backlash

On February 4 MS announced they were releasing the much awaited Vista Service Pack 1 to Manufacturing.   What they did not mean, apparently, was that anyone would have access to the bits until mid-March in order to give device driver writers time to catch up with some issues identified between SP-1 and the specific device drivers in question.

The reaction around the web has been swift and brutal.  Especially checking on the Vista Blog the vast majority of the reactions were negative.  People who posted comments were concerned that MS trusted them to test the bits but did not trust them to use them.  Some IT professionals were concerned that the leak of the Service Pack via Bit-Torrent ahead of an official release would give hackers a lead in looking for loopholes over corporate deployments.

In my case, I’m just stunned by the idiocy of the whole thing.  If the bits are golden, why shouldn’t we have them?  If they aren’t golden, then why announce?  I can see an argument for not putting the SP-1 on Windows Update, but give those of us with a little technical savvy, your early adopters and testers, a chance to go ahead and play with the SP.

What's With Non-Configurable Interfaces?

Why has Microsoft decided we can no longer be trusted to configure our own interfaces? I was willing to consider using Office, now that I’m using Windows anyway, but the lack of the ability to configure the ribbon or to use a standard menu and toolbar was a non-starter for me.

But it didn’t stop there. Since I was using windows anyway, why not try using Internet Explorer? But can I configure its menus as I wish? No. I must use them as Microsoft wishes.

What do I mean specifically? Glad you asked? Here’s how I want my menu’s :

  1. File Menu across the top of the window, like God himself ordained.
  2. Next down a location bar with a forward, back, stop, refresh and print buttons to the left of the text entry box and a search box to the far right.
  3. Then a link bar.
  4. Last, but not least, tabs, in a bar that only appears when more than one tab is open.

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Windows Gripes

Since I posted the state of my Linux Gripes it seems only fair to weigh in on my current dislikes in Windows Vista, the more so since it is my day to day OS. I would not say they are critical gripes, but then neither are my Linux Gripes. Both are capable operating systems that can be used in production environments. Which you use will depend on which annoyances you are least sensitive to.

My first Windows Gripe is about configurability. Why the heck are things like the background for the login screen and icons buried in executables and dynamic link libraries? Why is the login background, not configurable to be any random graphics file from the registry or, better yet from the GUI? The same could be said for the task bar. Why can’t I apply a random image to be the background of the toolbar or pick an arbitrary color instead of using the weak control in the personalize menu?

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