Upgrading from Vista to XP

Monday, February 4, 2008 by Mistlee

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Upgrading from Vista to XP

By Sean Corfield

As folks know, I bought Vista to run on VMware Fusion on my MacBook Pro. I'd felt it was slow and bloated but I figured I'd give it a good run to really make up my mind. What I like about Vista:

• The UI is nicer than XP. XP always felt like a cartoon and earlier versions of Windows were just... dull.

• The security level actually made me feel more comfortable about the integrity of the O/S. That said, it never alerted me to any suspicious activity or hacking attacks...

• In general, I found the organization of the O/S more intuitive - after the initial learning curve. It felt a bit more "Mac-like" in some indefinable way.

• It is stable. Much more stable than any previous version of Windows I've used (and I've used every version since 3.1). Apart from reboots for security updates (more on that below), I had Vista up and running for days, even weeks sometimes, just putting the Mac to sleep, switching networks without problems and so on. Rock solid.

But... You knew there was a "but", right?

What I don't like about Vista:

• It's just so godawful slow! Sometimes when it came back from hibernation it would thrash about for a full five minutes, repeatedly repainting parts of the screen, mostly with the CPU at 100%. Good grief! WTF is it doing? OK, I attributed some of this to running under VMware... but only some of it!

• It's a fat bastard! To run it even acceptably on VMware, it needed 768Mb and really it wanted more. It ran better with 1Gb allocated - as long as I had nothing else running on the Mac.

• It has a random tendency to just spin up the CPU to 100% for minutes at a time. Leave my processor alone you pig! I need it to do work! Common culprits were TrustedInstaller.exe (more on that below) and svchost.exe.

• For a completely rebuilt O/S that took so long to create, it sure needs a lot of security updates! I used to complain about XP but Vista really has proven to be a leaky ship that needs a steady, prolific stream of "critical" updates. At least fewer of them require reboots it seems.

• It has the most warped view of file system security I've ever encountered on any O/S. I've worked on certified secure Linux with far less hassle. Over the months, I've installed BlueDragon and ColdFusion and worked on a number of sites using Eclipse and SVN with Vista and every now and then, for absolutely no fathomable reason, it will decide that some new set of files cannot be read by ColdFusion / BlueDragon / Eclipse or some combination thereof. Into Windows Explorer I go and change the permissions on the files - and, yes Mr UAC I really do want to do that! It's a personal computer, they're my files, stop getting in my way and just let me work.

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Apart from that, it's been great. No, really, it has. But last week I needed to test a site in Internet Explorer 6. Yes, I know, it's old and Microsoft is set to "force" everyone up to IE7, but I needed to see how some CSS / JS degraded on IE6. So I built a new VM with XP SP2. I gave it 512Mb and ran it alongside the Vista VM (yes, three O/S all active at the same time!). The first thing that struck me (apart from the ghastly cartoon graphics of XP that I've always hated), was just how OMG fast XP was compared to Vista! I'd fire off a task in Vista, switch to XP and fire off the same task and when XP was done I'd switch back to Vista and it would be 30-50% complete. Try it in reverse with XP in the background but Vista still took longer every time. File copies, web page rendering, opening applications, everything. And in less memory.

So, instead of just using XP for occasional IE6 testing, I've decided to upgrade my Windows development environment from Vista to XP so that I can be more productive and get stuff done faster. It took me about a week to get BlueDragon, ColdFusion and SQL Server all playing nicely on Vista with a couple of sites. It took me just a couple of hours to get the same stack set up on XP (well, apart from a silly snafu with SQL Server that was entirely my fault - thank goodness for snapshots in VMware!).

I bought Vista back in June last year or thereabouts so I think I've given it a fair trial. So far, I'm very happy with the upgrade to XP. After the subtle gradients of Vista, the bright blues, greens and reds of XP are actually rather refreshing. And the performance improvement is amazing, especially since the upgrade requires less memory!

If you're having problems with Vista performance, you might want to consider upgrading to XP. While stocks last, of course. XP has proved so popular recently that it's almost impossible to get hold of...


About the Author:
Sean is currently Senior Computer Scientist and Team Lead in the Hosted Services group at Adobe Systems Incorporated. He has worked in the IT industry for nearly twenty-five years, first in database systems and compilers (serving eight years on the ANSI C++ Standards Committee), then in mobile telecoms, and finally in web development. Sean is a staunch advocate of software standards and best practices, and is a well-known and respected speaker on these subjects. Sean has championed and contributed to a number of ColdFusion frameworks, and is a frequent publisher on his blog, http://corfield.org/

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