March 11th, 2007

#307: New computer, 23 hours later

I haven't been able to use it quite as much as I've wanted to. I've been sleeping.

But overall my user experience has not been bad. I have about a billion little adjustments to make, plus at least 20 software packages to install; also I have to figure out how I'm going to connect my other system to this one via a network cable so I can copy things over.

After using Windows ME for six years, it's taking me some time to get used to Windows Vista. It's really different. ME was built on Win 95/98, after all.

So here I am with 21st century computer using a 21st century operating system.

It occurred to me earlier this morning that if this computer doesn't like my old keyboard and mouse, it is just possible that the upgrade components I bought didn't like them, either. Wouldn't that be a crock? My trusty IBM 1390 has never failed to work with any computer it was plugged into, but it is 20 years old. Maybe it draws too much power for these new-fangled contraptions....

Well, I have this expectation about devices. If a motherboard has sockets for Mini-DIN keyboard and mouse connectors, I expect that the motherboard will operate with devices which have those connectors.

The new machine has about 10 USB ports, 2 firewire ports, and a front-panel media card reader. I haven't even really begun to connect or attach things, either--printer, scanner, webcam, etc, etc. I'm going to need another hard drive (SATA).

And it's so quiet. It's so quiet I worry that it's not being kept cool enough, despite the humongous heat sink on the processor. I'll probably be looking into adding another fan, too, especially once I've gotten another hard drive in there.

So far I have not noticed any difference in speed. But, so far, all I have really done is browse the internet, write a couple of blog entries, and chat via Yahoo! Messenger, none of which ever taxed the capacity of my 1 GHz P3.

The one frustration I've had, so far, is with the TV out on the video card. It doesn't work, and I don't know why it doesn't work...yet. Digging through the documentation is on the list....

#308: Vista Stupidities

...actually it's not really Vista's fault. But it is annoying.

First I installed Neverwinter Nights (NwN). I go to run the game...and then get a pop-up from Vista telling me that the program will screw up Vista, so Vista won't allow it to run. Fine; I go to Bioware's web site for a patch...and there is no patch. Bioware hopes--hopes, that's the word they used--to patch NwN to work with Vista "in the future".

I was really looking forward to seeing NwN on this machine--the niftier hardware should have let me turn up all the video options to their highest settings, which would have looked good--but now I must continue to run it on the P3 and hope that Bioware gets around to making NwN Vista-compatible.

Well, all right, then. I set about installing some other software. I went to HP to get Vista software for my ScanJet 4300c--

"We recommend that you consider a new scanner."


Considering how often I use my scanner, buying a new one really isn't warranted. But, what the hell, I thought--I'll download the XP drivers. I've had good luck with using XP drivers for my wireless NIC; maybe I'll get lucky.

I ran the XP DRIVER INSTALL PROGRAM, and it said--I wish I were making this up!--This install program requires Windows 98 or ME.


I know for a fact that I'm not the only person who remembers when HP made stuff that worked. Randy Milholland used that as a browser window header for a week or so: "I remember when HP made stuff that worked." That's where I got the line from, for crying out loud.

In the survey box at the bottom of the download page, I told them that the driver download went flawlessly and that their web site had utterly failed to solve my problem.

In the comments box, I told them about the error message, and then I said:

"I remember when HP made stuff that worked. What utter junk."

If I had been thinking I would have added, "If I DO buy a new scanner, it will NOT be made by HP."

I mean, okay, yeah--my scanner is 7 years old. But I'm supposed to junk a perfectly adequate and usable piece of hardware solely because the manufacturer wants to sell me a new one? I don't think so! Back when I was a computer technician HP was still supporting products that were 10 years old--and updating XP drivers to run under Vista should not be all that damn complicated. Hell, I would be satisfied just to be able to use the XP drivers.

I fared better with the printer drivers. That went swimmingly. It literally took me longer to find a USB cable than it did to install the drivers--and in fact I ended up using the USB cable for the scanner since I'm obviously not going to be using it for a while.

Also on the plus side, the $10 analog speakers that I got with the computer have better stereo separation than the $80 Boston Acoustics digital speakers that came with the P3 in 2001. They have less bass (no subwoofer) but still sound very good.

The system's base 512 MB of RAM is a bit lackluster. Vista--like all previous iterations of Windows--is a memory hog. Where XP finds 512 MB comfortable--and Windows ME finds 512 MB approximately cavernous--under Vista I hear my hard drive rattling a lot when I switch applications. That means "virtual memory access" and that's not good for overall throughput. Looks like the first thing I'll need is an extra couple gigabytes of memory--but I expected that when I ordered the system, so there are no surprises there.

I haven't even tried to install Word 2000 yet. We'll see how that goes. The e-mail application included with Vista seems adequate for my needs; I just hope I can import my old Outlook Express e-mail archives.

The latest version of WinAmp includes some really neat visualizations.

Finally, this new mouse and keyboard are really taking some getting used to. Well, I'll mangage.