Abandon All Fear

What nobody else seems to be saying…

[Vista Flop] Watching The World Pass By…

Posted by Lex Fear on May 4, 2007

… and not blogging about it is easier than I thought. I’ve plateaued and I can’t seem to muster the motivation to start a topic.

But it’s not like I haven’t been busy. I’ve been writing a lot of letters recently- which I will post later. I’ve also been experimenting with GIMP (which is the open source alternative to Photoshop). I’m aiming to spice up the graphics and interactivity on the website a little if I can.

I should mention how the Vista upgrade went. It was part of the offer from PC World when I bought my Packard-Bell (or as Mrs Fear would correct me- our Packard-Bell). Windows Vista Home Premium took about 3 or 4 hours to uprgrade and I have to say it was disappointing at first.

My first “Vista Experience”TM greeted me with a bunch of software compatibility errors for some of my startup programs. Sure that’s to be expected, but then I was affronted by Vista’s new beefed up Security Center with User Account Control Club Bouncer. In fact the Bouncer popped up every time I tried to do something even remotely administrative. The screen darkens, which I’m going to call the Dark Screen of Doom, and a diologue pops up asking me if I want to do what I want to do. I click continue, then it asks me for the Admin password. Well I am the Admin, (but my own username) and put in my password. Sorry, you do not have enough permissions!

To give you an idea, imagine queuing to get in a nightclub. At the door, the bouncer takes you aside and pats you down, sweeps you with a wand for any concealed weapons then, asks you if you want to go in. You say:
“Yes”, and he lets you in.

Now you’re in you can party right? Wrong. When you try to go to the dance floor, the bouncer stops you again, pats you down, sweeps you with the wand, then asks you if you want to go on the dance floor. You say:
“Yes”, then he says:
“No, sorry you can’t dance here”.

So then you try to head for the bar. Once again the bouncer has to pat you down, sweep you for weapons, then ask you
“Do you want to go to the bar?”
“Yes” you reply.
“Sorry, I can’t let you go to the bar.” You are now a bit frustrated and you inquire as to how you can get to the bar. He tells you that you need to have the VIP pass. You show him your VIP pass (which you showed at the door). He then tells you you’ve got to go out of the club and come back in dressed like a VIP- and go through all the same security procedures again!

Now as I mentioned, I was the Admin, but XP does have a secret Administrator account, usually visible when you boot in Safe Mode. What I discovered next was that Vista had removed the the secret Adminstrator account. That made me the uber-administrator and yet it was not letting me take control.

It took a few reboots for Vista to function properly. Like getting the control panel to open when I clicked on it. But the UAC Bouncer still didn’t recognise my Admin account VIP pass. So fortunately, and for some bizarre reason, Vista still let me in msconfig. From there I was able to instruct it to boot in safe mode with minimum drivers. Once in Safe Mode, I proceeded to get into the things that the Bouncer wouldn’t let me in- firewall, networking, UAC, program files and a bunch of other stuff. From here I could finally switch off UAC slay the Bouncer. But Vista Bouncer is pretty hard, and it took a few safemode reboots to finally get him to stay down.

Once the bouncer was dead, it was time to try and connect to the internet. I have a wireless setup but for some reason I could not log on to the internet or the router. What was stranger still is I could browse other computers in my network no problem, and I could ping the router and websites outside of the network. After hours of surfing forums and hacking regedit, constant reboots made me tired of the same conflict messages from my startup programs. So I removed Ashampoo Spam Guard, Avast! antivirus and Ashampoo Firewall. Bang- it logged straight online.

Next was removing some old XP specific software, or just software that I wasn’t going to need now I had Vista. I found Vista’s ‘Programs & Features’ to be problematic. Basically, it wouldn’t install anything new and it wouldn’t remove anything. No the bouncer had not risen again, this was plain old folder permissions.

Vista’s user account control and file management has grown into a monster. It now takes your documents folder and splits it from other things like your music. What’s more the whole operating system has erred on the side of ‘this user doesn’t know what they are doing’ and decided to protect all your directories and programs by only allowing Admin (which is not you) access to read or write. I could not change the shares on my own files. It locks you out of directories like program files, and other users.

So, back into safe mode. This time, I go into my documents and take full ownership and control. I then go into my wifes user account and take full control. I share both. I go to program files. Now this is owned by the Installation Manager. I take full ownership of that, then I go into the directory and remove the programs I want. After that I then go into regedit and remove all keys relating to the software I just deleted. This does the trick. Uninstall Manager can now do it’s job because I gave it permission to.

Finally, I have a Vista system I can control, add or remove software and access the internet my way. But there’s still the issue of supported software. You may be surprised to discover that the BSOD still exists in Vista. It happened when I was doing random tasks like clicking on “File” in Open Office and other programs. This is fixed by uninstalling the software and getting the latest from the web, and doing a fresh install. If a fresh install doesn’t work, I’ve found going into properties of the setup file, compatibility and then selecting to run the program in compatibility mode for Windows XP, which does the trick.

I have to say at some point between the Bouncer and Internet connection, I almost gave up and was going to switch to Ubuntu, or some similar Linux OS. Almost. For those who may be in a similar position, and thinking of crossing the line, there is an excellent tutorial from H Consumer- 30 Days With Linux. Installating Ubuntu is not without some of it’s own bugs, but there’s plenty of support available- better than Microsofts I’d say.

On the whole, once Vista is working, and the Bouncer is dead, it’s admittedly (so far) a pleasant experience. Vista runs in your graphic card memory, so there’s virtually no hanging while you open multiple windows or programs (right now I have 2 folders, Firefox, Thunderbird, GIMP, Winamp and Bearshare open, which would cause XP to grumble but Vista handles it smoothly). Vista is about eye-candy and I like the alternative window switch now, which allows you to toggle through full screen images of your open windows, even whilst playing a AVI file, which still keeps playing with no jitters.

When programs do crash (oh yes they still do), the dialogs seem to be a little more helpful, and offer you the chance to try and fix the problem. What is annoying is that anytime I try to play video in VLC, DivX or PowerDVD it switches the screen to Windows Basic colours. I’m sure this is less to do with compatibility and more to do with DRM and trying to make you use Media Player. But the playback doesn’t suffer.

And that’s my Vista Experience.
And thus ends my Tech blogging, as I know your all dying to read more controversy from the mind of Alex Fear.

I’ll try to get back into blogging soon, looking at my stats, I seem to have suffered a decline in readership (could it be this that offended my readers?), I’m assuming that you’ll all come back when I start blogging regularly again. Interesting thought, if someone is reading your RSS feed, then how would you know? If anyone reading this has an idea- I’d love to hear in the comments.

I have got to get over my addiction to RSS.

4 Responses to “[Vista Flop] Watching The World Pass By…”

  1. Sounds like a typical Packard Bell experience. I would put the blame at PB’s door for almost-breaking XP to such an extent that even the mighty Vista couldn’t recover.

  2. Lex Fear said

    Interesting you say that. When I first got this machine it had PB’s intergrated installation thingy which didn’t seem to run correctly due to my not having an internet connection. I kept getting a full screen “registration complete” that would cut in the middle of whatever I was doing.PB also have the cheek to to ask you to provide the DVD to create an emergency boot disk, rather than supplying one with the machine.Seemed to work when I found the processes and then deleted the executables that started the processes.

  3. The sort of geekery that would have been entirely unnecessary if they’d just left well alone!

  4. […] blogged about my first taste of Vista’s heavy handed UAC back in May when I first upgraded. This was Microsofts answer to Linux root user, but the […]

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