Reboot: New Habit, New Machine

Ok, time to get this thing restarted.  I just need to make this a weekly habit.  I’ve been better at being able to form good, new habits recently – a Google search turns up varying answers for how long it takes.  I think it just takes conscious effort until it doesn’t.

So, there’s an interesting engineer-ism that I’ve seen be true more often than not: software will run best on whatever is on the engineer’s desk.  Well, here at work, for my Windows box, I’ve now been running Vista since it came out, and the 64-bit version of Vista for over a year.  (I spend equal time on my Macs, so don’t get any crazy ideas).  The machine here at work has two quad-cores in it, which is great for compiling, but is kind of overkill for Photoshop.  It’s got 8GB RAM in it, which isn’t overkill anymore.

Knowing that engineer-ism, I let that inform me when I recently bought a new machine for home.  I bet I’m like a lot of you when it comes to such things – I like to look for the best value I can get, including being fast enough so that the lifetime of the machine is a good, long time.

The machine I got is a workstation-class (nothing high-end, mind you, but not consumer-level either) refurbished machine.  It’s got a quad-core processor in it – not the fastest, but not far from it – 4GB ram, 3 hard drives (I couldn’t quite justify a NAS RAID setup at home… yet.  The machine came with 1 drive, I just moved the biggest, most recently purchased drives over from the old machine using a couple of SATA-IDE adapters).  I don’t do any 3D work, and most of the time, I use the machine remotely from downstairs, so the onboard video was good enough.  That’s always easy enough to upgrade later if need be.  I made sure that the motherboard supported 8GB of RAM, so I’m not hitting a wall there, either.

The machine came from a company which was proud of their "XP downgrade".  Blech.  I suspect it’s just because that’s what’s on most of their engineers desks.  Sorry, this geek likes Vista.  I like the faster boot, the more aggressive caching (unused RAM is wasted RAM), the fixed video driver model, and rock-solid stability.  Yes, everything got moved around from XP, and some of the moves still don’t make sense to me.  But things got moved around between NT and Win2k too, and I lived through that.

So, I looked through the pre-installed, uhm, software on the machine, didn’t see anything worth caring about.  I then went through my normal process for re-imaging a machine – bring up Add/Remove Programs on the old machine (yes, the renaming of that item in Vista still annoys me – it’s harder to find in the middle of the Control Panel menu – which I still always set up to be a big flat menu off the Start button list), walk through the programs list, writing down those applications which I remember being useful.  Then went and found updated drivers for the new machine (before re-installing the OS) , got them on a USB stick.  And finally, did a full, fresh install of the 64-bit version of Vista Ultimate.  Ah.  Much better.

Is moving to an 64-bit version of Vista for everybody?  My advice is the same as it’s always been: check for driver availability and software compatibility before leaping.  My personal perception is that driver availability for the 64-bit versions of Vista has changed dramatically over the summer, and I haven’t had an issue with the recent versions of the any of the software I use.  Your mileage may vary.  My 3-year-old laptop is still running XP precisely because of those caveats.

So, there you have it.  This engineer, on his main Windows machines, is running 64-bit editions of Vista.  Take it for what you will.