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The Life of P

Tag: vista

Service Pack Avoidance

Following the furore surrounding the release of Service Pack 2 for Windows XP, I gave it a very wide berth for about half a year before eventually installing it. Those issues largely surrounded the introduction of Windows Firewall (turned on by default in SP2) and in hindsight I came to respect the developers’ view which can be summed up as “enabling the firewall is inevitably going to break some things, so let’s make sure we break everything at once and then it’s done.” By the time I installed SP2 the process was pretty seamless and updates to my firewall software (still Norton back then) provided a quick solution to immediately switch off Windows Firewall and continue as before.

A cursory glance over the contents of the first Service Pack for Windows Vista shows nothing major at all for those who have kept their systems up-to-date. Since it largely deals with under-the-hood speed and stability issues I figured it would be safe enough to install at Windows Update’s suggestion, particularly since a public beta test had already occurred. Apparently I was wrong. After two attempts to install it, I’ve given up and will instead leave it well alone until either I hear the widespread issues have been resolved or it is actually forced upon us by Windows Update. What was my experience? One attempted installation caused a blue screen, failing halfway through. The second installation ran fine, taking about 40 minutes and reaching 100% in each of the 3 stages. After which, inexplicably, a message appeared stating “Service pack not installed” and rolled back again, which took it about half an hour. No error messages, nothing to explain why or even what on earth it was doing in those 3 stages if that didn’t constitute a full installation. The internet is now flooded with similar experiences, with one suggestion being that it may be caused the by the (very common) Realtek integrated audio chipset. I need to by a sound card to install an OS service pack!? The short version is really the common sense approach I should have followed: avoid Vista SP1 for as long as possible until all the kinks get sorted out.

UPDATE: Microsoft’s official advice is now to leave SP1 until mid-April, though Windows Update is still suggesting it.

I Dream of DeskScapes

One of the few minor perks gifted to users of the rather overpriced “Ultimate” flavour of Vista was that of animated wallpapers called “dreams”. Although not an entirely novel concept, it was impressive in its low use of system resources since it made use of the fact the OS now has direct access to the computer’s graphics card. Now this is available to all Vista users* through Stardock’s DeskScapes. This is no cheap knock-off or mimicry either — Stardock are the people who developed the .DREAM format in the first place. Presumably their exclusivity period to Vista Ultimate has now expired.

DeskScapesDeskScapes is a fairly small application that integrates fully so that you can pick animated wallpapers through the usual wallpaper selection interface. The model appears to be that the free version will only allow specific bundled dreams while the paid version (around $20) will support scores of fantastic user-created downloads. The current preview release contains just 3, only one of which is worth using but it alone sells the concept with a beautiful sunset scene — imagine those blades of grass billowing gently in the breeze with the light playing realistically off the surface. Presumably the final version due later this month will include several more. The standalone price is low but I imagine most won’t be willing to pay for such a focused application. However it will also form part of the Object Desktop package that allows complete customisation of virtually every element of the Windows interface.

Speaking of Stardock, one of their developers wrote an interesting article in response to the recent discussion about the state of PC gaming and the effect of piracy. Many major developers and publishers decry piracy as being the chief architect of the downfall of PC game development but Stardock, who deliberately distribute games without any form of DRM, argue otherwise, showing strong sales despite the ease with which the game could be copied. The suggestion is that if you treat your paying customers well, they will reward you. The pirates, meanwhile, should simply be ignored in all business decisions as falling outside the market.

* There appear to be limitations under Vista Basic since it cannot run Aero.

"Luck is the residue of design."

(CC) BY-NC 2004-2021 Priyan Meewella

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