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The Dell XPS M1530 Experience

April 15, 2008 by · 30 Comments 

My first big purchase online was in 2000 when I purchased the Acer TravelMate 508T laptop for RM5000+. Having a laptop with a 12.1 TFT screen with a 500 MHz processor was kind of exciting back then.

For a while the laptop served me well but it wasn’t long before problems started to crop up. I had to repair the hinges twice; which cost me around RM300 each time. While the laptop is still working today, I’ve stopped using it a couple of years back when the hinges broke again for the third time.

It’s also obvious that at 500 MHz, the processor won’t be able keep up with the demand of today’s CPU hungry software.

Since then every time I travel, I would leave my work behind which was good because I could concentrate on having a break instead of thinking about work.

Fast forward 8 years later, the demand of work requires me to be online more frequently, and so I decided it’s time to get a new laptop – yes it took me that long to buy another laptop lol. I am not really a fan of working from a cyber café due to security reasons. Who knows what people have installed or rather, have not installed on the public terminals that could prevent others from spying your online activities.

I had no choice but to go online if I wanted to get the latest hardware at an affordable price. So I headed to my favorite online computer store at Dell.com.my and waited a few weeks for any deals that tickles my fancy.

When it comes to purchasing computer hardware, the best time to buy is now. However I was hoping to get a laptop equipped with Intel’s first five 45 nanometer (nm) processors, codenamed “Penryn” and that’s what the waiting was for.

Intel’s press release says “All of these new chips include the company’s new transistor formula and 45nm manufacturing process that boost a PC’s speed, reduces power requirements, saves on battery life, helps the environment and comes in smaller packages for more fashionable and compact computer designs”. That’s the marketing department talking. But it’s still good to get the latest processor nonetheless.

Soon enough the dual core 2.5GHz T9300 and 2.6GHz T9500 featuring 6MB of L2 cache were rolled out of Dell Malaysia assembly line. When it comes to choosing a processor, I usually settle for the “second fastest” processor which I think is good enough for my long term needs as the 2.6GHz would have cost me an arm and a leg.

There’s an option to add a Blu-ray drive but since I don’t usually watch movies on my laptop I chose not to add one. In addition it’ll add an extra RM2000 to the laptop price. The option to add a 64GB solid state hard drive was enticing but I figured the performance gain won’t justify the extra RM3000 price tag as well as its small storage capacity.

After doing some research, I settled for the Dell XPS M1530 laptop. Personally I think it is one of the sexiest laptops I have ever seen. Sure some people may argue that the Apple MacBook Air wins hand down in the design department.

 

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While the Dell’s laptop can’t beat the MacBook Air ultrathin form factor, with the same price tag I am paying for my Dell laptop, I would had got a 13 inch screen, 80GB hard drive with a 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor MacBook Air. I know some people don’t mind paying for a lower specs system just to enjoy the status symbol but I guess for me practicality wins 🙂

Besides, as a Windows software developer, there’s no much point using Mac OS X as my OS environment.

So here’s my laptop specs

  • Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo Processor T9300, 2.5GHz, 6MB Cache, 800 MHz FSB
  • Genuine Windows Vista(R) Ultimate 32 bit (English)
  • 15.4" Widescreen WXGA+ (1440×900) TFT Display with TrueLife(TM)
  • Midnight Blue LCD display with Integrated 2.0 mega pixel web cam
  • 3GB (1X1GB+1X2GB) 667MHz Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM
  • 250GB SATA Hard Drive
  • Internal 8X DVD+/-RW Combination Drive with dual layer write capabilities
  • 256MB NVIDIA(R) GeForce(R) 8600M GT
  • Palmrest with Fingerprint Reader
  • Intel(R) 4965AGN Wireless-N Mini-Card
  • 6-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery
  • Dell(TM) Bluetooth Travel Mouse

The total cost inclusive of delivery to East Malaysia is RM7218.00. The price includes Office 2007 Professional OEM which adds RM1015 to the base price.

Instead of opting for the 4GB RAM, I opted for 3GB RAM forgoing the ability to run the memory at dual channel which may improve performance. I’ve read somewhere that having a dual channel, matched 2 x 1GB pairing will be faster but then again the gain would depend on your other hardware as well.

Hardcore gamers and those primarily running CPU intensive applications would likely benefit from a dual channel setup. Then again the performance increase by having more RAM (eg. 3GB at 1x1GB + 1x2GB) would probably outweigh a lesser amount but faster RAM (eg. 2GB at 2x1GB ).

You can learn more about dual channel memory here.

Anyway, just for fun check out my Windows Experience Index. Obviously the slower 3.2GHz processor limits my desktop’s base score. However I could hardly tell the difference in performance when doing normal tasks as both systems are as fast as they could be.

 

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Here are some pictures of the Dell XPS M1530.

 

Shipment took less than a week to arrive at my address once the manufacturing build was completed. The online price has dropped RM300 a few days ago which kind of irritating for me but that’s how things are. There’s always a better and cheaper system around the corner.

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What’s in the box? From left: Belkin Home Series MasterCube with 25,000 Max Spike Amperage; manuals, software and accessories; Belkin Sling Bag; and the laptop itself.

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The sexy Dell XPS M1530 with a built-in 2.0 MP web cam.

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There are three USB ports, 8-in-1 media card reader, a single FireWire port, 1 ExpressCard Slot, an HDMI-out port and other ports you would expect from a high end system.

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View from the back. The metallic finish gives it a solid and distinct feel of quality and luxury. (Ok I started to sound like a salesman here lol)

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The Belkin Sling Bag which I ordered separately includes a handphone compartment in the shoulder strap. It’s sure handy but my Nokia N95 is too big to fit in there.

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Thick inner lining created using soft material protects laptop from scratches. I actually prefer the Belkin Messenger Bag but the only colour available was Dove/Pink which is too girly for me 🙂

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Dell XPS M1530.

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My workspace showing the Dell XPS laptop alongside the Dell Dimension 8400 desktop.

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Check out the full review of the Dell XPS M1530 at Notebookreview.com and PCMag.com.

5 Quick Tricks to Create Thousands of Memorable & Secure Passwords

August 8, 2007 by · 13 Comments 

Perhaps, the easiest way to ‘remember’ all your passwords is to use password manager software like RoboForm. Alternatively, the built-in password manager in most browsers should suffice most for most people.

However if you are after something more natural that involves the use of your memory, here are some tips to help you out.

Using your memory has its advantage in that you can still login to any website even from a computer that doesn’t have access to your password manager data.

The following are five quick tips to help you create a secure and easy to remember password. Most of the tricks involved coming up with a general rule and use it to generate a password that appears to be random.

 

Consonants & Vowels

Choose a base password and combine it with the first two consonants and the first two vowels of the domain name. If your base password it QWER, for mail.yahoo.com the first two consonants are ML and first two vowels are AI, so your password would be QWERMLAI

 

Words Shifting

This technique involves shifting a word up, down, left or right one row on the keyboard. Choose a base password then combine it with the shifted words of the service name.

In case of Blogger.com and with a base password say ASDF, just use the keys to the left of the keys in BLOGGER to produce VKIFFWE. So your password would be ASDFVKIFFWE

 

Use Your Date of Birth

Select a base password; say your nick name that not many people know of. Then combine it with the first three letters of the domain name and transform any other letter into your date of birth.

If your secret nick name is TUDOI, your password for Amazon.com in its initial form would be TUDOIAMA. Then transform every other letter into your date of birth. If you are born on 1 January 1980 (1180), your final password would be T1D1I8M0.

To make you password more secure, instead of using an easily identifiable numbers such as your date of birth, you could use the time of your birth.

 

Create Acronyms from Your Favourite Song

This method involves creating acronyms from words in a song or any other phrase that has meaning to you and combines it with the first and last letter of the domain name and the number of character in the domain name.

Say your favourite song is Home by Chris Daughtry, you can use the “Well I’m going home” WIGH, You password for Sabahan.com would be WIGHSN7

 

Use a Phrase That Has Numbers In The Middle

Come up with your own acronym from a phrase that has numbers in the middle. Then combine it with the first and last letter of the domain name.

For example the phrase “I have three sons and two daughters” would become IH3SA2D. In case of PayPal.com, your password would be PIH3SA2DL.

 

You should not use the example passwords above as your own as they have been published publicly.

Keep in mind that each service has its own password requirements in terms of characters allowed and length. You could combine these rules or create your own rules that suit your needs.

To create better and secure password, you should

  • Include both uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Include alphabetic characters (A-Z), numbers(0-9) and symbols (@#$%^&())
  • Do not use a dictionary word or common name
  • Create a password with at least 6-8 characters
  • Change your password frequently

Official Alexa Toolbar for Firefox Released – What You Should Know

July 23, 2007 by · 7 Comments 

In case you don’t know about this already, Alexa has released a toolbar for Firefox. What this means is that more Firefox users can now be counted towards a site’s overall Alexa ranking. This will effectively improves the accuracy of the Alexa ranking as more Firefox users decide to install the toolbar.

Previously, the official Alexa toolbar only exists for Internet Explorer.

Once installed, the toolbar sits quietly in your browser status bar at the bottom right showing a site traffic trend, reach meter and traffic rank. In addition, a new related links menu is added to your browser menu bar.

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I feel the traffic trend information is too small to be useful. Unless I can see how a site traffic trend compares to others, I might as well visit Alexa to view and compare traffic trends.

While the official Alexa toolbar has just been released, the unofficial one has been around for quite sometime. A Firefox extension for Alexa called SearchStatus offers almost everything the official toolbar has and more.

The SearchStatus does affect Alexa ranking as stated in the download page. Its users form part of the panel of toolbar users that contribute towards Alexa statistics.

For every web page you visit while using SearchStatus (excluding secure domains and those you have configured as private), certain information, including your ip address, the url of the web page you visit, and general information about your browser and computer’s operating system will be transmitted from your computer to Alexa. Some of the url’s you visit, which are transmitted to Alexa, will contain information that is personally identifiable.

If you are concern about your privacy, Alexa claims that it doesn’t attempt to analyse web usage data to determine the identity of any user. Basically you just have to trust them not to misuse your browsing habit information.

 

Is Alexa Traffic Rank Important?

To the general Internet surfers, Alexa traffic rank means almost nothing really. But if you are trying to sell advertising on your website, it’s important to have a good Alexa ranking. This is because Alexa is used by many advertising companies when evaluating how much your blog’s worth. Having a good Alexa ranking puts you in a better position to demand (or enjoy) higher payouts.

In addition you could use Alexa information to confirm if someone is telling the truth about his site traffic level. For example if a site claims it gets 50,000 unique visitors a day, and it’s ranked about one million on Alexa, this guys is probably lying.

You can further verify this with the site’s Google PageRank and inbound links. Surely a site that gets that many visitors per day would have a higher PR and tons of inbound links.

Alexa traffic rank has its drawback in that it only counts visits from users who surf with their toolbar installed. Since those who install Alexa are usually the tech savvy type, a site caters towards webmasters typically enjoys a better Alexa ranking than a gardening website for example even though they both have the same number of daily visitors.

How to Use Smart Keywords to Search Any Website Right From the Firefox Location Bar

July 18, 2007 by · 9 Comments 

Here’s another cool tip for Firefox I came across recently. If you have a favourite website where you search frequently, a feature called Smart Keywords will let you search that website right from the Location bar.

Let say you are always curious to know any blog’s Technorati ranking and you visit Technorati.com all the time to do the search. Normally, you go to Technorati.com and click in the search box and enter domain name and click Search .

Smart keyword will make these steps redundant. To create a Smart Keyword for Technorati.com, visit their page and right click on the search field.

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Choose Add a Keyword for this Search… The Add Bookmark dialog will appear. Enter a name for the Bookmark, e.g. “Technorati”, and give it a keyword, e.g. “tc” and save the bookmark.

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Anytime you want to search a blog Technorati ranking, just enter tc blogname.com into the Location bar and press Enter. You’ll be taken to Technorati search result right away!

Of course you can create Smart Keyword for any of your favourite sites that you search frequently, alexa.com, bittorrent site, Amazon.com, Sabahan.com and so on.

 

Add Keyboard Shortcuts to Your Firefox Bookmarks for Quicker Access

July 16, 2007 by · 7 Comments 

If you’ve been spending time on the Internet for any amount of time, I am sure you have a handful websites or blogs that you visit daily for a dose of information or inspiration. For most people, typing the domain name in the address bar or lunging for the mouse to access the bookmarked site would be the routine.

Those who are a fan of keyboard shortcuts will be happy to know that you can actually access your bookmarks faster using a nifty feature in Firefox which allows you to give a bookmark a shortcut.

Even if you are not a fan of keyboard shortcuts, this feature will save you a lot of time daily. I’ve been using it for a couple a days, and I am completely hooked.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you are an avid reader of Sabahan.com, ahem…, and it’s one of the first sites you visit when you launch your browser.

If you haven’t bookmarked it already, press CTRL+D or select Bookmark This Page … under the Bookmarks menu. Once that’s done, go to the Sabahan.com bookmark and right click on it and select Properties from the popup menu.

 

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In the Keyword field of the Properties dialog, enter a keyword, let’s enter “sb” (without the quotation mark). Then press OK to close the dialog box.

 

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Next time when you want to access Sabahan.com, just enter sb into your address bar and press Enter. Lo and behold you’ll whisk away to Sabahan.com in no time.

This feature becomes even more useful when combined with other Firefox keyboard shortcuts.

For example, if I want to access my Site Meter account while browsing a website. I’ll press CTRL+T to open a new tab, then type sm and press Enter. It usually takes me about two seconds to do that.

See Google Search Results By Country with Google Global Firefox Extension

July 14, 2007 by · 5 Comments 

RedFly Marketing has released a Firefox extension that let you see what searchers in other countries are seeing for a particular search.

You can also use it to compare organic search results in different countries or if you want to see how your AdWords PPC campaigns appear in different regions.

Previously, I’ve been manually appending &gl=country to the query string in my search URL to view the search results in a particular country. For example, if I want to see who are paying for the keyword “free stuff” in the US, I constructed the following:

http://www.google.com/search?q=free+stuff&gl=US

In contrast, the local search returns only one or no AdWords competitor for that keyword.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=free+stuff

This information helps you get a better feel how the competitions are in other countries and adjust your AdWords campaign accordingly.

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10 Cool Firefox Keyboard Shortcuts

July 13, 2007 by · 13 Comments 

Like most software, you can access all of Mozilla Firefox features via the menu bar or the in context popup menu with your mouse.

However, sometimes using a mouse actually slows you down. The precious seconds it takes to move you hand away to move you mouse can add up over the course of a full day. You can save time and avoid reaching for the mouse if you are familiar with keyboard shortcuts.

The following keyboard shortcuts will make web browsing with Firefox even more fun and productive.

 

  1. Access Your Favorite Websites Quickly

    If you have been typing the http://www prefix and .com domain extension into your browser address all this while when trying to access a website, you can avoid this extra step by going to your address bar, then type the middle portion of the desired address, and press CTRL+Enter

    As an example, if you type “sabahan” and press CTRL+Enter, you will land on http://www.sabahan.com

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    In addition, you can press SHIFT+Enter to go to a .net site and CTRL+SHIFT+Enter to a .org site.

     

  2. Jump to The Address Bar

    Press ALT+D to quickly jump to the address bar. Alternatively, you can use CTRL+L to do the same.

    This shortcut comes in handy when combined with the previous shortcuts.

     

  3. Jump to Google bar To Search

    If you have a Google search bar installed in your browser, you can use CTRL+K to quickly jump to the text box and perform a search immediately.

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    I find this one a handy time saver.

     

  4. Go Back One Page in Your Browser History

    Instead of pointing your mouse to Firefox ‘back” button to go back to the previous page, just use your backspace key.

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  5. Open a Link in a New Window

    To launch a new window with a link, most users will click the link and select “Open Link in New Window”.

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    A faster way of doing this is to hold SHIFT while you click on the link.

     

  6. Open/Close a Tab

    Opening several tabs simultaneously for browsing enables power users to be more productive. Now instead of using the popup menu or lunging for your “open new tab” button as shown below, use CTRL+T to launch a new tab.

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    Alternatively, double clicking empty space on the Tab Bar will open a new tab. The middle click/mouse wheel click on a tab will close that tab without the need to point your mouse on the “close tab” icon.

     

  7. Open a Link in a New Tab

    You can use middle click / mouse wheel click to open a link in a new tab. While this is not a keyboard shortcut, it’s one of my favourite shortcuts.

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    For those without middle mouse buttons or mouse wheels, you can press CTRL while clicking a link to open it in a new tab.

     

  8. Open Your Home Page In a New Tab

    Use the middle click / mouse wheel click on the Home button to open your homepage in a new tab.

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    Those without middle mouse buttons or mouse wheels can press CTRL while click on the Home button to do the same.

     

  9. View Selection Source

    You can view the source code of a section of a page by holding down CTRL and left click on the part of a web page to highlight that section. Then right click on the selection and select “View Selection Source” to view the source code for that particular selection.

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  10.  

  11. Reopen Previously Closed Tab

    Using the tab bar right click menu to undo a closed a tab is a tad slower when compare to using this shortcut.

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    You can reopen recently closed tab by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+T.

 

With these shortcuts you can now enjoy faster and more productive browsing with Firefox!

Analyze Any Website Performance Right from Your Browser with SearchStatus

June 28, 2007 by · 5 Comments 

SearchStatus is a toolbar extension that adds a new functionality to your Firefox and Mozilla browsers in that it allows you to easily see how any site is performing.

Once installed, SearchStatus sits unobtrusively on your status bar. You can view any info about a website by left clicking on the extension to access its popup menu as shown below.

 

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The performance information includes the site’s Alexa popularity ranking, Alexa incoming link, Alexa related links, and backward links from Google, Yahoo and MSN.

 

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In addition, you can view the site’s Google PageRank, Google related links, and Google cache.

 

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That’s not all; you can even view the site’s Whois information, Meta Tags, Keyword Density, robots.txt and so on.

 

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While any of this information can be accessed in many other ways, SearchStatus makes it easier for you by making everything accessible with a mouse click rendering many other webmaster tools redundant.

I’ve been using this SearchStatus extension for a while. At a glance, I am able to determine if a website is as popular as the owner claims it to be. So if you are like me who’s checking the status of any website quite frequently to see its link importance and traffic level, this is the tool for you.

Download SearchStatus here

How to Install Windows Vista on a Separate Partition and Dual Boot It With Windows XP

June 21, 2007 by · 9 Comments 

I upgraded my operating system to Windows Vista Ultimate a few days ago without having to wipe Windows XP from my hard disk. It involved installing Vista on a separate partition in my hard disk so that I can still run Windows XP anytime I like.

By doing so, I’ll have an OS to fall back to in case my Windows Vista installation goes horribly wrong. But I didn’t have a choice, I would have to make Vista works and I am glad it did.

This method works if you have a PC running Windows XP and you want to install Windows Vista from its installation DVD to have both OS dual boot.

For those who don’t know, dual boot is the ability to boot your computer using one of two different operating systems.

 


First Thing First

Like everything that has to do with hard drive repartitioning, it’s a risky business. You could end up with a corrupted hard drive that will render your data unusable. So it goes without saying that first thing you should do is to backup, I repeat BACKUP your data.

This is paramount especially if you are, like me, who’s crazy enough to perform the partitioning on my production PC.

For that I am using a 300GB external hard drive attached to my PC via USB 2.0 to backup my data.

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Use anything you like as long as you back up all your important data.

 


Partition Your Hard Drive

There’s no built-in tool in XP that could help you partition your hard drive without wiping out your data. If you happen to have Norton’s Partition Magic laying around, you could use that.

I found another way to do this for free using GParted Live CD. It’s a free partition manager available as a live CD that can be run directly from your CD Rom drive. It could create, resize, delete your hard drive partitions as well as its non free counterpart.

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Here’s a good introduction to GParted Live CD from Linux.com

Now create a new primary partition with at least 20 GB in size to install Windows Vista on. Since I’ve a large empty space, I’ve created a 110 GB partition for this purpose.

Keep in mind that reducing your main XP partition size won’t create a new working partition automatically. You’ll have to set the unassigned space as a ‘New’ primary partition and format it as NTFS filesystem.

Play around with the interface first before committing with the changes.

 

Time to Install Vista

Do not run the Vista installation DVD while XP is running, you’ll end up installing it on top of your existing XP installation.

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What you should do is insert the Vista DVD and restart your PC. The system will boot from the DVD and just point your newly created partition as the installation destination when prompted.

Your PC will restart at various stages during installation. It should take less than 30 minutes to complete.

 

Now It’s The Fun Part

Once the installation completed, the system will restart. You’ll be able to select whether to boot to XP or Vista from Windows Boot Manager.

Windows XP is described as ‘An Earlier Version of Windows’. Select ‘Microsoft Windows Vista’ and have fun.

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Upgraded to Windows Vista and Here’s My Thoughts

June 18, 2007 by · 5 Comments 

A few months after I wrote about my intention here and here to upgrade my operating system to Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows Vista, I finally did it on Saturday last weekend.

I managed to grab an OEM copy for RM680 after shopping around at Karamunsing Complex in Kota Kinabalu.

 

Getting Ready For Vista

I ran the Vista Upgrade Advisor, an application that helps Windows XP users identify which edition of Vista meets their needs and whether their PCs are ready for an upgrade and I passed with flying colours.

Vista Upgrade Advisor recommended Windows Vista Business edition but I thought I could benefit from the extra features offered by Vista Ultimate so I bought that edition instead.

If your PC is less than two years old, chances are good that you can run Windows Vista. I bought mine in October 2004, so it’s just over two years old but I still manage to run Vista without much hiccups.

Here’s my PC specs

Pentium 4 3.2 GHz
1 GB of RAM (upgraded to 3 GB)
250 GB Hard drive (added an external 300 GB recently)
128MB Radeon X800SE graphic card.
Dual 17 inch LCD screen

 

my pc

 

Now if you have a PC with less than 3.0 GHz processor, I would recommend purchasing a new system altogether. One that’s equipped with a dual core processor should fit the task nicely.  In the memory department, I would recommend having at least 2GB of RAM to ensure the smooth running of Vista. Your graphic card is also important if you want to experience the Windows Aero and all the eye candy Vista has to offer. In addition, you’ll need to have a DVD ROM drive in order to install Vista.

If you find your system struggling and isn’t responsive after installing Vista, check your Windows Experience Index to see what holding you back. More often than not, the problem may be attributed to your hardware inability to keep up with Vista’s resource demand.

Mine is my processor which is the main limiting factor. But with a score of 4.1, all Windows Vista features run quite well nonetheless. The highest base score you can get is 5.9. Base scores of 6.0 and higher are not defined yet.

 

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Installation and Compatibility Issues

Installing Vista was a breeze and it actually much quicker that of XP. I was up and running in less than 30 minutes top. I did a clean install instead of upgrading my existing XP installation which I recommend everyone upgrading to Vista should do.

I heard of horror stories where people were swamp with software and hardware incompatibility problems after installing Vista on top of their existing XP installation – or even fresh installation of Vista for that matter.

Contrary to what some people may expect, nearly everything works like a charm on the first try for me. My hardware works as if they were made for Vista, however to be on the safer side and current, I downloaded the latest drivers from their manufacturer’s website later..

The only problem I encountered was when I tried plugging in a rather old digital camera and it wasn’t auto detected. Quicken 2005 was having problem running but this was fixed after I installed the latest upgrade. My favourite game, Starcraft (old game I know), was not displayed correctly when setting up a game, but the problem went away during a game play.

To be fair though, it’still too early to conclude whether all my software and hardware will work seamlessly because I haven’t installed and test everything yet. But the initial prognosis looks good and I expect fewer problems down the road.

 

Running Vista & My First Impression

OK my first impression after login into Vista – it’s a modern looking interface with shiny gadgets everywhere. Everything looks good in Vista, even Internet Explorer looks prettier.

I enjoy the changes that remove a lot of the little annoyances that have been plaguing previous version of Windows. The combination of thousands of little improvements, better usability, better navigation, better dialogs, better speed and so on make using Vista a much better experience.

 

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You can switch between open applications using the new "Windows-Tab" key combination .

 

You can start searching just about everywhere in Vista. The Start menu equipped with a search box. As you type in the box, Vista starts showing the data that matches your search term: application names, files and even emails.

The new Start Menu with a search textbox at the bottom.

 

The Siderbar, running along the edge of your desktop give quick access to all sorts of mini-applications. These are what I need to give up Google Desktop Search.

 

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Image of the new Windows Sidebar

 

Windows Explorer is fully revamped to make it easier to navigate your hard drive. The favourite links on the left pane is especially useful because it doesn’t change no matter where you are within Windows Explorer.

Microsoft has also introduced a nifty feature which is a clickable trail of directories a user has followed to get to the current location. So a user can get anywhere within a trail with a single click instead of several clicks to go up or down the directory tree.

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Picture showing the Favorite Links on the left pane and clickable Breadcrump (trail of directories)

 

Performance & Stability

I was surprise things actually work faster in Windows Vista compare to in XP.

Most applications launch a few seconds faster. This is probably due to the SuperFetch feature which is introduced in Vista. It prioritises the programs you’re currently using and adapts to the way you work by tracking the programs you use frequently, at what times of day that programs are used and intelligently preloading these into memory. Good thing that I upgraded my RAM to 3GB before installing vista.

I also noticed I can start launching programs right away while Vista is still loading all the start up programs such as Norton Internet Security and so on when starting Vista. In XP I usually have to wait a minute or longer to allow everything loaded up before I could even start using Outlook or Firefox.

At some points I noticed Internet Explorer retrieving pages from the Internet at a faster speed than when in XP but I doubt Vista actually improves my overall Internet speed. In addition, I noticed IE consumes low memory footprint.

Everything isn’t perfect though, random CPU outage occurs at random intervals which freezes Vista for a few seconds. I wonder if this incident will become more frequent as I install more applications in the coming days.

In term of stability, it looks like the I/O hangs is now a thing of the past. Terminating rough processes via Windows Task Manger really kills the processes right away. Unlike in XP where it sometimes needs a few minutes to kill a process, or does not terminate at all.

When one program crashes, it does not bring down the whole system, that’s really a reality in Vista.

As far as I can tell, this is the most stable version of the Windows operating systems.

 

Windows Vista Security

One of XP’s biggest security problems is that it promotes everybody who wants the ability to run a vast number of programs and conduct common activities as an Administrator. As a result anybody, including a malicious program that has the admin privileges is able to wreak havoc and exploit your system.

Vista ’s User Account Control solves this problem by creating a Standard account which is not as powerful as the Admin account but it still allows the widest possible range of activity, even an Administrator runs at Standard level. A warning is displayed when elevated privilege is required. This warning dialogs can be a nuisance but you can’t have both as far as convenience and security are concern. There has to be a compromise and obviously you haven’t used Linux before.

Microsoft has made great strides in improving its security features and this change should be welcomed.

 

Should you upgrade?

While there are goodies to be had in Vista, if you are happy with Windows XP and it gets the job done, there’s no need to upgrade.

If you are concern whether your PC can cope with Vista’s resource demand, don’t upgrade, just buy a new PC with Vista pre-installed instead.

As a software developer, I need to test my software compatibility with Vista so upgrading is a must. While most of the new features and eye candy are bonuses for me, I appreciate the improved security and specific features that can help me become more productive.

And if you are like me who feels some trepidation about installing a completely new OS on your main computer, fret not, you can always make Vista coexist with XP like what I am doing.

Vista is installed on a separate partition in my hard disk and I am slowly migrating my data from XP to Vista. If something goes wrong, I can always go back to XP.

I’ll write a tutorial in my next post on how to make Vista coexist with your current OS.

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