[Beowulf] Sidebar: Vista Rant

Jon Forrest jlforrest at berkeley.edu
Tue Jul 17 11:58:04 PDT 2007

Robert G. Brown wrote:

> Just as a matter of curiousity -- are you running Vista Home (deluxe or
> not) or Pro or better?

Vista Business. My department has a volume license with Microsoft
that covers that.

Also, since you and many other people on this list are
at various universities, you might look into the Microsoft
Developers Network Academic Alliance. From the www.msdnaa.net
web site:

"MSDN AA is an annual membership program for departments that use 
technology in support of Science, Technology, Engineering, and 
Mathematics (STEM) courses. The membership provides a complete, 
inexpensive solution to keep academic labs, faculty, and students on the 
leading edge of technology."

In practice, what this means is that you can legally put almost
any of Microsoft's products (except Office) on any number of
PCs used for instruction or research. It costs about $800 a year
the first year, but IIRC, it goes down later. It's worth every penny.

> Also, when you say "do a fresh install" does
> that mean that you go out and buy a full retail version and pitch the
> OEM version that comes on the system?  The systems I've bought recently
> no longer even come with Windows media at all, and I've recently learned
> the hard way that OEM Windows reinstalls are likely to fail the Genuine
> Windows test when it comes to upgrading them, EVEN when they are done
> from media, even if one has a perfectly valid license code.

Both MSDNAA, which my old department, Civil and
Environmental Engineering, had, and Chemistry, my current
department, have licenses that give us access to the Vista
(and XP) CDs that have the full, unadulterated versions of
Windows on them. Without these versions I doubt I would have
had the positive experiences with Vista that I described.

> The main point being, what do you spend?  

I'm not sure what Chemistry spends but for departments, probably
such as Physics, that qualify for MSDN AA, the cost is not

> The other point being that consumers don't ever do this.  They don't
> know how.  Either Vista works as delivered when they bring it home from
> Best Buy or it's broken, no middle ground.  Where "works" means a mix of
> "runs my existing applications without additional investment" and "runs
> them NOW, without annoying lag or delay".

Dell is now offering Vista without any craplets installed. I hope
other vendors get the word and start this too. But, I agree
with you that fixing vendor-supplied versions of Windows is a
necessary dark art.

>> The primary reason I run Vista, instead of Linux,
>> is that no version of Linux I've seen looks as
>> good on an LCD screen as Windows with Cleartype.
>> I've run tests on the same hardware, switching between
>> Linux and Windows. It isn't even close.
> Wow.  I'm speechless.  And here I thought people chose operating
> environments intended to support their work primarily on the basis of
> applications and at least nominally to optimize cost-benefit.  So I'm
> guessing that you also routinely invest in $200+ graphics cards and
> ultra-high resolution displays as well.

Nope. I'm typing this on a Dell Dimension E521 with an el-cheapo
NVIDIA 7300 LE connected to 2 garden variety 19" LCD monitors.
The first thing I do with Vista is to turn off all those annoying
graphics effects and that Sidebar program. I have enough distractions
in life. I don't need any more from Microsoft. They're trivial to
turn off.

I do have 2.5 GB of RAM but that's a luxury. Of course, these
days with 2GB of desktop RAM easily available for $80 it's
not a very expensive luxury.

> Me, I spend my life typing into a text window of one sort or another.  

Me too. I hardly ever use Word. But, what I use most is Firefox,
Thunderbird, and SSH, all of which look much better on Windows
than they do on Linux. The difference between Firefox on Windows
as compared to Linux is striking.

> When I remote manage systems, code, run applications, write novels or
> poetry, I do so with layers of xterms (and a few X applications) on six
> different desktops I can swap between or cycle to the top with a
> keystroke.  I can easily reprogram key combinations to launch
> applications without a mouse.  I can create iconified application
> launchers quite simply, and have multiple bars full of real time
> displays and one-click application launchers WITHOUT cluttering up my
> desktop(s).

I don't do this but there are all kinds of desktop managers
on Windows that you can install that do these kinds of things.

What you should do sometime is to sit down with a well informed
Windows person who knows how to do these kinds of customizations.
I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the results.

> What I gain in XP is the ability to run one or two Windows-only
> applications.  What I give up is the ability to run one or two HUNDRED
> applications (all of them free) and more importantly the ability to
> navigate, switch applications, enjoy the convenience of a rich
> environment tightly and securely coupled to the network.

I'm not arguing in favor of abandoning Linux for Windows. That
would be insane. I'm only saying that to an old pair of eyes
like mine, Windows looks better on LCD screens. With a good
ssh client and a good X server, I can have the best of both

> It may be happy, but it probably is slow...

The vast majority of the time, when something seems slow to me,
it's because either my fingers or my brain are slow, often both,
not my computer. Note that I'm not talking the HPC applications
themselves. I always run those on Linux.


Jon Forrest
Unix Computing Support
College of Chemistry
173 Tan Hall
University of California Berkeley
Berkeley, CA
jlforrest at berkeley.edu

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