Vista and Sixpacks . . .

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Got this note overnight:

I would like you to do an article on the immense power
requirements Vista is going to require from hardware with regards the 3d rendered
desktop and excessive pre caching of programs into ram and the
pagefile. I can see this being a very bad time for notebook battery life and
the average desktop will suddenly jump up in wattage consumption.

The old crapper bigger slower software drives hardware sales is now
well understood in the community – but the same C B S software upping the
average power bill isnt likely to go down well with anyone especially
businesses.

Maybe Im wrong but from what Im seeing on the BETA’s it is a LOT more
power hungry than even a maxed out xp installation – and this is without
a compatible gfx card running the glass interface yet.

Well, “one man’s meat is another man’s poison” seems to be the most applicable soundbite here.

As PCs diverge more and more (the $300 Dell Celeron box has about as much in common with the luxury boxes as a chihuahua has with a Rottweiler), MS will have to go through more and more contortions to keep everyone happy.

I’m sure Vista will chew up more power than XP. I’m even surer both are power pigs compared to DOS, just as a 60-inch plasma juices it up far more than a 9-inch black-and-white.

The issue isn’t one of power, but the benefit one gets from the extra power compared to the cost, and reasonable men can differ on this.

For instance, just to take myself as an example, after I see the 3-D AeroGlass interface, once, I’ll turn it off. To me, it’s a waste, but I know many, many more love eye candy. My poison, their meat.

On the other hand, for me, there’s no such thing as excessive prefetching. If it works well, I’ll gladly add lots of RAM, but again, many, many more will see this differently (especially after they see the memory bill). My meat, their poison.

Yes, I suppose it will chew up a little more power, but look at all the electricity I saved turning off AeroGlass! 🙂

Unlike the plasma or the old-fashioned light bulb, though, the especially power-hungry features are not going to be mandatory. You don’t have to use AeroGlass to use Vista. If you don’t load your computer with oodles of RAM, you’re not going to have any problem with prefetch draining the power grid; you can’t fetch or prefetch if you don’t have the dogs.

For notebooks (the sales of which may very well pass those of desktops during Vista’s reign), I’m sure there will be many power savings options, and if people don’t use them, well, when you hear somebody say, “I have a new laptop, what’s wrong with my battery?” you’ll know where to look first. 🙂

So on a superficial level, this is not a problem. Look deeper, though, and there is a problem, and a big one.

What is that problem? Well, there’s power as in electricity, and there’s power as in heavy silicon. Computers have limited capacities, and when you demand more than it can do, it slows down, or stops.

The average person doesn’t know this. People think computer resources are free and infinite. They’ll pile anything and everything onto the camel’s back until it breaks, and for many, Vista will be the (bundle of) straw that breaks it.

Lately, I’ve rehabilitated an oldish Celeron box. Compaq box, Celeron 566, 64Mb, 10Gb hard drive, 4Mb integrated video. Might have been OK for the average person in 1999, and I’m sure it doesn’t chew up much power, but times have changed a bit.

The original owner apparently wanted to keep up with the times, so what did he do? Why, he installed Windows XP. And added nothing else.

Let me tell you, it is an ugly thing to see XP boot up with 64Mb of RAM with a mostly filled 5400rpm hard drive pagefiling everything.

I didn’t even try to run any of the games installed, I’m not that masochistic.

What did the original owner do with the box? Well, it obviously didn’t work anymore, so instead of giving it to one of his kids, he gave it away to someone else’s kid.

A spare 128Mb of RAM, and a spare WD800JB brought performance to acceptable light-use levels, but that’s not the moral of the story. The moral of the story is “Don’t break your camel’s back.”

One of the first things I do when I look at a Sixpack machine is look at the Startup file. I’m checking for spyware, but inevitably I end up removing about a platoon’s worth of start-up files, none of which have any good reason to be there.

When I tell the owners that those little icons are slowing their less-than-monster computers down, well, I might as well tell them that they’re evil spirits I’ve just exorcised. The idea that a cute little cluster of icons can overburden their computer and thus hurt them is completely foreign to them. They see the machine runs faster when I get rid of them, so they believe me, but only on faith.

What does this have to do with Vista? Well, when it comes out, over the course of time, many of your Sixpack relatives, friends and acquaintances will decide to get up to date with Vista the same way this owner tried to do with XP. Maybe they’ll see the AeroGlass interface and want that on their integrated video system. They’ll want it to work badly, and that’s just what they’ll get. Then they’ll wonder why they don’t get the same cool-looking screen the neighbor down the street has.

Maybe that will get them to buy a new computer; that’s certainly what the PC industry would desperately like them to do. More likely, that will get them to get you to fix it. Maybe you can for not too much of a price, maybe you can’t, or at least can’t the way they’d like it.

Competent people fix problems. Smart people anticipate and prevent them. I’m not saying all or even most Sixpacks are bound to try this, but some will, and I’d bet you know at least one.

It might save you a lot of time and trouble down the road if you started telling your Sixpacks most susceptible to such adventures, especially those who have bigger eyes than machine or wallet, what their upgrade is going to cost them. Where applicable, it’s never a bad idea to mention this in front of the person’s better half, either.

Take a look here for what MS says you need for an OK Vista experience. That’s scary enough, but if you want to see some involuntary excretory action from your Sixpacks, tell them what you find here.

Telling someone that they’ll have to spend one hundred or two or three for more RAM and/or a new video card to get it working semi- or mostly right might cool some jets, especially those waving an illicit copy of Vista expecting you to crack it for them (then get them all the security updates). And, in the case of the cheaper machines a few years old with only integrated video, it’s likely it won’t work well, or at all,

Eventually, a program Microsoft has developed to evaluate systems for Vista beta users (the name is winsat.exe, no, it’s not readily available) will help you back up your words with theirs.

I’m sure you’ll get some dirty “you are Grinch” looks for your efforts, but I know I’d rather a few dirty looks than a few hours of dirty work.

Ed


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