Charles Engelke's Blog

February 28, 2007

Using Vista – The Early Days

Filed under: Vista — Charles Engelke @ 7:15 pm

It’s been a week since I first posted about moving to Vista, and I said I’d put up a detailed post about the experience. One reason I haven’t done that yet is due to the experience. I’ve been battling a lot of issues with Vista. They’re not all Vista’s fault (some of them are due to other software issues that are being manifested because of Vista, and some of them are just changes from XP, not errors), but they’ve been real time-eaters.

I think I’m just about fed up with Vista. There are a lot of nice new things in Vista, and I’m going to have to use Vista sooner or later, anyway, so I had come into this with a positive attitude. But Vista is wearing me down.

So, in this post, mundane issues I encountered on day one. Further days to follow, if I have any time to post in between overcoming problems created by Vista.


IT brought me a new ThinkPad T60p, with Vista and many of our standard applications already loaded on it. But I couldn’t just log on to the PC with my Windows domain account, because Vista can’t join our (older-style NT/Samba) domain. So the first order of business was to create a local account to use.

And that’s where I made my first mistake. The PC had a temporary administrative account called User. I logged in as that user, and created an account for myself. I used Control Panel/User Accounts, pretty much just as I would have in XP. When I started to create the account, Vista asked whether to create a standard or administrative account, and it strongly recommended making it a standard one. I followed Vista’s advice. Mistake.

Using a non-administrative account for regular PC operation is a good idea. It’s what I do on my Unix and Linux PCs. But it’s never been possible in Windows, because Windows wasn’t designed with this in mind, and so has too many things that you have to be an administrator to do. I’ve tried running as a standard user in earlier versions of Windows, and have always given up in short order.

Vista is different, though, so I hoped a standard account would work. If you have such an account and try to perform a forbidden operation, it’s not supposed to simply fail. Instead, it’s supposed to ask you if you really want to do it, and allow you to enter the password for an administrative account that Vista will use to do the operation. And that worked. I created a second account with administrative privileges, and whenever Vista said it needed higher privileges, I entered the password for that account.

Vista needed higher privileges a lot and I was typing that password a lot. Maybe I could have lived with it, since it should get less common as I got settled into the PC, and didn’t need to set up new things as often. But there were two problems with Vista’s User Account Control (as they call it). First, the operation ended up being done with a different account than my regular one. But tons of Windows operations are user-specific, so it was doing what I’d asked, but for the wrong user. I installed Mozilla Firefox for web browsing, but it launched it as if I were a different user. And when I downloaded files to the desktop, they ended up on that other, administrative, user’s desktop, not mine.

Second, Vista didn’t always recognize the need for UAC, and let the standard user account run programs that needed more privilege than the user had. I’d run a program, especially an installer, and it wouldn’t work. If I were lucky it would be obvious that it failed, but in a lot of cases the program seemed to run to completion without error, but didn’t actually work. I must have installed Palm Desktop half a dozen times with slightly different options, wondering why synchronization with Outlook wasn’t working, before I realized that I’d need to install it as an administrator. The setup didn’t complain when it didn’t work, but the installed software wasn’t right.

Well, I stayed as a standard user for a day, and did several typical first day things on the new PC. First, migrate my data from my old PC. Part 1 – copy the data from the old My Documents folder and a few others to a temporary directory on the new PC. That’s because Vista uses some different names for standard locations, so I would get the data to the right PC, and then move it to where it belonged.

I decided to copy the data over a network connection. I connected the old and new PCs with a cable, then created and shared a temporary folder on the new PC. Then I opened that network location on my old PC and dragged and dropped files from my old PC’s hard drive to the network folder. No, actually what I did was try all sorts of ways to open the network location from the old PC, and fail again and again. Eventually, I figured out that, even though Vista let me tell it to share the folder, Vista wasn’t sharing anything over the network. I had to turn file sharing on using the Control Panel. Which I did. Which didn’t solve the problem. The problem was that Vista decided that the network was a “public” one that wasn’t safe to share files with. That’s a good idea, and I could override it and tell Vista the network was okay, or as it says, “private” (after all, it was just my two PCs on it). And finally I could see the networked folder and move files over.

There was still a problem, though. I was actually on two networks – my two laptops connected by a cable, and the hotel’s Wi-Fi network for connecting to the Internet. Once I understood how to make my cable network “private”, I understood that I wanted the Wi-Fi network to be “public”. Who wants to share files, even with account and password protection, over a hotel network? So I changed the Wi-Fi network to public. So Vista changed the cabled network to public, too. I changed the cabled network back to private. Vista changed the Wi-Fi network to private. It seemed that my two networks had to both be public or both be private. Since my PC was running a firewall and other security software, I made them both private so I could share files and see the Internet. But I really wanted one to be public and the other private.

And when I finished moving files, I went back to the networking center, and it claimed that it made the cabled network private and the Wi-Fi network public, which is what I had wanted. But while I was trying to make it do that, it said it wouldn’t. And when I gave up, it went ahead and did what I’d abandoned. I really liked what Vista was trying to do, but actually making it do it was beginning to drive me crazy.

Well, after several hours that first evening, my files had been copied to the new PC. I decided to move them to their correct new locations, by dragging and dropping them to different folders. It worked fine, but took forever. I’d say I spent an hour doing that, while it would have take seconds under Windows XP or almost any other operating system. When you move a folder, all the OS typically does is move the main entry for the folder to the new location. Nothing has to be done with the contents of the folder, they are always found relative to their parent entry. But on Vista, every file in the folder seemed to accessed. I don’t know what it was doing (checking or setting some magic security settings?), but it wasted a lot of my time.

It was time for bed, actually well past time for bed, but I wanted to do one last thing: install an e-mail program and load my mail into it. A couple of hours later, I gave up and went to bed. I had already spent more time than I normally need to do to migrate to a new PC, and I’d hardly gotten started.

Details on what happened, and what it took to get it to work, in a future post.

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1 Comment

  1. […] install the new Windows 7 beta.  I was skeptical thanks to my Vista experiences (which I shared on this blog), but there was a lot of good buzz on this one.  I decided to go whole hog and install […]

    Pingback by Trying out Windows 7 « Charles Engelke’s Blog — January 27, 2009 @ 4:53 pm


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