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2009
Aug
15

Switched to Windows 7

Categories: Tech, Apps, Gadgets

I was running out of hard disk space, and my PC (running Vista) was getting bloated, so I thought it’s time to buy bigger hard disks and at the same time do a clean install of my system. So I bought 2 Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB, surprised that the price of hard disks these days have also gone down a lot compared to last year.

I bought two identical hard disks, as I wanted to try a RAID0 setup. It’s my first time to try this, and the process was actually hassle-free. Just turn RAID support in the BIOS, select the hard disks, create the partitions, and just install as usual. It’s very seamless, good thing my current hardware setup is still recent (built early last year), and even Windows 7 itself did not need any additional drivers upon initial installation. End result is I am getting much better HD access times and read/write benchmarks.

I also decided to try Windows 7 RC x64 as my primary OS, getting rid of Vista already. I have been testing Windows 7 on my netbook, and it has been running great, so I thought it’s stable enough to be the primary OS on my desktop PC. All the software I need have installed and run without issues. I did have some issues with a few old games, but it’s all reasonable. What’s important is that all the software I use to develop the bingo games all run fine. I also took this chance to upgrade all the software I am using into newer versions (if available).

I’ve been using the new Windows 7 with RAID0 setup the last few days, and so far, no problems whatsoever. Surprisingly, the Windows Experience Index lists the hard disk as the slowest component, despite the RAID0 setup. I didn’t really get the chance to assess the scores without RAID0 setup, but I was expecting the hard disk scores to be better. Anyway, Windows 7 boots up much faster, and the overall experience feels more snappy, as I experienced on my netbook.

I am also using a new anti-virus suite. I was previously using the BitDefender suite, but I noticed that it has been slowing down my boot process significantly. It probably takes a minute or so before the desktop is really usable after booting up. My subscription is ending this month, so I thought it’s time to try something else.

So now I am running Norton Internet Security 2009. Before I switched to BitDefender, I was actually using Norton, but it has really been a HUGE resource hog. However, I heard Symantec has rewritten this software from scratch, focusing on using as minimal resources as possible, so I decided to give it another try. So far, I’m very impressed. Installation was a snap, and I do not notice any resource issues at all. What’s best is it also worked flawlessly in my new Windows 7 setup.

It feels good to be running a clean setup again. I am actually planning on building a new unit already, with the newer Intel Core i7 processors. However, I’ve decided to wait a bit, until Windows 7 is available in the market already (which is 2 months away), since I will likely end up doing a clean install once more. I also wanted to buy an Intel SSD, so I can put my OS there to speed things up further.

It’s gonna be costly, but it will also serve as my “reward” for myself, after I finally launch the BingoGems site. Now, that’s something else to look forward to.

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2009
Jan
26

Windows 7 Beta: My Experience

Categories: Tech, Apps, Gadgets

I have installed Windows 7 Beta to my old notebook the past weekend. The online reviews have mostly been positive, so I was kinda intrigue by all the buzz. Plus it comes with IE 8, so that gives me a platform for testing, to make sure this site (and the games) will not have issues. In reality… that’s just me trying to justify spending time with Windows 7 Beta. 😉

Anyway, it’s mostly a positive experience. It looks and feels a lot like Windows Vista, a notch better perhaps. It boots faster, and the computer is immediately usable after you log-in (unlike Vista or even XP, where you have to wait for some time for all your start-ups to load and kinda “settle-down”). The installation was also fast, and surprisingly, Windows Update installed almost all the drivers I need, including NVIDIA drivers! This comes as a surprise, especially for notebooks, which usually come with its own set of vendor-tailored drivers (unless you go to sites like laptopvideo2go.com).

Unfortunately, the NVIDIA drivers, while recent, are not the latest versions. I’m playing Spore lately, and I wanted to play at a resolution lower than my notebook’s native screen resolution (1280×800), while still maintaining the aspect ratio. The 178+ series driver that Windows 7 installed supports less resolutions. The good news is that, I just downloaded the latest 180+ Vista-32 drivers, and it installed without issues on Windows 7.

I also didn’t have issues with any of the applications, games, and even vendor-specific drivers that I installed. The only missing driver that Windows 7 failed to detect was for the notebook’s audio. Easy fix was to install the driver for Vista. At first, the driver refused to install because it can’t detect the OS properly, but the workaround was to tick the Vista-compatibility in the setup executable before installing. The other notebook drivers I had to install (touchpad, OSD) all work fine with the Vista set of drivers.

The only other minor issue I encountered was the hard drive was being given a very slow score in the Windows Experience Index (WEI). This is surprising, because I have a 7200rpm drive and was expecting a much better score. Upon researching, it looks like this is a common issue on Windows 7 Beta. The fix is to make sure that write caching is unchecked in the drive’s device setting before running the WEI assessment, then just turning it on again afterwards. My hard drive score jumped from 3.0 to 5.6 after this. The score doesn’t really affect performance, but some games may refuse to load if the minimum WEI score is not met.

I don’t really understand why Windows Vista has been met with a lot of criticism. It’s been very stable on my desktop, even the 64-bit version. However, seeing that Windows 7 Beta performs well, if not even better than either Vista or XP, even on slower computers, I think Microsoft is going the right direction this time. My notebooks is quite old, but I think this is the first time that it’s actually booting faster than my desktop. It also feels more responsive in general, even with newer, supposedly resource-hungry applications like Adobe PhotoShop CS4.

Windows 7 is a keeper for me. The beta already looks good. Hopefully, things will only get better when the final version is released.

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2008
Feb
28

New Desktop PC, Windows Vista

Categories: Random Thoughts, Tech, Apps, Gadgets

Well, after using a laptop as my primary (and actually only) PC, I have decided to start using a desktop again. Primary reason is hard disk speed. My MacBook Pro has been configured with a 7200rpm drive upon order, but still, I find it to be the slowest component of the laptop. With recent technological advances in Intel processors, video cards etc, the hard disk progress has fallen behind. The market appears to be heading towards the use of solid-state-drives (SSD), however these are still very expensive.

Anyway, I decided to also take this time to start learning building my own PC from scratch, instead of buying a pre-built one, or having it configured from local PC stores. So I ordered all the necessary components (motherboard, processor, video card, sound card, casing, power supply, hard disks, RAM etc), and thankfully I found a reliable seller who has been helpful in picking the best components and recommending other items. I told myself if I mess up something, I’ll just call someone to build the system for me. Luckily, it only took me a few hours and the system was up and running. I got a 10,000rpm drive as the main HD, and it does make a VERY noticeable difference.

I also installed Windows Vista 64-bit, and I was really surprised. First, I was worried about Vista driver issues in general, and even more concerned that the 64-bit version would make things even worse. I installed 4GB RAM, so 64-bit is the way to go. As it turned out, I actually had only minor issues. I think it paid off that I tried Vista when it is mature enough. Actually, just a day or two after I installed it, SP1 just came out.

Even my old printer is supported right away. iTunes is working fine with my iPhone. No problem with the video card driver. The only major issue is the SoundBlaster card driver. From time to time, I will lose sound from the speakers. A few google searches, and it looks like this is a known issue with Vista having 4GB or more and Creative’s sound drivers. Creative has released new drivers supposedly to address this specific issue, and I am using it, but it just doesn’t work for me reliably. Taking off 1GB RAM solves the problem, but that defeats the purpose of going the 64-bit route to take full advantage of at least 4GB RAM. Anyway, I can live with this sound issue for now, there’s always the on-board sound, plus I’m finding ways of getting back the sounds reliably.

Applications-wise, I did not have major issues as well. I encountered some compatibility issues with a casual game I am using for research purposes, and this was solved by turning on Windowx XP-SP2 compatibility. Warcraft 3 didn’t work, I’m sure there is probably a workaround somewhere, but since I am not playing this game much anymore anyway, I just let it go. I didn’t have problems with newer games either (BioShock, Crysis).

My back-up program didn’t work though, which I was expecting since this program has not been updated in a long time. So I just searched for an alternative program, and the problem is solved. The new program has more features anyway, and it’s easier to back-up the settings as well. Vista actually has some back-up capability built-in, but it’s too simple for my needs.

In general, I have been very satisfied with Vista. It doesn’t really differ that much from XP, but things actually perform faster than I expected. Of course, this is also likely because of the 10,000rpm drive and a newer, faster processor, but this is the first time I am getting noticeable improvements upon replacing my primary PC.

So what happens now to my MacBook Pro, and my previous love for MacOS? I actually contemplated on getting a Mac Pro, so I can still get the best of both worlds (Mac OS and Vista). However, it’s too expensive, and at the time, the 8800GT NVIDIA card (which is what I want) has a 4-6 weeks wait time. No regrets though. I saved a lot, which went into buying a new Dell 27″ LCD as well (it’s still not here, but I expect to receive it next week). Since I still need to do some tests with MacOS, I figured I’d just sell my MBP and buy either a regular MacBook, or the newer MacAir.

While I do love the Mac OS, at this point I still can’t make it as my development OS, mainly because most of the applications I am using are still exclusively for Windows (not to mention games). True, I can probably find similar programs for Mac, but I don’t want to go through all that trouble. I figured what I really need is to have a fast desktop for my development PC, then have a small Mac laptop for testing and also when I travel.

Now, it’s time for me to get some inspiration so I can work on my game projects again…I just realized it’s been 2 months since my last post. What have I been doing lately?!! 🙂

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