For the next week, Duncan Evans reports in on his progress with installing and using the new Windows operating system.
Windows Vista is the biggest change to Windows since the launch of
Windows 2000, or so claim Microsoft, having spent five years and the
GDP of a banana republic producing it. Vista comes in five versions as
our exclusive interview
with James O'Neill explained. There are two Home versions, two business
versions and an Ultimate edition, which contains all the features of
all the editions. Happily, Microsoft sent the Ultimate edition in for
review. Here then, is a seven day diary, updated each day, detailing
what happens when you install the upgrade version of Windows Vista and
then how well programs work and what the system has to offer in terms
of new features for the photographer.
Welcome to Vista Mr Evans.
Day 1 – Saturday – The installation
The first thing that comes up from the installation DVD are numerous
mildly phrased warnings. Is your PC good enough to run Vista? Is it man
enough? Test your PC here to see if it's worthy enough to receive our
new shiny operating system. You get some idea that this is going to be
hardware-heavy when the OS doubts you can even run it to start with. I
agreed to test my system and was rewarded by the information that yes,
it was just about good enough. It's a Pentium 4 3GHz, 1Gb RAM and an
The first thing that Vista then does is check for upgrades to the
installation routine, and yes, it had found an upgrade for itself,
which it then processed and carried on.
There are two options for anyone installing Windows Vista. It can
either be a completely new installation, happily obliterating what's on
your hard drive, in terms of programs, or it can, and this is the first
time ever, upgrade your existing Windows installation which means it
absorbs and takes all your programs with it. Now, it did occur to me,
that Vista-ising all my applications might just be a recipe for the
blue screen of death, but the alternative was to go for the scorched
earth policy of an entirely clean system and then have to install every
application afterwards. Laziness won out and the upgrade option was
Please enter your serial number – that enormous string of
characters on the label – and then accept the licence agreement
that's as long as the complete works of Shakespeare. Then the installer
checks for naughty programs on your machine. These are applications
that it knows don't work and will cause grief. It spends a while
thinking then comes up with a list of stuff you must uninstall before
it will progress on. It isn't an option, you have to do it. It also
says that it keeps a list of these things and when you've uninstalled
them, it will rapidly press on. However, one of the programs listed
wasn't actually installed, just the download files were in a
folder. I pressed on, and the program looped back round and asked to
enter the serial number again and the licence agreement, and then spent
another 10 minutes scanning for bad programs again. It decided that the
folder of McAfee files were an unacceptable risk and that i had to
delete them. So i did, and it went round again and i had to type in the
serial number for the third time. This was really getting very
annoying. Finally, it got passed this stage and onto the file copying.
This was quite lengthy so i left it to its own devices and went for a
A quick check for updates found that there were four new ones already.
The system then started Vista-ising my applications and boy is that
slow. It was at this point i noted with horror that the install screen
said that this could take a few hours to complete. Fine, i said
goodnight to Vista, left it running and went to bed.
The shiny interface with the happy, smiling gadget bar on the right.
Day 2 – Sunday - The installation continues
Woke up at 4.30am to see various lights flickering. It's still at it I
thought, and went back to sleep. Woke up again at 5.30am. Same lights
flickering – obviously it's communicating all my personal secrets
back to Microsoft HQ in Redmond. I got up and switched the monitor on
to find that it was ready for the next stage – application
testing. I set that going and waited and waited some more. Near the end
of this process – blue screen of death. Nice. Reset and waited to
see if staring into the Vista void had sent my PC insane. Nope, it
still worked and arrived at the time and date sections. Excellent,
entered those, noted that Vista had now found another three updates
since last night – those Microsoft boys must work all hours
– and on it went. Eventually, it came to actually run the
The first thing you see, after the horror of installation, is the
welcome to Vista screen, telling you that you have a lovely PC and that
there's all sorts of goodies waiting just for you. A check on the hard
drive found that I was now 5Gb worse off than i was before, which isn't
anything like as bad as i thought it would be.
So, to the interface then. Wow, how good does this look? Very my
friends, it looks as fine as a rich gentlemans' smoking club in
Mayfair. That transparency effect on the menus is, as our esteemed
Texan colleague Dave would emote, much coolness. The gadget bar on the
right is a great idea and has lots of gadgets to choose from. You can
decide which to have running. The stock market listing wasn't for me,
but the picture slideshow and temperature gauges, as well as clock and
news feeds was certainly attractive.
My daughter, by now, was eagerly feasting her little eyes on the Vista
loveliness and asked if she could play Runescape – a Java-run 3-D
online fantasy game. I said she could have 15 minutes while i had a
break. In the end she only got 10 before, yes, you guessed it, another
blue screen of death halted her rat-killing exploits.
After the restart though, what had happened to the interface? Lawks a
mercy, it was like developing cataracts. It had reverted to the Home
Basic version of Vista that doesn't have the fancy Aero interface. This
was more like a Mars bar than an Aero, all chunky and bad for your
arteries. Shudder.... and there was no option to turn it back on again
either. Another restart then, and hey presto it was working. Phew. I
could see the light again. So, trying out tab switching – very
nice, and the live preview of windows on the taskbar was both clever
and saved actually clicking and opening them. Very impressive.
The Security Window showing all your keeping the burglars out, options.
Now, let's see what applications are actually listed and running. Yes,
all the important ones, Paint Shop Pro XI (demanding a download to make
it properly compatible already), Adobe Creative Suite, Nikon View, Call
of Duty 2 – frankly if that didn't work I was going back to XP.
But what was this... all the stuff i uninstalled and delete prior to
installing the OS. Including McAfee which wasn't installed, just in a
folder. All on the Menu bar. Of course, they were bogus entries and
didn't work, so I deleted them – ah, but deleting things requires
permissions which you have to give. Vista has a computer access
safeguard that stops anyone from doing anything naughty with your PC.
Except that it doesn't because anyone can just click on yes, go ahead
and delete it, like I did, so it was just annoying. I turned this
feature off and was rewarded with Security Centre going red, like some
angry security guard, muttering that the lock was missing and he was
off for his tea and if anyone broke in it was my fault. And then the
system crashed with a memory blue screen of death anyway so I gave up
for the day.
Day 3 - Monday - Light at the end of the tunnel
Windows Defender welcomed me back, albeit grudgingly.
The first thing I did today was to try to run Microsoft Office apps,
Word and Outlook, which, while really nice, are, let's face it, the
pin-striped applications that are always talking about their house in
Surrey and the price of Peruvian coffee stocks. They are
essential, but in themselves, dull things. Which is why I was surprised
that neither wanted to run because they were harbouring illegal VB
macro scripts. Send in the SAS i muttered. They didn't want to work
because bad people write hacking scripts in Visual Basic and the OS
isn't bright enought to tell the difference between the actual
application loading with a few of its macro friends, and the seething
code of an ill-favoured youth from Seattle. So both these had to be
cleared before being used. Security, it appears, is a number one
priority with Vista. Okay, while it was yet more annoying things to
have to sort out - and really, this was unecessary, both apps worked
fine once they were cleared for entry over the Vista border.
In for a penny, in for a pound I thought, and activated the glowing red
security chief, otherwise known as User Account Control, that I'd
turned off the day before. Better to have a surly, obsessive security
checker in charge, than to leave the house unlocked and a big sign up
saying steal whatever you like. It reported in during the evening, as I
downloaded stuff and installed other stuff. At times it was like living
with my mother again... are you sure this is alright Duncan? Do you
know where that woman has been Duncan? However, all of these kind of
irritating things started to filter out as programs and files were
checked and cleared.
Now, if you didn't like the old system that XP used of putting My
Documents, pictures and music knee deep in a plenthora of folders,
you'll like the new system. It wants to put all your shortcuts and good
stuff into C:\Users\Duncan Evans - well, obviously not your stuff, but
mine. Now, personally, I don't need Microsoft to order my folders,
create a hundred shortcuts to places I don't go, and to label them how
it wants. If I want my picture folder to be called Duncan's Photos,
because i have other picture folders where i keep other things, then I
don't need one just called Pictures. However, the Vista interface goes
some way to realising that you might have your own ideas, and tackles
this on the Start Menu. It has shortcuts on this bar for pictures,
documents and music, which point to these artificially created
locations. However, you can change the destinations, so that Duncan's
Photos becomes the official Pictures folder, which appears on Explorer
shortcuts and in the Start menu.
So, that's good. The Explorer window itself tries to shoe-horn
everything into one window, which makes finding things initially
tricky. It has links, folders and files. It likes to default to that
ridiculous collection of shortcuts that it's made, which is fine if you
are 12 and use your computer for three things only. Anyway, you can
navigate away from that and at this point some of the good stuff
The Pictures folder options with large pics and editable tags.
For a start, if a folder contains any music or picture files, an
additional menu option of Burn files to disc appears at the top of the
window. That's very handy. Also, if the folder has music, a Play all
option appears as well. It gets better though. Go to the Pictures
folder and any sub-folder that contains just picture files, and optiosn
to print, e-mail and run a slideshow also appear. Plus the sorting
criteria for the window change to include Type of file, Size, Date
Taken, Tags and Rating. Click on a picture file and details appear at
the bottom of the screen with all these characteristics listed, which
you can then edit. You can also rate your own photos out of five, not
for self-aggrandisation reasons, but so that you can then sort
them according to quality. You can then put tags - like on EPZ - into
the photos so that if you need to search for locations or picture
types, you can easily find the picture you want. Then save all the tags
without ever opening the file! You can also edit the tags on MP3 files
in the same way.
Well that's me impressed, and no crashes today either. Upgrading to
Vista is like dating Nancy Dell 'Olio - you know it's going to be hell
at times, but boy is it sexy. More tomorrow...
Day 4 - Tuesday - Files and things
A cascade of file information and commenting opportunities.
Having been fairly excited by the new filing abilities of the OS
yesterday, I explored a few more options today. One of the
questions that I asked James O'Neill was whether or not the ability to
rotate images had been extended from JPEG files to TIFFs and other
hi-res formats. This was a really useful feature of XP for me - having
hundreds of JPEG images that you could just select and rotate in one
go, without ever having to open a program to do it was a godsend. So
the good news is that it has been expanded and now covers hi-res
formats likes TIFFs, though not, unfortunately at this point, Nikon RAW
files. Also, if there is EXIF data with the picture file, then extra
information like the photography, camera maker, comments, camera model
and subject are available for editing as well.
For anyone who has ever inadvertantly overwritten their picture files
with dodgy versions - and this actually applies to any file type -
there's an option on the right mouse click when selecting a file, to
revert to the previous version. So if you do make an adjustment, get
distracted, save the file and then realise it's all wrong, you can now
revert back to the previous version of the file - all from the Explorer
Speaking of that, I mentioned before that it's become fairly complex,
what with links at the top and folders underneath. If you tidy away the
folder that now has your name on it - because it's full of
useless junk as well as the default music and document folders
initially - then the regular file folder tree is yours to command.
Meanwhile, at the top of the screen, there's the back and forth arrows
as before, but where's the up arrow gone that takes you back up on
folder level? It's gone, and instead, the file path is listed, with
drop down arrows for each folder depth. This makes it possible to jump
up and out and over to a different folder at a completely different
level. It takes getting used to, but this does make navigating around
the system very fast if you know where you are going.
The Aero interface applied to Photoshop CS1 which runs perfectly.
Now, good news, I know people have already had trouble with Photoshop
CS2, and Ben here at the office confirms that the interface is the
standard one, but otherwise it's worked fine on his PC. Well, I have
Photoshop CS1 on my PC at home, and the Aero interface has been applied
to it. So, when multiple pictures and dialog boxes appear, they all
have that lovely colouring and transparency effect. It also loads and
runs quickly so I'm happy about that.
I'm less happy that with the folder restructuring, Outlook now
can't find all my e-mails, including one or two that I really could not
afford to lose. They're on the PC somewhere, but Vista has moved them
and won't tell me where. I'd search for them, using the search bar
that's in each Explorer window, but I don't know what the files would
be called so that's a little frustrating. I've found a shortcut to the
original Documents and Settings folder from XP, but Vista won't give me
access to it.
Anyway, almost as importantly as Photoshop working, Call of Duty 2
online. Instead of the normal 10 seconds to launch, it took 3 minutes,
until I went into the properties panel and changed it to run under
Windows XP compatibility mode. Then it worked fine again, though with a
slightly slower frame rate than originally on the XP system. So, if
something is proving problematic, turning on XP emulation for it may do
Tomorrow I'm going to have a look at Windows Photo Gallery, Mail and Contacts.
Day 5 - Wednesday - What the hell....
Hurray, my new PC for the office arrived, complete with twin 19"
widescreen monitors so I can do twice as much work as possible. Well,
that's what I told Pete anyway. Of course it arrived in pieces so it
had to be assembled and we decided to install Vista Home edition on it.
Not the basic edition I hasten to add, because that's for people with
feeble computers. Well, a direct installation goes a lot quicker and is
a lot less painful than the upgrade option as we suspected it would be.
Then came the task of installing software on it, including Creative
Once past the usual do you know who sent you this, and do you really
want to install this software type messages, the next problem was that
CS2 doesn't recognise the folder name that Vista uses for 32-bit
program software. There is a workaround for this, once you've Googled
it on the net. Anyway, the rest of the installation went smoothly,
accepted the registration key and said come on, help yourself to
Photoshop. However, when I came to run it, it said the registration key
was invalid. Umpteen installs, re-installs, repairs and phone calls to
Adobe later and the best line of reasoning was that there was something
in Vista that was deleting the key in the registry. We combed the
registry for any sign of it, but nope, even after enterting the details
manually in the key area called Registration, it did no good and
wouldn't work at all. Then there was the announcement from Adobe that
there might be compatibility problems, but they weren't going to do
anything about it, largely because CS3 was due out next week, and that
would be properly Vista-compatible. Thanks.
Windows Mail was the next thing to try, and this is like that open
source program, Thunderbird, which means it was knocked together in a
backroom by a dozen sweaty coders. Except being Microsoft, they
probably had very comfy chairs, ergonomic keyboards and people to mop
their brows on the hour. While it does the function of downloading mail
for POP3 and IMAP servers, it is, let's face it, even with the Aero
interface, something of a mangy dog compared to the elegant beauty of
Outlook. It's like going on a blind date, expecting to meet Liz Hurley,
only to find Jade Goody waiting. Actually, it has plenty of
functionality like attaching signature cards and spell checking, but it
is just a mail program - there's also Contacts and Calendar.
The Photo Gallery allows picture sorting from across the PC.
Anyway, enough of that, let's have a quick look at Windows Photo
Gallery. This is a program that makes use of all those tags and ratings
that can be applied to pictures, as described earlier. The main
difference between this an just an Explorer window is that you firstly
have to add folders to the gallery, and that it deals with pictures
across all the folders that you add. So, it means you can sort and
process all your images, from where ever they are across your PC. As
well as pictures, it also includes videos, which is good for anyone
with a compact who likes to slum it with the moving-image crowd.
Interestingly, while you can sort images by the tags that have been
assigned to them, you can also sort by the fact that things are
untagged, so that if you were working your way through a picture
collection it's easy to find the ones you haven't done yet. Also, the
star rating system makes it very simple to just find your very best
pictures, wherever and whenever they were taken. And you can watch
everything in the Gallery as a slideshow.
Among the options on the menu bar at the top are the usual Print,
e-mail, Burn options, but also ones for making a movie, where a
disparate clump of images can be shoe-horned into a movie-based
slideshow. Plus, there's an option called Fix, which deals with basic
problem solving. But that will have to wait until tomorrow because the
Gallery has just told me there's an update that support RAW files. Must
go and install that.
Day 6 - Thursday - Galleries are go
So, the update for the Gallery is actually courtesy of Nikon - the link
drags you off to their site, and there's a 20Mb download waiting. This
adds RAW support for all the DSLRs and a handsome clutch (as I believe
the collective noun for a bag of Nikon cameras is called) of compacts.
Blah, blah, agree to the licencing info and download away. This did
make me wonder at what point people stop reading licence agreements. In
my case, if it's more than a page long, I can't be bothered, unless
it's Microsoft, in which case I'll read three of four before my eyes
glaze over, because I know they'll be installing all kind of stuff
I don't need, won't want, and that will be happily reporting my
latent PC criminality* to the relevant authorities. (*not really, I'm
very good, honest.). Anyway, I digress as the download has finished and
the installation is a-running. After going through the usual what
country do you live in malarkey, it suddenly said, Nikon RAW convertor
doesn't support this Operating System. What the! How can it not support
it? The Gallery itself said it had an update. Talk about stupid. I
guess the reason is that the codec is for the 32-bit version of Vista,
and this system is the 64-bit version. However, this is still
unbelievably stupid - why isn't there both?
Using the options in Fix It.
Back to the Gallery then, and the Fix options. There's the Auto Adjust
button for photos you don't care about, Adjust Exposure for brightness
and contrast, Adjust Color for tint, saturation and temperature. The
Crop Picture option allows the picture to be cropped and rotated while
lastly there's Fix Red Eye. For this, you simply mark around the eye
and and it desaturates the red automatically.
While none of these are earth shattering, a little tick appears next to
the function that has been used, while at the bottom of the screen the
Undo button allows any of them to be undone, regardless of the order
they were applied. That images can then be burnt to DVD, sent by
e-mail, have tags and captions added, or you can make a movie, all
makes this little freebie program quite neat.
Selecting Movie on the menu launches the Movie Maker program, while
taking the image you had highlighted with it. Movie Maker, as regards
pictures, is basically a slideshow, but as most compacts can capture
video as well, it means that both still and moving images can be mixed
together. Images can be added from files on the computer or imported
directly from a digital camera. Titles can be added, transitions thrown
in and music overlaid onto the proceedings. Once the storyboard of your
pictures and videos has been completed, it can be published to send by
e-mail, recordable CD, back to a camcorder, onto DVD or simply onto the
PC. Interestingly, if the DVD option is selected then Windows DVD Maker
is launched rather than Movie Maker finishing the job.
Day 7 - Friday - The adventure continues
The reason why there was a delay in putting up the last two days of the
diary can now be revealed. Was it some critical operating system error?
Had I become totally befuddled by the file structures, the folder
renaming, the "you can't access that earthling" messages, or were there
further blue screen crashes so apocalyptic Mel Gibson was busy securing
the screen rights? Well no. I crashed my car. Damn physical reality,
it's so inconvenient at times. In fact, I've left an answerphone
message for Mr Gates at Microsoft that the next version of Windows
allows you to upload your entire personality (won't take long in my
case) and so you can exist in a virtual reality nirvana, and instead of
blue screens of death you live in a castle or something, and have to
fight off people dressed as Macs, coming to crash your system. He
hasn't got back to me yet, but bookmark this page, you read it here
So, apart from learning that Mondeo's and mini-roundabouts aren't best
friends this week I've been learning to get along with Vista. I've
learnt that there are two versions, and that the 64-bit version is
probably less compatible with ordinary, mortal software than the 32-bit
version, but that's an entirely subjective experience so it might not
be true at all. Big help I know. I found that CS2 works on some
systems, that it doesn't like Vista's filing systems and won't work on
my office PC. CS1 though, works on my 32-bit Ultimate system at home
and it's great. No really, it is. I found how to mix and match colours
for the interface which you can't do in XP unless you get a third party
program to skin it for you. I love the sidebar, which, as it's full of
gadgets, I call the gadget bar. It'll be great to have a constantly
running webcam on there as well - let's consume that broadband bandwith.
Being able to configure the Explorer pane is very handy.
Possibly the thing I found hardest to get to grips with was the
Explorer pane, being a right pain to start with. Fortunately, I found
out that the links can be re-assigned to point to where your Pictures
and Documennts are really stored, and that you can drag shortcuts to
stuff like the hard drive and network locations to the link bar as
well, and links you don't want can just be deleted. This is critical as
one of my favourite features of XP was to create a folder, put
shortcuts to drives, folders and applications in it, turn it into a
Toolbar, then drag it off onto the desktop as a floating box of links.
That doesn't work on Vista - you can't drag Toolbars off the Taskbar.
This configuration of the links pane lets me do all this in an easy to
access window, meaning that I just need to have a shortcut to the hard
drive on the desktop to get access to it with one double-click.
There's no doubt that if you are an early adopter of a new operating
system it's a bit like heading with the wagons out into the wild west.
Yes, there will be indians along the way, but a couple of bottles of
whisky, a bag of beads and some worthless land-right certificates will
mean that you can explore this brave new world with only the
occassional accident, incident and life threatening system crash. I've
decided that I like all the new features, I love the graphical
interface - a more obvious bribe to upgrade you'd be hard to find, and
that i can put up with some things not working, and the ineviatible
sorting out that needs to be done to get the system running how you
like it. Welcome to Vista.