After telling everyone I was going to wait-and-see about Windows Vista, I ran into a problem.
We are changing from Authorize.net (and its monthly fee, keeping the credit card charge if you make a refund, and constant little bank fees) to Paypal, which is vastly better: no monthly fee or other little fees, refund the credit card charge if you make a refund, and the only thing you pay is the credit-card fee, which is less than what authorize.net was charging.
In addition to this, Paypal has added a really nice built-in shipping system. You tell it how much your package weighs and how you want to ship it. It prints the label including postage, and automatically throws in tracking for domestic USPS, which it emails to the customer. If this had been around when I was trying to build my own system a year ago I would have given up sooner and "done the simplest thing" instead (I actually got very close, but ran into other unrelated issues).
Paypal uses Pitney-Bowes to create mailing labels. For domestic mailing they seem to generate a GIF or equivalent. But for foreign mailing, they use a Java Applet.
This is where I had problems, and adds to what I was talking about in the previous weblog. My father's computer is old, but he's been perfectly happy with it. It is a 500Mhz machine that runs Windows XP. Not blazingly fast, but it does everything at a tolerable rate. Runs applications, browses the web, including Flash applications.
Java is a different story, though.
The installation process was long and drawn out -- mostly it just took a long time. It's never something my father would do on his own, but Flash was on the machine and I think he just did that himself.
What's worse was the loading time of the Pitney-Bowes label applet. A two minutes at minimum. It worked fine once it was loaded, but the load time is the kind of thing that would make a lot of average users either think something was broken (I did) or just lose interest. The Pitney-Bowes applet had you download JRE 1.4, which is slower than 5 or 6, but I think the overall effect would be the same. It's great that it works, but the user experience is not something that makes Java Applets ubiquitous on the internet.
So here's the irony: it was Java that made me decide to upgrade my father's Windows machine. At first I was just going to upgrade the box, but I went to Costco and for 779$ they had a full system including 2.8Ghz dual-core pentium and 1 Gb of ram, etc. It became the easiest solution.
And it came with Windows Vista pre-installed. So I could use my dad as a guinea pig -- and by proxy my brother, since he won't be able to resist playing with it (he installs and maintains systems for small companies in the San Diego area, so he tends to prod at the internals).
The biggest thing you notice about Vista is that it's pretty. The Mac folks have their undies in a bunch (again) because it looks like Microsoft has stolen ideas from Apple (again), and that's almost certainly true (although I'll have more sympathy when everyone admits that Apple blatantly stole the core of their ideas from Xerox).
It has some nice features. There's a kind of program search thing where you type in the name of the program and it finds it and runs it. That's useful. It has significantly improved security, which is definitly a step forward. Nothing really dramatic. It's a pleasant upgrade of Windows.
We started with this on my dad's old machine:
And with dual core 2.8 Ghz and 1 Gb, I was expecting this:
But instead we got this:
To achieve some added prettiness, Microsoft has managed to suck out most of the CPU cycles of that dual-core processor. Microsoft began touting the need to understand concurrent programming several years ago, precisely because of the onset of multicore machines, but Vista does not give the impression that the second core is being used.
However, it answered my question. I don't buy new machines very often, but I finally bought the dream box: a Zalman fanless case with fanless everything. You can only hear a little from the disk drive when it reads and writes if you listen closely. I've been slowly changing over to it, and one question I had was whether I should use that Vista upgrade coupon that came with the system. My dual CPU is faster than my dad's and I have 4GB instead of 1. And the prettiness is very appealing even now. But if it's going to suck down all those shiny new Ghz and Gb, seems like it wouldn't be such a step forward. And having it pre-installed is one thing, but I wonder if installing it myself could turn into a time-consuming nightmare.
Anyone have any data to the contrary? Will my apps (such as python programs) gain the speed of the new system despite the OS?
To pre-answer the usual comments: I make heavy use of Word, and OpenOffice doesn't support the kinds of things I do. So while I think Linux is great, I can't use it yet. And Word for the Mac is different -- unclear whether it's different enough that it can't do the things I need, but that's a serious risk. Most likely when I'm finally able to move from Windows, though, it will be to Linux (though for a laptop, I sure wouldn't might having that instant-on, instant-off thing that the Mac does).
> <p>To pre-answer the usual comments: I make heavy use of > Word, and OpenOffice doesn't support the kinds of things I > do.
Out of curiosity, what are the things you do in Word that you can't do in Open Office. I'm not going to flame you, I only use Open Office because I have a Linux machine and I didn't want to shell out for Office on my laptop. I'm just wondering what's missing.
Great pictures. I chuckled and I am still smiling.
(Disclosure: I'm a Microsoft employee, though I don't work on anything related to Windows.)
There's an excellent article over at AnandTech that has a ton of benchmarks between XP and Vista. It shows that Vista is within 5-10% in most areas, lags in others (network, 3D graphics) and pulls ahead on a few. I think that's probably accurate IF you have plenty of memory (2GB is ideal). http://www.anandtech.com/systems/showdoc.aspx?i=2917
On my machine, day-to-day usage (not including games) actually feels faster to me under Vista than XP. The two things I generally wait for the computer to complete are launching apps, and compiling. The former feels significantly faster, the latter feels about the same as XP.
Vista scales along with memory like no other version of Windows. It requires a ton of memory when idling, and then any extra RAM is used to aggressively cache the disk. So you need a lot of RAM (512MB? 768MB?) just to stop the swapping, and then a lot more to let SuperFetch really stretch its legs. 2GB seems to be the sweet spot. If you're starting from 1GB, that's about an $85 upgrade, a very worthwhile investment if you care at all about perf.
A 2.8GHz Pentium D is not a screaming fast processor today by any means. I have a 3.2GHz Pentium D at work and it gets absolutely smoked by the 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo I have at home--the difference is not subtle. In fact, according to the benchmarks even the fastest Pentium D Extreme Edition ($$$$) is not as fast as the slowest Core 2 Duo ($180)!
Gaming is definitely a lot slower right now (especially OpenGL) due to immature video drivers. Networking is apparently slower under Vista too, I was surprised to see that.
I don't think the glitzy graphics impact performance very much, since all of that stuff is hardware-accelerated by your GPU. When switching between Aero Glass and Basic themes, I don't notice much of a performance difference--if anything, Glass feels faster and smoother.
As to whether your Python scripts will run fast under Vista, if they are compute bound, I bet they will perform almost identically under Vista.
I create very large documents (books) using Word. In the past those would crash OO, but now it seems to open them. However, there seem to be issues with styles and layout, and since that's an essential part of what I do for camera-ready pages, it's been prohibitive. I have hopes that eventually OO will handle all these things without problems.
But for many uses, OO seems to be fine. As long as people remember to save in .doc format :-)
> A 2.8GHz Pentium D is not a screaming fast processor today > by any means. I have a 3.2GHz Pentium D at work and it > gets absolutely smoked by the 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo I > have at home--the difference is not subtle. In fact, > according to the benchmarks even the fastest Pentium D > Extreme Edition ($$$$) is not as fast as the slowest Core > 2 Duo ($180)!
My dad's new machine has a 2.8 Ghz dual core processor. Maybe it's the 1GB of memory that's slowing things down. And to be sure, it's not horribly slow or anything. It's certainly faster than his old machine. Just nothing like the difference I would have expected.
> My dad's new machine has a 2.8 Ghz dual core processor. > Maybe it's the 1GB of memory that's slowing things down. > And to be sure, it's not horribly slow or anything. It's > certainly faster than his old machine. Just nothing like > the difference I would have expected.
I don't think there's any question that Vista has heavy requirements. Just look at the minimum, well... requirements.
I bought a cheap laptop recently. Although the upgrade to Vista is $55 (ouch), I might just buy it and hold onto it, because eventually I'll probably want it. I just don't want to have to upgrade all my PCs right now, and there's no compelling reason to switch right now.
I'm finding on the same hardware that I'm also running Windows XP Pro (sp2), that Vista seems to execute my applications about the same. However, they seem a little snappier to start. Windows definitely starts and closes much quicker, and more reliably -- which is strange to get used to after so many years of not expecting hibernate and sleep to work properly. I'm not using the Aero interface, I'm awaiting a new 256 meg video card before I enable that. But from my understanding, most of the graphics sugar will be handled by the GPU and so unlike XP and its GDI, enabling all this won't use the processor. I'm also upgrading my RAM.
I agree with the guy above about the Core Duo. I'm using a cheap 2.8 D, but my friend's Core Duo seems to smoke my machine.
Anyway, I wasn't very excited about moving over to Vista and was just planning on testing my software in A Vmware image. However, I'm slowly getting more and more seduced by it, though I wouldn't run out and purchase it just for the new features, and I'd wait for a new machine that comes with it.
"The Mac folks have their undies in a bunch (again) because it looks like Microsoft has stolen ideas from Apple (again), and that's almost certainly true (although I'll have more sympathy when everyone admits that Apple blatantly stole the core of their ideas from Xerox)."
Ah yes, the old "Apple stole everything from Xerox" myth. That's not quite true. Then there is the meta myth - Apple fans deny that Apple was inspired by Xerox. That's not really true either. Everybody acknowledges that Xerox pioneered a lot of neat stuff (and then failed to bring any of it to market).
But Apple hired all those Xerox people - let them do their thing - and then shipped it. Alan Kay, Dan Ingalls, Larry Tessler, all Xerox alum that went to work for Apple because Apple offered them a chance to ship what they were working on.
And nobody denies it.
Sorry to hear about your Word dependency. Its a lot better over here in Mac land. Everything just works, the programming tools rock, and its Unix man.
You should listen to the latests podcasts of "Security Now". Leo Laporte and Steve Gibson talk about what is built into Vista and how it may affect its stability. Here is the link http://www.twit.tv/SN
> Sorry to hear about your Word dependency. Its a lot > better over here in Mac land. Everything just works, the > programming tools rock, and its Unix man.
The Unix part is its saving grace, in my opinion. Also very helpful (for me) that emacs is built in for quick edits. But I haven't yet had the "programming tools rock" experience. This week, I spent quite awhile looking for a GUI subversion client to use on the Mac belonging to someone who consults for me. There are a number of clients, but the really nice, easy one didn't support locking, and the rest were nonobvious to use. We ended up just installing and using the command-line SVN client (he's an editor, not a programmer, so command-line stuff is less intuitive for him).
My contrasting experience was with Tortoise SVN on Windows, which has been fully-functional and totally obvious to use. I was hoping to find something like that for the Mac.
So that's just one data point, but it's the kind of experience I keep having. It's possible that Apple machines simply don't like me, and show it. But oh man, do I love the idea of that instant-on/off laptop. Next laptop I get I'll definitely consider a Mac, even if I don't use a desktop Mac. By then, I expect things to have improved even more.
However, I wouldn't be surprised if some devoted Linux geek out there masters the on/off thing, and I'd have to say that would be my first choice for OS after Windows (again, only because of Word and a few other things). It's especially true now that more applications are migrating to the web.
SVN support is built into XCode - if you're doing mac programming you're going to be using that anyhow. So I'm not surprised nobody has felt compelled to write a standalone gui client.
But I wouldn't know about the clients as I don't use it. SVN is old generation versioning technology - it works on text files - not code. I work in Squeak now and the Monticello versioning system is da bomb for code management as it understands the structure of code and is less likely to get confused by a major code restructuring.