Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Vista rants continued – tablet issues

Posted by shannonclark on September 28, 2007

If you follow my twitter feed you know that for the past few days I have been having another round of major problems with Vista (and some non-MSFT related issues with mail servers and mail clients).

I just rebooted my tablet and this time I timed how long it took from the login screen to having Firefox restored and back functional. It took almost exactly 7 minutes. In my book that is about 6 minutes too long and even that is pushing it, there is no excuse for why a modern laptop should take over 5 minutes to boot up and start a basic application such as Firefox. I am not starting a ton of unusual applications (anti-virus software, skype, google chat, my laptop’s power management applications, and that’s about it).

The full process to shutdown and reboot often takes 10 minutes or more, rarely if I’m lucky it takes less than 10 minutes. Even just trying to put my laptop into sleep mode (so it shouldn’t drain the battery while in my bag) can often take a couple of minutes!)

I posted a bunch of my recent issues as a comment on a post about similar Vista rants.

Here are a few of my major issues currently with Vista. I am running Vista on a Lenovo X60 tablet which I purchased earlier this year. It is a dual-core Intel system, with 1 GB of ram, a 1400×1050 resolution tablet screen, a 100+gb hd, and otherwise fairly standard but generally high end components. It is not a gaming laptop so the graphics card is not insane, nor are my cores of the absolute fastest speeds, but it is also claimed to get up to 8hrs of battery life with the battery combinations I have (that claim like so much else about this laptop is, however, false). Since I have owned it in essence most of the parts of the laptop other than the hard drive have been replaced – I have a new screen (my old one was defective) and a new systemboard (either also defective or rendered defective when the screen was replaced).

Earlier this month I crashed Windows Explorer. In a manner that generated a C++ error message. And then rendered a user experience of Windows without any icons or taskbar. Oh, what did I do to crash Windows Explorer? I copied files from a zip folder (I think my problem was I was trying to copy two different folders from the same zip folder at the same time).

I should note, my system was fully patched when this happened – and I run antivirus software etc frequently – so my issues were not spyware or virus related – they were simply a major and fatal system error.

That’s a single event, but I have more frequent issues with Vista.

1. Many, many times when I wake up from an extended sleep (like say letting my laptop recharge overnight) Vista insists on resetting my screen resolution. Not immediately, no, it wakes up (slowly), even connections (or tries to) back to the wifi, then suddenly the screen will freeze, go completely black, and a few minutes later (and I’m not exaggerating it literally will be frozen for a few minutes) it will wake back up but with the screen resolution set to 1040×768 (my screen is really 1400×1050). I have to manually reset the screen resolution (and of course this resizes any windows I might have had open at the time).

2. I mentioned above “tries to reconnect to wifi”. Not infrequently when Vista wakes up from sleep, my wifi will enter into a state where though the wireless device is active and sees networks, it is unable to actually establish an internet connection, it will connect locally, but not to the internet. The issue is not always with the servers as usually a reboot will fix this problem. But note, a “reboot” takes my laptop about 10 minutes – and that’s a good day, it can be more.

3. On my 2007 edition laptop, running the latest, fully patched OS (Vista Business Edition), my laptop often freezes for no apparent reason. My mouse will stop moving, if I am typing my text no longer shows up (as if the computer has to catch up with my typing) and it can literally be many minutes before it unfreezes, if at all. As well applications for no readily apparent reason will display “not responding” often for many minutes at a time, in these cases other applications may (or more often may not) still function and sometimes I still have mouse movement – but often that to stops after a bit. I should note, I am not recompiling massive applications or running Second Life or a major high end game or editing application – the applications I am usually running that cause these issues are: Firefox (latest version with minimal extensions), Outlook 2007, or other Office 2007 applications. All fully legal, professional installations – not running beta code or anything strange – just trying to do plain vanilla tasks like manage my contacts & calendar or edit a presentation. I rarely have more than 10 tabs open in Firefox (usually less). And I am not running anything else major (no bittorrent clients or the like just google chat & skype) I also often have iTunes open but generally not all the time.

In short a typical business professional use of Vista. Nothing too intensive and certainly not usage that should freeze a modern system. Sure, I have a lot of email (a few GB’s worth in my main system, but because it is so slow and nearly totally unresponsive I actually don’t usually use Outlook all that much (which is a major professional issue, I really do need to have a full featured and usable contact manager which will sync with my iPhone and with web services such as Plaxo – I have 1000’s of contacts + 1000’s of business cards from new contacts which I need to enter – but the constant freezes and the sheer pain of using this system have delayed me. Likewise I have a lot of serious Excel work I need to do, also around deep data gathering and modeling and the near impossibility of having this laptop work reliably have delayed that work as well.

So this is a completely unacceptable situation. I may try adding more memory (I have room to add a 2gb dimm) but it is such a painful process to figure out what dimm this system needs and order it I have also been avoiding that (and I am likewise not looking forward to then installing that memory – the design of the tablet does not make that all that trivial unfortunately). But I do not think all of my issues are a result of memory – when I launch the task manager and watch the performance measures, the memory and the CPU will often spike to 100% – which is just insane given the rather lightweight tasks I’m actually doing.

And this system also freezes on other tasks which should be easy. With nothing else running other than iTunes, playback of shows I have purchased is often halting and slow, with the audio and video sometimes getting out of sync (the same files however play back perfectly – and indeed more enjoyably and smoothly on my iPhone, which I should note is running a vastly slower processor and graphics chip than this laptop is – at least in theory)

My point is that there is something seriously wrong with Vista. Perhaps also with the design of this tablet, but if Lenovo/ThinkPad is having issues, then likely ALL laptops running Vista have issues – ThinkPads have long had a reputation as some of the best and most reliable of professional laptops. My previous laptop was a workhorse which though I tortured never gave me anything like the types of problems I am having with this current system.

I do not think it is asking too much in 2007 to have a laptop that performs better than machines I owned 5+ years ago.

Here are the specs of what I would ideally like to own – if you know of a company that makes this please leave a comment (and I’m more than happy to review a trial version of such a system):

– weight of LESS than 5 lbs. This is a deal breaker (literally for my back). I walk 4+ miles EVERY DAY. Every pound that goes into my bag I feel. My fantasy is a laptop that w/power supply is less than 5lbs, I’ll settle for a system that is <6lbs with power supply. I currently sacrifice having an optical drive in part to achieve this weight target, though I did buy a larger/heavier battery to try to meet my next goal

– real world working capacity of at least 6 hours with 8 hours the ideal without needing to be plugged in. i.e. can be used on a cross-country trip, or in cafes over the course of a day without needing to fight for an outlet. I don’t need to do this while watching videos the full time or while working with a very bright screen, but it should accommodate using wifi for the duration (i.e. being connected to the web the whole time)

– screen resolution of at least 1400×1050 and higher is better. My entire work is information – as an entrepreneur I am pulling in information from many sources and massaging it, the more pixels in front of me,the more I can work with and monitor. I refuse to go back to lower resolutions

– at least 100gb of internal storage, these days I’d probably ideally want 250+gbs

– full range of USB, firewire, etc ports. With option for adding an EVDO card in the future.

– great keyboard (ThinkPad’s have spoiled me, they really are lightyears better than most other laptops) and I have gotten used to a trackpoint w/multiple buttons (I use the right mouse button a lot, many times nearly every hour, it is a core part of my workflow).

– tablet functionality would be nice, but not a complete deal breaker – though if my system was more reliable and stable, I would likely use the tablet features more often. I want to be able to use the machine without a barrier between me and others (when in a meeting, at a conference, or giving a pitch). I also want to be able to generate content such as quick sketches of an idea or workflow and tablets make this easy – if all the rest of the applications don’t crash or freeze.

I’m not overly fussy about the rest of the specs, though ideally the system should have standard components everywhere – ideally all ones which have open source drivers (which implies they should also have good drivers for Vista though that may be stretching a point). I’m not ruling out a Mac, but the lack of a second mouse button (or a trackpoint) and the keyboards are really strong negatives – the weight and relatively poor battery life are my major other issues. The OS however is lightyears ahead of Vista.

I have been told that there are some systems that come close in Asia, though when I last looked the really ultalightweight systems had lower screen resolutions than I really want, but perhaps that is slowly changing. Certainly the current iPhones and new iPods show that pixel densities continue to get denser (though perhaps they have issues scaling up to laptop screen sizes).

But more than anything else, I want a system that is rock solid and fast and lightweight.

Update – reports on the beta of Vista SP1 indicate that some of my issues may (emphasis on may) be corrected. Note this post on the Microsoft Windows team blog about the beta. In particular, note that he has the same issues I have about losing wifi on wake up from hibernation and some of my other issues as well.


3 Responses to “Vista rants continued – tablet issues”

  1. I have come across (and blogged about) a lot of Vista problems but never tried it on a tablet. Just as well by the sounds of it. One of my work PCs is a tablet but that is running XP because as a firm we are still only investigating moving to Vista. I hope that our IT function comes to its senses before thousands of people nationally find themselves unable to work. That would be good for business!

    Hasta la vista, Vista!

  2. Andy Mayer said

    thank-you so much for writing this. I have exactly these problems on my X60t with Vista Business and was wondering whether it was Microsoft or Lenovo. I did ramp my RAM up to 4GB and it makes no difference at all. The only thing that speeds it up is running the hard drive defrag tool on a regular basis and other admin clean-ups. But given the benefit only lasts 24 hours it is hardly worth it.

  3. Jim Natron said

    I will learn to use…ubuntu

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