My new computer is coming along quite nicely, but I still think Windows XP blows compared to Windows 2000. Change is bad when you already have everything you need and just want to continue using the same hardware and software you’ve been using for 10+ years. If I want to do new stuff, I’ll get another computer for that. Leave my main computer alone. Also: Micro-review of Shrek 2. ** WARNING: SUPER-LONG POST **. You might want to ‘star’ this for lunch. Click for the rest–>

Well, The Quest For 1080p video (six times dvd quality) succeeded, thanks to an awesome program called PowerStrip (google it). Greg Z (very helpful guy!) recommended it to me — I had completely forgotten about it, as it once solved some problem I had many years ago (1990s?). It managed to get my desktop to 1920×1080 @ 1080p. Even seemed to be 60Hz, though Windows says it’s 30Hz. But PowerStrip is in control, and is the only reason this is happening, so I trust its numbers more.

But anyway, there are still problems.

In the name of experimentation, I am running a dual boot system. 750G split to 130G/620G. 130G C: has Win2K and calls the 620G T:. 620G D: has WinXP and calls the 620G D:. But I network map T: to point to D: so I can use both letters. And XP shares the same c:\bat\ directory, and part of the Clintvironment is setting %OS to “2K” or “XP”, so I’m sort of screwed in the department of having %OS (only used in Clint scripts) set to the proper value. It would be easy enough to avoid, but I’m going to live with it for now because it made much more of a difference in the 95/ME/2K days than in the 2K/XP days (biggest difference: c:\winnt vs c:\windows, and I do have a few scripts that go in there and might not work unless I type “SET OS=XX” first, or hard-code it to the OS I most frequently boot to).

SO ANYWAY……….

We watched The Office in 720p and the video was very obviously wonky, even to Carolyn. The Office office has those straight, black door trims backed with white walls. When the camera panned to the side, it was very obvious that the entire line of the door trim was not moving in sync with itself. You could see horizontal bands — the trim was no longer a straight line; it had a discontinuity. It’s almost like it was mid-way drawing the frame when it came to the HDTV. (UPDATE: VLC works best in overlay mode, and if you don’t want to use overlay, MPC/Media Player Classic/mplayerc.exe is a better player.)

I had to laugh when Greg Z suggested a virus, because I like to goad him on about being paranoid past the point practicality (which I do in real life situations, but not on the computer). It’s not like my cpu and bandwidth are at 100% — I’d notice my cpu meter, feel the sluggishness, and cry when my downloads weren’t taking up maximum bandwidth. I’m just not sure what hackers would be gaining, as they are motivated by profit, and my firewall would stop random connections to the internet. I also run netstat whenever anything seem strange.

SO IT WAS THE OS [DUE TO DRIVER LIMITATION]? CHRIST!

So anyway, I booted back into XP and guess what OMG IT LOOKS JUST FRICKIN’ FINE. So the problem was simply Win2K vs WinXP. Really, the problem is that ATI stopped allowing Win2K to install its drivers about 5 versions ago. WinXP is not a radical departure from Win2K. ATI offers *NO* driver online for my card for Win2K. The installers say “You’re Win2k! Not gonna do it!” But the install cd works just fine. They want to get you far enough in the process that you don’t return your card, and then get forced into upgrading to WinXP when you actually want a current driver. I daresay that’s underhanded. If it isn’t actually supported [with new drivers] in 2K, don’t put a cd on it that makes it work under 2K and claim 2K “support”. That’s not “support”. That’s practically DRM.

So I’m a little pissed that I’m going to have to take the XP route, but that’s why I was doing a dual-boot system anyway. Plus, if one gets hosed, you can boot into the other to fix things. That provides dual redundancy ensuring that this computer, which pumps out all our entertainment, can always run, even if I fux0r my OS. And of course, downstairs is another redundant setup too. And once Carolyn has HDMI out, I’ll at least have an upstairs backup for 720p video (no way her machine would handle 1080p) in the event of hardware failure. Nothing can go wrong, right!?!!?

SO WE WATCHED OUR FIRST 1080p MOVIE — THAT’S SIX TIMES DVD QUALITY

And we watched our first 1080p movie, Shrek 2, Monday night. In terms of visual detail and quality, it was the most intense, best looking video either of us have ever seen in our lives. At six times dvd quality, one could appreciate the high-resolution, crisp rendering. DVD is ghetto. DVD is dead. Aired television is now better quality than dvd (if it’s 720p/1080p), and I now completely understand the necessity of HD-DVD/BluRay. I’m not sure how this will affect future Netflixing, but if I can’t rip the movie and watch it on my computer, I probably will no longer use Netflix except for old movies that aren’t in HD.

I mean… it was amazing. Being able to see hundreds of crisp individual blades of cgi-grass wavering in the wind. I mean, I must have stared at the texture of Shrek’s burlap clothing for at least 2 minutes. Wood grain. Not only can you appreciate the high-definition format, but you can also appreciate the cgi done in such incredible detail. The new HD format lets you appreciate how far cgi has come.

I also wonder if they have always had a 1920×1080 version of Shrek 2 sitting around … I have to wonder if they have a 7680×4320 version sitting around. Or did they re-render all the cgi in a higher resolution? Do they re-render it for every resolution it is released in? (That really would be the best way.)

YES IT’S TRUE… I GUESS IT’S CRAPPY TO BE STUCK WITH YOU

So anyway, I’m stuck with Windows XP now. I have 1080p video working right, and didn’t quite get it working right under Windows 2K. But it’s not Windows 2K’s fault. It’s completely capable of doing everything Windows XP can, in terms of video playback. You’re just using overlay mode from the graphics card. Not being able to install DirectX 10 has nothing to do with it here! This is purely the result of driver-level “DRM” from ATI. I blame AMD for buying them. I bet this would not have happened had AMD not bought ATI. Time to utilize the time machine again…

IN CONCLUSION

I’m now running two computers with Windows XP, and zero with Windows 2K. My personal choice has officially been eeked out of existence, mostly due to what I consider to be corporate shenanigans, and not actual technical reasons. Computers are pretty much good enough, and they don’t need to re-invent the wheel. Just give me faster parts to interchange with my slower parts, and I’d happily run the same operating system for 10 or more years.

Carolyn is in the exact opposite situation. The one I want to be in. She has two computers with Windows 2000, and zero with Windows XP. I’m so envious… But then again, I would not trade my better computer for hers, nor would I trade my worse computer for her worse one. (I would trade my worse computer for her better one, though. Fuck Gateway, I have no intention of buying a pre-built machine again!)

So… I guess this is what’s happening. I feel violated. I guess I have to accept it and go with it. I feel like I’ve lost my own personal, miniscule battle in the technology war. But then again, if I really wanted to win that battle, I would run Linux. However, practicality and laziness have shown me three times that that route was nto for me. I’m an idealist, but I do have a sense of practicality too.

So… Fuck it. As Beavis once said, “Stuff sucks. It sucks! It sucks! It sucks!” Stuff will suck. I’ll be forced to progress, just like I have in the past.

By the way — I still regret upgrading my DOS box to Windows 95. If I hadn’t done that, I would still use the machine today. I’d probably even have tcp/ip under dos working. There are still some programs I’d like to run that only worked under true DOS.

SOME SPECIFIC ANNOYANCES SO FAR WITH WINDOWS XP:

  1. In explorer, enabling the “audio sample rate” column typically displays “0kHz” next to all videos. I mark my filenames, and I always mark any file that is not 44kHz. I use that damn column; it was one of the few values that my automatic renaming script could not discern on it’s own (codec & framerate are auto-detected and automatically put in the filename). I typically used a macro to add ” (48kHz snd)” to the end of my files when running this script (1 keypress per file). Q: How the hell can I do it when XP wont show this value? A: Use Carolyn’s Windows 2000 machine to do it!
  2. In explorer, after renaming certain files, they go to the bottom of the list, instead of staying where it is. WTF?! Why change such subtle behavior? Sometimes I don’t use my automatic script renamer (running it twice can occasionally screw the filenames up by applying some of my 300+ renaming rules twice). Sometimes I just want to really quickly ad a word or phrase [like ” (no credits)”] to the end of each file. F2, END, Ctrl-LeftArrow, Ctrl-V, Enter, DownArrow. I could do this to 30 files in 25 seconds. Now? The file goes to the end and just totally fucks my rhythm up. This I might be able to get used to. UPDATE: Some have suggested this might be a program, yet, now that I have two XP machines, it’s definition XP that’s doing it.
  3. Stop resetting my theme. Every XP I’ve ever had, the theme resets. I shouldn’t have to save mine to a custom theme purely out of paranoia. This seems to stop once you settle in, but I’ve had a spontaneous theme reset near the beginning of the life for every XP machine.
  4. Virii! Experience has shown me that in an identical network, a fully patched XP machine will get more infections and more viral damage and successful hacks, than a fully patched 2K machine. Recall that I used to run every machine with a static IP address, no firewall, no antivirus, and a 2-letter password to remote in. Not these days. Multiple Microsoft products (IIS, SQL Server) got infected, and W32.Licum/Gael is like herpes; never truly gone, but always resurfacing most often on the XP boxes. I ZIP my EXE installers now; doing that is faaaaar more effective than running anti-virus software. Most virii do not bother unzipping and modifying EXE files that can’t even be run because they are currently compressed.
    Anyway, my theory for this may simply be that hackers are most likely to hack the most common OS, so XP is going to be targeted by recent exploit codes more than 2K. This is also why Apples aren’t targeted. But I don’t really know.
  5. Windows-Tab is supposed to hilight the first task on your taskbar, not the second. Thanks for ruining my muscle memory on the only 2-keypress combo guaranteed to go to first task on my taskbar. The first window open was always my command-line, so this was super-convenient for me. Better than alt-tabbing.
  6. Don’t hide \system volume information\ from me. In 2K, I can get to every folder. I have a virus in \system volume information\, and I’d like to delete it. It’s not running, or doing anythin, but I don’t particularly like that it’s there. I certainly should be able to get into this folder when I dual-boot into 2K — but noooooo, that doesn’t work either. Do I need a fucking DOS disk?! FUCKERS.
  7. I can’t be Administrator now? WTF?! I have that hard-coded in a few places. I was just starting to get into using NT Authentication with VNC!! But now the same User+Pass combo that I use on Win2K is invalid for WinXP! So now when logging in, we have to remember which OS the machine is running?! It’s dual boot! This is a pain! So VNC lets you have an “Admin” account that you can manually set the password for. So much for NT Authentication (for XP). I know many people think you shouldn’t run in Administrator, but shit man — if this was unix, I’d just be root all the time. (NOTE: If this *actually* was unix, I would not understand it enough to be confident running root. Administrator@Windows is a lot harder to fuck up than root@unix.) Of course, I can still do everything as user “oh” now that I could do as user “Administrator” on my Win2K. This isn’t progress, it’s just a stupid inconvenience.
  8. Background Intelligent Transfer Services shouldn’t die for no reason with no explanation. It’s kind of required to run Windows Update. Fortunately, I use CTUpdate, a command-line windows update that doesn’t rely on windows, and therfore works. It’s great because you can patch your machine up before ever plugging the network cable in, because the security patches are saved as EXE files (2K + xP = 2G). Anyway, this problem is constnat on Hell, and happens a bit on Hades too. Windows Update failed, so I stopped using it. With CTUpdate, I interface less with Microsoft than ever. Considering Microsoft recently slipped in a patch without permission — even on those people who had automatic updates turned off or set to not install automatically — I think it’s a good thing to use CTUpdate.
  9. The whole c:\recycled\ vs c:\recycler\ thing. Why do it one way for 7+ years, and then switch?! I had that crap hard-coded in several scripts, as well as my “del” alias! Fortunately I know how to use junction.exe to fix the problem. Make a junction c:\recycled\ that points to c:\recycler\, so scripts do not have to examine %OS. Right now, my %OS might be set to 2K even though I’m in XP (Dual-boot), so it’s helpful that this would work regardless of the variable. I guess it’s time to change %OS to be “XP” instead of “2K”. sigh.
    Oh, and for curiosity’s sake, how I originally discovered this issue … My 2K box got hax0red, and I was like “What’s recycler? The German word for recycled?!” It did in fact contain 12 gigs of dvd-rip movies, but they all had German audio. Also: 6,800 Commodore 64 music files. I had to delete all that shit.. That was around when I had to start using a firewall. :) So at first I thought it was just the german word, but I always kept an eye out for it. When my shitty Gateway computer with shitty XP on it came, I noticed that was the actual recycle bin. WHY CHANGE IT? WHAT DOES THIS ACCOMPLISH?
  10. Windows-B is now reserved?!??! For what? I’ve been using windows-ZXCVB to control Winamp’s last/stop/play/pause/next buttons for years and years and years. Those 5 keys (ZXCVB) are what is used in Winamp, so it makes sense that Windows-ZXCVB would be the hotkey for Winamp control while in other programs. (Being able to pause without switching tasks or moving your hands off your keyboard is a great boon.) But noooooooooooooo…. Now Win-B must become Win-G. Forced to change my keyboard combinations. Don’t tell me how to use my computer.
  11. What’s up with the CPU meter? [UPDATE: I FIGURED IT OUT!] I rely on being able to look in my system tray and instantly see if my CPU load is at 1% or 100%. If a program feels sluggish, I have only that instant to look at the meter and see if the reason it’s sluggish is because my CPU is full. In Win95, WinME, and Win2K, you could set up Task Manager such that, when minimized, it becomes a CPU meter in the tray. XP can do this too, but it doesn’t always work. It simply … doesn’t go to the tray always. Sometimes. Not always. Inconsistent. I don’t have it right now, and it’s maddening. UPDATE 11/27/2007: This one is solved, but still an XP annoyance. When explorer crashes, you must exit and restart task manager for it to be able to minimize to the tray cpu meter. This step is necessary in XP, but not in 2K. Why? “Progress?”.
  12. Don’t block c:\program files from being shared! It’s my computer. If I say “Share drive C:”, you better share the goddamn drive. Don’t second guess me and tell me what to do with my computer. I need access to those folders from other computers! How else can I easily copy application-specific preferences or data from one computer to another? How else can my EC.BAT grep the currently-playing track out of Winamp’s AudioScrobbler log file, which resides in Winamp’s plugin directory, which is in program files? How else can I copy Quake3 levels to the other computers easily?  How else can I run EvilLyrics using one central lyric repository (so lyric edits performed on any computer all edit the same repository, which lies in Program Files\EvilLyrics\lyrics!) ARRRGH! Fixed possibly by 1 of these 2 commands: “net localgroup Users Guest /add” and “net localgroup Administrators oh /add”. “oh” is the name of my default user account, since XP doesn’t allow you to be Administrator any more (see #7)!
  13. Don’t block c:\Documents And SEttings\ from being shared! Again: It’s my computer. If I say “Share Drive C:”, you better share the goddamn drive. For the second time! This is related to #12. The idiots at Last.FM moved the audioscrobbler log file I need access to to another location as of their new version, and their old versoin stops working as of the new version of winamp. So three differnet kinds of false progress (XP, Winamp, AudioScrobbler) work together to screw me over. SOLUTION: cacls “c:\Documents and Settings” /t /e /g everyone:F  … bah humbug!
  14. The dreaded half-crash! Nothing like your computer crashing without crashing. At least when 2K crashed, you got a blue screen. It would do a memory dump. It would often reboot automatically. I could come home and the only way I’d ever know my computer crashed was by my web-browser not being open. But with the average XP crash? Noooo. It sits there in a half-crashed state. Oh sure, you can do a “dir” at the command-line and see files. But don’t you dare try to run an internal command like “tasklist” (that’s “ps” to the unix folks, which is my alias for it), or your command-line will be HUNG. Oh sure, you can Alt-Tab to other applications — and even gracefully close them (or close them with Alt-F4). And when you alt-tab again, you can confirm that they are closed. But don’t expect the screen to redraw. The application you closed will still be on the screen until you alt-tab to one of the remaining ones. Don’t expect to be able to use your start menu. In short, you may be able to save a file in your text editor, but that’s it. Winamp will continue playing the rest of the song — but it will stop as soon as the song is over. Discs being burned will still continue to burn, but it’s probably best not to trust them. Torrents will still continue, and it’s best to close them gracefully so that they don’t need to be checked (which can take several minutes per gig). It’s a frickin’ pain. You can’t shut down gracefully, you just have to hold down your power button for 5 seconds. Thankfully we don’t have to deal with chkdsk or defragmentation these days. IT STILL SUCKS. I used to think it a Gateway thing, or something specific with bad hardware on my Gateway box. But now that I have a second XP machine, I know it’s some weakness with XP. It almost always occurs when moving lots of small files to a computer via another computer, usually in conjunction with dvd burning, bittorrent, or full-screen video playback. I used to try messing with the network drivers, but now I have this same half-crash with 2 machines that are different versions of XP, do different things throughout their day, have different network cards, different video cards — different everything. The only common variables? 1: XP. 2: Me and my programs that I like to use. :)
  15. 4G MAX PHYSICAL RAM. With Windows Advanced Server 2000, you could use as much as 32GB physical ram. I don’t like limits. Especially because the XP limit was put there for driver compatibility; not because it’s necessary. (see HERE and HERE for info on maximum ram–Yes, you CAN use more than 4G with a 32-bit OS, prior to prevailing belief.)
  16. 10 connection limits suck! This isn’t an XP complaint as much as a Windows complaint in general. The non-server variants simply do not meet my high demands. Windows 2000 Advanced Server, which I bought used, has a higher limit. And THAT limit can be disabled with more ease. I’ve never had a “too many connections” error in 9 years of Win2K (about 24 computer-years as there were a good 4 machines for at least 6 yrs each) . But with XP, in a mere 5 computer-years (5 yrs on “Hell”), I’ve had drive mapping problems left and right due to running out of connections. SOLUTION: net sessions /delete, then hit “yes” to all prompts. This can be automated if it must. I already tried lowering the timeouts for sessions to no avail.
  17. Drag and drop failures. Dragging files into a folder — or even dragging within firefox (you can drag images in firefox. it doesn’t do anything, but is a good way to test if dragging works) — suddenly stops working. On XP Pro, not XP Home. Windows2K never had this problem. Restarting explorer fixes it half the time, but otherwise, you have to reboot. SOLUTION: If you don’t want to reboot, import the registry file HERE to restore drag and drop. I also hvae saved the file as c:\bat\draganddropfix.reg in case the site goes down.

ACTUAL GOOD THINGS ABOUT WINDOWS XP:

  1. My God does it shut down and boot up fast.

PSUEDO-GOOD THINGS ABOUT WINDOWS XP:

  1. Can run latest ATI drivers, but this is really a bad thing about ATI. Their driver stops and wont even let you install it if you are running Windows 2000. They just got bought by AMD, and may have officialy jumped the shark. Forcing me to upgrade when I’ve been just fine for 7 years does not bode well with me. I will do what *I* fucking want, not what *you* fucking want. That’s why it says “MY computer” on the fucking icon. [Yes, I’m getting mad during a “GOOD THING”]
  2. PicLens is an amazing firefox plugin that automatically scales a Flickr/MySpace/Facebook picture to your full screen — something none of those sites actually do. It’s disabled in 2K. Again, I call shenanigans. Full-screen image display has been possible since windows 3.1 (and under DOS too, but that’s apples & oranges).

Really, the only thing good that isn’t a manufactured reality is that it boots faster. Much faster. But I only reboot once a week or so on average, so how much does that really affect me? Not that much. I lose more time in the forced progress than I can gain by a lifetime of fast reboots.

Guess I gotta accept it. I’m too lazy/time-starved to tweak 2K, if XP is “working”. . .

To read the previous part in this series, click: JOURNAL: COMPUTER: The Birth Of Hades – part 3 – The Quest For 1080p