NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, May 2007
By Jan Fagerholm, Associate Editor, PC Community, Hayward, California
Obtained from APCUG with the author's permission for publication by APCUG member groups.
jan-f@pacbell.net (click to email author)

Applications compatibility is still slow coming in Vista. Since Vista came out, Microsoft has released one update aimed at improving applications compatibility (KB929427). While it is not unreasonable to expect vendors to update their applications, Microsoft has not been forthcoming with information that vendors need. Both Symantec and McAfee (70% of the anti-virus market) are at open war with Microsoft over the lack of kernel information on Vista. Microsoft says this is for “security reasons”. This reasoning seems specious in view of That Other Operating System (Linux), which is Open Source. Anyone can download the kernel source code and study how it works, and Linux has far better security than Windows for just that reason. Everybody knows how it works; they also know just how to prevent intrusion.

So, compatibility for lots of applications has been slow coming. The Big Kahuna application vendor, Adobe, is an example. While CS2 installs and runs on Vista, they have released about 300 MB worth of patches to address “compatibility issues” in Vista. These range from visual anomalies to outright crashes. If reliability is foremost, you may be stuck in Windows XP for several months. Don’t give up that dual-boot configuration just yet. . .

ReadyBoost is a new feature of Vista that lets you use a USB flash drive as part of system memory, improving what Microsoft characterizes as “system responsiveness”. It serves as storage for the system cache that gets paged to the hard drive in a low RAM machine. Computers with less than 1 GB of RAM benefit most from ReadyBoost; Vista moves a lot of the system cache to the flash drive, where it is accessed much faster than if it were paged to the hard drive.

I tested ReadyBoost by reducing the RAM on my Vista machine to 512 MB and running Vista over several sessions to get a feel of the system’s responsiveness, then adding a SanDisk Cruzer 2 GB ReadyBoost-capable flash drive to see the difference. Leaving the flash drive in the computer during startup actually lengthened boot times. (Same thing happens if you add RAM: Windows simply spends more time filling the added RAM with more system components.) The speed difference shows up while you are running applications. Vista caches system and application pieces in memory, but lacking memory, it will simply page these off to the hard drive, which is the slowest component in the computer. When it can page these pieces to the flash drive instead, system response improves markedly. If you do something like load Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, and CorelDRAW, and switch between the applications, there is a definite improvement in system response. Crude stopwatch testing on my part suggest 25% - 50% improvements whenever Vista works the cache. Even Flight Simulator X was faster, with less delay between scenery changes while in flight. Noted from other sources, performance improvements are best in machines with the RAM configured single-channel and barely noticeable in machines that have paired modules running in dual-channel mode.

Note that the flash drive must be ReadyBoost capable. It must meet minimum speed tests before Vista will use it. Every other flash drive I own fails this test. When you go to the store, make sure the package says the flash drive is ReadyBoost capable. A side benefit of ReadyBoost is that if you don’t want the flash drive for ReadyBoost, you can get an ordinary 2 GB drive for as low as $14.

So, this month, I found out how much faster I can’t run my incompatible applications using ReadyBoost in Vista; the Microsoft version of Catch-22. Stay tuned for more misadventures.

This article has been provided to APCUG by the author solely for publication by APCUG member groups. All other uses require the permission of the author (see e-mail address above).

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