Vista….and more Vista

With the full release of Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system, many articles are appearing across the internet talking about the good, the bad, and the ugly. (OK…I know I used this analogy in my SWW presentation…but it just fits here too!) I have somewhat of a test machine that I have been working with a little bit just to see what the fuss is all about. The downside to the test machine is that it is a 4+ year old Dell Precision 340 workstation with only 1 gig of RAM. While I can’t test performance, I can get a taste of some of the features and graphics enhancements. I’m going to try to give you just a little information on what I have gathered thus far in my brief experience both from a Windows user and SolidWorks user perspective.

THE GOOD: The graphical enhancements are nice…actually I must say they are very nice. I really like the look and feel of the OS much better than XP. There are some nice enhancements in how you view files in what you would refer to as a “My Computer” or “Windows Explorer” type window. You get a much nicer preview of SolidWorks documents when running the SolidWorks Vista version. Here is one of those “little” things that I really like. Remember the “sidebar” area of your “My Computer” window in XP called “Other Places” that supplies links to “My Computer”, “My Documents”, and “My Network Places”? Well this area in Vista is actually customizable! I have wanted to add my PDMWorks Local folder to this area for quite sometime and with Vista it was really easy to do! (If anyone out there knows how to customize the “Other Places” links in XP….please enlighten me!)

THE BAD: Simply put, to get all those fancy graphics, you have to pay the price in the usage of RAM. Just looking at my test system at startup (keep in mind that this system has bare minimum services running) it is using 450 megs of RAM. My laptop with many more startup services running only runs around 285 megs of RAM. Is this a fair and complete performance comparison….not really. It’s just a simple way to see how much memory the OS is using at somewhat equal states. There are plenty of more elaborate articles out there that support the fact that Vista does use more resources and towards the end of this post, I’ll share some links with TONS of useful information related to that.

THE UGLY: Currently, there is a lack of drivers for Vista. More specifically, from a SolidWorks standpoint, there is a lack of video drivers. SolidWorks Vista version only runs on Software OpenGL currently. This results in slower all around graphics performance in SolidWorks since there are no hardware accelerated OpenGL drivers available. No definite timetable has been given as to when this will change. You could also have problems finding drivers & software compatible for some other devices you commonly interface with. This will all work itself out in time as more drivers are release, but for now, it is definitely something you must consider if you are contemplating an upgrade.

Matt Lombard and Lou Gallo have some GREAT information available on their Blogs about Vista and it’s relation to SolidWorks. It is MUCH more comprehensive that what I have provided here. Both give what I feel is a fair and balanced view of the situation.

My take for now is the same as Matt’s and Lou’s. Don’t upgrade just yet. Let’s give it some time. In a couple of months, I’ll revisit this subject again and provide some updates to the issues raised above.

Stay tuned….lots of exciting stuff to come….maybe even a little different look to the Blog soon!