My New Laptop From 1998, Running Vista

I feel like I just got a new computer, and it’s from 1998.

Seriously, I’m super happy about this. Why? Let me tell you a story…

I’ve been involved with computers for a long time… most of the ones that I’ve owned I’ve built myself; I worked in a computer shop and did tech support for a year or two, I’ve been the “go to” guy all my friends or co-workers called with their computer problems. In general, computers have never stressed me out. Frustrated me at times, confounded occasionally, but never stressed out.

Until I bought my Dell XPS 1530. Or more specifically (I don’t really want to drag Dell into this), since my XPS 1530 came with Microsoft Windows Vista Premium. 50 Million lines of code! At first, life was grand. I was enjoying my fast new 1530 with all the eye candy Vista could throw at it. Yeah, the gently flowing waterfall behind the desktop icons was very cool. I showed some of my friends who’d never seen Vista before and they thought it was cool too!

Then one day, shortly after the 2 week honeymoon was over, I got my first BSOD. For the uninitiated, that stands for the Blue Screen of Death (or Doom, if you prefer) that was so famous with earlier versions of Windows. I hadn’t really had much contact with a BSOD since Windows 98, as XP seemed to have cleaned up the act a little bit. So the first one took me by surprise. And then it became a trend… for a while, it happened several times a day. Sometimes the whole laptop would just freeze, and this horrible dah-dah-dah-dah-dah sound would takeover the music I’d been enjoying seconds before.

This would continue until I could stand it no longer, and in a scene reminiscent of Will Smith, in “I Am Legend” looking away, with tears in the corner of his eye, while he strangled his virus infected dog – his only friend left in the entire world full of man eating zombies – I hold down the power button of the Dell until the screen blinks off, and the little blue lights at the front of the 1530 fade into blackness.

When I power up again, the laptop asks me if I want to start Windows normally, or go into safe mode. I always pick normally, because what can I really do about this anyways? It always continues to work, just a bit slower each time. I’d gotten to the point where it took a solid 10 minutes to boot up, load all the programs, reset my dual screen preferences (why, WHY can’t it remember the settings!??) and actually be ready for work.

Sometimes in the middle of something important, the laptop would go into slowdown mode. You know when the labor unions aren’t actually striking, but they want to send the employer a strong message? They all walk very slowly, pick things up slowly, talk to ALL their friends as they walk down the hallway, and slowly settle into their chairs. All day long. Not a lot gets accomplished, but they’re on the job!

Vista likes to do that to my XPS 1530. A normally snappy little machine. Anyways, I’ve had the laptop now for about 6 months. Initially, I had great patience for my brand new 1530. I understood that I had overloaded it with all kinds of software which takes up all kinds of memory. Life is hard for a computer, you know? Still, I took precautions. I msconfig’ed out absolutely every program that tried to start itself when Vista booted. I tried a registry fixer. I even tried a squeeze ball.

Unfortunately, nothing changed. Over time, the simmering frustration started festering into something more… actual stress! I’d heard about this, from other people, but never experienced it myself! I was actually getting stressed out because of my computer! They say that most people have short attention spans, even when concentrating, and that interspersed fairly frequently in their thoughts is some sort of sexual fantasy. Well I was getting frequent fantasies of buying a Mac.

The squeeze ball wore out. I felt like smacking my computer. With one of those FUBAR hammers. The strangulations of the power button became more emphatic. I felt like flinging the computer out my office window – even if it would mean destroying the glass!

Things were spiraling out of control – I’d never been in such distress over a computer before. I knew something had to change, so finally, last night, I took one last troll through the services section of msconfig. (Start > Run > type ‘msconfig’ > Services). Although I’d previously disabled many of these services, and nearly everything except the bare minimum on the startup tab, nothing had changed.

This time something different caught my eye. Themes. Windows Media Center _____. No longer caring, I disabled anything and everything that looked non-essential. I shutdown the 1530 and went to bed.

This morning when I fired up the laptop, things looked different. I thought for a second I’d taken a ride with Marty McFly in a Dolorian and gone back 10 years! Vista looked grey, and blocky. Everything was straight lines and solid colors. It looked very 1998. And then I started using it. In wonderment, I watched my six homepages (yes, I know… there’s a good reason though) in IE7 open in just a flash. Strange feelings of giddiness began to stir in my belly. Oh wait, I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet.

Anxious to try something else, I opened Microsoft Outlook. Bang! It was up, just like that. Excel. Presto! Adobe Photoshop? Mere seconds!! Photoshop used to take at least a minute to load! I thought, hey, I can live with graphics and eye candy from 1998 as long as I’m getting 2008 performance out of this beast! I’m now convinced it was the Vista themes service causing my pain!

This was exciting. Life changing, in fact. So what did I do? I hopped on my blog to write about it of course.

If this helps you in some way in your own war with Vista, or if you enjoyed it, please Digg it or bookmark it, or comment below!

5 Responses to My New Laptop From 1998, Running Vista
  1. Bhavishya Kanjhan
    August 22, 2008 | 1:15 am

    It looks like your problem is caused by video drivers. Get onto http://www.laptopvideo2go.com/forum and try one of the 177 or 175 series drivers.
    You need to download the modded inf and replace it in the setup but I’m sure you’ll figure that out.

    If you’re running dual screen, Ultramon is an essential tool. I couldn’t live without it when I had dual screen.

    Bhavishya Kanjhans last blog post..Would you like a digital copy to go with that?

  2. Nick Smith
    August 22, 2008 | 1:56 am

    Thanks for the tip Jonathan – every day is a constant battle against my laptop to get this done, and this is a vital weapon in my arsenal. Still trying to convert to a Mac though…

  3. Jonathan
    August 22, 2008 | 6:10 am

    Thanks Bhavishya! I’m going to try that. I’ll post back here any results…

    Nick… I’m still see-sawing on the Mac debate too…

  4. bbrian017
    August 22, 2008 | 8:35 pm

    I seen the Blue Screen of Death a few times but not since I upgraded to the A11 bios for the XSP600! Before that I would get random crashes when playing games, specifically Tiger Woods 2008!

    I hate Dell but none the less I still love my pc for some reason! I dread getting the blue screen again but it hasn’t happened in months!

    My pc is pretty old and I just upgraded to 5 gigs and I have the 3.2gig with HT SLI 512*

    omg.. I hate dell support and you know I’m considering buying a laptop from them.

    The prices are so cheap…

  5. Mang
    August 23, 2008 | 12:09 pm

    Well I’ve a dell customer since 96. Received my XPSM1530 yesterday. Its less than 24 hours, however it has creashed more than 24 times with blue screen. I’ve bought at least 6 dell laptops so far, but this will be the last. Frustated. Gonna buy a macbook pro. I don’t really care if its dell or microsoft’s fault. its not mine and a OS X will not do this to me.