On the roadshow I’ve been saying how great the Microsoft IT build of Vista is. The sheer simplicity of getting a new laptop – more-or-less any laptop, plugging it in, booting off the network and installing a usable combination of OS and apps in an hour or so is just fantastic. If we were normal customers we’d be using Vista enterprise, so that’s what we use in the image that’s available to install.
The trouble is I’m supposed to cover all of Vista, and I’ve had to let James Senior and Matt McSpirit take over the Vista after hours events that we’re running in Reading and Leeds at the start of next month. There are some things I can’t show without running Ultimate: Media centre being a prime example.
I bought a USB TV adapter to try out Media Centre when Vista was still in beta, but it doesn’t have 64 bit drivers. Steve wanted a TV adapter so he took it off my hands last week. Saturday was my birthday which coincided wth the start of a new series of Dr Who: having young children we can’t watch it live, and my ancient VCR has been acting up – you can guess what my birthday present to myself was going to be. I settled on the stick from Hauppauge because it has 64 bit drivers – and found it on a very good offer at PC world. I downloaded the latest software from Hauppauge’s web site, installed the drivers without any problem.
Since I was running the Vista enterprise I needed Hauppauge’s WinTV program: I said a while back that the worst bits of software I have on my machines come with Devices – Epson’s printer driver, HP’s Scanner driver and Pentax’s imaging software. Hauppage’s user interface and pig ugly appearance, fast tracks it into this hall of shame. It crashed on start-up until I discovered an badly explained option in tool called “primary” – which isn’t mentioned in the documentation – the on-line help doesn’t work either. To its credit it displays, records and plays back TV reasonably well, even if
(a) It couldn’t find TV channels which are currently off air (BBC Three and Four are on when CBBC and CBeebies are off and vice versa),
(b) Channel numbers are assigned in the order which the channels are detected so don’t match those used by a freeview box and my freeview-integrated TV
(c) Its MPEG-4 files skip when played back in Windows media player
(d) It won’t start to play back a recording if the TV stick is unplugged.
It was time to move to Windows Media Centre and that, of course means moving from Windows Vista-Enterprise to Windows Vista-Ultimate. Unlike the other versions of Vista, with enterprise you can’t go to system properties and put in a new product key to upgrade. I understand the logic of this, although I guess this whole post suggests that logic might be flawed. So was backup and reinstall time. It takes about as long to install Vista as it does to apply the image from the network, and then I have to:
- Join the domain, (which is automatic with the network install) and add my domain account to the administators group.
- Connect to Windows update to get the latest drivers and patches. Re-calibrate the user experience index.
- Copy my files back
- Install Anti Virus softare, Office, Visio, Communicator, MapPoint, MindGenius, Adobe Reader, the latest Flash player, the foxit PDF previewer, and Windows Live writer
- Pair my Presenter mouse with the blue tooth adapter and reinstall its driver.
- Connect my phone, Visit Windows update to get Windows Mobile Device Centre.
- Get a certificate and connect to the Microsoft Wireless network,
- Re-sync my mail, put back my Signature block
- Reconnect to my Groove workspaces.
and I’m ready to start work again, then for “play” I need to
- Install Digital Image Suite, my ancient copy of Paint shop pro, Exif utils and Advanced Batch converter.
- I’m waiting for Phase one to put support for my new DSLR into their sofware so I’ll find the Pentax CD… there’s always of Adobe Lightroom.
- Set-up the “roll my own” driver for my diving camera
- Go back to Windows Update for the Windows Ultimate extras.
- Install the Suunto Software for my dive computer (one of the few device bundled bits of software I actually like).
- Install the Hauppauge drivers and set-up Media Centre.
My experience with Media Centre using the old stick, my old PC and the release candiate of Vista wasn’t all that great. This time round the channel detection worked better (it found the “right” instances of the channels – where previously some were Ghosts on the wrong frequency), it associated all but 2 channels with the information in the TV guide (previously the TV guide was all holes, this time only 2 channels needed the visit to Settings / TV / Guide / Add listings to Channel). And the recording seems smooth (My last attempt at recording was the christmas special of Dr Who… which was so jittery we had to wait for the repeat).
Mission accomplished … time taken, about 6 hours.