Monday, February 18, 2008

Vista Laptop and Development

I wanted to get a laptop which I could use for all my various tasks without spending a ton of money. I purchased an Acer 4720-4721 which is a 1.6 Dual Core Intel machine with a gig of ram.

I have a Dual Core desktop for my regular development work but I wanted to get something for some light code changes as well as doing the day to day personal stuff like Quicken.
Like everyone else I finally had to take the leap into Vista. I had tried the beta with my MSDN subscription, as well as Vista ultimate when I bought my new development workstation. I wasn't very impressed and it seemed to just be fat and bloated even on my 2.9 Dual Core workstation which went promptly back to XP. With the laptop though short of downloading all the drivers again I was going to have to get used to using Vista.

I finally have my Vista installation running as well as my XP one but it did take some effort. I'm sure I'm still losing some performance in Vista overall but it seems to run as expected now. In fact I was able to bump up my 3.1 Experience Rating to a 3.2 by just doing a few things.
First, Aero wears out really fast. I really don't need Flip 3d (who really does) and having transparent windows, light up buttons and everything else is just useless eye candy. For someone like myself who stares at code, UML diagrams, project requirements and emails all day it just wastes resources on the PC.

Turning off Aero gave an immediate improvement. I also am not pleased with the black theme. I
was able to download VistaGlazz and the Royale theme from the Internet. Google them, you'll end up with a nice bright look just like XP. In fact it seems so much happier than vista doom and gloom.

Next I did a few searches on the Internet for some Vista tweaks. The largest ones were really just turning off some items in the start up like the welcome center. That was easy enough to do with Spybot Search and Destroy. I think that is a must have on any PC.

While I was in there I turned off all the useless widgets that Acer installed on this thing. Start up tasks like launch managers, button key mappers, in all about 10 different things that really don't save me any time at all or are rarely used. Lean was the key to free up more memory for vista.
I also went into the services and turned off everything I didn't need. I don't use a modem for anything so the modem sound driver seemed like another useless thing running and taking up space.

Another trick I used on that Laptop was to install Trillian vs. MSN, Skype, GoogleTalk and Yahoo. Trillian allowed me to just load one messenger up vs. 4. Frankly all I do with those anyhow is talk to the wife, friends or colleagues in a IM window. So one footprint was better (and smaller).

Now, I also threw in a 1GB SD I had laying around into the 5 in 1 reader that came on the laptop. The ReadyBoost does seem to add some enhancement in speed. Somewhat noticeable but if you 10 little things you start to notice the difference. I also doubted the ready boost but monitored the cache hits in the Performance Monitor and with less than 1ms seek time on a flash drive there is some benefit to using it.

I also enabled the write caching on the laptop drive. I'll never run the battery to zero without knowing it so I'm willing to take the write cache hit should I be stupid enough to run out the battery.

Last but not least I took off the wallpaper background. This frees considerable bitmap memory since one color is just, well one color.

So let's recap what we did here to gain some big performance benefits.
1. Remove the start up items you don't need.
2. Remove the services you don't need
3. Turn off Aero
4. Reduce the number of Running apps.
5. Enable Write caching
6. Use ReadyBoost.

Seems like a lot of work just for some performance gains but my vista now boots in what is perceived as about half the time. I also can switch windows faster and my hard drive is not chugging away every second.

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