Windows vista - Will piano software work with it?

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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Mon Mar 26, 2007 11:15 am

Some of you may have noticed that I've hardly been around the last three weeks. The reason is that I've had to deal with a computer with Windows Vista Home Premium edition installed. I thought I would relay some of the lessons I've learned for those who have "legacy" piano (and other) software that they might want to run under Vista.

Aside from the new "Aero" interface and minor changes in the way the Start menu is laid out, the biggest difference in Vista over XP is the almost manic emphasis on "improved" security. You can't install or run any new program, and any system program, without dialog boxes popping up all over the place asking you if you really want to run the program! This is intended to stop virus programs from running without permission, but seems like overkill for those of us who have never had a virus loose on our systems.

The security emphasis also means that it is VERY difficult to transfer files and settings from your old computer. Vista provides a "migration wizard", which you can only run after you have manually installed all your programs on the machine, but it is very limited in what it will do and, in my experience, does more harm than good. If you are an expert in Windows XP security, expect to spend at least 5 times as long getting the Vista system up and running as the XP system. This is a big topic, which I'll leave for now to go on to the main topic of this post.

It's difficult to get any "legacy" program to run properly under Vista. Unless you're prepared to scrap all your software and buy "Vista-certified" software, you'll need to become intimately familiar with the "Program Compatibility Wizard" in Vista to get any of your piano software to work. In XP this was readily found, but it is largely hidden in Vista. The easiest way to find it is to use Help. To make it easier, I created a shortcut to it on my Desktop from Help. The Wizard looks pretty much like the XP version in both its options and overall appearance.

I've successfully gotten old DOS software to work using the wizard and, sometimes, using options in the program itself to set the number of screen lines manually. Many old programs will only install using the PCW's "Run as an administrator" option. Even though the PCW has an option to set the program up to run programs for XP in an XP-like environment, this is only occasionally successful. I've have heard from several manufacturers of piano and/or music software that their most current version (for XP usually) will run under Vista, but I'm not sure what that really means.

Current versions of Vista still have lots of "bugs" that interfere with accomplishing much (for example, Vista will not allow any other browser besides IE to set itself as the default; ditto for e-mail programs). Fortunately, you can find help for some of these by searching for that problem in Google. I solved a problem with the Vista screen saver that way.

I've realized that this topic is much bigger than I can really write about in a post. Although Vista will improve (I hope!), right now, I would suggest that anyone considering a computer upgrade think seriously about how much they know about the operating system and programs before they accept a computer with Vista on it. I'm guessing that most pianists, students and teachers will find it immensely frustrating, if they're not at the "power user" level of expertise. Of course, as programs are updated for Vista, the situation should get better.

Sorry that I've made so few comments about specific piano software here, but I can expand later if anybody is interested.
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Wed Apr 18, 2007 10:37 am

After over a month of working with all kinds of software in Vista Home Premium edition (the edition, of many, that is closest to XP Professional in approach), here is what has emerged:

1) About 80% of "legacy" software (DOS and Windows) can be gotten to work after a fashion - if you're willing to work at it

2) There is no single problem with software install and operation that can be cited as preventing software from installing and running under Vista. The most prevalent problems are security-related ones and can be solved if you search Vista Help efficiently. In fact, Vista Help is often, by far, the best way of finding the necessary dialogs to allow programs to run or install. The error messages you get are often less than informative. For example, when you get messages that sound like "File Not Found" errors, they are often telling you that security settings for that file need to be changed, not that the file doesn't exist where its supposed to be.

3) Many of your legacy Windows programs (including most piano software) will work with sufficient effort, but you'll find that their Help won't work! The reason is that Microsoft, in its "wisdom", has decided to eliminate the older (ie. a couple years ago) Help format reader (winhlp32.exe) from the Vista distribution. You can download it from the MS support site, but only if you use IE as your browser to allow Microsoft to verify that you have "genuine" Vista. In my experience, this verification (using an ActiveX control) crashes IE about 90% of the time.

4) Many DOS programs will work with Vista, but character-mode programs may require explicitly setting the number of text lines to display in the window. Most text mode programs will allow you to do this with a command line switch for the program. (if you don't know what that means, you should probably try to avoid running DOS programs under Vista)

5) Seeing it as a sales opportunity, most providers of older Windows software don't provide support for the older Windows XP versions under Vista. Often, they have eliminated all support for those versions. They have "Vista-certified" versions that they will sell you. This will cost you extra money, but if you're not a computer expert, it may save you a lot of time just to upgrade all your software. This whole phenomenon is all pretty strange, considering that most versions of Vista are 32-bit software of the same general type as XP. In that sense, Vista is just a prettified, less stable, XP.

6) Strangely, much free downloaded software works better under Vista than does commercial software. Don't ask me why.

7) System software (printer and video drivers) written for Vista is, by and large, pretty good under Vista. Vendors are providing stable versions and updating them regularly. One of the nice features of Vista is that it can be used to check for new drivers in a pretty easy and transparent way.

8) Vista is slow, compared to XP. This machine is about 4 times as fast as my previous XP machine, but responds at about the same rate as the previous one. Don't even think about running Vista if your machine doesn't meet MS's system requirements for Vista.

9) One decision you'll have to make is whether you'll want to turn off Vista's Data Execution Prevention feature. It comes turned on by default, but you'll have to wade through 2 or 3 dialogs to install or run any program for the first time. If you've ever had a virus on your machines or you don't feel comfortable in being able to identify virus-bearing e-mails, you should probably leave it on. You WILL get tired of looking at DEP dialogs, though.

Okay, I could say a lot more, but won't. I'm just trying to give those who might be considering Vista a "heads-up." A lot of what Microsoft has done with Vista can be attributed to a response to criticism that previous Windows versions were too lacking in security. I think they've gone a little overboard in that regard, but I've never had much in the way of security problems with my systems. I run firewalls (both hardware and software-based), anti-virus and anti-spyware software and keep them up-to-date. Vista has some nice additions and aspects, but it's probably not for everybody. For the time being, Microsoft is still supporting XP.

I have come to hate Vista less than before, but I'm still thinking it might be time to consider switching to Linux or Knoppix (a CD-bootable, "live" version of Linux, available for free download if you have a broadband connection). Knoppix is particularly attractive, in that the CD-boot feature allows you to try it and learn it without going to the hassle of setting up a multi-boot hard disk partition and without disturbing your Windows configuration. It comes with a full set of major applications for Linux. It's completely free, with no restrictions other than those under the standard GNU license. Hardware support is excellent and getting better all the time.




Edited By Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor on 1178808026
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu May 10, 2007 8:58 am

Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:2) There is no single problem with software install and operation that can be cited as preventing software from installing and running under Vista. The most prevalent problems are security-related ones and can be solved if you search Vista Help efficiently. In fact, Vista Help is often, by far, the best way of finding the necessary dialogs to allow programs to run or install. The error messages you get are often less than informative. For example, when you get messages that sound like "File Not Found" errors, they are often telling you that security settings for that file need to be changed, not that the file doesn't exist where its supposed to be.

After I wrote this, it occurred to me that there is one tip worth passing on about installing and running legacy software in Vista. As far as I can tell, most software "upgrades" that advertise themselves as "Vista-compatible" simply have minor revisions that allow them to interact properly with Vista's security "features". Once you realize that security interference causes most of the problems for legacy software in Vista, it's (relatively) easy to devise a solution.

I've solved installation problems with several legacy programs (both Windows and DOS) by first ignoring the installation dialog that pops up when I put the CD-ROM in the drive. I simply exit it when I've established that the program won't install properly. Then, I start Windows Explorer, point it at the drive with the installation CD-ROM in it, and look for either an INSTALL.EXE or SETUP.EXE file on the CD-ROM. I right click on that file name, choose Properties from the pop-up menu and then choose the Compatibility tab. I make sure that "Run as an administrator" is checked and that I've selected "Run in compatibility mode", choosing whatever version of Windows under which I know that the program installed properly in the past. If I've never installed it before, I start by choosing the most modern version of Windows that the packaging says is supported by the program. Failing that, I choose Windows XP, SP2. Once that's done, I run the install program by exiting the Properties dialog and running that program by double-clicking on it in Explorer. This approach also works for some programs that install properly, but don't run properly under Vista. I have solved installation and execution problems at least a half dozen times this way. :cool:




Edited By Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor on 1179265899
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Thu May 10, 2007 12:49 pm

Dr. John,

Thanks a lot for keeping us updated from time to time on Windows Vista. Anyone who buys a new PC from now on is going to get Vista whether he likes it or not.

I have upgraded my Dell Dimension to 1 gb RAM and added a separate 250 gb external drive. But sooner or later I'll be obliged to get a brand new machine, and I would imagine trying to install XP and either ignore or get rid of Vista would take a lot more know-how than I have.

Dr. Bill.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu May 10, 2007 1:28 pm

Dr. Bill Leland wrote:I have upgraded my Dell Dimension to 1 gb RAM and added a separate 250 gb external drive. But sooner or later I'll be obliged to get a brand new machine, and I would imagine trying to install XP and either ignore or get rid of Vista would take a lot more know-how than I have.

Dr Bill,

Good to know that I'm not entirely talking to myself! :D

It's even worse than you feared! Both XP and Vista have "activation" procedures that will not let you install your copy of XP on more than one computer. You'll have to go out and buy another copy of XP - if you can find one! Anyone wanting to install XP over Vista would likely have the best luck finding a copy of XP Professional online. Once you've got it, installing XP isn't a huge problem, just time-consuming. Think Knoppix!
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu Mar 06, 2008 7:58 am

For those who may not have heard about it, Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) was due out in late February, though it still hasn't appeared yet. That said, it will probably be available soon. I haven't seen any information on what's in SP1 or how stable it is, but I would suggest that Vista users learn about it and install it. I hope that it will resolve some of the many problems in Vista.
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Wed Mar 19, 2008 7:21 am

Windows Vista SP1 is now out and available for download. Most Vista users will get it automatically as part of the Windows Update process built into Vista. It supposedly has improvements in security. It also "breaks" a number of important third party utilities for Vista, perhaps most noticeably Norton Security Suite and ZoneLabs ("ZoneAlarm" firewall) Security Suite. Two steps forward and one step back, apparently. :D



Edited By Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor on 1206016472
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