ATI video drivers may be more stable than nVidia drivers (but does it matter?)

A friend of mine (who is a reseller for Diamond Multimedia) forwarded me an email last night which shed some interesting insight into video card driver stability with Windows Vista:

ATI Provides Proven Driver Stability

Microsoft is currently involved in a class action lawsuit regarding problems with its “Vista Capable” marketing. As part of this trial, hundreds of pages of internal Microsoft emails were unsealed. If you want to take a look at them, here they are (pdf). Aside from providing some interesting insight into what goes on internally at Microsoft leading up to the release of a new OS, there is also a ranking of the cause of crashes logged with Microsoft.

The rankings, based on crashes logged with Microsoft in 2007, paint a very positive picture of ATI’s graphics drivers. For instance, 28.8% of all Vista crashes were caused by nVidia drivers, compared with 9.3% caused by ATI. When you adjust for market share, we still see that Vista systems are almost half as likely to crash when using an ATI graphics solution…

Author: Blake Eggleston

Now that may be marketing gumbo, but if not, it’s very intriguing.

Of course, the one critical fact missing is how often crashes are caused by video drivers. Do video drivers cause crashes once every 50 hours? 100 hours? 1,000 hours? More than that?

If I use a computer 80 hours a week (rough estimate), a crash every 80 hours is a crash once a week. To me, that’s too much. However, if a crash occurs every 800 hours, that’s one crash every 10 weeks, something which I can tolerate.

As the saying goes, “Better is the enemy of good enough.” nVidia drivers are likely “good enough” — so the “better” ATI drivers (if the claims are true) don’t really matter much, at least not to me.

A Windows user’s first four days with a Mac

On Friday, I received my iMac, bringing me back to the world of the Mac OS for the first time in about eight years. The iMac is not my main rig — I still use a “Wintel” PC running Windows XP for work — it’s a replacement for my home computer (though I eventually hope to expand its use beyond pictures, movies, and World of Warcraft).

So, what’s the initial reaction from a guy who was very entrenched into Windows, but has a solid Mac history?

  • What’s up with the mouse movement? One of the first things I do on any computer I use is turn the mouse speed up all the way. I want the slightest flick of my wrist to shoot the cursor across the screen. Doing this on a Mac made it, well, not as zippy as I’d prefer. Apparently, plenty of people agree, and the fix to the problem is to use some freeware hacks or shareware software (SteerMouse did the job for me).
  • I miss my keyboard shortcuts. Yes, you can do a lot with the Mac keyboard, but I do almost everything with the PC keyboard. I’ve since learned you can press Control-F2 to open the Mac menu for keyboard navigation, but I miss the ability to TAB between fields in web browsers (there is a fix) and the underlined letters that show which keys you can press to activate menu options (somewhat of a workaround).
  • Installing software on a Mac is glorious. I can’t believe how easy they make it. No surprises and no issues.
  • I plugged in my USB devices and they worked immediately — my external USB drive, my digital camcorder, my digital camera, and my photo printer. That never happened on a PC.
  • iMovie is everything that Windows Movie Maker is not.
  • FolderShare works as well on a Mac as it does on a PC — and it made transferring dozens of gigabytes of pictures and movies disturbingly simple.
  • I had to manually turn on the right-click feature on my single-button MightyMouse. That should be on by default.
  • World of Warcraft stopped working after I adjusted some parental controls and firewall settings — apparently an unintended side effect acknowledged by Blizzard — and required a reinstall. Fortunately, reinstall only took me about 30 minutes, about the time it takes to queue up and play one battleground instance.

I’m enjoying the Mac experience so far. It’s definitely something to get used to. My fingers still stumble on the Mac keyboard a bit, and there are some things I miss from Windows-land.

Forgot your Windows product key? It is recoverable…

I frequently rebuild my computer once Windows starts to reach its half-life, formatting the ‘ol hard drive and starting from scratch. Unfortunately, this typically involves a hunt for the Windows XP product key, which typically was written down on a piece of paper and subsequently misplaced. This time, however, I decided not to hunt for that sticky note. Surely, Windows XP knows the product key that was used when it was installed… right?

KeyFinder by Magical Jelly Bean SoftwareApparently, it does, and there’s a little piece of free software that can find it for you. KeyFinder by Magical Jelly Bean Software can identify the product key for Windows 95, 98, ME, NT4, 2000, XP, Server 2003, Windows Vista, Office 97, Office XP, and Office 2003 — on the local computer or on a remote computer (provided you have appropriate security permissions). Very impressive.

Installing Ubuntu with VirtualPC

For those of you who come to my site looking for help installing Linux on VirtualPC (quite a few, as it is the second most popular post on this site), you’ll know that the big problem revolves around VirtualPC only supporting 16-bit color and most Linux distributions supporting 24-bit color by default. (Why this limitation hasn’t been lifted in VirtualPC yet, I don’t know.)

Microsoft blogger Joe Stagner (who blogs at Joe on .Net) recently posted instructions on how to get an Ubuntu installation to install with 16-bit color — instructions which he in turn found on an Ubuntu blog. Considering the growing popularity of Ubuntu and the cost of VitrualPC 2007 (it’s free), this’ll undoubtedly be helpful to those frustrated by failed Linux installs on VPC.