Windows Vista Ultimate Hold ‘Em

Windows Vista Ultimate is the only version of Vista I’ll be running on my home systems for a ton of reasons, but one of the added perks is the planned release of Ultimate Extras available only for the Ultimate version of Vista. The first two on deck are BitLocker, a drive encryption app similar to my long recommended solution TrueCrypt and the solitaire Hold ‘Em game. More on BitLocker in another post. Hold ‘Em pits you against 5 computer opponents in a simulated Texas Hold ‘Em game. The game defaults to a starting bid of 10 and a max of 3 raises per hand, with each player staring with 1000 points in their pot. These are all configurable amounts, along with a customizable deck and background. You can name the other 5 players if you want to feel like you’re playing against the poker stars. This isn’t quite the same as playing against your friends in the Xbox 360 Live Arcade, but it’s a more interesting way to kill time in a meeting than playing a traditional hand of solitaire.

Avoid Windows Vista Upgrade Disks

With Windows Vista now available in stores, you might be thinking about upgrading your existing system or completely upgrading to a new system. In general, I’m leaning toward keeping all existing systems running Windows XP and only putting Vista on new machines, but that’s primarily because I’m at least a year overdue for upgrades already. If you do decide to brave the upgrade path from XP to Vista, whatever you do, don’t buy an upgrade version of Windows Vista. You’ll be sorry later. In the past when you upgraded from one version of Windows to the next generation, you could do a clean install with the new OS and simply insert the old CD as proof you’d purchased the previous version. This time around, Microsoft makes things more difficult.
If you upgrade from Windows XP to Windows Vista, the upgrade CD requires XP to be installed before you install Vista. This means if you wipe your system, you’ll have to install XP and then install Vista for a total of two complete operating system installs where one would have been sufficient.

Automatic Update Gets Smarter

With a few rare exceptions, it’s generally a smart idea to update your system with security patches as soon as they are issued. I’ve been hesitant about turning on Automatic Updates to run fully unattended because the last time I left a computer in that mode I had something up on the screen, the machine rebooted itself after an update, and I lost what was on the screen. In the instance I’m describing, I think I lost a couple of Web pages I forgot to bookmark, but I hate having to retrace my steps. If it had been a file I forgot to save, the damage would have been worse. According to Jim Allchin, this problem is supposed to vanish in Windows Vista. If the system updates and needs to reboot, it’s supposed to write the current state of everything open to a file, reboot the system and return things to normal as if nothing happened. Ed Bott wrote about this back in September when it was code named Freeze Dry, but I apparently missed it. Assuming the feature really works when Windows Vista ships, that’s an update scenario I can live with. I’d love to get system updates without ever needing to reboot, but if that’s not possible, at least not potentially losing my data when the computer reboots itself at 3am is good enough.