Wednesday, February 21, 2007

DreamScene? More like a “Nightmare on Vista Street!”

Today I installed “DreamScene” – and kissed my CPU cycles goodbye. The official marketing moniker for Microsoft’s seductively frivolous new “motion desktop” technology (one of those Ultimate Extras we’ve been promised since Vista was RTM), DreamScene transforms Windows’ staid desktop wallpaper mechanism into a seamless, animated backdrop to your workaday tasks. And like much of the Vista Aero user experience, DreamScene is pure eye candy with little or no practical benefit.

Yes, having an MPEG or WMV video play seamlessly in the background – with full support for window transparency and other Aero goodness – is cool. Having Windows Explorer chew-up 10-15% of your available CPU bandwidth in order to accommodate DreamScene’s frivolity, on the other hand, is decidedly un-cool. And the mechanism itself is buggy as hell. Case in point: Every time I suspend/resume my Dell XPS M1710 “notebrick” the driver for its integrated nVidia GeForce 7900 GS graphics adapter crashes. Or at least that’s what Vista is telling me once it recovers. What I see when it happens is a blank screen that makes me want to reach for the power switch (I assumed it had hung like XP was wont to do in similar situations – old habits die hard).

Of course, I could use the above scenario point out one of the nicer features of the revised Vista driver model – namely, the ability to recover from many driver-related errors thanks to a modular architecture that moves much of the non-critical code outside of the kernel. But this is about DreamScene, and from where I’m standing it looks like a real nightmare for corporate IT.

My advice: Outlaw DreamScene, at least until Microsoft agrees to reimburse you for all those lost CPU cycles and panicked calls to the help desk. And to think, we gave up WinFS…for this! Read more...