Vista ReadyBoost is Kewl

This week I made the decision to move my production machine entirely over to Vista.  “Isn’t it still pre-production?” You might ask, or perhaps, “are you a moron?”  On the former, you’d be wholly correct.  On the latter, I hope the jury’s still out, but you’re probably right on that one too.  I’d like to say that I’m a real man and that’s how real men do things – no holds barred, pedal-to-the-metal sorta stuff.  In reality, though, the decision was made for me when the mirrored RAID array that is my C: drive trashed its master boot record in some unknown unrecoverable fashion.  All data was saved, but I could never get the RAID array to boot again.  RIP.  Why install XP again?  I’m only going to be removing it when Vista ships anyway . . .

As I mentioned before, Vista is visually terrific.  I love the visual effects, the gadgets on the desktop, the ease of moving between windows and a real, working desktop standby function.  I can’t do without the search function (think Google Desktop Search, but better) now that I’ve used it and configurability is much improved as well.  Like Microsoft has done at each release of its operating systems, it has included even more utility programs and made the ones already there, like its picture viewer, far better than ever before.

It’s far from a rosy situation right now, though.  Almost half the programs I use don’t run on Vista.  For the most part, the problem seems pretty straightforward.  It looks like the security layer between applications and the file systems is screwing with file I/O from some applications.  I can’t get them to write files even when I run in XP compatibility mode with administrative privileges.  BTW, I’m running RC1 build 5728.  The latest and greatest.

One very cool feature that I just started using is ReadyBoost.  ReadyBoost allows you to use some USB flash devices (I’m using a 4GB SD card inserted in a multi-card, USB 2.0 reader) as a write-through cache for Vista’s page file.  Everything is still written to disk, but seeks are first done on the cache version.  Even though I already have 2GB of memory on my machine, I can feel the difference.  The more windows I have open and the more applications I’m running, the bigger the relative speedup I experience.

Basically, a random 4KB read from flash is about 10X faster than the same read from a hard disk.  Hard drives are way faster for big linear data, but seeks are slower.  By using the flash memory for the seek, big speedups can be had as long as the hit rate is high.  In any event, they shouldn’t be any slower.

Not all USB flash devices are compatible.  Vista does a speed check when you insert a new device and tells you if it’ll work or not.  A list of devices known to be compatible is here.

More information can be found in this Q&A by Matt Ayers, Program manager for this sorta thing at Microsoft –

Very cool.  Very simple.  Pretty damned inexpensive.  Certainly not a reason to upgrade by itself, but a great addition to what’s looking like a very nice OS upgrade.

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