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April 29, 2008

Vista Misery and Mysteries

Wasn't planning to install Vista on my new Toughbook CF-30 because it's been hard to deal with on Mary's new HP; but I did and now have both some misery and an Internet Explorer protected mode mystery which I'd be glad for nerd help with.

I liked the fact that the new Toughbook came with XP installed plus recover DVDs for both Vista Business and XP. That meant, I thought, that I could give Vista a while to stabilize and then install it. Unlike Mary's preinstalled Vista Home, I knew I could even uninstall Vista and reinstall XP since I have the business edition and Panasonic supplied me with both recover DVDs including all the crucial drivers needed to go back and forth.

But then the fine print: you have to wipe your hard drive of all content to install Vista. Do I want to spend weeks getting things the way I want them on a new machine, run a couple of months with XP, then start all over again with Vista and a "clean" machine? No, I decided, since I have nothing of mine on the machine now, this is the time to install Vista. Then I'll get the Vista version of everything.

Right now I'm regretting the decision. And looking for nerd help with a mystery.

Vista is running and isn't noticeably slow on my new machine; it hasn't crashed. That's the good news.

But Vista seems determined to protect me from myself even though I run with administrator privileges.

At first I couldn't get any ActiveX extensions to install. The yellow bar above the browser window which usually warns me that I've clicked on something which wants to install an ActiveX extension now didn't give me the options of installing; it just told me that my security settings didn't permit ActiveX extensions to be installed; this despite the fact that I'd deliberately clicked an option to prompt for permission before installing an extension. Couldn't even get Microsoft's own software verification extension to install to get the latest fixes to Office 2007.

Turning off "Protected Mode" in the browser let extensions install (but without a warning which I don't like either). Then, while trying to figure out why there were no time-wasting games like minesweeper around, I discovered (by Googling, of course) that you can go through Control Panel/Programs/Programs and Features to "Turn Windows feature on and off". This not only lets you turn games on; it also lets you turn on the ActiveX installer service. I've verified that games instantly appeared; haven't stumbled across an uninstalled ActiveX component since so not sure this is working properly.

But here's the mystery:

Web pages that used to work fine including basic Facebook pages now SOMETIMES break because, according to IE, it can't load a DLL (doesn't say which DLL). This never happens when Protected Mode is turned off. It doesn't get cured by a reload but sometimes the same page WILL load without an error much later even when I know the HTML of the page hasn't changed. It never happens in Firefox but Firefox doesn't have a Protected Mode. If it happened in Firefox, it'd be easier to debug because of Firebug. It doesn't seem to happen in Protected Mode on Mary's machine because some of these are pages she goes to often and she hasn't complained (but she's running Vista Home). I can't run a parallel test or compare all the settings on our machines because she and her machine are traveling.

It's not a solution for me to just run Firefox or run in unprotected mode because, as a developer, I need to know why pages sometimes break. If they break for me, they'll break for other people as well.

Haven't been able to Google my way to a solution or find one on Microsoft's site.

Ideas anyone?

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