Burning Issues With Vista
(Quoted here, but better to read at the link because the
Figures/pictures are there) http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?s...70422083715451
Step 1: Locating a Vista computer
Locating a working Vista box proved harder than I expected. First I went
over to a local computer shop, the owner of which I know personally, and
asked if I might have a go on any Vista demo box they might have
standing around. They said they'd be happy to oblige, but that they had
no Vista computers on offer at all, because “Vista doesn't work well
enough yet.” It turned out that they'd tested a Vista installation on
several machines and concluded that it wasn't yet something they wanted
to sell to their customers.
The exact same thing happened at another computer shop. The third
vendor, a large retail chain, did actually have some preinstalled Vista
machines running but wouldn't let me touch them, because, they said,
then: “We can't sell them as new any more.”
After a week of calling around, I finally located someone with a
preinstalled Vista box that I could try out -- he wasn't using it, as it
turned out that the owner (an experienced Windows XP user) couldn't get
the hang of Vista at all and considered buying the machine “a mistake”.
Not a good sign.
So I had the machine all to myself: a dual-core 2.8GHz Pentium D with
one GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce 7300 SE featuring 128MB graphics
RAM, preloaded with Vista Home Premium. This is a vastly more powerful
machine than any of my Linux boxes (which run smoothly and snappily
nonetheless), yet it seemed to me to be underpowered to run all the
Vista eye-candy, in particular the 3D effects. Ah well.
For starters, I decided to check the boot time. And lo and behold, the
Vista desktop shows up in a minute and a half. But alas, not in a
functional state. It takes over two more minutes before the hard disk
stops rattling and the machine becomes fully responsive. So nearly four
minutes in all. This is a pretty sad figure, especially when compared to
the 55 seconds Mandriva Linux 2007 takes on my Toshiba laptop. And I
can't really see the “Wow” factor either. In fact, I find the
transparency effects both ugly and annoying. Especially window title
bars are no longer well-defined, and appear to be infected with some
sort of mold. But OK, there's no accounting for taste, and no doubt it
can be switched off -- and I'm actually thankful for the absence of any
3D “special effects”, which I find even more distracting and annoying.
An OS and user interface should behave like the perfect butler: make
your life as easy as possible while remaining as unobtrusive as
possible. Vista behaves more like a very stupid servant in a flashy
outfit. It makes its presence felt throughout, raises the alarm every so
often without any real need, gets confused easily, drops the dishes on a
regular basis, and while appearing to be easygoing and helpful, drives
its employer insane with its unpredictable whims and intrusive behavior.
(Note that this is my personal opinion, based on my own, rather limited
experience with Vista.)
Then there's the main menu button, formerly the Start button, in the
lower left corner. As the contradiction of clicking a button labeled
“Start” in order to shut down Windows seemed to confuse users and was
often ridiculed, Microsoft replaced it with a neutral button featuring
the Vista logo. But guess which Tool Tip appears when hovering the mouse
over this button. Yup: “Start”. Quite funny, actually, although I very
much doubt that this was the result of a healthy sense of humor on the
part of the interface designers.
Next up: how to take screen shots. Now in Mandriva, it's simply a matter
of pressing the Prt Scr key, after which KSnapshot, an application for
taking, naming and saving screen shots, automatically pops up. It even
features automatic image file numbering, to make taking several
successive screen shots easier. Not so in Vista. After pressing Prt Scr,
or any combination of this key with any other key, nothing seems to
happen. How, then, to take a Windows screenshot?
I decided to give the new and much praised Search function a whirl. But
no matter what I enter in the text box, nothing relevant is found, even
when I select Search All. Apparently, help information isn't included in
the search process. And pressing the good old F1 button for Help doesn't
do anything either. A few more minutes of searching with Google finally
turns up an answer: it is the Prt Scr key after all, but the image is
saved in the Clipboard, to be pasted into Paint or another suitable
application. Not very handy, in my opinion, but then again, I never
liked the Windows Way. So I open Paint, and Ctrl+V the images in there,
and save them manually. A bit of a drag, but nothing serious. Later, I
found out that I also had to crop the images manually, because Paint
didn't resize the saved image automatically to the pasted image size. My
And oh, right from the start, popups started, well, popping up from the
System Tray. Something about Blocked Programs or the like. And this
minor annoyance quickly grew into frustration as it turned out that
these popups would reappear with ten minute intervals. According to the
owner, this had something to do with security settings, and he said he'd
spent hours trying to fix it, but the only thing that would work was to
disable User Access Control (UAC) completely -- at which point the
System Tray would start popping up nag messages that security features
were disabled. I was beginning to understand why he didn't like Vista. I
decide not to change anything and ignore the messages.
Steps 2 and 3: Transfer USB files to CD, and try to burn a CD
So, back to the burning issue. I plug in my USB stick and have Vista
open an Explorer window with its contents. Then I click the “Computer”
icon on the desktop and drag a file from USB stick to the burner icon.
Right away, a window pops up, prompting me to load a CD or DVD in the
burner (note that the images are all in Dutch, my language, but I'll
translate for English speakers):
Figure 1: Vista asks for a writable disk (“Put a writable disk in the F:
That I do, after which a terse burn dialog turns up:
Figure 2: Vista's burn dialog is very concise (“Prepare this blank disk”)
This seems simple enough. Now if I had clicked Next (“Volgende”), the CD
would have been burned with Microsoft's Live File System format without
informing or warning the user. This is Not Good, in my view, and smells
a bit of sneaky lock-in. Instead, then, I click Show Formatting Options
(“Opties voor formatteren weergeven”).
Figure 3: Vista's burn tool formatting options
The options are clear: the Mastered format is readable on any computer,
the Live File System format only on Windows computers -- and even then,
it depends on the chosen version (via “Versie wijzigen”) of Live File
System, as the following screen shots show:
Figure 4: Live File System version selection -- or UDF version
selection? (“Annuleren” = “Cancel”)
All of a sudden, Live File System is called UDF, which is rather
confusing. Is the resulting disk a UDF disk or not? Anyway, I stick with
the default option (UDF 2.01), which should be compatible with Vista and
XP. After I click OK, Vista says it needs to format the disk:
Figure 5: Vista is formatting the disk, calculating the remaining time
-- forever, as it turned out
And this is the moment where mere annoyance turns into frustration, as
nothing seems to be happening. After waiting for over five minutes, I
decide to try and cancel the whole operation, but that's not so easy.
There's no way to close the Formatting window, as the Close button,
Alt+F4 and other Close options are greyed out. After a bit of searching
I locate the Task Manager and forcibly kill the task. But the associated
window won't go away, no matter what I try:
Figure 6: Vista's burn tool crashed and burned -- or rather crashed and
failed to burn.
It seems that the only way to get rid of this non-responding “zombie
window” is a complete reboot. Yes, indeed, another five minutes down the
Giving up is not an option. So I reboot and try once more. Weird enough,
this time when dragging the file from the USB stick to the burner icon
and popping in a blank CD at Vista's request, a new dialog comes up:
Figure 7: Yet another burn dialog?
If I thought things were confusing already, with the mysterious Live
File System available in no less than four versions called UDF, this
really takes the biscuit. And to top it all, this dialog's title bar
says “Automatic Playing”, while offering a large amount of burning
applications (most of which were installed by the user). Why? The only
real difference is that the first time, I used a CD-RW, and now I just
put in an ordinary, blank CD-R.
I close this window and continue with the now familiar Vista burn dialog
(which has popped up as well). Again, I don't choose anything at all, in
effect “choosing” Live File System. Again, the formatting dialog shows
up, but this time, it doesn't hang -- it produces an error message:
“Can't complete formatting.” Nothing else, no reason, no help, just
nothing. No error details whatsoever.
Figure 8: Formatting a blank CD failed - again: “Can't Finish Formatting”
Fed up with this, I decide to ask the owner of the machine for help. He
says that I could try to turn off some security options, which should
also stop the endless stream of System Tray popup warnings. He can't
tell me how to do this, though. I told him I was logged in with admin
rights already, but he says that's not enough.
After another fifteen minutes of rummaging around in the Control Center
and checking out literally everything under “Security”, I finally find
what I'm looking for -- buried deep somewhere under “User Accounts”. I
turn off User Access Control (UAC), and now Vista says it must reboot
for this to take effect! And I thought Vista needed far less reboots?
This is already the second reboot in less than an hour, without any
OK, so reboot it is ... and this time, the formatting of the CD-R seems
to work -- although it takes over two minutes. Burning starts .... and
then ends in failure once again ...
Figure 9: Now the burning process failed ...
And again, the error message (well, error wizard, actually) is the
stupidest you can get: “A problem has occurred while burning this disk.
The disk may no longer be usable.” No further explanation whatsoever, no
help. It “just failed”. OK, the user is offered three options: “Try
again with another disk”, “Remove temporary files which weren't burned
to disk”, and “Save temporary files and try to burn these at a later
time”. Try, try, try. As it turns out, no matter what I choose, it keeps
And now I'm getting System Tray popups again -- this time it's warnings
that the machine is not properly secured. Wonderful.
I'm about to give up, but I decide to give it one more shot, this time
with the Mastered format. For good measure, I reboot the machine once
more, put in a new, blank CD-R, and go through the whole procedure
again, taking care to choose the Mastered format this time:
Figure 10: Burning with the Mastered format option
A large window appears, to which I can drag and drop files. So in goes
the file again, and I click “Burn to disk”. Now the burner actually
shows some activity, but after a while, the previous error message pops
up again. Checking the disk visually shows that something was burned but
only the Vista machine seems to be able to read these files. Even an XP
machine shows nothing at all. Also, I can't find any way of specifying
this Mastered format as the default format -- which was one of the main
reasons to embark on this burning adventure.
I try once more with yet another blank disk; but surprise surprise, when
I click the burner icon, Vista says that the file I burned is on the
disk already! And when I try to force Vista to burn the disk
nonetheless, it keeps insisting that the files are there already ...
Figure 11: Vista says that files have been burned -- with a blank disk
in the tray ...
The above dialog says that “Files have been written to the disk”, and
“Would you like to copy the same files to another disk?” Well, nothing
readable was burned to any disk in the first place, and choosing to burn
the same files to another disk doesn't work either.
Figure 12: This is so confusing ...
When I drag-and-drop the file onto the burner again (with a blank CD-R
in the tray), I get a warning that “This location already contains a
file by this name”. No it doesn't! I just put in a blank disk! And
again, regardless whether I choose “Copy and replace”, “Don't copy” or
“Copy, but keep both files”, nothing readable ends up on the CD.
As a final test, I close all dialogs, and start the burn utility one
more time. And as expected, it hadn't saved any previous settings and
offered to burn the CD with Live File System once more. And failed once
more. This was the point at which I finally gave up, after more than two
hours of frustration and confusion and returned the box to its owner.
And there was nothing wrong with the burner device itself -- Nero had no
problems burning files to CD.
I set out to check whether Vista tries to trick users into burning media
in a format that is incompatible with non-Windows machines. Judging from
the various dialogs, I'd say that this could indeed be the case, but in
all honesty, I simply failed to burn even one disk, readable or not, and
I couldn't get Vista to reliably do the same thing twice. Perhaps this
was caused by the other installed burning tools, or perhaps I did things
wrong (I hardly ever use Windows, so I guess there's a bit of a learning
curve), but in the end, I got stuck with no results. And drawing
conclusions from no results whatsoever may be in the finest tradition of
politics and marketing -- it's a no-no in journalism. Or at least it
Yet this turned out not to be the end of the saga ...
If at first you don't succeed...
The very next day, I received an email message from the owner (er,
correction: licensee). He had already resigned himself to upgrading
(sic) the box to XP, but he powered it up one more time. To his
surprise, a message appeared saying that “There were files in a burn
queue”, and would he like to have these burned to CD? So he chose “Yes”,
dropped a blank CD in the burner tray, and to his amazement, Vista
burned the CD without a hitch. If he was surprised, I was speechless. I
went over to his place, and sure enough, the machine now does what it's
supposed to do.
So once more, I'll try and find out all about Vista's burn tool. And so
here I am again, with the machine purring away.
Taking a systematic approach, I first check to see what happens when I
load a blank DVD-RW in the burner tray as a first course of action. And
incredible as it may seem, yet another burn selection dialog pops up!
Figure 13: And here's the third burn dialog.
It resembles the one from Figure 7, but with all the options for the
user installed burn software magically absent. The only difference here
is that I put in a DVD instead of a CD. Ah well, so much for
consistency. And where's Vista's familiar, austere burn dialog from
Figure 2 or 3? The one that never failed to pop up so far? OK, I remain
calm, and select the second option (“Burn files to disk -- with
Windows”). Ah, there it is -- and it's the one in Figure 2, with the
formatting options hidden; when clicking the latter, the format is set
to Live File System. So just clicking Next would have resulted in a Live
File System disk, incompatible with anything but Windows Vista and
Windows XP. One mark on the lock-in side of the tally.
I change the format to “Mastered”, and the dialog from figure 10
appears. I drag-and-drop some files in there, and right away, a System
Tray popup appears, informing me that “there are files in the disk
queue”. Yeah, I know. It was me who put 'em there not a second ago. And
I can “Click this balloon to display the files”. Talking about useless
Figure 14: Vista has noticed that I put files in a burning queue, and
tells me about it
Undaunted, I proceed to click “Burn to disk” (“Op schijf branden”). A
dialog appears, with options to change the name and the burning speed.
Figure 15: The disk is prepared
(Note that the word “Mastered” is the name I gave the disk.) After
clicking Next and expecting the actual burning to begin, Vista comes up
with a warning dialog (and accompanied by a sound, at that):
Figure 16: Vista apparently tries to dissuade users from using the
This is what it says: “If you use the Mastered format, you can only
write once on this type of disk. If you wish to add files to this disk
more often, you should use the Live File System format. Do you wish to
continue to use the Mastered format?” Yes, of course I do! That's why I
selected it in the first place. Also note how cunningly the No (“Nee”)
option is selected by default, causing a switch to LFS when the user
presses the Enter key without thinking. This appears to me to be another
attempt to steer users away from a universally readable format. Add one
mark for lock-in. After clicking Yes, the disk is finally burned, and
yes, it's readable in my Linux machines. After the burning finishes,
Vista offers to burn the files to another disk, with the dialog from
Figure 11. I decide to see what happens when I accept, and drop in yet
another blank DVD-RW. And yes, once again, the warning message of Figure
16 pops up. Vista (or rather: Microsoft) really doesn't want you to use
a universally compatible format, I don't think. I confirm the Mastered
option once again, and let the burning tool run its course. This time,
the burn tool crashes once more:
Figure 17: An all too familiar sight by now: “... doesn't respond”
Nope, the Cancel button (“Annuleren”) doesn't work. When I click the
close button, I get a message that “Windows Explorer does not respond”
(Huh? Windows Explorer? So that is the burn tool?):
Figure 18: Yeah, I know it doesn't respond. Do something about it!
Ah well, let's simply kill it, then ... that should be the easiest
option by far. But alas, choosing the second option “Terminate the
program” results in another, yet almost identically phrased error message:
Figure 19: Grrrrrrrr ...
Again, “Windows Explorer doesn't respond” -- But this time, “More
information is being gathered about the problem. This may take several
minutes”. So I wait. After a dozen more seconds, and without a warning,
all of the desktop goes blank! I can't do anything any more. No, not
even take a screenshot, so you have to take me at my word this time ...
After waiting for a dozen or so minutes and contemplating a hard reset,
I try pressing the DVD burner button. Out comes the DVD -- and lo and
behold, the desktop pops up again! With the same System Tray message as
in Figure 14, “There are files in the disk queue”. How thoughtful.
Bizarre but thoughtful.
So I take a deep breath, and proceed to put a blank DVD-RW in the burner
once again. For good measure, I click the DVD burner icon (the F: drive)
in “Computer”, to check whether it's blank indeed. To my utter surprise,
Vista once again tells me that there is a file on the disk nonetheless:
Figure 20: Vista's F: drive shows what isn't there
But wait a minute ... now I see ... this line at the top, “Files ready
to be written to disk”, is the only clue. So this is what happens:
Clicking the F: drive icon doesn't necessarily show the contents of the
disk -- it may instead show the contents of Vista's burn queue.
Congratulations, Microsoft! By overly dumbing down the user interface
and trying to predict what the user might want to do (i.e., burn stuff
to a disk), no doubt to “make things easier”, you actually created a
major point of confusion. Let me tell you: clicking a drive icon should
always tell you the contents of this drive, nothing else, and most
certainly not what you may wish to write to that drive or not.
Ah well, after putting in the blank DVD, at least I now get the fully
expanded burn dialog from way back in Figure 3. No, not the one from
Figure 7, not the one from Figure 13, and not the one from Figure 10.
And, surprisingly, the Mastered format option is preselected this time
round. Who knows, perhaps the tool has a memory after all, and stores
its latest settings ...
But alas, as soon as I empty the burn queue and start the whole
procedure again, up comes the terse dialog from Figure 2, and a quick
check confirms that, yes, the Live File System is selected by default
In my view, the final conclusion is quite clear. In several ways, users
are pushed towards the Live File System (LFS) format, which is only
compatible with Vista and XP. LFS is the format which is selected by
default, and there appears to be no way to change this that I could
find. In many cases, the user doesn't even get to see this selection,
and following the easiest way to burn a CD or DVD will almost certainly
result in an LFS format disk. Contrarily, in order to use the
universally readable Mastered format, users have to select it
consciously every single time, and still confirm this choice every
single time. As far as I could see, LFS is some kind of unfinalized type
of UDF -- with UDF standing for Universal Disk Format. Even if UDF is a
universal format, LFS most certainly is not. I tried reading LFS format
media on my Linux systems but failed, even though I installed udftools.
Yes, K3b (a great Linux burning tool) could tell me that there was data
on the disks, but it was unable to show the actual data itself. All
other tools failed with the error message that the disk couldn't be mounted.
As for why Microsoft pushes LFS, I can't think of any good reasons. The
only advantage of LFS over the Mastered format is the option to add
files to an already burned disk later on. But there is already such a
thing as multi-session, so this argument is largely moot, and besides,
people actually expect to burn a CD or DVD in one go.
For all the rest, LFS has only drawbacks. First, it's confusing to the
user, with no less than four versions, aimed at distinct Windows and Mac
versions. Second, and most importantly, it will create compatibility
problems in the world of creating CD's and DVD's – a world that at the
moment features a near universal support and compatibility of available
The only true reason I can think of for pushing LFS is that Microsoft
attempts to lock its users once more into its products. Innocent users
who use Vista's tool to save their photos, MP3 collection or back-ups in
general may find that all of a sudden, they have no access to their own
data any more, especially when abandoning Microsoft products. So far, I
haven't been able to find any technical specifications with regard to
LFS; and it is to be expected that Microsoft will consider it their
Intellectual Property, the use and support of which is licensed under
its terms to users. I think this is Not Good at all.
And as for the general quality of Vista and my personal “Vista
experience”? I think the story speaks for itself.
* * *
Postscript: After reading some feedback to the article, I fired up the
Vista box once more, testing some things posted. What I find is that the
two oldest UDF versions (1.50 and 2.00) indeed can be read by Linux --
but only if udftools are installed on the Linux system, which isn't the
case by default. This option also suffers from a similar problem as the
Mastered format, i.e., it can't be set as the default choice and must
thus be selected consciously every single time.
Priceless quotes in m.p.w.vista.general group: http://protectfreedom.tripod.com/kick.html
Most recent idiotic quote added to KICK (Klassic Idiotic Caption Kooks):
"It would be nice if there was a check to see if you were running an
activated/validated version of Windows before you were allowed to post
in any of these news groups. If you're not activated/validated your post
automatically gets deleted.
That would get rid of the Linsux Luzzzzzzzzers once and for all."
"Good poets borrow; great poets steal."
- T. S. Eliot