Windows Vista – First Experiences

So this afternoon I decided to give Windows Vista a go, to be more precise, Windows Vista x64…

After a bit of messing around with Partition Magic, and some deleting of installed software I managed to clear enough space for a new partition, with just enough space for an install, but not much else. Since I have a backup of the machine anyway, and the machine is not my main computer, I decided to get the full experience I should just go the whole hog and install onto the main partition – after all there is not much point in having the OS installed if I have no space to install software!

So I set the installation going. Helpfully it detected my current Windows XP install, and moved it to a folder called Windows.old. Upgrading wasn’t an option since as a quick look at the upgrade matrix published back in July my existing XP64 installation won’t upgrade.

Now I guess this is proof that I’ve been in MacOS X too long, as something like this isn’t usually a problem, as the recommended way to upgrade MacOS X is to do a clean install, and then use the migration assistant described in detail over at Mac Dev Center.com to pull all the relevant settings and applications out of the backed up folders.

Now I’m aware that the PC equivalent can’t do applications, but it seems that even though the install creates the Windows.old folders, it can’t cope with pulling settings from it – it only works with another machine.

Ok, not too much of a problem, I can just mount up my backup image in a virtual machine using something like Virtual PC or Virtual Server – but no, neither of these can run under Vista. In much the same way as with the various editions of Visual Studio (even Visual Studio 2005 – their current version), they don’t work, the best option is to run a beta version of the upcoming release.

Having said that, it’s not all bad news. The driver support in the 64-bit Vista is better than XP64. All but the sound driver and the wireless networking installed off the installation DVD. The sound driver the OS found online, and it was only the wireless networking that had me rummaging around on the internet.

It does look rather pretty too, with some font changes, and various bits of MacOS X-ish eye candy. As with Office 2007 if you scratch at the new paint job a bit, you can quickly find bits of classic windows peeking through. Quite often if you click through some of the nice user friendly screens, or go for an advanced option you find a decidedly familiar window popping up, scarcely changed from Windows XP.

The new security features are rather amusing at the moment, but I suspect will become rather annoying. As Coding Horror highlights, referring to an original article by Paul Thurrott, Microsoft have opted for their traditional security through warning dialogs – as in a number of previous products, when something happens that could be potentially risky, it displays a warning, with the option to allow, or cancel what is happening. However it rarely gives much detail about what is going on, and pressing allow will allow it to carry on. Ok but these dialogs come up so frequently, even for really basic tasks, that I am sure most people will just ignore them. Bear in mind that I’m running as an Administrator currently – if I were a normal user it would be asking for passwords all the time. The other security feature that had my jaw on the floor was when I tried to delete an empty, but protected folder on my hard drive. Vista correctly informed me that the folder belonged to another user, and was protected. However it then offered to unprotect it for me. Without asking for a password or anything, it took ownership of the folder, changed the access rights and deleted it! True you can turn this off – but it somewhat defeats the object, and if it’s off, the machine keeps complaining about the fact too. Hopefully I can try and find some happy medium between the annoyance of totally on, and the complaining of totally off, but I doubt it.

So will Vista have me switching back full time to a PC – not a chance. On a positive note it is better than XP, but still it is not a patch on MacOS X, and that is even before we see Leopard…

Update: Ironically, and totally coincidentally it seems Dave Oliver has been giving Vista a try too. The big difference is that he’s using Vista 32 – where the upgrade advisor works (on 64-bit it suggests running it, and takes you to the download page. It’s only when you download the thing that it says it won’t work on 64-bit operating systems.) It seems he’s had many more driver issues than me, significantly that it failed to recognise his graphics card.

I’m currently seeing how various games run under Vista – annoyingly the security features are coming in to play and the OS is asking again for permission when I insert every new CD of a multi-CD installation, despite it being the one installer running the whole process.

9 thoughts on “Windows Vista – First Experiences”

  1. Well it probably would have taken something really special to get a good response out of me, but I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of driver problems I had – a definite improvement over XP64, and assuming everything works on it I’ll probably keep it as the OS on my laptop.

    It’s just that with Vista, as with previous software releases from Microsoft, they seem to leave in silly problems that take of the lustre of the new product, and the excitement of the new toys frequently gets overtaken by annoyances. Taking the security dialogs as an example, you find yourself wondering whether anybody actually thought about it when they put in the feature. It was interesting to find a quote in the news pages of PCPro this month from Stephen Toulouse, senior product manager at Microsoft’s Security Technology Unit that indicated that someone had. He said that these dialogs had been reported as bugs during testing, and that he hoped they would be under control in the final release – sadly from my point of view they aren’t under control at all, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find a lot of people turning them off, defeating the whole point of the feature.

    As to being a Mac Zealot, I probably wouldn’t have a PC in the house, nor work developing on PC’s if I was a true zealot – and if you remember I had a serious series of grumbles over the Tiger upgrade when it came out too. Both platforms have their plus points and their negative points too, and from my point of view I find that I can get what I need to do done better on the Mac currently than on a PC. Vista is a step in the right direction certainly, but it’s not going to get me switching back.

  2. So that would be an 8.5 then ? 🙂

    I actually have another opinion, I believe that Mac OS X and Windows Vista are diverging not converging. I believe now it’s like comparing a 7 seater MPV with a sport-car, they are both cars but they both are built for different purposes.

  3. 8.5 – maybe a bit high. At that level I really should be one of the people who are trying to use the aspect ratio of the current keynote teaser on the Apple site (The first 30 years were just the beginning – Welcome to 2007) to work out whether we’re about to get a widescreen iPod…

    I’d disagree with them diverging, or being for a radically different purpose – both are intended to be a general purpose operating system, and there are positive and negative aspects to both, and certainly based on a lot of the things Bill Gates highlighted in his keynote both Microsoft and Apple are going after the media hub ground too.

  4. From my point view you choose an OS to meet what is best for your needs, a debate we have had more than once on C9.

    For instance, with the business version of Vista it is clear that this version has been specifically built to be used in a corporate, I’m not saying that the Mac isn’t aimed at business but not this specifically.

    Another for instance is games, but thats an old chestnut.

    There is differences and once you can get past that you can actually get a better experience because you can then choose what is better for your needs.

  5. Absolutely agree, hence why I’m not exclusively on one platform or the other. MacOS X serves my general computing needs, for example web browsing, e-mailing, managing my digital photographs and so on, but the PC is my main gaming platform. Although it is an old chestnut, it is absolutely true that if you are a serious gamer, the Mac is not the right platform for you. The long wait for the few big games that make it across from the PC (aside from the notable exception of Blizzard who do simultaneous releases) is enough to send you nuts.

    I have yet to see the business version of Vista (I’ve got Ultimate installed) but my impression is that under the hood the versions of Vista have a lot in common, and that the differences between versions are in the extras that are included rather than anything fundamentally different. Having said that I would also agree as a pure business tool, a Mac is probably not the right platform either. That’s not to say that it is not capable – it does have an abeit limited selection of packages such as Microsoft Office that allow the business niches that do need to use Macs – to be able to do business work on the Mac platform and interoperate. However the advertising coming out of Apple is pretty clear that it is not targeted as a business machine either.

    What I was highlighting is that with his keynote this weekend, Bill Gates was pretty clearly going after the media hub ground too, trying to position Vista as a digital hub linking to devices like the XBox 360 and the Zune – much the same sort of niche that Apple is going for with new products like the iTV.

  6. For my mind the media mub market is very much up for grabs but I would also look at what the small players are doing as some solutions are far more exciting than what the big boys are going to offer and are available now.

    A good example of this is the very impressive ‘Slingbox’ from http://www.slingmedia.com it does pretty much the main features you would want from a media hub to do.

    For my mind I’m always going to favour this kind of solution to one that Microsoft or Apple makes as I believe that it’s people out their that mostly have the cool ideas before the big boys.

  7. Indeed – the Slingbox is definitely tempting, and certainly if I were on the road a lot I’d have one – can’t really justify it currently though…

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