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.