Thursday, August 31, 2006

First Impressions: Windows Vista hands on

I've been busy this week, thus the lack of posts. Sorry. My work schedule has been wierd and thus I haven't been able to put up the type of stuff I typically do in the mornings.

Since I've moved from my PC to the Macbook, I've got this little beige computer sitting under my "computer" desk in my loft. It's just sort of sitting there, doing nothing. I thought, "you know, it's still got some juice left in it, lets play around and do the stuff to it I wouldn't have dreamed of when I was still using it everyday."

Working in IT for a state agency has some perks when it comes to Microsoft stuff. First, we get to take part in the Home Advantage program. This lets up buy Office softare at severely discounted proces (19.95) that comes with one license. So, basically, we can put it on one computer and that's it. Second, is an MSDN subsctiption. I asked one of our guys to grab the July Beta of Vista and burn it to DVD for me. I was going to put it on my currently unused PC this weekend. Or so I thought. Since I found myself home for quite a bit yesterday, so I decided to put it on early.

Now, the recommended specifications to run Vista Premium (all the Premium means is that it can use Vista's new "Aero" interface) are as follows: 1 GHz Intel-compatible processor, 1GB RAM, DirectX 9.0-Capable Graphics Processor, with 128MB graphics memory, 40GB HD with at least 15GB "free space." My old Compaq has an Athalon XP+ 1700 (running at 1.47 Ghz), 512 MB of RAM, a Radeion 128 MB 4x AGP card, and a 80 gig HD. So, looks like the only area I don't measure up in is the RAM department....hopefully that wouldn't cause a problem. And it didn't. The problem, as it turned out, was with my HD.

I don't know when it happened, but something bad went down with my HD a few months back. It was part of the reason I decided on getting a laptop sooner than I wanted to. While the PC continued to run, it didn't operate as smoothly as it should, and the HD made weird sounds. Well, during the Vista install Vista told me that my HD was going to die soon, and it wouldn't install on that drive. 2 points for Vista with this one.

My hopes and dreams crushed, I walked down the stairs from the loft dejected and depressed, when I heard a voice. "Wait, there is another," it said to me. Then I remembered, Bebe has the same PC just sitting in the spare bedroom. Yes, that's right, we had two of the same PCs in the house. She got hers on sale at Best Buy a few years ago...and I needed a new PC at the time, saw the deal, and got the same one sans Monitor and Printer. I went back up stairs, took her PC out of the room, and plugged it into my stuff.

The installation started all over again, duh, and after around 45 minutes or so, the PC started to turn off, reboot, do stuff, turn off, reboot, do stuff, lather rinse repeat. This was all part of the install process as Vista did warn me before hand that "during the installation process your computer with restart several times." 2 points for the heads up there.

Eventually it booted up for real. I set up a user account and was off and running. I was unimpressed, at first. Then I realized I hadn't put in the graphics card, and thus wasn't getting the bells and whistles. So, I turned the PC off, removed the card from my old PC, put it in Bebe's PC, and booted up. Vista knew what to do, changed my screen size to fit my widescreen monitor, and said I was able to run the Aero interface if I wanted. Why thank you, I replied.

I figured the Aero and screen stuff would be where I expected it, right clicking on the desktop and selecting Properties, and I wasn't wrong. Yay for Microsoft for being consistant here. I turned Aero on, changed my desktop and did a few other things. The interface for Properties was a bit different but i was able to find what I was looking for.

So, big deal. It's cute, I mean, windows seemingly "appear" out of nowhere and then disappear in cute ways, minimizing does this woosh thing into the taskbar, but other than that it's nothing big. I can see why Apple said MS had copied them, because it all did seem very OSX like. It was significantly more pleasant to use than XP though, I'll give them that. I wouldn't call it gorundbreaking or anything drastically better than what XP has.

The Start menu has been changed, and I had trouble finding what I was looking for. I still haven't found some things yet, but I figure a few more days and I'll get it down. The doesn't seem intuitive to use to me, but that might just be me, other people may find it's categories simplier to use.

Installing things still takes 5 steps when the same action in OSX takes two. That was a bit of a bummer. Also, as others who have written made note, the constant "Please Verify This Action" box gets annoying fast. I wanted to turn it off but couldn't since it's part of the new security stuff. Oh well, live with it I guess. I've had problems installing some drivers. So, my USB Wifi card isn't working and thus I can't get on the net. Vista has Explorer 7 and Media Player 11 installed with it, but since I can't connect I can't really take them for a true spin. I'll see what I can track down driver wise as well. Speaking of drivers, Vista doesn't like my wireless keyboard and mouse either. Nor did it like the USB 2.09 expansion card I put in. I'll have to trouble shoot all of this as well. Not to fair to knock Vista on these things though as this is still a Beta and may not have all the stuff within it that it needs to for these items to work and install themselves.

Final thoughts: All in all, I wasn't really impressed. I mean, it looks nice, and is very "chipper" but still felt like the same Windows, but maybe that's not a bad thing. A new PC user might be confused, but how many of those are left? Typical Windows users will run into the same confusion on the Start menu I did, but otherwise will figure out how to navigate the system pretty quickly. I'd say this is a worthy upgrade from XP, even if it's taken forever. However, I'm still glad I made the switch to OSX as playing with Vista hasn't made me regret that decision.



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