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windows vista: me likey!

For about a week now I've been using Windows Vista (CTP, Build 5308) in my machine at the office--at home I am still running XP-- which we got through MSDN. The CTP is of the "Windows Ultimate" flavor which includes Pro+Media Center+Tablet PC functionality. Nice. I dared to install it at the office because if that machine couldn't handle it, I wasn't sure which one could (Dual Core P4, GeForce 6800, 3 gig of RAM... you get the idea). It's an early beta (they're probably still six to nine months away from release) but it's pretty stable save for a few wrinkles here and there and the occassional slowdown. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The installation process is really, really good. Pop in the DVD, click "install" and wait for a couple of hours. In my case, I did that as I left the office one night (yep, perhaps I'm a bit kamikaze that way) and when I got back the next morning, the machine was botted on Vista. That was it. No clicks, no questions, it just worked.

Once I booted the first thing I loaded was IE 7. I wanted to see how well it worked. Boy, was I impressed. Network transfers were super-fast. We huddled around it and wondered if IE was doing something funky, but whatever was going on also extended to FireFox, which loaded webpages at least 50% faster than before. I use FasterFox, so I know I wasn't dreaming. We compared the speed of loading the same pages on similarly configured machines (both Linux, Mac and Win) and Vista blew them all away. Sometimes twice as fast. WOW. I guess that the rewritten TCP/IP stack does make a difference after all.

There were a couple of problems with the install. First, I had Norton Antivirus running and it just can't be uninstalled for some reason. I can't stop it from getting in the middle of other processes, such as downloads either, and I haven't had the time to look for a solution. Probably a registry setting. At any rate, it's very annoying. The really annoying feature is the new user security they put in, essentially downgrading user privileges so you have to "sudo" for some operations. What's frustrating is that my user is an Administrator, there is apparently some hidden Administrator user that I don't have the password for, and there are folders that I can't delete. Period. I can't even look into them. That is just plainly idiotic. It's MY machine. Give me all the warnings you want, but let me access my own files damn it! I could bet that NAV is getting confused with that too, since it plugs in at a pretty low level. Other minor problems: the video driver Windows installed on its own was old -- but getting the update for Vista from nVidia fixed that. Then Powerarchiver wouldn't work at all, but WinZip did just fine. Oh, another tiny thing: when I shut the PC down, it bluescreens for just a second. I'd bet it's Norton again. But it doesn't affect anything. So it's fine. :)

Those wrinkles aside, the experience has been pretty good. Vista is fast and stable. Search has suddenly become useful. I can now search Outlook messages from the OS (and open them) faster than from within Outlook, and I didn't have to install or configure anything. Good one.

The hardware requirements are pretty steep at this point to run it properly, but I think those will come down as it gets optimized. As I understand it, build 5308 is the first one that is close to being "feature complete," so there still must be a ways to go in the optimization front.

Let's see, other cool things. The new sidebar (a copy of Konfabulator) is cool, and there's a fairly web2.0-ish site that deals with "gadgets" that apply (the site, not the gadgets) to both Windows Vista and Windows Live. The famous "Flip 3D" view is pretty cool and even (gasp!) useful. But, I searched aaaall over the place to see how to use it, and everyone talked about how cool it was but NO SITE said how. So here it goes: Windows Key + Tab. Alt-Tab is the regular switch, but with "live views" of the windows scaled down. WinKey+Tab is the Flip 3D thing. There. I said it. The secret's out (hold on for a million comments telling me where the obvious place to look was). :) You'll need a spiffy video card to use it, but it will work well if your system can handle it.

So far then? Aside from the ludicrously bad file permissions thing, I am very impressed by vista -- in fact, I'm sold. No WinFS, true, and it took a hell of a lot longer than it should have, but Vista is definitely going to be a good upgrade from XP I think (damn, I sound like Scoble!). Anyway.

As the Firefly characters would say: "Shiny." :)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on March 8 2006 at 9:36 PM

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