In case you haven’t noticed, I’m starting a new section called reviews. I figure as a tribute to James Kim, who was known for his CNET reviews, this was a better time than any to start. We’ll see how much time I have to maintain this and how long my posts are, but I figure this is a section I can post my notes and experiences with products I buy and use for others to use later. Expect reviews down the road on the Xbox 360, Intel Core 2 Duo 6600, the nVidia GeForce 8800, the T-Mobile MDA, among other things.
The last week I have spent my evenings, and any spare time I have had towards building my new computer (a review and my experiences with that to come later), an Intel Core 2 Duo, 2 GB DDR2 Dual-Channel RAM, nVidia GeForce 8800 768MHz video card, and 2 ATI TV Wonder 650 cards (with HDTV support) for the full media experience. I decided I wanted the full 64-bit experience, and as part of that I decided with Vista being released to consumers end of January I would try the full RTM version of Vista (the 30-day trial period ought to expire just in time for me to buy it in January). As a MS beta tester, I figure it due-diligence to share my experiences for others to use, especially when it is released to the general consumer in January.
As a disclaimer, I’d like to note that I am an avid Linux user (my primary desktop at work), also own a MacBook (and love it), and I do like to use Windows for Multi-Media, in particular in conjunction with my Xbox. I find the Media Center server and Extender capabilities of the 2 working together to be far superior to anything else, even OSS, available out there. Maybe I’ll compare and contrast sometime on that.
So on to Vista… My first experience with Vista RTM I have to admit wasn’t very good. In fact, I gave up for a short while, moved on to try and reinstall Windows XP, and realized I was having similar problems with XP, so it must have been something to do with the hardware. In fact, what was amazing was that XP wouldn’t even recognize my SATA ports or SATA RAID 1 array I had set up with the hardware, while Vista recognized it immediately. Vista does seem to have much more support on the CD for modern hardware. And if you don’t have support for the hardware on, the good news is Vista allows you to load them off of a CD or USB device, while XP’s install CD still requires you to somehow either have a floppy drive (which must be marked as drive A:), or create a custom install CD bundle with the drivers already on it with something like nLite.
So after several tries (and 2-3 days), both on Vista and XP install of starting the install, and waiting 1/2-1 hour for it to even get to the setup screen, I finally decided there was some sort of issue with the way Windows was interacting with the hardware (I’ll admit that I think this is an MS flaw, not the Hardware’s fault, as their software ought to catch the issue and report an error to the user if there really is something wrong – the install, for both XP and Vista was just freezing!). I started by removing my extra PCI TV Tuner cards and a spare Firewire card I had put in the machine. I restarted the Vista install, and it didn’t freeze any more! So one rule of thumb is that if the install starts freezing, start removing hardware one at a time – it is most likely a conflict with hardware somewhere.
I was finally into the install. The install went flawlessly after that. Some things I liked about it:
- It was very simple. Only about 3 steps.
- I really liked how it recognized my SATA and RAID right off
- Hardware drivers can be loaded right off a CD or USB key!
- No more ugly DOS screens! Fully-graphical UI the whole way through
- While it may have just been that I have pretty fast hardware, the install in full seemed to go much faster than previous Windows installs I’ve been through
Some things I didn’t like about it:
- It was not very good at telling you status of what it is doing, particularly at the beginning of the install process. Even at the end when it lists the steps it is going through it doesn’t tell you how far into those steps it is in.
- It should have caught the hardware issue and rather than freezing or spontaneously rebooting on me in the install it should have reported an error
- Not enough ability to customize – it seems to automatically connect to the internet for updates. This I would like the ability to turn off if I want to.
- My mouse didn’t work through the entire process. I have a Logitech Wireless Click Mouse (I think that’s the model) that isn’t yet supported. In fact a lot of miscellaneous peripherals aren’t yet supported – I’m guessing most of them are the older models. I suspect this will change as vendors write support for their hardware, but I would really hope support for something like this would at least be on the install CD!
So, that was my experience with the install. I intend to write another review on my user experience of the Operating System itself. Overall I am quite satisfied (as a Linux and Mac user I hate to admit), with only a few disappointments. Stay tuned for more of my Vista experience!