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Tuesday 6 February 2007

Vista Diary [Lurks]

I need to get to grips with Windows Vista because, well, it's the latest thing and I'm employed in a capacity to basically promote the latest thing to computer enthusiasts and PC gamers etc. So I should know what I'm talking about. The following is a quick diary of experienced I intend to update as I boot into Vista and go about reconstructing a computing environment that I'd actually be happy using, including playing games on.
I work for a rather well known computer manufacturer but the company is unable to provide for me a copy of Vista that I can actually install on a machine I have now. I doubt expenses would run to an outrageously priced £210 Windows Vista Home Premium retail copy so I just bought an OEM version of Vista Home Premium for the princely sum of £70. The price difference is patently absurd. It's only supposed to be sold with new systems but no UK e-tailer I've seen has qualms in flogging it stand-alone.
The destination PC has a specification of: E6600 CPU overclocked to 3.0GHz, 2GB RAM, MSI Intel 975 board, 76GB Raptor + dual Seagate 7200.11 320GB drives in an Intel Matrix Raid configuration (mirror for apps/data and stripe for games), ATI X1900 XTX graphics card and a Creative X-Fi sound card.
XP was on one partition on the raptor boot drive so first I used Partition Magic to split the partition into two. I used an OS install option on PM which didn't go down very well with Vista in the end. I had to manually tweak the partition to non-hidden but it was pretty painless really.
Installing off the DVD seems pretty fast and didn't want much in the way of interaction from me at all after the initial entering of the product key and selecting a fresh install rather than an upgrade (ghosted out anyway, OEM version I guess). I selected the partition and off it went. System rebooted surprisingly into the native resolution of my TFT at 1920x1200 which was dead impressive. The motherboard network port also worked, which doesn't work in a default XP install. All in all it booted into a high resolution usable system.
Rather than all the silly blurb adverts you get when installing XP, Vista boots up and then proceeds to 'check your PC performance' or some nonsense like that and then show you a pile of advert slideshow type stuff for Vista. I think it's basically still installing and the checking performance stuff is pretty much a lie, after all why thrash the HD like that?
I can see the stuff nicked from OSX, nice clock top right and an RSS reader there as standard. The windows do indeed look damn lush, the see-through stuff in particular is absolutely gorgeous. Now when I used XP I never liked the kindegarten default XP theme so I always switched machines back to Windows class for that Windows 2000 look. One look at the start bar in Vista though and I'm kind of taken by the logic in where they've put stuff, particularly finding recent files.
I did things mainly by looking at drives low level on XP, aided by some uber third party software called Directory Opus. Software which doesn't exist on Vista and may not be necessary if I can train myself into the Microsoft way of working with files. This is definately teaching an old dog new tricks but I'm willing to give it a go to get the default Vista user experience.
Vista leeched a few updates immediately and installed. I noticed that during these it actually shut down the graphic interface, replacing the whole thing with a black screen and flashing DOS-like cursor which is a little disconcerning for a simple update. When I downloaded Vista drivers from ATI, I was treated to the same thing three times while it was installing drivers. The ATI stuff was installing all sorts of bollocks like Visual C++ runtimes and it was cycling pretty pictures while installing too. I wonder if this sort of rampant bloatware is a sign of things to come with Vista drivers?
Sound card, a not entirely uncommon Soundblaster X-Fi, is completely unrecognised in Windows Vista. Not even basic support. The Creative driver is a beta from late last year and doesn't support any of the standard bundled apps. I've a meeting with Creative next week and I'll try get some frank views on this. For now I didn't even install the beta, I'm thinking I'll reenable the on-board mobo audio (which is pretty good as it goes) and see how Vista likes that.
It was interesting to see a software firewall like warning come up when I edited the machine name and work group through the standard control applet (which looks exactly like XPs). That seems a little kludgy really, if it can't actually work out that real user input on the local machine is legit then rather than sort security problems at cause, they've just sort of bolted on another layer of security on top? I'll be checking this stuff out more closely, that's for sure.
Anyway, that'll do for one day. Conclusion is basically Vista installs very quickly and smoothly on a modern PC and the most immediate thing one notices is the dramatically enhanced visuals over XP. Next up I'll start to check out the usability some more.
Time for a bit more of a play. I booted up and was informed of a couple of updates. I switched off the stupid security notification thing in the task tray which was whining about the lack of AV software. It kind of irritates me that Vista still has no default actions when you left/right click on the desktop. Instead on XP, and seemingly now Vista also, default behavior is that you want to monkey with your graphics cards settings if you right click. Personally I think it ought to do what Directory Opus does and fire up a file browser when you click on the desktop. That said, when browsing around I did notice the very nice Directory Opus like way little composite images are created for folders giving you an indication of what's inside.
Interesting there was an alert telling me how to fix a Vista problem, interest piqued I checked it out and it was basically directing me to Creative's web site to download some drivers for the X-Fi sound card. That's pretty nice since it was top of my list of things to do anyway. Creative are still a bit of a farce with this stuff though. Apparently my sound card is a Creative Soundblaster X-Fi Xtreme Music. Downloading a driver for a Creative Xi-Fi Xtreme Audio recognises no hardware, 40MB download wasted. Pretty stupid. Anyway audio is up and running. The default sounds on Vista are nice little stereo pings and subdued sounds rather than the awful sounds of XP.
Next up, Logitech stuff. There's still no Vista driver for my G15 which is a bit of a gaming showstopper really and of course renders the LCD useless and makes it impossible for me to play WoW since I use the G-keys. Logitech really need to pull their finger out. Incidentally, I've found Logitech's setpoint and the G15 software doesn't work right if your account isn't an administrator, which is also stupid. I expect better from Logitech. Anyway, there was a Vista Setpoint for my G5 mouse! Installed that, pretty smooth - appears to work fine. It immediately wanted to download an update, fine. But then when I rebooted it wanted to download another update. Bit excessive for a mouse driver eh?
For kicks I thought I'd go straight into a game allegedly supporting DX10, although my ATI X1900XTX graphics card isn't a DX10 card. Unfortunately I'll have to reinstall Supreme Commander apparently, running it whinged about the lack of a DX9 dll. I couldn't be bothered so I tried WoW instead. That works fine and not even that, I can get the sound to hardware mix which doesn't actually work on XP with the latest X-Fi drivers. Frame rate seemed the same, or nearabouts. Everything fine although of course with no G15 drivers I couldn't actually play WoW properly so still no thumbs up for gaming for Vista.
Strangely there's a lot of hard drive thrashing on Vista also. I mean the same sort of levels as I have on XP when a third party background defragger is kicking in. I had a look at the task manager and couldn't see any culprits, it might just be because it's swapping? That's kinda poor on a 2GB system I think. The new task manager is kinda cute also, it shows services which is more techy than I would have thought they'd put into Vista.
I've heard word that the G15 drivers might work on Vista anyway so that's what I'll try next time. Also I'd like to try out the networking and file sharing stuff in Vista because this is an area in particular which I perceive to be tragically weak on XP so it'll be interesting to see if Microsoft cleaned house here at all. It's probably about time to start loading on some playback software and codecs also, so one can watch Xvids and that sort of thing. I'm not sure how that's going to work yet...


  1. The install is smart, but wait until this new security layer starts pissing you off so much you wish you were back in XP. It's crazy that it can't work out that it's the OS itself doing a lot of stuff which causes the prompt, but in the context of it picking up admin actions by third party applications, I think that's brilliant and about time. Whether or not this has any effect on malware doing things under the radar is yet to be seen.
    Creative... yeah, sucks, a bit annoying considering my Alienware is supposed to be Vista ready, but clearly isn't as there's no proper audio support, or decent drivers from nVidia for my SLI setup. I'd prefer it if they said they didn't support it rather than lying. Vista also BSOD's when playing some WMP videos, nVidia lameness I guess.
    An interesting discovery is that IE7 is actually quite usable in Vista, rather than looking like the oddball install like it did under Vista. By comparison, Mozilla looks way too oldschool on Vista. Odd turning of tables.
    I've also got weirdness going on with the default sleep action when you hit the power off button, it hangs on re-activation. I can't wait for the next round of driver updates.
    Media sharing... Vista seems to make a big deal of it, can't see what it does, it sure as hell doesn't like other WMP11 installs on the network. Guess it's a Vista to Vista thing only. Would be nice to plug something into the HD telly in the living room and have media beamed to it, but I'm not buying an Xbox360 for that.
    Vista has failed to install on one of our Core2Duo rigs and has partially buggered the existing XP installation as a result, requiring nasty pre-windows black screen selection work to load XP. Yay.
    Overall, not feeling too impressed by Vista, especially considering I'm having to run XP in a window via Virtual PC just to continue developing applications. My fault, I should have checked before installing Vista. If I had known software development wasn't properly supported on Vista I wouldn't have bothered upgrading.

  2. Ok Jay I am seriously not trying to be a smart arse but who the hell installs a brand new OS which there is already widespread commentary about its lack of drivers for this, that and the other for a development machine? I mean sure, dl it for grappling what's going on but "having to run XP in a window via Virtual PC just to continue developing applications" - I mean even a numpty like me could have told you it was an utterly bizarre time to upgrade a mission critical PC to vista.....
    You know what the explanation is don't you? You are still a big geek who wants the latest. Numpty :)

  3. Apparently SQL Server is broken under Vista, a fix is on the way with SP2, there's a CTP here
    Creative have a workaround for EAX under vista that they're calling Alchemy. They basically plop a haxx0red DirectSound dll in the game folder and do the eax processing at a different stage in the audio pipeline. Have a look here.
    Personally, I'm waiting for a few months.

  4. Yeah Am, desire got the better of me, but it's no big deal really, it's not mission critical, and it's a small but complex part of my app that doesn't work with Vista. I'll most likely either re-write this functionality to work in Vista or install XP on another drive and flick between the two, but I don't want to do this as in all likelyhood, I'll just not end up using Vista so the whole upgrade will be an experience in patience.
    I could quite happily have stuck with XP and not wasted three or so days re-installing everything and playing with all the new features.
    Spiny, SQL Server 2005 works with a beta SP2 patch, yes. Okay for a development machine at home, but no way for business use of course.
    I've just remembered something; I don't like the new Start menu, specifically the application list. I have a god-damn-massive 30" screen and my applications are stuck to being scrolled around in a tiny window when I could just see them all at once and navigate easily to them. I think that's a step backwards in terms of usability. The list is also slow to expand and collapse nodes. Very fiddly.
    I'm loving the new Windows Photo Gallery though, this works very well for the massive photo collection I have for LB. I look forward to seeing this evolve as a product because it clearly has some rough edges, like not being able to assign multiple tags when importing images from a device or folder. They need to add some sort of sharing functionality to this as well, then it'll become a network image server.

  5. I have 12 licenes of varying types floating in the IT department of my employer. I like it now.
    Would you install 95 or 98 over 2000?
    Would you install 98 or 2000 over XP?
    Would you install 2000 or XP over Vista?
    And the rest

  6. Well, right now you probably would yes. Just the same as you would have with all those previous generations when the new ones came out. Don't you remember what it was like to try game on Win2K?
    If you're building a new PC and you have Vista lying around for free then yeah, fair enough. In the old days, how many of us actually bought a copy of a new OS? Not very many.
    However for Vista most people are looking down the barrel of buying Vista retail for over £200 or risking trying to cheat the OEM copy or some sort of dodgy hacked warez. Since there's little in the way of killer new features, I'd say it's worth moving to at some point, by virtue of the fact it's a more modern tweaked up OS, but there's no hurry to do so really. All you actually end up doing is paying money for the privelege of a bunch of headaches with drivers and compatibility.

  7. Not to mention that there's thousands of Dells and whathaveyou's going out the door every day now with no working drivers for the gfx and problems with creative. Not good.

  8. I agree to a point, there are still a number of unresolved issues with drivers and certain pieces of software. I am still struggling with a few things on my home PC. I only just got iTunes working properly this morning.
    That said, I have a complete gaming experience and a slick new video accelerated desktop environment, which I am finding much faster and more productive than XP ever was.
    Vista home premium can be picked up as an OEM for 2/5ths of 5/8ths of fuck all!

  9. Yes OEM is cheap but it's really the wrong product for the likes of us. Just wait until you try to change a mobo and that sort of thing on your OEM copy. You'll pretty much have to buy a new one. That said, you could *afford* to buy a few new ones for the stupid cost of Vista retail.

  10. I've had enough of Vista, I'm going back to XP for the new machine I'll be getting. I'll miss the window animations, but the constant badgering with prompts, tiny start menu, lack of proper developer support, lame drivers, lame game performance/support, etc. I know Vista will improve, but it's holding me back, I'll have another look at it in the future when it's post SP1 perhaps.
    I've not done that before, gone back to a previous OS, but Vista really is bloody annoying.

  11. As the ancient Corinthian saying goes - "When bloody February's cold eyes have cast their hated gaze on the blighted crops of orphans, of widows and those of fools, only then shall the first buds of spring speak softly their soft caress to those who have mind to listen; 'wait for the friggity service pack 1 you fuckin arse, how many times do you have to learn the same lesson?'" :)

  12. I think I see new G15 vista drivers on logitech site today ^.^

  13. you guys are all noobs, i bought the OEM version of vista ultimate for the pc i just built and i couldnt be happier. there IS g15 support for vista, as i have a g15 and it works perfect. the only thing that gets on my nerves about vista is there are no progs out to OC my GPU. I have an EVGA 8800GTX so i really dont need to OC it but if there is a chance that i can get more out of my machines, i'll always try it. heres a link for the G15 software.,CRID=1796,contentid=10824

  14. What bit of;
    i) We're not buying OEM because as the sorts of users we are we don't want to get shafted when we change mobos etc
    ii) 'G15 vista drivers are available now'
    did you not get?
    Who's the noob? Twat!

  15. Heh, this particular fucktard calling us a noob has apparently thought nothing of laying out the cash for an 8800GTX and is apparently the sort that will try get more out of his machine but thinks nothing of seriously crippling game performance by running Vista. Genius.