Sharp looks, good performance, but buggy... some Vista impressions

, posted: 14-Nov-2006 12:25

VistaWith Vista hitting manufacturing and Microsofties raving about how good Release Candidate 2 is - and I've seen some impressive demos to that effect from MS New Zealand - I thought it was time to give it a go.

I was hoping to put the RTM build on my new machine, but it's still a week away from being downloadable, so I went with RC2 or build 5744 instead. And, it is a pretty good new Windows indeed. Microsoft's put in a lot of effort into all parts of the OS, from the installation process to security and the looks.

Vista feels pretty fast, although on a 2.67GHz Intel Kentsfield machine with 2GB of 800MHz Corsair DDR-2 anything flies. Better yet, Vista is stable. I've had some application crashes, but Vista itself feels bullet proof.

The added security stuff is good news - Michael Howard's MSDN blog has lots of detail on them - but I have to confess that I'm using Vista the wrong way. Yes, I've turned off User Access Controls (UAC) because all the prompts got on my nerves. Worse, I'm running as Administrator... must try to lower privileges once I have everything installed and ready.

If you don't have UAC enabled, the Windows Security Centre nags you about it and puts up a red shield to alert. How do you stop it from doing that? Also, no UAC means no Protected Mode in Internet Explorer 7. IE7PM
Speaking of installation or migration of my existing XP box, I was really looking forward to Windows Easy Transfer or WET (who thinks of these names at MS?). While I've become more disciplined about keeping my important stuff like documents and emails on a separate server just in case, I have quite a lot of software installed on the XP box with custom settings. Apparently, WET can migrate not just apps, but also your files and settings... "nice," I thought, and fired it up.

I can't provide screenshots of WET, because once it's up and running, you can't use the computer for anything else than transferring your stuff. There was a lot of data to shift, around 20GB. I didn't have the Easy Transfer USB 2.0 cable, but both computers had gigabit Ethernet network interfaces so moving things over would go fast I thought.

Well, it didn't. First, it turned out to be impossible to use WET to directly transfer data from one computer to another. WET crashed four times before I gave up doing it that way, and put the migration file on a network server instead. Moving the data took a long time, about three hours which surprised me. Meanwhile, like I said, you can't use your computer, so I was a bit annoyed to see that while the user data and things like cookies were moved, none of my applications were migrated properly. Instead, I got broken shortcuts in the Vista start menu and no apps - not even Microsoft Office.

Furthermore, after running WET, I got a bunch of folder shortcuts that pop up "ACCESS DENIED" dialogs when trying to open them up. Hmm. Looks like the old, laborious way of migrating is still the best - reinstall all your software. Real shame that.

While most apps that I've installed run fine, there are some curious exceptions. Microsoft's Live Messenger 8 is prone to start leaking memory, hitting 400MB under some conditions that I can't replicate. The beta of Live Messenger 8.1 is unusable for me - it starts up, but crashes immediately.

Oddly enough, I'm finding that some sites like the updated Gmail don't render correctly in the version of IE7 included with RC2:
There's no reply box, or menu for message commands, above. However, Gmail works fine in IE7 on Windows XP, which according to the About dialog is version 7.0.5730.11IS whereas the Vista one is 7.0.5744.16384.

I'm still missing drivers for the High Definition Audio and Marvell SATA controller on the motherboard; Intel still hasn't released any Vista versions of drivers for its hardware (or if it has, they're hidden somewhere amazingly clever on its website).

Despite the annoying bugs, which I hope are sorted out in the RTM version, Vista feels pretty good. I reckon Microsoft will have a hard time convincing people to upgrade to Vista from XP however, but I'd be happy to have it on a new computer and wouldn't drop down to the earlier version.

Other related posts:
Fighting with Windows 8
The Windows Phone 7.5 bouncing tiles bug
Windows Live Essentials betas seem good, but oh so flaky

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