Windows Vista's 30-day report card

Windows Vista's 30-day report card

Summary: It's been a month since Microsoft released Windows Vista to manufacturing. That same week, I upgraded three heavily used machines in this household to the final build. So, how have they done? Each upgrade has a different story to tell, as it turns out. Here are some preliminary observations.

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TOPICS: Windows
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It's been a month since Microsoft released Windows Vista to manufacturing. That same week, I upgraded three heavily used machines in this household to the final build. So, how have they done? Each upgrade has a different story to tell, as it turns out, and I'll share the details in three separate follow-up posts. But here are some overall comments.

First, the third-party development community hasn't just been standing still. In the past month, I've downloaded several new drivers and installed at least one new application (Nero 7) that was specifically designed to work on Windows Vista. Earlier versions produced compatibility errors and lacked some basic functionality.

The most important driver update for me was from Realtek, who appear to have finally fixed the problems with their AC97 audio drivers. Up until yesterday, one machine in my lab played audio that was literally unlistenable: scratchy, static-ridden, and distorted. The final update, posted to Realtek's website on November 30, appears to work beautifully. (Realtek has an update for its High Definition Audio drivers as well.)

Most of the bugs I've run into are obscure, and I have yet to see or hear of anything that has data-destroying potential. More common are design decisions that don't become obvious until you really try to use the feature instead of just testing it.

Of course, during the last month I've been absorbed in Windows Vista as Carl Siechert and Craig Stinson and I delivered the final manuscript for Windows Vista Inside Out. Last week, to test some upgrade scenarios, I installed a copy of Windows XP Professional on a relatively modern test computer and was struck by how slow the process was. It took over an hour and a half, and there were a couple of points along the way where setup stopped and awaited user input from me. By contrast, installing Windows Vista on the exact same hardware took roughly 20 minutes, with all required user input at the very beginning and the very end. Those fast, mostly unattended setups made it very easy to install and reinstall Windows for specific test scenarios. We also benefited from being able to run Vista in virtual machines, where we could try out test scenarios without worrying about downtime if an experiment went wrong.

One observation about Windows Vista worth noting is how quickly it came together over the past few months. In mid-summer, I was skeptical about the chances that Vista would be ready for its scheduled launch, and I wasn't alone. But somehow all the pieces actually fit. In fact, Microsoft's own Reliability and Performance Monitor is one of the tools that proved to my satisfaction that Vista wasn't rushed out the door after all. I'll post the results from this tool for three different machines in the follow-ups to this post.

Topic: Windows

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  • Report Card

    still think I'll wait until about June to see the "How it is going"
    puppadave
  • Like you ...

    ... I started in July and was dismayed at how sluggish Vista (Beta 2) was when applied to even robust hardware. I even prematurely went out and bought extra RAM for a couple of machines -- not knowing I wouldn't really need it in the end.

    Now I even have Vista running reasonably well on a six-year-old 866MHz Dell Dimension 4100 with its RAM maxed out at 512MB. It takes about 5 minutes to complete its boot cycle but it settles down to a RAM "footprint" of about 360MB and runs Outlook 2003 and IE 7 just fine.

    Despite warnings from my colleaguse, I have found that even with only 1GB of single-channel RAM, Vista multi-tasks quite nicely on a one-year-old Dell GX280 -- with only an occasional slow-down.
    M Wagner
  • Slow with Dragon NaturallySpeaking?

    I am partially disabled, and most concerned about upgrading to a resource-hogging system, since I depend on resource-hogging Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9.
    I think it would be of more use to comment on how Vista does with one critical program, than describe how it does with a jumble of unknown software and pre-configurations.
    susancragin@...
    • Vista Voice Recognition

      Hello Susan Craig,
      Windows Vista does include a voice recognition package. Its (possible) you may not need Dragon NS with vista unless it is offering some specific features. See link below regarding Voice Recog with Vista
      http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/features/foreveryone/speech.mspx

      I have not used the feature extensively as the last VR prog I tried was Via Voice V 3. But it did work with explorer and some desktop navigation functions. My home is very noisy so the Parrott static interfered with the overall performance. Your results should be more positive.
      Jaytmoon
    • What I Found on Nuance

      http://www.nuance.com/vista/ has information about Vista/Dragon Naturally Speaking
      jonosin@...
  • Windows Vista on older computers

    I have an MBolder AMD 2700+ with a 128MB AGP video card and I have been led to believe that I need to upgrade my system substantially in order to use Vista. Bah Humbug. I will wait a few months til all reports are in.
    big-skip@...
    • I don't know why not.

      My media center machine is running on a P4 2.8GHz (HT) with 1gb ram and a GeForce 5200 AGP with 128mb. It runs just fine. My other computers are a P4 3.0HT 1GB and a 128mb PCIe video card and a P4 D 3.0 with 2GB and a 256mb PCIe video card. I've also got an HP laptop with 2GB RAM and an ATI X600 with 64MB dedicated (using the Aero theme) For windows work, they all perform just fine. The most important thing is you've got at least a GB of RAM.
      jerickson@...
    • Vista Minimum Hardware req's

      See theis link for MS Vista Minimum Hardware Req's
      http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/getready/systemrequirements.mspx

      You won't get all the fance Aero glass display but everything else will work. If you want ALL the Vista features, Consider a new PC after they are available with Vista.
      PS: Buy from a Local System Builder for better support.
      Jaytmoon
    • Vista Minimum Hardware req's

      See theis link for MS Vista Minimum Hardware Req's
      http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/getready/systemrequirements.mspx
      Please Note: you need a dvd drive for the DVD media Install. Else the OS will ship to you on "MANY" cd's.
      You won't get all the fance Aero glass display but everything else will work. If you want ALL the Vista features, Consider a new PC after they are available with Vista.
      PS: Buy from a Local System Builder for better support.
      Jaytmoon
      • Vista Resource Pig

        Well, that leaves out my Proliant 3000's with the 100 MHz FSB and CD Roms.
        The ones with w2000AS and LINUX Debian systems which run just fine on the 2.6 SMP kernel.
        We went UNICOS on the Cray. Now I know why. The M$ OS would have gobbled up the resources if we had been able to port it.
        Next stop, ETCH and my 64 bit replacements in LINUX.
        Old Timer 8080
    • You probably don't

      Big-Skip, I have a PC with a processor just slightly faster than yours (an Athlon 64 3000+) and an on-board nVidia GeForce 6100 GPU, configured to use also 128 MB of my 1-GB RAM as video memory (I intend to upgrade to a real card soon and free up the memory). It runs Vista Ultimate smoothly, with a satisfactory speed for everything and Aero enabled. The processor is currently overclocked by a third, but it ran Vista almost just as well before that.

      So, while I can't guarantee that you will have the same experience (especially because you didn't say whether your processor was an early Athlon 64, a Sempron or a late Athlon XP), odds are that you will at least come very close. So, I would advise you to give it a try.
      goyta
  • Your post is interesting as..

    I had tested Vista RC1, and after about a month, I set up one PC to dual boot into Ubuntu linux, and another PC I compleatly migrated to Ubuntu, but I left my laptop set up with Windows XP. I am new to linux, and I have a long way to go to acheive profecency, but I must admit: I like it. Having sied that, Your post has me thinking I should give the production version of vista a go. Where I work, I will need to support home users of vista, so I will at least have one pc set up to play with it, and , yea I already have "Windows XP inside and out", so I will be buying your new book on Vista ;-)
    drew1313
  • Windows Vista's 30-day report card

    I would like to say that I am quite happy so far with VISTA. I downloaded GOLD on Nov 17th and have been running it through the paces since then and it has been quite stable. In fact, I haven't had one issue yet that wasn't a result of my lack of expreience with it's new features or the lack of support by software vendors. Like you and anyone else using Vista right now, I still have a list of several drivers and software packages that I check the vendors web site every day or two for updates and upgrades.

    I installed Vista Ultimate x64 on a new box with a ASUS P5E mobo, 1 gb DDR2 667 RAM (two 512 modules), and a Core 2 Duo 6400 (2.13 ghz) chip. I would suggest adding more memory as even with my 1 gb DDR2 I consistently run at 80% of memory, but even with a number of apps open, and running intensive applications in background, the system never goes above 40% cpu usage and VISTA has yet to lockup on me, reboot, or give me a blue screen. In fact, just a couple of nights ago I tried to give it a run for it's money. I opened photoshop, connected to Sirius Online to listen to tunes, stuck in two CD's in my 2 NEC DVD/CD drives and ripped tracks to mp3's from both at the same time, and in Photoshop I played with plenty of filters, and VISTA and the system didn't blink. Both CD's being ripped at the same time finished in about 5 minutes without any skips,etc, Sirius sounded great, no pauses, etc, and other than a slight slowdown in Photoshop becuase of memory requirements, I was quite happy.

    The one complaint I do have about VISTA is it's start menu. I can't say that I really like how many of the programs are hidden and to get to them you have to use the search field. And at the same time I don't want to revert back to the classic window, which of course would solve my problem. I also forget to run things as an administrator when necessary. For example, you have to run Visual Studio.net 2005 as an adminstrator. Every time I open it I forget the first time to run as administrator and I have to close it and restart it. Also, there are a number of things that are both good and annoying. For example, active x components. On one hand, I'm quite happy that VISTA won't run them automatically. More secure system. On the other hand, after about the 20th website that you visit that prompts you to allow a component to run, you can't help but feel a little annoyed. Me, I just keep reminding myself that it is for my own good and deal with it. Most times I trust the content and allow it to run, but there have been several instance where I declined, and so overall it's a good thing.

    Overall, I give VISTA a score of 8 or 9 out of 10. And I'm with you on the length of time it takes to install VISTA compared to installing XP. I also did both, though XP was not installed on such a nice box, but it took 1 1/2 hours to install XP and less than 1/2 hour to install VISTA. I attributed it to the box that I was installing XP on, but I wouldn't have thought that it would have made so much difference.
    mgrubb@...
    • RE: Windows Vista's 30-day report card

      Your reply was as informative as anything else I've read on the subject...thanks!

      gary
      gdstark13
    • I must be spoiled...

      "I would suggest adding more memory as even with my 1 gb DDR2 I consistently run at 80% of memory, but even with a number of apps open, and running intensive applications in background, the system never goes above 40% cpu usage and VISTA has yet to lockup on me, reboot, or give me a blue screen."

      When I run intensive applications in the background I expect my CPU to stay at 90-100% for as long as I choose to leave my computer on without causing any problems for resource intensive foreground applications, much less crashing or requiring a reboot. Running an intensive application at only 40% in order to ensure responsiveness seems so wasteful.

      Of course I run Linux...so my expectations would be a little higher...
      Erik Engbrecht
      • Chances are very good that your expectations are lower ...

        ... seeing how there just aren't that many intensive applications that run under Linux for the home user.
        ShadeTree
        • There aren't??

          You mean there aren't a lot of 3d games for Linux. Depending on your interests, there's plenty of intensive applications available. If your interests run towards science and engineering, I would say there's more available for Linux (at least without paying tens of thousands of dollars for commercial software, and even then the vendors are going to recommend Linux or another Unix-like OS).
          Erik Engbrecht
          • I said for Home use

            I doubt Engineering and Science are typical home use applications.
            ShadeTree
  • What am I missing?

    I am currently reading and working on the internet. In the last 30 days, I created numerous documents with my word processing program, spreadsheets galore, and a couple of basic databases. My kids are using all my cpu with games on the internet.

    I asked myself, "What am I missing with my current setup?". I have never "upgrade" any computer system without having days or weeks of frustration.

    Of course, I have never purchased the Ginsu knife either (it turns out it was just a cheap knife you could get anywhere, that some guy marketed it on TV).

    So, why buy more and more and more, when I can operate my business and home just fine?
    JEFFREY.JACOBSON@...
    • you might miss it later

      Vista is here now but you might not need it until much later. Vista is ready for future computing needs that is inevitably progressing. The new OS new hardware drivers for everything that has come out since 2001 and upcoming hardware like Wireless USB, wireless g, n bluetooth wireless this that, it is ready for growing hard drives with growing music and photo collections better security for all the internet hackers. Not only that but it actually added alot of the features people thought would be useful. Fixed annoyances though there are new annoyances and ofcourse visually more appealing. You dont have to buy it if you dont want.
      MIS Master