I've had Vista Ultimate installed for about a week now and feel ready to give feedback on the new Microsoft OS.
Installation Having the full Ultimate 32-bit edition I had 3 install options - 1) Upgrade, 2) Clean install from within windows 3) Clean install booting from CD.
I used the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor to see if I could expect any hardware/software issues. While my hardware checked out ok there were several apps that were not Vista friendly. Two were flat out incompatible and required removal before an upgrade should be attempted. This was Norton Internet Security 2006 and Nero Burning Rom OEM.This is where I think some people come unstuck with upgrades, they don't check the software incompatiblies before attempting an upgrade. However saying that even after removing the offending programs and a couple of the apps classed as minor problems my clean install from within windows failed.
I opted for a clean install booting from the Disc.
Drivers/hardware After a fairly quick install I thought all my hardware had been detected as Windows looked so good. However, closer inspection showed a lot of missing drivers including my graphics, and sound cards. Without drivers the display was limited to 800x600 but still appeared clear and colourful. I still had sound, if only in stereo. Once the correct drivers were downloaded and installed I could get full surround sound, high-resolution graphics and the long awaited Aero enhancements.Finding how to turn on the Aero enhancements wasn't obvious but a quick search of the help solved that.I thought I would have little use of Flip 3D other than showing off. However, as my Logitech mouse has additional buttons I found one of them activated flip 3D. I could then use the scroll wheel to skip through the open apps. Rather than waiting for the one I want to come to the front I could use the mouse to click any of the programs in the deck to go to it. This soon became a very quick and easy way to navigate between programes. I still use Alt-tab too but Flip 3D is defintely more useful than I imagined.
Ultimate Extras The main reason I got the Ultimate edition was for the Ultimate Extras. So far it's not earnt it's hype. There have been no cool updates to speak of. Even the DreamScene and GroupShot extras demoed at CES are absent. I did manage to download GroupShot from the Microsoft research site (which works great) but this is available to all windows users (even xp I believe) not just Vista Ultimate. DreamScene is still unavailable as far as I can see.Access rightsAs I did a clean install of Vista on a different hard drive my previous XP installation was still intact. A problem I had in the past with dual boot systems was not being able to access some files on the alternate installation due to access rights. This is not a problem for Vista. When trying to view my windows XP documents folder I am warned I do not have Access rights, however, I am offered the option to "take over ownership" As long as you are logged in as an administrator on your Vista build you can take over ownership of any folder and then access it anytime. As to what happens to my XP installation when I try restarting that again I can't say as I haven't tried yet.
From the viewpoint of Front-end developer Of course it wouldn't be a good blog post without looking at Windows Vista from the viewpoint of a front-end developer.The first change is of course Internet Explorer 7 being built in to the OS. This means if you were hanging on to IE6 for testing purposes you will need to get the stand-alone edition. I haven't tested installing this on Vista yet but this worked fine on XP. Firefox installed seemlessly as always but I encountered a problem when trying to view online video. Although Windows Media Player 11 is installed as part of Vista the required dll files required by firefox and other browsers are missing. This means playing streamed windows media is only possible in IE7. This is quiet a sneaky move by Microsoft but easily remedied. Simply download the missing dll files into the firefox plugins folder (usually C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\plugins) or better still in the windows media folder so it can be used by all browsers you may install.You can find the missing files on dlldump.com npdsplay.dll npwmsdrm.dll npdrmv2.dll If this doesn't solve the problem get more indepth help here: http://forums.mozillazine.org/viewtopic.php?t=206213
What about the tools of the trade? The Adobe/Macromedia Apps -You'll be pleased to know Dreamweaver 8, Flash 8, Photoshop CS2 and Fireworks 8 all run on Vista. However, there are some compatibility issues. If you use the Windows Aero effects you will find they become disabled when you open Fireworks. Windows Vista will switch to "Windows Vista Basic" mode until you close the program. Flash also has issues. It will not force Vista in to Basic mode but you will probably want to do this manually as whenever you enter or exit a set of grouped items the usually near instant transition effect of entering or exiting the group is slowed to a snails pace. This means a 2-3 second wait every time you edit or exit a grouped object - nightmare.If found no negative side effects in Dreamweaver 8. Photoshop I've only opened to see if it would run and haven't done any indepth testing yet.
The Vista shadow versioning feature could prove useful. Often I make sequence of pages and use one as a template for the next page. In my absent mindedness I sometimes save over my template with the most recent work - trouble. With Shadow backup each individual file is backed up by windows so that I can get back to previous versions of a file if I save over it.
I also use a program called PowerDirector from Cyberlink to edit and export video in web friendly formats or for making home movie DVDs. This cannot be run or re-installed anymore. Tech supports solution is to upgrade to their new Premium edition which is Vista Compatible. I am still considering this as I think it's a bit cheeky to ask me to fork out another $30 when I bought what was their top of the range item only a couple of months ago. Other Apps not liked by Vista is Norton Internet Security 2007.
Active Sync If you use ActiveSync to Sync your windows mobile device with outlook for contacts or email you'll be in for a shock. ActiveSync is not compatible with Vista. Worry not, however, it has been replaced by Windows Mobile Device Center. Intially when I connected my device the device center only let me sync music and video with Windows Media Player. After several attempts to get some action from Outlook I gave up. I tried a windows update and there was an update for Windows Mobile Device Center but it kept failing. After about a day of this the update installed by changed nothing. I eventually discovered that the windows update service only offers updates for hardware currently connected to the system. I ran the update while the PDA was connected to the PC and it found a corporate version of the Mobile Device Center which updated successfully.The newly updated version did everything ActiveSync did and more - remember how syncing via bluetooth was only possible with a server? Not anymore - I can easily sync via bluetooth or USB all my outlook contacts, emails, calender, tasks etc.
Games The new start menu does away with the usually cascading menus of program groups and encourages you to search instead. It does also have links to key folders such as music, pictures and now the new Games link. This folder dynamically updates when you install or install a game. What do I mean? I had many games installed on my XP hard drive. I tried to run some of them and as you'd expect some required a re-install. However, games like World of Warcraft worked immediately. Once I'd loaded up the game once the Dynamic Games folder detected it and added a shortcut there for me. When you select the shortcut it downloads the game cover from the web and uses it to create a Vista icon. It also adds links to the developers website and support pages and gives details on the games Age rating.
If it is a game designed for Vista it will also show the system requirements rating. There will be a minimum, recommended and "your system" ratings. This makes it simple for PC novices to see if their system will be able to run a game. It is a little over simplified as the figure given for your system is based on the lowest scoreing piece of hardware on your PC. In my case my graphics card and hard drive are scored at 6 but my processor is scored at 4 and my ram at 4.5. Rather than averaging the number Vista chooses the lowest value. This is really helpful for beginners as it will show where the bottle neck in performance is. So often people have come to me for advice because there system is running slow and asked if buying a bigger hard drive will help things. Also retailers selling systems with fast processors but cutting corners on all the other components will be exposed. Very often the same people complaining to me about their system performance have a high spec processor but a graphics card from the 80s and less ram than my mobile. Now if they see a rating of 8 for their processor but a rating of 2 for their graphics card they will know exactly where their problem lies.
I am pleased to say there has been no noticeable difference in game performance since installing Vista even with the Aero enhancements enabled. I tried WOW both full screen and windowed with noticable change. Infact the griffin I was riding didn't even stutter as I used Vista Flip 3D to rotate through open programs.Farcry and Half-life also ran without problems.
The Blue Screen of Death Some maybe wondering has the infamous Blue Screen of Death been retained for this edition. I can confirm it has. I've seen it for myself. Although Microsoft confirmed of it's existence they said it was very unlikely you'd ever see it. I managed to get a peek at it my first day running Vista by trying to install..... Word Viewer. Yes after trying to download and install the Word Viewer from the Microsoft website I got a blue screen for about 10 seconds before the system restarted. Too quick for me to snap a photo.
In Summary Vista is a welcome upgrade. Doesn't have as many draw backs in the form of compatibility issues as I thought it would at this stage in it's life and the improvements both big and small. Although it's too early to tell for sure it does seem more stable and when programmes made for Vista and DirectX 10 start appearing I am sure there will be some noticeable performance/feature improvements.