It's Time For Vista!!!!!
Ok, those of you who have been reading my blog have gotten a pretty good idea of how I feel about Microsoft Windows Vista. My first true in detail mention of Vista I made on my blog was in my post titled The Big Switch. In that article I mentioned how Vista had some definite potential, but that I didn't think it was still fully ready for the main stream yet. I then mentioned Vista a little bit in "64bit Operating Systems - Are They Worth It?" In that post I discussed all of the frustrations those of us using 64bit operating systems, especially XP Pro x64 and Vista x64 were having.
Let's just say that I felt the same about Vista as I originally did about XP. I didn't move over to XP until 2004. I felt XP was to bloated, used to much memory, and wasn't worth the price premium Microsoft was asking at the time. However, being in the business I am in, I eventually settled down with XP and got to know it a bit better, and not long after that I began to love it.
When I first got a hold of Vista I received it as Vista Release Candidate 1 (RC-1) and then again as RC-2. I originally loaded it on a computer running an AMD Athlon 64 3300+ processor with 1gb of DDR 400 memory and I didn't mess around with it, I installed the whole thing, Vista Ultimate 64bit edition. Now being that this was in the pre public release days, 64bit driver support for Vista was almost non existent. Getting a fully working copy of Ultimate 64bit edition was extremely hard to do and usually involved a hodgepodge mix of experimental Vista 64bit drivers coupled with unreliable XP 64bit drivers. While I thought Vista showed some great potential, I felt it still required a bit of work.
When Vista was finally released to the public in January of 2007, the initial excitement quickly turned to frustration, and anger. Vista still had driver issues, the User Account Controls were quickly identified as the most annoying new feature (so much so that Apple created a really funny Mac -vs- PC piece about it), and just like any other new Microsoft release there were other bugs and issues. Peoples list of things they didn't like about Vista went on and on. Not to mention that amazing amount of OEM system builders who were, and still are, selling new low powered, low rated systems with Vista installed. For instance I recently received a laptop from a customer who complained that it took the laptop a full 10 minutes to boot up and ran painfully slow. When she told me this I first thought spyware or virus problems, but as it turns out she purchased a $700 laptop with a single core Celeron processor, only 512mb of DDR2 533 memory and Windows Vista installed. Add onto that the fact that she was also running Norton anti virus, plus all the rest of the junk software that typically comes from big brand manufacturers and it was no wonder it took it 10 minutes to boot up, I was surprised it booted at all, much less ran. Her pain now has been felt by many people across the globe. Upon it's release the new fancy graphics and added features in Media Center were not enough to keep the critics happy, including myself. Microsoft is now feeling the pain of those underpowered system installed with Vista, as there is a full on class action law suite aimed at Microsoft and their branding of Vista capable machines.
Make no mistake about it people, Vista is a huge resource hog in every sense of the word. But it doesn't have to be.
I recently put together a new computer for a customer. This customer wanted the best he could get as he didn't want to have to purchase another new system for several years to come. He figured if he was going to invest the money into a new desktop that he should do it right, and he did. His system included an Intel 2.4ghz Quad Core processor, 8gb of DDR2 800 memory, EVGA GeForce 8800GT graphics card, 2 x 500gb 16mb cache Sata hard drives and all the rest of the gear needed to create one really nice computer. For his operating system he choose Windows Vista Ultimate 64bit. Now when he choose Vista I warned him that he might see some issues with older software and older hardware that was no longer supported by the product manufacturer. I also then mentioned to him that it has been over a year since Vistas release and that many of the problems first encountered by end users in January 2007 were no longer an issue. He acknowledged what I was telling him and went ahead with Vista.
When I received all the hardware to start putting together his new computer I originally only had 4gb of memory for him. The customer asked me if he should go ahead and get 8gb and I told him that he most likely won't even use 4gb, but that if he was planning on using this computer for several years to come that he might as well as who knows how much memory we will actually be needing in our systems two or four years from now. All the same though, at initial build time I only actually had 4gb of DDR2 800 memory. After getting all the new hardware pieces assembled and getting the new computer to post on the first try, I began what I thought would be the long process of getting Vista Ultimate 64bit installed. At first there was only one hitch with the installation and that was with a LiteOn Sata DVD burner. For some reason Vista didn't have the proper Sata drivers to load for the hardware which resulted in the Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) after the initial copy over of the install files. I most likely could have just loaded the proper drivers from the initial install point of Vista, but I opted not to and just switched out the burner with another IDE burner and started the install process of Vista over again from the beginning. I started the clock upon restarting the computer with the new burner, and from start to finish, Vista Ultimate 64bit installed in only 15 minutes. If you count the time I spent messing around with the Sata DVD burner and the BSOD I spent a full 30 minutes installing Vista. Now when I say it only took 15 minutes to install Vista with the right hardware, I mean 15 minutes from the point where I turned on the computer until I got to the point where I saw the actual desktop and Vista Welcome Center and could technically start using the computer. Getting Vista updates and installing other programs like Avast, Adobe etc... were not counted.
Now when I initially went to install Vista in the RC days, it would take the better part of full hour on my Athlon 3300+ machine. So when the actual install process completed in only 15 minutes on this new machine, I was seriously surprised. I knew that Intel Quad Cores were nice processors, but I didn't realise they would make that much of a difference.
After installing the operating system I began what I thought would be a long and painful process of getting device drivers installed. As it turns out, only one item was not compatible, and it was nothing more then a nuisance at best. The customer had purchased an M-Audio professional PCI sound card and as it turns out it is not compatible with 64bit operating systems, however the customers new Asus socket LGA 775 motherboard with it's onboard digital audio worked flawlessly without the need to use the Asus driver disk that came with the motherboard. In fact all of the motherboards devices loaded up in Vista just fine with no need for the motherboards driver CD. Vista also easily recognized the EVGA GeForce 8800GT graphics card (but we went to NVidias website all the same and downloaded the latest drivers from there).
Vista then surprised me some more. The customer has an older Cannon CLBP460 full color laser printer that was originally manufactured to work with Windows 95, 98 and ME. The customer originally spent a couple thousand dollars on this Cannon printer and the printer still worked really well, producing very good quality color prints. But when the customer first got a Windows XP computer he had a heck of a time getting the printer to work with XP as Cannon hadn't produced any XP drivers yet. When I redid the customers XP machine only a year ago, I even had a hard time getting the Cannon printer to work with the XP machine, and don't even get me started on networking the thing. So after we installed Vista Ultimate 64bit the customer was shopping for new laser printers as we both thought that Vista 64bit drivers for such an old printer that was no longer even supported by Cannon would actually exist, however on a whim I attempted to do a manual install of the printer and to my surprise the Cannon CLBP460 was listed in the available drivers in Vista. After a quick install the printer worked great. I then shared it on the network and that too was also a surprise as I didn't even need to to add the printer to the other computers printer menus, since Vista was sharing the printer, it sent out all the information needed by the XP computers and the printer was automatically added to the printer menus of the other three computers.
Once all the hardware was installed I began to play around with the computer just to get an idea of how it would behave for the customer, and I have to say, I was once again very much surprised. The machine worked great. Programs opened and closed fast, Windows Media Center looked AWESOME and actually had some decent content. It was by far the smoothest computer I have had the privilege of working with lately. All the way around Vista worked great which in itself was a big surprise to me. The only problems the customer had was some slight issues getting his music library imported back into iTunes, but then again it's Apple software, it's to be expected.
Using the Windows Vista gadgets I turned on the CPU monitor and Memory monitor, and according to those usually only about 25% of the memory is being used and the CPU hardly seems to have to really work at all. Vista ratings looked good as well, with the total score being a 5.0. He received a 5.9 for the CPU, 5.9 for the graphics, 5.7 for the hard drives, and a 5.0 for the memory which happened to be OCZ DDR2 800 Gold.
So looking at all that with this customers new machine I can definitely say three things about Vista now.
1. If you spend the money, and put some thought into the hardware you are planning on getting, you can create or possibly purchase a good computer that actually will run Windows Vista properly as it should be ran.
2. Low end computers, especially from big brand manufacturers like Acer, Dell and HP will not deliver anything even remotely close to a true, enjoyable Windows Vista experience.
3. Windows Vista Ultimate when installed in a better high end system is a very sweet operating system that is not only easy to use, but easy to set up and configure and if done right is worth the high price premium that Microsoft is asking.
Now that I have actually had an enjoyable experience working with Vista on a high end system, I plan to install Vista Ultimate 64bit on a slightly lower end system. I am going to install and work with Vista Ultimate 64bit on my main rig which features an AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ dual core processor, 4gb of OCZ DDR2 800 memory, ATI Radeon HD 2900 Pro graphics, and a combined 350gb of hard drive space spread out across two 8mb cache Sata hard drives with an Asus M2R32-MVP motherboard. No my system is not a high end system, but it's not a low end system either, it's right about in the middle which I think is a much more common sweet spot for the average end user. When that is done I will post another blog about that experience. This may take awhile though as I need to actually purchase a valid copy of the software before I can begin my test.