MS Vista first impressions

I received an MS Vista beta DVD on Friday. The note tried instilling a sense of urgency by giving me a deadline of Tuesday for feedback. Unfortunately, very little of the beta support infrastructure was in place. When I did run into problems, the first person I talked with on the support line had no clue there was a super special Vista beta program going on. The email, chat and web site forums were all 404. Having just finished a beta program of my own on Friday, I cringed at the idea of my friend cancelling another vacation because the beta prolonged itself unnecessarily. I sent him a note and muttled on.

Based on the survey/Vista Ready tool, it said I needed “Vista Ultimate.” However, the “upgrade” option didn’t work because I didn’t have 15Gb free on my windows drive. (I had “only” 6.9Gb free.) The fresh install on another disk partition ran for two hours, finishing sometime after I got my kids to bed. Its lack of chattiness and prompts is a huge improvement over the previous installers. As a bonus, it automatically selected the proper maxxed out video resolution instead of the pedestrian 800×600, 16-color minimalist. The total footprint was just over 10Gb, without any additional applications. To my knowledge, no official system requirements have been published yet.

I’m not sure how much the initial space requirement will be an issue. See, I repartition my windows disks for two unrelated reasons. First, it’s a way to avoid all of the hard-coded upselling game crap and internet service crap that gets added from the Dell Windows XP media edition installation CD. The second reason is a smaller system partition takes less time to check, fix, defragment, scan, etc an uber partition. This has also saved my application data when there have (previously) been issues with something horking the system partition.

Out of the box, Vista was very functional. The only problems I ran into were with setting up wireless networking and my modem. Normally if I have problems connecting to my own, secure wireless network (e.g. I couldn’t remember the unbroadcast SSID), I’d pop onto my neighbor’s unprotected network, which also works becaues he hasn’t changed the login or password of his router, either. The wireless wizard wouldn’t show me the insecure (unsecure?) networks with the built-in card. I couldn’t figure out how to get connected sans hardline, so I rebooted into XP and grabbed the settings. The built-in modem, which I wanted to try just for giggles, caused a BSoD. On the ensuing reboot, the machine phoned home. I didn’t try to mess with the modem again.

The overall user interface is very crisp, except for the bulbuous icons. (There is a way to notch them down a bit.) There’s a dahsboard on the right with a stock set of widgets. This looks similar to what Google was doing with their own portal. The default photo rotate tool (and its stock imagery) were very distracting. Each time it would flip, I kept looking over. The other widget, an analog clock, seemed out of place with its digital cousin lurking in the bottom right corner. Some of my twentysomething friends may have difficulty knowing what the “hands” mean. 🙂 The deashboard widgets all have transaparent backgrounds, making them look smaller than they would have in previous OSes.

How many prompts must a man click through?

The start menu rocks. For keyboard shortcut-artists like me, I can just do windows and start typing commands I want to run and it finds them (like Google Desktop). For example, I downloaded my company’s product from the web site and just typed the “setuptecplot” and it figured out which directory the browser had saved stuff in. No more skulking to c:documents and settings!

Security seems much tighter than before in a very, very annoying way. When I ran my setup script from the command line, I initially received an “are you sure you want to do this” type message. (Picture 1) Yes, dammit, that’s what I typed. Next, I get a “The publisher could not be verified” message. After that, I get a “User account control: An unidentified program wants access to your computer.” With each of these prompts, the screen dims (except for the dialog) and all user control is locked out until I select Cancel or Allow. If the program were signed, it would say “A program needs your permission to continue […] User Account Control stops unauthorized changes to your computer. If you started this program, please continue. (Description of program)” I understand why they’re doing this, but dang is it annoying.

I installed my company’s product with the wrong license type. “No problem,” I thought, “I’ll just edit the local configuration file…” no dice The system sets it up so the casual user can’t do that sort of thing. In fact, most of the C drive is set up this way. The takeaway is application vendors will definitely want to streamline the installation/startup and make it consistent. Or they’ll ratchet down security.

There’s a system performance rating tool. My laptop is a “3” on their scale:

  • Processor: Pentium M, 1.86Ghz = 3.4
  • Memory: 2Gb = 3.5
  • Primary hard disk: 5.94Gb free, 15.88Gb total: 3.5
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GO 6800 (WDDM): 5.9 — w00t!
  • Gaming graphics: 256Mb: 4.6

It appears the intent is that applications will publish their performance ratings. To quote from the help: “[…] You can use the performance rating number to confidently buy programs and other software that are rated to match your computer’s performance level. For example, if this computer has a System Peformance Rating of 3, then you can confidently purchase any software designed for this version of Windows that requires a computer with a rating of 3 or less.” There’s a link to “View software available for my rating” that goes to, which I never quite understood. However, visiting the site tickled the IE7 security thing again because it wanted to install the Flash8.exe player.

8 thoughts on “MS Vista first impressions”

  1. ohhh I was jealous when I first started reading this – jealous that my beta hasn’t come yet. Then as I read through it, I got nervous. Maybe mine won’t come and I won’t have to decide what to do. I’m such a geek chicken.

  2. Is it possible to change the Appearance and Start menu properties to give it a Windows-2000-ish look and feel?

  3. There is a classic mode, though I’ve not tried it yet to see how extensive. This is one of the first things I do with Windows XP because I can’t stand to hunt around for stuff.
    (The second is to turn off all the cute animation effects.)

    So far Adobe Acrobat 3D doesn’t seem to work with Vista. I’m assuming there’s some bad interaction with OpenGL.

  4. I’m such a geek chicken

    This is very scary coming from someone who has a Roomba, Treo, egg-cooking toaster, multiple TiVos. 🙂

    So far the user interface of Vista is very nice. One thing I don’t like as much is the apparent frequent background processes that make the disks chatter and the machine sluggish. (This may be the indexing?)

  5. Would now be a good time to confess that I still have a functioning win98 machine, and that I still use Wordperfect 5.1 for DOS? 😉

    Vista…looks remarkably Mac-like, don’tcha think? And is it just me or did they get it backwards: I don’t think it’s an improvement to have Apple hardware run windows. How about Intel hardware running MacOS? Now *that* would be something.

  6. Hummm…. I am not sure I WANT Vista. I am sure eventually I will have to get it though. If they ever release it. 😉

    Nice blog you have here, and lovely photos over at Flickr. Had to say that the headless woman on the cereal box made me laugh out loud. 🙂

  7. Sigh…

    I just screwed the video driver on my vista install (trying to get a nvida geforceGo 6660 to work on my laptop) but even without that hiccup I am less than impressed.

    I have been using a shiny new macbook pro for about two months now, and I have to say that I think I get more development work done on the mac than I ever did on windows (and talk about being able to be a shortcut artist!). I know that it may just be a matter of perception, or that I have found an editor that I really love (more than ultraedit on the pc) but it feels like I am getting more done, with less mousing.

    The plan in the back of my mind was that I would pickup or build another gaming rig sometime post vista, but now I am seriously re-thinking that descision, and pondering if it may just be smarter to buy a console for games and be done with windows for good.

  8. Well ,I pretty much agree with the security of popups so annoying asking you to confirme all the time even to delete trash from the recycle bin.. Gosh!! everytime I open yahooomess, said an identified program wants to acces to your computer , Does anybody knows if there’s a way to change this settings,and stop this or is set as a default that way? . I have beta 2 5384 installed on my pc.

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