Beta-Boy

This blog WAS about my experiences with the new Microsoft Vista OS. I went back to Windows XP, so I'm no longer updating it. However, I decided to leave it on-line, at least until Vista is officially released. There may be a few tips here that will help other beta users.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Personal Vista Review

If you're new to Vista, and want an indepth overview of its features, here are a couple of sites I recommend:

Windows Vista Homepage

500 Hour Test of Tomorrow's Windows

There are many great reviews on the 'Net, so, instead of trying to compete with them, I thought I would write about my install and setup experience, from Saturday (when I first installed it) until now (Monday).

Saturday, Day 1:

I had signed up for the public beta on Tuesday, 6/13, and then downloaded and burned both versions (32 and 64 bit) to DVD. What I wanted to do was to dual boot Vista with my current OS--Windows XP Media Center. On my lunch break on Saturday I did some poking around on the 'Net and figured out how to do this. It's really simple, but I'm glad I read the instructions first. People are saying that if you don't follow the steps I'm about to give, you can make your computer unbootable (until you reformat). They may be wrong, but I decided not to risk it.

So, first of all, if you want to dual boot XP and Vista, follow these steps:

  1. Create a partition on your hard drive for Vista (or make space on a secondary drive, if you use more than one).

  2. Boot up Windows XP.

  3. Insert the DVD that has the Windows Vista ISO.

  4. Choose a custom install (upgrade will be greyed out)

  5. Point Vista to the partition that you created for it.

  6. Vista will do the rest

Note 1: I am sure there are plenty of other ways you could do this. What people are saying on the forums is that the important thing to NOT do is boot from the Vista DVD and install it. They are saying this will make XP unbootable. Again, I don't know if this is true or not, but I didn't want to find out.

Note 2: If you try these steps and it doesn't work, don't blame me. It is a beta OS after all. Also, always back up your stuff before partitioning! It can go wrong!

So, I followed those steps, and it worked like a charm. Zero problems. Tada! I had XP and Vista dual booting!

Then...I made a stupid mistake. I was setting everything up after work, and I was accessing files from my XP partition, while I was in Vista. Due to that terrible thing called user error, I accidentally made myself owner of the Documents and Settings for my XP user account. Nooooo!!!!!! I realized what I did as soon as I did it, but the damage was already done! I hit cancel, and I found my first problem with Vista:

If you make yourself owner of a file (or files), and realize that it was an accident, and you hit cancel, Vista does not give you an option to undo what you just did.

Vista politely informed me that it saw I cancelled the operation, and if I had started the operation in error, then it politely suggested I undo said operation. It was very polite throughout the whole thing. I DIDN'T WANT POLITE, I WANTED IT TO UNDO WHAT I HAD JUST DONE!!

Fortunately, I had backed up my important XP stuff, and I could still access all my other XP files. I could even still boot into XP, I just couldn't load my old user profile. Probably, with enough blood, sweat, and tears, I could have found a solution. But I was already starting to like some of the features in Vista, so I just backed up everything and reformatted.

Sunday, Day 2:

Sunday after church I tackled the project. First, I backed up all my data to DVD, and I learned about another Vista bug:

Vista doesn't seem to handle the UDF file format for DVDs very well (at least, not with my burner). It wrote all the files to the DVD, but when I put it into my Dad's laptop (an HP dv 4000 with XP service pack 2), it didn't show any files as being on the DVD. I put it back into my laptop, and the files were gone. Also, when I was copying the files to the DVD to burn them, it was very, very slow, and locked up a couple of times.

Oh well. I just used good old ISO format, and Vista burnt the files just fine.

After that I deleted my old partitions, created one master partition, and reinstalled Vista. This time, though, I decided to try out Vista 64 bit.

Vista 64 Bit:

My experience with Vista 64 bit was brief, and about what I expected. I had trouble installing programs, and one of them (MindManager Pro) wouldn't install at all. Also, my audio driver wouldn't install. I finally used the Realtek 64 bit audio driver, and that gave me sound, but it made popping noises when I played MP3s. For a music lover like myself, that just wouldn't do. When I saw that MindManager just wouldn't install, I gave up on the 64 bit version.

To be fair, the problem is probably not with Vista...it's probably with the programs that I was trying to install. None of them were designed to work with 64 bit operating systems. However, I was not planning on running XP at all, so I needed an OS that would work.

Back to Vista 32 bit:

I popped the Vista 32 bit DVD in and restarted, then went to bed.

Monday, Day 3:

On Monday, I started installing programs and drivers. I hit a couple of snags, but I eventually got around them...

Snag #1 - Conexant Audio Driver:

The Conexant AC 97 audio driver just doesn't like to install. I had managed to get it to install Saturday night, but it took me a little while on Monday to figure it out again. Here's what I had to do:

  1. Download the audio driver from hp.com (again, this is for an HP DV 5035 nr laptop)

  2. Run the file, and follow the prompts

  3. The install program will attempt to install the driver, but Vista will pop up an error message saying that the install has failed.

  4. The status bar for the install will keep going for a while. Just let it run, and surf the 'Net or something.

  5. After a few minutes, Vista will pop up an error message saying it detects that your install failed. It asks if you would like to try the install with the recommended settings.

  6. Tell it to use the recommended settings.

  7. Install will succeed.

Snag #2 - Quicken 2003 Basic:

I use Quicken 2003 for my money management, and it didn't want to run either. To be honest, I'm not quite sure how I got it working. I'll just put down exactly what I did, and maybe if people follow these steps it will work for them too.

It is worth noting that, when I tried to run Quicken, an error came up from Microsoft, saying that there are known compatibility issues with Intuit products, and that the problems have been referred to Intuit to fix.

Known compatibility issues or not, I got Quicken 2003 to run. Again, don't ask me how. Here's what I did:

  1. Ran the install program. It went just fine, and it asked me if I wanted to run the program upon completion.

  2. I chose to run the program.

  3. It asked me if I was a Quicken user. I chose yes.

  4. It asked me if I wanted to load a file from my computer, restore a file from backup, or start fresh. I chose to load a file from my computer.

  5. Quicken locked up. I let it sit for a while, and eventually shut the program down.

  6. Quicken would not load again. You click the icon, nothing happens.

  7. I restarted my computer. Quicken still will not load.

  8. I tried telling it to load in compatibility mode for Windows XP service pack 2. Still wouldn't load.

  9. I tried compatibility with Windows 98/ME. Still would not load.

  10. I reinstalled the program, and told it not to run upon completion.

  11. I manually started the program, and it instantly told me that the excutable had failed.

  12. I checked the settings, and realized it had saved the Windows 98/ME compatibility setting. I disabled that setting (no compatibility).

  13. Tried to run the program again, it ran.

  14. I told it I was an existing Quicken user, but this time I told it to start fresh.

  15. I created a new money file, then I went to File > Open, and opened my old money file that I had backed up.

  16. I closed Quicken, and re-opened it.

  17. Quicken works now

Note: It is worth noting that, whenever I try to register Quicken, it locks up. Since I can't register, I can't use their web-based services. I don't use them anyway, so it's not a big deal to me, but it may be to some people.

Other than these two snags, I haven't had any major problems so far. My modem driver and media card driver failed to automatically install, but I haven't played with them yet. I installed Halo just to see how games would work. When I first tried to run it, it told me there was a known compatibility issue, and pointed me to a fix on the Microsoft site. I downloaded the little fix, and Halo runs just fine.

Firefox 1.5.0.4 also installed without a problem. When I went to my first Flash site I found out that Firefox couldn't automatically install the Flash plugin for some reason. I chose to manually install it, and it works fine now. I still can't stream Windows Media content in Firefox, but I haven't taken the time to try to figure that out yet.

MindManager Pro gave me an error when I tried to open my first map (after installing the program). The program crashed after I clicked ok on the error. I was able to restart the program, but it had put the map I had tried to open into read-only mode. I restarted my computer, and MindManager runs just fine, and I'm able to edit the map.

Open Office installed with absolutely no problems, and it runs like a champ. I had downloaded the version of Open Office that did not have Java run-time environment, but when I started the install, it automatically installed Java run-time. I'm guessing Vista did that on its own. Either way, it works.

Well, it's 1:20 AM, and bed time for me. Next, I'll write about some of the pros and cons of Vista. It really looks like it's a great OS so far, at least as far as usability goes. How secure will it be? That remains to be seen.


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