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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Windows Vista Beta 2 - Good, Bad, or Ugly?

Last week, Microsoft released the long-awaited public beta of Windows Vista. Many people, including myself, were eager to download it. After installing it on two systems, it became quite apparent that Microsoft still has a long way to go in the development of Windows Vista.

The setup was remarkably easy - pop in the DVD, answer a couple of questions, and that's it. In about an hour's time, give or take, you'll be presented with the Vista user setup screen, followed immediately by the login screen. The interface is very nice, providing you have a graphics card powerful enough to run the Aero environment. The only downside is that it chews up a lot of memory. If you don't have at least one gigabyte of RAM in your machine, be prepared to experience slow-downs right off the bat. My test machine had 512 MB of RAM, and immediately following the initial boot-up, my RAM usage was through the roof, already exceeding the total amount of physical RAM in the machine.

The next step was the installation of programs. Firefox installed with no problems, and directly after that, I went to install AVG Anti-virus, however, Vista blocked that installation due to compatibility reasons. The Security Center recommended that I purchase an anti-virus solution, so instead, I downloaded ClamWin and disabled the security notifications for anti-virus.

Next was a game test. I pulled out one of my favorite games - NHL 06 - and installed it. There were no issues with the installation, and as expected, it did not land in the Game Library, but that's understandable. I went to run the game, but the menu was completely botched and impossible to navigate. I proceeded to run the game with every compatibility setting I could find, but that did not work. Granted, this is the only game I've tried, but numerous other people have commented on the fact that Vista's game compatibility is rather lacking.

Following that, I remembered that Vista had set up a boot menu, allowing me to boot into Vista or an "Earlier version of Windows", presumably my XP installation, which it had moved into a folder called "Windows.old" in the root of my hard drive. It had moved the Windows, Documents and Settings, and Program Files folders into that location, completely backing up all of my important files for me. I tried the "Earlier version of Windows" boot option, and my computer completely locked up. I tried it again - same result.

After that, I decided to try and find a way to remove Vista. I ended up inserting the Vista DVD and booting to it. Using Notepad's "Open" dialog box, I was able to delete the Vista files and folders (Windows, Users, Program Files, etc.) and move my old Windows install files back to the root of the drive. From there, I took my XP CD, fixed the master boot record, and rebooted. From there, everything played nice again.

It's apparent that Vista still has a while to go before they can call it stable. Granted, this is a beta, but releasing such a buggy build to the public will only hurt Microsoft. Microsoft has a lot to fix by the time they release the final version. I hesitate to call Beta 2 good, but at the same time, I also hesitate to call it completely ugly. All that's left is "bad", but there is a glimmer of hope. Microsoft is still Microsoft, and contrary to popular belief, they do know how to release a stable product when all is said and done. We'll just have to see what happens.

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