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Installing Windows Vista

After the hogwash posting, I received a number of comments on this piece of it:

I’ve lived through lots of Windows launches inside Microsoft (3.1, NT 3.1, NT 3.5, Windows 95, NT 4.0, Windows 98, Windows 98 SE, Windows ME, Windows 2000) and outside (Windows XP beta tester).  I love early software. I’ll put up with just about any egregious bloated crap just to see what the fuss is all about.  But you know, at this point I’ve been unable to succesfully install and use any version of the Windows Vista CTPs, or IE 7.  If Vista was really six months away from shipping, it would be a lot more finished, the way that any of those previous versions of Windows were at this stage.  Anybody who had tried Vista would have been able to come to the same conclusion I did.

Most were like this one from Rog42.

I’m interested that someone with such experience in Windows beta OS’s such as yourself hasn’t yet managed to successfully install a Vista CTP or IE7.

Well, that is a little ridiculous, I thought. And, you know, I haven’t really tried that hard…  So, over the weekend I scrubbed my Toshiba Tecra S1 laptop, and ran the install for the most recent CTP.  Lo and behold, a successful install.  It was very time consuming, but then again, the laptop is probably not an optimal piece of Vista hardware, being a 1.4Ghz Centrino based system.  Vista didn’t recognize my ATI Radeon 9000 Mobile graphics card, nor the Intel wireless networking chips, nor the integrated SD reader that Toshiba puts in all their laptops, but a quick visit to Windows Update resolved all but the video card.  At this point, Vista is treating it as an ordinary SVGA card.  Disappointing, but workable.

I loaded up Office 2003, plus Foldershare (which I use to keep files on all the PCs around the house in synch, and backed up).  Synched my files, and was ready to go.

My first impressions are generally favorable.  The new UI is pretty, and simpler than XP in some respects.  IE 7’s tabbed windows are really nice.  The media player is a nice improvement over Windows Media 10.  However:

1)  It’s clear that there are still usability issues to be resolved.  The new networking metaphor is just byzantine, for example.  Right now I am connected to "Network 2 with internet access".  Can’t tell if it’s wireless or wired. I have my wireless network turned on, and the access point specified, but for the life of me I can’t figure out whether I am connected.  Vista appears to say yes sometimes, and no at other times.  Under XP it was never a question.

2) There are still low level hardware issues.  I ran the Tosh on battery for a bit.  Six minutes after I started it, it shut down complaining that the battery was drained.  Not believing it, I powered it up again, ignored the battery warning and ran it for an hour and a half before shutting down normally.

3) There are lots of greyed out buttons within the UI — stuff that must not be finished yet.  The one show stopper for me is the inability to configure a WINS server on a VPN interface.  It effectively prevents me from using the PC for work purposes.  I can login to the VPN fine, but can’t find any of the servers on the network, except by IP address, which means that Outlook (which wants to convert the IP address of my exchange server to a fully qualified DNS name) is useless.

4) IE 7 has rendering issues.  Pages that rendered fine on IE 6 don’t render properly on IE 7.  The advertising on my blog page sometimes end up in the middle of the post.  Sometimes the ads don’t appear at all.  The editing box in WordPress (a java plugin I use) is slow to the point of being nearly useless.

5) Periodically it just goes into la la land.

6) Vista changes the directory structure so that user files are stored in UsersUsernameDocuments instead of Documents and SettingsUsernameMy Documents which tripped up Foldershare.    I wonder how many other apps will break because of this change?

7) Permissions don’t seem to be working properly.  Despite the fact that I am logged in as an administrator, I still get warnings that there are some things that I don’t have enough privilege to access.  What’s higher than administrator?

I like the direction.  It would be nice to have a driver for my video card, but I can live with the generic one for now.  And, it seems that the only reliable way to get an install is to start from scratch. The big problem is the VPN.  Until I can set a WINS server, I will be scrubbing the Tosh and restoring Windows XP. 

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Alec March 29, 2006, 9:07 am

    Thanks for the information, Chris. Much appreciated.


  • Chris Wilson [MS] March 29, 2006, 12:09 pm

    On your point #4 – in general, pages with rendering issues like this are due to the fixes in our standards compliance in IE7, which unfortunately cause compatibility problems. If you file a bug (see IEBlog for more info on our public feedback database – http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2006/03/24/560095.aspx) or send an email to ietell@microsoft.com, we can take a look and contact the site owner to get it fixed, or if it’s our bug, fix it.

    -Chris Wilson
    Group Program Manager, IE Platform

  • Brent March 31, 2006, 4:21 am

    Time to let go of WINS. 21st century now, Alec.. 😛

    Use your %SstemRoot%System32Driversetchosts file to configure the server names. I have had to get around the Outlook name resolution issue this way in the past.

  • Mike April 17, 2006, 4:21 am

    as to your point about the user account,

    When you are logged in as an administrator Windows Vista automaticly runs the user as a default user for standard tasks, improving security. when you have to do somthing with administrative privilages Vista asks you to escalate the request so that the program will run as an administrative program for that session. (if you are logged in as a standard user you have to enter the administrators password to escalate anything)

  • Alec April 18, 2006, 5:30 am

    Makes sense, Mike, and I’ve seen the behaviour you describe. I guess it also proves my point that the OS isn’t ready for prime time yet. There are many situations where the request escalation doesn’t appear to occur in the build I am running. For instance, I spent a good half hour trying to edit hosts in order to make the email server at my office visible across the VPN. I didn’t get the escalation request, nor was I able to save the file. In the end I was able to edit the file elsewhere, and copy it back into the directory.

  • Brad April 26, 2006, 9:10 pm

    Alec, can you give more details on how you edited your host file. I need to do the same thing…

  • Alec April 27, 2006, 1:21 am

    Hey Brad,

    I discovered you could rename the hosts file to a different name without triggering security. So, I copied the file to another location, and renamed the old file. Then I edited the copy, named it as the hosts file, and copied it back. Used notepad as the editor for the entire operation.

    Hope that helps.


  • Don Heffernan June 1, 2007, 9:10 am

    I am having trouble with the hosts file as well. I reorganized my home network and am running my webserver on a different private IP address. I altered the hosts file but it doesn't work. Has anyone had a similar experience. Notepad was saving this as a .txt file. I tried changing that to no avail.

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