What? Vista? in a Linux blog? Like it or not, Vista has had a large impact on the global tech community as a whole, and a very negative impact on Microsoft as a software company. I know, I know, I’m behind the times a couple years, but I’ve never had any interest in Vista. I do use Windows frequently, but XP has always been my choice. It’s still Windows with all it’s wizards, and menu after menu, but it’s grown very polished and reliable over the years. A friend of mine gave me a copy of Vista Ultimate to play around with, I guess in hopes I’ll give up Linux or something. Who knows. Either way, I had an extra harddrive, a copy of Vista Ultimate, and a long boring night since my girlfriend is on vacation. Here’s what I found on my first night with Vista.
My XP and Ubuntu installs reside on my new Western Digital 6400AAKS 640Gb SATA-II harddrive. It’s a fast drive, but that’s not what this article is about. My spare harddrive for my Vista install was an old 40Gb Maxstor Fireball III IDE drive. I’ve had XP and Debian on the drive at previous times and while it was noticeably slow, it wasn’t frustratingly so. I feel I should also add. My rig is no slouch. I won’t go about with hardware jargon*, but my rig is built for gaming and was just built brand new over the summer.
(*- For those that are interested, It’s an Intel E8400 Core2 Duo, DFI LanParty DK P35 T2RS mainbaord, 2x2Gb OCZ Reaper HPC DDR2-800 RAM, Western Digital 6400AAKS SATA-II harddrive, PNY Nvidia 7900GS video card (only part not upgraded yet), Antec NeoHE 550w PSU, all sitting in a modified Antec Solo case (cut grills w/ Nexus fans))
I began my Vista install by placing the CD in the tray and restarting the computer. Booting from a CD usually isn’t the fastest thing your computer will do, but this was my first taste of Vista slowness. It took a few minutes to get the CD booted just for the install disk to start saying “Windows is now loading files…”. It loaded files for about 20 minutes, most which I passed the time by playing Super Mario Bros. on my phone. Next came the wall paper image and a pointer: that was another 5 minutes. It asked me my language, keyboard type, which drive, etc… Once I got past that initial questions, Vista started installing to my harddrive. Now, I should proabably admit that I started doing this at approximately 2am. By 2:30, shortly after Vista started installing, I was sleeping like a baby at my desk.
2 hours later, I awoke in my own drool, only to find Vista was still nearly 50% intalled! Holy Crap. I knew this harddrive was slow, but sheesh! When installing XP Home on the same drive, Its about half an hour from putting the disk in the try to logging into a fresh system. Linux is about 20 minutes. I proceeded to poke around on my phone (thank God for unlimited data plans), glancing up to checkthe monitor every now and again. It turns out that I fell asleep during the longest part of the task for Vista’s installation. The rest of the installation took about 40 minutes, during which it restarted 3 times. The one nice thing about installing Vista was that it updates as it installs. I always hated setting up XP after a fresh install. 17 rounds or MS program and security updates gets old, not to mention restarting for video and audio drivers, chipset drivers, and network card drivers too. I was already used to this auto-update feature with Linux, as It’s been in every version of Ubuntu and Debian I’ve used (way back in 2005). When I got to the login screen, I guess I waited too long to start typing because the computer restarted. I was sure to start typing at first sigh of login this time. Once logged in and at the desktop, I wasn’t really that impressed. This was mostly because my 22″ LCD monitor (native resolution of 1680×1050) was set to 1024×768 by default. Everything was huge. Right clicking for properties to set the screen resolution only let me go to 1600×1200. Knowing then that I needed the proper Nvidia driver for my video card, I fired up Internet Explorer 7, went to Nvidia’s site and downloaded the drivers. I had installed Vista Ultimate 64bit, and accidentally tried to install the 32bit drivers. Oops! Back to the site, downloaded and installed the right 64bit Vista drivers, a restart, and I was back in the game. Put my monitor to it’s native resolution and it was much nicer looking. I still liked newer Linux distros better though. I’m sure we’ve all heard of Vista’s Aero desktop which features different effects for windows. For instance, when you move a window, it appears to be picked up slightly while you move it around. Or when you open a windows from the task bar, it looks like it pops out instead of just appearing. It’s kinda cool, but the whole idea worked out much better with the Compiz project on most Linux distributions. One feature I’ve been used to, but new to Vista is multiple desktops. You click a single icon and you can toggle between different desktops.
Quickly getting sick of IE7, I installed Firefox. Firefox in Vista is still firefox, so I wasn’t expecting anything truly radical. After browsing the forums for a bit, I decided to start poking through Vista’s start menu. One thing I can say is that it’s different. It’s easy to get used to, but it’s still different. I poked around the Control Panel a bit too, and was’t really surprised. Overall, I was getting the impression that Vista wasn’t a complete rewrite of Windows, but more like XP in a prom dress from Mac Saint Le OSX. It didn’t take me more than a minute or two to see that Vista’s GUI was very inspired by OSX. But instead of feeling cool, it’s more like the fat, dorky kid in class wearing cool clothes.
Not to be outdone by the slow installation, the installed product was just as slow. It took it’s sweet time doing everything. The slowness could’ve been several things, my fault or not, but the one thing that annoyed me the most about using Vista was that when ever I wanted to do something, the system asked permission to carry out the task. Some can call it a security feature, I call it very, very annoying. Frankly, if I didn’t want to open a program, I wouldn’t have clicked on the icon. Overall the system just very very slow and kludgy. My nimble sports car of a computer felt as though it’d grown a trailer hitch and was towing a Microsoft motor home of code.
Soon, I’ll try loading Vista on a faster drive and see about using it more. Please keep in mind, I made no changes to the OS or the install. It’s completely out-of-the-box standard. If you have any tips for speeding up Vista, or anything I shoud know as a new Vista user, please be sure to share them with me. I hope you enjoyed reading my first impression of Vista. I’ll keep the posts comin’ so long as y’all keep reading. Keep checking back for new info. Take care.
AKA That Linux Guy