I've spent most of today trying to get Vista loaded and running on my laptop. It's been a frustrating day, and at the end of it, I've rebooted back to Windows XP.
There is a lot to like about Vista. The new UI offers some great features, such as the bread-crumbs at the top of the screen. These offer greater flexibility in navigation. IE7 offers tabbed browsing and RSS feeds. The new searching and indexing features look very interesting, I'm keen to explore them in more detail. And the new look is both new, but familiar - the basic user's learning curve should not be too steep.
Another neat feature is the install process itself. There's no I386 folder on the product DVD, just a large .WIM file and what looks like WinPE. The old unattend.txt file, loved by Admins every since NT3.1, also seems gone and replaced by an XML file. I've not yet found details on how to script the install yet - and there appears to be no \support\tools\deploy.cab file on the DVD either. There is a sample of this file (unattend_sample.xml) and it looks very interesting.
Sadly, the hardware support and stability let me down badly. The main issues I have are around drivers for the on-board hardware. I've got a Dell Inspiron 8600, and the Dell drivers for the built-in Ethernet NIC, modem and Video do not install. The Video driver installed by the OS fails to start (Vista reports that it's a driver that is not supported). The generic VGA driver is good enough to use for basic configuration tasks, but it only delivers a fully visible screen at 1280x764 (at higher resolutions, parts of the screen are not visible). At that resolution, the Insprion, in common with a lot of laptops, looks pretty awful. The in-built Intel 802.11b wireless adapter works, so I got some networking and Internet access.
Another issue I had consistently was that one Explorer.exe process would regularly drive to 100% CPU or thereabouts and pretty much hang the system. I could move the mouse around, and ctrl-esc brought up the task switcher, but besides from that, the system itself did not usefully respond for periods of up to a minute. This makes it pretty frustrating to use for any length of time.
It's also very big. The Windows folder contains a massive 21,382 files weighing in at 3.41 GB. And despite the bloat, there's no great cleanup in terms of names and locations - stuff's still dumped here and there all over the place (although this is probably some they have to do to avoid breaking applications). By comparison, the Windows folder on my current laptop build of XPSP2 is 2.82 GB and 15, 891 files - and it's got a number of added services (eg the anti-spam service) added too (and all those hot-fix uninstall folders, etc, etc!). I've not spent the time to work out just where the biggest increases are yet - a task for another day.
A bigger concern for me is that most of the AV tools I have access to are not supported. Specifically, Ez-trust 6.2 and Symantec Corporate 9.0 are known to have issues. This makes using Vista fulltime a non starter until I get AV support.
In summary, Vista Beta 2 is just not ready enough for prime time on my laptop. I'll keep the build loaded both on the laptop and in a VM - I look forward to learning the new features. And hopefully there will be a prompt solution to the hardware issues. I'm kind of disappointed with Beta 1. I would have hoped for better hardware drive support. Roll on Beta 2 and better OEM support for Vista.