Saturday, May 27, 2006

Vista Beta 2 First Impressions

I am now running Vista Beta 2, build 5384.4 on my Dell Inspiron 9300 laptop although it's not been a very easy install. My laptop has three partitions (C:, D: and E:), with C: being the "safe" XP build, E being for my data and D: room for Vista betas. I has loaded 5381 on this partition, but it proved hard to remove - after several hours of playing around,I finally moved imporant data off the drive, and reformatted.

Next I booted from CD - or tried to. Due to the previous Vista Builds boot from CD required I used the one-time boot menu. I installed Vista, which took a long time, and far longer than I'd expected and I think I understand why. The Vista DVD image ship with the OS image contained in a single WIM file instead of the x86 folder. Nice, but itit appears that the files are copied from the WIM file to "C:\$Windows.~LS" and _then_ copied to c:\window (thus doubling the amount of disk I/O). And since Vista is around 5-6 times the size of XP, that means a lot of extra disk I/O. Another problem when I tried to install from DVD - Vista insisted on re-naming the partitions, with the 1st partition changing from C: to D: and the 2nd partition changing from D: to C: - which is pretty brain dead and I thought had been fixed a long, long time ago. Sadly, it looks like all the new Program Managers are going to have to re-learn why some things are not a good idea in real life.

After getting Vista running, I see UAC is no better than on earlier versions . Fortunately MSConfig allows me to turn it off.

The discomfort of Vista continues as I start to settle in and get it setup the way I want it. The first think I do when I load any version of Windows to tweak the desktop settings. Sadly, doing so just shows another example of the "let's move some stuff around because we can, whoops we don't have budget to do it right" syndrome - customising the UI is now much harder than it used to be. Right clicking on the desktop you now have to "personalise" (the old standard or right click and selecting properties on ALL objects seems gone, except where it remains. You are presented with a nice HTML based screen that nearly mimics the Display Prperties dialog in XP,but using far more code/dialogs/windows to do it. Instead of one tiny multi-tabed dialog box you had in XP, there are now there several screens that come up. Some appear as menus but others as 1-tab dialog boxes (i.e. the single tab from XP) with tab and window headings not consistent. And for reasons I really can not understand, the desktop icons facility is moved to a different place totally from XP. Thus instead of the one dialog box, you now have three different and inconsistent styles of setting properties for the display and more code/woindows too. While Microsoft Focus groups may have tested well on this, I think it's just plain awful - and hardly very cool. The worst thing about this is that soemone took XP's dialog box and then spent the time to design it this badly. Highly dissapointing.

Thus far, I do not see Vista as anything like ready for prime time and not even ready for self hosting. I always said I'd try to self host at Beta 2, but I do not mind admitting I am not looking forward to it. I am sick (after 20 minutes) of UAC, and the new UI is harder for me to use than XP but that should change as I get more familiar with the OS. I just wish MS has not made Explorer shell extensions (e.g. my Turnpike mail/news product) look so darned awful - and if the choice is XP/Turnpike vs Vista - I may just wait for Vista's Beta 3. And before any one points out that there is not going to be one, I'm betting on a B3 before shipping. But we'll see!

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