Windows Vista: One Year Later

For many in the IT profession, January 30, 2007 was a day that will live in infamy. If you've blocked it from your memory, that's the day that Windows Vista was launched and available for purchase in stores and in new PC systems. And there was much rejoicing. Not!

For many in the IT profession, January 30, 2007 was a day that will live in infamy. If you’ve blocked it from your memory, that’s the day that Windows Vista was launched and available for purchase in stores and in new PC systems. And there was much rejoicing.


Of course, with every new major release of Windows, there has been the usual kvetching and moaning about how much more memory it will suck up, what programs are going to become incompatible, what hardware will stop working, et cetera. We saw it when we made the 16-bit to 32-bit transition from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, the NT platform migration from Windows 95/98/ME to Windows XP, and now finally with Vista.

With the consumer Windows operating systems it was always a personal ordeal– because unlike IT shops who have the luxury of playing” wait and see” and thoroughly test desktop Windows releases to see how they impact their environments, most end-users are either stuck with whatever gets installed on newly purchased systems, or get to undergo painful upgrade processes if they want to move to the latest and greatest release.

But the more I talk to end users that have been living with Vista, and large customers who have been testing Vista to see if it will fit the needs of corporate IT, it seems like the Vista migration has been more painful and far less successful than other similar Windows migrations before it. And this has not just been as the casual observer, I have also had serious issues in getting Vista to work correctly.

I installed Vista recently on a fresh system that I wanted to use on my HDTV-connected multimedia PC with an ASUS motherboard with a new AMD Athlon 64 FX2 5000+ chip, an ATI Radeon 2400 HD PCI-E graphics card, Silicon Image SATA controller, nVidia NFORCE network chipset, HD-DVD drive, and a NETGEAR Wireless N USB adapter. (In my opinion, Linux can’t fulfill the multimedia PC role yet. More on that later.)

That’s all pretty standard stuff these days as it relates to both Windows XP MCE 2005 SP2 and Linux distros (with the exception of the USB N wireless and HD-DVD on Linux) and I had major functional and driver issues. If a computer expert can have these kinds of problems with a Windows release and is unable to resolve them, then it doesn’t say much for your average end-user.

I swapped out several USB wireless cards from different vendors to no avail dealing with my WPA2-AES encrypted WLAN (word to the wise, when choosing high-speed wireless-N adapters, go Belkin, not NETGEAR) the ATI Radeon drivers blew up in my face several times before I got them to install, the NFORCE drivers caused a bunch of stability issues. I also encountered a critical and bizarre problem– one that others appear to have encountered with no obvious resolution. No matter what third party software program I downloaded, be it Firefox, Avast! Antivirus, VNC, whatever– it just plain refused to install and bombed out with an error.

I tried turning off User Account Control, disabling driver signing, reciting incantations and performing ritual sacrifices to Lord Ba’al and all kinds of black magic voodoo Vista stuff I learned on the various hobbyist forum sites. No go. And before you ask, yes, I also tried it with the latest pre-patched SP1 release candidate version in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions from MSDN. No dice.

Just to make sure I wasn’t having some sort of hardware issue, I swapped out the SATA hard disk with two of the same model and installed both Windows XP 2005 MCE rollup 2 and Ubuntu Gutsy 64-Bit without any issues at all.

Mind you, XP needed about 2 hours worth of patches (90 to be exact) to download from Microsoft Update once I got the network drivers installed, but it’s now running my HD videos– Blade Runner never looked any better– and doing hi-speed N 270Mbps wireless networking smooth as silk. And Gutsy is running great, despite the fact it needs gigabit Ethernet instead of wireless-N, and I can’t play HD-DVDs or Blue Rays on it yet due to the lack of necessary codecs.

Yes, its a bizarre thing when the latest consumer version of Windows is less compatible with modern hardware than either Linux or the previous version of Windows, one year after its release.

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