Sunday, March 11, 2007

Muy buena Vista!

I recently upgraded my Dell laptop to Windows Vista Ultimate and have been running it for the past 11 days. I have used the betas and release candidates in the past but always in a dual boot configuration. This time, I took the plunge and decided to make Vista my primary operating system.

After backing up my files to my home network, I put in the DVD and let Microsoft take over. The install was smooth and painless, and in within the hour I was up and running. I had to install a few updates, and that was it. A brand spanking new OS on my old Inspiron 8600.

Now, my laptop is a few years old, but when I got it, it was pretty sweet. I have now upgraded it to 2GB RAM, but the rest is the same...a Pentium M 1700Mhz, 60 GB 7200 RPM hard drive, and ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 with 128MB RAM. Not too shabby, but definitely not a power gaming machine. Vista rates my laptop a 3.5 on the Windows Experience Index, a scale from 1 to 5.9, where the lowest number your PC gets in any of the five categories (Processor, RAM, Graphics, Gaming Graphics, and Primary Hard Disk) becomes your overall score. In other words, it's not an average. It's a "long pole", or "bottleneck" rating. In any case, I think a 3.5 is not too bad for a laptop. It allows me to run all the bells and whistles, including the Aero UI.

I was concerned about ATI drivers that supported OpenGL properly, since none have been seen with any of the betas or release candidates, and I need to be able to run Second Life, an OpenGL application. I decided to take the leap anyway, since I could still login to SL with my desktop machine if I couldn't get it to work in Vista.

The good news is that ATI had upgraded drivers, and OpenGL support was part of the update, but the bad news is that they still caused SL to crash on startup. After searching a bit, I found VistaSL, a homebrew version of the SL client that had removed some of the offending OpenGL calls to get it to run in Vista. Works like a charm! Granted, this is a temporary solution, and updated ATI drivers and a proper SL client from Linden Labs would be best.

In any case, in the 11 days I've been running Vista, I've managed to do a few things:
  • Get a working version of Second Life
  • Install Virtual PC 2007
  • Get Windows XP SP2 to run in a virtual machine
  • Get Linux (Ubuntu v6.10) to run in a virtual machine
  • Install a sidebar gadget called Vista Hot Corners that provides Exposé-like window shuffling
  • Install Outlook, Photoshop, Firefox, VNC, SnagIt, Trillian, Notepad++, and TweakVI
  • Burn a DVD (with Windows DVD Maker) of short video clips I had laying around, complete with animated menus and scene selections.

And so far, it's been a treat! Being able to run Windows XP is great since I can still have access to IE6 if I need to test any web pages. Also, it's fun to play with Ubuntu as well. Windows DVD Maker was drop dead simple, and the result was very professional looking.

It seems to me that everything is running just as well or better as with XP (with the exception of Second Life, which seems a bit choppier, but that may be the result of ATI's bad OpenGL support mixed with an unoptimized SL client).

All I have to say so far is that Vista is a definite step up from XP, but could benefit from better driver support from ATI. Hopefully that will come in time.

Bottom line: Muy buena Vista!

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