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Vista Beta 2 Test Drive

By chas_2 ·
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I Take The Plunge

by chas_2 In reply to Vista Beta 2 Test Drive

<p>Windows Vista Beta 2 Test DriveOn July 7, 2006, shortly after midnight, I installed Windows Vista Beta 2 on my desktop computer.  I had diligently backed up both my hard drives and had purchased a new, fresh, clean 80 GB hard drive that I was going to swap in on a temporary basis when I wanted to use it.  </p>
<p>I had heard about the Vista Beta 2 program from Dwight Silverman, a technology columnist in the Houston Chronicle.  His article mentioned the Beta program Microsoft had and I thought, why not?  I'd used every version of Windows going back to Version 3.11 for Workgroups.  I sat out the stampede for Windows 95.  I thought I'd try being on the front end of the curve, for once.</p>
<p>Before we go much further, let me describe my system.  It's an eMachines T2240 tower system with 640 MB of RAM, Intel's 3D Extreme Graphics card (integrated, I believe), a 40 GB primary hard drive, an 80 GB secondary hard drive, and two Pioneer 16x16 dual-format DVD burners.  I have a recently purchased Canon Pixma iP4200 color photo inkjet printer and an Epson Perfection scanner I normally use also.  Other peripherals include a USB external hard drive and a SanDisk media reader (for digital camera cards).  The two internal drives will be disconnected and the sole new 80 GB drive will contain the Vista operating system.</p>
<p>I unplugged the two hard drives plugged the new drive in, then shut the cabinet and rebooted the system with the Vista DVD (it's that big that you have to install it from a DVD now).  As I hoped, it found it and in 8-bit color mode, the installation screens appeared.  </p>
<p>First thing I noticed was that the Beta 2 will stop working on May 31, 2007 ? a long time for a Beta program, I thought (almost ten months).  Like the other versions of Windows it starts by copying files ? no difference from others.  The installation screens are completely white, though ? not sure if that will change for the final release.</p>
<p>A "Setup Windows" screen appears after the copying has finished, where you can enter your name and your computer's name.  After the installation completes, a positive confirmation appears, "You're Ready To Start", and then the system logs you on, prepares your desktop and you're presented with a new feature, the Welcome Center.  The Welcome Center is not unlike a home page that kinda serves as the answer to the question "What do I do first?"  It will be helpful for novice users of Windows; experienced folk might not find it useful.  Happily, you can check a box to turn it off (it's controlled through the Control Panel).</p>
<p>I have DSL at home (a must for test driving this release) and when I plugged my system into the DSL line, there were no problems.  </p>
<p>The program, like other editions of Windows since XP, expect you to activate the software.  It took a little hunting to find the Activate Windows option but I did by using Help.  You have 14 days to activate it.</p>
<p>Shortly after getting going, Vista complained I didn't have a virus checker but suggested I point my browser over to Trend Micro's site to get their Vista-compatible checker, which I did.  I downloaded and installed PC-Cillin Internet Security 14 (strange name) and the system restarted.</p>
<p>Windows Vista now has something called the sidebar, a translucent right margin on the screen where you can pin gadgets.  The gadgets that come standard when you install are a default web feed for Internet Explorer (I'm thinking RSS), and an analog clock. These can be turned off.</p>
<p>Up until this point I had been working in 8-bit mode and was earnestly hoping I could locate a 24-bit driver.  By right-clicking on the desktop and choosing "Personalize", I was able to locate the Display Properties.  By clicking on the Update Driver button ? while connected to the 'Net ? I located an Intel GE/GV generic display driver.  I let the system install it and was pretty blown away by the results.  I mean, the new graphic look to Vista is more than I could have imagined ? it's beautiful!  It's more detailed, finer.  No wonder you have to have a decent graphics card.</p>
<p>Get used to the term "Personalize" ? you'll be seeing it a lot.</p>
<p>One observation ? Vista does a lot of asking "May I?"  The default configuration, you can't delete folders, make system changes or install software without being asked to confirm that yes, you indeed do want to do what you say you're going to do.  This may be good for novices ? or dummies ? but I don't need this kind of hand holding.</p>
<p>Vista found my ATI TV Tuner card but my attempts to install the drivers for it failed as I expected.  Four of the five drivers did successfully install.  </p>
<p>I notice that the progress bar has now taken on a pulsating, glassy look.  It is now a green glassy-looking bar that is animated like something you'd see on Star Trek.  Gotta love those geeks that say, "Wouldn't it be cool if ? ?"</p>
<p>Power settings and the screen saver were a bit of a challenge to find.</p>
<p>The classic (Windows 95-era) toolbar is gone!  If you don't like the new menu structure when you click the Start button, you're stuck!  Which reminds me ? for the Beta 2 release, the Start button no longer says "Start".  It's just a nice, round button with the Vista logo on it.  I think it's an improvement, actually.</p>
<p>The Shut Down option is a little trickier to find now.  When you click on the Start button, it's next to an icon for "Sleep" (which I discovered by accident); clicking the button brings up a menu with the options "Sleep", "Restart", "Hibernate", "Shut Down", etc.  </p>
<p>So went my first interaction with Vista.  Very nice ? attractive graphics.  In the coming days and weeks I'll road test it with other programs and peripherals like my scanner.  Stay tuned.</p>

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First Problems!

by chas_2 In reply to Vista Beta 2 Test Drive

<p>The second day of interaction with Vista, I ran into some problems.</p>
<p>This time I wanted to try burning a CD since Vista had correctly found both DVD burners and I knew that since Microsoft owned Roxio, some kind of burning engine would be present.  Well, in the file manager, I did see a Burn button but it doesn't appear to be active yet.  I click on it and nothing happens.  </p>
<p>So I decided to try installing a disc burning solution.  My personal favorite is Nero 6, so I installed that.  The program installed but wouldn't run, so I uninstalled it.  This would give me my first try at uninstalling software.  I located the Control Panel from the Start menu and searched for "Add/Remove Programs" ? not there.  It's now called just "Programs".  Click on it, and you now see your programs divided into four categories including "Installed Programs" which I needed.  I found Nero and ran the uninstallation process.</p>
<p>Next, I tried installing Roxio Easy CD Creator 6.  Figuring Roxio was a part of Microsoft, I thought it would run like a summer breeze ? heh, heh ? wrong!  After installing it, the system asked for a reboot, after which I saw the dreaded UAE (unrecoverable application error) blue screen of death.  This was a CPU STOP instruction with hex code 'EA' (for those of you that know what that means, I have no idea).  Then it starts taking a dump ? oh, great.   </p>
<p>I killed the process, opting for a quick restart.  Vista, as with previous releases, brings up a DOS-era screen saying, in effect, "Windows didn't fully start successfully", and your options (as before) are: Safe Mode, Safe Mode With Networking, Safe Mode With Command Prompt, Last Known Successful Configuration, and a couple of other options I forget at the moment.  I first choose Last Known Successful Configuration and go to Programs ? Roxio is already gone.  I reboot ? it shows the copyright message but can't get back up all the way.  The system suggests I restart with the DVD and choose "System Recover Options", so I do.</p>
<p>I reboot from the DVD and choose the System Recovery Options, of which there are five: Startup Repair (new to me), System Restore (a reliable standby that has saved my *** before), Complete PC Restore (from a hard drive image), Memory Diagnostic Tool (for geniuses, I guess) and the dreaded Command Prompt.  I first try Startup Repair but a few moments later it appears to call System Restore (the second option).  I figure it's going to grab the latest configuration because I'm not presented with any calendar of restore points as I am in XP.  It reboots ? no copyright notice, can't get Safe Mode, nothing works.</p>
<p>Once again, I boot from the DVD and go to System Recovery Options.  This time I choose System Recovery.  The appearance of the dialogs have changed a bit (no more calendar; now restore points are in a table) but it's the same function.  I go back a day in time and ask for a restoration.  The timestamps on the restore points appear to be wrong but I'm not sure and at the late hour I'm working on this, don't care.</p>
<p>The System Restore runs successfully and the system reboots.  All is well.  It takes a few minutes for the system to get back to the Welcome Center but it does.  Nice work, System Restore.  By the way, System Restore can be found in System Properties now.</p>
<p>I plugged my external USB drive in; Vista found it without problems.</p>
<p>Next I tried installing WinDVD, a DVD player application.  WinDVD Version 4 would not start at all; Version 5 was fine although playback seemed to be a bit chunky and blocky but otherwise okay.</p>
<p>The Windows Picture and Fax Viewer has been replaced with the Photo Gallery Viewer (what, no one spends time looking at faxes on their PC's anymore?).  </p>
<p>Since I occasionally do web design work, I use graphic/photo editing applications, so I decided next to try installing my two favorites ? Paint Shop Pro (Version and Photoshop (Version 5).  The Flash-based installation CD for Paint Shop Pro 8 didn't work, so I had to browse to the Setup.EXE program and run it, but I was able to install it and the program runs fine.  Photoshop 5 had no problems at all.</p>
<p>Recalling that I had Ulead's DVD Movie Factory Disc Creator 3 ? an application that includes the application Burn.NOW, I decided to install that next.  There were no problems installing that application or its auxiliary applications (Windows Media Format 9 and Apple's Quick Time player).  I was able to burn a CD but not at the 40x rating the drive is rated at ? it trundled along at a measly 10x (taking 9 minutes to burn 670 MB).  Naturally, when the Vista drivers are out this will be corrected, right, Microsoft??</p>
<p>Since I have also downloaded Microsoft's Office 2007 Beta, I took a closer look at Word.  Boy, is it different!  It seems the toolbar is going the way of the dinosaur.  Context menus still exist but the overall look of these applications is different.  It's attractive, of course, but you'll need to learn things over.</p>
<p>Lastly, I installed Visual Studio's Visual Basic Express 2005 with SQL Server 2005.  The Visual Basic portion installed and runs fine, but the SQL Server portion did not install (it's a known issue).</p>
<p>So I was able to get a couple more applications running and I know that I can recover from horrid operational errors.  System Restore still rocks.</p>

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Word 2007 Runs On XP, But Looks Different...

by chas_2 In reply to Vista Beta 2 Test Drive

Well, for grins, this afternoon I decided to try installing Office 2007 on my Dell Inspiron 1000 running at 2.2 GHz with 448 MB of RAM (don't ask).  The installation completed, but I was amazed at how long it took ? seemed to be about 15 minutes. 

<p>This was the second time I'd run Word 2007 but the look was different than it was when run under Vista.  The same groupings of functions are still there at the top (styles, fonts, etc.) but the graphics aren't (naturally) quite as impressive.  But you'll still like what you see.</p>
<p>However, there's a new default extension for Word files: .docx.  I suspect the "x" is for XML, of which the .NET platform makes ample use (think of web pages with names ending in ".aspx" and you get what I mean).  You can, of course, save files in .doc format (for versions of Word through 2003) but, oddly, when you open such a document in, say, Word 2000, you may see a glitch here or there.  I created a short document in Word 2007, saved it as a .doc file and opened it in Word 2000 and it got the font wrong.  Maybe Microsoft isn't counting on many end users to still be running Word 2000 but I still use it at home.</p>

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Access and Excel - New Menu Bar

by chas_2 In reply to Vista Beta 2 Test Drive

<p class="MsoNormal"><span>I have now had the chance to try out Access and Excel.<span>  </span>One thing I notice about the new Office products ? the menu bar is much taller.<span>  </span>Features are grouped by function now.<span>  </span>But it appears to come with a bit of a price.<span>  </span>It doesn't appear that floating toolbars are allowed anymore.<span>  </span><?xml:namespace prefix =" o" ns =" "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office"" /></span></p>
<p>I also see that all the Office applications have the equivalent of a "start" button similar to that of Windows XP, except that it's in the upper left corner and it sports the Microsoft Office logo.</p>
<p>I visited the Windows Vista site today and took a closer look.  First of all, the site itself is stunningly beautiful ? Microsoft's web designers did a fabulous job.  Also, the window borders now are controlled by something called Aero ? which makes the borders look like translucent glass.  You can think of Aero as a graphics mode or, in XP parlance, a theme.  You do not have to have Aero running to use Vista; if your graphics card will support Aero, you will see it.  Apparently my PC's graphics card (a 3D AGP integrated unit from Intel) is powerful enough to run some of it, so I see some of the effects but not all.  Even what I see is pretty cool.</p>

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RC1 Is Up And Running

by chas_2 In reply to Vista Beta 2 Test Drive

<p class="MsoNormal"><span>I had read Houston Chronicle Technology columnist Dwight Silverman's column stating that Windows Vista Release Candidate 1 was out and, having participated in Microsoft's Customer Participation Program (CPP) for Vista's Beta 2 release before, I was in the first sweep of folks who could download RC1.</span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span>It took about 6 hours to download the ISO file at a rate of about 150 KB/second.<span>  </span>As with Beta 2, you burn the ISO image to a DVD and restart your computer with the DVD in it (note that I say DVD and not CD; Vista is huge!).</span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span>The installation process is smoother and more visually appealing than Beta 2, but is not bug-free.<span>  </span>As the process works through the different dialogs, the Time Zone dialog appears.<span>  </span>You can't change it from the Pacific time zone, but after the installation process has completed, you can (but you'll need to go through the Control Panel to do it).</span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span>Avast, a free anti-virus package from the Czech Republic's Alwil Software, claimed Version 4 was Vista-compatible.<span>  </span>No such luck.<span>  </span>I couldn?t get the installation program to load.<span>  </span>I wound up re-installing Trend Micro's Internet Security 14 Vista Beta, which did install.</span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span>Installation of my Netgear 802.11b USB wireless receiver went fine, but installing the eMachines video drivers did not.<span>  </span>Vista said the installation of the video driver itself was successful, but one other related component would not complete its installation, causing me to have to reboot repeatedly.</span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span>If you want a video driver that will work you'll need to run the Update Driver wizard; if it works properly it will install the Intel 82845G/GL/GE/PE/GV (what do all those letters mean, anyway??) video driver.<span>  </span>After rebooting, you can change the screen's resolution up to 1024x768.</span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span>Vista RC1 found the printer drivers for my Canon Pixma iP4200 just fine and, as of this writing, didn't complain about the two 16x16 DVD+/-RW burners (one from Sony, one from Pioneer).</span></p>
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