Vista 1, JK 0- RC2 not ready for prime time

I have to admit that Kevin’s enthusiasm won me over as his Vistagami series unfolded detailing his experience of installing Vista RC2 on his Samsung Q1.  He’s put a lot of work into it and has gotten Vista running at 95% efficiency which is exciting enough to make me say, "hey, I’m going to give it shot".  Now my Q1, Flash, only has a 32 GB flash drive and since I use it as my primary work machine it is loaded with so much stuff that there is not enough free space to install Vista in a dual-boot scenario.  I’m not gutsy enough to install Vista as an upgrade over my perfectly functional Windows XP system so I did the only thing I could do, install it on the HP tc1100 instead.  That’s when the nightmare began.

I wanted to do this install the best way possible and put it on its own partition in a dual boot configuration so my WinXP system would be unaffected.  With that in mind I ran Partition Magic 8.0 to resize my 60 GB hard drive down to 30 GB so I could create a new partition for Vista.  Partition Magic immediately gave me an error because it didn’t like that I was creating the new partition as a logical partition.  I knew I could change it later so I reran it telling it to create a second primary partition, which it dutifully did and then rebooted.  To a totally black screen, I didn’t even rate a BSOD.  Luckily for me I have a set of rescue floppies which has saved my butt on many occasions.  I booted into a DR. DOS version of Partition Magic and had a look.  It seemed that the program decided it didn’t know which partition should be tagged as the active partition since I now had two primaries and rather than leave the original WinXP partition as active it left me with no active partitions.  So, WinXP would not boot because it didn’t know where it was.  Brilliant. One menu click and I set the WinXP as active and rebooted fine to begin my Vista adventure.

I installed Vista RC2 from a downloaded ISO file and it took about 2 hours to copy all the files and bring me to a first real Vista boot.  There is something really cool about seeing a brand new OS boot up for the first time and this was no exception.  A lot has been said about whether Vista is an attractive UI or not but I find it to look quite nice.  Until I tried to use it, that is.

The tc1100 display was surprisingly running at 800 x 600 resolution, even though the native resolution of the display is 1024 x 768.  It didn’t take me long to determine why it was displaying that way, Vista did not find nor configure the nVidia graphics processor in the tc1100.  It had installed a "standard VGA adapter" which means it did not correctly identify and install the drivers for the nVidia.  This surprised me as the nVidia is a very common GPU and at this late stage in the Vista test cycle (RC2) I expected this to be the least of my troubles.  I realize this is test software and not a real production release but let’s be honest here, RC2 is a very advanced release by design and while it might not be accurate I have read that there will be no further public beta releases prior to the official launch of Vista so the fact that a common system component is not recognized is disturbing to me. Vista will likely be released to OEMs to include with their systems in the not too distant future and it will be fatal if it can’t correctly install and configure common system components like this.  Upon closer inspection of the tc1100 there are a number of components that did not get identified and configured, chief among them the ethernet controller and one unnamed "base system device".  I haven’t tracked down what that is yet but it may be the Wacom digitizer for all I know.

Out of the box Vista RC2 will not run IE7, it immediately gets a "IE7 has stopped working" dialog and then closes.  This leaves me with no ready way to get to the Internet to try and get these devices working by finding other drivers and manually installing them.  It’s a shame too as Vista looks really nice and runs quite fast on the older tc1100.  I like the new interface and especially the Tablet PC bits which look far more functional than the previous version.  Unfortunately, trying to do anything with the Tablet Input Panel (TIP) generates an exception error, probably due to a lack of drivers for the digitizer but since I can’t easily troubleshoot it I can’t tell for certain.  I’ll have to invest a lot of time to track all of these shortcomings out of the box so I will only know after I’ve done that how well Vista will run on the tc1100.

I’m not trying to be unduly harsh about Vista RC2 as I fully realize it is not ready for prime time but as I said earlier, it’s so late in the product launch cycle that it should be at least installing properly on systems with standard components, even if they don’t meet the heavy Aero Glass specifications.  It seems to me it should be a standard install and run process by now to at least give the OS a shot.  Let’s face it, if IE7 won’t even run then Redmond, we have a problem.

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