Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Installing Vista Home Premium

I suppose Vista stuff will be blogged ad-nuseum, but I was curious to see how useful Vista may be. I will try Vista for a few weeks to answer ... why? Will I get any value to upgrade one of my Win XP licenses to Vista? I own 3 XP licenses - 2 by OEM computer purchases and 1 by an official upgrade CD for an old Win98 license. I will install Vista Home Premium since that's likely the one I'd invest in.

I am NOT trying to find new things that work - only if the tools I am comfortable with work. For example no-doubt Vista comes with a snazy media player, but I want to use VLC from http://www.videolan.org/ - so if no VLC, then no Vista for me.

The installation:
My system has 1GB DDR400 SDRAM, AMD A64 2GHz, ATI X1600 graphics card (which has modest hardware pixel shaders etc.), dual 1280x1024 LCD displays, and 150GB SATA Raptor 10,000 RPM drive. Since I didn't want Vista to change or "adjust" anything on main XP disk, I disconnected the main drive and just installed Vista onto a fresh 50GB NTFS partition of an old 5400RPM 80GB drive, which already had Ubuntu 6.10 Linux on the rest of the drive.

The first hiccup was Vista refused to install onto the empty 50GB NTFS partition. It detected and showed me the 3 partitions, but declared it "could not find a suitable partition" to install into. Hmm, after some goofing around, I finally deleted the Ubuntu Linux partition and then magically Vista decided the 50GB NTFS partition was suitable and to its liking. So I suspect Vista didn't like the GRUB boot loader pointing to another partition. In the old days, Windows would have just silently over-written the old boot loader ... which is what I had hoped would happen here but didn't. No big deal, Ubuntu re-installs a bit faster than Vista and the new GRUB boot loader happily added Vista to its menu.

A side note - sadly GRUB doesn't seem to like USB keyboards. I have a Saitek backlit USB gaming keyboard which the PCChips BIOS seems happy with. I have no trouble using the USB keyboard in the BIOS setup or F8 boot menu. But sadly to make use of my Ubuntu GRUB bootloader menu I need to plug in a 2nd PS2 keyboard. I hadn't noticed this before because the few time I ran Ubuntu I just left GRUB do its default. Something to solve another day, but this system may be short-lived anyway.

The Result:
Vista now boots fine and actually seems to like my hardware better than I had suspected - rated it 4.0 Windows Experience Index out of 5.0. I had run a Windows Vista tool a few months ago and unless I'm forgetful it had declared it a pretty mediocre 3.x - complaining about the fact that my A64 was a mere 2.00GHz. Overall I'm rated:
  • Processor = 4.0 (AMD Athelon 64 3000+)
  • Memory = 4.2 (1.00 GB)
  • Graphics = 4.3 (Radeon X1600 Series)
  • Gaming = 4.7 (607MB total graphics RAM)
  • Primary HD = 4.2 (39GB free of 49GB)

I was actually a bit surprised it rated my old slow 5400 RPM PATA100 drive as 4.2 ... I cannot begin to convey the performance impact moving to the 10,000 RPM SATA drive had on WinXP. My system which I had seen as pokey for years even after several fresh OS reinstalls was suddenly peppy. Oh well, I'm not looking for Vista to be peppy at present. My plan is still to upgrade this system to a dual-core next summer after AMD's next generation hopefully catches up to Intels Core Duo. At that time I'd also get a better graphics card.

First Impressions:
Well, it looks sweet ... but the way dialogs fade in and out will take getting used to. I mean, my first impression is Vista's pretty poky; but I suspect this is a mental side-effect of the dialogs fading in & out instead of the more traditional "snap" open and closed in older Windows. I guess if they opened too fast, one could not see the way they load my graphics shaders to fade in and out :-) I play around - set Windows colors to cherry red. The claim to support themes, but didn't see fit to offer any beside "Vista" or a Windows 2K look.

To avoid the constant Windows Security warning ... and for fun "to see how" my first program to install was a free 30-day trial of Kaspersky Anti-Virus 6.0. Vista told me I had 5 supported Anti-Virus options: Kaspersky, Symantec, CA, TrendMicro, and MS OneCare. After my giving permission to Kaspersky to install, I received a number of Program Compatibility Warnings about unsigned drivers. I am instructed to uninstall drivers "kl1.sy" and "klif.sy" and go to the vendors web site obtain properly signed code. Well, so their free trial (version doesn't work with Vista and the correct version ( isn't available as trial. So I uninstall it. Vista is a bit more paranoid about uninstall - I get popups that I must close some tasks I don't see running - but at least they give me the process id :-). I also get more "blocked/failed" warnings as Vista prevents Kaspersky from uninstalling - "avp.exe" is being blocked. Seems a bit odd to squander this promotion by Vista on par with Norton by supplying tools which fail to install.

So far score is 0 of 1 so far:
- Kaspersky Anti-Virus v6: failed to install, but was blcoked from uninstalling also.

What about Drivers:
So far I've been lucky - Vista had no trouble getting my PCChips mobo up - lucky since they do NOT have any beta drivers for Vista for my old socket 754 mobo. but somewhat oddly Vista seemed clueless about my Creative Audigy card - Device Manager shows it as the broken device item. So I get Creative's Beta 2.12.0001 driver. Lets see if it has better luck than Kaspersky did.
Click run and see the "Unknown Publisher" warning - guess Creative cannot be bothered to even self-sign their betas. Our programmers say self-signing makes these Vista warnings less ominous and "unknown", so vendors will need to learn to at least self-sign "unsigned" drivers. You'd think it is to their advantage anyway since self-signing at least makes malware additions to the code bundle less likely. Man, slow to install. Plus at the end CtHelper.exe causes a warning to popup due to non-death after I agree to reboot.

So far score is 1 of 2 so far:
- Kaspersky Anti-Virus v6: failed to install, but was blcoked from uninstalling also.
- Creative Audigy 4 drivers: seemed fine; Windows Media Player works

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