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Living with Windows Vista beta 2

Living with Windows Vista beta 2

I'm amazed by the conflicting comments elsewhere in the media regarding Windows Vista beta 2. In particular, one MSNBC reporter found that basic drivers were missing after his install, yet Ed Bott over at ZDNet didn't have much trouble at all. Having been around beta software for nearly 10 years, I've seen some bad code in my day, but I've been impressed with the various CTP builds for Windows Vista. Yet we reviewers have only a brief window in time to make a snap judgment about a large and very complex operating system. So for the next seven days, I'm going to be working exclusively under Windows Vista beta 2 and reporting what I experience.

For the record, I have experienced some difficulties, and these events occurred very early in the beta process. Before Microsoft made clear the hardware expectations, I had problems getting the new Aero graphics to work under the September 2005 CTP release, but once I started using high-end Acer laptops, such as an Acer Ferrari 4000, I've had no problems whatsoever. In fact, I just reloaded Windows Vista beta 2 (release 5384.4) on a partition within my Acer TravelMate 8200 and didn't experience a single glitch. Microsoft has available a Get Ready page with specs for merely running the operating system or getting the full 3D graphics effects. Since this code is still in beta, it is recommended that you don't make Vista your sole operating system at this time. To reserve your beta copy, sign up here.

Microsoft changed its installation procedure with Vista. The code arrives as a compressed image that is first copied onto your hard drive, then expanded. I choose a clean install, then used Windows Easy Transfer to copy over my Internet settings and Favorites, but I could also copy over my user accounts, folders, program settings or e-mail settings, contacts, and messages from Windows XP.

Microsoft also says it has separated the Vista code from the various drivers. Upon installation, some basic drivers are installed, but a separate download adds specific drivers for your hardware. Microsoft feels that its enterprise customers will appreciate this, creating fewer images of the OS to roll out across a wide variety of workstations. For the home user, however, it means a faster install. My installation took 45 minutes, start to finish.

Check back tomorrow to read about my first day of living with Windows Vista.