I Finally Switched to Windows Vista

by David Fredericks 31. May 2009 05:21

I've been using Windows XP Pro as the operating system on my primary desktop computer for a long time but I want to move to Windows 7 when it arrives. Microsoft says that it will not have an upgrade from XP to Windows 7; a clean install will be required. So I mulled this over a little and decided to move to Windows Vista so I would have an upgrade bridge to Windows 7. I rationalized that the furor over Vista had died down a little as Microsoft whittled away at the problems. Also, the 64 bit version of Vista seems to be working okay for a lot of developers (my peers).

 

Okay, I would migrate to Vista Ultimate x64 and therefore be ready for Windows 7. Let's pause and check compatibility. Microsoft provides a nice little tool that scans your hardware and your software and gives you the good and bad news. Hardware wise, only my rather old Visioneer 7300 USB scanner didn't pass muster.

 

After making a backup of the current system, I started the install of Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1. First issue – the upgrade option was disabled; only a clean install was allowed. Web research found that there is no upgrade path from XP 32 bit to Vista 64 bit. I should have stopped right here. After all, the primary reason to upgrade was for a smooth transition to Windows 7; if I continued, I would still have the pain of a clean install and myriad software installations. But I had new system fever! I wanted to use more memory than the 3+ GB limit in 32 bit XP. I wanted some change in my environment. Besides, my office needed a good cleaning and I could clean while my PC was busy with the various installations. Actually, I could probably clean most of the neighborhood while waiting for installations to complete.

 

I bumped my PC up to 9 GB of RAM. I wanted to run multiple virtual machines and the extra memory would be useful (I thought). Back to the Vista installation. Except for answering the normal questions about keyboard and time zone, it was pretty much a hands-off experience. I now had 64 bit Windows Vista Ultimate running on my PC. After a little visual customizing, I attacked the hardware drivers. Most of the necessary Vista 64 bit drivers were on a CD and they all installed without complaint. Everything was working okay. Once the NIC driver was installed, I was able to connect to the LAN and also the internet. Downloading and installing the latest NVIDIA drivers allowed me to turn on Aero. My Vista experience test rated my system at 5.9. What the heck does that mean? I know that it is a good value but 5.9 is kind of an odd number – perhaps a bit overly precise.

I added some gadgets to the sidebar – more on Vista gadgets later. Then I got started on my long list of software to install. Here is my list and the compatibility issues I encountered. The draft of this blog entry included a list of all the software that I installed, the majority of which installed with not anomalies. Since most of that was superfluous information, I have reduced the list to just those programs that had some sort of exception (not necessarily bad).

WinZip

Always my first install on a clean system. I'm using an older version, 9 and it installed and works fine on Vista x64. No issues. I did decide to upgrade to version 12 Pro, even though I had to purchase it anew.

NOD32 Anti-Virus

With “32” as part of the name of my anti-virus software, I thought I might be in for some shopping. However, a quick check of the NOD32 website showed that they have a Vista x64 version. I downloaded and installed it. My existing registration info worked and the PC was protected from evil-doers. Version 4 of NOD32 has a completely new interface so I'll have to figure out later if I have an optimum setup. For now, the basics seem to be in place.

Windows Mail

My preferred Email client is Outlook Express. In Vista, OE has been replaced by Windows Mail, a slightly improved version. I imported my old Emails and Address Book from the backup I made before the Vista Install and setup my Email accounts manually. This was relatively painless and only took a few minutes. What I wasn't able to retrieve were the numerous Message Rules that I had created in Outlook Express. The rules are stored in the registry and are a pain to migrate, so I started over. They needed a good house cleaning, anyway. Windows Mail includes a Junk Email filter which, so far, is reasonably effective at screening Spam. I was using Cloudmark for Anti-Spam filtering but may not need it any longer.

Using Windows Mail was short-lived due to Palm issues documented below.

Directory Opus

This is a replacement for Windows Explorer and is very important for my work style. A check of the GP Software website revealed a version for 64 bit Vista. I downloaded and installed it. The existing registration info worked and it was up and running. I am, however, having to re-customize it. This probably could have been avoided with a little preplanning, but, c'est la vie!

Remote Desktop

This wasn't really an install, just some configuration work. I use RDT to control and monitor six different servers and the first thing I noticed was that, under Vista, my remote connections startup much, much faster. This is the most positive difference that I have seen with Vista; though, by itself, doesn't justify this amount of work.

Printers

Had to download new drivers for both network attached printers. However, when I got around to testing the printers, they were very, very slow. Again, on the web, I found a very easy fix. I installed the printers by specifying a local port (even though they are on the network) and the local port points to the UNC name of the printer. This totally fixed the problem with printing speed.

Palm Desktop

I have been using the Palm Desktop software for many years as my calendar and contacts. I've tried using MS Outlook but didn't like it much. However, Palm Desktop doesn't have a 64 bit USB driver so I can't sync my Z22 PDA. A little Google work found that I should be able to sync using the Z22 infrared port. For about $20, Amazon is sending me a USB-IRDA dongle. Hope it works.

Follow-up: received the USB to IRDA dongle. Installation was simple; plug it in and Vista found a driver on the internet and installed it. That was the good news. The bad news is that I can't get the Z22 to recognize the IRDA and the PC. Also, the new Palm Desktop version 6 does not import my calendar and contact categories when it imports the rest of the data. I think my solution will be to share the Palm Desktop data with my laptop and sync the Z22 with the laptop. Since I don't have to sync very often, this should be an acceptable bypass. I am very disappointed in Palm – they have steadily deteriorated over the years and I think if the new Pre isn't a super hit, they are not long for the world.

This particular issue turned out to have huge ramifications. See my future article on “How Vista Changed My Life”.

MS Visual Studio 6 SP6

VS6 installed okay but got a compatibility error warning about C++. Since I was only installing VB6 to support some legacy apps, I ignored the warning. Seems to run okay. SP6 went on okay, as well.

Follow-up:  Uninstalled VB6 and moved it to the Legacy Virtual Machine.

MS Visual Studio 2003

Installed okay (slowly) but got compatibility warning for entire product. There is a long list of issues that I can maybe live with; however, this might be a good candidate for running in a Virtual Machine. I'll decide later as it is also for supporting legacy apps. Maybe I should put all tools for legacy support in a single VM running XP.

It is a little later and I have removed VS 2003 from the Vista system, installed Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 with a copy of Windows XP Pro (32-bit). I installed VS 2003 on the Virtual Machine and worked out a scheme to backup development changes to a network drive. This VM will be my legacy development system (more on MS Virtual PC later).

Install Note

About here I noticed that System Restore was not working. When I tried to restore a checkpoint, it got an error near the end and then, all of my checkpoints disappeared. During the process of investigating this annoyance, I found that my non-defragable system space was scattered all over my C drive. I guessed this was because I installed Vista on top of XP which already had some restore space. Again, a long quest for a solution, but the only real fix was to start over and begin by formatting the C: drive. I did this and reinstalled everything up to this point; so from here back, I did everything twice, except for the single format and two previous legacy installs. This time around, I cloned an XP virtual machine and installed VB6, VS2003, and Access 97 to use just for maintaining legacy applications.

Bioshock

Had a little trouble here. After installing and updating to version 1.1, I fired it up and did not have any sound after the first cut scene. Poking around on the internet, I found a suggestion to enable XP compatibility mode in the Bioshock shortcut and Viola!, it fixed the sound and the game is working great. Also, my first experience with DirectX 10 (don't notice anything different, though).

iTunes

Installed version 8.2 along with the required QuickTime. This was the first iTunes installation that went perfectly smoothly. Before I installed iTunes, I relocated the “Music” folder by editing the properties and changing the location field. It used to be necessary to use TweakUI (or hack the registry) to make this change. This is an improvement. After installation, iTunes actually found my music correctly; I was quite surprised. iTunes will become a big player in “How Vista Changed My Life”.

QuickBooks 2009

Installed okay but location of company data has moved so I had to adjust my backups. By the way, QuickBooks 2006 would not install at all; the setup program immediately exits after Vista gives an incompatibility notice.

Summary

At this point, a couple of weeks later, the Vista system is running smoothly. With the few exceptions above, all necessary software installed with no problem. I disabled UAC fairly early on as it is a big annoyance. My PC is pretty well protected otherwise so I don't think UAC helps me at all.

 

Though Vista has some changes to the look and feel, my day-to-day usage is about the same as before. Putting my legacy development software into a virtual machine has worked quite well. My memory utilization has improved with the 64-bit system so the swap file is not as active. The extra memory in this computer is really only useful for running virtual machines as it looks like Vista never uses more than about 3 GB.








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