Although I’ve dabbled with Windows Vista since late last year in its various beta forms, it wasn’t until Release Candidate 1 came out that I dared set my own laptop up with it. Windows XP was made to put with a smaller partition in the name of seeing how Windows Vista was shaping up, and Vista and I got on very well from that point on, in so far as one man and an operating system can.
My laptop (a Dell Precision M70) has 2Gb of memory, which seems to be the optimum amount these days where Vista is concerned, certainly I found RC1 ran noticeably faster than XP on the exact same system, heck even the battery life seems to be better. In fact, once Vista was installed I found myself more inclined to use my laptop over my desktop (which still sits with Windows XP and occasionally Suse Linux on it) – something about the whole experience just works, and I guess it helps that it never crashed once the whole time I had that release candidate installed.
However, two weeks ago it became time to nuke Vista RC1 in favour of the RTM (Release To Manufacture) release – Vista was complete at last, and having skipped RC2 I was keen to see how the final product had turned out.
Just before shutting down Vista RC1 for the last time though, a dialog box popped up – turned out that Windows Error Reporting cares much more about your wellbeing than XP ever did. I was allowing Vista to pass back error reports for crashed applications, and lo and behold, it had found a couple of solutions for problems that I didn’t even know I had, and was still awaiting another solution. It had decided to tell me what I could do to rectify the problem, with links through to the full solution. XP always seemed a bit hit and miss on this (almost always miss) – Vista seemed to actually care – aw shucks, who knew?
Anyway, I digress – while that was certainly cute, I was more interested in trying out the final release – and I hoped that I’d maybe even be able to get rid of XP from my laptop shortly after. This all went pretty well, nothing had changed too considerably on the face of it since RC1 (more shiny icons, and a new tinkly startup and shutdown noise aside), and much as RC1 had settled in nicely, so now has Vista RTM. My laptop has a new lease of life, something a replacement recalled battery can never bring – fast, clean interfaces rule the day.
Unfortunately, my eagerness to get rid of Windows XP will have to wait a little longer though. For general work, Vista suits me down to the ground and I find myself loath to reboot back into XP, but as a Maya and Houdini user (both CG packages that need some good OpenGL support), there’s still a bit of a way to go. No doubt nvidia (my laptop came with a Quadro Go1400) has some new drivers almost ready that will start rectifying that problem, and by the time Vista hits its consumer release in late January, with a bit of luck there will be decent performance to be had. Until then though, its really not usable for that kind of work, and although I *could* use XP drivers, that would mean getting rid of a lot of the shiny new interface elements – not essential, but hey if I’m going to use Vista, I want it to look its best!