Saturday, March 31, 2007

Finally, VISTAfied

I resisted Microsoft's flagship operating system, Vista, for so long. I avoided every single bit of it from the moment it was announced years ago. Not that I intentionally decided to do so; on the contrary, I basically lost faith in products coming out of Redmond. It is not the technological advancements that I dislike, but the rotten business practices of the proprietary software corporates in comparison to what is happening in the Open Source Movement. That's a story for a future book, if you allow me to dream :) , not a short blog post so I'll cut it short and jump to the point. Ok, Ok, you don't need to say it, yes I gave in, ohh yeah, whatever !!!

It was in a moment of weakness, when Ubuntu Linux was really misbehaving, that I decided to give Vista a try. I got a DVD ISO image from a friend some time ago and I thought no-big-deal; I'll install it, (fore)play with it for a couple of minutes then get back to my lovely Linux. My dual boot system at home, WinXP and Ubuntu, wouldn't mind triple-booting it.

I'll not go through the drill of installing an extra bootable OS on my PC but I'll share you some of my latest findings in this matter. The first thing is, throw away all of your partitioning software and make room for the new/old KING on the block gParted. It is an open source partitioning software than can be run from a LIVE or bootable CD. It smoothly shrank my NTFS partition to make room for Vista. I also found out that I already have 4 primary partitions on my harddisk and gParted wouldn't allow me to create one more. And Vista needed a primary partition for it to install on. After some mingling, I deleted the UTILITY partition that comes by default with most DELL computers, and maybe other ones also, then created what Vista needed.

The installation was smooth, but took a lot of restarts, and it detected my nVidia geForce video card but failed to detect my Creative Audigy Z2 surround sound card. It took a few minutes to download the latest drivers from Creative's website and Vista was no-more mute.

The first thing I installed was my beloved Firefox browser and its add-ons I can't live without like the gmail notifier, search, and several others. Then of course I needed an Anti-Virus so I opted for a 1 month trial from Trend Micro.

Vista's user interface is different and appealing to an extent. The sidebar with its gadgets is a cool idea but not very much revolutionary since the idea was long available on WinXP using Google Desktop. The Aero effects are interestingly nice but I've been doing Xgl/Compiz on Ubuntu for sometime with cool 3D rotating desktops and window transparency and movement effects so nothing super here. That's all without comparing it to eye candy effects on Mac OS X which is a different universe by itself.

One thing I noticed is the need to elevate account privileges when you do installations since by default the Vista users don't run as an administrator. This is a good step forward for Microsoft but barely comparable to the well-established practice on Linux and other OSes.

When I wanted to get back to my Ubuntu, I found out that the stupid Vista installation screwed up my Master Boot Record and I lost my GRUB boot loader, I thought. But to the rescue came the Super Grub Disk, which is a bootable floppy application that amazingly helped me restore my GRUB based MBR and made me boot back into my Ubuntu.

It's been several hours since I installed Vista and I must admit it, it is not bad; not bad at all. So here I am ending my first blog post written completely on Vista after months of blogging hibernation.