Windows Vista
by George Smith, HLS Systems, Inc.
4 Aug 2006
Last Updated: 14 Oct 2009 14:33

As with previous operating system changeovers, this one will be no different than those we've experienced in the past when we upgraded from consumer operating systems such as DOS, to finally Windows 3.1, then on to Windows 98, then 98 SE, ME, and finally XP Home. For those who opted to buy into the "business-oriented" operating systems offering better stability and security features, there was NT and its various iterations, then Windows 2000, Windows XP...with Service Packs 1 and 2. Which brings us to where we are at today, 4 August 2006, faced with the introduction of Microsoft's new operating system, Vista.

We will more than likely find that we'll have some software applications, especially utilities, that won't run, motherboard drivers that won't work, and internal or external peripherals that won't have compatible drivers and thus won't function at all with Vista.

As in the past, there will be some catching up to do by all the vendors of these soon-to-be incompatible products. Some vendors will "belly up to the bar" and update their products in a timely manner prior to the release of Vista, others won't.

I've read some of the hype to date regarding Vista and all that it promises, but wanted to see for myself what all the hullabaloo was about, and, to see just where we stand today with the current software and hardware we use on a regular basis in terms of its compatibility with Vista. With this in mind, I took one of my older (3+ years old) office PCs, cleaned off the hard drive completely, and installed a fresh copy of Vista, Beta 2 edition, build 5384. The installation, which took about 40 minutes or so, was flawless and not at all painful. This was a promising start to what at the end of the day brought me back to a reality checkpoint, that we're in for some stressful times once again in regards to upgrading to the most current PC technology.

The next step was to attempt the installation of the motherboard drivers. Here's where the fun begins! This test bed PC consists of an Intel D850EMVR motherboard sporting an Intel 2.66GHz Pentium 4 CPU and 1GB of RAMBUS system memory...3+ year old technology. It also has a newer PCI video card (nVIDIA-chipset) having 128MB of video memory on board. And yes, this system also has an older Pioneer CD/DVD-ROM combo drive installed as well. Good thing, as Vista is provided only on a DVD.

The boxed Intel motherboards we use in our system builds include a motherboard driver installation CD, "Intel Express Installer CD," containing all the motherboard drivers and applications. These worked fine up until Windows XP SP2 when additional security measures were implemented which kept the CDs from running. With a little trickery, you could disable certain of XP SP2's security features to get the CD to run, thus enabling you to "semi-automatically" install all the drivers required to get your integrated video, audio, and LAN to work. The Intel Express Installer CD for the D850EMVR motherboard wouldn't run on Vista. Perhaps again this was due to a security feature implemented by Vista, for which there may well be a cure as there was for XP SP2. However, being impatient, I decided to install the drivers manually, either from the original CD or downloads from Intel's support site. Here's the results of those efforts:

INF - Problems installing, not sure of what did or did not install. VISTA offers the opportunity to "reinstall using suggested settings. After allowing the install to continue under those conditions, something in the form of chipset installation support code appears to have been installed. A second try later on using downloaded (and most current) INF file hung up, and may have been prevented by a successful first attempt.

LAN - This was not a good test, as the motherboard's integrated LAN circuitry quit working a few years ago. I had installed a Linksys NIC card to compensate. The Linksys NIC card installed properly from the supplied Linksys driver CD.

AUDIO - Mixed bag here. First installation didn't work, so I downloaded audio drivers from Intel and tried again. This time something seems to have worked, as I do have audio at this time.

When all was said and done, I had no "warnings" showing under device manager, so I can only assume that what needed to be installed, got installed. It could be that many of these motherboard drivers are being supplied on the Vista installation DVD, obviating the need to do a separate install from Intel's motherboard CD. That would be nice.

Having endured these efforts, I then wanted to see if some of the utilities and software "tools" we use would load and run. Here's the results of those tests:

OTHER TOOLS/UTILITY INSTALLATIONS:

Video Card Drivers: I'm using an nVIDIA-based video card. nVIDIA provides a beta version of their drivers for VISTA. You can download this for free from the nVIDIA web site. See nVIDIA link in right-hand column. As it was, I had no problems with the video display after the Vista installation, so once again Vista may have supplied the proper Vista-capable drivers from its installation CD.

Antivirus Protection: Antivirus protection doesn't currently exist for VISTA, save for the VISTA recommended Trend Micros's "PC-Cillan, Beta Version" that you can download for free from the PC-Cillan web site. This application seems to have a few bugs in it as well, which hopefully will be worked out as time goes by and the release date for Vista draws nearer. For example, I had to disable its firewall protection to enable downloads from Intel's web site. Download would hang after about 4MB of data was downloaded, which then had to be restarted. After I disabled PC-Cillan's firewall protection, the downloads worked properly. Click on the link in the right-hand column "Anti-everything for Vista" to obtain your free copy of this beta application.

Print Server: I've got a 4-year old (or more) Print Server made by NetGear. They supplied a utility that "automatically" builds ports and assists in connecting networked printers to your PC. This application only partially installed, and wouldn't complete a network printer installation. The alternative was to manually build the ports and install the printer drivers. Not for the faint of heart. The available HP5000 LaserJet printer drivers for Windows XP seem to work OK under Vista.

DVD Codecs: A surprise right out of the box was that Media Center is included with Vista's Ultimate edition. This brings with it the Codecs needed to play DVDs on your PC. Heretofore, if you purchased a DVD-capable drive having no bundled DVD-playing software, you had to purchase software (PowerDVD, etc.) which would include the necessary codecs to play the DVDs.

CPUZ: I've been using this free utility for a couple of years now...when executed, it displays information about your system relating to the motherboard, memory, BIOS, CPU, etc. This utility installed and functions just fine with Vista! :-) Click HERE to visit their web site.
 

The next items of interest relate to the standard, work-a-day applications we all know, love and use on a regular basis. These programs are the ones we'd normally purchase, install, and use on a regularly occurring basis to perform some task with our PCs such as word processing, video editing, photo editing, etc.

APPLICATIONS:

Microsoft Office 2007: Needless to say, as Microsoft will launch VISTA in January (supposedly), Office 2007 has been made to be compatible with VISTA. All of the Office 2007 applications loaded with no problems, and with limited experimentation all seemed to function just fine. All of these applications have a new look and feel to them, with re-organized and more intuitive toolbar functions, etc. Heavily graphic-display intensive. You'd better have a good video card installed in your system, having as much onboard video memory as you can afford. Try to install a video card that has 250MB of video RAM if possible! The video card in our test bed system has 128MB, and seems to function OK, but then, this is a slow system comparatively which may mask the relative slowness of a 128MB video memory card. The Office 2007 applications I installed and tested include:

Word
Excel
Access
Publisher
InfoPath
PowerPoint
Visio
One Note
Groove
Outlook
Project
SharePoint (Web Page Authoring)

ADOBE PRODUCTS:

On 8 Aug 2006 I received the following info from Adobe regarding their products and plans to update them regarding the intro of Vista. Keep this feedback in mind as you contemplate upgrading your Adobe products:

"...however, they actually troubleshoot issues like this. When products do not run, or error out, the issue is usually considered a "Complementary Support" issue, and is free of charge. Because this is a Beta operating system, a solution is not guaranteed.

As of yet, there are no plans to update current versions of Adobe products to run on Windows Vista. The release of this operating system is still off a ways. Adobe Systems is looking forward to supporting this operating system, however, in it's release form with the next release of products.

Also, please be aware that our support plans are not in the $1000's.
Technical support has either a per-incident charge (if the issue is billable), or you can purchase a support plan for $159 (for one single product for one year), or 299 (for as many products as you want/own, for one year). Both plans include a toll-free number to call, and priority queuing."


Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0:

This is a Video NLE program containing the most important and most-used pieces of its more expensive relative, Premiere Pro...or whatever they name it these days. Works fine with XP, not so with VISTA. There are compatibility issues reported by VISTA when you attempt to install this application. VISTA offers the opportunity to find solutions...in this case there were none.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0:

Again, this is a pared-down version of its bigger cousin, Photoshop CS. This application experienced a few problems (as reported by VISTA) during installation. VISTA suggested a link to a solution on Adobe's web site, but when going there found none. This application eventually installed as I clicked the "next" buttons, and appears to work OK as seen by limited experimentation. [Note: Photoshop Elements 5.0 seems to install and work OK. Haven't detected any problems as of yet.]

PhotoImpact:

Prior to using Photoshop, I used ULEAD's PhotoImpact. I still use PhotoImpact to edit web page graphic objects. It is a well-rounded graphics application that works with both photos and web page graphic elements. This application installed and seems to work OK. The only problem I've found so far is the Icon that gets placed on your desktop is a generic icon, not the one supplied by PhotoImpact. Otherwise, and again with limited experimentation, this application seems to work OK.

WS_FTP:

This application is as old as the hills, having been around for many years...and which has gone through several versions as well. The most current version, WS_FTP Pro 2006, would not install. I received a message indicating "Secure loader used to protect this S/W has encountered a fatal error. Contact vendor." This could have been a problem of conflict with the PC-Cillan software. I successfully installed an older version (8.03) which worked just fine.

Easy Media Creator:

There seems to be a new version of this released every 6 months or so! I tried installing version 7 (I believe they're up to version 8.0 or so at this time), and encountered a few problems depending upon which of its many modules you are going to install. VISTA offered to check for solutions again, but as expected it found none. I continued with the install by punching through the "next" buttons, and finally got to the end of the process. I tried running what was most important to me at the time "Creator Classic," the application I use most to burn CDs. It worked just fine. I don't know which, if any, of the other modules installed are working properly or not after my limited testing.


And so...this wraps up my initial experiences with VISTA. Hope you'll find this somewhat informative if not amusing. Just as in the past when we upgraded from Windows DOS, 3.1, 95, 95SE, ME, NT, 2000, and XP, we're more than likely going to see problems with some motherboard drivers, external and internal peripherals, and incompatible applications...some, if not all, of which must be upgraded with new drivers or applications compatible with Vista to finally once again arrive at a functional system. To test your current system to see which hardware or software you MAY have problems with should decide to upgrade to VISTA, click on the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor link in the right-hand column.

And finally, if you have a system that performs adequately at whatever it is you do, if your applications provide all the functionality you need, and you're not having any hardware or software problems with your current PC...you may be better off to keep what you have and forget about upgrading at this time. The added expense in terms of money and frustration upgrading an older system and/or its peripherals may not be worth it to you. If, on the other hand, if you're looking to invest in a new system, give Vista some serious thought.


Good luck!

 

To learn more about Vista, visit these links:

WINDOWS VISTA HOME PAGE 

VISTA EDITIONS

WINDOWS VISTA EXPRESS UPGRADE

WINDOWS VISTA CAPABLE PC

WINDOWS VISTA UPGRADE ADVISOR

WINDOWS IE VS 8.0

WINDOWS MEDIA PLAYER VS 11

nVIDIA GRAPHIC CARD DRIVERS FOR VISTA

Security Products for Vista

CPU-Z