(I’m pretty bad at this blogging thing. It’s been quite a while.)
Two posts ago I was going to go open-source with my home computers. This was partially an attempt to be legitimate with the software that I use, and partially an attempt to get away from Microsoft software. Those two things tend to go hand in hand, because the expensive software that I use is all Microsoft (OS and office suite), so getting rid of MS means I wouldn’t have to steal/crack/borrow software anymore.
Well, then I found out I get Office through my place of employment for the cost of shipping the CD — about $25. And I found a cheap place to buy a real copy of XP. We already owned a copy of Windows 98 for use on the laptop. So, just like that, legitimacy.
Anyway, I’ve now taken a further step down the M$ road: installing the beta version of Windows Vista. As stupid as it is to jump on the bandwagon and make a totally unnecessary move to a totally unnecessary operating system, I’m really tired of the old Win98-style interface which has been in use for almost a decade (did anyone ever like the XP interface?).
The move required a hardware upgrade — a major one. I tried running it on the AthlonXP 2400+ with 768 MB RAM that I bought back in 2003… not good. It reminded me of the first time I installed Windows 95 on a 386… it ran, but not well. Aero wouldn’t run, everything loaded really, really slowly and it crashed whenever we tried to switch users.
So we bought a new board (Asus M2NPV-VM), CPU (Athlon 64 3200+ Socket AM2), video card (a Leadtek with GeForce 7300 GS) and 2 gigs of DDR2. Kept the IDE hard drives for now.
Put it together, reinstalled Vista, and spent two days screwing with drivers trying to get everything working. Most of the problems were found between the keyboard and chair — I turned a couple of features off in the BIOS before installation, which hampered installation of those drivers slightly (for instance, “HD Audio” sounds like some sort of fancy new audio system, not the basic, onboard audio). Once I enabled it, the onboard sound installed using a default Windows driver, which means I only get two channels and can’t seem to pipe the Line-in directly to the speakers.
A lot of people have had trouble with scanners and cameras because no new drivers have been released (at least not by Canon) for Vista. Following a tip I found on the web, I installed the WIA driver found on the install disc for our CanoScan 4200F. The WIA driver was intended for XP, but it does install in compatibility mode (which Vista handles automatically). Once installed, I can get that driver to recognize the scanner and even calibrate it — but it refuses to scan. The only other thing I cannot get working is Motorola USB drivers and PhoneTools — still working on that.
The new Aero interface is cool… maybe it sucks my resources out the window, but I’ll use it. Like I said, I’m sick of “Windows Classic” despite its functionality. I’m not sure if it’s my video drivers or the beta, but there’s a lot of artifacting onscreen, for instance, when I click on an item on the Start Menu and everything fades away. It doesn’t crash though.
The “recent programs” feature on the new Start Menu is nice — I’ve been wishing for that for ten years. “Default Programs” is more user-friendly but seems to have lost some power. The Control Panel is a huge mess, but I’m getting used to it.
Overall, I like it, if only because it’s a change of scenery. Plus, it’s legitmately free until the end of next June — can’t go wrong there.
EDIT: The limitations to the audio system are gone now. I installed the XP version of the SoundMax driver from the Asus website and it seems to work great. Other than the scanner, it does seem that most driver problems can be solved by using either the default Vista drivers or the Windows XP drivers (this for the 32-bit version of Vista).