Yeah, alright... I'm a geek. Duh. I've been waiting all year for a build of Longhorn / Windows Vista that would run well on my Toshiba Tecra M4. You've seen me whine and moan about how terrible all the other builds have been. It's a good thing I wasn't allowed to talk about 5259... cause that wouldn't have been pretty. But Microsoft finally came through for me and all the other beta testers with the most stable version of Windows Vista yet.. Build 5270.
Now, other testers have had great experiences, and I'm not bagging on Microsoft... I know it's a beta. But while Microsoft has been dogfooding Vista builds for months, I haven't been able to use a single release for more than 72 hours without getting pissed and reformatting my hard drive. I got so tired of wasting the time every 5 weeks, that I finally broke down and bought Norton Ghost, which admittedly I should have done a long time ago.
Everything about the 5270 experience was great. Even though the DVD had Longhorn Server on it, it was still several hundred megabytes smaller than previous builds. Microsoft finally ditched the Driver Compatibility Pack, which ultimately took up about half of space on the ISO. Installation was a breeze, even though upgrading was not supported. The new installation UI was nice. Some people have said it's Aero Glass, for the record, it's not... it's just reskinned to look like Glass. It's actually an image... probably a JPG or PNG file. I'm still confused as to why you set a computer name before installation starts, and you set it again while creating a profile, but I'm sure that's on the list to be cleaned up.
Installation was much shorter when I started the process from a mounted ISO in XP than it was on a clean install from DVD. It's probably due to DVD transfer rates on the WIM image, so it wasn't a big deal. I tell you what, though... for a boxed product, I think it would be neat if Microsoft sold Windows Vista on a branded USB2 key or external hard drive... install would be way faster. Anyways, after the first boot, it automatically connected to Windows Update to grab the drivers formerly in the XP Driver Compatibility Pack... which was really nice. There were even new drivers in there for my sound card and modem.
But alas, none of the other Tablet-related drivers work. It's not that Windows Vista crashes, it's just that I get a bunch of errors like "Can't get ACPI namespace" and that kind of crap. It would be nice if, as a beta tester, we could interact with hardware vendors as well, but because I'm not on campus bugging the crap out of every Windows developer I can find, I can't get my hands on anything decent.
I was, however, able to get LDDM display drivers working, though. They're the generic GeForce Go 6600 drivers, not for the 6600 TE, but it works. The resolution doesn't go up to the exact resolution of my screen, but it's close enough. I've heard rumors about M4-specific drivers, but after all the false rumors going round about the status of Vista over the last few months (5276, no Beta 2, anyone?) I'm not gonna believe it till I see it.
The OS speed was really slow the first few times I used it. But I've noticed that my computer runs much faster under solid LDDM drivers than it does my XP ones. Microsoft's made some great strides there. Speaking of which, here's an interesting observation: Office "12" runs at least 5x faster under LDDM-enabled Windows Vista than it does under Windows XP. It even runs better on Windows Vista than Office 2003 does on XP. Outlook "12" opens up in about about second for me, whereas Outlook 2003 takes anywhere from 7-15 seconds to load. Not bad for an "unsupported" scenario.
The OS is killer, too. The UI is much cleaner, I LOVE the new Start Orb, and the fit and polish is definitely starting to come into place. It feels much more stable, and really responsive. MCE is cleaner, the animations are crisper, and it crashes far less often. They still don't have it working right in Glass... now instead of crashing, the window goes black. Hey, at least I don't have to reboot when it fails.
There are several things that I don't like, though... and a few I can't stand. The Network Center is a great idea... but I want to be able to see my connection in the System Tray. Often, that's the quickest way to know that I'm connected, and it helps me troubleshoot VPN issues. Speaking of VPNs, I don't like that it takes several more clicks to get to your network connections than it used to. And it takes more clicks to get to my display properties too, which is also annoying.
The most annoying thing, by far, is User Account Control (UAC). For power users, it's probably the most annoying thing ever invented. For end users, they buy Windows preconfigured with a bunch of apps, so they probably won't encounter it as much. But there's no way to disable it for a few days while you're setting up a clean install, or even shut it off for a few hours. There ought to be a way to tie the protection to a USB key, so that while it's in, you're not bugged about it. The whole point is to not run as an administrator, but that's exactly what I'm doing to avoid being bothered by it. I haven't had a virus or spyware in years.. I don't need my computer doing for me what I'm smart enough to do on my own.
The only real thing I have left to do is install Virtual PC so I can run my development environment. If the OS proves itself stable throughout the rest of the year, I might even install all the WinFX/VS2005 stuff and see what that experience is like.
At any rate, thanks Microsoft for waiting to put out a decent build. You guys have done a great job. I just hope you guys don't stop taking feature requests in January while there's still for 4 months of testing. And here's to hoping that I don't have to wait for Cupid or a Leprechaun to bring me working Toshiba drivers...