As you may recall, several months ago I installed the so-called "Release Candidate 1" version of Microsoft's latest consumer operating system, Vista. You may also recall that it was an absolutely horrid experience and I re-install Windows XP in a matter of days. Well, Vista was officially released recently so I decided to give it another try.
During my RC1 trial, there were a few items that were deal-breakers that made me install Win XP again. One of these was the inability for me to control the jet engine fan speed on my ATI X800XL video card. With XP, I was using Ray Adams' ATI Tray Tools program which allows for the control of fan speed (and thus the resulting noise) in software. Ray has pretty much declared that he won't be porting ATI Tray Tools to Vista anytime soon, so I had to find another solution. There are no other software solutions, so I tried to go the hardware route which consists of replacing the stock cooling fan with a thrid-party assembly. Much recommended on the Internet was Artic Cooling's ATI Silencer Rev 5, however, it was discontinued and is no longer available. My local computer store had a Zalman VF-700 in stock, which reportedly also worked well with my card. After about 40 minutes of work, I had the replacement cooling fan installed and in the 5-volt mode it is virtually silent. That's one down.
Next, I was distressed that RC1 didn't support my Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 sound card, which is connected via coax digital cable to my Logitech Z-5500 speaker system. Creative now has revised "beta" Vista drivers so I decided to give it go. As it turns out, the beta drivers work mostly fine and the coax digital out on the sound card works great. That's two down.
Last on my list of deal-breakers with Vista RC1 was the fact that my brand-new (then) Logitech QuickCam Fusion wouldn't work. Logitech released new drivers a day before Vista's official release and the QuickCam now works fine, too. That's three down and none left. So I now have a clean-install of Vista on my home PC, completely replacing XP.
The upgrade wasn't completely without aggravation, however. Vista still refused to recognize my motherboard's integrated Intel RAID array out-of-the-box. I was lucky in that the USB thumb drive I had used to install the driver during my RC1 fiasco had remained untouched since then, so the RAID driver was still on it. The driver loaded without any fuss and Vista installed fine afterward. Next was getting my usual set of software installed, which consists of such things as Microsoft Office and Visual Studio 2005. These are on my hard drive as ISO images downloaded from MSDN. My usual ISO mounting software (Nero ImageDrive) doesn't yet work on Vista, so I had to try something else. MagicISO worked once, but gave me error messages on every restart after that. Virtual CloneDrive seems to work at first, but throws read errors during an install. For Visual Studio 2005, I had to burn the image to a physical DVD in order to get it installed.
I have a couple of last complaints with my Vista experience so far. As I mentioned above, I have an ATI X800XL video card and it has the ability to capture video from a composite or s-video source. Well, it HAD that ability before I upgraded to Vista. ATI's official Vista drivers have dropped support for the video-in feature of this card, and there doesn't appear to be any committment to restore them in the near future. And, while I was going through the Windows Media Center set up procedure, my computer blue-screened during my second 5.1 audio sound test.
Despite these issues, Vista remains on my machine and I have no intention of putting XP back on. Most things work fine, and the supplied Microsoft printer drivers were even able to see and print to my networked Brother MFC-8840DN all-in-one unit (though I can't scan or fax from it yet). I'm confident that driver updates from vendors will fix most of my problems over the next couple of months. In the meantime, Vista is a pleasant enough upgrade from XP, if only in the paint job and visual appearance department. As a collegue of mine (who also owns a Mac) said, "It's like using a Mac, except it has applications."