BETAing around the bush


Since I started in my new job, I've set up a new laptop with all the tools I need, and also tried to comply with company standards regarding software. Company being a rather noticeable Microsoft-partner, new software are to be tried and getting familiar with and I'm feeling pretty BETA right now.

Let's describe my current setup: Windows Vista RTM, Office 2007, Adobe Acrobat 7.0, Microsoft SQL Server 2005 SP1 and Visual Studio 2005 SP1, not to mention Virtual PC 2007 RC.

If that means nothing to you, this may not be the article for you, but in any case let's break it down even further:

  • Initial release of a new, revolutionary OS Microsoft supposedly have rewritten from scratch more than once to even get working.
  • A new Office-suite totally branching off the old code-base and usability model.
  • Adobe's PDF-software which loves to dig into said Office-suite and integrate deeply.
  • Mature editions of my favourite development tools but on a not yet supported platform.
  • To finish it off: a not yet released edition of Microsoft's virtualization platform.

Sounds like good times and a sane setup, eh? Let's sum up my experience with this.


The security model in Windows Vista is radically changed from prior editions. Given all the bad press Microsoft has received the last few years security-wise, it's no surprise they are trying to do something to regain people's confidence in them.

One of the new features is the "User Account Control". Even if you are a local administrator, the system is not allowed to make system-wide changes without your consent. Think of it as sudo for Windows. While this feature probably will annoy quite a few people, I like it and think it's a change for the better.

What I don't like about this feature is how it operates. Since not all binaries have the proper meta-data or are security-tagged .NET-code, Windows will have to analyse the file to determine if it needs these privileges up-front. In short: Due to this security check, opening a WinRAR SFX with a bunch of virtual machines will take ages. This is just plain stupid.

A good feature is how you can finally manage programs that run at startup, even those hidden in the registry. Windows Vista will also automatically disable any program that launches at startup if it requires administrative privileges. I like this.


All this being new software on a brand new OS, you might expect a few hiccups here and there and you will be right.

Installing SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005, I get a pre-install notification that this software is not supported, that I should check a specific web-site for instructions and workarounds. These workarounds basically says "Wait for Service pack 2 or run it unsupported", where I chose the latter. A neat feature, but in this case, not particularly useful.

Installing Office 2007 also worked fine. Office 2007 is pretty much radically different from previous versions, but it's mostly a change for the better, and it seemed to work fine. That is, until I installed Adobe Acrobat 7.0. Adobe Acrobat's integrating-features broke Office and I had to update my version of Acrobat from 7.0 to 7.0.7 according to the information I acquired at Microsoft Knowledge Base. Good for me Adobe really knows how to do updates.

To update a user-space tool, naturally you have to reboot the machine per update. To make things smooth, these updates are only available incrementally. That is, from version 7.0 to 7.0.5 to 7.0.6 to 7.0.7. That is three reboots to update a user-space application. If this wasn't neat enough already, Vista's awesome security features also decides it doesn't like Adobe updater, blocks it's at startup and occasionally crashed it. In the end I did get the damn thing updated, and finally unb0rk Microsoft Office.

Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 RC, amazingly enough, looks just like it's predecessor and has no new fancy user-interface or anything at all. It's a virtualization-tool, it looks boring, and this is the way things should be. No negative comments here.

The user interface

Vista installed nicely, worked nicely, looks good and all that. Being accustomed to Windows 2000, what made me dislike Windows XP in the first place was how everything technical was attempted hidden, so that you needed to go trough a few extra hoops to get work done.

Vista being Microsoft's most "user-friendly" OS so far, naturally has taken this even further. But in some cases I honestly don't care how glossy the UI looks. If something that took me one click in XP now takes me four, this is the exact opposite of a improvement.

Accessibility of "advanced" features (like turning your Wifi-adapter on or off) has clearly been compromised in the name of so called user-friendliness.

The baby-sitting has also been made worse in Windows Vista. Back to my WinRAR SFX-files and the virtual machines: The default install path for the SFX was somewhere within C:\Program Files. I didn't want my VMs here, and unpacked the images to another path.

When WinRAR was done and the files were finally unpacked, Vista prompts me saying that I've probably installed them in the wrong location and offers me assistance on reinstalling things properly. Adjusting a path in a SFX to something fitting your system is detected as a incorrect installation requiring system intervention? This is sheer madness.


Performance-wise Vista really boggles me. Complex stuff like a composited 3d-desktop with real-time preview of everything happening in all windows (including playback of full-resolution HD video) presented in a stack when switching trough the windows. That is a heavy graphical stuff and it works damn nice. Multitasking, threading and CPU scheduling also all seems solid.

On the other hand simple stuff like opening Windows Explorer, a open/save-file dialogue and dead simple IO-related stuff like this can literally take multiple seconds.

The network stack is supposedly rewritten, and that may be. When downloading stuff from the internet, surfing pages and what not all seems decent. Nothing great, but it works, just like any network stack should.

What I don't get about the network stack is the LAN-performance. The performance is really, really horrible. At best I can achieve 50% network utilisation, but average seems to hover around 10 megabits. On Wifi it's even worse. I can actually download stuff from the internet faster than I can transfer stuff on the LAN.

This may be related to non-optimal and non-vendor provided default drivers. I don't know, I don't care. There is honestly no excuse for this.

Also Windows Vista seems to handle load badly. It's stable, it's not crashing, but it just seems to lock up completely when under medium or high load. Be it either virtual machines or just running heavy, time-consuming queries in SQL Server, the thing just locks up completely, and that on a dual-core system. Clearly unacceptable.


Windows Vista has the heaviest and most intrusive DRM-functionality in any OS currently available or known trough history. How does this affect me? Not in the slightest, as I do not, nor plan to use DRMed content.

Enough said.

All in all

This is probably not a optimal setup, the applications I am running are not even designed or tested for the OS itself, so blame can probably be distributed in all directions.

What I can say, is that for most I really like this setup. There's still evidently a few glitches here and there, and it shows clear signs of not running mature products on a mature platform. There are obvious things that needs major improvement, and this just seems to follow the pattern that Microsoft's products aren't really ready for prime-time until service pack 1 is released.

However, I think it looks nice, works nice, and with time it will probably be a very decent platform.

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