Archive for February 12th, 2007

A Developer’s View of Vista

Monday, February 12th, 2007

I must admit, I rather like Vista. Ok, maybe “like” is too strong a word. I certainly don’t dislike it. At the same time, I have yet to see that its benefits justify the learning curve (which is more nuisance value than a real problem). Maybe that will come with time.

I’ve played with it enough now to have come to some tentative conclusions about it – at least from a developer’s perspective.

First, I think upgrading to Vista is generally not worth the trouble. There’s still enough software that is “quirky” under Vista, and it’s demanding enough on computer resources, that if you have an XP system that’s working the way you like it you should leave it alone. I don’t believe in upgrading existing OS’s in general – plenty of time to do that when you get a new system (which you probably do every year or two anyway).

So that means going for a new system – no big deal, a decent Vista capable system is well under $1,000. But here’s where I’d suggest going a step farther. As long as you’re getting a new system anyway, get a 64 bit system and install Vista X64. The performance of 64 bit Vista on a fast machine is very nice indeed.

Next, install Virtual PC 2007 and bring up a 32 bit system of your choice (XP or Vista – or both), so you can be sure to be able to run other software you might need. Be sure to install the Virtual PC additions – they dramatically improve performance.

How do you know that your system will support 64 bit Vista? Look at the support web site and see if the vendor is shipping Vista 64 bit drivers for the machine. If you see drivers and utilities released over the past couple of months that are either 64 bit specific, or explicitly state that they support 32 and 64 bit Vista, you should be in good shape. I’ve been working on a new Thinkpad R60, which installed Vista X64 just fine without the new drivers (leading me to suspect it was one of the systems they tested it on). The new drivers and utilities are nice though in that they support the Thinkpad specific features (shock detection for the hard drive, finger print reader, custom trackpoint control, etc.) better than the Vista default drivers.

I suspect with time I’ll find more things I actually like about Vista. But for now I’ll settle for the fact that I now have a reliable 64 bit development system to play with, along with several 32 bit virtual machines that run surprisingly fast. Oh yeah, the Aero interface does look cool. Not enough reason to upgrade, but as long as it’s there anyway…