A Developer’s View of Vista

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…

5 Responses to “A Developer’s View of Vista”

  1. L Hodges Says:

    Hi Dan, Always enjoy your writing. Another idea is to have 2 computers, one Vista and one XP. Connect 2 monitors to the Vista computer, then run the XP computer as a remote connection from Vista. This way you can have XP on one monitor and Vista on the other (or any other combination). Probably the same result as using Virtual PC except you keep your hardware separate. Also, for the first time in probably ever, I’m not bashing MS. I like Vista.

  2. Eric Says:

    Dan, I’ve always liked you and your fancy moustache. It’s been a while since I’ve even thought of you though, so it was nice to get your mailer in my email box this morning. It doesn’t look like you update this blog that often, but I did notice that you have written a book on finance a while back. Since I’ve always valued your opinion (or at least found it interesting), I’m going to head over to Amazon.com and purchase it.

  3. Dan Says:

    L: I do the remote access game as you describe except the other way around – access the Vista machine from my main XP development system. Virtual PC has particular value in my case in that the Vista machine is a laptop – and I won’t always have an XP system to connect to via Remote Access.

  4. Bill Vaughn Says:

    Thanks Dan. I have found the same issues and perhaps a few more. I just finished debugging an issue with my new monitor (bought for my dedicated Vista system). As a second monitor it would work fine in XP–but not in Vista. It was not until I switched the video cables (and got a working version of the monitor) that I figured this out. While the monitor would come up, it would not resolve to the right resolution.
    Yes, I agree. I have enough hassle in my life as it is to try to tempt the furies and install Vista anywhere critical. All of my demos work fine on XP–without a VPC.

  5. Andy Turner Says:

    Dan, I love Virtual PC. I could go on about it for days. I honestly think in many scenarios it’s the way to go with running different services or different versions of the same applications on the same hardware and ensuring that they don’t clash. They’re so easy to back up and redeploy too, and for client presentations and demonstrations, they’re superb. Oh, and the way MS is starting to issue demos as VHD files (VSTS and Orca I’ve played with lately), just rocks.
    However, I wonder if Microsoft is heading towards a licensing headache. Somehow it feels unfair if I have to licence the OS for each VPC as well as the real OS, even if they’re all on the same hardware. I kinda feel that somehow the VPC should ‘inherit’ the license from the host OS, but then that would probably be open to abuse.

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated - allow 24-48 hours for your comment to appear.