Last week I decided to stick it to the man once again and download the final, Release-To-Manufacturer version of Windows Vista.
Because I'm so cool, and my hardware is cutting edge I installed Vista Ultimate x64.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usBeing the final version I expected most things to run smoothly, and they did. The installation was smooth and quick. It took a while to get going but I think that was my DVD Drive. It would boot in to the disc and then my drive would just stop spinning, like it had nothing more to do. Meanwhile the screen is stuck on a Command Prompt box obviously meaning it's supposed to be doing something, but no, my DVD Drive was quite content just sitting there doing nothing. When it was eventually ready it sat up and sprang to life saying, "Oh fuck! THAT'S what I was supposed to do! Shit, sorry man."

Everything worked out of the box like you would expect it to, it found relevant drivers and installed them without hassle. Even the Windows Update worked without a restart, which is crazy delicious. One of the big pains of XP is booting up in the morning, seeing there's some new updates and setting them to download/install, and then half an hour later it asks you to reboot while you're in the middle of something. Although it could be that the Updates I installed were only minor and didn't need rebooting, I guess we'll find out eventually.

Vista is a lot faster and much more responsive than the Betas/RCs. One of the big issues I had with the Betas was that the network would taking freakin' forever. If you were browsing someone else's computer or if you were just trying to view the networked computers it would take up to half an hour. Now it's freakin' nimble.

Everything I use on a day-to-day basis works super-fine in Vista, and it's that much more enjoyable to work with, with their fancy animations and transitions and so forth. I find myself sitting there minimising, maximising and flip-3d-ing for no apparent reason other than enjoying the animations. The only things that don't work in Vista is my beloved Foobar2000 and Samurize (which I only use for a "now playing" thing on my desktop anyway).

The first issue I ran into was my dual monitor setup just doesn't work. I'm guessing it's ATI's drivers, they are notorious for bogus drivers. I think the issue is that it can't find my second video output on my video card, since I only get one video card in my device manger and display settings, as opposed to X1600XT Primary and X1600XT Secondary in XP. The second monitor still works though, it's just exactly the same as the other monitor. It makes playing games very confusing.

I was enjoying my Vista experience until it blew up New York. I booted in to XP for some reason, and when I came back to Vista it failed to boot. According to this very concise error report, my winload.exe is either missing, or corrupt. And that I should probably stick my Vista disc back in and do a Startup repair. I followed these instructions and it worked swimmingly. Until I rebooted again. Same deal. Winload.exe was missing or corrupt. Repairing it again worked. Suspicious, I rebooted again and lo and behold. It corrupted itself again. After about the fifth time it just refused to be fixed. The repair tool would say it was fixed but it really wasn't. Their probably in cahoots to make my life miserable.
A google search reveals that I'm not the only one getting this, and it was apparently a pretty big issue with the betas/rcs. I used Beta 1, Beta 2 and the RC1 and had no such issue. It seems to be related only to XP/Vista dual-boots, which is what I have. Had.
I tried doing a System Restore, but Vista in all of it's amazing intelligence decided not to make a restore point after a successful installation.
Other people seem to attribute the issue to the x64 versions. So reluctantly I re-installed Vista, this time with the x86 Ultimate.
I was back in Vista in no time. Well, once my DVD Drive started spinning again.

I decided to hop on MSN and see how that ran under Vista. I don't know if I was supposed to download a special Vista version of Windows Live Messenger or something but as soon as I opened it my CPU Usage went to 100% and decided to stick around even after closing MSN, in true Windows fashion. I had to open up the Task Manager and kill the process. Yes, this is definitely a Windows operating system.

Speaking of games, I tried a few out on Vista. The most amazing thing is that my very dead-in-XP video card works absolutely fine in Vista. I was playing RoboBlitz (possibly the best game in the world) for four hours and my video card didn't overheat once. That's ama-za-zing!
I was getting some pretty crazy glitches in Counter-Strike: Source. One instance had my team-mate killing an enemy and their dead body appearing right in front of me in mid-air (on my crosshair to be exact), causing me to freak out and my heartbeat becoming immeasurable. After that I noticed randomly appearing people every now and then. Thankfully it wasn't during gunfights or any other important times. I'm still not sure if it's caused by Vista or if it has anything to do with the recent Steam outages.
I was happily playing Need for Speed: Most Wanted until it crashed after maybe 20 minutes. I remember it used to crash in XP occasionally as well. I couldn't recall if that was just an issue with the demo or the retail. I really should stop "testing" games that are known to be unstable. According to a compatibility list it apparently runs fine, along with the best NFS ever, Need for Speed III. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a whole division dedicated to making NFS3 run super-fine in Vista.
BF2 appeared to be running well. After playing BF2142 it just wasn't the same.

I woke up this morning and surprise, surprise, winload.exe is missing or corrupt. How unexpected! Luckily this time I made a System Restore point after re-installing. I'm not sure if it's really going to be worth restoring, or even playing with Vista at all if it's constantly going to corrupt itself. Hopefully by the time retail hits they'll have a patch out on Windows Update. Another neat feature of Windows Vista is that if you install/update from within another operating system and have Internet connectivity you can allow the Vista to install updates from Windows Update while you're installing Vista.

Update: So I decided to try and do a system restore. First I decided to try a Startup Repair so I don't lose my settings and what not, but it failed in every way. It took about 10 minutes to find the error and report that it couldn't fix it. I could send an error report to Microsoft though, but there was no networking from the disc, so I don't really know what they wanted me to do with this report. I read the report anyway and it turns out there was a "bad driver". So I tried to boot back in to Vista and I got no winload error, it started up fine. Except for having no display. Or audio. Or any actual sign of it getting any further than the progress bar. So I rebooted again, this time in to Safe Mode. It was getting stuck when it tried loading the "crcdisk.sys" driver. After a bit of googling it turns out it's not actually getting stuck on that one, it's just the last driver to load. Someone suggested removing or renaming pcmcia.sys, as that apparently can cause some issues. I booted in to Safe Mode to be sure and hazaa! Safe mode. I booted in to Vista and it's working fine. I'll update when it inevitably implodes next.
The general vibe with these issues relate to external USB hard-drives, of which I have three. So I'm expecting to constantly be fucked up the arse with Vista.