Sunday, January 21, 2007

On the bleeding edge

I have been running Vista Ultimate x64 (RTM Build 6000) since November 17, 2006 when it was initially made available to MSDN subscribers. Prior to that, I also installed and tested both Vista Release Candidates 1 and 2. In fact, I built both Blackbird and Nighthawk specifically to run Vista.

Since installing Vista on Blackbird, I have spent a lot of time searching for device drivers, and scouring numerous forums and news groups for Vista tips and help so that I can use my various computer devices and programs with Vista. Device drivers are either not available and if they are available, the device drivers are in beta and incomplete in functionality. Some programs also do not work very well in Vista, if at all. I probably made it more difficult for myself in choosing to run the 64-bit version of Vista.

The retail version of Vista will soon be available to the general public in 9 days.

Unless you have a lot of time and patience looking and waiting for device drivers and updated programs which work well with Vista, I would recommend waiting until more device drivers become available and the many kinks are worked out. I still have my Windows XP Professional system available as my primary system although I use Vista as much as possible.

Preparing to install Vista on Nighthawk

My plan is to install Vista Ultimate x64 (RTM Build 6000) in a RAID0 array and from a Plextor PX-755SA SATA DVD-RW optical drive, both of which are connected to the Intel ICH8R Controller on my ASUS P5B Deluxe WiFi-AP motherboard.

The Intel ICH8R Controller settings in the ASUS 0804 BIOS of Nighthawk are: SATA Configuration is "Enhanced" and "Configure SATA as RAID."

I made 2 changes in BIOS: Vanderpool Technology was enabled since I plan to run VirtualPC which may take advantage of Intel's virtualization technology; and the "Memory Remap Feature" was also enabled so Vista can take full advantage of the 4GB of memory installed in Nighthawk.

I was specially concerned about enabling the "Memory Remap Feature" since it was not clear how it would impact the existing 32-bit Windows XP MCE 2005 operating system already installed on Nighthawk. I am happy to report that Windows XP MCE 2005 works properly and the only impact of enabling the "Memory Remap Feature" is that Windows XP MCE 2005 can now only access 2GB of physical memory instead of 2.9GB it previously could access.

The last step in my preparation for installing Vista was to gather the latest drivers for the Intel ICH8R and JMicron Controllers, just in case they are required by the Vista installation process.

No drivers needed

The Vista installation on Nighthawk was started at 4:42 PM.

The "upgrade" option is disabled in the RTM release, but this option will be available in the retail version of Vista.

Vista recognized the 2 RAID0 disk arrays in Nighthawk. Since the first RAID0 array contains Windows XP MCE 2005, I selected the second RAID0 array to create a new partition to install Vista Ultimate x64 (RTM Build 6000).

At 5:00 PM (eighteen minutes later), Vista restarted from the RAID0 array for the first time to complete the installation. The screen went blank twice and Vista restarted for the second time without any warning message.

At 5:05 PM with the 2nd restart, I was presented with the Boot Manager menu to select Vista or the "previous version of Windows." I selected Vista and was prompted to select a username and password. Vista then executed a "Performance Check" and Nighthawk was assigned a Windows Experience Index base score of 1.0 because of graphics performance! Keep in mind that Nighthawk has a BFG 8800GTS graphics card installed. One can't get any lower than this score.

At 5:10 PM, Vista restarted for the 3rd and final time for the installation process. Vista immediately checked for and installed updates, including the following: driver for the Hauppauge PVR-150 TV tuner, Definition Update for Windows Defender, an update for Windows Mail Junk Email Filter for x64-based Systems, and an "ATK - system - ATK0110 ACPI Utility."

The entire Vista installation took approximately 30 minutes (wall clock time) from start to finish, and it went without a hitch.

Because of the Windows Experience Index base score of 1.0, Windows Vista Basic was enabled instead of "Aero." I was able to increase the screen resolution to 1600x1200, but with only 16-bit color. I was also happy to note the audio worked with the on-board SoundMax audio device.

After activating Vista online, I updated the chipset driver by using the Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility Version and installed the Intel Matrix Storage Manager Version 62.1.1002 (dated 1/4/2007).

The next step is to find and install a driver for the BFG 8800GTS graphics card so I can enable the Vista "Aero" interface and use my second monitor.

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