Windows Vista – Two months later

How does Microsoft’s new operating system fare with my daily tasks?

It has been two months since Microsoft Windows Vista was launched on January 30th 2007, and since then I have been using it on my new PC, built specifically for this new operating system. This machine is to be a non-gaming system, as I have an Xbox 360 that occupies that role now.

Since Microsoft introduced Windows XP back in 2001, it has matured into a rock solid, robust operating system that is arguably the most popular operating system (OS) in the world. Most XP users will be hesitant to upgrade to Vista, and who can blame them? Windows Vista has been one of the most talked about OS’s I have ever seen, for almost all the wrong reasons really.

I use two versions of Vista on a daily basis. Windows Vista Premium resides on my main home PC, while my work PC has Vista Business edition. I will most possibly be purchasing an additional license in future for my second media PC, which resides downstairs. As mentioned earlier, I’ve been using Vista since its release, so this article will detail my experiences with this new operating system.

The installation for this OS was incredibly rapid taking just 23 minutes. I was up and running in no time, but now faced obtaining drivers for all my hardware and external devices. This was an annoying enough procedure on Windows XP, and I already expected a lot of hassle obtaining them for Vista. Therefore, you can imagine my surprise when Vista’s final setup phase detected and installed hardware drivers for almost every bit of hardware I had. I have to admit, I was quite impressed and somewhat relieved at the same time, as I realised I could be up and running with Vista quicker than I expected. Not everything was recognised though…

I had two hardware devices that had no drivers installed, and Vista attempted to search for them on the Windows Update site without any success. These two devices were my Creative Labs Audigy 2 soundcard, and my external Nebula DigiTV Freeview box. Luckily, a quick fix for the latter device was quickly found. I could use BDA drivers for my DigiTV card and then via Windows Media Center I was able to watch TV with full almost functionality.

I am surprised by the amount of devices that do not play ball with Vista though. Driver support for the OS has been rather slow and I expected a lot of hardware to at least be supported by Vista’s internal driver repository. Sadly, this is not the case. I could go out to the shops right now and pick out a random item, say a HP Scanner and be quite sure that there would be no Vista drivers available for it on the internet, or within Vista itself. The common excuse from driver vendors right now is that “they are being worked on, and are in beta”, which simply just is not good enough.

If there is one hardware component that I could mention that has given me (and almost any other user) the most amount of trouble, it would be the soundcard arena. My main rig was kitted out with a Creative Labs Audigy 2 soundcard, a superb piece of kit that performed flawlessly in Windows XP. Yet in Vista, it is a completely different ball game. Due to Vista’s new Wave API, which aims to give us low latency, high quality audio a fatal flaw has been highlighted in Creative’s drivers. This flaw is well known by gamers and hardware enthusiasts alike. Simply put, the flaw is that Creative drivers are bloated and messy and it now shows thanks to Vista’s strict new API. Even to this date Creative have yet to release fully functional XFI drivers, let alone Audigy 2 ones.

In complete frustration, I have opted to purchase a card from Auzentech known as the X-Meridian 7.1, which utilises the C-Media CMI-8788 HD audio processor. Their Vista drivers are superb and the card itself blows any XFI off the planet, given that it has been the most over-the-top feature packed soundcard for some time. RealTek have released numerous drivers for their built in motherboard audio solutions and guess what? They actually do work, although they are not fully functional at this moment. They have made Creative look completely poor by comparison. One look at the Creative forums just shows how many upset XFI/Audigy Vista owners exist out there. Creative had access to Vista for over nine months according to users who were in their beta programme so there isn’t any excuse. A sad state of affairs indeed.

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