I recently got my hands on a copy of Microsoft’s latest offering in the form of desktop software, Vista and Office 2007. I have also acquired some new 64 bit Core 2 Duo Dell computers in order to test the new software for deployment though I have also been testing the new offerings on older hardware in order to determine which machines will need to be depreciated in the next year or two.
First I went ahead installed Office 2007 on my Windows XP desktop. As with most Office installs I was able to customize an install file so that I can skip on the license agreements, serial number and all of the other annoying stuff. I’m pretty impressed overall with the office install. The look of Office has been improved to use a ‘ribbon’ interface which is to improve productivity. Many users have already had issues using the “Office Button” which incorporates many of the functions that “file” button previously did. This is a common hang up with major releases from a software vendor; end-users will have to take time to become acclimated with the new functions. A trick feature I just picked up on recently was just hitting the “alt” key will highlight the shortcut’s to all of the current functions on the “ribbon” toolbar.
Vista was next on the list for testing. From the start I figured the install would be large since we had to rip the ISO image to a DVD. We started off with a 1.8 AMD with 512 MB of system memory. I knew running a video card with 64 MB of memory would limit the operating systems’ capability graphics wise but I needed a real world baseline in which Vista could run without aggrevating end-users with slowly responding applications. The install was very simple although I did provide a answer file so I wouldn’t have to bother with serial numbers and whatnot. Once Vista was up and running I was happy with the performance overall for the base install. Next I added a beta version of McAfee antivirus for Vista, Office 2007, and some statistical software such as SAS, Gams, Guass, and Limdep. The machine did slowdown somewhat mainly due to background services and the lack of memory didn’t help things much but this did give me a baseline for which machines would be able to handle Vista performance wise.
Next was the 64 bit Vista install on 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo chips, 1 gigabyte of memory, and 512 MB of video memory. These machines are amazing, Vista of course allows for the full blown user interface including Aero which provides for some pretty cool eye candy. I was able to load this machine down and it wasn’t phased at all. For a $1000 dollars (not including monitor) these machines are going to be the way to go for user’s that want the full Vista experience.
The final test to make Vista useable was to add it to the domain. I was able to add the machines to the domain without a hiccup. Setting up Outlook with the Exchange server was even easier since it picked up the domain credentials from the currently logged in user. That is where the fun ended. Vista employs User Access Controls (UAC) so the domain policy’s made software installation rather annoying at least. The lab computers were even worse because we log users in as guests so profiles are not stored eating up drive space. Vista applies the group policies to all accounts, even accounts that are not on the domain so the only fix was to move a computer out of the organizational unit (OU) before installing software so the restrictions aren’t there and then moving it back in when done.
In summary I am impressed with Vista (with the right hardware) but have a lot of tooling to do in order to find all of the benefits. I figure a desktop computer with a 2 GHz processor, 512 Mb system memory, and 128 Mb video memory should be the baseline for us.