"An entirely random Eee PC image from our database."
I love you guys.
Microsoft said today it will continue to sell Windows XP Home beyond its scheduled June 30 kill-date for the emerging class of "ultra-low-cost PCs," or ULCPCs. The operating system has been granted a reprieve until mid-2010, but only for the diminutive laptops such as the Asus Eee PC and Intel Classmate PC which lack the …
You asked how, so here's my answer.
* Start weaning yourself off admin access on the desktop for day to day use. Make friends with "Switch User" and "Run As."
* Wean yourself off your security blanket. That's right. Ditch the anti-virus, third-party firewall and anti-spyware you're running. If you have to soothe your addiction, get something that already works with Vista SP1, but consider that almost half of the stuff on the shelf doesn't work anyway. (See VB100 2008 article.)
* Install XP SP2, IE7 and Windows Media Player 11. Even if you never intend to use IE7 for your regular surfing.
* Replace stuff that doesn't work with the above. This is the hardest part, and it might well take you until June 2008 to do it. Use free alternatives like Open Office 2.2 if you have to. There's working stuff out there. Honest.
Once you've done all this, you're ready to say Good Bye to your first (second?) love, and start dating Vista. She's worth it, trust me. :-)
I'm typing this on a 'going-spare-hand-me-down' laptop. With only a 400MHz 128MB, it was cruppled with all the crap that had accumulated after almost a decade of (mis)use without so much as being defragged.
After bunging in a wireless card and a fresh install of Win 95+Win98SE+avast+Firefox2 and I have a functional web browser and word processor. Ideal for when the Vista XPS M1330 is in use and I don't want to be holed up on the Dell XP box in the study. It does the job. I would have stuck with a lightweight Linux if it had got it's act together to "just work" with my wireless card. Anyway...
My work still uses more 98 machines than any other OS. For CAD work. Though thankfully. I'm on XP
My folks only just upgraded from 98 (to Vista).
Point being, the gap between top-of-the range and perfectly sufficient is widening to such a degree that Linux is gonna clean up on the bottom of the range. There's definitely an emerging market for modestly powered machines and if XP is axed too soon, Linux is waiting in the wings.
I'm fine with Vista, but I struggle to see how it's gonna fully replace XP.
Surely MS will be aware of this and their next OS will be vastly more scalable in the way that Linux offers Kubuntu+Beryl right down to Fluxbuntu (or Puppy, or DamnSmall).
OK, so I have a couple of web/file servers at home running Linux, but my HTPC, laptop, main PC and my wife's PC all run XP Pro. And, as usual, every once in a while I have to wipe a disc and re-install XP on it, go on-line to re-initialise it and then spend the rest of the day installing the updates.
Which brings us to my two questions. I do *not* want to "upgrade" to Vista - I want to continue using my *legal* copies of XP Pro. So:
1) What happens to the on-line activation once they stop "supporting" XP?
2) Anyone knows of an easy way to get all those various pesky updates and store them locally (preferably on a DVD or dedicated HDD)? I don't want to be left out in the cold once MS decides to stop supplying the patches/updates/drivers and I have to re-install XP on a PC.
Thanks for any help.
Try Windows Software Update Services. It's a common enough tool for them as has a domain, but IIRC, XP Pro will talk to it in a rather non-AD fashion with only some minor tweaking. (At least it would to WSUS's predecessor, Software Update Services.) You can tell WSUS exactly which MS platforms/apps etc. you are grabbing updates for, and it will store them locally, and that archive of updates can then be moved to another install later if you need.
Now, I admittedly am too lazy to check if WSUS supports XP Hobo, Starter, or MCE, but I know it works fine on with Pro, Vista Business/Ultimate, Server 2K3 and 2K8, and a whole wrap of other junk. (Office for example.)
Relevant to article:
IIRC, XP Starter doesn't have the active directory jibbery pokery of Pro, but is a cut down version of XP Hobo. As an SMB sysadmin, I'm not going to go find some $1500 laptop that "runs" vista to access the point of sales app, or our SaaS-based internal tools. There are an abundance of $700 machines that will do that for me now, and the price is dropping. For simple tasks, especially accessing a SaaS set of tools, there's simply no need for anything more.
There are tools for every job, but I've found little need for more than 1 or 2 Ghz worth of PC for office/SaaS work. I'll keep buying 1 or 2Ghz PCs, for the foreseeable future, just with lower and lower wattage on each new revision. Cheap little laptops fit in small spaces, can run reliably forever, and do all that's needed.
If MS takes my XP Pro away from me, Vista isn't the direction I'll be going...
Why upgrade when what one has isn't particularly badly broken ? On a 1 GHz Celeron with 512MB it runs fine for what I need to do. The reinstall every 6 months or so keeps the disk nice and clear of accumulating rubbish.
Why, if I did upgrade my PC to something whizz-bang which could run Vista, would I then want to run an OS which will take away what gain that gave; use a lightweight OS and really appreciate the performance increase.
On top of that, who wants an OS which has a UI which looks like "My first PC" ? Sadly it seems Linux desktops are going the same way.
My mom has had a hand me down (from me) 600MHZ IBM with I think 512MB ram and a spiffy 20GB HD for years now. XP has never given her really any problems and I dont see why it ever will. I'm sure she'll still be running XP long after 2014 with probably no problems, just as she has the last 7 or so years. Everyone should just relax, plenty of more things going on than operating systems in life.
Spring is here.. hit a beach instead of a keyboard!
Vista is very scalable. Just take a look at windows 2008 or vLite.
The question is why the fuck does microsoft want to shove on us the same aero, windows search, uac, etc. bullshit when it can offer a lite version with all of that disabled (and re-enableable later, like in win2k8). People would actually LIKE vista...
By 2010 there is a considerably likelihood that the ISPs will start weaning us from ipv4 through fairly brutal measures. That will do with everything pre-XP for most households.
It will also offer yet another market for linux does MSFT want it or not.
The difficulty with Linux is the amount of hardware produced by companies who are thoroughly Microsoft-only when it comes to drivers.
I was looking through a large PC store last week, and I couldn't find a single wifi adaptor, USB or PC Card, which was labelled as Linux compatible. It seems that most of us would have to struggle to install a Windows driver using some sort of "wrapper" to get it running under Linux.
Are Microsoft refusing certification to companies which support Linux?
Steven Swenson said: "At least us Linux users don't have to worry about the open source community deciding they're not going to support us anymore. Our distros will receive support for all eternity."
Just the same way that community "supports" all the WiFi cards supported on Windows? Or support the way each Linux Distro is slightly different and all popular programs "just work"? That's support as in there being just one easy way to install a program on any Linux (RPM, .deb, make source)? That's support as in when you install a Debian package on Xandros you don't risk b*ggering your whole system as some of the libraries are "upgraded" to incompatible ones?
Don't get me wrong I rather enjoy playing with Linux and think it has a place in dedicated highly customised environments, but the level of "support" available is a country mile different from Windows. Even in the much knocked Vista, these days most programs you download or buy will just work similar for most of the hardware you buy. At worst an online update makes it work and the magic of an install Wizzard takes away the pain of installation for the average user. Contrast that with me trying to get a popular WiFi card working on a popular Distro I had recently. It sort of "worked" but did not connect to my home network - turned out WPA support was not included in a standard driver and a source mod was needed. That was found by an interesting few minutes surfing forums then downloading a driver for a closely realted distro that was not actually tested on my version of the kernel. Compile, back up ond kernel just in case. Reboot, hold breath. Phew it worked.
Fun for me, hardly novice friendly though is?
I suggest you do what I do.......
Use Acronis True Image Personal (or similar software, available on magazine cover disks) to create an image of your C: drive which should be less than 4.7GB so you can save it on a DVD. (You did of course install third party SW on the P: drive (or whatever) and did store all your data on a separate drive, these two with their own backup arrangements).
Keep this C: drive image on DVD up to date as you install new SW, add-ons, plug-ins etc. Then, when your XP installation goes belly up, you just restore the C:drive from the previous saved image on DVD using the Acronis boot CD. (Then restore the P:drive from it's separate backup, just in case).
This has worked for me on three occasions so far (including a totally failed hard drive which was easily replaced), the only ongoing cost is the cost of a blank DVD for every updated image. Right now, it might be a good idea to keep the previous 'old' DVD images, just in case an automatic Windows update in the next few months goes wrong and causes XP to perform less well than it should. (Some people call me cynical).
Reinstall every 6 months? No offense, but why?
My machine running 98SE has been going strong for over two years (I bought it reconditioned) and runs better now than when I first powered it up!
I recommend Orphans Remover ( www.digiarch.org ) and TweakNow registry cleaner ( www.tweaknow.com ) to keep the cruft cleared out. They're both free, and work (at least for me).
Oh, and no matter what spyware or anti-virus you're using, I recommend using something like Startup Guard ( www.acelogix.com ) as an added layer of protection. That way, at least you get a second chance to prevent it if something slips through and tries to install itself.
It's my only Windows machine, the other two run Puppy or Vector. I keep it because some great programs run on 98 that won't run on anything else. (The same reason I have Win 3.11 running in emulation.)
First of all, hardware requirements to determine whether a machine is an ULCPC is simple. If it has a 'Vista Capable' sticker on it then it is an ULCPC!
@ Steve Swenson
Not quite true. Distros do end support for earlier versions of their products. You can't expect Fedora to keep supporting Fedora Core 1 now can you?
As far as I'm aware, activation will carry on working indefinitely. Security patches will continue to be issued until support completely stops in 2012. I'm more concerned about when W2K Server security support is going to be withdrawn. Installing patches on reinstalling should be much reduced by XP SP3 (which is already downloadable as public Beta - I'd consider doing that on a new or re-installation).
UAC is not a pain, it's 'su' or 'sudo' for Windows, and performs the same function and is there for the same reason. The implementation is remarkably similar to Ubuntu's, where you designate particular users as "administrators" but still require their confirmation to make system-wide changes or access parts of the kernel. You can turn it off, but then you've decided to make the old Windows NT/2000/XP compromise of security for the sake of usability - just as in Ubuntu you can enable and run as root if you're daft enough.
Cut down Vista without some of the eye candy? That's Home Basic isn't it?
I don't think there's any drive to "make" people upgrade their existing PCs; from a sceptical start I quite like Vista, but I wouldn't dream of upgrading an existing machine unless I very specifically wanted Media Centre (which is, or should be, if Microsoft had made more of it which they should have done, Vista's killer app). MS is, however, not surprisingly, trying to limit the number of *new* PCs out there with XP on them, not wanting to increase the XP support base further into the indefinite future.
W - "surely MS will be aware of this and their next OS will be vastly more scalable"
Yea right, lets reverse a 15 year trend. Every MS operating system has required hardware upgrades - I've run and upgraded them all at one time or another starting with Windows 3.1 - and they hit the sweet spot with Windows XP SP2, which I currently have no intention of moving beyond on my Windows-running hardware.
Given the amount of time it took to produce Vista there is no way these guys will be able to ship a new and more agile operating system without some truly radical steps. Here are just a few issues:
Backward compatibility: people want to be able to run old software on the new operating system, and for it to work.
Driver issues: every time you change your fundamental software architecture everybody has to develop new drivers.
Development cost: MS invested a shedload into Vista, they will have to do the same again. Yes they can probably afford it, but will the industry wait for another lurch sideways?
Bluntly, the success of Vista is riding on the service pack. If people get a reliable OS that performs, all will be forgiven and forgotten. If not, the installed base of Linux and OSX will only grow further.
Alex - if you take away aero, windows search and uac then you have a copy of Windows XP that has lots of new bugs introduced. And that's one problem with Vista - there is no compelling reason to move because there are no compelling new features, just eye candy...
I doubt ISPs forcing IPv6 on everyone will cause any kind of problem for people with oeprating systems that don't support it. I have several Amigas connected to my broadband, and i doubt they'll get IPv6 in time, but i'm not worried.
Right now my ADSL router maps internet connections to local machines via NAT. This could still work even if the machines on my LAN are IPv4 and the routers WAN IP address is IPv6.
"Just the same way that community "supports" all the WiFi cards supported on Windows?"
I never seen Microsoft attempt to make a wifi driver for any hardware.. the main issue with WiFi driver support is the specs of the chipset been closed or an NDA is required which any opensource dev ain't going to do..
As for installing programs on other distros from other package managers.. I agree that there needs to be a more standard way to installing things on Linux (binary installs) without the need of having to have all the libraries/headers install to compile from source.
In regards to WinXP, am amazed Microsoft haven't decided to extend the life... ahh well least security patches continue.. by the time I'll have to upgrade all my clients their machines will exceed the recommended spec by Microsoft for Vista so it should 'seem' snappy..
We could freeze all hardware right where it is and the computer industry would still produce faster computers. Software would slim down and speed up. With Vista, Microsoft is using software to drive the hardware market which does not seem to want to follow.
You can always download a new Linux distro that will be up to date and it supports most hardware. It is a shame that hardware makers don't stick a penguin on things that work on linux. It is very strange that Creative did not even want their sound cards to work on Vista. Definately something odd going on.
Is "the devil I know", it's far from perfect, some stuff still doesn't work and support is.....well.....uhhhh...... sub-prime :-)
Vista on the same kit is slower and works with even less of my existing toys.
I found Linux on an old laptop did take a while to get the wireless working, but apart from that it was fine. On newer kit I was impressed to see it go in without problems. What I also liked was when I replaced the mother board it just sorted it out for me, unlike XP which took half a day to get working again.
Anyway, where I use XP I just don't see the point in Vista. I don't want to spend the hours it's going to take to get it working and the money to replace the incompatible hardware. So, long live XP!
Yup, as I said, I was really quite excited about my foray into Linux.
Did all the background reading. Had a bash with Fluxbuntu, Xubuntu, Kubuntu, PCLinuxOS, Puppy, DamnSmall...
Still no joy with my WiFi card or even dial-up modem. No net connection = fail.
PCLinuxOS did look and feel very, very user friendly indeed to this Windows user though, so I might revisit if there's a hint of any improvement in the situation.
Come on Tux, get off yer bum and get me connected.
I'm with Frank Denton - an image of your configured disk is a good idea.
Or... wait till XP SP3 comes along, and look up a guide on slipstreaming your XP disc. Basically takes the original XP install media, merges the Service Pack on top and you create a new install disc that takes the pain out of online update.
Well....you can go along with the MS plan to "force" you to upgrade to Vista, or you can wait until you have a positive and compelling reason to move up (eg wanting DX10 gaming, or something like that).
Until then, you can consider one or more of the the following options:
Google-search "activation files" to find out how to back up the activation files from an existing Windows install - meaning that if you reinstall XP on the same box, you don't need to reactivate if you don't want to;
Download SP3 for offline installation, then use something like nLite to create your own slipstreamed XP SP3 installation media;
Get a copy of XP Corporate;
Use the likes of Norton Ghost or DriveImageXML (the latter being free) to create images of your existing hard disk, preferably directly after completing a new installation & configuration of XP, so that should disaster strike you can just swap in a new disk and re-image it, rather than having to start from scratch.
I'm quite happily still using Win98SE. There are a number of enthusiasts who have provided updates, including 48-bit LBA support so that HUGE disks are now possible (provided the BIOS supports it, of course). Someone produces an automatic patcher every few months to address OS faults discovered, and to provide a few more "must have" application updates.
The only problem is Unicode. Many software suppliers have built that in as an essential prerequisite of using their offering, limiting it to Win2K or later (unless of course someone knows of an update that has so far eluded me).
For fear of provoking another "Creative" by an even-bigger-software-bully, I have deliberately refrained from posting the links.
... ah yes, what a beauty, what a lovely white cover, what lines ...
Oh, yes, sorry, the real reason for typing... I spent a good few hours last night constructing my "new and improved" home PC. Lo gadzooks and strike me purple... the Asus P5N Sli deluxe has a motherboard setup DVD... and includes Linux drivers. Ahhhh... Is this an icon of great things to come?
Is that normal then?
I installed the OS on my main machine about 5 years ago, and it is bang up to date right now - latest versions of everything. I don't expect to re-install it even in the next 5 years either - and it will still be bang up to date then.
I heart Gentoo....
"I was looking through a large PC store last week, and I couldn't find a single wifi adaptor, USB or PC Card, which was labelled as Linux compatible. It seems that most of us would have to struggle to install a Windows driver using some sort of "wrapper" to get it running under Linux."
Not at all - just because it's not labelled Linux compatible doesn't mean that it isn't. Wrappers are available but a huge amount of hardware runs just fine natively under Linux. I'd be surprised if a manufacturer of hardware which dared to label its products as Linux-compatible didn't get a quiet call from Microsoft...
Forgetting any Microsoft bashing, and realising they cannot support a product indefinately the "encouragement" to move to Vista really does leave me in a pickle.
We are a web design agency with a small network of @20 all but one running XP Pro. Nothing new to anyone here but the Vista machine runs like a dog, it has a base Windows Experience rating of 4.5 so it should be flying AERO and other bits are switched off because it is just a simple office machine and doesn't need anything fancy. This compounded with software incompatibilities or "try it at your own risk" by even some of the biggest software manufacturers in our vertical a migration would be IT suicide (if it still counts when the users collect up their torches and pitchforks).
I am sure I am not the only person that has this problem, and I consider myself far from being a luddite, but Vista whilst it might be technically superior in many ways would be such a retrograde step in experience and productivity within our environment I hope that MS puts forward an alternate migration route.
My current box has drivers availble for all the hardware under linux, unfortunately my laptop (An HP Pavilion running Vista) has some rather odd implementations of how the screen is connected to the videocard apparently, as I've yet to get it working.
Could just be me not knowing which buttons to press though.
With any luck, in the upcoming years software writers will realise the jump to linux is coming and will start to write software (I WANT MY GAMES!) for linux and then porting to Windows (Far easier then porting from Windows to linux, in most cases)
As software is classed as goods and services and the Sale of Goods Act applies, why is it legal for Microsoft to wash their hands of support for Windows XP. It sounds to me like there is something of a gulf between their own terms and conditions and what the law requires them to do. Should be interesting to see what XP users do when they no longer have support. It's true they cannot produce a product indefinitely but they are legally required to support it, no matter what their own impossible to enforce EULA says.
While making an Image of your HDD with a fresh install is a good idea - to get an installation disk with all the updates - follow Greg's advice.
I used nLite and it saved me so much time and energy I could have kissed whoever made it.
I don't recommend you slipstream SP3 - but rather SP2 and the individual updates following - mainly because I'm against the way WGA works, and if i remember right, it's bundled with SP3.
It's nice to note XP will be supported for longer? But err... who uses MS support?
IPv6 compatibility would be a very stupid reason to switch to Vista from, say, XP. If your PC is on a NAT network, as for example on a home router, then IPv6 on the PC is irrelevant and IPv6 compatibility is a router issue not an OS issue. More importantly, Windows XP is IPv6 compatible.
"Support for Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), a new suite of standard protocols for the Network layer of the Internet, is built into the latest versions of Microsoft Windows, which include Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003, Windows XP with Service Pack 2, Windows XP with Service Pack 1, Windows XP Embedded SP1, and Windows CE .NET."
Big chunks of the NHS will continue to use XP for some years - Dell, amongst others, will be supplying new XP machines until an as-yet unknown future date - but certainly several years I believe.
I rather hope that when, in the fullness of time, XP is no longer well-enough supported to be used in clinical practice, we start the change over to Linux, rather than yet another proprietary OS.
Such a decision by a huge customer may, of course, be a big enough trigger for MS to try and pursue the various patent violations that it claims Linux has commited.
It is interesting to note that some of the big names in medical imaging - GE and Toshiba - for instance, have already partly made the switch to open source.
I'm typing this on a wonderful Linux system called PCLinuxOS. It makes Vista look slow and bloated in comparison. I have my dual monitor setup, great sound and video, multiple desktops available via a variety of hot-keys, all the software I could possibly use in a lifetime. All for free.
There is a fair amount of effort at this point to learn it all and often it's a solitary thing to get it going, but once it's there you gotta say, Holy of Holies ( didn't want to be censored here), is this ever a sweet set up! A much nicer computing than either of M$' offerings.
"Just the same way that community "supports" all the WiFi cards supported on Windows?"
Tell me, which WiFi cards are supported by Windows XP out of the box? Certainly not any WPA cards...
"Or support the way each Linux Distro is slightly different and all popular programs "just work"?"
You've got a short memory span if you can't remember all the compatibility head-aches when 98, XP and Vista were introduced.
Wayland tells us: "We could freeze all hardware right where it is and the computer industry would still produce faster computers. Software would slim down and speed up. With Vista, Microsoft is using software to drive the hardware market which does not seem to want to follow."
Now this sounds great, ideal in fact. But I'm afraid that this is idealistic fantasy.
We might all like to think of software development as continual fine-honing of software, optimising here, tweaking there, until you are left with a smaller, faster, more refined piece of code.
Sadly this is nothing like the reality, certainly as far as Microsoft is concerned, but regrettably most other developers too. The problem is that making code more secure only serves to add bulk to it in most cases. Bounds checking, input validation and the like all require more code. We have seen Firefox, sadly, become more bloated and slow with every security update they release. Don't get me wrong, I still love it and use it, but it isn't getting any faster, at least not at the moment (version 3?).
I like the ideal, I wish code was becoming more refined, faster and smaller. But that don't make it so. The reality is that securing code only makes it more bulky and slow in the vast majority of cases. And that is without mentioning the effects of adding new functionality, and other inexplicable bloat for which Microsoft has become renowned.
Acronis True Image works for me too, but why bother faffing about with DVD-Rs? Install a second hard disc (or an external one) and backup to that.
For slipstreaming, try Nlite- it works beautifully. Not only can you integrate patches, service packs, drivers etc, you can also add things like serial number and prefs, and remove such things as IE 7 and Windows Media player. The whole thing is GUI based.
When you are done you can burn the whole lot to a bootable CD. It's a great little utility, and it's free.
Last time I visited the topic. There were calls to drop Routers doing IPv6 and doing NAT IPv4. So if you buy a new router that supports IPv6 its not going to NAT any IPv4 devices too many problems storing state and security issues apparently.
Personally my ISP is going to have problems getting me to move to IPv6 if they are not going to be routers with NAT support for Ipv4
"IPv6 compatibility would be a very stupid reason to switch to Vista from, say, XP. If your PC is on a NAT network, as for example on a home router, then IPv6 on the PC is irrelevant and IPv6 compatibility is a router issue not an OS issue."
... except for the fact that using a NAT with IPv6 is totally redundant. In fact, I'd be surprised if it worked at all. The idea is that each computer has it's own IPv6 address which is automagically routed by the same gateway so that NAT is not necessary.
(Also who the hell comes up with the names for these Linux distributions? "PCLinuxOS" sounds like it was thought up by a nine year old!)
isn't that the truth - but Linux isn't completely free from scorn when it comes to needless bloat.
We all remember when games came on tapes, and damn they were good fun. I remember getting my first game on disk, quickly followed by double densisty disks, then games with 3 or 4 double density disks. Then games on High density disks, then games with 7 or more disks! (Dune) But back then each itteration of game actually seemed better then the last. The same with text editors, desktop publishers and graphics software. Your hard disk was sub 50mb your processor sub 10mhz but darn you could have fun, bards tale was epic.
Roll on to cds and half gig hard disks - heady days. But you did start noticing that the games were getting shorter and less interesting, the text editors and dtp's had become word processors, your new graphics apps seemed slower. Roll forward to dvds and 100gb+ drives. Games are huge, processors are like lightning, 10000 times faster then when you used to play captain blood and elite.
Yet you think it's good when a game lasts 30 hours. Sure the graphics are good but you have to download a 600mb patch for the thing to work right. Your office product is the size of a small moon and it just does so many stupid things. Your operating systems are all flashy and hideous, they do a million stupid things you don't want them too.
It annoys me. But it's why I like the notion of UMPC's lol - if only someone would write a good compatible operating system for them (even if it's microsoft - seriously... it should be small and fast and interoperable) but it wont happen. The hard ware will get faster, but as it does the software becomes more hideous.
Maybe one day someone will sigh and set about writing something new. Feature light and efficient.
I guess this is how the rich get keep getting richer while the poor just keep getting poorer.
And to think, only two years ago When I need to replace my old clunker the only Windows I could find on the shelf was XP. And already their telling me to shove-off. Even my last cheap television will have lasted fifteen years when uncle sam tells me to shove-off. Maybe Linux [is] a better way to go.
2) Anyone knows of an easy way to get all those various pesky updates and store them locally (preferably on a DVD or dedicated HDD)? I don't want to be left out in the cold once MS decides to stop supplying the patches/updates/drivers and I have to re-install XP on a PC.
Try Autopatcher (http://www.autopatcher.com/) should do what you want in one simple download and it's updated fairly often
Now that Vista SP1 is released I finally decided to bit the bullet and upgrade my recently new hardware PC to Vista/XP dual boot PC. I've now been running it for a few days and my impressions (bearing in mind I'm IT support tech and got it so that I could learn the ropes for implementation at work) are:
1) If you've go the right hardware, installing it is really easy. I had to manually install the LAN driver as the manufacturer's installer didn't work, but everything else went in fine. It felt like it installed easier and quicker than XP did on the same machine. If you've got old hardware, you'll have to dump the old stuff and get new stuff.
2) It's intuitive. It is quite different from XP in some respects, but pretty much everything is still there if you know where to look (ie Google). The switch from XP to Vista is much easier than from XP to MacOS.
3) It takes ages to boot up.
4) Some things are faster in Vista than XP. Office opens noticably faster, as do several other apps. If you see the boot time as a way of cutting down app loading time it actually makes sense ;)
5) It looks nice. It does! Nicer than MacOS to my eyes.
6) Get rid of the stuff you don't like so as to make a happy Windows experience! I turned off that windows shrinking/expanding from the taskbar effect because it was giving me a headache. Now windows snap into and out of visibility faster than XP, and apps load faster too.
7) Flip is pointless. Translucent windows look cool. Sidebar is quite nice (after finding the Tetris panel!)
8) Extra security level isn't that annoying once you get used to it - you can turn it off for certain apps.
9) Networking is a peice of p*ss. I had heard really bad things about wireless on Vista, but I was on my home network in about five minutes after installing the wireless drivers.
10) Some nice touches (eg, you can directly alter the exe file by changing the properties on the shortcut).
So far I am very happy with Vista - it has crashed once (I don't know why yet), but I have tried installing several apps that aren't really Vista compatible!
Conclusion: if you have a new machine (less than 1 year old) with dual core processor, a good graphics card, at least 2Gb RAM and a good, quick, quiet HDD (Vista hammers the HDD esp on boot) then Vista will not feel any slower than XP for most 'normal' use. Some things are slower, some are quicker. Turn off the windows fading in and out thing as this makes the OS feel much slower than it actually is. However, if you don't have a newish PC you should stick with XP. The worst mistake M$ made was trying to pressure/fast talk consumers into using Vista on unsuitable PCs (see Intel M$ Vista spec conspiracy).
Don't buy Vista for a computer with XP unless you have money to burn or have an over-riding need to do so (eg DirectX 10). As an upgrade it really isn't worth £100 plus because there simply isn't enough extra functionality.
Install XP as a virtual machine. Running Vista means you will have to abandon some apps and games (eg Juice podcast, Diablo II) but if you really miss them you can run them from inside Vista on a Virtiual PC. I have decided not to go dual boot after finding this solved pretty much all my issues.
Microsoft really, really got the marketing and deployment of this wrong. I really don't think Vista is that bad, and if M$ had done things differently they could have avoided most of the bad reaction. Confronted with the problem of selling a new OS that only ran well on very new machines, that didn't have proper driver support and was well behind schedule, M$ made the critical error of giving the OS the 'hard sell'. Instead they needed to sweeten the deal with discounts for early uptake, and to soften the blow by being honest about the heavy load the new features put on hardware. I bet that if they'd done something as simple as set the vanilla installation with the extra interface features switched OFF, Vista would have got a much warmer reception.
So, I'm not missing XP on my home PC at all - much against my expectations. I'm sure extra annoyances will crop up, but I expect to get a few more pleasant surprises as well. Overall, I don't think its worth the upgrade for most users, but I would take Vista over XP on a new machine.
Having said all this... we need to move away from the continual cycle of OS + hardware replacement. I replaced my home PC because old one broke, but I was happy with it until then. For many uses a five year old XP machine is still OK, and will be for another five years (if we can somehow stop websites clogging up with Flash junk). In fact, I see no reason why we shouldn't demand that increasing the usable life of a typical home PC be a duty of hardware and software industries. In my house we have one workhorse PC that does high end stuff like video encoding, coaster-free 16X DVD burning, playing games etc whilst the rest are really just web browsers and word processors. When I replace my old laptop I don't need to buy a laptop capable of running Vista because it would be redundant processing power.
""which lack the hardware necessary to run Windows Vista adequately""
El Reg does this quite often. Think back 20 years or so to the days of Vic 20's, BBCB's, Electrons and Speccy's. Think about what what your machine does now. Just what does a 2mhz processor 2GB RAM, Video ram etc etc actually do ? It runs a massive OS. It is not, as El Reg suggest that machines ""lack the hardware necessary to run Windows Vista adequately"" but more that the OS is not capable of running on the hardware available. Subtle difference but important.
Ask yourself one last question.
Why are these ULCPC's starting to gain some credence ? It is becuase they do a simple job well, for minimum cost. Email, web, saving/opening documents.... what more does a PC need ?
The bloatware that comes with MS and Apple machines creates the impression that , without all this bloatware, your life is somehow facile. Not in the slightest. 75% of the crap that ships with most Wintel and MacTel machines is not needed and is hardly ever used.
Bin it, buy a ULCPC machine, but a mountian bike with the differnce saved and have a life instead.
When will the press and the public stick that so far up M$ backside that they'll stop dribbling crap about turning off support for XP? Gamers have tried Vista and don't like it. It went in the drawer till SP1 and then it got tried again and put back in that drawer.
SOOS! Save our OS.
Many thanks to the many people who answered my question. I'd just like to mention, however, that the "backup" option will not work for me as I regularly update my hardware (small upgrades every so often, new PC about once a year) and transfer licences to the new hardware... which means a backup of an existing installation will not work for me. (the old hardware, BTW, is given a flavour of Linux and becomes part of the Server array on my 19U rack... best purchase I ever did).
As an aside, I though AutoPatcher had been cease-and-desisted by MS?