So I've finally unpacked my office enough to find my game machine... er, workstation, that is... which has as its main benefit a removable drive tray that contains the drive I boot from. Advantage being, when I want to try out new stuff (such as Windows Vista) on a raw hardware machine, I don't have to screw with partitions, nor do I have to be worried about trying to make it work inside a VMWare or VPC image. So, dusting off the removable drive tray that contained the PDC build of Longhorn, I stuck it into the drive tray and prepared to install (by blowing away the Longhorn partition already there) Vista Beta 1.
For starters, it's nice that it boots into a graphical mode right away (though I'm sure the 2-tone black-and-white "Longhorn" boot animation-and-image isn't going to remain as such, because it looks really ugly), and then only asks for which partition to install on (choice of two in my case, the boot drive or a data drive inside the box) and a machine name, before it gets to the "I'm going to chug away for Lord knows how long" screen indicating that it's installing stuff. This is kinda nice, particularly for so-called "power users" like my father, who has more of a tendency to get himself into trouble with options than is really served by having them. (He'll moan and gripe, I'm sure, but frankly, if it means less tech support calls to his son, then that is a Good Thing.)
Of course, installation took forever (I didn't bother timing it--I didn't have a calendar handy), but it's been a pretty well-understood truism about installing software for a few years now, that when you get to that "Please wait" screen, you go off and do something else. (In my case, it was running network cords behind the office furniture and putting my kids to bed, including chastising the elder son for playing with my Magic cards without my permission.) One thing I would like, however, is that the green progress bar at the bottom of the screen actually monitor progress of the complete installation process, not whatever step it happens to be executing--it keeps crawling across to the right, then resetting and starting over. Kinda like the bullies used to do on the playground--snatch your lunch money, then hold it up over your head, "C'mon, reach for it, reach for it, HUP!" and yank it up out of your reach when you do jump. (Not that I'm bitter about the experience or anything....)
When installation finally completed and the box rebooted, it goes through an interesting set of personalization settings application--not sure what they were all for, but I guess that will become more apparent over time. Immediately on bringing up the user shell, though, the Vista beta tries to load XP drivers that aren't natively supported inside Vista, which is kind of a nice touch, because I could tell this would be rough if I had to go back to 640x480; at least I think it was 640x480, because it felt like 200x150. It found my graphics card (a GeForce something-or-other, I forget) and installed those drivers, though it still booted into Really Hideous Fat Pixel Mode on startup. That said, though, a quick right-mouse-click on the desktop and changing-of-settings brought it into a more reasonable 1280x1024 mode pretty snappily. It still didn't recognize my sound card, however.
That's about as far as I've gotten with it thus far, although I noticed fairly quickly that Microsoft still hasn't fixed that critical bug that's been in Windows since the 3.0 days... you know, the one where they don't let you cheat at Solitiare...?