Celebrating the Vista Launch

I had made peace with the decision to keep running Windows XP on my laptop. Because it was my primary work machine, I was going to stick with what was tried and true. Good ol’ XP hadn’t let me down, and there was no clear, compelling reason to upgrade to Vista. Besides, I couldn’t risk upgrade problems interfering with my real work, even if it meant keeping off the bleeding edge of technology.

All that started to change, though, when I opened up Visual Studio a few days ago, and I watched it hang as I typed just one character into the text editor. For some unknown reason, intellisense went into gyrations the second I typed anything, and I had to kill VS in order to recover. If I turned off intellisense, everything worked as expected, but I’d grown way too accustomed to intellisense just to give it up cold turkey, not to mention the glee with which I would type “cw” and hit tab to see Console.WriteLine magically appear.

So I tried System Restore, as well as reinstalling Visual Studio (which took about half a day) – all to no avail. Having finally reached the end of my rope, I decided it was time to repave the laptop and, while I was at it, go for broke and install Windows Vista. Here it is, two days later, and I have a more stable, albeit sexier, laptop running Vista and Office 2007. While the process was not entirely painless, I seem to have emerged relatively unscathed. I’ve got sound, antivirus and email, and almost all my tools and utilities run under Vista. And while Visual Studio and SQL Server both have “compatibility issues,” there are patches available which, although in beta or CTP status, make it possible to run Visual Studio and allow me to do some work.

The only significant obstacle I encountered was that my display adapter isn’t powerful enough to run Vista with the Aero user experience, so I’ve got to settle for opaque window frames rather than the translucent effect afforded by Aero. In addition, I’m prevented from running some video-editing software, such as Windows Movie Maker. Although somewhat disappointing, I don’t consider it a showstopper, because I’m more likely to want to do video editing on my desktop box, which is more powerful than my laptop and likely to perform better at that kind of thing.

So what about whipping Visual Studio and SQL Express into shape for Vista? The first step, of course, is installing IIS and Message Queuing, which was no big deal. But running Visual Studio and SQL Express on Vista is no slam dunk – the main issue being that patches which make these two products Vista-compatible have not been officially released, making it necessary to hold your nose and install beta software on an otherwise pristine machine. Somasegar provides some background on why Microsoft decided to some out with VS SP1 now but wait on addressing all the Vista compatibility issues.

After installing Visual Studio 2005 on Vista (and ignoring the ominous warnings of incompatibility), you’ll want to start off by installing SP1 for Visual Studio 2005 (don’t worry that it says it’s for Team Suite – it will still work on other editions of Visual Studio). Next, go ahead and install SQL Server 2005 Express SP 2 Dec CTP, followed by the Visual Studio 2005 SP 1 Update for Vista Beta. Because these are beta bits, you’ll probably want to set a system restore point, just in case things don’t work out and you want to roll back. Otherwise, you’ll just need to uninstall the CTP and beta products when the real items come out. One more thing, be sure to always run VS as administrator under Vista. The best way is to locate devenv.exe (usually found in “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 8\Common7\IDE”), right-click, select Properties, then click the Compatibility tab and check the option, “Run this program as an administrator”.


Now that you’re ready to code .Net 2 apps on Vista, you won’t want to stop there. Vista already comes with .Net 3 (WPF, WCF, WF, CS, etc), but developing apps for the new platform becomes more palatable with the .Net 3 extensions for Visual Studio, which are, as fate would have it, also in beta release. The nice thing is that the Dec CTP comes with a rudimentary version of Cider, the GUI designer for WPF apps that will generate some XAML for you. But before you can slap the bad boy onto Visual Studio, you’ll need to download the Windows Vista SDK and set VS Help to use the local, rather than online, version of MSDN. After that, go ahead and install the Visual Studio 2005 extensions for WCF & WPF Nov CTP, as well as Visual Studio 2005 extensions for Workflow Foundation. These are also beta bits that you’ll discard as soon as Visual Studio code-named Orcas ships, probably around the time of the PDC next Fall.

If you’re feeling adventurous, feel free to download the Jan CTP of VS Orcas, but be sure to run it in a VPC, so as not to trash your newly built Vista machine. However, Microsoft Virtual PC 2004 won’t run on Vista (big surprise, huh?). For that, you’ll need to sign up to get the Virtual PC 2007 Beta. You’ll need to register for the Microsoft Connect beta evaluation program, but it’s free and takes just a few minutes to fill out the online form.

In spite the hassle of having to jump through some hoops to get Visual Studio working on Vista, and the limitation of not being and to do video editing or enjoy the aero experience, I’d have to say my Vista upgrade was worth the effort overall. My laptop is prettier, faster, and seems to run smoother. The only other obstacle was setting parameters on the desktop to allow File and Printer Sharing. Aside from my laptop having to be part of the same workgroup, the main problem was that my login on the laptop did not require a password (I’m just too lazy to have to keep typing a password every time I login or restart the computer). It took me a while to see the setting, which was staring at me the whole while, but eventually the light bulb went on. Under the Network and Sharing Center (which you get at via the Control Panel), there’s a setting called “Password Protected Sharing,” which requires others on the network to have logins with passwords in order to access shared files and printers. All I had to do was turn that off to be able to share between the two computers.

A cool feature I discovered while doing all this is the ability to share media libraries over the network, so from my laptop I’m now able to play songs and videos stored on the desktop. That seems to be a step toward the idea of creating a single digital media entertainment center in the home, from which other devices in the home can grab and play stuff. For a long time I’d toyed with the idea of buying a full-blown “Media Center PC,” which comes with a Digital Video Recorder (DVR), but the high price kept me from pulling the trigger. Now, it seems I’m partly there, at least that’s part of what you get with Vista Ultimate. I think I’m starting to become a believer. 

About Tony Sneed

Married with three children.
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