I recently came across a gifted copy of Windows Vista Ultimate. As it turns out, I needed a copy of Windows for some CAD work on my MacBook Pro, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Vista isn't officially supported by Apple's Boot Camp, but after a bit of Googling, it seemed relatively safe, so I continued.
Installation was flawless. I inserted the Vista CD when Boot Camp asked for XP, and everything proceeded smoothly. It is a big installation though, consuming almost half of the 20GB I allotted to it. I followed these instructions to get the Apple drivers installed (not seamless, but it works) and everything is up and running.
I've only been using it for a few days, but all in all, I'm rather impressed. As a relatively recent Windows to OSX convert, the interface isn't so bad. I still prefer the Mac in terms of usability, but I have to admit, Vista is sort of pretty. It is hard though to miss the tail chasing that's going on here by Microsoft. The new Windows menu file system layout is oddly reminiscent of Finder. Even one of the bundled screensavers is a pretty apparent clone of the default OSX saver. The new desktop modules basically put Dashboard on the desktop, and the new Aero window management features add some 3D eye candy to Expose, albeit at the expense of hot corners — not a good tradeoff for my habits, but admittedly pretty. It almost makes me wonder, do the Windows designers run OSX at home? Either way, to me, a little more Apple flavor in Windows is a welcome addition, but not necessarily a source of honor and pride for Microsoft.
IE7 also copies its killer app from Safari: both are best used to download FireFox. IE7 does have one nice feature that I've noticed in the few minutes I've used it though: you can spawn a new tab by clicking a little stub button on the tab bar. A nice feature, although this Firefox extension does the trick as well.
Performance-wise, I'm satisfied. The new visual effects run smoothly on the MBP, although it should — the Pro has an ATI Radeon X1600 GPU with 256MB of dedicated graphics RAM. CAD apps possibly marginally less snappy than with a barren XP install, but all in all very usable, even in cases where the apps aren't officially Vista-rated.
I first installed Vista under Parallels in Mac OSX. This worked, but in the interest of saving space and not having redundant installs, I deleted the image to install it in a separate Boot Camp partition. After doing this, I found that the current version of Parallels doesn't support booting from a Vista Boot Camp partition. I'm looking forward to this feature, as it's nice to be able to quickly jump into Windows, but have the option for a full boot for more demanding apps like 3D CAD.
Would I pay $400 for Vista Ultimate? Probably not, unless I absolutely had to use a Windows-only application. It's nice, but so is OSX and for that matter Ubuntu, given enough patience and skill in setup and configuration. That leads to what is, for me, really the biggest problem with Windows these days: I miss the UNIX console. Having to download a separate ssh client and install my own scp seems completely unreasonable, especially considering the 9GB+ install footprint with everything but the kitchen sink (and UNIX terminal standards) thrown in.
I look forward to the day when Ubuntu and other Linux distros truly reach consumer-ready status, and that day is coming. Even today though, it blows my mind to see kiosks proudly displaying the blue screen of death. I would never pay thousands of dollars for Windows licenses for something like subway car displays or even Times Square signage when the simple GUI and configuration arguments should realistically be thrown out the window, much like they are in most of the web servers of the world, in favor of reduced cost and increased stability.
To continue to thumb its nose at the Linux community's technology is Microsoft's mistake, and recently I've started to think it would be a fatal one. Vista continues Microsoft's commitment to this grand mistake, but also shows that they still have some fight to bring to the ring.