This past weekend, I took some time to download the newly released Vista Ultimate from the MSDN site. Once downloaded, I put a clean 80GB drive into my XPS Gen 2 laptop (single-core 2.0 Pentium M w/2GB DDR2 SDRAM) and booted the DVD.

I must say, I’ve installed Windows variants of every type since 1.0 on a ton of machines. Considering all the extra hardware this thing has on it (Bluetooth, Intel Wireless, Gigabit Ethernet, GeForce 6800 Ultra, etc.) this was absolutely without a doubt the cleanest installation of Windows I have ever done, period. That is to say that it automatically installed every piece of hardware in my system without me having to download any drivers. That’s a first in my book.

I’m not being some MS fanboy either, I can’t stand installing Windows. It’s like a pain that won’t go away. Tracking down drivers, dealing with initial load issues, setup errors, etc. We’ve all been there and we’ve all cried the whole way down that dreadful road. Vista Ultimate installed clean the first time and everything worked. I was shocked.

As for the operating system, it’s pretty complete out of the box. Web browsing, e-mail, calendaring, contact management, all the stuff an OS should do for you is there out of the box (well, except for Java VM support, which I’ll figure out later). The sidebar is nice (it’s not Leopard nice, but it is a decent first attempt), the interface is very pretty and functional. Overall I’m happy with the look and feel.

There are a few things that aren’t so nice. I installed iTunes (flawless, no errors, and no restarts required) and went to add my network folders to my library. For some reason, it will not browse the network. I can see the shares in Explorer, but nothing shows up in the iTunes Add Folder dialog. Bummer, hopefully that will work itself out. I did find that you can drag a folder from Explorer and iTunes will add it to the library, but it wasn’t real happy about it, the UI choked until it had finished the job.

Windows Media Center is pretty nice, a little cleaner than before, but a lot of the online services seem broken since there were no Internet radio stations or other remote content features enabled. Maybe that’s something that has yet to be patched in for home users by January. I don’t have a tuner on that machine, so I could not get a feel for TV reception (or HDTV support for that matter). But you can be I’ll be tracking down an OTA USB HDTV card at some point to give that feature a workout.

Windows by itself is pretty boring, so I installed Office 2007 Ultimate as well. Guess what? Yeah, it lets you create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. That’s about it. Nothing else to see here I suppose. It’s Office after all, not Quake VIX or anything.

Speaking of Quake, I haven’t loaded any games yet but you can bet that EQ2 is going to be loaded soon to see if it works. I’ll also be loading a variety of applications I use a lot to see how they roll. Since I’ve gone portable on all my mainstay applications such as email I’m not too concerned about Outlook at home. I’ll have to plug in the flash drive tonight and see how we prevail with my portable applications.

If I get time and patience, I may try to install Visual Studio 2005 and see how it runs on Vista. I know some problems were there with earlier releases, who knows if they still exist. I guess we shall see!