thanks to a pressing need to re-install my laptop over the weekend I tool some time out for a play with the latest Vista RC2.

(The laptop was just getting sluggish and badly behaved. It's been 18 months since the last total rebuild so it was time to have a 'back to the bone' tidy-up. I'll have to post my essential apps list now it's rebuilt and I've got the things I can't live without up and running - the rebuild and catching up on work has been why posting here has been a little slow)

Anyway, back to Vista.

I'd had a look at some of the pretty early builds and hadn't been totally sold although it looked promising. RC2 is quite a huge leap in both polish and stability and ease of getting it up and running.

I was expecting problems installing on my Vaio VGN-T27GP but with one minor exception I was really pleased with how well it went. The hardware discovery was flawless and much to my amazement on the first run-through on the process everything worked perfectly. Apart from the minor problem that even with the WinXP drivers for the media keys (play/pause, stop, ffwd, rwnd and the volume buttons) I could not get anything apart from the standard keyboard functionality.

Vista setup is a lot slicker than WinXP and it appears a lot of thought has gone into making it easier for a newbie yet powerful enough to keep the tech savvy happy.

I wasn't as happy with the constant prompts to see if I really wanted to do something though. Once I've told the OS that I want to run a program or perform a manually trigger action it should let me save that permission (but that's a niggle I have with Windows Defender - I shouldn't have to approved it every time my backup program runs and re-writes it's registry run key with the last update time.)

It appeared faster than WinXP on my laptop which was interesting. The Vaio doesn't have the grunt to run Aero so I was getting the standard UI experience - but it bodes well for how it will perform on some of the new Vista optimised machines starting to surface. Even so, it looks really pretty. IE, WMP and Office 2007 all blend much better than they do in the current is-it-WinXP-or-Vista design mash-up. Compared to my current MCE rig the new Vista Media Centre interface might take a little getting used to, but I think it'll grow on me. Assuming there's stil any decent free-to-air TV in Australia to care about watching ;)

There's a million reviews out on the web about the good, the bad and the ugly of the Vista UX so I probably don't need to add to the background chatter, apart from mentioning that I really enjoyed it and, but for one thing, am really looking forward to joining the ranks of early adopters.

That one thing is pretty much a show-stopped for me. Until SP2 turns up for SQL Server 2005 I can't run it on Vista. If I'd been able to get it installed and running I'd still have Vista configured as my day-to-day OS and be spending a lot more quality time with it. As it is, Vista has been relegated back to the "to do" list (not enough space on the Vaio for a dual-boot setup - Vista has a much larger default install footprint than WinXP) for the time being.

On, I know I wasn't going to mention specific features but... while I think the Sidebar looks like being a great addition it's a bit sparse at the moment. The CPU meter isn't interactive (I can't get to, say, TaskManager from it), there's no Network meter and handy things like a dockable MSN Live Messenger contact list are missing. I hope that when the real deal comes out there are more gadgets and things like the Outlook 2007 Calendar is integrated with the Vista Calendar and I can tear the To-Do Bar out of Outlook and dock it in the sidebar...