Windows 7 Beta… Silenced!

Despite being a confirmed Mac user at home, part of my job requires me to be familiar with Windows operating systems in all their ‘glory’. Now I have Windows XP SP3 on my work laptop and it is relatively stable and so I was quite relaxed when it came to installing the latest Windows 7 beta (build 7000) on a spare PC. The spec of the PC is pretty good – Asus P5N32-E SLI motherboard, Intel Core 2 Duo 2.6Ghz, 2Gb RAM, 2 x 500Gb SATA disks, Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio, built in gigabit ethernet, etc. All fairly modern stuff, and so no problem for Windows 7 beta… you’d think.

vista_7_1Actually doing a clean installation was relatively quick and painless, certainly faster than Vista Ultimate was (which had been installed on the same hardware). Little did I know that when I clicked on my first mp3 file I would be greeted with the message that there was no audio device! Sure enough, under Device Manager there was a ‘Multimedia Audio Controller’ with an exclamation mark over it. Windows Update didn’t help, so Windows 7 beta couldn’t load anything for a relatively modern sound card. I resorted to Google and found a tip that installing the Vista driver from Creative would fix it (if run in Vista compatibility mode). Tried that – blue screen! Deciding this was a futile battle, I removed the card and enabled the onboard sound on the motherboard. Windows 7 beta didn’t even spot that at all, and trying to ‘force-load’ the Realtek Vista driver for it just got me in a loop of ‘This driver can’t be verified – install anyway?’ prompts.

So, a PC with no sound. Not much use to me and a morning wasted trying to get it working. It reminded me why I switched to using a Mac in the first place – that pain is largely taken away. Now don’t get me wrong, Windows is a huge achievement by any measure and when you look at Windows vs Mac OS you have to remember that Apple is writing code for a known hardware configuration, while Microsoft is writing code to try and handle litterally hundreds of thousands of possible configurations, so it’s a bit of an apples and oranges comparison really. It’s a case of you pay your money and you take your choice, and I was tired (and guess I still am) of spending hours trying to get things working in this fashion. Yes Mac OS has a reputation for being  safe, secure and reliable compared to Windows but let’s not underestimate the scale of what Microsoft is doing. I still prefer OS X but it’s purely a matter of choice and if you enjoy the challenge of Windows and the rewards of getting it all just right with the drivers and anti-malware and stuff, then you’re a better man than I.

Maybe I’ll install OpenSUSE 11.1 on the PC instead… oh hang on, memories of compiling things, the ‘Vi’ editor and frequent trips to the command prompt have just popped into my head. Maybe not…

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