I managed to get a copy of the 32-bit Windows Vista Business from the MSDN Academic Alliance program through university and, after a RAM and graphics card upgrade, and a lot of moving of files to clear a partition for it, I was ready to install Vista. The installation itself went reasonably quickly. After about half an hour I was choosing desktops and playing with the control panel.
I was disappointed to notice that my initial Windows Experience Index (Microsoft’s measure of how pimped your PC is) was disappointing at 2.2, let down by poor graphics performance, considering I’d just spent about Â£40 on a new 256MB card from Dabs. Maybe it’s because I’m only running AGP4x, I don’t know. Anyway, Vista told me my system was rated as follows:
Processor (AMD Athlon 2800+): 3.4
RAM (1.5GB @ 266MHz): 3.7
Graphics (256MB eForce 6200):
2.24.1* – yay!
Gaming Graphics: 3.0
Primary Hard Disk (Seagate 120GB 7200rpm): 4.4
The first spot of trouble came as I tried to get my wireless connection going. The device manager was reporting my Netgear WG311 v3 present and correct, but it wasn’t picking up my network. Oh dear. Anyone familiar with my previous exploits with this card will probably guess I wasn’t very surprised by this.
I was tempted to see if a restart solved the problem, but instead I downloaded the Vista drivers from Netgear and installed them from my USB stick. No joy. THEN I restarted and it worked fine. The only thing is for some reason I chose to use the Netgear utility instead of Vista’s built-in wireless configuration. Probably not the wisest move ever but I can always redo that later.
Sight & Sound Issues
Anyway the next problem came with the graphics and sound. The system was reporting no audio device installed and my monitor wouldn’t display above 1024×768 without getting stuck in an uncomfortably flickery 60Hz.
Now that I was connected to the internet though, I noticed Vista was downloading updates – including one for my graphics driver. As I’d asked Vista to only download essential updates, it wasn’t downloading the recommended one for my motherboard’s built-in audio, but I ticked a box and it added that to the download.
One restart more and we have lift-off: sound!! But wait.. I increase the resolution back to 1152×864, apply and go into advanced to increase the refresh rate. To my horror, once again only 60Hz is selectable at this higher resolution. I know from XP that my monitor can do better than that, so I tentatively untick the “hide modes that this monitor cannot display” box and crank it up to 75Hz. It works fine. I’m not comfortable with the idea that Vista thinks the monitor can’t handle it for some reason, but I’ll leave it as it is for now.
Fucking Netgear Again!
Now there seem to be problems with the wireless card again, the signal’s dropped and it can’t find any networks! The Netgear config program doesn’t even seem to want to start. Netgear’s PCI Chocolate Teapot strikes again. Let me make this clear; the WG311 v3 is possibly the worst piece of hardware I’ve eve had the misfortune of owning and those responsible for its development at Netgear should be rounded up, publicly flogged, hung, drawn, quartered and fed to ravenous wolves.
Anyway, as I go in to the control panel hunting for the Add/Remove Programs control to remove the Netgear tool, I decide to re-run the “Windows Experience Index” test and it actually comes out worse! Great! The graphics have dropped from 2.2 to 2.1 and the gaming graphics from 3.0 to 2.6. Fuck.
I restart, figuring that when Vista picks up the card again it will re-install the drivers it used when it first recognised the card during the initial install. Sure enough when Vista reboots a message appears saying it’s installing drivers. Then it tells me it failed. Double fuck.
Into device manager and uninstall the card. Restart Vista (again). Back into device manager.
While I’m doing this Vista tries again (and fails again) to install drivers for the card. Now I’m beyond caring. In device manager I view the cards properties and see a message saying “This device cannot start”. What’s one more reboot?
Back into device manager and “This device is working properly”. Oh really? So Mr. Device Manager, explain to me why “Windows Cannot Find Any Networks.”
It’s nearly 4AM and I’m getting pretty hacked off. Back to reinstalling the Netgear drivers.
It’s scant consolation, but it appears I’m not the only one having problems. At least one chap reckons the Marvell drivers (also available zipped) that got my card just about working with XP should do the trick. I try these to no avail. Now Vista refuses to even search for networks! Device manager jumps between “This device is working properly” and “This device cannot start” (code 10?!) from restart to restart. I even tried ‘repairing’ the connection through the by right-clicking the Wi-Fi button in the system tray. This tried to do something (which, I think, involved restarting the driver) but failed whatever it was. Fuck, fuck, FUCK!
Of course, Netgear Support (that’s an oxymoron if ever I heard one) is as useful as ever. The Netgear forums make you jump through I don’t know how many hoops just to register, so there’s so few users to help that it makes registration pointless and they don’t seem to plan on updating their “Beta” drivers any time soon, despite numerous complaints that they just don’t work! Useless fuckers.
At 5AM, still nothing works. I’m giving up and going back to XP until I can get a new wireless card. I think I’ll enjoy smashing that piece of shit into tiny shards when I finally replace it. As another option, any suggestions for alternative uses for the WG311 v3 would be gratefully received. Sadly, ‘paperweight’ is as good as I could come up with.
* – See my Vista Update