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Triple-booting fun

My Sony Vaio was working perfectly well. I had the pre-installed version of Vista Home Premium (Sony remove a lot of crapware and install some genuinely useful stuff such as Microsoft Office 2007 (non-commercial edition) and Adobe Studio. Not so sure about VAIO media guide though…!) and Ubuntu Intrepid (toggling between KDE and Gnome depending on my mood) running perfectly well in a dual-boot. I initally had this setup using the Vista Bootloader (I had been uber-nerdy and not bothered with EasyBCD, instead choosing to use BCDEDIT.EXE followed by flags to set things up, but then switched to grub during a fit of super FOSS advocacy. (Back in the days of XP, I used to edit boot.ini, but Vista is more ‘complex'). All was well.

However, I then had an interesting idea. "Let's install Windows 7 beta on my machine. But why scrap Vista and Ubuntu? I've done a tri-boot before, how hard can it be?!". Windows 7 beta and bootloading do NOT mix!

During the install I pointed out that I had a Vista partition, but at no point was I asked where the partition was (the developers at Redmond clearly assume you would only use the whole HDD for existing Windows installs). Windows 7 installed a bootloader which seemed to work. "Yes, the bootloader shows ‘Windows Vista'. Success!" I thought. My happiness was short-lived because on closer inspection the "Vista" option booted Sony's recovery partition. This seems bad, because surely Windows 7 will be installed on other machines with similar systems?!

Anyway, after trying fruitlessly to get EasyBCD working on Windows 7 beta (even running in Admin mode, you have to do some obscure stuff to get the menu in the correct order and pointing at the correct partition. You even have to mount the Vista Partition using the Administrative Tools (You will find it under Computer Management > Disk Management then Drive Letter and Path... when you right-click the partition). This doesn't seem overly safe when you're using a beta OS!

In the end I reverted back to BCDEDIT.EXE and got most of it done (although the Windows 7 beta failed to recognise the GNU/Linux partition). Grub will be reinstalled shortly to get access to my beloved Ubuntu (especially as Jaunty Jackalope's release is just 2 days away).

Aside from that however Windows 7 beta really is impressive. It does run on the same hardware of Vista, but is noticably sharper and faster. It also allows you to limit the UAC annoyance easily and bundles Internet Explorer 8. For now I think that browser is superior to Firefox 3 (although IE8's plug-in selection has some serious catching up to do). The use of various web-services on the right-click menu depending on context is a great idea. The number of plug-ins you need to install in Mozilla Firefox to get a mail link to use gmail as a client for example or submit an image straight to blogger is ridiclous. IE8 avoids the need for plugins, you just supply some credentials and it 'just works'! There are still the traditional security issues with Internet Explorer 8, but at least it's now vaguely comparable to Firefox in terms of usability now.

There are various other features included in Windows 7 beta and Internet Explorer 8, but they are covered in so much detail elsewhere on the net that a quick Google search will cover anything I could write here in much more detail! However, this experience was still a valuable one. The next move is to install Ubuntu NBR (Netbook Remix) onto my Acer Aspire One ZG5, although I may hold out for "Jaunty Jackalope". At least with that machine I won't need to worry about bootloaders...!