As anyone who got the Longhorn developer bits at the PDC should have had well drilled
into them – this is a developer preview release. This is the earliest in the
product cycle we’ve ever given out bits without requiring stringent NDAs, to the best
of my knowledge (although the first beta of Windows 2000 – Windows NT 5.0 as it was
known at the time – was pretty ropey too). You have to treat pre-beta bits with special
tender-loving care: they’ve not had widespread testing on the broad array of machines
that exist out there in the real world. I should know this by now, having played around
with a few earlier internal builds over the last couple of months. How then did I
manage to make so many stupid mistakes when trying to install Longhorn on my machine?!
Here are five lessons I’ve learnt – in the vain hope I can save someone else from
making the same basic errors!
Make sure your notebook is not attached to a docking station when you install Longhorn.
This is something that most notebook manufacturers call out in the manual that nobody
reads; in my case, when I rebooted Longhorn it wasn’t able to detect the external
monitor, which resulted in all kinds of amusing efforts to blindly shut Windows down
from a laptop keyboard that could only just be opened without breaking the docking
Don’t bother installing it as a Virtual PC image unless you have a seriously well-specified
machine; certainly not if you plan to play around in any depth with the sample applications
that ship as part of the SDK. By well-specified, I mean a machine with more than 1GB
RAM, a 3GHz processor, and ideally a separate hard drive / controller for the Longhorn
image. I could swear that I heard the sound of laughter from my laptop when I fired
up Longhorn for the first time as a Virtual PC image. (On the other hand, installing
Windows Server 2003 / Whidbey / Yukon works a treat in a Virtual PC, and I’ve been
using this combination quite happily since spring.)
Don’t install the Longhorn SDK until you’ve installed Whidbey – if you want the integrated
Longhorn support in Whidbey, that is. In my favour, the instructions for this aren’t
exactly obvious – they’re buried deep within the Longhorn SDK release notes – and
who on earth reads that kind of thing? Having installed these two in the wrong
order, I tried reinstalling the Longhorn SDK, but the designer support was still missing
from Whidbey. In the end, I gave up and flattened the partition (again).
Make sure you’ve got a valid product key ahead of time if you’re going to install
Longhorn via the bootable CD. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting half-way
through the setup process only to discover that the pesky 25-character activation
code is only available online. At least we’ve now moved it a little earlier in the
process than was the case with previous OS releases. Time for yet another reboot…
If you think it’s hung, wait twenty minutes and come back before presuming it’s completely
dead. If you’re in the hardware detection phase of setup and are using Virtual PC,
try waiting overnight! If you think this is unacceptable, try waiting for Beta 1!
Being on the “bleeding edge” has risks – but also plenty of rewards. I’m looking forward
to getting to the rewards bit soon…