Full disclosure first. I’m a Mac user, happy with my Powerbook and OS X. It’s not to say I know squat about Windows. I started with it before most of you were born. I can assemble a PC, and I used to hack into the registry with cheerful abandon.

That said, I’m not setting out to deliberately bash Microsoft despite what bogs11 might claim. In fact, I’m trying desperately to give it a chance. I’m willing to give it every opportunity to, if not outright impress me, let it show me that the five years of development accounted for something, that it was worth the wait.

I don’t have an answer yet. The jury is still out on Windows Vista. But I can tell you now, it doesn’t look good.

I’m just getting my feet wet, and in the next few weeks I mean to be submerged in deep Vista doodoo. I intend to not just wade, but to dive in, breath held, and swim its depths, taking big muscular strokes, arms and legs flailing mightily with gusto. But as things go this early in the game, it doesn’t bode well for Vista, gentle reader. Much as I am trying so hard to like it, it’s making things difficult for me from the get-go. I might likely drown, but I’m game.

Yesterday we installed a fresh, shrink-wrapped evaluation copy of Windows Vista Ultimate Edition on a Toshiba Qosmio G30 laptop.

If you haven’t heard of the G30 yet, you will. It’s the Incredible Hulk of laptops. Words fail me, so I’ll just quote Engadget‘s Paul Miller:

Seeing how HD DVD burners are still quite a new idea for the desktop set, you can imagine our delight at discovering Toshiba’s new Qosmio G30 laptop, which sports the elusive drive within its portable frame. Well, almost portable. At 10.6 pounds, we’re not sure any mortal lap — not to mention tray table — could support this thing, but we really expected nothing less the first time around. The 17-inch display rocks it True HD style at 1920 x 1200, plus if you get bored with your selection of HD DVDs, there’s always the analog and digital TV tuners to keep you entertained. Other specs on the G30/97A include a 2GHz Core 2 Duo T7200 processor, 1GB of RAM, dual 160GB HDDs, NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 graphics with 256MB of RAM, and just about every kind of connectivity you could think of — USB 2.0, Firewire, PCMCIA, ExpressCard/54, multi-card reader, 802.11a/b/g, gigabit Ethernet, modem, VGA, S-video, S/PDIF and HDMI.

It also costs US$3320, or in Tagalog, about P169,000. With the kind indulgence of my fellow PWiTs, a little plugging: We’ll have the full hands-on review in the March issue of Mobile Philippines, so we’ll save the comments for then. Besides, this post is about the Vista experience, not the laptop we put it on.

But we will say this – after installation and tweaking, you can run a Vista feature that rates the new host computer’s suitability and capability to run the OS. It has a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the most suitable.

The Vista-ready Toshiba Qosmio G30, that beautiful monster of technological excess so completely and thoroughly shameless that, right out of the box, it uses dual 100GB hard disks in a raid configuration and happens to be the world’s first laptop with an HD-DVD writer in it, that wonderful hunk of 21st century laptopology rated a …1.

Vista generously supplies you with details about why your hardware would be rated that way. Two of the four reasons it cited were pretty interesting. It blames three device drivers that were causing Windows to start slow – all three of which were device drivers from Microsoft itself. The other telling detail cited was that visual performance was less than optimal because of low memory. The G30 uses an NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 with 256MB of RAM; for laptops, there are few better at the moment.

If a P169K Toshiba Qosmio G30 rated a 1, I shudder to think what an under-P50K Vista-ready laptop would score. What’re us mortals with modest hardware and shallow pockets to do? Vista Ultimate itself alone costs nearly P20K.

It took us five hours to install the Vista DVD on the G30. It tanked halfway through the first two tries (an hour lost each time), and then three hours for the whole thing to complete, along with a dizzying sequence of restarts. Most of the built-in features of the G30 refused to run afterwards, including the biometeric fingerprint reader, the webcam, the power management software and several others, despite scouring the net for driver updates over and over.

Right after installation the desktop looked as blocky and garish as an Andy Warhol Tomato Soup limited print – Vista didn’t have drivers for the G30’s NVidia display hardware, and any tweaking Kiven and I did couldn’t improve the look. We had a nightmare searching for the correct driver – spent a couple of hours looking for and downloading the proper one. The first versions we got were supposed to work, but it kept telling us it had to abort the installation because it couldn’t find compatible hardware in the system to update. Arghhh.

Finally we managed to download the right one.

Aero looked beautiful indeed, bright and shiny like a newly minted P10 coin. So I went straight for the killer feature that everyone who gets Vista wants to try out first – Flip 3D, the window browsing function that draws rapturous oohs and ahhs from everyone who’s never used a Mac. Just hold down the Windows key and hit Tab. Boom. Then hit tab-tab-tab-tab. It’s like flicking through a stack of pretty postcards. So is this worth getting that beefier new video card? At least that translucency thing is cool-looking.

We haven’t given it the full workout yet, but Vista does seem more secure (it had better be – it asks for permission to do nearly everything – “You attempted to press the spacebar. Windows is in protected mode. Allow?” Joke, but you get the idea). Hibernation is still a bummer though. It only survives the trauma of waking up three out of five times, often resulting in a crash-dump-and-reboot.

Like I said, it don’t look too good. So far. A full exhaustive review will come out in our mags sometime in the future. In the meantime we’ll keep at it, and give you updates about our experiences when we can.