Guest Blogger – Beta Testing Vista

Brent Barske (Winnipeg, Manitoba - IT Pro)

Windows Vista

I am originally from Winnipeg and a friend of mine, Brent Barske, was heavily involved in the Vista beta program.  I asked Brent to write about his experience as a beta tester, he submitted 34 unique bugs, and this is what he had to say!


I've been a beta tester with Microsoft for atleast 3 years now...testing and providing feedback with such products as Office 2003/2007, Windows XP SP2, Windows 2000 SP4, OneNote, and Windows Server 2003. I enjoy beta testing, as it allows me to stay cutting edge, as well as provide feedback directly to Microsoft my way of contributing to the products. It is also very gratifying knowing that a bug or issue that I submitted, is being researched further, and ultimately fixed.

A new enhancement with the beta testing process, is the public feedback. What this means, is that users who submit bugs (via Microsoft Connect website), have the option of making their bug submissions public, allowing other users to review their bug entries.  This was a big time saver, as there were some bugs that I had identified during my test, which I was able to find when searching on connect.  At that point I'd know that another beta tester experienced the same problem, and I would be able to write on that bug report my connects, indicating for example I was able to reproduce the problem in question. I'm sure this lightened the load on Microsoft's side, allowing them to remain more focused on fixing the bugs, rather then reviewing duplicate bug submissions. 

Since Microsoft could now see how many users are experiencing the same problem, they could then priorize what needed to be fixed.  Also, when providing feedback, you could also rank the problem, so as to give Microsoft an indication of the level of the problem.  I'd like to share my Windows Vista beta testing experiences.

Personally, I always tested Windows Vista Ultimate, partially because I like having access to all the features.  Microsoft frequently dropped new builds of Vista, roughly every month to 2 months.  I have to commend Microsoft on this, big time, as I know it takes a lot of effort to get these interim builds released. As a beta tester, almost a soon as the new build was released I downloaded it, often that same night, or the next day.

During my testing of Vista (and Office 2007), I installed the software on a number of computers, including a Dell computer, a Toshiba Tablet PC, and both Virtual PC and VMWare virtualized environments (on my main desktop computer, which is a computer I assembled about a year ago). Once the latest build was installed, I would start off by verifying
that the bugs that I had previously submitted were indeed fixed in the latest build.  Once I was assured that these older bugs were fixed, I would then start pounding away at the system, basically doing my day to day tasks using Vista as well as spending time exploring the new features in Windows Vista. Microsoft also provides beta testing scenarios, useful
for those testers not exactly sure where to start beta testing. The scenarios help to get the beta testing wheels turning.

With my Tablet PC, there was a bit of a trick to it, as the unit does not have an optical drive. I basically developed a process where I popped the 2.5" hard drive (HD) out of the Tablet, used a 3 1/2" to 2 1/2" adapter (on my Dell) to install the O/S.  Once in the setup (booted from DVD) I then continued to install Vista on my 2 1/2" tablet HD. After the installer finished copying the files from the DVD, the setup would want to restart. I would let the system restart. As soon as the BIOS screen appeared, I then turned the computer off. I then pulled the HD out of the Dell box, and inserted the HD back into my Tablet, and continued the install process. The install would then take about another 30 minutes to complete on my tablet.

When a new build was available, I almost always did a brand new clean install. Typically on my tablet (with a 40 GB HD), I had a 32 GB system partition, and a ~5 GB data partition, hich allowed me to store most of my data, and the Office 2007 installer files, making it easier to reinstall Office once the new build of Vista was installed. I can only recall doing a upgrade once...If I can recall it was RC1 to post RC1, as I suspected that RC2 might be coming out within a couple of weeks. Then I did yet another clean install with Vista RC2. I have been running Vista Ultimate RTM for about a week now. There were a few bugs that still remain (of which I had identified during the beta testing), and hope these isolated problems will be resolved with SP1.  Hopefully I will be a beta tester for SP1 when it comes time to start testing.


Brent Barske has been working in the IT industry for 11 years, and is employed with River East Transcona School Division (Winnipeg, MB) as Systems Manager. Brent is also a regular attendee at the Winnipeg IT Pro User Group, and the Winnipeg VMWare User Group. He is also the Team Lead of the University of Winnipeg Events and Outreach committee, and serves on the UofW Alumni Council (Grad of '99).

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