I downloaded and installed the latest and greatest Vista last night. It's supposedly beyond beta, but not quite release canidate material: Pre-RC1. It's a build from the RC1 branch, so it theoretically should be feature-complete, though there might be some more bug fixes that go into RC1. The first big difference I noticed was that my graphics card was recognized and it installed the driver and set up Glass automatically. Ah yes, and that means screen capture is no longer broken.
As you can see, it's trying to install my printer. I was actually able to run the installer for my HP PhotoSmart 1000 (which is no longer supported beyond XP). The install got to the point where it told me to plug in the printer, and I did, but nothing happened, and I ended up having to kill the process. It did leave me with the drivers extracted onto my hard drive, and so I was able to direct the hardware installation wizard to their location, but in the end, the printer still wouldn't install. If I can finally get that working, I might just make the leap to Vista as my primary laptop OS.
This is why you need a fancy graphics card in your computer: new eye-candy features. Alt+Tab still works like before, only now with little previews of the windows, but now there's also Win+Tab. This is the kind of thing graphics cards were made for, and it's nice to see that Windows is finally catching up in this area.
As usual, Firefox and Gaim are among my staple applications. My favorite Gaim plugin, Guifications (which shows little popup messages on certain events) seems to crash Gaim when it tries to display an notification, which is odd, because the same exact setup worked perfectly in Beta 2. I suppose that's what I get for installing a beta version of a plugin on a beta version of an application on a pre-release operating system that's been out in the wild less than 24 hours.