New Build Shows Full-On Vista

 
 
By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2006-03-06
 
 
 

New Build Shows Full-On Vista


With the recent release of the latest Windows Vista Community Technology Preview, which Microsoft has labeled "feature-complete," our view of the Windows-to-be is beginning to snap into focus.



Click here to read the full review of Microsoft Vista Build 5308.

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With the recent release of the latest Windows Vista Community Technology Preview, which Microsoft has labeled "feature-complete," our view of the Windows-to-be is beginning to snap into focus.

eWEEK Labs tested the new CTP code, Build 5308, and found that Vista has outgrown much of the unresponsiveness and unpredictability that marked previous test builds.

This CTP release will be distributed to testers in the Windows Vista Technical Beta Program and will be available for download to MSDN and TechNet subscribers.

We recommend that organizations contemplating an early move to Vista—which is set to ship this fall—install Build 5308 on a test system and begin checking vital applications for compatibility.

We tested the new CTP code on the same box on which weve tested previous Vista builds—a 2.53GHz Pentium IV-powered desktop with 512MB of RAM. We also stuck with the beefy Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra graphics card weve used in previous tests, and it again delivered all the shininess and drop-shadowed goodness that Vistas Aero Glass user interface has to offer.

Click here to read more about the enterprise Vista CTP release.

We were able to drop down to the translucence-free Aero and Windows 2000-like "classic" UI modes, both of which worked just as well, if not as stylishly, as Aero Glass and neither of which require a gaming-class video card.

One of the most promising new features of Windows Vista is its long-overdue support for enabling regular Windows users to run without the administrative rights—and without the security vulnerability that blanket administrative permission is heir to.

Since our review of Beta 1 of Vista, the systems rights-control mechanisms have grown considerably smoother: Pretty much any administrative activity we engaged in prompted authentication requests, which brings Windows at least up to par with Apple Computers Mac OS X and Linux in this regard.

Whats more, we were pleased to note that, in some ways, this latest Vista build improves on the account control mechanisms weve seen in Mac OS X and some Linux distributions by not only providing a means for regular users to gain elevated rights but also enabling regular users to carry out some common tasks on their own.

For example, while running Vista as a user with limited rights, we were able to change our time zone and carry out certain software installation tasks. Most operations that required administrative rights appeared in Vistas interface with the Windows security shield logo beside them to denote the required rights.

Vistas new account control schemes offer the promise of avoiding the hassle of managing both limited and admin credentials for power users, but, in many cases, these new schemes will require Windows application developers to adjust their wares to maintain compatibility.

Next Page: Still waiting to be wowed.

TKTK


Speaking of compatibility, our Build 5308 testing was another opportunity to check whether Vista would run GIMP, a popular open-source graphics application with which we prepare many of our screen shots—and which we hadnt been able to run on any Vista build wed tested.

During our December CTP build testing, Vistas diagnostic tools notified us, through Microsofts Online Crash Analysis service, that "an analyst at Microsoft has investigated this problem and determined that an unknown error occurred in GIMP." While it was promising to picture crash analysts reacting to the error data wed chosen to send to Microsoft, a report of an unknown error in an application that runs just fine in Windows XP had left us wanting.

Can Vista save enterprises from themselves? Click here to read what columnist Larry Seltzer thinks.

Were pleased to report that the incompatibility we experienced has been cleared, and GIMP now runs quite happily under Build 5308.

With Build 5308, we also got our first chance to test Vistas BitLocker volume encryption facility. We managed to encrypt our test systems hard drive without trouble, but we ran into a snag when we rebooted the system. Wed chosen to store our encryption key on a USB key chain device, but Vista didnt recognize that device at boot time. Instead, we had to type in the lengthy key.

Microsoft has highlighted deployment improvements among the notable additions in this build, but we were disappointed that we werent able to upgrade directly from the previous CTP build wed been running.

We did, however, note the presence of a settings migration tool; we were able to use it to transfer application settings, files and favorites from one of our Windows XP test machines to our Vista CTP box.

We also noted a speedup in installation time: It took 40 minutes to install this CTP build, compared with more than 60 minutes to install previous builds. We expect to see this time further trimmed in the builds leading up to Vistas release.

This latest Vista build is also the first to include the systems new Sidebar feature, which had appeared—back in 2003—in our very first peek at what would eventually be Vista. The Sidebar is more or less a "lite" version of Mac OS Xs Dashboard, lacking Dashboards capacity for spreading out over the whole screen.

Apart from a promising-looking RSS reader applet, there arent many interesting things to do with the Sidebar. Potential Sidebar applet developers, were standing by, waiting to be wowed.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

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Apple Computers Mac OS X 10.4 Apples Tiger offers now what Vista still wont deliver for several more months; if Apple opts to change course and unbundle its x86-powered OS X from Apple-only hardware, it would be set to give Vista a real fight (www.apple.com)

Microsofts Windows XP Professional Probably Vistas toughest competition, XP Service Pack 2, while long in the tooth, at least has stopped up many of the security holes that couldve sent users streaming to Vista (www.microsoft.com)

Linux distributions The worlds various Linux flavors—including OpenSUSE, Fedora Core and Ubuntu—have covered a lot of ground since Windows XP first shipped, boasting slick features, broader platform support than for Windows or Mac OS, and zero software license costs

Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks@ziffdavis.com

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