Pre-Beta Shows Vistas Potential

Review: Tests demonstrate OS's new prowess in data management.

Last week, Microsoft Corp. uncloaked the first beta release of Windows Vista, the next-generation version of its Windows client better known, so far, as "Longhorn."

eWEEK Labs has been conducting early testing on a pre-Beta 1 version of Vista, Build 5098. Although a good deal of roughness remains to be smoothed, the release weve been running shows that the finished product will make user data easier to organize and consume, while offering administrators some new tools for managing the machines in their care.

Vistas flashiest new feature is Aero Glass, a slick-looking hardware-accelerated interface, marked mainly by its translucent window decorations. To enable all the eye candy that Aero Glass can offer, we had to swap out our test systems Nvidia Corp. GeForce4 MX 420 card for a beefier GeForce FX 5950 Ultra.

Its nearly impossible to judge performance on such an early beta release, but our 2.53GHz Pentium 4-powered test box with 512MB of RAM worked at a good-enough clip not to annoy us—for the most part. Certain components of Vista Build 5098 took a while to load, such as the systems Event Viewer, which also tended to black out our test systems wallpaper while loading.

Internet Explorer 7 is one of the more noticeable faces in Vista, and, yes, IE now boasts tabbed browsing. IE 7 sports a different skin than did IE 6, but the two applications are more similar than different. One change we noticed and appreciated, however, was the addition of a Delete Browsing History option in the browsers Tools menu, which let us erase cookies, browsing history, Web form data, passwords and temporary files with two clicks.

We liked the sync offline files functionality in the Vista pre-beta—we synced a bunch of old stories and research materials to our Vista test box from a Samba share on a Red Hat Inc. Fedora Linux desktop. Once we had synced those files, Vista began indexing them, and we could search through them using Vistas notably improved search dialog .

We encountered some application compatibility issues with Vista Build 5098. When we installed GIMP to take screenshots, the application wouldnt run, giving us the error message, "gimp-2.2.exe stopped working and must be closed." On a related point, we were dismayed that we couldnt select and copy those error messages.

This error did, however, give us the opportunity to visit Vistas overhauled event viewer, which now includes many more sorts of logged activities and tools for customizing log views.

Stay tuned for a full review of Windows Vista Beta 1 in an upcoming issue. ´

Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks