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Windows Vista Step by Step (Step by Step (Microsoft)) : Book

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Windows Vista

Windows Vista is a line of operating systems developed by Microsoft for use on personal computers, home, business desktops, laptops, Tablet PCs, and media centers.

Prior to its announcement in July 2005, Windows Vista was known by its code name "Longhorn". Development was completed in November 2006. Over the following three months it was released in stages to computer hardware and software manufacturers, business customers, and retail channels.

In January 2007, it was released worldwide. The release of Windows Vista comes more than five years after the introduction of its predecessor, Windows XP, to date the longest elapsed time between successive releases of Microsoft Windows.

Windows Vista contains new features. An updated graphical user interface. Improved searching features. New multimedia creation tools such as Windows DVD Maker. New networking, audio, print, and display sub-systems.

Vista aims to increase the level of communication between machines on a home network. It uses peer-to-peer technology to simplify sharing files and digital media between computers and devices.

Windows Vista includes version 3.0 of the .NET Framework. This tries to make it easier for developers to write applications than with the traditional Windows API.

Windows Vista.

Too many versions + too much confusion ?

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Microsoft's primary stated objective with Windows Vista, has been to improve security in the Windows operating system.[4]

One common criticism of Windows XP and its predecessors has been their commonly exploited security vulnerabilities. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates announced in early 2002 a company-wide "Trustworthy Computing initiative".

This aims to incorporate security work into every aspect of software development at the company. Microsoft stated that it prioritized improving the security of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 above finishing Windows Vista, thus delaying its completion.[5]

Windows Vista has received a number of negative assessments. PC World listed it #1 of "the 15 biggest tech disappointments of 2007," saying that "many users are clinging to XP like shipwrecked sailors to a life raft, while others who made the upgrade are switching back."[6] Criticism targets include protracted development time, more restrictive licensing terms, the inclusion of a number of new Digital Rights Management technologies aimed at restricting the copying of protected digital media, lack of device drivers for some hardware, and the usability of other new features such as User Account Control.

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Development

Microsoft began work on Windows Vista, known at the time by its codename "Longhorn" in May 2001,[7] five months prior to the release of Windows XP. It was originally expected to ship sometime late in 2003 as a minor step between Windows XP and "Blackcomb", which was planned to be the company's next major operating system release. Gradually, "Longhorn" assimilated many of the important new features and technologies slated for "Blackcomb", resulting in the release date being pushed back several times. Many of Microsoft's developers were also re-tasked with improving the security of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, both of which had been the target of a number of high-profile security lapses.[5] Faced with ongoing delays and concerns about feature creep, Microsoft announced on August 27, 2004 that it had revised its plans. The original "Longhorn", based on the Windows XP source code, was scrapped, and Longhorn's development started anew, building on the Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 codebase, and re-incorporating only the features that would be intended for an actual operating system release. Some previously announced features such as WinFS were dropped or postponed, and a new software development methodology called the "Security Development Lifecycle" was incorporated in an effort to address concerns with the security of the Windows codebase.[8]

After "Longhorn" was named Windows Vista in July 2005, an unprecedented beta-test program was started, involving hundreds of thousands of volunteers and companies. In September of that year, Microsoft started releasing regular Community Technology Previews (CTP) to beta testers. The first of these was distributed at the 2005 Microsoft Professional Developers Conference, and was subsequently released to beta testers and Microsoft Developer Network subscribers. The builds that followed incorporated most of the planned features for the final product, as well as a number of changes to the user interface, based largely on feedback from beta testers. Windows Vista was deemed feature-complete with the release of the "February CTP", released on February 22, 2006, and much of the remainder of work between that build and the final release of the product focused on stability, performance, application and driver compatibility, and documentation. Beta 2, released in late May, was the first build to be made available to the general public through Microsoft's Customer Preview Program. It was downloaded by over five million people. Two release candidates followed in September and October, both of which were made available to a large number of users.[9]

While Microsoft had originally hoped to have the consumer versions of the operating system available worldwide in time for Christmas 2006, it was announced in March 2006 that the release date would be pushed back to January 2007, in order to give the company – and the hardware and software companies which Microsoft depends on for providing device drivers – additional time to prepare. Through much of 2006, analysts and bloggers had speculated that Windows Vista would be delayed further, owing to anti-trust concerns raised by the European Commission and South Korea, and due to a perceived lack of progress with the beta releases. However, with the November 8, 2006 announcement of the completion of Windows Vista, Microsoft's lengthiest operating system development project came to an end.[10]

New or improved features

End-user features

  • Windows Aero: The new hardware-based graphical user interface is named Windows Aero, which Jim Allchin has said is an acronym for Authentic, Energetic, Reflective, and Open.[11]. The new interface is intended to be cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing than those of previous Windows, including new transparencies, live thumbnails, live icons, and animations, thus providing a new level of eye candy.
  • Windows Shell: The new Windows shell is significantly different from Windows XP, offering a new range of organization, navigation, and search capabilities. Windows Explorer's task panel has been removed, integrating the relevant task options into the toolbar. A "Favourite links" panel has been added, enabling one-click access to common directories. The address bar has been replaced with a breadcrumb navigation system. The preview panel allows users to see thumbnails of various files and view the contents of documents. The details panel shows information such as file size and type, and allows viewing and editing of embedded tags in supported file formats. The Start menu has changed as well; it no longer uses ever-expanding boxes when navigating through Programs. The word "Start" itself has been removed in favor of a blue Windows Orb (also called "Pearl").
  • Instant Search (also known as search as you type) : Windows Vista features a new way of searching called Instant Search, which is significantly faster and more in-depth (content-based) than the search features found in any of the previous versions of Windows.[12]
  • Windows Sidebar: A transparent panel anchored to the side of the screen where a user can place Desktop Gadgets, which are small applets designed for a specialized purpose (such as displaying the weather or sports scores). Gadgets can also be placed on other parts of the desktop.
  • Windows Internet Explorer 7: New user interface, tabbed browsing, RSS, a search box, improved printing,[13] Page Zoom, Quick Tabs (thumbnails of all open tabs) , Anti-Phishing filter, a number of new security protection features, Internationalized Domain Name support (IDN) , and improved web standards support. IE7 in Windows Vista runs in isolation from other applications in the operating system (protected mode) ; exploits and malicious software are restricted from writing to any location beyond Temporary Internet Files without explicit user consent.
  • Windows Media Player 11, a major revamp of Microsoft's program for playing and organizing music and video. New features in this version include word wheeling (or "search as you type") , a new GUI for the media library, photo display and organization, the ability to share music libraries over a network with other Vista machines, Xbox 360 integration, and support for other Media Center Extenders.
  • Backup and Restore Center: Includes a backup and restore application that gives users the ability to schedule periodic backups of files on their computer, as well as recovery from previous backups. Backups are incremental, storing only the changes each time, minimizing the disk usage. It also features Complete PC Backup (available only in Ultimate, Business, and Enterprise versions) which backs up an entire computer as an image onto a hard disk or DVD. Complete PC Backup can automatically recreate a machine setup onto new hardware or hard disk in case of any hardware failures. Complete PC Restore can be initiated from within Windows Vista, or from the Windows Vista installation CD in the event the PC is so corrupt that it cannot start up normally from the hard disk.
  • Windows Mail: A replacement for Outlook Express that includes a new mail store that improves stability,[14] and features integrated Instant Search. It has the Phishing Filter like IE7 and Junk mail filtering that is enhanced through regular updates via Windows Update.[15]
  • Windows Calendar is a new calendar and task application.
  • Windows Photo Gallery, a photo and movie library management application. WPG can import from digital cameras, tag and rate individual items, adjust colors and exposure, create and display slideshows (with pan and fade effects) , and burn slideshows to DVD.
  • Windows DVD Maker, a companion program to Windows Movie Maker that provides the ability to create video DVDs based on a user's content. Users can design a DVD with title, menu, video, soundtrack, pan and zoom motion effects on pictures or slides.
  • Windows Media Center, which was previously exclusively bundled as a separate version of Windows XP, known as Windows XP Media Center Edition, has been incorporated into the Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista.
  • Games and Games Explorer: Games included with Windows have been modified to showcase Vista's graphics capabilities. New games are Chess Titans, Mahjong Titans and Purble Place. A new Games Explorer special folder holds shortcuts and information to all games on the user's computer.
  • Windows Mobility Center is a control panel that centralizes the most relevant information related to mobile computing (brightness, sound, battery level / power scheme selection, wireless network, screen orientation, presentation settings, etc.).
  • Windows Meeting Space replaces NetMeeting. Users can share applications (or their entire desktop) with other users on the local network, or over the Internet using peer-to-peer technology (higher versions than Starter and Home Basic can take advantage of hosting capabilities, limiting previous to "join" mode only)
  • Shadow Copy automatically creates daily backup copies of files and folders. Users can also create "shadow copies" by setting a System Protection Point using the System Protection tab in the System control panel. The user can be presented multiple versions of a file throughout a limited history and be allowed to restore, delete, or copy those versions. This feature is available only in the Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista and is inherited from Windows Server 2003.[16]
  • Windows Update: Software and security updates have been simplified,[17] now operating solely via a control panel instead of as a web application. Windows Mail's spam filter and Windows Defender's definitions are updated automatically via Windows Update. Users that choose the recommended setting for Automatic Updates will have the latest drivers installed and available when they add a new device.
  • Parental controls: Allows administrators to control which websites, programs, and games each standard user can use and install. This feature is not included in the Business or Enterprise editions of Vista.
  • Windows SideShow: Enables the auxiliary displays on newer laptops or on supported Windows Mobile devices. It is meant to be used to display device gadgets while the computer is on or off.
  • Speech recognition is integrated into Vista.[18] It features a redesigned user interface and configurable command-and-control commands. Unlike the Office 2003 version, which works only in Office and WordPad, Speech Recognition in Windows Vista works for any accessible application. In addition, it currently supports several languages: British and American English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified) , and Japanese.
  • New fonts, including several designed for screen reading, and improved Chinese (Yahei, JhengHei) , Japanese (Meiryo) and Korean (Malgun) fonts. See . ClearType has also been enhanced and enabled by default.
  • Problem Reports and Solutions, a control panel which allows users to view previously sent problems and any solutions or additional information that is available.
  • Improved audio controls allow the system-wide volume or volume of individual audio devices and even individual applications to be controlled separately. New audio functionalities such as Room Correction, Bass Management, Speaker Fill and Headphone virtualization have also been incorporated.
  • Windows System Assessment Tool is a tool used to benchmark system performance. Software such as games can retrieve this rating and modify its own behavior at runtime to improve performance. The benchmark tests CPU, RAM, 2-D and 3-D graphics acceleration, Graphics Memory and Hard disk space.[19][20]
  • Windows Ultimate Extras: The Ultimate Edition of Windows Vista provides access to extra games and tools, available through Windows Update. This replaces the Microsoft Plus! software bundle that was sold alongside prior versions of Windows.
  • Disk Management: A utility to modify hard disk drive partitions, including shrinking, creating and formatting new partitions.
  • Performance Diagnostic Console includes various tools for tuning and monitoring system performance and resources activities of CPU, disks, network, memory and other resources. It shows the operations on files, the opened connections, etc.
Windows Vista
Part of the Microsoft Windows family
Developer
Microsoft
Releases
Release date RTM: November 8, 2006;
Vol. Lic.: November 30, 2006;
Retail: January 30, 2007 (info)
Source model Closed source / Shared source[3]
License MS-EULA
Kernel type Hybrid
Update method Windows Update, Windows Server Update Services, SCCM
Platform support x86, x86-64

Core technologies

Windows Vista is intended to be a technology-based release, to provide a solid base to include advanced technologies, many of which are related to how the system functions, and hence not readily visible to the user. An example of this is the complete restructuring of the architecture of the audio, print, display, and networking subsystems; while the results of this work will be visible to software developers, end-users will only see what appear to be evolutionary changes in the user interface.

Vista includes technologies such as ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive which employ fast flash memory (located on USB drives and hybrid hard disk drives respectively) to improve system performance by caching commonly-used programs and data. This manifests itself in improved battery life on notebook computers as well, since a hybrid drive can be spun down when not in use. Another new technology called SuperFetch utilizes machine learning techniques to analyze usage patterns in order to allow Windows Vista to make intelligent decisions about what content should be present in system memory at any given time.

As part of the redesign of the networking architecture, IPv6 has been fully incorporated into the operating system, and a number of performance improvements have been introduced, such as TCP window scaling. Prior versions of Windows typically needed third-party wireless networking software to work properly; this is no longer the case with Vista, as it includes more comprehensive wireless networking support.

For graphics, Vista introduces a new Windows Display Driver Model, as well as a major revision to Direct3D. The new driver model facilitates the new Desktop Window Manager, which provides the tearing-free desktop and special effects that are the cornerstones of Windows Aero. Direct3D 10, developed in conjunction with major display driver manufacturers, is a new architecture with more advanced shader support, and allows the graphics processing unit to render more complex scenes without assistance from the CPU. It features improved load balancing between CPU and GPU and also optimizes data transfer between them.[21]

At the core of the operating system, many improvements have been made to the memory manager, process scheduler, heap manager, and I/O scheduler. A Kernel Transaction Manager has been implemented that gives applications the ability to work with the file system and registry using atomic transaction operations.

Security-related technologies

Improved security was a primary design goal for Vista.[4] Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing initiative, which aims to improve public trust in its products, has had a direct effect on its development. This effort has resulted in a number of new security and safety features.

User Account Control is perhaps the most significant and visible of these changes. User Account Control is a security technology that makes it possible for users to use their computer with fewer privileges by default. This was often difficult in previous versions of Windows, as the previous "limited" user accounts proved too restrictive and incompatible with a large proportion of application software, and even prevented some basic operations such as looking at the calendar from the notification tray. In Windows Vista, when an action requiring administrative rights is requested, the user is first prompted for an administrator name and password; in cases where the user is already an administrator, the user is still prompted to confirm the pending privileged action. User Account Control asks for credentials in a Secure Desktop mode, where the entire screen is blacked out, temporarily disabled, and only the authorization window is active and highlighted. The intent is to stop a malicious program misleading the user by interfering with the authorization window, and to hint to the user the importance of the prompt.

Internet Explorer 7's new security and safety features include a phishing filter, IDN with anti-spoofing capabilities, and integration with system-wide parental controls. For added security, ActiveX controls are disabled by default. Also, Internet Explorer operates in a "protected mode" which operates with lower permissions than the user and it runs in isolation from other applications in the operating system, preventing it from accessing or modifying anything besides the Temporary Internet Files directory.[22] Microsoft's anti-spyware product, Windows Defender, has been incorporated into Windows, providing protection against malware and other threats. Changes to various system configuration settings (such as new auto-starting applications) are blocked unless the user gives consent.

Another significant new feature is BitLocker Drive Encryption, a data protection technology included in the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Vista that provides encryption for the entire operating system volume. Bitlocker can work in conjunction with a Trusted Platform Module chip (version 1.2) that is on a computer's motherboard, or with a USB key.[23]

A variety of other privilege-restriction techniques are also built into Vista. An example is the concept of "integrity levels" in user processes, whereby a process with a lower integrity level cannot interact with processes of a higher integrity level and cannot perform DLL–injection to a processes of a higher integrity level. The security restrictions of Windows services are more fine-grained, so that services (especially those listening on the network) have no ability to interact with parts of the operating system they do not need to. Obfuscation techniques such as address space layout randomization are used to increase the amount of effort required of malware before successful infiltration of a system. Code Integrity verifies that system binaries haven’t been tampered with by malicious code.

As part of the redesign of the network stack, Windows Firewall has been upgraded, with new support for filtering both incoming and outgoing traffic. Advanced packet filter rules can be created which can grant or deny communications to specific services.

Business technologies

While much of the focus of Vista's new capabilities has been on the new user interface, security technologies, and improvements to the core operating system, Microsoft is also adding new deployment and maintenance features.

  • The WIM image format (Windows IMage) is the cornerstone of Microsoft's new deployment and packaging system. WIM files, which contain an image of Windows Vista, can be maintained and patched without having to rebuild new images. Windows Images can be delivered via Systems Management Server or Business Desktop Deployment technologies. Images can be customized and configured with applications then deployed to corporate client personal computers using little to no touch by a system administrator. ImageX is the Microsoft tool used to create and customize images.
  • Windows Deployment Services replaces Remote Installation Services for deploying Vista and prior versions of Windows.
  • Approximately 700 new Group Policy settings have been added, covering most aspects of the new features in the operating system, as well as significantly expanding the configurability of wireless networks, removable storage devices, and user desktop experience. Vista also introduced an XML based format (ADMX) to display registry-based policy settings, making it easier to manage networks that span geographic locations and different languages. [24]
  • Services for UNIX has been renamed "Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications," and is included with the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Vista. Network File System (NFS) client support is also included.
  • Multilingual User Interface - Unlike previous version of Windows which required language packs to be loaded to provide local language support, Windows Vista Ultimate and Enterprise editions support the ability to dynamically change languages based on the logged on user's preference.
  • Wireless Projector support

Business customers who are enrolled in the Microsoft Software Assurance program are offered a set of additional tools and services collectively known as the "Desktop Optimization Pack". This includes the Microsoft SoftGrid application virtualization platform, an asset inventory service, and additional tools for maintaining Group Policy settings in a fashion similar to a revision control system.

Developer technologies

Windows Vista includes a large number of new application programming interfaces. Chief among them is the inclusion of version 3.0 of the .NET Framework, which consists of a class library and Common Language Runtime. Version 3.0 includes four new major components:[25]

  • Windows Presentation Foundation is a user interface subsystem and framework based vector graphics, which makes use of 3D computer graphics hardware and Direct3D technologies. It provides the foundation for building applications and blending together application UI, documents, and media content. It is the successor to Windows Forms.
  • Windows Communication Foundation is a service-oriented messaging subsystem which enables applications and systems to interoperate locally or remotely using Web services.
  • Windows Workflow Foundation provides task automation and integrated transactions using workflows. It is the programming model, engine and tools for building workflow-enabled applications on Windows.
  • Windows CardSpace is a component which securely stores digital identities of a person, and provides a unified interface for choosing the identity for a particular transaction, such as logging into a website.

These technologies are also available for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 to facilitate their introduction to and usage by developers and end users.

There are also significant new development APIs in the core of the operating system, notably the completely re-architected audio, networking, print, and video interfaces, major changes to the security infrastructure, improvements to the deployment and installation of applications ("ClickOnce" and Windows Installer 4.0) , new device driver development model ("Windows Driver Foundation") , Transactional NTFS, mobile computing API advancements (power management, Tablet PC Ink support, SideShow) and major updates to (or complete replacements of) many core subsystems such as Winlogon and CAPI.

There are some issues for software developers using some of the graphics APIs in Vista. Games or programs which are built solely on Vista's version of DirectX, 10, cannot work on prior versions of Windows, as DirectX 10 is not backwards-compatible with these versions.[26] According to a Microsoft blog, there are three choices for OpenGL implementation on Vista. An application can use the default implementation, which translates OpenGL calls into the Direct3D API and is frozen at OpenGL version 1.4, or an application can use an Installable Client Driver (ICD) , which comes in two flavours: legacy and Vista-compatible. A legacy ICD disables the Desktop Window Manager, a Vista-compatible ICD takes advantage of a new API, and is fully compatible with the Desktop Window Manager.[27] At least two primary vendors, ATI and NVIDIA provided full Vista-compatible ICDs.[28] However, hardware overlay is not supported, because it is considered as an obsolete feature in Vista. ATI and NVIDIA strongly recommend using compositing desktop/FBOs for same functionality.[29]

Deprecated features

Some notable Windows XP features and components have been replaced or removed in Windows Vista, including Windows Messenger, the network Messenger Service, HyperTerminal, MSN Explorer, Active Desktop, and the replacement of NetMeeting with Windows Meeting Space. Windows Vista also does not include the Windows XP "Luna" visual theme, or most of the classic colour schemes which have been part of Windows since the Windows 3.x era. The "Hardware profiles" start-up feature has been removed as well, along with support for older motherboard technologies like the EISA bus, APM and Game port support (though game port support can be enabled by applying an older driver).[30] IP over FireWire (TCP/IP over IEEE 1394) has been removed as well.[31]

Some traditional features of Windows have been either eliminated or severely crippled. For example, Wordpad will no longer open or save files in .doc format, Windows Sound Recorder has had much of its functionality removed, and the old Windows image viewer has been replaced with Windows Photo Gallery, which cannot open .gif files and so .gif files can only be viewed through Internet Explorer. Windows Pinball (3-D Space Cadet) is gone. WinHlp32.exe, used to display 32-bit .hlp files (help pages), is no longer included in Windows Vista as Microsoft considers it obsolete,[32] though it is available as a separate download. Microsoft prohibits software manufacturers from re-introducing the .hlp help system with their products. Finally, Telnet.exe is no longer installed by default, but is still included as an installable feature.[33]

Editions

Windows VistWindows Vista. Too many versions + too much confusion?f-versionsannouncement_0" class="reference">[34] These editions are roughly divided into two target markets, consumer and business, with editions varying to cater for specific sub-markets. For consumers, there are four editions, with three available for developed countries. Windows Vista Starter edition is limited to emerging markets. Windows Vista Home Basic is intended for budget users with low needs. Windows Vista Home Premium covers the majority of the consumer market. Windows Vista Ultimate contains the complete feature-set and is aimed at enthusiasts. For businesses, there are two versions. Windows Vista Business is specifically designed for small business[35], while Windows Vista Enterprise, the premium business edition[36] is only available to customers participating in Microsoft's Software Assurance program.

All editions except Windows Vista Starter support both 32-bit (x86) and 64-bit (x64) processor architectures.

In the European Union, Home Basic N and Business N versions are also available. These versions come without Windows Media Player, due to EU sanctions brought against Microsoft for violating anti-trust laws. Similar sanctions exist in South Korea.

Dell and Microsoft partnered up to support (PRODUCT) RED. Microsoft released the Windows Vista Ultimate (PRODUCT) RED that exclusively will come together with Dell (PRODUCT) RED Computers.

Visual styles

Windows Vista has four distinct visual styles.[37]

Windows Aero
Vista's premier visual style, Windows Aero, is built on a new desktop composition engine called Desktop Window Manager. Windows Aero introduces support for 3D graphics (Windows Flip 3D) , translucency effects (Glass) , live thumbnails, window animations, and other visual effects, and is intended for mainstream and high-end graphics cards. To enable these features, the contents of every open window is stored in video memory to facilitate tearing-free movement of windows. As such, Windows Aero has significantly higher hardware requirements than its predecessors. 128 MB of graphics memory is the minimum requirement, depending on resolution used.[38] Windows Aero (including Windows Flip 3D) is not included in the Starter and Home Basic editions.
Windows Vista Standard
This mode is a variation of Windows Aero without the glass effects, window animations, and other advanced graphical effects such as Windows Flip 3D. Like Windows Aero, it uses the Desktop Window Manager, and has generally the same video hardware requirements as Windows Aero. This is the default mode for the Windows Vista Home Basic Edition. The Starter Edition does not support this mode.
Windows Vista Basic
This mode has aspects that are similar to Windows XP's visual style with the addition of subtle animations such as those found on progress bars. It does not employ the Desktop Window Manager; as such, it does not feature transparency or translucency, window animation, Windows Flip 3D or any of the functions provided by the DWM. The Basic mode does not require the new Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) for display drivers, and has similar graphics card requirements to Windows XP. For computers with graphics cards that are not powerful enough to support Windows Aero, this is the default graphics mode.
Windows Classic
Windows Classic has the look and feel of Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003, does not use the Desktop Window Manager, and does not require a WDDM driver. As with prior versions of Windows, this visual style supports "color schemes," which are a collection of color settings. Windows Vista includes six classic color schemes, comprised of four high-contrast color schemes and the default color schemes from Windows 98 and Windows 2000.

Hardware requirements

Computers capable of running Windows Vista are classified as Vista Capable and Vista Premium Ready.[39] A Vista Capable or equivalent PC is capable of running all editions of Windows Vista although some of the special features and high end graphics options may require additional or more advanced hardware. A Vista Premium Ready PC can take advantage of Vista's "high-end" features.[40]

Windows Vista's "Basic" and "Classic" interfaces work with virtually any graphics hardware that supports Windows XP or 2000; accordingly, most discussion around Vista's graphics requirements centers on those for the Windows Aero interface. As of Windows Vista Beta 2, the NVIDIA GeForce 6 series and later, the ATI Radeon 9500 and later, Intel's GMA 950 integrated graphics, and a handful of VIA chipsets and S3 Graphics discrete chips are supported. Although originally supported, the GeForce FX 5 series has been dropped from newer drivers from NVIDIA. The last driver from NVIDIA to support the GeForce FX series on Vista was 96.85.[41][42] Microsoft offers a tool called the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor[43] to assist XP and Vista users in determining what versions of Windows their machine is capable of running. Although the installation media included in retail packages is a 32-bit DVD, customers without a DVD-ROM or customers who wish for a 64-bit install media are able to acquire this media through the Windows Vista Alternate Media program.[44]

Windows Vista system requirements
  Vista Capable[38] Vista Premium Ready[38]
Processor 800 MHz 1.0 GHz
Memory 512 MB RAM 1 GB RAM
Graphics card DirectX 9 capable DirectX 9 capable GPU with Hardware Pixel Shader v2.0 and WDDM 1.0 driver support
Graphics memory N/A 128 MB RAM supports up to 2,756,000 total pixels (e.g. 1920 × 1200) or 512 MB+ for greater resolutions such as 2560x1600[45]
HDD capacity 20 GB 40 GB
HDD free space 15 GB 15 GB
Other drives CD-ROM DVD-ROM

Service Pack 1

Microsoft occasionally releases service packs for its Windows operating systems to fix problems and add features. Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) was released on February 4, 2008 alongside Windows Server 2008 to OEM partners after a five-month beta test period. Service Pack 1 will be available to current Windows Vista users mid-March. [46] [47] [48] A whitepaper published by Microsoft near the end of August 2007 outlined the scope and intent of the service pack, identifying three major areas of improvement: reliability and performance, administration experience, and support for newer hardware and standards.

One area of particular note is performance. Areas of improvement include file copy operations, hibernation, logging off on domain-joined machines, JavaScript parsing in Internet Explorer, network file share browsing,[47] Windows Explorer ZIP file handling,[49] and Windows Disk Defragmenter.[50] The ability to choose individual drives to defragment is being reintroduced as well.[47]

Service Pack 1 introduces support for some new hardware and software standards, notably the exFAT file system,[47] 802.11n wireless networking,[51], IPv6 over VPN connections,[51] and the Secure Socket Tunnelling Protocol. An updated version of Windows Installer is included that provides support for multi-package transactions and embedding the user interface of a child Windows Installer package inside a parent installation session.[52] Booting a system using Extensible Firmware Interface on x64 systems is also being introduced;[47] this feature had originally been slated for the initial release of Vista but was delayed due to a lack of compatible hardware at the time.

Two areas have seen changes in Service Pack 1 that have come as the result of concerns from software vendors. One of these is desktop search; users will be able to change the default desktop search program to one provided by a third party instead of the Microsoft desktop search program that comes with Windows Vista, and desktop search programs will be able to seamlessly tie in their services into the operating system.[48] These changes come in part due to complaints from Google, whose Google Desktop Search application was hindered by the presence of Vista's built-in desktop search. In June 2007, Google claimed that the changes being introduced for Service Pack 1 "are a step in the right direction, but they should be improved further to give consumers greater access to alternate desktop search providers."[53] The other area of note is a set of new security APIs being introduced for the benefit of antivirus software that currently relies on the unsupported practice of patching the kernel.[54][55]

An update to DirectX 10, named DirectX 10.1,[47] makes mandatory several features which were previously optional in Direct3D 10 hardware. Graphics cards will be required to support DirectX 10.1.[56] Service Pack 1 includes a kernel (6001) that matches the version shipped with Windows Server 2008.

Support for the Group Policy Management Console is being removed; a replacement is planned for release the same time frame as the release of the service pack.[47]

Criticism

Windows Vista has received a number of negative assessments. Criticism targets include protracted development time, more restrictive licensing terms, the inclusion of a number of technologies aimed at restricting the copying of protected digital media,[57] and the usability of the new User Account Control security technology. Reviewers have also noted some similarities between Vista's Aero interface and that of Apple's Aqua interface for the Mac OS X operating system. Moreover, some concerns have been raised about many PCs meeting "Vista Premium Ready" hardware requirements and Vista's pricing.

Hardware requirements
While Microsoft claimed "nearly all PCs on the market today [2005] will run Windows Vista",[58] the higher requirements of some of the 'premium' features, such as the Aero interface, have impacted many upgraders. According to The Times in May 2006, the full set of features "would be available to less than 5 percent of Britain’s PC market".[59]This continuing lack of clarity eventually led to a class action against Microsoft as people found themselves with new computers that were unable to run the new software despite assurances. [60]
Slow file operations
When released, Vista performed file operations such as copying and deletion more slowly than other operating systems. Large copies required when migrating from one computer to another seemed difficult or impossible without workarounds such as using the command line. This inability to perform basic file operations efficiently attracted strong criticism.[61] After six months, Microsoft confirmed the existence of these problems by releasing a special performance and reliability update,[62] which was later disseminated through Windows Update, and is included in Service Pack 1.[63]
Licensing and cost
The introduction of additional licensing restrictions has been criticized. Criticism of upgrade licenses pertaining to Windows Vista Starter through Home Premium was expressed by Ars Technica's Ken Fisher, who noted that the new requirement of having a prior operating system already installed was going to cause irritation for users who reinstall Windows on a regular basis.[64] It has been revealed that an Upgrade copy Windows Vista can be installed clean without first installing a previous version of Windows. On the first install, Windows will refuse to activate. The user must then reinstall that same copy of Vista. Vista will then activate on the reinstall, thus allowing a user to install an Upgrade of Windows Vista without owning a previous operating system.[65] As with Windows XP, separate rules still apply to OEM versions of Vista installed on new PCs: Microsoft asserts that these versions are not legally transferrable (although whether this conflicts with the right of first sale has yet to be decided clearly in the courts).[66] The cost of Windows Vista has also been a source of concern and commentary. A majority of users in a poll said that the prices of various Windows Vista editions posted on the Microsoft Canada website in August 2006 make the product too expensive.[67] A BBC News report on the day of Vista's release suggested that, "there may be a backlash from consumers over its pricing plans - with the cost of Vista versions in the US roughly half the price of equivalent versions in the UK."[68]
Digital rights management
Another common criticism concerns the integration of new forms of digital rights management into the operating system, specifically the introduction of the Protected Video Path. This architecture is designed such that "premium content" from HD DVD or Blu-ray discs may mandate that the connections between PC components be encrypted. Devices such as graphic cards must be approved by Microsoft. Depending on what the content demands, the devices may not pass premium content over non-encrypted outputs, or they must artificially degrade the quality of the signal on such outputs or not display it all. There is also a revocation mechanism that allows Microsoft to disable drivers of compromised devices in end-user PCs over the Internet.[69] Peter Gutmann, security researcher and author of the open source cryptlib library, claims that these mechanisms violate fundamental rights of the user (such as fair use) , unnecessarily increase the cost of hardware, and make systems less reliable, (the "tilt bit" is a particular worry; if triggered, the entire graphic subsystem performs a reset) and vulnerable to denial-of-service attacks.[70] Proponents have claimed that Microsoft had no choice but to follow the demands of the movie studios, and that the technology will not actually be enabled until after 2010;[71][72] Microsoft also noted that content protection mechanisms have existed in Windows as far back as Windows Me, and that the new protections will not apply to any existing content (only future content).[73]
User Account Control
Concerns have been raised about the new User Account Control (UAC) security technology. While Yankee Group analyst Andrew Jaquith believes that critical security vulnerabilities may be "reduced by as much as 80%," he also noted that "while the new security system shows promise, it is far too chatty and annoying."[74] This statement was made over six months before Vista was actually released. When Windows Vista was released in November 2006, Microsoft had reduced the number of operating system tasks that triggered UAC prompts, and added file and registry virtualization to reduce the number of legacy applications that trigger UAC prompts.[75] Despite reductions in UAC prompts they still are triggered by many programs, particularly programs not designed for Windows Vista.
Software Protection Platform
Vista includes an enhanced set of anti-piracy technologies, based on Windows XP's WGA, called Software Protection Platform (SPP).[76] A major component of this is a new reduced functionality mode, which Vista enters when it detects that the user has "failed product activation or of that copy being identified as counterfeit or non-genuine",[77] which is described in a Microsoft white paper as follows: "The default Web browser will be started and the user will be presented with an option to purchase a new product key. There is no start menu, no desktop icons, and the desktop background is changed to black. [...] After one hour, the system will log the user out without warning".[78] This has been criticised for being overly draconian,[79][80] especially given reports of "false positives" by SPP's predecessor,[81] and at least one temporary validation server outage.[82][83] Microsoft removed the reduced functionality mode in Service Pack 1 in favour of prominent notices on systems not found to be genuine.[84]

Public reception and sales

Before the release of Windows Vista, expectations for the new operating system were high, fueled by both promises of new features, better security, and a better user interface, as well as the five year period since the release of Windows XP. Large numbers of businesses and consumers planned on upgrading to Vista. However, after its release, it was met with harsh criticism for low hardware support, high system requirements, relatively poor performance, and for not making big enough improvements since the release of XP. This prompted many users and businesses to hold off on upgrading to Vista and even caused some to replace Vista installations with XP. These results further led to low adoption levels of Windows Vista and generally poor public review, as reflected by its title from PC World as the biggest tech disappointment of 2007[85] and from InfoWorld as #2 of Tech's all-time 25 flops.[86] The actual usage share, as measured through web browser user agent strings, show Vista to have approximately 6.9% of the desktop OS market as of December 2007[87], which has since increased to 8.294%.[citation needed]

Due to the large growth of the PC market since the release of Windows XP, initial sales of the operating system set a new high. Within its first month, 20 million copies of Vista were sold, double the amount of XP sales within its first month in October 2001, five years earlier.[88] That said, as a factor of the new market, Vista sales were not high. For example, rival operating system Mac OS X Leopard's first month's sales also doubled over the number of sales from the release of Mac OS X Jaguar five years earlier in August 2002.[89] However, in the case of Jaguar-to-Leopard sales, as opposed to XP-to-Vista sales, users had less pressure to upgrade due to the intermediate releases of both Mac OS X Panther and Tiger. PC World reports that adoption of Windows Vista is going at a much slower rate compared to the adoption of Windows XP. Within the first year of its release, the percentage of XP users visiting PC World's website reached 36%; in the same time frame, however, Windows Vista adoption reached only 14%, with 71% of users still running XP.[90] Electronista reports that in 2007, Vista sales were outdone by XP sales. At the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show, Bill Gates announced that they had sold 100 million copies of Vista, while InformationWeek notes a Gartner assessment that there have been over 250 million total PC sales (not counting separate license purchases) during Vista's first year.[91][92] Electronista also notes that Vista's growth rate is actually slower than what was with XP, saying that 89 million copies of XP were sold in its first year despite having an overall PC market half the size as in 2007.

Due to Vista's poor reception and continued demand for Windows XP, Microsoft is allowing continued sales of Windows XP.[93] An unorthodox number of Vista users have downgraded their operating systems, with many having reverted their own Vista installs or even installing XP (or other operating systems) onto computers which were preloaded with Vista, and many computer manufacturers have even begun shipping XP restore disks along with new computers,[94] as well as new computers with Linux pre-installed. A study conducted by ChangeWave in January 2008, shows that the percentage of customers who are "very satisfied" with Vista is dramatically lower than other operating systems, with Vista Home Basic at 15% and Vista Home Premium 27%, compared to the approximately 52% who say they are "very satisfied" with Windows XP and the 81% for Mac OS X Leopard.[95] ChangeWave also reported that 83% of those intending to purchase Macs said that they "are choosing Macs because of Leopard and their distaste for Vista".[96]

The above ChangeWave study also showed a decrease in the percentage of businesses intending to buy Windows-based PC, down from 96% to 93% between November 2005 and November 2007, partly due to Vista's reception, as well. Business adoption of Vista has been slower than anticipated, with the vast majority still favouring Windows XP and even waiting for Windows 7, Microsoft's next version of Windows scheduled for release in 2010.[97] According to InformationWeek, in December 2006, 6% of business enterprises were expected to employ Vista within the first year, yet as of October 2007, only about 1% of enterprise PCs were actually using Vista.[98] Furthermore, while a large number of businesses have bought licenses to run Windows Vista, many of these companies are holding off deployment.[99]

Some organizations have denounced Vista due to its problems. For example, in October 2007, The Dutch Consumers Association called for a boycott of Windows Vista after the software giant refused to offer free copies of Windows XP to users who had problems with Vista.[100]

References and Notes

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