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Vista RC2 Beta Test

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By nautikal
October 13, 2006

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As a computer enthusiast and member of the MSDN, I was able to download (legally) a copy of Vista RC2. At a first glance, its really sleek looking with lots of new features. For instance, you can add sidebar "gadgets", change window transparency, and can get a preview of the window when you mouse over it in the taskbar. The sidebar is RSS based and I see its functionality expanding greatly in the next few years. This is one of the most exciting new features in Vista.

Also, it seems to be very secure, with a further enhanced security center and advanced malware protection. For example, if you want to install a program, a security window pops up telling you the .exe is trying to modify files and if you want to allow it. Also, if you try and go into advanced areas of the operating system, it double checks for your permission. Finally, Microsoft has closed off the core of the operating system to antivirus developers and secured it within the operating system itself. While this has angered companies like Symantec, I think it's for the better. Less people with access to the core of the operating system should translate into less vulnerabilities.

I think if Microsoft marketed Vista as the "Secure Windows" (or something similar) it would work very well. The main perceived problem with computers right now is malware (viruses and spyware). 90% of the time I hear someone complaining about a computer problem, they blame it on a virus (in all reality however, its usually not a virus). Marketing Vista as being very secure should do well for Microsoft...as long as they can keep it secure.

This is where the good stops though...Vista still has a long way to go. First, it is quite sluggish, even with 1GB of RAM and a 3.0GHz Opteron processor (single core). This is mostly due to the more intense graphical interface and thus more memory usage. I would recommend a minimum of 2GB of RAM for 32bit, and 4GB for 64bit. It's simply a memory hog unless you turn off all the details and the sidebar...but then again you might as well just save your money and use XP. For example, when multitasking, switching between applications is sluggish and trying to do more than one CPU/memory intensive task at once is painful. (On the plus side, opening up individual applications is snappy...more so than in XP). Optimizations to use less memory are desperately needed (such as the disabling of unneeded services).

Second, gaming performance at the moment is suffering by 10-15% (http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=34915). While this is probably mostly caused by the video drivers, it still is a setback. Early adopters are usually enthusiast, and no enthusiast is going to spend 200+$ to get less performance. I understand people say that enthusiasts don't account for much of sales, but they have a lot of clout. Everyone has a person they ask for computer advice, and if that person doesn't like Vista, then the 30 people who ask him for advice aren't going to want it. Hopefully for Microsoft, by the time Vista is out in full swing, video drivers will be more optimized.

Third, many popular programs do not work on Vista, including drivers, burning software, and internet browsers. However, I don't think this is really a problem. Once Vista gets closer to launch date, programs will be updated to support vista. Hopefully this is just a temporary annoyance.

Finally, the security messages can be quite annoying, especially for enthusiast users. I haven't looked around hard, but I hope there is or will be an option to turn off some of the warnings. I'm not dumb enough to get spyware or viruses, and the warning messages are simply annoying and time consuming. When I'm trying to install a program, surf the internet, chat with someone, edit a movie, and listen to music, I can't be bothered with annoying warning messages...

Well, in summary, while Vista is certainly exciting, there are simply not enough positives at the moment to warrant paying for Vista and then going through the process of becoming used to it. However, I think that once DirectX 10 is out, more programs are compatible, and optimizations are added, Vista will be worth it. I'm really looking forward to having the ability to play people on Xbox from my PC (which is a feature of Dx10), and I would probably buy Vista just for that point alone. (I can't stand my friends bashing me for sucking at halo on Xbox :D ).

Anyways, if anyone wants to know more about Vista, I'd be happy to boot into it and let you know. Or you could search the web for other opinions.

-Jeff (does not own MSFT)

 


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