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Vista: the good, the bad and the missing


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Adam Turner

October 10, 2006



Vista comes in six flavours, with Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Enterprise aimed at business users. Windows Vista Enterprise has extra features to assist with big deployments and protect data. Enterprise will only be available to organisations with a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement or paying for Microsoft Software Assurance. The benefits vary depending on how you use the software.




The most obvious change is the Aero interface, with its big icons and fonts, translucent menus, windows that flip in 3-D and window thumbnails - very familiar to Mac OS X users. Vista scales back effects for those who don't want to invest in high-end graphics cards for their rank-and-file PCs. The minimum requirements are a 800 MHz processor, 512 MB of system memory and a DirectX 9-capable graphics card. To get the full benefit, PCs need at least a 1 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM and 128 MB of graphics memory with Pixel Shader 2.0.




There's a revamped Start menu with desktop search that narrows results as a query is typed. Explorer has an integrated search box. A receding sidebar accesses gadgets such as a calendar and RSS reader, also reminiscent of OS X and Google's Taskbar and Desktop Search. Vista has partition and file-level data backup.


ReadyBoost uses USB memory sticks as additional system RAM, SuperFetch caches frequently used applications and documents in memory, and ReadyDrive uses hybrid flash/hard disk drives to save battery life and resume faster from hibernation. A new Sleep power state combines the speed of Standby with the data protection features and low power consumption of Hibernate.




Users are no longer granted full administration rights by default, hampering malware's ability to infect the machine. Security features include an outbound firewall and User Account Control (which can be disabled) to warn users against performing potentially dangerous actions, along with Windows Defender to rebuff spyware. BitLocker Drive Encryption encrypts user data on the fly, similar to features already found in notebooks with encryption chips.


Choose from default home, office and public settings when connecting to networks. Vista supports the new IPv6 protocol, plus Network Access Protection prevents computers not meeting security policies from connecting to internal networks. Hard-drive imaging tools simplify big deployments and more specific group policy management allows administrators to set policies for a wider range of scenarios, including the use of removable storage devices. Remote Assistance has also been enhanced.




Vista has Windows Presentation, Communication and Workflow Foundations along with the .NET 2.0 and 3.0 Frameworks for feature-rich applications. Key features shelved include the WinFS relational database, SecurID tokens, the Palladium security platform, the Unix-like Monad command-line interface and the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface meant to replace the motherboard BIOS.

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Vista users to face new piracy tests

Eric Lai, PC World

10/10/2006 08:07:03



Microsoft last week confirmed that it is overhauling its antipiracy technology for Windows Vista in an effort to plug a potential software license security hole among corporate users and avoid the problems associated with Windows XP's antipiracy tools.


But the new technology will impose more stringent penalties on users who fail to validate their copies of Vista. And it likely will force many companies to tighten up the proc?esses they have for installing Windows on PCs and tracking the use of their software license keys. That prospect, and the possibility that valid users could be deemed illegitimate, didn't sit well with some IT managers.


Frank Yawn, an IT manager at Time Warner Cable's office said he expects the new Software Protection Platform technology that Microsoft is building into Windows Vista to "add another layer of complexity" to his work.


"I personally feel the security of our keys is pretty adequate," Yawn said. "If I can't trust my employees with the key and a Windows CD, then maybe I need to re-evaluate my employees."


"While I fully understand the need for Microsoft to protect its licensing, I have concerns when more and more restrictions are placed on enterprise customers," said Steven Bastille, IT director for server and desktop systems at Station Casinos.


The Las Vegas-based casino chain runs more than 3,000 Windows PCs and servers, many in a high-availability environment. Bastille worries that increased oversight of software license keys by Microsoft through the SPP technology will increase the chances that legitimate users will be asked to revalidate their Windows installations -- a scenario he said he could ill afford.


"If there's an error somewhere outside of my control, and all 3,000-plus machines are suddenly not working, I could end up looking for a new job," Bastille said.


Currently, companies that buy large amounts of software from Microsoft under volume licenses are issued a single key for each application or operating system, no matter how many machines the products will be installed on. Many store their license keys as unencrypted strings in plain-text files, making the keys vulnerable to theft.


Stolen keys often end up on the Internet, where they can be reused millions of times by software pirates and unwitting users. In July, Microsoft said that of the 300 million copies of Windows XP that had been scanned by its Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) tool at that point, 48 million had failed the piracy test because they were installed with stolen volume-license keys.


Starting with Windows Vista and Windows Server Longhorn, which is expected to be released next year, companies will have to choose one of two options under the SPP program. The first, primarily for smaller customers, is to be validated via the Internet by receiving a Multiple Activation Key from a Microsoft server during installation.


The second option, geared toward larger companies, is to install a Microsoft-developed Key Management Service on an internal server to validate PCs during the installation process and every 180 days thereafter. The KMS application will also encrypt the license keys and hide them on the server, according to Microsoft.


Roger Kay, an analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates said the SPP technologies should "significantly tighten" the leakage of volume-license keys to software pirates. He added that doesn't think SPP will prove to be "that much of a hassle" for companies.


Cori Hartje, director of Microsoft's Genuine Software Initiative, said companies that lose their Windows Vista volume keys or have them stolen and used by pirates won't be penalized, although they may be required to reinstall and change their keys. That process will be simplified by the KMS offering, she said.


The potential consequences are more dire for Vista users who ignore SPP's validation requests or fail its test. And they go beyond those that are now faced by Windows XP users who run afoul of WGA's validation component.


XP users who don't pass the WGA test are blocked from downloading software add-ons such as the Windows Defender security tools. In contrast, users who decline or fail to validate their copies of Windows Vista via SPP will be blocked from using some of the operating system's features, Hartje said. That includes Aero, Vista's graphical user interface, and ReadyBoost, an application that uses flash memory to increase system performance.


After 30 days, the operating system will go into what Kay described as an "ugly mode" that provides reduced functionality, similar to Windows Safe Mode. Users then will be given one final hour of Web access as a last chance to validate the software or buy a legitimate license.


SPP will not be included in Office 2007, which is expected to ship by year's end. However, Microsoft said that the technology will eventually be built into more of its products.

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The Ultimate question: give Microsoft $2,000 or buy a new PC?


9 October 2006 David Flynn


With the release of local pricing for Windows Vista, we now know that the top-shelf Vista Ultimate package will set buyers reeling with its $751 price tag.


Now we?re waiting for the other shoe to drop. That shoe, of course, is Office 2007, for which Microsoft plans a new ?Office Ultimate? version containing the 2007 builds of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher, Access, OneNote, the Groove P2P virtual workspace and the more esoteric InfoPath XLM-based workflow platform.


While the company?s outpost has yet to announce Aussie pricing for any edition of the supersuite, US pricing has already been revealed. Stateside punters will be asked to pony up $US679 for Office Ultimate 2007.


Although there?s no equivalent megamix version of Office 2003, prices for other editions of Office 2007 are largely identical to their Office 2003 counterparts. For example, both the 2003 and 2007 ?Standard? versions cost $US399, with the Professional packages parallel parked at $US499.


So let?s do a quick exercise in mathematics. We can calculate the ?difference factor? in the US between Office Ultimate 2007 and Office Standard 2007 as 1.7 (that is, 697/399). And we know that, at least in the US, the prices for Office 2007 and Office 2003 are identical.


This means we can guesstimate the Australian price of Office Ultimate 2007 as being 1.7 times the local price for Office Standard 2003, which is $675. So that?s 1.7 x $675? carry the 1? okay, are you sitting down?


Because the result is a whopping $1,149! And let?s also remember that the when APC did a similar exercise to predict the local cost of Vista we actually came in around 10% under the final figure, so Office Ultimate 2007 could end up closer to $1,260.


Toss in Vista Ultimate and you?re looking just over $2,000 for an ?ultimate? pairing of Microsoft?s OS and productivity suite.


On the other hand, a few quick clicks at Dell?s online store revealed that for about the same price you could pick up a Dimension 9200 desktop built around Intel?s Core 2 Duo E6400 powerplant with 1GB of RAM, a 256MB ATI Radeon X1300 graphics card, 320GB hard drive, TV tuner card and 19in LCD display.


So, if you?ve got $2,000 to hand you can buy Microsoft?s latest and greatest software platform, or a PC to run it on. I know which one I?d choose?

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This means that we will continue to stay with the setup we currently have. Heck, I have both Windows XP Pro and Windows 98 SE dual booting with GAG on my machine just so I can run all of my old games on the Windows 98 SE install (I am also thinking about using my 98 install to browse the net when I eventually get a connection at home - just so that my XP install won't be plagued with viruses?? (maybe virii?)).


[edit] I believe in free software, which is why I search sourceforge.net for a tool before searching anywhere else. List of apps I have found useful to me: CoolPlayer, NSIS, HM NIS Edit, 7-Zip, GAG bootloader, Mediacoder, and Audacity. I have also made the source code available with the plugins I have written for NSIS. Hopefully, I will start on a music player based on CoolPlayer that will be put on sourceforge.net. I will call it PlayItCool.[/edit]

Edited by JasonFriday13
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Eh, usual Microsoft shit. New version of Windows comes out, and, the first thing they do is merely tout the GUI changes and how nicer the inferface looks. Big fucking deal. Just more drivers, etc. that get loaded, eat up resources, and crash EXPLORER.EXE. :rolleyes:

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