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article imageMicrosoft Vista Blues

By Andrew Boggs     Jan 1, 2009 in Technology
Microsoft Vista went from being a highly anticipated operating system to a dreadfully demanding software - and what Microsoft is doing about it!
Whenever a new operating system is about to be released, there is a lot of hype in the marketing of the software. Sometimes its close to what the creators promised - other times the features produce more headaches than what the changes are worth. A major consideration is how the operating system works with hardware and other programs. When you think of “upgrading”, the cost of the o/s is only part of the equation. As with any new product, there are bound to be “glitches” that have not been quite worked out, requiring patches, and the possibility of newer hardware improvements to meet the minimum requirements. For the end-user, frequent upgrades are a time-consuming pain. For the maker, it’s the possibility of losing business to the competition if the o/s proves to be a dud..
Microsoft is the brainchild of Bill Gates and Paul Allen, two whiz-kids who along with the help of an MITS Altair 8800 became major players in bringing personal computing to life. At the time of the inspiration for Microsoft, Paul Allen was an employee at Honeywell, while Bill Gates was a sophomore at Harvard who interned with the company. Both were hobbyists in the field of electronics and emerging technologies. The cover of the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics featured a photo of a very basic mock-up of what became the Altair 8800, the first reported mini-computer. Both Paul and Bill realized the potential need for software in creating interest for the hardware. BASIC was initially developed by Dartmouth Professor, Dr. John G. Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz in 1964. It stands for ‘Beginners All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code‘, the precursor to DOS, Disc Operating System - a shorthand for several related operating systems that would eventually be married to IBM personal computers and its competitors between 1981 and 2000. Some of the offspring included the well-known MS-DOS, along with DR-DOS, FreeDOS, PC-DOS, PTS-DOS, ROM-DOS and others. The DOS system was required to bring programs to life.
Paul Allen and Bill Gates decided to collaborate on a ’simulator’ language to work with a DEC PDP-10 computer in emulating the MITS machine. The result was their version of BASIC for use with the Altair. On a flight to MITS headquarters, Paul realized he needed a way to install the program on the computer, so he wrote a ‘loader’ program on the way down - luckily for Paul, it worked on the first try. With the success of the program, Paul Allen is invited to join MITS with Bill Gates joining him soon after, where the two would form an informal partnership called ‘Micro-soft’ to develop MS-BASIC.
However, Paul Allen and Bill Gates would eventually find they are not the only players in the creation of operating systems.
An Apple A Day Comes Into Play
Steve Jobs at 16, a high school student at Homestead High School in Cupertino, California and 21 year-old Steve Wozniak, a former college student from University of California, Berkeley met while both worked together at Hewlett-Packard with Wozniak working on mainframe computers and Jobs as a summer employee. Jobs would later enter Reed College in Portland, Oregon, dropping out after one semester. Steve Jobs asserts that a course in calligraphy at Reed College was his inspiration for multiple typefaces within Apple’s operating system. In the fall of 1974, Steve Jobs took a service technician position at Atari and would attend meetings along with Wozniak at the Homebrew Computer Club. After a brief backpacking sojourn to India, Jobs returned to his job at Atari where he was given the task of creating a circuit board for the game Breakout. The company made an offer to pay $600 to anyone in the firm who could come up with a way to reduce the number of chips used in its machines. Jobs and the Woz worked together and split the reward when they were able to reduce the chips by fifty.
Wozniak and Jobs then designed a machine that used a common portable television set as a display with software that generated sixty characters per second. Jobs approached an area computer store called the ’Byte Shop’ whose owner Paul Terrell showed interest, but only if the two Steve’s could produce an assembled machine. Terrell went a step further by offering the two young men $500 each for an order of 50 machines, payable on delivery. After working out a loan with a parts supplier, Apple soon became solvent as the two reinvested in the company. What would set Apple apart from Microsoft was not only creating the machine, but the computer language that went with it, owning the both without issuing stock or losing control of the company. At the urging of the Byte Shop’s owner, Wozniak would design a cassette interface to allow the loading and saving of programs to work with the machine.
With profits from sales of the first Apple, the company set out to build a much better personal computer called the Apple II, this is the machine that put the company on the map. However Apple would need a lot of money to design and build the new box. Enter multimillionaire, Mike Markkula who co-signed a bank loan for a quarter million dollars to finance the development and building of the computer, and officially creating the company called Apple Computer on April 1st, 1976 in the process. The Apple II series is credited to have initiated the home computer market. Eventually Apple offered stock to the investing public and producing at least three hundred millionaires in the process.
In the Apple III, the company found it had produced its first lemon. The Apple itself was a great machine, however, in an innovative and cost-saving move, the model was sans fan. Jobs nixed the fan in favor of allowing natural ventilation of dissipating heat through the chassis - it proved to be a mistake. The machines would overheat causing the integrated chips to loosen on the motherboard. When customers called to complain, an Apple Customer Service representative would advise them to “drop the computer on the desk” to encourage the chips to fall back into place. The end result was Apple had to recall the machines.
In what eventually would become Apple’s $10,000 Lisa, introduced in 1983, the company studied the development and building of the Xerox PARC, named after the Palo-Alto Research Center. Xerox had developed the concept of the Graphical User Interface, known as the GUI, initially demonstrating it on the Alto computer. While the Lisa itself did not prove to be a market success, the software concepts from Lisa would be integrated into future Apple models.
In November 1984, Apple announced what became one of its most popular computers to date, the Macintosh. What set this model apart was it’s GUI interface bundled with MacWrite and MacPaint. In its creation, software had to be rewritten from text mode command-driven applications to a GUI-based format. Initially a lot of software developers shied away from the challenge. It would take Apple a while to convince developers to write programs for their computers. After early success, the Macintosh began to falter in sales as potential customers found there were a limited amount of programs for the computer. However, with the development of desktop publishing program Aldus Pagemaker and a laser printer, the computer again gained ground with the small publishing crowd.
Eventually, Apple would introduce more progressive models including the iMac, MacBook Pro along with other technology and software.
Taking a page from Apple’s book, Microsoft went beyond its MS-DOS, developing a new operating system based on the aforementioned GUI interface and christened as Windows. The new o/s used MS-DOS in the background allowing it to work on older programs, and the life of MS-DOS would remain a backstop until the introduction of its NT Professional line, and later with XP for its consumer operating system. Windows 1.0 was actually an “add-on” to compete with Apple’s GUI-based o/s. With the advent of Window’s ’GUI’ architecture in Windows 2.0, Apple would bring suit against Microsoft for copyright infringement of its technology of overlapping windows and other parts of the Apple o/s GUI in 1988 with the introduction of Windows 2.0, after initially working out an agreement allowing Windows to use some elements of the GUI in its first version. The United States Supreme Court would eventually throw out the suit in 1994.
Windows 3.0
Windows 3.0 added more features, but still relied heavily on DOS as its backbone. Its release date was May 22nd, 1990 and came out on 5” and 3.5” disks. 3.0 text mode programs could be run within Windows, but games and entertainment were processed via raw DOS. This version picked-up both icon-based ‘program manager’ and list-based ‘file manager’ in its equation. Gaming was limited to Solitaire along with the earlier Reversi program. This was also a time when a number of third party software programs began to be developed for the Windows operating system.
Windows 3.1
Initially known by its code name Janus, Windows 3.1 was released to the public in April 1992. The backbone was still DOS, however, Microsoft included a font system named ’TrueType’, marking the beginnings of an honest desktop publishing platform for the first time. The o/s had backward compatibility with previous versions of the software, allowing it to continue its support for older programs. Along with Windows 3.1 was the release of Windows for Workgroups in October of that year.
Windows NT
In November 1989, Microsoft would start its development of a ’professional’ operating system which eventually became known as NT. It was designed to be a high level language-based version of Windows with features similar to Unix. The o/s became compatible with many of the API system flavors. One of the distinct features of the new software was its ability to run more than one program at a time, otherwise known as multitasking. In it’s 3.51 version, the software would carry the slogan, ‘The PowerPC Release‘, coming out on May 30th, 1995. A significance to the business world was the software’s ability for client/server support with its concept to interoperate with Windows 95. Windows would continue its support for version 3.51 until December 31st, 2001.
Windows 4.0 NT offered a great deal of advances over its older incarnation. The software was less “resource-demanding” than that of consumer-based Windows ’95. And it was compatible with OS/2 and POSIX allowing better multitasking support. The software developed with the help of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) allowed the business O/S to allow multiple instruction set architectures to operate on multiple hardware platforms within each architecture. Windows NT became one of the earliest operating systems to use an internal Unicode.
Windows 95
Windows 95 was an evolutionary step forward of the consumer operating system, It was the marriage between MS-DOS 7.0 and the GUI interface of other Windows products. Other additions to the program included support for 255-character mixed-case long file names and multitasked 32-bit applications. Whereas previous versions had separated Windows and MS-DOS options, Windows 95 married both concepts into one package.
Windows lacked support for older 16-bit x-86 processors, requiring new 80386 units to operate. Windows 95 introduced the FAT (File Allocation Table) to its formula. The filing system allowed for support of DR-DOS, OpenDOS, freeDOS, OS/2 as well MS-DOS. Windows 95 became a major marketing success, blowing away the aforementioned DOS systems, save it’s own version of DOS.
Windows 98
Codenamed ‘Memphis’, Windows 98 was the replacement for Windows 95. It was a refinement of the previous architecture, repairing many of the bugs in past Microsoft operating systems. Released on June 25th, 1998, it would become a hybrid of 16-bit/32-bit formulas. Windows 98 was designed for the 486 chip. Running it on a slower processor would cause crashes within a program. It was the first system to use Windows Driver Model (WDM), replacing VXD. Early editions were released on floppy disks, but were soon to be released on CD-ROM, as its popularity became the new standard for programs written for Windows and other operating systems.
Windows 98SE followed, fixing many of the ills associated with the earlier version - like crashing within 48 hours in continuous service for instance. Plus the ’SE’ version was more stable in LAN applications. Many software firms soon wrote programs suggesting the use of Windows SE as a minimum requirement for their programs. This release came to life on May 5th, 1999. Windows 98 included;
ScanDisk - Utility designed to maintain the file system in both DOS and GUI, checking the integrity of the file system and the files themselves.
Disc Defragmenter - Used to counter negative effects of file system fragmentation.
ScanReg - Used in checking and restoring system registry.
MsConfig - A utility used to disable programs not required to run a computer.
Regedit - Allows manual editing of registry.
Windows 98 also introduced the ’Plug-n-Play’ concept. Allowing one to run software and simply automatically configure the hardware plugged into it. Microsoft continued to support Windows 98 until January 16th, 2004 - incidentally, this was also the end date of Windows Me.
Windows ME
Windows ME was designed to take marketing advantage of the coming millennium that was 2000. Everyone wanted to be ’with it’ by having something that was cutting edge that year. In reality, Windows ME was a limp replacement for Windows 98, and in fact, it never replaced Windows 98, both were sold side-by-side, with ME being the cheaper of the two. It was cranky and several conflict issues arose between the operating system and programs as well software.
It included Internet Explorer 5.5, Windows Media Player 7, and Windows Movie Maker Software, and support for the .NET framework up to and including version 2.0. Where Windows ME differentiated from Windows 98, is it utilized restricted real mode MS-DOS, which allowed for speeded-up boot time. Overall, the program lost its popularity soon after introduction as early users noted its severe weak points in software and hardware compatibility issues. Windows ME as mentioned was shelved on January 16th, 2004 at the same time of Windows 98. It was a real Microsoft bomb!
Windows 2000
Windows 2000 was the very worthy successor to Windows NT and was released to the public on February 17th, 2000. It continued the use of the successful ‘NT’ architecture, known for its stability. It was designed to work with i-uni-processor and symmetric multi-processor computers. It is also a hybrid kernel operating system. Under the 2000 umbrella were the flavors, Professional, Server, Advance Server and Data Server Limited Edition. The operating system was able to handle the 64-bit Intel Itanium microprocessor. It also offered the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), a feature that allowed administrators and advance users the ability to configure and monitor systems using a flexible interface.
Windows 2000 is based on the stable NTFS file system. It was advertised as the most secure Windows version ever. That claim aroused the creativity of hackers bent on destabilizing the operating system through a number of high-profile viruses like Code Red and Nimda. Microsoft continues to offer security patches for the software. However, even with security patches, the O/S faced another problem - leaked code. Around February 12th, 2000, Windows 2000 and its predecessor, NT were illegally made public on the internet. Microsoft promised it would prosecute those involved in stealing the code. However, even after the warning was issued, the source code continued to be found on file-sharing networks.
Windows 2000 has been touted as the self-repairing operating system. The theory was if Windows encountered a problem, it would self-correct rather than crash. The disabled found the o/s more friendly with a number of new assisted technologies over what NT had offered. Other improvements covered;
Object Manager - a resource manager that offered an object oriented operating system.
I/O Manager - allows communications through subsystems via user mode read and write commands in passing them on to device drivers.
Security Reference Monitor (SRM) - primary authority for enforcing security rules of the security integral subsystem.
IPC Manager (Inter-process Communications) - manages communications between clients and servers.
Virtual Memory Manager - allows Windows 2000 to use hard disc as primary storage device, although it could be considered secondary storage.
Process Manager - handles process thread creation and termination.
Plug And Play Manager (PnP) - Supports device detection and installation when computer is booted.
Windows 2000 offered support for Post-Script 3 printers, data-protection API, Active Directory Address Book, multi-language and local support. Windows Protection File, which is a program that protects Windows system files from being corrupted by third-party programs. Improvements were also made to Explorer to lessen the programs vulnerability to viruses. However, as hacker techniques improved, the advantage slowly dissipated, making ActiveX useful in installing malware. The good news is the Encryption File System (EFS) has yet to be compromised. Windows 2000 was taken off market on September 13th, 2005 after a very successful run. Windows 2000 support will end on July 13th, 2010.
Linux, a UNIX-based system was brought to life in 1991 by Linus Torvalds of Helsinki, Finland. He worked on the software while attending college. Linux strengths is its higher stability than the operating systems offered by Microsoft Windows or Apple. It is also offered as an open source architecture, GNU under General Public License. This allowed developers to bring out their own versions to be offered to the public. As such, Linux is offered for a much lower price than other operating systems on the market, as well the ability to obtain free versions on the internet. However, Linux is not an ’easy’ install in comparison. It should be mentioned, that Richard Stallman was the brain behind the GNU concept, creating it in 1983.
The General Public License has benefited in advancing Linux by allowing programmers to work from its kernel in further developing the o/s, along with programs to run on the platform. Linux gained its popularity for use in servers, but is also used in other embedded applications. Even though its opened source, there have been few reports of hackers creating malware to corrupt the software. Linux is continuing to enjoy great popularity with its Red Hat Fedora and Ubuntu versions. Although there are many more developers as well. On August 15th, 1994, William R Della Croce, Jr. filed for the Linux trademark, before that, the name had not been registered. Croce then turned around and demanded royalties from the use of the name Linux. This infuriated developers - and most importantly, Linus Torvolds, himself. Developers and users alike felt if anyone should own the trademark, it should be its creator, Linus Torvolds. After a legal battle by Torvolds and his supporters, the case was found in favor of Linus and has been placed with the Linux-Marks Institute. LMI has asked developers for a reasonable fee for the use of the name - and they have complied. Many low cost computers and notebooks now come with Linux pre-installed.
Windows XP
Windows XP is a giant step away from its predecessors - gone is MS-DOS from the system, instead, all versions of the software use the NT kernel, far more reliable than previous consumer Windows operating systems from the past. This is a good thing, and it has helped XP last beyond its planned expiration date. Windows XP’s popularity is that it works, which allows you to work. Less time with glitches means greater productivity. Of course the version one purchases determines how much productivity one achieves. Windows XP comes in two main flavors - Home Edition and Professional. Initially the Professional was offered in two choices, one is a 32-bit version and the other was offered as a 64-bit, was more robust. However, the 64-bit was taken off the market, and now one only finds the 32-bit. Other editions include Media Center and Windows XP Tablet. The difference between XP Home Edition and Professional is some of the features have been disabled in Home. Microsoft has been trying to eliminate XP since the inception of Vista, and has been unable to spin it off to history - it remains a powerhouse in popularity and function when compared to Vista.
Microsoft’s slogan for XP is experience, and indeed, the company has had a lot of that. Security was improved over past incarnations, its Advance Security Technologies and Encryption File System are a definitive improvement over the well-designed Windows 2000, and that’s saying a lot. Of course, one is better off by running Webroot or Kaperski Anti-Virus software in the background, even if using the Professional version of Windows. In fact, Windows has received criticism for susceptibility to viruses, worms, Trojan horses and other forms of malware. While Microsoft has issued many patches to solve the security issues, it’s a never ending battle when pitted against sophisticated hackers. One of the problems is once the System Administrator has been compromised, there are no limits as to the havoc that can be caused to files. In fighting this, Microsoft has initiated Automatic Updates with this version, with the software company encouraging users to leave it turned-on - smart idea!
Any software is open to criticism, and one area that some have remarked on is the ’clutter’ in the default user interface. The good thing is if it’s a bother, users can switch back to the classic windows display. Some say it speeds up Windows in the process. Another criticism is Microsoft’s bundling features like Media Player and Messenger along with preferred ties to its Live ID service. In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled Microsoft in the case as ’United States vs. Microsoft’ as being liable for abusing its operation system monopoly to overwhelm competition in ’other’ markets.
Microsoft XP was first released on October 25th, 2001. By January 2006, there were over 400 million copies in use. Direct OEM sales were ended on June 30th, 2008, however are still available from system builders - custom built PC manufacturers. And some computers equipped with XP are still being offered on older machines by retail establishments. Of course, those are getting harder to find. Microsoft has actually put off its end date a few times in lieu of market demand. A change from the old is Windows XP requires online product activation in combating software piracy.
Windows has also addressed ’DLL (Dynamic Link Libraries)’ issues with XP, which now incorporates a management solution to deal with the problem. The usual sign of a problem ahead was the infamous “A Required DLL File, Z.DLL was not found” pop-up. Needless to say, even XP still has some ’pop-up’s’ such as ’System Notification Failure’ which can have some pulling out their hair in frustration.
With Windows XP as it is any latest generation of O/S, are added features not found in earlier versions. These include;
Faster start-up & hibernation sequences.
Driver rollback in cases where a new driver will not work with an older device.
A new driver interface said to be arguably more friendly than past versions.
Faster ’user-switching’ which allows user to save a current state, in allowing another user to log-on without information loss.
Clear Type font rendering, which improves text readability on LCD screens.
Remote Desktop Functionality, allowing use of a computer on a LAN having access to files, printers and other devices.
Support for DSL modems and wireless connections such as Firewire & Bluetooth.
Windows XP also made some changes to it’s graphical user interface;
Translucent blue selection rectangle in Explorer.
Drop shadows for icon labels on desktop.
Task-based ’side bars’ in Explorer windows.
Ability to group taskbar buttons of a window into one window from one application.
A locking taskbar to prevent accidental changes.
Highlighting of recently added programs on the Start menu.
Shadows under Menu.
The issuing of ’Service Packs’ has seemed to become a standard with Windows versions of late. The reason for service packs is to fix issues under the operating systems and to a lesser degree add new features.
In the first companion service pack, post RTM security fixes and hot fixes were issued along on dealing with compatibility issues from the initial release of Windows XP. Added was the option of .NET Framework support.
Service Pack 2, otherwise known as ’Springboard’, put an emphasis on security along with enhanced firewall protection and improved ‘Wi-Fi’ support.
Service Pack 3 is reported to be the last service pack for XP. It contains a back-support for Windows Vista as well an updated Windows Player Media 9. A total of 1,146 fixes have been added to the security pack.
On April 14th, 2009, Windows XP Extended Support goes into effect until April 8th, 2014.
Indeed, XP has been an operating system which will outlast its replacement.
Windows Vista
While under it’s codename, ’Longhorn’, Vista became a much-anticipated operating system to replace the venerable XP. Much speculation in the press, supported by Microsoft-allowed leaks, built-up a pent-up desire to see its release - marketing at its best. As the retail entrance date came closer, Microsoft pumped-up it’s ’wow’ factor in order to increase sales. One of the areas is the ’Aero’ desktop. Aero is built on a desktop composition engine, Desktop Window Manager. It is the ’wow’ factor talked about earlier. It uses 3D translucency effects like ’glass’, live thumbnails, and window animations among other effects. However, all this glitz comes at a price. Aero requires a more powerful graphics card, memory, a more powerful cpu and a higher wattage power supply if you are upgrading from XP or earlier Windows versions. Beyond the cost of the software, one could expect to spend up to $500 or possibly more on an older machine before one can install the software for its ’Ultimate’ version. Unless you are ready to upgrade to a new computer capable of handling Windows Vista Ultimate, that can be an expensive expenditure for an older machine. Another cost factor is compatibility issues with older peripherals that may work in the XP atmosphere, but do not work under Vista. There is also the question if pre-Vista software will still function under the new operating environment? In some cases, the answer is no. Lack of backward compatibility seems to be a sticking point with consumers against Vista.
Because of compatibility issues, its advised to visit Microsoft online for its free ‘Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor’ to see if your machine can run Vista, what it takes to make it Vista ready. Requirements for Vista include graphics cards NVIDIA GeForce 6 or later, or at least ATI Radeon 9500 or newer. Its advised to have 4GB of memory or more to have Vista function properly. Machine must be able to run 64-bit applications. With everything included, it’s a mighty expensive outlay. And this is a problem, many consumers balked at what it would take to run Vista - the eye candy itself is not enough to make most consumers make the jump. According to Jason Nicholas Boggs (yes, related to author), an IT Technician at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, the operating system has been a headache to students concerning hardware compatibility issues with the software. Another problem is loading older software that no longer functions within its environment.
Vista does add some new tricks worth considering;
Windows Aero: ’Authentic, Energetic, Reflective, and Open’, the eye candy mentioned earlier. One problem, when used with a notebook, it gulps down a lot more energy, shortening battery life between charges.
Windows Shell: Significant change from XP offers a wider range of organization, navigation, and search efficiencies.
Instant Search: Faster than previous search methods in that it starts its finding efforts as you type, offering better depth in content.
Windows Sidebar: Transparent panel where one can place what are called ’gadgets’, small applets - things like weather or sports scores.
Windows Explorer 7 - allowing tabbed browsing, RSS, search box and improved printing. IE7 in Vista operates under ’protected mode’, isolating the browser, thus not allowing outside programs to get beyond temporary internet files without prior permission. Added is an anti-phishing filter.
Windows Media Player 11: a major advance over older programs, offering ’word wheeling’ (search as you type), X-Box 360 integration, as well as to share media with other Vista users over a network.
Backup & Restore Center: Gives users ability to schedule periodic backups, along with complete backup with Ultimate and Enterprise versions. The advantage of the image-based back-up is the ability to create a CD-ROM for a ‘machine setup’ for installation on new hardware or hard drive.
Windows Mail: Replaces ’Outlook Express’ with a new mail store application improving stability over Outlook Express.
Windows Calendar: New calendar and task manager.
Windows Photo Gallery: Photo library and movie management application.
Windows DVD Maker: Windows Movie Maker companion that provides ability to create DVD based on user content. Allows design of title, menu, video, soundtrack, pan and zoom motion effects on pictures and slides.
Windows Media Center: Once an add-on to XP, now incorporated into Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Vista.
Games Explorer: New games include ‘Chess Titans’, ‘Mahjong Titans’ and ‘Purble Place’, along with previous standards.
Windows Mobility Center: Useful for laptop usage. Includes monitoring for battery level, sound, brightness and power scheme.
Windows Meeting Space: Replaces NetMeeting. Gives ability to share applications and whole desktop with other users through a network or the internet.
Shadow Copy: Automatically creates daily backup copies of files and folders.
Windows Update: Perhaps one of the smarter features of Vista, Update automatically updates the security system on Windows.
Parental Controls: A popular feature with parents of young children, the file provides a gateway as to what is allowed content and what is not. Enterprise and Business versions do not offer this feature.
Windows Side Show: Allows display of device gadgets whether computer is on or off with specific laptop models.
Speech Recognition: Goes beyond working in Office and WordPad, in Vista, it functions with any accessible application. Languages covered include British and American English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
Problem Support & Solutions: A control panel allowing viewers to see previously sent problems as well any solutions or additional information.
Windows System Assessment Tool: Used to benchmark system performance. Software, including games, can retrieve rating and improve its behavior at runtime.
Windows Ultimate Extras: Access to additional features like ’Texas Hold ’Em’, Microsoft Tinker (a strategy game), as well BitLocker, and EFS which allows users to back-up encryption keys. Included are ’DreamScene’, allowing WMV and MPEG formats to be used as background on desktop.
Reliability & Performance Monitor: Tunes and monitor’s system performance
Disc Management: Supports shrinking and expanding volumes on the fly.
Windows Vista offers different styles like ’Aero’, 3D graphics, including the aforementioned ’glass’, live thumbnails and animation. Vista Standard foregoes the eye candy in Ultimate, but requires the same standards as the higher-end version. Meanwhile, Basic offers similar attributes as offered in XP. Classic steps back a little farther, emulating Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003.
As mentioned, the requirements on Vista Premium are heavy as compared to earlier versions of the operating system;
Processor: 1 Ghz Intel Pentium or Better
Memory: 1 GB or Better RAM
Graphics Card: Direct X 9.0, along with WDDM 1.0 driver support
Graphics Memory: 512 MB or better for resolutions of 2560 by 1600
HDD Capacity: 40GB
HDD Free Space: 15 GB
Other Drives: DVD ROM
Audio: Standard output
There is a difference between ’Vista Capable’ and ‘Vista Premium’, and that has thrown a lot of criticism Microsoft’s way. People who purchased ’Vista Capable’ found that their machines were barely able to handle the new operating system, and a class-action suit against Microsoft resulted. One user noted a lot of problems when trying to load and use software on his laptop, noting “I now have a $2100 e/mail machine!”
The reception of Vista has been cold as problems with the operating system cropped-up. PC World called Vista the biggest tech disappointment of 2007, while InfoWorld rated it as the #2 flop of Tech’s all time 25 flops. Consumers as the biggest voters have either avoided machines that ran Vista, or downgraded their Vista machines by swapping them to the XP operating system. What hurt sales as well was a leaked memo by an executive at Microsoft saying even they were having trouble using Vista. Some computer manufacturers have been shipping copies of XP along with Vista. The Dutch were moved to boycott Microsoft after the company refused to ship free XP software to replace the disappointing Vista. Microsoft had extended XP retail sales beyond the cutoff point to lower consumer aggravation and to keep their cash registers ringing. All this has Microsoft chagrined, and worried that their market share of operating systems will decrease.
One of the bigger headaches with Vista support was the relative paucity of drivers, especially for older hardware. Vista went too far in requiring the upgrading of hardware to use much of it’s abilities. A lot of manufacturers did not have enough time to write drivers for the new Microsoft operating system, or simply decided not to support it. Slowly, that problem is lessening, but its too late to save the operating system from its reputation. Even Nvidia which advertised their drivers for GeForce 8800 graphics cards as ‘Designed for Windows Vista’, found they were not ‘Vista-ready’ in real life applications according to those commenting on Nvidia’s official blogs. There is even a site called attempting to gather documented problems faced by users for a planned class action suit. Meanwhile, Nvidia is working hard to resolve the issues for their consumers. According to ’’, its latest ’Forceware, Version 158.24’ still falls short of the goal to make its drivers problem-free. Even Creative has found itself in hot water for problems associated with its sound card drivers for Window’s Vista for users. Both Creative X-Fi and older Audigy 2 drivers don’t work well with Vista. Most drivers from the company were in beta stage when Vista launched. Mustek, the scanner people simply decided to skip Windows’ Vista, than go through all the hassles of developing product for a troublesome operating system.
Applications also suffer under Vista. There are many programs which require full administrative privileges. Under UAC (User Access Control), many older applications problems cropped-up causing program files to function improperly, including ’iTunes’ for example. When consumers used the ’Safely Remove Hardware’ command, it caused issues with ipods, requiring a complete new install. However, upgrading to ’iTunes version 7.2 or higher seems to resolve most of the issues. Many problems are from the use of ’legacy’ drivers. Some products or services including CD/DVD burning utilities, VPN applications, virtualization solutions and security suites take issue with Vista’s operating systems. Problems with installers has caused headaches when using .NET Framework.
While Microsoft says 83% to 89% would recommend Windows Vista, the breakdown to the company’s survey is nearly half of the responders were actually “somewhat likely” as well “somewhat satisfied” with their Vista experience. Interesting was the marketing publicity which stated “we declare this is the best operating system we have ever made” shrinks a little when comparing it to a system operating with Windows XP. ’Clear, Confident, Connected’ is being used in Microsoft Vista public relations handouts, but according to RoughlyDrafted Magazine, it might more honestly read, “Looks, Locks, Lacks.”
As a matter of fact, PC World’s May 2008 issue alludes that Vista is actually a step back from Xp as to overall performance. While Vista’s first service pack improved the operating characteristics, Xp Professional beat both overall. On overall World Bench Test Scores, Windows Xp SP2 had a score of 131, Vista Business SP1 was at 120 points for desktop machines. On laptops, Xp’s numbers were 64 for the Professional version, where Vista Business SP1 held at 55. The May 2008 issue does give you tips on improving Vista performance, however, if you can break away from the ‘Aero’ eye candy, reloading Xp may make your machine more efficient.
One of the more aggravating problems with Vista is the constant pop-up messages from the Security Center dealing with anti-virus issues in basic home edition. An easy way to disable the security center messages.Click on the Security Center/Windows Security Alerts logo in the system tray.Click change the way Security Center alerts me.Select I do not want notification messages from Security Center.
It seems Microsoft is bent on forcing one to upgrade its Vista operating center to a more expensive software, hence all the bugs in Vista Basic. One of the constant reminders is letting the user know they’ve lowered their security settings. A way around this aggravation is to launch ’gpedit.msc’ from either the ’Run’ command, or ’Start Search’ field, navigate through ‘Local Computer Policy‘, ’Computer Configuration’, ’Administrative Templates’, ’Windows Vista Components’ and onto ’Internet Explorer.’ In the right-sided plane, double click on ’Turn-off the Security Settings Check feature’, then set it to ’Enable.’ A thought here - to avoid all the hassles and headaches, always purchase the top version of Window’s operating system - whether It’s Vista or the upcoming ’Windows 7!’
Paying $200 to $400 for a piece of software that’s buggy and requires large expenditures to replace peripherals because there are no drivers to update to is one to rub your chin over. It actually kills sales of Vista as word reaches out, that one needs to scrap perfectly operating equipment, because a piece of software does not offer drivers to support it. Vista has improved over time, but it’s a little late.
One of the problems that has held back Vista on company computers is the VPN (Virtual Private Network) may not be compatible with Vista’s coding. Even if one correctly sets up the VPN to work with Vista, it may still not function, disallowing communications to happen. Your IT person needs to keep checking back with Vista to see whether a fix has been performed to solve the problem.
Getting Adobe Reader to work on Vista can turn into a chore. There are a lot of documents requiring Acrobat. To fix the problem you need to turn off the User Account Control (UAC), before downloading and running ‘Reader.’ Afterwards you can turn UAC back on.
When your own executives or board members have difficulties running your operating system, and prefer using an older operating system instead, you know you’ve got problems!
In a recent conference call, Microsoft admitted that XP sales had cannibalized Vista, once word got out that Vista was a dog. The growth of ’netbooks’ has also altered the notebook landscape because Vista cannot run on them. Add to the fact, some models offered use Linux as their operating system. All these problems will have to be addressed by Windows 7 if it is to be successful after its initial launch. With Bill Gates no longer CEO, these problems fall into new CEO Steve Ballmer’s lap.
OpenSUSE And Ubunto Getting A Lot Of Attention
Perhaps the biggest threat comes from OpenSUSE and Ubunto operating systems. First and foremost, the software is free to download and use, second, its no longer a nightmare to install. And third, its experimental Beryl version offers as much eye-candy as Vista Ultimate ’Aero’ does. Last, is Linux has a greater stability than Windows at lower hardware requirements. Many bargain computers come with Linux pre-installed. Software to use in Linux is becoming more abundant each day. Even consumers with older machines have been experimenting with Linux, giving an operating boost to computers once thought to be too old to be useful.
This author has played with the various versions of Linux since 1998, along with Red Hat Linux. At that time, Linux was a real chore to set up and use. Software was not abundant that would work with the operating system. I had even tried (and failed) to install the ill-fated and expensive Coral Linux Bundle. So as tired as I was with Windows’ crashes, I wasn’t having as much luck with Linux, putting it aside until something better came along. For me, Mandrake was a limited success.
OpenSUSE was released in January 2004 when Novell offered its SUSE Linux Professional Software as a 100% open source project. Novell nursed it along with the programming community, providing an ’openSUSE’ Build Service along with contributing code, encouraging discussion on open mailing lists as well internet open chat and other creative enticements. In 2004, Novell employed over 500 developers to improve SUSE. Novell claims its current 11.0 version released in June 2008 as its most stable. open SUSE works from machines with a hard drive of 500 MB to its recommended 2.5 GB or better. It will also function on CPU chips ranging from 1-4 Pentium chips, along with AMD Duron, Athlon, Athlon XP, Athlon MP, Athlon 64, Semprom and Opteron configurations. As to RAM, it runs fine on 500MB to 512 MB or better.
Ubunto was originally conceived from the Debian Project’s code base, and released on October 20th, 2004.
Windows 7 Expected Arrival Toward End Of 2009
Lets face it, if most of the blogs on Windows Vista are to be believed, Vista was a bust. First were the system requirements to install Vista Ultimate and Business, second were the bugs that have accompanied past newly released versions of Windows, and the ability to find drivers to upgrade current software. Vista has the same initial release problems, thus so derided, that a lot of computer manufacturers offered XP as an option long after Vista was being retailed. Some hardware manufacturers dragged their feet at offering equipment that operated under Vista.
Windows 7 is expected to be a more refined version of Vista. It is developing into a slimmed-down ’A la Carte’ operating system via ‘Windows Essentials‘ download.. Gone may be a lot of bloat ware and heightened hardware requirements under Window’s current product. Windows, especially in the present economy cannot afford to make another misstep.
Some ’beta’ applications to be offered include;
Windows Live Messenger: Instant message application offering phone and video calling options.
Windows Live Mail: Merges multiple e/mail accounts. Includes a calendar that works with its ’live-based’ counterpart.
Windows Live Photo Gallery: Similar to Google Picasa offering photo organization and basic photo editing. Also can be linked with third-party applications like Flickr.
Windows Live Movie Maker: Automates creation of movies from personal photos. Can burn information to CD’s and DVD’s. Or posting on Microsoft’s ‘Soapbox’ platform.
Windows Live Writer: Application for composition and publishing blog entries to Window’s ’Live Spaces’ and other ’blogging’ platforms.
Windows Live Family Safety: Limits online content offerings via parental control.
Windows Live Toolbar: Enables fast access to Windows ’Live Web Services.’
Some of the additional things to look forward with Window’s 7 include;
User Account Control: Four levels of protection are offered.
Firewall: Windows 7 ‘Filtering Platform’ allows third-party vendors to turn off parts of Window’s firewalls in playing well with security applications from other vendors.
Search: Allows ‘index search’ across multiple network pc’s.
Taskbar Buttons: Icons on large square buttons you can move around. Offers multiple ‘pop-up’ thumbnail previews.
Notification System Tray: User’s choice as to which notifications to view. Overflow goes to a ‘pop-up’ area. Meanwhile, a corner provides instant access to a ’window-free’ desktop.
Peripherals and Connected Devices: Appears as taskbar icons. Vendors can create ’Device Stage’ pages, adding quick access to app’s, info and manuals.
Sidebar: Its gone, users place ’gadgets’ anywhere on the desktop.
Multimedia: Revamped, ‘Windows Media Center’ supports DNLA-compatible network home devices.
Accessories: Most applications are now downloadable as Windows Live Essentials. Ribbon interface now in Paint and WordPad.
Touch: Multi-touch support for image zoom and drawing. Start menu, taskbar and Windows Explorer are optimized for touch screens.
According to the December 2008 issue of PC Magazine, Microsoft “appears relieved to turn it’s public focus on the next release of its flagship operating system.” Marketing Windows 7 should be an interesting experience as it tries to avoid the landmines of why Vista was pulled ahead of schedule.
One of the reasons Microsoft will be ’slimming-down’ Windows 7 is to help conserve battery life in laptops and netbooks. The ’heavier’ the requirements, the more the processors have to thread, the more memory required eats into a laptop’s operating time between charges. Microsoft is well-aware green is in, ‘power-intensive’ is out.
Software ‘bundling’ is one of the bigger complaints of both consumers and reviewers. These are the ’limited’ trial ware programs included with various software and operating systems. Microsoft makes a premium on third party software offered through Windows, hence their addition. The programs often load up in system trays, slowing down boot-up time. Users usually are forced into hassling with their computers to remove the junk. Microsoft plans to limit its bloat ware in the next edition.
Should I Wait For The Next Microsoft Operating System?
In one word, yes! While Microsoft may be doing everything to patch-up its Vista operating shortcuts, it’s just that, a patch job. The good news is Microsoft should be supporting its Vista operating system long after its been shelved. But when something falls too far behind the hype, its already a lame product as consumer’s hear more about its ills. According to early views of Window’s 7 in beta, it is not as much a new product, but a smoothing over of Vista.
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