Recently SADA Systems had the opportunity to install and use the Releace Candidate 1 (RC1) version of the new Windows Vista operating system. For those who don’t know, the Vista upgrade is the first major rebuild of Windows in five years.
At SADA we put the RC1 version of Windows Vista on a Sony Vaio laptop running off of a 1.1 GhZ processor, 1 GB of RAM, and an Intel Graphics Controller with 64MB of Video Memory. One thing we found right away was that 64MB of video memory was insufficient to run Vista in its optimum mode. So the version discussed here, and the screenshots below come from Vista running in its basic mode. Even so, the display was gorgeous. Performance was okay, but nothing to celebrate. This does mean that Vista is not going to be a good fit for users on older computers, or computers with minimal resources.
Above is a screen capture of the Vista desktop. This picture doesn’t really do justice to how well the new operating system handles graphics and color.
The taskbar has been significantly changed, and the Start menu has also seen a number of updates. Recently and frequently used programs take up the majority of the start menu, as in XP. My Documents, My Music, and other menu items commonly given in the start menu have been updated somewhat to read simply “Documents” or “Music.” “All Programs” is now at the bottom of the start menu. Clicking All Programs replaces the frequently used / recent programs with an explorer-like view of folders and programs. The new location and function for All Programs is a little confusing at first, as it differs significantly from previous versions of Windows. It does however elminate the problem of taking up the entire screen with multiple columns listing available programs. Instead all programs are listed in the start menu, which allows scrolling to view the listed programs.
The taskbar, window frames, the start menu, and other classic Windows elements have all been given a significant face-lift. The Windows XP blue has been replaced with black gradiant that gives Windows the look of having been molded in shiny black plastic.
Windows Vista allows a lot of the same changes to the look and feel of the desktop as perveious versions of Windows. The menu to do so has been updated somewhat, and breaks the customizations into a number of categories, under which a Windows Vista user may alter the desktop, theme, screensaver, event sounds, and so on. When right clicking on the desktop Windows Vista opens the usual menu of choice, but the traditional “properties” option has been replaced with the “personalize” function. If anything the personalize function is more user friendly and organized, and it replaces the sterile tabbed windows of Windows 9x through XP.
To capitalize on the new media functionality built into Vista, the new operating system comes with Windows Media Player 11. Designed to take advantage of the expanded media capabilities in Windows Vista, the venerable Windows Media Player has been given a facelift and improved functionality. The functions Now Playing, Library, Rip, and Burn still exist. Added to the menu is “Urge.” Urge connects to www.urge.com an online source for music and music related video content. The new media player looks good, with a redisigned window, interface, and visualizations. It is a demanding program, however, and running Windows Media Player 11 on our test computer alongside some other applications pegged out the processor, forcing us to end the process in order to close the media player.
The new look of Windows Media Player 11
Functionally Vista felt as thought a large part of the operating system had been redesigned around the idea of manipulating the OS in the same way one might manipulte a web browser. Back and forward buttons are abundant as are address bars. In windows such as my documents, or document folders in the My Documents folder tree, moving to a previous folder can be done through a kind of graphical series of breadcrumbs. Each ‘breadcrumb’ will also provide a menu displaying any subfolders allowing the user to move to an entirely different folder tree with a mouse click.
As with Windows XP, Vista allows the user to change between a more graphically intense experience, to a blander operating system experience reminiscent of previous versions of Windows. Doing so does put significantly less demand on system resources, and somewhat improves performance. Otherwise performance in Vista suffers slightly when compared to XP. Running Vista in ‘Classic Mode’ does not impact the impressive way Vista displays graphics and visual material.
Also like XP, Vista does not come with much in the way of pre-bundled software. This means that users will need to purchase Office 2007 when it becomes available, or download an open source solution such as Open Office in order to acquire a productivity software suite.
Overall the Windows Vista operating system is an impressively featured, good looking update to what is already a solid operating platform. Performance problems discovered during testing will likely be ironed out before the final version becomes available in January 2007. For more information about Windows Vista go to the Windows Vista Home Page To try it your self go to the Windows Vista Customer Preview Program web page.