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Windows Vista: Eye Candy or Functionality?

Posted by Alex Bailey On October - 2 - 2006

With Microsoft’s Windows Vista in the final stages of production, there is little reason not to try it. It’s a highly advanced operating system with an abundance of features. If you find yourself saying “it’s all just eye candy”, have you actually used it? Vista has scores of new features to go along with its excellent interface. I’ll first start with the good things about Vista. Security wise, Vista is much better. It comes with DEP enabled by default.
DEP
Data Execution Prevention (DEP) is a feature included in modern Microsoft Windows operating systems that is intended to prevent an application or service from executing code from a non-executable memory region. This helps prevent certain exploits that store code via a buffer overflow, for example.* Windows Vista has a thing called Defender. This is a handy tool to prevent against malware, and viruses. If a program has installed itself so it starts with Windows, Defender will block it until you allow it. This will prevent against most viruses that aren’t starting via injection into system services.
Defender
For more advanced users it tells you what programs are running, and some information about them. It also tells you what servers those programs are connected to.
Programs connecting to servers

Running programs
Another security feature is UAC. Most Windows users run as admin, and Microsoft knows this. Half of people’s security issues are because they run as admin. With UAC on you can run as admin but still need to click an acceptance box before you make administrative changes. This might be good for the average user; however for me it’s quite annoying. If you’re not running as an administrator, it will prompt you for a password to continue. The aim is to wean people of the admin account. I’ve disabled UAC, since I’m competent enough to run a computer.
Disable UAC
There is a significant change to IE7 as well. It’s now running in protected mode. This means it only has access to write to temp directories. It has its own process which is even lower than a limited account. No more harmful ActiveX! On to the new features. A lot of existing XP applications have been greatly improved in Vista. Alt tabbing has a new feature, and gives a preview of the Window you’re about to change to. However it can play animations, it’s not just a still image.
Alt tab
There is also a new 3D way of switching Windows. However most of you already know about it, and what it looks like.
3D Switch
When hovering over the task bar you now get a live window preview of what you’re about to switch to. Like the new alt tab feature, it can play animations just as well.
Taskbar
Moving on to the start menu we see it’s been overhauled for user convenience. All Programs now opens in the same Window. There is also a search/run feature built into it. We’ll get to the search feature next.
Start bar
The search feature searches on the fly. You type part of a word in, and it already displays results matching what you’ve typed. Not only does it search files but it also searches emails (if you use outlook).
Search
Explorer has also been overhauled. You can now check things to select them instead of holding down the control key.
Check
While we’re looking at the above screen shot, notice the address bar? After each folder it gives you a drop down box that allows you to change to a directory instead that directory. When popping in a CD or any other type of media, Windows also used to ask how you wanted to open it. Well if you don’t want it to do anything you can now configure it that way all at once with this feature.
Autoplay
Task manager got a little upgrade. It now gives a description of the process. Granted it’s nothing major, just a cool feature.
Task Manager
While we’re talking about tasks, check out the new task scheduler. You can view a history of the tasks, wake up remote machines via BIOS, and it has a number of new actions and filters.* It also has a built in API so you can make your programs interact with it. Not to mention the new sleek interface.
Task scheduler
Another cool change is how Windows updates are done. Forget opening your browser to a website, it’s all done in control panel. You download/install and view the status right from control panel.
Windows updates
A cool feature of control panel is the “see also” feature. When you’re in one menu, it lists some other topics you may be interested in. I’ve used this more than a few times to find things I didn’t even know existed.
See also
Vista has put all system tools into one area to manage your system. Here’s an image of the basic things they’ve included.
System configuration
A little extension to the regular right click context menu can be viewed by pressing the shift key while you right click. Here’s an example of what you might see.
Extra context
Everyone knows about voice recognition, so I won’t go into detail with it. I will say it’s very easy to learn, and works quite well. They have a tutorial on using it.
Speech recognition
Windows Vista contains a brand new networking stack, which brings large improvements in all areas of network-related functionality. It includes native implementation of IPv6, as well as complete overhaul of IPv4. The new TCP/IP stack uses a new method to store configuration settings that enables more dynamic control and does not require a computer restart after settings are changed. The user interface for configuring, troubleshooting and working with network connections has changed significantly from prior versions of Windows as well. Users can make use of the new “Network Center” to see the status of their network connections, and to access every aspect of configuration. The network can be browsed using Network Explorer, which replaces Windows XP’s “My Network Places”. Network Explorer items can be a shared device such as a scanner, or a file share. Windows Vista also has a Network Map which graphically presents how different devices are connected over a network. Network Location Awareness communicates to applications changes in network connectivity and configuration.*
Networking
A new tool in Vista is the ability to make DVDs.
Make DVD
When firing up IE7 you’re greeted with live.com. It’s a very simple interface, sort of copied from Google. However the search results are just as relevant as Google’s are. Their image search is far more superior. I see no reason to use Google over Live.com actually.
Live
Here’s a random screen shot of control panel to see all the new things I’m not mentioning.
Control panel
I can’t say Vista is perfect however. There is at least one bug in the recycle bin. I have four torrent files that will not delete, even after restart. They just hang in the recycle bin.
Recycle bin
Any ideas what’s wrong here? Another annoying thing is the fact that it says access denied when trying to enter certain files.
Access denied
But that isn’t an error. That file is a “junction”, which points programs to the updated directory. The updated one is AppData. To view the path of the junction type dir /a in command prompt.
Junction
I think it’s good they are taking the spaces out of their directories. Another annoying thing is that outlook thinks almost everything is a phishing email. Dozens of legit emails are being labeled as phishing.
Outlook
However most the time Vista knows when it messes up, and tries to solve the problem. If it can’t the problem is submitted to Microsoft for review.
Errors

Error research
Summary:
Vista has an amazing GUI; however that is not the only upgrade. There are tons of upgrades to applications in XP. A lot of new things have been added to them to make it easier to use. As well as upgrading existing applications, there are some new ones as well. The networking code has been fully re-written and is more efficient than ever. After using Vista, nobody can honestly say it’s just “eye candy”.

* = Thanks to wiki for some help explaining what exactly it is.


5 Responses to “Windows Vista: Eye Candy or Functionality?”

  1. Rivalino says:

    More feature, more people will bring Microsoft to the court.

  2. Uset says:

    Most of things included there, I ve seen allready in OsX Panther. Why couldnt they just one simple time make up their own mind ?!

  3. Roy says:

    I still think the task scheduler is way behind other task schedulers like VisualCron -> visualcron.com

  4. VeliuX says:

    Just installed vista conclusion very annoying. Ok the gui sucks….i feel like an old lady lol. Some of the features and the 3D windows have already been done and are better on GNU/Linux….beryl/compiz anyone. Uses way to much resources..im sorry but…if MS would have cut down on majority of the services on MS Vista that would have been good. Security wise…bad..look at all the useless services that are turned on by default that have nothing to do with pure functionality. IE7 is so secure in the internet options they didnt turn on “Do not save encrypted files to disk” and “empty cache after each closing”. Common guys….these are like the number one things you should do to any version of IE. Security center is obtrusive, and i hate windows defender…it sucks plain and simple. I can go on and on. I think i will stick with my win 2k and Gentoo GNU/Linux. I feel bad for all those who have to go out and buy brand new comps to make this run….so sad. My Conclusion…its just like windows XP with different Gui interface and more bloat. I give it less than a week before first virus is written for it. Man i feel really let down. I was hoping MS would have learned from past mistakes and would be innovative and original…guess not. Oh well all monopolys dont last forever. My 0.02

  5. Rub3X says:

    @4

    You were obviously biased before you even gave it a try, so there is no use arguing. However I will give you this link.

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