Tuesday, December 20, 2005

December CTP Review

Another part to the two post thing is my review on Windows Vista Build 5270.

Well, first impressions were mixed, I've had some pretty bad experiences with the Beta 1 and 5219 and only 5231 sat well on my system thus far, and I was afraid that 5270 would follow suit and be a bad experience. Those fears were confirmed when I made the mistake of installing Windows Live Messenger 8 onto Vista, BIG MISTAKE. It totally broke the operating system, forcing me to reinstall.

Frustrations aside I was pleased with the enhancements to the OS, especially in the user interface. It featured all the bells and whistles one would expect from a next generation OS, the glass, the transition effects, enhanced usability and security, as well as a few added bonus', such as Windows Media Player 11, sporting its fully glassed skin.

First Steps - Installation

First thing is first, since I do not have a DVD burner and certainly can't afford one at the present moment, I used a DVD emulator (daemon Tools V4) to mount the Vista DVD in Windows XP. Once this was accomplished I browsed to the virtual DVD drive and copied its contents over to a folder on my desktop. Ran setup to find a blue splash screen with a mis-formed Windows flag. After entering setup however I was greeted with a new installation de-similar to 5231. Sporting the newly rebuilt, but still graphically buggy setup engine, I continued with installation, first part went without a hitch, chose the 10GB partition created for testing Vista on a dual boot environment and continued on my way. After the initial setup phase it forces reboot into the second part of the setup, which took roughly about 20 minutes on this configuration. Rebooted again and I met the third part of setup, the hardware configuration part of setup, which roughly took about another 30 to 40 minutes to complete. After the third part I was greeted with something I didn't expect to see, a setup wizard. I input my name, chose my avatar, my wallpaper, and several other goodies.

Second Steps - Desktop and Customization

After long and drawn out installation, I was greeted with the Windows Vista desktop. The features were extensive and the eye candy was plentifull. It would appear as though the Vista team took the time from not releasing the November CTP to Tech Beta Testers, to add optimizations and functionality. The bugs were there of course, as with any beta, however they were fewer and took some real digging to find.

A totall revamp of the Control Panel left me stumbling through options much the same as I did when I first installed Windows XP, but I slowly found my way through the OS. They opted for a more grouped and task oriented Control Panel, as well as an organized way of dealing with desktop customization, having a separate right click menu option +for wallpapers and another separate right click menu option for the themes, and color variations. The icons have also been revamped and now allow for larger icons on the desktop, which look completely beautiful, with the exception of the unofficial icons, which were surrounded by a glossy box.

Explorer sported newer icons and a revamped look, which appear more bluish then before, aswell as the maximize, minimize, and close buttons remaining unchanged with the exception of the close button, which remains constantly red when the window is focused.

Win+tab and Alt+Tab has been completely revamped. Win+Tab is more functional in all, with all of the windows appearing on the screen regardless of weither or not their minimized. Alt+Tab has been redone as well, instead of cycling through the windows, you cycle a cursor over a larger and still menu of windows.

performance Issues

One thing that caught my eye was the hit to performance, the OS was considerably slower then 5231 on my configuration. The reason behind this was more services running under the hood and the Windows Search Engine, which for some reason likes to use more system resources then it should. Upon bootup the DWM animations appear sluggish and unresponsive until the system warms up a bit, I've often found myself shift+F9ing through the load times to make it go faster. Once the system's start up finished the responsiveness returned, with faster DWM and better animation effects.

Easter Eggs Abound

With the inclusion of the Winsat (Windows Assessment Tools), you can take a peek at many of the features that the Vista Team plans in implementing into Vista. Below I will list a set of commands to try and what not to try.

winsat aurora -aa 10 ~ This tool showcase the Windows Desktop Aurora, a feature the Vista team plans in implementing in their next CTP. I was quite impressed by it, however even with Anti-Aliasing on 10, it appeared jagged and overly bright.

winsat dwm ~ This tool appears to showcase a darker Windows Desktop Aurora, with very little effects showcased.

winsat d3d ~ This showcases a milky Direct3D demo, not totally sure what else it does aside from show a bumpy watery effect, worth a look though.

winsat moobe ~ This interesting little command did a lot of things but in the end only disabled DWM, its worth a try though, just be sure to reset Vista in order to get the DWM effects back.

Final Impression

As with other Vista betas, this build is not without its bugs and there is a greater chance of breaking Vista with applications that are not compatible with it. (Windows Live Messenger 8). However knowing this, its definitely a step in the right direction. The overall usability has increased in leaps and bounds and will definitely not disappoint the avid beta tester once they install it to their system.



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