Back in June we brought you our initial preview of Microsoft's forthcoming Windows release, Windows Vista, based on the Beta 2 revision. While we found that Vista had some important technological advances and other related changes in the works, our perception was tempered by the still-unpolished nature of the operating system, which was holding Vista back. As of Beta 2, Vista had potential but the execution was lacking, giving us some doubt if Vista would be able to best Windows XP upon its release.

Since that build was published approximately 2 months ago, Microsoft has been taking in user input from its beta-testing community, and putting more polish on to Vista where it needs it the most. Since then, Microsoft has released 2 interim builds to its private beta testers, including the latest build, 5472. Today we get the chance to see what kind of progress Microsoft has made in the last 2 months.

So what has changed as of 5472? Let's take a quick look.

Further UI Changes

As we mentioned in our initial preview, not all of the UI elements of Vista were complete as of the Beta 2 release, and further elements needed to be refined in to something more usable. The Vista Basic theme, designed to be used when the 3D accelerated desktop composition engine couldn't be used, was slated to be replaced in a later build. It has since been replaced, however "replaced" is too strong of a word in this case. Refined would be a better choice, as the only significant changes are a change in the color scheme and slightly larger buttons in places. It's a better color choice (chrome was a bit odd without Aero's transparency), but otherwise it looks like the Basic theme will be functionally the same as what we saw in Beta 2.

The default cursor set for Vista has also been replaced from the traditional arrow/hourglass configuration found since the early days of Windows, to a new arrow/ring set oddly similar to Mac OS X's beach ball. The beach ball has a particularly negative image in the Mac community (e.g. the spinning beach ball of death), so this may not have been the finest choice for Microsoft. None the less, the ring is now also used in several other locations in Vista besides the cursor as a way to indicate the system is waiting on an operation to finish, so it doesn't look like this new design will be going away any time soon.

Flip3D has also seen some changes, but these are limited to cosmetics and not an overhaul of an ability we found severely lacking last time. The big change here is that the windows are finally being anti-aliased to a degree, resolving some of the inherent ugliness of the rotated view, however anti-aliasing is only a compensation tool in this case, so it does not completely resolve the generally jagged look of Flip3D.

Last but not least, User Account Control notifications have been tamed a good deal, which is good news considering our concern over them as of Beta 2. It's still not perfect, but we've found that as of this build Vista didn't seem to be asking for quite so much confirmation of actions, and it seems the default behavior of these notifications have been changed so that they no longer take immediate control of the UI and require being resolved before the user can continue. Now they act more like a traditional program, where the notification goes in to the background and doesn't need to be addressed until the user decides to deal with them. We can see how this may end up confusing to some users, but a more technical crowd will find this a much more desirable behavior.

With that resolved, our biggest complaint at the moment is Vista's inability to comprehend that certain programs need to always be run in administrative mode, and as such UAC prompts each and every time the program is run is tiring. Vista offers some ability to configure this already via Vista's policy editor, but the default behavior for programs that will always be run with administrative powers should be that they shouldn't require approval after the first execution.

Performance and Conclusion
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  • Zoomer - Sunday, August 6, 2006 - link


    The UI changes seem minor at best - new themes and Flip3d anti-aliasing do represent and improvement, but they're not really Vista's weakness at this point.

    Shouldn't it be 'an'?
  • Ingas - Saturday, July 29, 2006 - link

    I can't understand how MS propose to sell this Vista.
    For what?
    Home users? Only for rotating windows? All other features I can have right now on XP.
    Business users?? HAHAHAHA!!
  • stash - Sunday, July 30, 2006 - link

    There are tons of reasons for businesses to be very interested in Vista, in my mind, maybe even more than home users.

    For one, there are twice as many group policies in Vista compared to XP. Over 3000.

    Another thing that businesses are going to be very interested in is BitLocker. Federal Government agencies that I work with can't wait for this. The ability to store an EFS keypair on a smartcard is another huge thing for businesses. Network Access Protection (NAP) is another big interest.

    The new install and imaging technology is very interesting to business that maintain desktop images, espcially when they may have to support multiple machine types. In Vista, you can have one image that will work on all of your hardware, and updating it is easy.

    So when you post next time, try to know what you are talking about.
  • RichUK - Monday, July 31, 2006 - link

    Will users that use Vista be able to set different local GPO's for different users on a standalone PC? As you know XP pro local GPO's effect every user on a standalone PC with multiple users, unless a member of a domain.

    That would be extremely handy if that is possible. Also the more GPO's the better, so an extra 3000 is brilliant for fine tuning users access.
  • stash - Monday, July 31, 2006 - link


    Will users that use Vista be able to set different local GPO's for different users on a standalone PC



    Also the more GPO's the better, so an extra 3000 is brilliant for fine tuning users access.

    Just to clarify, its about 3000 total. XP has about 1500.
  • ChronoReverse - Sunday, July 30, 2006 - link

    And yet people predict things like Macs will suddenly make a comeback.
  • Griswold - Sunday, July 30, 2006 - link

    Words of wisdom... I bet these people see a perfect reason to use OSX and buy the anual updates - but certainly not any iteration of windows with several years in between.
  • Zebo - Saturday, July 29, 2006 - link

    I was using 2000 until Obilvion came out and it would not install on w2k. Bought XP and plan to keep it for 5-6 years as well. I'm a always a few years behind but that's nothing compared to where I work..about 250 machines all are w2k and we have a site licence for any MS stuff we want to install on any machine. Even new Dells that come in with XP on them the admins wipe and put 2k on.... needless to say I, we, the whole world maybe is'nt in any hurry for Vista with performance and bugs like that.
  • RichUK - Saturday, July 29, 2006 - link

    lol, i work on a quite a few contracts, one of them being a 15,000 user base running in an NT4 environment :shocked; Now that is old school, but it works and is sufficient for what is required.

    However, a new rollout is on the horizon with Dell’s running XP. With cost and time aside, the biggest issue is with OS stability/reliability and quality of tech support when running immature platforms. From what I see now from my stand point XP is becoming the norm, as the platform is peeking in its maturity.

    When vista comes along, I doubt companies will embrace it too quickly, since their tech support wont be up to speed (along with OS stability), this takes time, and could cost a company a lot of money trying to maintain full capacity on a low tolerance infrastructure.
  • Elitist Snob - Tuesday, August 1, 2006 - link

    I have you both beat. One of the local small businesses I do tech support for has several desktops running...Windows 3.1. But it gets even better; their data processing team is running entirely on original IBM PC/AT. Talk about vintage computing.

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