I’ve finally got around to installing the Beta 2 of Vista, Microsoft’s next-generation version of Windows, which is due either in November or sometime in early 2007, depending on whether you are a volume licensing customer or hoping to buy it on a new PC.
My initial reaction has been disappointment. Far from looking like a
step into the future, Vista could easily be
Windows XP with a new desktop theme applied. It also looks somewhat reminiscent
of desktop Linux distributions to my eyes.
Things have hardly got off to an auspicious start. I know this is a pre-release version of the software, but Vista seems to be having problems with the graphics adapter in our test PC, a Fujitsu-Siemens Esprimo. This is a fairly standard corporate desktop using the embedded graphics features of an Intel 945G chipset. Bizarrely, Vista says it has 'stopped this device because it has reported problems', a message quite clearly at odds with reality. I also lost all sound following the installation of Vista.
Device Manager in Vista now provides a
button that offers to check online with Microsoft for a solution to a specific
problem. I tried this, but the progress bar goes all the way across, and
then….nothing happens. Again, allowances must be made for this being beta
software, but searching online for drivers or even information about hardware
problems with Vista seems to be a frustrating
Microsoft seems to have gone for security in a big way with Vista. User Account Control changes the way privilege levels work, so that an administrator can perform most actions with a limited privilege level, elevating themselves to a higher level for specific administrative tasks. In practice, this means a pop-up dialog box appears every time you open the Device Manager console, for example, which asks you to verify that it was indeed you that initiated the action.
Vista Beta 2 also ships with Internet Explorer 7. This new version of
Microsoft's browser adds tabbed browsing and a new-look user interface that
largely does away with menus and relies instead on buttons. I found it somewhat
difficult to find functions at first, such as how to open a new tab, but this
is something that users will probably quickly get used to. Interestingly, IE 7
lets you specify more than one 'Home' page, and opens them all in separate tabs
Vista seems quite stable from my brief hands-on experience so far, but Microsoft needs to address some of the hardware issues between now and the ship date.
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