Introduction

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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  • Lord Evermore - Friday, July 28, 2006 - link

    It's kind of funny that they didn't eliminate the hourglass cursor years ago. It just seems like a big taunt at the user, saying "hey, you're just sitting there waiting, tick tock tick tock". A rotating ring, or anything that is just a looping icon, is somewhat neutral by comparison, although a ring implies it's working and not getting anywhere.

    Seems kind of dumb to make even the mouse cursors similar to OSX. It's like they're just begging people to point out how they are just copying Apple.
    Reply
  • stash - Friday, July 28, 2006 - link

    All publically released builds of Vista are 'free' builds, and therefore contain no debugging code.

    If you were running a checked build that does contain debugging code, trust me, you would know it.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Friday, July 28, 2006 - link

    The free build contains no debugging hooks in the kernel -- this doesn't mean that the beta drivers or userspace programs installed don't have their own internal debugging/logging/overhead that won't be there in a final release.

    Thanks,
    Derek Wilson
    Reply
  • Fissiongrid - Friday, July 28, 2006 - link

    Any "new" thing I've seen in Vista is a copy of OS X. Shows how stupid some people are, actually wanting to buy an OS with features you could have had 5 years ago. lawl Reply
  • saiku - Friday, July 28, 2006 - link

    Could I play all my FPS/RTS games on MAC 5 years ago? I want Vista because of DirectX 10 and DirectX 10 games. Reply
  • absynthe49 - Friday, July 28, 2006 - link

    I thought that Windows Vista was not going to run DirectX 9 natively... but that it would be run in an emulated layer.

    Did something change... does vista now run DX9 natively

    If it doesnt... then why are the 3D gaming marks surprising to anyone. If it is emulated.. those are very decent numbers. I thought the reason to leave DX9 behind was to get rid of overhead... change the driver model and clean things up. I had heard the expectation was that future graphics cards would be so much faster that emulating older games would be fast enough to hide the emulation.

    Can someone please correct me if I am wrong because it blows my mind that anandtech is not mentioning this at all.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Friday, July 28, 2006 - link

    DX9 will not be "emulated" ... i don't think that's really a term that can even be applied to APIs.

    Yes, the driver model will be different, but Vista won't require DX10 -- it will require DX9. And even so, running a DX8 game won't require any kind of extra overhead to run. I'm really not sure where that idea is coming from.

    I haven't been following this for a while, but a while ago MS said they were going to impliment OpenGL through DX -- this would add an extra step in the pipeline for OpenGL applications.

    Thanks,
    Derek Wilson
    Reply
  • ChronoReverse - Friday, July 28, 2006 - link

    That's also been changed. OGL has full access to the hardware again as well as being compatible with the windowing system.

    The only catch is that it requires new drivers from the hardware vendors
    Reply
  • RichUK - Friday, July 28, 2006 - link

    I have Vista Beta 2 (not installed yet), can i upgrade to the latest build, i.e. software automatic update or something, or is it a totally different procedure to get the latest build? Thanks.

    P.S i have the Windows Vista Beta preview program, from MS as the DVD case set.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, July 28, 2006 - link

    No, you can't upgrade. It has to be a fresh install. Reply

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