What Lies Ahead

Given that Vista is ready to be taken seriously, there are also a handful of issues that we've encountered so far. These issues are not necessarily showstoppers, but they are fairly significant and will be a problem for enthusiasts. Officially, at only a month left until Microsoft wants to have a version ready to ship, we're not sure if these problems will be addressed. Either way, they're important to mention.

The biggest enthusiast issue is still UAC. Certainly for users who seldom need administrative powers UAC is fine, but the more you need administrative powers the more obvious the problems become. As we mentioned in our build 5472 article, Vista does not have a notion of pre-approved programs. Because marking a program to run with administrative privileges is not itself an administrative task, the actual check comes at every execution. The problem with this becomes readily apparent when using a lot of programs that require administrative powers: every single execution requires authorizing the program to run.

What we would like to see is a way to pre-approve programs to run, using hashing to make sure such a program hasn't secretly been changed, so that selected programs won't require user-authorization every single time they're executed. Apple already does something remotely similar in Mac OS X with their password keychain, so the idea is not unprecedented. This alone would solve one of the biggest nuisances in Vista, and is a much better alternative from a security perspective than disabling UAC outright or setting it to approve all applications requesting administrative privileges.

Another notable issue we encountered cropped up in the same security system, ironically because the security service is doing what we want in this case. Upon attempting to patch Battlefield 2, the patch installer took an abnormally long time to start, and upon some investigation the issue turned out to be that the security service was hashing the patch installer, all 500MB of it. It goes without saying that self-contained executable installers are one of the primary distribution formats for data on the internet, so this isn't a minor issue. The biggest single executable we could find, the installer for the Battlefield 2142 beta, took over two minutes just to hash, and that's not going to make people happy. (Given that the Battlefield 2 patch can take well over 20 minutes to install on a moderate system, however, two minutes isn't the end of the world.)

Although it's clearly easier said than done, if Windows is going to hash all executables it could use some way of figuring out what's an installer package and not hashing the whole thing. Running these kinds of installers is not a daily event, but right now other than a lot of disk activity and some CPU usage by the security service, there's no real notification Vista is attempting to launch the application, and this is going to cause concerns for a lot of people the first time they encounter it. Those that don't understand the specifics of what is happening will almost certainly conclude that Vista is simply slower than XP on some tasks.

The third notable issue is audio for gaming purposes, and while we'll have a lot more on this when the final version of Vista is released, it at least deserves a quick mention right now. As Microsoft has moved most of the Windows audio system into Vista itself and out of hardware and drivers, DirectSound3D is no longer hardware accelerated and EAX effects may never work with it again. There are several exceptions and specific scenarios to talk about here, especially with Creative Labs' soundcards since they're the de-facto vendor of gaming soundcards, but it looks like a lot of older games are going to lose some of their audio abilities. There may also be a greater performance hit due to the amount of processing that is now done solely in software.

Last but not least, let's talk about performance. Here is our test bed, which has been updated from the previous Vista article.

The Test

Vista 5728 Testbed
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4600+ (2.4GHz/1MB)
Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI (Socket 939)
Chipset: NVIDIA nForce 4 SLI
Chipset Drivers: NVIDIA nForce 6.86/Vista RC1
Hard Disk: Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 120GB
Memory: OCZ PC4800 (512MB x 4)
Video Card: ATI Radeon X1900XTX
Video Drivers: ATI Catalyst 6.9/Vista RC1
Desktop Resolution: 1600 x 1200 - 32-bit @ 60Hz
OS: Windows XP Professional SP2

Index Vista Performance
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  • kristof007 - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    quote:

    We'll leave the question of why anyone would release a Vista-only game for you to debate.


    Oh my God I have such a good laugh at that. I saw some Halo 2 vids for PC in some montage video and it looked pretty smooth. I'd say above 40fps but with this article I am sure your going to need like Quad-SLI setup or comparable to run it smooth and high res (1900x1200) or greater.
    Reply
  • Locutus465 - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    My experience with vista RC-1 hasn't been that pleasent over all... Firstly, still no support for the Promise Ultra100TX controller card at all, which saddens me greatly. Secondly, whether I did something to mess it up or not I am not sure. But for sone reason I have no optical drive support in my RC-1. I was messing around with nVidia's pre-release vista platform drivers, so perhaps that is a part of the issue. Also, support for doom was absolutly horrendous for my system (running Gefore 7800GT). It appeared to me that there was absolutly no HW openGL rendering. Again, perhaps I messed something up with drives, though I did install the latest available Vista64 build on nVidia's website.

    Perhaps the 32bit version of vista is just much father ahead of the 64b version in terms of driver support and maturity. If this is the case, then I am rather conserned. MS is trying to move the world to 64b wtih vista, and I would love to join them. But not if it means destroying my already working Windows XP system.
    Reply
  • ChronoReverse - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    Unfortunately, Nvidia has dropped the ball with the OGL icd for Vista. ATi, however, has released a working one.

    OpenGL works fine in Vista just like XP. MS just doesn't ship a driver since that's the job of the video card vendors. When Nvidia and ATi both get their drivers complete, MS will include a WHQL qualified driver with Vista, but you'll still want to update it.
    Reply
  • Locutus465 - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    Yeah, but what is weird is that when I tried Beta 2 the drivers worked much better. Doom 3 wasn't fast by any means, but playable, and it looked like doom 3. It seems to me almost as if MS took a step backwards with the driver situation with RC-1. I'm waiting with bated breath for RC-2 on friday. I want to see how RC-2 compares. Reply
  • ChronoReverse - Thursday, October 05, 2006 - link

    Well, considering that MS aren't the ones writing drivers, I hardly see why they're to blame. Thay've practically been screaming at the manufacturer to make them Vista drivers =/ Reply
  • mmp121 - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link


    The article states:

    quote:

    At this point we've been using RC1 for nearly a month, and the newer build 5728 for over two weeks, and while we're ready to switch back to XP until Vista is completed due to some video issues, Vista is ready to be taken seriously.


    Yet never expands on what the video issues are, or even HINTS at what they might be related to. Are the video issues driver related, video playback related, gaming related, what?

    Clarification would be GREATLY appreciated.
    Reply
  • theprodigalrebel - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link

    It's the game benchmarks. As much as 40% performance hit (in FEAR @ 1600x1200 with 4X AA). I too would like a clarification on who is to blame for this: 1) Windows Vista 2) ATi's Driver Team.

    I'm assuming it is a driver-related issue which ATi will most definitely resolve by the time Vista's released. If there was something fundamentally wrong with Vista itself, then 3DMark results wouldn't be near identical to the XP results.
    Reply
  • kristof007 - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    I am REALLY hoping it's as simple as a newer (better) patch from ATI. I think it would be doable. We can see patches coming out pretty regularly adding value and features to our existing hardware. So hopefully as said above, the ATI driver should fix things. Did they test with nVidia and look for discrepancies? Reply
  • nullpointerus - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    When I ran F.E.A.R. on Vista RC1, the game had massive stuttering every second or so at 800x600 0xAA 4xAF high quality on an EVGA 7900 GT KO. An old 2D/3D RPG that I had lying around got massive framerate improvements - IOW, it became playable! - simply by moving it to an XP SP2 install with a lowly 6200 TC-256 card. There are definitely major problems for the Vista driver teams to fix. And I still can't get any sound out of my Audigy... Reply
  • gaesaekkiya - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link

    I think Windows2000 is the most powerful, reasonable Operating System of MS products'.
    Comparing OSs performances, please, include windows2000, too.
    Thank kou.
    Reply

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