It’s hard to say the last year has been anything but rough for Microsoft’s Windows division. Although we found Windows Vista favorable upon its launch last year after watching it go through an usually drawn-out development process, such a sentiment hasn’t been shared by Windows users as a whole. Windows XP proved to be every bit the competition for Vista that Microsoft could ever fear it would be, at the time as when Vista was having its own post-launch pains. It was a bad combination, making for a bad year for Microsoft’s efforts in pushing its first new desktop OS in 5 years. Microsoft was looking to make a solid case for why Vista is a worthwhile successor to XP in a market notorious for a resistance to change, and they failed to do this thanks to a failure in immature technology and an inability to get a consistent and convincing message out.

In the year since then you could make the argument that Microsoft’s marketing efforts still haven’t improved, but you would be hard pressed to make the same argument about Vista itself. Since its release an unfortunately large number of bugs and quirks have been discovered in Vista, which has kept Microsoft busy patching them over the year, while to their chagrin many consumers sit on the side watching. To Microsoft’s credit they’ve done a lot with Vista well before the first service pack, various patches including the reliability & compatibility packs released over the last year have solved many of the earliest complaints about Vista; it already performs better and is less quirky across the board now than when it launched. But it goes without saying that this hasn’t been enough to solve all of Vista’s problems, putting a lot of watchful eyes on Service Pack 1.

There is a saying among software development circles that businesses as a whole won’t touch a Microsoft product until the first service pack; they would prefer to wait until a product has been widely used and the biggest problems identified & solved. It’s cold but effective logic that also puts a great deal of pressure on Microsoft. No matter how good (or bad) a product is, half of their customers won’t bat an eye until there’s a service pack, making the first such pack just as important as the product launch itself in some ways. Complicating matters further with the Vista launch in particular is that Microsoft has tied Windows Server 2008 to the Vista kernel; getting Windows Server 2008 out the door means any and all Vista problems that would hinder server operation need to be eliminated. The result is that Service Pack 1 is a big deal for Microsoft, they need to show consumers that they can fix what still ails the OS, they need to show businesses that it’s now ready for them to use, and they need to show server administrators that the core technology is so good that a reliable server can be built off of it.

Furthermore, with the progression of technology in the last year the timing couldn’t be any more critical. The 4GB address space barrier for 32bit x86 is finally beginning to rear its head with more average computer uses; RAM prices have nosedived with 8GB of RAM going for as little as $160, resulting in a wide and very real need for a 64-bit operating system (and XP64 being a poor fit for consumers). Meanwhile PC OEMs are finally warming up to the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) and are ready to start building systems with it, meaning they too must move beyond XP. Even governments are finding they need to move to Vista as of late, as new encryption standards come in to play which only Vista supports.

The result of this is that many different groups have been watching SP1 far more intently than past service packs. With the final version of SP1 in hand, today we’ll be looking at what Microsoft is bringing to the table with Vista’s first service pack. With a combination of new features, bug fixes, and performance improvements, there’s a great deal to this service pack that we’ll be covering so let’s get started.

What’s Fixed In SP1
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  • Per Hansson - Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - link

    On the steam survey I think Windows 2003 64 bit is the same thing as XP x64, they share the exact same codebase (even serivcepack and hotfixes) It accounts for 0.73%

    But yes, I agree, XP x64 is a very nice OS
    It is IMO more stable than XP (it is afterall a server OS since it's based on Server 2003 x64)
    Reply
  • Brunnis - Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - link

    Although more of academical interest, I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting to see the performance difference between an unpatched Vista RTM installation and Vista SP1.

    One pretty serious issue with Vista, that I can't seem to wrap my head around, is the folder types and how they're applied. They actually seem to be applied arbitrarily and without any sort of reason. They also sometimes seem to change without user interaction. I was hoping Vista would somehow address this, but it seems Microsoft is content with how it works.

    Otherwise I'm actually quite happy with Vista. I view SuperFetch as one of its most important features and one that actually makes Vista feel a good deal faster for general usage.
    Reply
  • amandahugnkiss - Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - link

    in the article: http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=10781">http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=10781

    it was reported that MS was bricking PCs, I would have imagined you guys would have adressed that issue here. At least report if it was still an issue, was a false lead, or what the issue was and what the was that MS implemented.

    Any info on this topic you can share?
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - link

    We mention it a bit on the last page; basically it looks like a very small number of computers having problems, but it's hard to cut through the echo chamber effect of the internet. AFAIK that update still hasn't been reinstated on Windows Update though.

    We haven't experienced the issues on any computers we own.
    Reply
  • amandahugnkiss - Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - link

    My bad, you did indeed mention it.

    I'm curious what the problem was, be it user, MS, 3rd party, etc... I've not seen it and the only place I have heard about it was on the user forum linked in the article.
    Reply
  • IAMGOOSE - Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - link

    "We’re still waiting on someone besides Apple to start shipping consumer machines (or motherboards) with UEFI support, so this will be an issue we’ll pick up another day."


    Current intel branded boards allow booting from UEFI

    You guys should try it out, in a mini review or something
    Reply
  • kilkennycat - Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - link

    Heading asks the question....... Reply
  • mechBgon - Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - link

    ...but may I make a suggestion: Vista and WinXP aren't, like, video cards, where framerates are all that matter. I frankly feel that the security advances of Vista are getting important in today's security landscape, and a comparison of WinXP SP3 versus Vista SP-anything deserves to cover that. Not much point in having another 10 frames per second in WoW, after the bad guys dropped an undetected keylogger into your system and stole your WoW stuff to auction it off. ;) Drop me a PM if you want to pick my brain on the subject... Reply
  • yyrkoon - Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - link

    Cant say I agree with your security views. Any OS(with a few exceptions . . .ME comes to mind) is only as good as the user using it.

    Not only that, the 'bad guys' can not 'drop' a key logger onto your system, unless the 'bad guys' you're referring to are in fact yourself. Files do not auto-magically appear on a system by osmosis, they are downloaded by the user using said system whether the user is actually aware of this or not. Setting up a system correctly will fix a lot of this, while common sense computing habit will take care of the rest. This includes setting up proper user/group policies, permissions, etc, and MAYBE using web based email if you're having issues with you email client being exploited in unexplainable ways.

    Been running XP Pro here for the last 3 years or so, and I have to say that since SP2, it has been fairly secure(once again; when set up proeprly), and I would not expect Vista would be any more reliable. Now since I beta tested Vista early on through to RC2, I KNOW for a fact that compared to XP, there ARE performance issues.
    Reply
  • SilthDraeth - Thursday, February 28, 2008 - link

    You may be a security professional, but I have no knowledge of you on the ATOT security forums. MechBgon however is very active and has a proven record of being extremely knowledgeable. Heck he spends most days trying dissecting this stuff to find out how to fix it.

    I think you are fighting a losing battle if you go up against him...instead try to learn.
    Reply

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