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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  • mickrussom - Thursday, September 04, 2008 - link

    Horrible. Waited to make final judgment on SP1. SP1 sucked and broke many legacy directx applications. Migrating back. Vista is horrible, unusable for games, and is fraught with BS issues. Its like Windows ME, but not as bad. Piss off microsoft.

    Reply
  • Galvin - Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - link

    I checked over in creative forums on their website. Their plan is to move away from direct sound and to openAL which will have hardware acceleated 3D sound.

    Why MS nerfed their own directsound is beyond me. but openAL will be the way to go in the future. Leaving directsound useless for games.

    This reminds me back when we had NT. You had to use openGL to get hardware accelerated 3D graphics. direct3D in NT was all software driven. So in Vista its the same difference all over again.
    Reply
  • johnsonx - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    Which video driver did you use for your testing? The one that installs with Vista, or the one from ATI's website?

    I ask because on my computer, running Vista-RC2, ATI's website driver won't let me run UT2004 above 640x480 without corrupting the lower part of the screen - at my preferred res of 1280x1024, the lower 2/3 of the screen is corrupt and shows part of the UT2004 menu instead of the game screen. Microsoft's driver (which was presumably written by ATI) shows no such problems; however running UT2004 in RC2 with that driver seems much slower than in XP with CAT 6.9.
    Reply
  • Wag - Friday, October 06, 2006 - link

    If not already mentioned, this would have been the real test, not just testing Half-Life2 on XP32 vs the 64bit version on the 64bit OS. Of course it's going to perform better. Reply
  • joust - Thursday, October 05, 2006 - link

    Ryan,

    Were the experiments you performed with UAC off or on? Is there any difference in game performance between UAC being on or off? (I would imagine there would be some performance hit if UAC were on).
    Reply
  • Emryse - Thursday, October 05, 2006 - link

    As stated, I can't get into the technical aspects of what a change to Vista will mean; I'm somewhat managing to grasp what the review is discussing. But before you stop reading, my comment is more of a generalized observation - I'm not the first, I'm sure. And by the way, thanks to AnandTech for the great resources on all of this information, and thanks to you as a community for your interesting posts and points therein.

    In essence, I've been following quite closely over the last 1.5 years the progress being made for high-end computer components. Unfortunately, what I see is a very bleak future for technology, if business can't separate itself from the creative process. I see these very small incremental increases in "horsepower" when card after card comes rolling out, with only a one or two letter/number designator to set it apart from it's predecessor. Business has become overly greedy, and in reality I think it's harming the industry as a whole, for the following reasons:

    1. RACING = AUTOMOBILES as GAMING = COMPUTERS, in my humble opinion. When you have a lot of different teams, competing to develope better and faster, you see dramatic positive changes in the industry as a whole. But in reality, just take for instance, the merger between ATI and AMD. This does not at ALL appear to me a move to increase competition, and push for greater advances in the industry. On the contrary, this move will further restrict the ability for smaller companies to maintain competition, because in reality, the market has no choice.

    2. Before I'm labeled as an MS hater (and I do love MS), it is still a fact that MS is realistically the ONLY choice for the gaming industry at this point. This further restricts the ability for competition and creativity - this article, and the fact that the whole world is watching for what Vista will become, proves my point true. If Vista isn't enhancing for the gaming industry, then we as gamers (and developers) are forced to either a.) wait for SP enhancements (out of our control), or b.) not transition to Vista (which won't remain an option for long, as history shows MS ceasing support for prior OS, thus forcing transition in the long run). And if anyone has read the other article on "WINDOWS-READY Games", it's very clear that Microsoft wants to take control of the direction the entire industry heads - and I have my reservations that technological progression and competition will be highlights of the MS agenda.

    My conclusion (and I don't claim to be 'right'), but in my humble opinion: I see an industry that is becoming less and less competitive, and I also see products that are less and less productive, while becoming more and more expensive. What I see from MS lately, is more concern over copyright / piracy / security-related issues, and less of a concern for advances in performance, expanding the limits on creativity and control for the devoper / gamer to modify and expand, etc. If anyone can afford to sacrifice a little profit to see gains in the advance of an entire industry, it's MS. Hey - it's just business, but when you have an empire such as the world has allowed MS to become (myself included) because up to now they are the best, there really isn't all that much pressure on MS to provide the market with a truly astounding and creatively progressive product, and we as the community have no real available means to force MS to do better.

    What are we going to do, abstain from MS? (And for you Linux / MAC / -insert alternate OS here- fans, don't respond; this was a rhetorical question for the 98% of the community for whom this issue will have the most impact, no offense).
    Reply
  • flexy - Thursday, October 05, 2006 - link

    >>>
    What I see from MS lately, is more concern over copyright / piracy / security-related issues, and less of a concern for advances in performance,
    >>>

    you brought it down to the point.

    However,there WILL be new features in Vista regarding better performance, just mentioning ONE thing which will be superfetch, which could be seen as a "intelligent" prefetcher which will know what applications you use mostly (and when) and will speed up loading of programs.

    NEVER EVER was MS Windows a "gamer OS"..you dont need the whole Windows overhead AT ALL for playing a game - but we just dont have a choice :)

    The moment MS came out with DirectX basically meant that games need Windows to interact with hardware...which basically is a monopoly...ever thought how much "sense" it makes that the ability of running a certain game automatically DEPENDS on a certain OS ?

    There were times when an OS was not an requirement at all for running games...just to show you how "brainwashed" we actually are :)

    One good thing however, hardware/memory is NOT that expensive anymore.

    People should refrain from complaining about "memory requirements" for Vista etc....which firstly, are so not true AT ALL....and, secondly, it wouldnt just make sense to go Vista yo utilize its new features - and at the same time complaining that the new features use MORE memory than eg. what XP did.

    Then please get another stick of memory, problem solved :)

    Besides, hardware requirements in general....it looks like Vista will not even USE DX10, so the *requirement* for a DX10 card is NIL:....it WILL run fine on MOST recent hardware

    ALso...from a certain point of view MS actually did GOOD putting a big focus on security...because those were the major issues in previous versions, and for sure of concern for the "every day user".

    Built-in spyware-scanner etc...etc....much more security..nothing speaks against it
    Reply
  • Griswold - Saturday, October 07, 2006 - link

    quote:

    There were times when an OS was not an requirement at all for running games...just to show you how "brainwashed" we actually are :)


    When was that? On IBM compatible PCs, there was always the need for an OS - it was called DOS.
    Reply
  • kleinwl - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    This is the first I've heard of the elimination of Hardware accelleration for sound systems. I don't understand how software only can possibly have the same high quality as a well designed DACs. Can you please do some testing and see how much sound quality is impared? I love lisening to music through my computer and if Vista is going to degrade that experience.... well.. Reply
  • michal1980 - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    sound will be great, because now AC97 will be replaced by HD Sound.

    lol.

    I agree, for the majority of pc users sound is for some reason taking another step back.

    with all its problems creatives sound was always better then onboard.
    Reply

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