Saturday, 1 September 2007

Vista Basic vs XP: IT pros

These are the features Microsoft labelled the "core vista experience". There are quite a few of them, so in this part I will go through those more specifically targeted at IT professionals.

Pluggable logon authentication architecture: correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this something that has been available in Unix systems for years? Anyway, Vista has it. The way I understand it, this feature sits between an application requiring user-authentication and the actual user-authentication method used by the system. The application requiring the authentication does not need to know what the system uses in order to authenticate users. The request is passed on to the authentication module who communicates with the system and returns the appropriate response.

Application Compatibility features: no kidding, it's actually listed as a feature in the official MS documentation.

And some steps have been taken to ease the transition from older systems, the most relevant of which is the virtualized folders and registry keys. When an application tries to write to folders/registry keyes for which it has not been granted write permissions, a folder will be created under the logged-on user's name and the app both allowed to write it's data there and "fooled" into thinking it's writing it in the intended location.

Another step is the "Program compatibility" tripod, comprised of

  • the "assistant" which is supposed to detect when an application needs to run in Windows XP operating system compatibility mode and does the necessary modifications allowing the app to run.
  • The properties tab in the right-click context menu which enables the user to manually do what the assistant is supposed to do automatically.
  • The "wizard" which will pop-up when the above mentioned methods have all failed and offers to look for compatibility fixes.

Sadly running in compatibility mode or writing to virtualized locations is far from sufficient for running many older applications, so a thorough research is highly recommended before spending hard earned cash on either Vista or newer versions of software. Microsoft is aware of this and in at least one document (Windows Vista Product Guide) mentions Virtual PC as an interim solution "Virtual PC 2007 makes it possible to simultaneously run multiple operating systems on a single PC. This allows you to migrate your computers to Windows Vista for a more secure and manageable experience, while keeping a previous Windows environment available to run non-compatible applications until developers can modify them." No mention however of how this modifies hardware requirements (2GB of RAM, hard disc space for the virtual discs....)

File-based image format (WIM): for people who spend their lives installing and maintaining PCs, this is truly the best thing since sliced bread. It's not very easy or intuitive to use, and it has it's quirks, not to mention an extremely poorly written documentation, but

  • hardware-agnostic image file
  • multiple images stored in one file + use of compression and single instancing
  • service the image offline, including adding and deleting optional components such as patches and drivers without starting up the desktop or creating a new image.

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