Monday, 3 September 2007

Core Vista experience-for business users

XPS Document support: the new format pushed by Microsoft.

Microsoft XPS is designed as a direct competitor to Adobe PostScript and PDF. Just like PDF, an XPS document is displayed identically on every computer and will represent the "printed page". XPS uses XML to describe the layout of documents and how they should be rendered.

It does however suffer from several problems: MS is only providing viewers for Windows, all other platforms will have to wait for specific viewers to be created; if your default browser is not IE, you need to set the xps files to open with IE (not the xps viewer). Not to mention that MS intended this as non editable, or at least not easily editable (there is a component that ships with the SDK that can accomplish this, so it's aimed at....developers????). For the average user, if you ever want to edit an xps file you're good for 100 to 300 USD in fees for 3rd party software.

Network Diagnostics and troubleshooting

Yet another wizard.....The feature existed in XP pro, but was rather difficult to use, not to mention well hidden (Start >Help And Support > On the Help And Support Center page, select the Tools button under the Pick A Task category > select Network Diagnostics from the scrolling list in the Tools panel....). Most of these functions are now performed automatically b a user friendly wizard. For those who insist on knowing what the MaxBaudRateToSerialPort is configured to, the netsh command still works.

My personal grief with these wizards is that they don't help at all in 9 out of 10 networking problems. The usual "disable and reenable adapters-reboot router/modem-check all your cables-reseat cards-disable firewalls" is still what works most of the time, and they are much faster to just do then to go through a wizard which will eventually tell you the same thing.

Improved wireless networking

The GUI is much improved, and while you still need to know what kind of encryption your network uses, it is as easy to set up a wireless network as it used to be to set up a wired one (that kind is practically plug-and-play in Vista)

Improved peer networking

The much debated wireless ad-hoc PC to PC connection. The ability existed in XP also, but it has been improved and polished for Vista, with added security and the possibility to opt out of being "seen" by other PCs

Improved VPN support

Setting up a VPN connection has also received an overhauling of the GUI. However the web is full of people having trouble VPNing to and from Vista.

Improved power management

Allows for a much more granular configuration of the power options. Besides 3 built-in scenarios, users can change timings independently for hard disk, wireless adapter, USB, display and multimedia streaming. So why is this "for business users"?

Windows HotStart: Launch an app from a button mapped to it.

This feature allows the user to immediately start any application regardless of power state (sleep, hibernation, on or off) by pressing a pre-mapped button. Not something you can't live without, and you need a machine with a BIOS that supports this feature, but it is kind of neat to resume your session directly into the power point presentation you are about to give.....

Sync Center

That's what replaces the XP's Offline Files. All the devices/networks shares you want to synch with are gathered in one location, with scheduling capability. Sadly still no versioning support, but definitely usefull.

Improved file and folder sharing

In XP you could share or not share a file/folder. In Vista you can decide with whom to share, and give different users different permissions for different files/folders. Definitely useful.

Ad hoc backup and recovery of user files and folders

You can' schedule the backups in Vista Basic, but you can choose which types of files to backup and from which partitions/drives, however no edition allows a more granular choice (files in specific folders only, for example). Once again, how is this labelled "for business users"?