Windows Vista debuts to mixed reactions
By Sven Appel and Jay Dougherty Jan 30, 2007, 15:19 GMT
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates at the launch of the long-awaited Vista operating system from Microsoft on Monday 29 January 2007. The software goes on sale Tuesday EPA/ANDREW GOMBERT
Munich - Vista has finally arrived. Microsoft's new operating system became available to consumers in many parts of the world on January 30.
Initial impressions are mixed. No one disputes that Vista is safer, finds data quicker, and offers a slicker interface, including transparent windows. On the down side, however, it runs smoothly only on powerful, well-equipped computers. And it doesn't exactly come cheap.
Windows Vista is markedly improved over Windows XP when it comes to security, says Thomas Caspers, an expert for operating systems security at the German Federal Agency for Security in Information Technology (BSI) in Bonn. Its firewall is a good one, he cites as an example. Unlike the firewall already built into XP, the Vista firewall can, once configured, also monitor connections originating from the computer onto the internet.
Many experts criticised its habit of assigning users administrator rights by default. That makes it easy for a virus to paralyze the system in one fell swoop, and has been changed in Vista.
As it is so widely used, Microsoft's Internet Explorer is a favourite target for computer virus programmers. In Vista, version 7 of the browser offers what is known as a protected mode. The browser runs insolated from other applications in the operating system, according to Microsoft,.
Other security tools integrated into Vista include Windows Defender, long available to users of XP as a separate download, and a phishing filter. Vista also offers parents the ability to prohibit kids from surfing to specific Web sites.
Thousands of new functions have also been integrated into Vista, Microsoft claims. Many of these are hidden deep in the system and will not be apparent to many users. But one thing you can't miss is the new user interface, dubbed Aero. It stands out primarily for its semi-transparent windows, which allow users to see which folders and documents are still open even if several windows are layered one atop another.
Another new item is the desktop search function for locating objects not just by folder or file name but also by the content of the document itself. A new sidebar helps keep things orderly. The sidebar offers a collection of small programs that delivers real-time information like weather reports or stock quotes, presuming an internet connection is available. The Windows Photo Gallery applet is designed to help organise digital photos. The program locates images based on the day they were taken, says Microsoft Product Manager Vanessa Weihbrecht.
Nobody should rush out to switch from XP to Vista based solely on these new programs, however. Many of the functions on hand in Vista are available already for free right now, says Peter Knaak from the German consumer testing organisation Stiftung Warentest in Berlin.
And there's more reason not to rush into Vista. Your existing software and hardware may not be compatible with the new operating system. Although Vista has been engineered with a compatibility mode available, some applications - including some popular virus scanners - will not be compatible with Vista until you apply a compatibility patch or upgrade the software altogether.
As large operating systems of this kind usually contain more than a few bugs when first launched, Knaak recommends waiting a few months before making the transition. That way, the serious wrinkles will already have been ironed out.
Those who aren't interested in buying a new computer with Vista pre-installed should look carefully at all the different variants that are available. XP and its many variants caused enough confusion, says Axel Vahldiek from the Hanover-based computer magazine c't.
'Many users who bought the XP Home Edition back then were surprised that some functions were missing,' Vahldiek says. Vista, with its five editions, is destined to be no less puzzling.
Vista Home Premium is comparable with Windows XP Home. Home Basic, which as the most affordable version, does not contain the Aero design. There is also a version for small companies and freelancers called Vista Business. Another version called Vista Enterprise is aimed exclusively at large companies. And the Ultimate Edition offers the entire Vista package. There are upgrades and full versions of each package. All versions can also be acquired more cheaply in what are known as system builder variants.
Anyone hoping to install Vista on their own should be aware of the system's hardware requirements. At least a gigabyte of RAM should be on hand. And without a dedicated graphics card with at least 64 megabytes of RAM, Vista buyers will not have much fun with their new system. Graphics cards with 128 megabytes of RAM are recommended.
'Otherwise, you'll have to work with the classic view,' Vahldiek says. And if you do that, you may as well stick with Windows XP.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur