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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  • Griswold - Friday, October 6, 2006 - link

    What a pathetic comment.
  • flexy - Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - link

    lol at your reply :)

    I am NOT going into the age-long debate "Ati has so bad drivers" discussion anymore...we could've had that YEARS ago in Radon 8500 times...now your biased blahblah just hasn't any base and just shows you're a n00b :)
  • VooDooAddict - Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - link

    I wish taht the article expanded more on the issue of lack of Hardware sound processing for older games.
  • imaheadcase - Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - link

    Basicly put (someone correct me if im wrong here) MS moved away from all hardware based rendering of sound and put it into the OS. Im guessing its a directx 10 thing is why they did it..but Im sure Creative is pissed.
  • Missing Ghost - Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - link

    If creative is pissed than it must be a good thing.
  • michal1980 - Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - link

    creative sucking or not. M$ taking away ALL and ANY hardware accelration for games SUCKS.

    Creatives solution/monoloply is not the best, but given the fact that in general (90%) of the people buying an extra sound card do so for gaming, and creative for better or worse has 100% of the gaming market, locking creative out is a BAD thing.

    So we had problems with creative and there drivers and bloat.

    Answer me this? what do we have now? A M$ controled SOFTWARE SOUND SOLUTION!!!. EAX is not perfect, but alot of games use it, and when the do, it is GOOD!.

    Now were are left with ONBOARD Sound!!!. YAAA thats a step in the right direction? phhhf sorry hardware sound, even creative owns most onboard sound solutions. (Yes there was sound storm, but that was generations ago now).

    I'm not a creative fan-boy, I wish there was more then one 'real' sound card for gamers.


    Be a fanboi, Hate Creative. But this is not good for sound. (and yes there are ways around it, be geez, M$ just KILLED creative).

    And yes creative knew about it for a long time. However I don't know if they really saw what happened until way too late.

    So you Creative Haters, You won, lets all enjoy crappy on-board sound now!. YAAA, on board is soo cool.
  • squeezee - Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - link

    Basically they've changed the whole audio subsystem completely. As part of this change they have also moved DirectSound3D to a pure software implementation with no way for the hardware to directly interact with it. This is particularly effects games which use Directsound and EAX since the EAX effects are performed in hardware.

    However other APIs can still take advantage of hardware acceleration, such as OpenAL.
  • flexy - Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - link

    well..giggle..the creative programmers get PAID for writing drivers, right ? :)
    New APIs/implementations need new drivers, maybe even new HW if the old one is not capable. This is NOT necessarely a BAD thing !

  • Hulk - Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - link

    Because right now that seems like the only reason to consider upgrading. And even then we're going to have to wait for the "64 bitness" to show us some goods.

    Then again I've resisted every MS OS update and when I've finally updated I always wished I'd done it sooner!

  • Spoelie - Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - link

    Vista comes in both 32 bit and 64 bit flavors, you can choose which one you install.

    I also resisted switching before, but never really regretted it ;). I'm guessing Vista won't get on here before the first service pack - the gaming performance and mem usage is too horrid at the moment. Or maybe that'll get fixed with better drivers / tweak guides.

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