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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  • flexy - Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - link

    mem-usage is a URBAN MYTH :)

    You can check for yourself, and i did too. DWM, the new windows management uses SOME memory, comparable to Explorer...but then it does new 3d fancy stuff and similiar. Of course, more features need more memory.

    You COULD always disable and tweak-down stuff in Vista, as well as you can in XP....HOWEVER i'd say 2GB for Vista would be perfect and 1GB (as i have on XP Pro right now) is a little tight. *IF* you go vista then you of course also want to take advantage of its fetaures, right ? Otherwise you could as well stay with XP..or even get 98 "to save memory" :)

    But its NOT the case that the memory usage of Vista is SOOO over the roof as some people suggest..it's just not true.
  • Drexial - Sunday, October 8, 2006 - link

    its not really a myth... those features that are unessesary mostly install by default... and unless you know what your doing (which i might add the new windows is even LESS user friendly) then the memory will remain taken up and what should have run without any hang ups on 1 gig now has you concidering 2 gigs would be better. as little a cost that is, the average user isnt going to need half the crap that vista adds and just makes those that dont need to get a C+ certifacation on computers will be even more lost. Windows isnt suposed to be a prosumer operating system. its supose to be an easy to use way for your software to work for you. Vista is like the Mini with 6 airbags... while it sounds better its just a gimmick. i do understand that there may have been some nessesary upgrades to the system. they just packed it with what ever crap they could think of.
  • jonp - Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - link

    Wow, what folks are willing to consider normal today. If someone would have told you even just 5 years ago that the OS would require 2 billion+ (2,147,483,648) bytes of main memory, what would folks have said? And now it is considered just dandy? Even "bloat" doesn't adequately describe where OS’s and applications are headed. Big programming teams with less pride in craft left these days I guess.
  • noxipoo - Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - link

    the price of progress. i'd rather move forward than backwards, price of memory has gone down and features have gone up. having so much memory will only limit progress.
  • ChronoReverse - Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - link

    A lot of people are probably including the cache inadvertantly.

    MS should report only memory being actively used and rename the cache to TURBOMEMORY (TM)
  • ChronoReverse - Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - link

    There's a x86 version and that will be the version you'll want to install at this point.

    All the manufacturers STILL haven't gotten on the ball with 64bit drivers so if anyone tells you Vista runs fine (it does), they're using the x86 version.
  • yxalitis - Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - link

    Time to check the facts, X64 drivers for XP work in Vista RC1, so if you already use XP x64, as I do, it's a no-brainer. I have all my hardware fully supported by X64 drivers!
  • RMSe17 - Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - link

    I doubt that the majority of hardware that works in WindowsXP with a 32bit driver has a working 64 bit counterpart. There are products from Windows 2000 era that work in XP, made by companies that are no longer around, or no longer support those products. Until there is a 64bit wrapper for 32bit drivers, those devices will be unusable.
  • ChronoReverse - Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - link

    And the driver situation for x64 XP... still sucks compared to x86. So my point stands.
  • ss284 - Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - link

    No matter how much the final version improves in the next month or so, its still nice to know that the xp->vista launch will be much smoother than the 98/me->xp launch, as far as software and hardware compatibility goes.

    On the other hand, the 98 -> xp upgrade was probably a much bigger improvement in terms of features and general os design when compared to xp -> vista.

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