NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, May 2007
By Jan Fagerholm, Associate Editor, PC Community, Hayward, California
Obtained from APCUG with the author's permission for publication by APCUG member groups.
jan-f@pacbell.net (click to email author)

By the time you read this, Vista will be retail. While the final version was released mid- November last year, itís not scheduled to show up as a boxed retail product until January 31st.

Vista has many new features, and not just the interface (GUI). Microsoftís new restrictions on kernel access creates problems for many applications. While this was done to reduce security vulnerabilities, it produces incompatibilities in many common applications. Hereís a few Iíve had trouble with:

* McAfee Internet Security Suite
* McAfee VirusScan Enterprise
* Norton Internet Security Suite
* Symantec AntiVirus Enterprise
* Cyberlink PowerDVD 7
* ABBYY FineReader 8.0
* Microsoft Visual Studio 2005
* Google Earth (any version)
* Partition Magic 8
* PerfectDisk 8
* Roxio Easy Media Creator Suite 9

And many more lesser known programs. Anything that uses kernel space is going to have a problem. McAfee has been particularly vociferous about Windows insecurity and is having a semi-public fight with Microsoft right now to try and get information from Microsoft about kernel space in Vista, which Microsoft is reluctant to release for security reasons. Both Symantec and McAfee have beta versions of potential Vista-compatible products available. You decide if you want to trust your antivirus protection to a beta. . .

There are alternatives, though. Several smaller companies in that market have released Vista compatible versions of their products. Iíve had success with AVG and Avast! on Vista, and am using these. Windows Defender works OK for anti-spyware and anti-phishing, though the default notification settings are intrusive, and it requires too much micro management to get the in-your-face warnings down to a reasonable level. The excellent Ad-Aware SE Pro work fine on Vista, and Iím presently using that. Many of the applications Iíve had trouble with are utilities: backup programs, disk partitioners, and the like. This is to be expected, as utilities generally run much closer to the metal, so to speak, and are more sensitive to the architectural changes in Vista. Iím looking for updates or replacements for about a dozen utilities I use for system-level maintenance and recovery. Anything that is written to a particular version of the Microsoft Foundation Class (MFC) seems to have a problem. If youíve ever had anything that complains about MFC422.DLL, you know what Iím referring to.

Vista uses DirectX 9 to get the Aero interface, so any application that uses DirectX will turn off Aero with a brief black screen then revert to the Windows Vista Basic theme (no transparency) before continuing. When you quit the application, it goes black screen again, then restores the Aero interface. This might not be so objectionable, if it were only games that did this, but virtually every video player (including Windows Media Player 11) does this with codecs that use DirectX to display video.

Even some non-multimedia applications do this. I like to have Visual Thesaurus 3.0 running while Iím writing. It uses DirectX to produce a graphical display of word relationships, so of course it shuts off Aero while itís running. This demonstrates what continues to be a flaw in the Windows architecture; it is still not multi- threaded, so there are many resources it cannot share.

This all sounds doom and gloom, but at least there are some nice enhancements to compensate. Iím particularly fond of the new taskbar clock, which has the ability to show three time zones simultaneously. Bring up the taskbar clock and click on the ďChange date and times settingsĒ link. There is a ďAdditional ClocksĒ tab, where you may choose one or two additional clocks and set the desired time zones. Then, when you display the clock, it will show the system time and the additional time zones that you specified. The Tool Tip also displays the additional times when you move the mouse cursor over the clock. (See below.) Also, the taskbar clock come up with a single click now, as it does in Linux.

Vista is still a bit raw. Looking at vendors Web sites, they are not rushing into Vista versions of their software, particularly device drivers for hardware. Vista will be pain along with gain for the next few months.

This article has been provided to APCUG by the author solely for publication by APCUG member groups. All other uses require the permission of the author (see e-mail address above).

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