Patrolling the Longhorn precinct for the latest Windows Vista beta news, commentary, and technical info...
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
WinFS Beta 1 available for Windows XP
Microsoft has released the first beta of the relational WinFS file system to MSDN subscribers. The final product is still scheduled to be released following Windows Vista. I'm relieved to see that they've already made this much progress, although I'm disappointed the this first beta is not Vista-compatible. I'll follow up with a later post with my first impressions after using WinFS for awhile.

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Sunday, August 28, 2005
Busted: Zotob and Mytob creators

It didn't take long...

Microsoft Corp. today commended Turkish and Moroccan law-enforcement authorities and the FBI for their prompt arrest of the individuals believed to be responsible for the creation and distribution of the recent Zotob and Mytob worms. Microsoft worked closely with law-enforcement agencies in the U.S. and overseas to provide investigative and technical support in the investigation.

Read the full press release.
New in beta testing
You can see the work in progress on the new MSN portal at I like the fact that it's uncluttered and easily customizable, but it seems a little too lightweight at this point. The site should grab my attention towards the most important stuff on the page (as determined by the user), and it doesn't do that at the moment.

Also, you can check out a more experimental MSN portal at and
Friday, August 19, 2005
Follow-up to Windows Vista Search question
In his Road to Windows Vista 2005 article, Paul Thurrott confirms that, no, you cannot customize the Windows Search indexing targets in Beta 1, a question I had posted about earlier. By Beta 2, we should have most of the final search functionality present and usable.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Peer-to-peer networking: Enabled in Vista Beta 1
Some Vista testers have discovered that not only is Microsoft's new P2P technology integrated into Windows Vista, it's on by default in Beta 1. The protocol is designed to enable online user scenarios, such as mulitplayer gaming, that are not dependent on central servers to keep a service running. In its current stage of development, it is producing a kind of distributed directory of computers that are running Vista Beta 1. If the idea that your machine is making connections to other PCs around the world without your knowledge makes you uneasy, I suggest you disable the service. And don't worry, it will be off by default when Vista goes gold.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
A status window that actually displays status
Sometimes it's the little things that count most. I ran into the new and improved file copy dialog box today. The Windows 95-era icon animations are gone (finally!), replaced with more useful information such as the copy speed, time remaining, and file size and count remaining. Helpful improvements, however minor, are still nice to discover.

Monday, August 15, 2005
The fire dwindles: Firefox usage shrinks
In an interesting piece of news, NetApplications released the results of their latest web browser market share report, finding that:
...the proportion of Web surfers using [Firefox] dipped by around 0.7 percent to just over 8 percent, with Internet Explorer's share growing by the same amount.
(News Source: PC Pro)
My take is that no matter how slick Firefox looks and despite all the publicity it gets, Internet users are finally realizing that Microsoft isn't the only software company to struggle with bugs, security problems, and compatibility issues. Firefox 1.5 will reportedly include an easier patching system, presumably to facilitate the continuous and necessary stream of fixes that Mozilla has been releasing of late.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Windows Vista Developer FAQ
Now that Vista Beta1 has been out for a couple weeks and the novelty factor is wearing off, it's time to get to the important topics of administration and software development on Windows Vista. If you're just beginning to learn about the Vista software development platform, I'd recommend reading the Windows Vista Developer FAQ for a quick, high-level overview.

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Friday, August 12, 2005
Internet Explorer 7 gets a new logo
Tony Chor from the Internet Explorer team just posted a preview of the updated logo and logotype for IE7. It resembles the old design, but with a sleek new modern look. Apparently the Windows Vista version will be tweaked even further, most likely to a vector-based design which will scale suitably for high-DPI displays.

UPDATE: Note the inclusion of "Windows" in the product name. Paul Thurrott says it is a result of Microsoft's decision to halt IE development for non-Windows platforms (the Mac version).

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Windows Longhorn Server preview
While not a "Vista" product per se (it may be called Windows Server 2007), I am still very interested in Longhorn Server, and it will likely be a frequent topic here on Vista Patrol. Towards that end, I thought I'd point out that ActiveWin just posted a collection of Longhorn Server screenshots. There's not much to see at this point, although the Initial Configuration Tasks window looks interesting. There's also an Administrator's Preview for Vista Beta 1, which includes plenty of screenshots as well.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Pandora: The ONLY way to easily discover great music
I've just started to preview a new online music service called Pandora, and not one hour after I started I'm already hooked! The Pandora service allows you to generate customized streaming radio stations by simply supplying it with one or more names of artists or songs you enjoy. Yes, there are many services, such as Rhapsody Radio, that attempt to provide similar functionality. But Pandora works very, very differently. Let me explain.

Most other music discovery methods work by comparing artists or songs you select with other users' music libraries. The assumption is that if you and I both like one artist, I'll probably be interested in the other music that you like too, and vice versa. While that method can generate some basic recommendations, there are two problems with it. For one, two people may share an interest in an artist from one genre, but have completely different tastes regarding other styles of music that may appear in one or the other user's library. Secondly, few artists nowadays perform within cleanly defined genres. Even on a single album, many listeners will like a few songs but couldn't care less about the others. That fact is probably a big reason why digital music stores, like Napster 2.0 and Rhapsody, where shoppers can pick and choose single tracks for 99 cents are becoming so popular.

However, such online stores still force users to browse by artist or album, which I've just explained is not the best way to find related music. Here's where Pandora comes in. Pandora is built upon the work of the Music Genome Project, a mammoth endeavor to analyze and catalog the individual traits of as many songs as possible. The traits determine the beat, arrangement depth, acoustics, and more. For example, a song Pandora just played for me on one of my stations was chosen because it features ambient soundscapes, electronica roots, middle eastern influences, acoustic hat, and use of organs, traits which Pandora determined (very accurately, in fact) to be in alignment with my musical tastes.

The great thing about Pandora is that you don't have to think about all this behind-the-scenes stuff. Just tell it about a couple things you like, and periodically give it feedback about the songs that it plays, and it keeps getting better. Already I'm very impressed with how many consecutive songs it has played that I love, but have never heard or heard of before.

If you're interested at all in an easy way of finding great music (according to your definition), just request an invitation to the free closed preview of Pandora. You'll never have to go searching for great music to fill up your Music virtual folder in Windows Vista again. I do have some suggestions for Pandora, but I'll hold off on posting those until I spend a little bit more time with the service.
Y2K all over again
No, there won't be any serious computer glitches, but you can expect the media to get everyone all hyped up once more, now that a: law will move the start of daylight saving time forward by three weeks and extend it by a total of four weeks. So, for four weeks each year, digital devices that do not account for the changes in DST dates will be off by an hour. (Geek News Central)

Rest assured, any Microsoft operating system made within at least the last decade will definitely be updated to deal with this. Not that it would cause much of a problem for the typical user anyways. So just sit back, relax, and enjoy the news stories about people stocking up on a years worth of canned goods, water, and firewood (don't forget to charge your cellphone for when the power grid fails!).

Sunday, August 07, 2005
Vista-era UPS?

Japanese electronics maker NEC said on Friday it was in the process of developing a high-power organic radical battery, or ORB, that could be used in standard desktop PCs as a built-in emergency power source in the event of a power failure...

...NEC also offered other advantages to the technology, such as its environmentally safe composition and the fact that the materials within the battery are both non-flammable and non-explosive, unlike other batteries.

Seems like an excellent alternative to the large, heavy, and environmentally hazardous UPS devices in use today.

Microsoft excludes Monad Command Shell from Vista
There have been a lot of claims by various media outlets in the last couple of days that a so called proof-of-concept virus was the first piece of malicious software targeted specifically towards Windows Vista. Now, while Microsoft seemed to have originally been planning to include Monad with Vista, it never has been included in any (public) Longhorn build, and will not even be included in the RTM build of Vista, according to InfoWorld:

"In an interview Friday, Microsoft Director of Product Management Eric Berg said Monad will not be included in the first commercial version of Windows Vista, expected in the second half of 2006. But the product is expected to be included in Windows over the next "three to five years," he said. "Our intention is to synchronize it with both client and server operating systems."

I was certainly not surprised that hackers are already experimenting with Vista, and I don't think Microsoft was either. Whether or not this about-face is related to the "virus" uproar, I, for one, am glad that Monad will not be part of Vista by default, although I hope it will be available as an add-on product. For the vast majority of users, Monad would be an unused component of the system, existing only to be a security liability. After all, how many average Windows XP users do you think ever use the Command Prompt? Probably not very many. And how many average users would need or want to manipulate .NET objects in a command shell? Zero. So I think the exclusion of Monad from Vista fits well with Microsoft's new "secure by default" mantra, without significantly reducing the usefulness of Vista to the typical user.

I do want to clarify that these security liabilities are going to be a natural side effect of installing any command shell that's even remotely useful. The fact that creating these viruses for Monad was possible does not necessarily mean that Monad will have serious security issues (although it likely does in the current beta form). You still have to get malicious code on your system in the first place to be at risk, and a system with Monad doesn't present any additional opportunities for that distribution to happen than a default Vista installation would. And once malicious code is present on a system, it can do plenty of damage, with or without the aid of Monad.

I did some initial experimentation with Monad yesterday, and I think it's a powerful tool. I'm definitely looking forward to its final release, and I hope that Vista power users will be able to install it, even if it is not included in the retail bits.

Saturday, August 06, 2005
Modifying Windows Vista Search settings
This one has me stumped. On my primary desktop computer, I installed Vista in a dual-boot configuration so that I could still access all my files and programs on the Windows XP partition. What's frustrating is that Vista still hasn't found and indexed all my documents on the other partitions yet, which means they don't show up in the Documents virtual folder or search results. I've spent a lot of time looking around various settings windows for some way to instruct Windows Search to index those other drives, but to no avail. Judging by the large amount of empty window space in the Search options applet, it looks like the UI for changing such settings was simply not ready for Beta 1, though I seem to remember being able to change this setting in one of the previous builds. Does anyone know of a registry hack that will accomplish the same thing? Or did I miss something? I would appreciate it if someone could enlighten me.
Friday, August 05, 2005
WinSAT in Windows Vista Beta 1

Josh Phillips wrote a helpful post a few weeks ago about WinSAT in build 5048. WinSAT is a great new feature in Windows Vista which basically integrates benchmarking into the OS. It allows applications to query the operating system for performance metrics relating to various system components, such as the CPU, GPU or hard disk. The results are cached for quick subsequent queries by other apps, but Vista will automatically run new benchmarks if the hardware significantly changes. A more detailed description is available at ExtremeTech.

Being unable to find any updated info on WinSAT in Beta 1, I decided to do some digging myself. While eventually there may be a graphical interface, WinSAT benchmarks can only be performed from the command line currently.

There are five major test types, which can be performed by running WinSAT from the command line, with any one of the following arguments:

dwm: Displays the image show below, then prints the benchmark to the console when the window is closed.

d3d: Displays the image show below, then prints the benchmark to the console when the window is closed. This option will likely generate some actual 3D rendering in future builds.

cpu: This test requires the use of one of the following arguments:

mem: This test supports an optional -v argument for verbose output.

disk: This test supports several arguments, which Josh aptly described as follows:
-n [x]: Required, defines what physical disk should be assessed where ‘x’
is the physical disk number.
-seq or -ran: Required, only one should be specified at a time. Controls whether
or not the sequential or random IO performance will be assessed.
-read or - write: Required, only one should be specified at a time. Controls whether or not the read or write performance will be assessed.

Example: WinSAT DISK -n 0 -ran -read

It would be interesting to see how much the scores these tests produce actually vary from system to system using the current build. My desktop contains a 3.4 GHz P4 w/ HT, 1 GB dual-channel PC-4200, PCI-E GeForce 6600 GT 128MB, and 120GB 7200 SATA drives in RAID 0 + 1, and produced the following scores:

DWM Assessment Results: Effective FPS: 520.089
D3D Assessment Results: Effective FPS: 739.732
System Memory Bandwidth : 4412331247.60269 B/s
CPU Encryption Assessment Results: 134272010.92651 B/s
CPU Compression Assessment Results: 168085750.95565 B/s

Anyone else care to comment with your scores, or info on any additional WinSAT commands?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Windows Vista Activation

Nearly a week after installation, Vista finally prompts me to activate. Personally, I like the fact that the activation wizard does not begin nagging you immediately post-setup. This will probably help reduce the number of activations where the user decides to reinstall the system on another partition two days later and then has to call in the activation manually. Strangely though, the actual activation takes quite a few seconds longer than the near-instantaneous final step in Windows XP activation. I wonder how many local files get modified during the process?

Another nicety is that there's now only one step to the process, it asks for no user input, and product registration has been removed. Hopefully, this will keep people from ranting and raving about how annoying activation is and what a privacy risk it poses.

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Installing Windows Vista
So here are the details about my experience installing Vista on my 1.6 GHz Pentium M laptop with 768MB of RAM and a 64MB ATI Radeon 9200 graphics chipset. I was hoping to find that the Windows team had made progress on their goal of an average 15-minute installation time, but unfortunately it looks like we'll have to wait for Beta 2. On the three machines I've installed Vista onto, two took about 2 hours to complete and the fastest one (3+ GHz P4, 1 GB RAM, RAID SATA drives) completed installation in 1 hour.

Installation Time
Frankly, 30-minute or less install times will save a lot of time for people who perform system installations on the job (like myself), and it should not be that difficult to acheive. For an uncustomized deployment of the standard retail version of Windows, it should only take four major steps:
  • Copy common files to disk
  • Perform hardware detection
  • Unpack only the necessary drivers
  • Install required drivers

What I've seen in past and current versions of Windows that takes up a lot install time is "registering components" and building trees like the Start menu. There's no reason why any of this needs to happen at install time. The Start menu is virtually identical on any new installation regardless of the machine, so why build it dynamically? Just have the folder tree and shortcuts on the DVD and copy them directly to disk. Tiny shortcut files should take 2 seconds to copy, not 5 minutes to generate. As for registering components, the same principle applies. While I don't know the details on exactly what "components" get "registered" during installation, I suspect there's a bunch of CLSID generation and such going on. There's got to be a way to avoid doing anything not directly related to hardware detection during installation.

Farewell, floppy drivers!
While floppy disk drives have quietly been removed from new PC models since the past year or so, the last major holdout has been drivers for such crucial things as motherboard chipset or RAID drivers. Now, Windows Vista supports loading drivers from a USB flash drive during installation, even if you boot directly off the DVD! My first magical Vista moment was realizing partway through installation onto my desktop PC that setup would require an Intel Matrix Storage RAID driver. A quick download from Intel's website using my laptop (sans floppy disk drive) got the drivers onto my thumb drive, Vista detected them, and the partitions on the RAID drives magically appeared. No more waiting 5 minutes to load a customized SCSI driver off of three floppy disks! Look for Windows Blackcomb to ship on a bootable 10GB flash drive out of the box.

A couple of things I learned the hard way:
  • Do not remove the thumb drive until installation completes (!)
  • The drivers have to be placed in the root of the thumb drive. Hopefully, future builds of Vista will be able to search the entire drive for the desired files.
Monday, August 01, 2005
The Basics
For those who may stumble onto this blog and have no idea what I'm talking about, let me recap the events of the past week:

On Wednesday, July 27, 2005 at about 12 PM EST, Microsoft released the first beta version of the replacement to Windows XP, recently christened Windows Vista™ (formerly code named Longhorn). While the 27th had been designated as the internal release date for some time, Microsoft had previously established expectations for Beta 1 to be released on August 3rd, making the early release a somewhat obvious marketing ploy to counter the effects of many previous delays.

In an unusual turn of events, MSDN subscribers actually received access to the bits before many of the members of the technical beta team. I was able to download the bits immediately at speeds in excess of 400KBps, since less committed Vista enthusiasts were ignorantly twiddling their thumbs while waiting for August 3rd to roll around (ha ha). I managed to get Vista installed on my laptop (more on that soon) before leaving for the Oregon coast for the rest of the week.

Several days later, now that people have had time to play around with Beta 1 for awhile, it's time to start getting down to the business of testing applications for compatiblity, hunting for drivers, doing some WinFX programming, and giving the Windows development team the feedback that they both need and deserve. That's the purpose of this blog, to generate, communicate and collect feedback about Vista into a place that I hope will become a useful resource to anyone involved in testing, developing or just experimenting with Windows Vista. I hope you'll join me as I shadow all the latest developments on...

...the Vista Patrol