Vista October CTP Bundles Self-healing Capabilities, Integrated AntiSpyware
- By Scott Bekker
Microsoft this week released a second Community Technology Preview for Windows Vista that includes self-healing capabilities, big changes for Internet Explorer and hints of an integrated Windows AntiSpyware.
Officially called the October Windows Vista Community Technology Preview, this CTP comes just a month after the first Vista CTP at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference. Microsoft delivered Beta 1 of Windows Vista at the end of July.
The CTPs are intended for developers, IT professionals and the technical community. The distribution is available to roughly 500,000 users through the Windows Vista Technical Beta Program, the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and Microsoft TechNet.
While the September and October CTPs represent snapshots in the development of the end-user focused Beta 2 release, Microsoft continues to encourage end users to wait for the full Beta 2.
Major themes of the late 2006 Windows Vista release are desktop management, collaboration, mobility, security and an overhaul of Internet Explorer, which will also be released in a stand-alone version for use with Windows XP Service Pack 2.
Under the heading of desktop management, Microsoft used the October CTP to show off several self-healing capabilities and other built-in diagnostic tools. With marketing currently focused on IT departments, Microsoft emphasized IT-related benefits to the enhancements. "IT professionals can control built-in diagnostics via group policy, and all diagnostics are integrated with the Windows eventing infrastructure, enabling IT pros to track what problems occur on machines in their organization," the company noted in a fact sheet.
New self-diagnostic technologies in the October CTP include:
Windows Memory Diagnostics, which can automatically detect problems with defective physical memory and seal off damaged portions of memory to allow startup and avoid application crashes.
Windows Disk Diagnostics, which listen for warning signs that a hard disk is beginning to fail and walk users through backing up data so a drive can be replaced.
Network diagnostics, which analyze connectivity and network access issues and resolve them automatically or suggest solutions. The network diagnostics data gets saved to the Windows Event Log for later retrieval by support professionals.
The first broad public look at Internet Explorer 7.0 came with the Windows Vista Beta 1 and a simultaneous technical beta of the stand-alone version for Windows XP SP2. From a user perspective, that beta introduced tabbed browsing, RSS support, a much sleeker interface and a search box. Microsoft promised more changes were coming for Beta 2.
The October CTP offers a preview of some of the Beta 2 changes, such as a Phishing Filter; an ActiveX Opt-in to reduce IE's attack surface; a Favorites Center, providing access to Favorites, History and Web feed/RSS subscriptions; and Quick Tabs allowing an at-a-glance thumbnail view of all open tabs in a single window.
A concept called tab groups now allows users to save a set of open browsing tabs in a group. Doing so will allow the users to open all the pages within that group later with a single click. A tab group can also be set to open every time IE launches.
Microsoft added the ability in the October CTP to zoom in and out of individual Web pages to make type, images and other content appear larger or smaller for easier viewing. Building on the Beta 1 release of shrink-to-fit printing in IE, the October CTP features multipage print previews and a default option to print only selected text.
One of Microsoft's most controversial moves of the last 12 months was the acquisition of Giant Company Software and the quick turnaround of Giant's antispyware product as the Windows AntiSpyware beta. While free antispyware software earned an enthusiastic welcome from Windows users, missteps involving Microsoft's antispyware ISV partners and over definitions of spyware dogged the program. The antispyware market is also an area of potential antitrust concerns from regulators.
Microsoft appears to be floating a trial balloon on the issue of bundling Windows AntiSpyware into Vista with the October CTP. The Vista October CTP fact sheet listed Windows AntiSpyware among "some of the features in the October CTP that will undergo significant changes before the final version of Windows Vista ships … While these features are evident in the October CTP, all are in the early stages of development and will continue to evolve throughout the development process."
There are other features in the October CTP that are at a stage that Microsoft contends is too far from final to release more information about. They include a new Migration Wizard, Power Management Center, Windows Calendar and Windows Media Player 11.
Other New Elements
More mature features being introduced in the October CTP include a Network Center; more reliable transitions between on, off and sleep; the Windows Mobility Center, more robust file and folder sharing; and the XML Paper Specification (XPS).
At first blush, the October CTP release seems a more substantially reworked version of Vista than was the September CTP. That initial CTP served primarily as a debut for a monthly CTP process, which is an important avenue for information about Vista given the lack of a confirmed delivery timetable for Vista Beta 2. The September CTP also included
on-by-default User Account Protection, SuperFetch, the SideShow, "Meeting Space," "Flip," "Flip 3D," an updated Taskbar, extensible search and fast on-off.
Those changes came after Beta 1, which brought the public debut of the Aero Glass interface, a new system of file and folder organization and a parallel commitment to improving search as a way to navigate the desktop. Beta 1 introduced a number if IT-focused enhancements, such as a native disk imaging format and a modularized operating system for easier deployments, and security improvements, such as User Account Protection for running with least privileges, improvements to the Windows Firewall, hardened Windows Services and support for Network Access Protection.
Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.