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December Vista Tech Preview Bows

As promised, after skipping November, Microsoft began shipping the December Windows Vista community technology preview (CTP) to customers and partners this week. Among other features, the latest build debuts a slew of new security capabilities.

When Microsoft introduced the Vista CTP process last summer, officials originally planned to ship a new CTP release every month. The company made good on that intention in September and October.

But then, late last month, Microsoft backed off of that commitment and said instead it will release new CTPs based on quality milestones rather than be driven by monthly deadlines. (See “Next Windows Vista CTP Coming in December,” December 1, 2005.)

The December CTP is going out to members of the Windows Vista Technical Beta Program, and is also being provided to upwards of half a million Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and TechNet subscribers, the company said in a briefing paper.

One addition in this CTP is Windows Defender -- previously called Windows AntiSpyware. "The Windows Defender solution in the December CTP is a functioning early preview of what will be available in the final version," Microsoft's statement said. A key feature will be what Microsoft refers to as BitLocker Drive Encryption, also known as full-volume encryption. This is a hardware-based data protection feature to keep data secure, even on lost or stolen machines.

Additionally, IT administrators can use Group Policy in Windows Vista to block the installation of removable storage devices, such as USB flash drives and external hard drives. The latest CTP also adds support for single-button on/off control as well as “fast off,” which supports quick, consistent power down capabilities.

New user interface features are also starting to show up in the December TCP. For instance, some new features of the Aero "Windows design philosophy" have arrived, including the "translucent glass appearance of open windows, smoother transitions between windows and a re-designed Start menu."

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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