Is Vista Close to Release Candidate Stage?
Despite calls by some beta testers for Microsoft to release a third beta of
Windows Vista, the company appears to be instead readying to push its first
golden code candidate out the door.
Windows enthusiast and blog site Neowin.net has reported that Microsoft recently
created a Release Candidate "branch" in the code testing process
for Vista. That usually means that the company is nearing the date when beta
testing ends and the RC stage begins.
An RC is a candidate for "release to manufacturing," or RTM, the
final step before the product goes to customers. RTM code is sometimes referred
to as "golden" code. Microsoft typically releases a series of RCs
beginning when the beta test phase ends.
The usual procedure is to ship an RC and wait for what's called a "quiet
period." If no "showstopper" bugs -- bugs that have to be
fixed before the product is released -- are found during that time, the product
is RTMed. If a showstopper is found, it is fixed and a new RC is released. Again
the clock starts ticking. This is done until the product finally reaches RTM
quality and is released. Often, a new operating system release will only go
through two or three RCs before being RTMed.
While on the surface, it would seem that there is only one collection of code
being tested, in reality there are several strains of the code being tested
simultaneously. When Microsoft gets close to the RC stage of testing, it creates
an RC branch in the code and, typically soon after, begins releasing RCs.
In early July, .NET developer Robert McLaws published on the Web an analysis
of the bugs still present in the consumer or Beta 2 release at that time --
some 5,700 left to go. By the end of July, he publicly called for Microsoft
to slow the testing process and insert a third beta before moving to the RC
But a sharp-eyed tester and blogger says that, from studying recent release
numbers assigned to track various branches, the company has just begun a branch
"On Friday [Aug. 4], Microsoft made a branch for the RC1 Milestone build.
The branch is known as 'vista_rc1' and began with build 5504.16385.vista_rc1.
I should note that 5504.16385 is effectively equal to the build 5489.0.winmain
which was built the same day," said a post from blogger Uktaz. The post
was linked to Neowin's site.
The move may increase the likelihood Microsoft will soon begin shipping RCs.
Several analysts have projected that Microsoft must finish the code and get
it to manufacturing by the end of October at the very latest if Vista is to
actually ship to businesses this year and to consumers early next year.
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.