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Windows Vista trouble spots improve in interim Beta Build 5472

Microsoft gooses performance, improves networking UI

July 19, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Computerworld obtained a recent interim build of Windows Vista, Build 5472, that shows Microsoft is making progress in the areas of performance and installation time, has refined the User Account Control (UAC), updated the main Control Panel that manages networking access and settings, included mild design improvement to the Vista Basic video mode, and improved how Media Center works.

Installation time, something an earlier Computerworld story criticized, has been cut by about 40% -- making it the best Windows installation experience ever. Overall performance of this build is noticeably faster, including boot times and general performance of opening and closing applications, windows and dialogs.

The Flip 3D three-dimensional window-switching feature gets a quiet improvement in Build 5472. The graphics are a little better -- thanks, it appears, to a tipping back of the windows so they're not quite so vertical. That eliminates some of the jaggies. There's also a new "Switch between windows" icon on the QuickLaunch bar (beside the Start button), which initiates Flip 3D and is especially good for mouse-centric people, because it requires no key pressing. The windows-open-and close movement is a tad more fluid, too. All in all, this Apple Exposé-like visual task switcher and desktop-reveal feature is shaping up well in Vista. 

Vista beta Build 5472's desktop, showing Media Center in action.
(Click image to see larger view)

Better networking all around

This build of Vista shows a remarkable improvement in network browsing speed. When you open the Network window, which displays other workstations on a network, the mild delay before all available workstations appear is in the 5- to 10-second range on a typical 6-node peer network of mixed Vista and Windows XP machines. Larger networks didn't require noticeably longer wait times either. Even first-time connections are fast. In Vista Beta 2 and earlier, the network browse-to-completion time could sometimes be measured in minutes, and some workstations never showed up. The peer networking balkiness of early versions of Vista (XP, Windows 2000 and the Win 9.x clients) appears to be gone — at least, in Vista Build 5472.

Computerworld criticized the involved and overly complex user interface design that Windows Vista Beta 2 presented for managing and accessing networking. It appears that Microsoft has completely reconsidered its user experience strategy for networking controls. Beta 2 had four separate networking control panels; Build 5472 has but one: the Network and Sharing Center. There were also four or five additional wizards that managed several aspects of network configuration, but they weren't presented in one place and it wasn't clear what other wizard or dialog you had to launch to get to them.

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