Windows Vista RC2: Near-final OS more refined, but it's not perfect

Microsoft continues to tweak its upcoming operating system

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Since its introduction in Beta 2, User Account Control's user experience has improved. But it's still onerous enough that a significant number of people will either turn it off or be frustrated living with it. During testing, I have left it on. And I'll probably continue to advise the average user to do so. But I'm pretty sure -- if and when I move to Windows Vista -- I'll turn UAC off on the machines I use most frequently.

You can read what I think about Vista's Software Protection Platform and the evolution of WGA antipiracy functionality in my recent blog on the subject, "Microsoft Places Its Vista Antipiracy Concerns Above User Security." I'm hearing a lot of people expressing distaste for the digital rights management (DRM) features baked into Vista. Microsoft, of course, has not talked at all about these features to reviewers. It's as the DRM features don't exist.

In Windows XP, you have 30 days to activate the operating system using Windows Product Activation. If Vista RC2 is any indication, you will have only three days to activate Vista before "automatic activation" occurs.

Finally, software compatibility still has a ways to go. And this late in the development cycle, that could be a problem. During the upgrade process, the setup routine required me to uninstall Eset's Nod32 antivirus program, Symantec Corp.'s Norton Ghost 9 and the Toshiba Corp. software that provided the Bluetooth stack. While it's true that utility software, especially software that relates to files, is often incompatible with a new version of Windows, my personal sense is that software compatibility could be a problem with this version of software. Most of my business software works, but the revised namespace alone could cause problems, especially with more complex issues. Windows Vista expects data files to reside in specific places so that it can protect them better. Security is a good reason for the change, but user preference and software compatibility may suffer initially.

A final review of Windows Vista is in the works at Computerworld that will examine the strengths and weaknesses of next version of Windows, now nearing completion. In the meantime, Computerworld welcomes reader e-mail detailing your own hands-on experiences with Windows Vista. Or post your thoughts at the Sound Off blog.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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