It's Almost Time!

Windows Vista SP1 is right around the corner…

Microsoft has finally ended the “beta” test on their MS Vista Service Pack 1 and we should expect to see the release candidate available for download over the next few weeks.

Microsoft released the latest pre-release build of SP1 – ‘Windows Vista SP1 RC Refresh’ to approximately 15,000 beta testers. This group includes corporate customers, consumer enthusiasts, software and hardware vendors, and others. The code is not available for public download yet. You may recall that Microsoft released a publicly available test build of Windows Vista SP1 back in December 2007.

A Microsoft spokesperson said “We are still on schedule to deliver SP1 RTM in Q1 2008. The final release date is based on quality, so we will continue to track customer and partner feedback from the beta program before setting a final date.”

Word on the Microsoft street is the Vista team is aiming to deliver the final SP1 code at the same time as Windows Server 2008 becomes available, which is expected in February (and some time before the big Windows Server 2008/SQL Server 2008/Visual Studio 2008 launch on February 27, 2008).

Microsoft also pushed out this week several new Windows Vista reliability and performance updates via Windows Update, as well as an update to the BitLocker encryption component of Windows Vista Enterprise and Windows Vista Ultimate that will be a prerequisite for successful installation of SP1.

What will this mean for users?
Hopefully a more stable and robust version of the Vista operating system – here’s some of the info Microsoft has decided to share.

First, Windows Vista SP1 will include all previously released updates for Windows Vista. It also will include security, reliability, and performance improvements. These improvements target some of the issues Microsoft has identified as the most common causes of operating system crashes and hangs, giving customers a more reliable experience. These updates also improve performance in key scenarios-for example, when copying files or shutting down the computer.

The following sections describe many of the security, reliability, and performance improvements that will be in Windows Vista SP1.

Security improvements that will be in Windows Vista SP1 include:

Provides security software vendors a more secure way to communicate with Windows Security Center .

Includes application programming interfaces (APIs) by which third-party security and malicious software detection applications can work with kernel patch protection on x64 versions of Windows Vista. These APIs help ISVs develop software that extends the functionality of the Windows kernel on x64 computers without disabling or weakening the protection offered by kernel patch protection.
Improves the security of running RemoteApp programs and desktops by allowing Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) files to be signed. Customers can differentiate user experiences based on publisher identity.

Adds an Elliptical Curve Cryptography (ECC) pseudo-random number generator (PRNG) to the list of available PRNGs in Windows Vista.
Enhances BitLocker Drive Encryption (BDE) to offer an additional multifactor authentication method that combines a key protected by the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) with a Startup key stored on a USB storage device and a user-generated personal identification number (PIN).

Windows Vista SP1 will include improvements that target some of the most common causes of crashes and hangs, giving users a more consistent experience. Many of these improvements will specifically address issues identified from the Windows Error Reporting tool. The following list describes some of the reliability improvements that Windows Vista SP1 will include:

Improved reliability and compatibility of Windows Vista when used with newer graphics cards in several specific scenarios and configurations.

-Improved reliability when working with external displays on a laptop.
-Improved Windows Vista reliability in networking configuration scenarios.
-Improved reliability of systems that were upgraded from Windows XP to Windows Vista.
-Increased compatibility with many printer drivers.
-Increased reliability and performance of Windows Vista when entering sleep and resuming from sleep.

The following list describes some of the performance improvements that Windows Vista SP1 will include:

Improves the speed of copying and extracting files.
Improves the time to become active from Hibernate and Resume modes.
Improves the performance of domain-joined PCs when operating off the domain; in the current release version of Windows Vista, users would experience long delays when opening the File dialog box.

Improves performance of Windows® Internet Explorer® 7 in Windows Vista, reducing CPU utilization and speeding JavaScript parsing.
Improves battery life by reducing CPU utilization by not redrawing the screen as frequently, on certain computers.

Improves the logon experience by removing the occasional 10-second delay between pressing CTRL-ALT-DEL and the password prompt displaying.
Addresses an issue in the current version of Windows Vista that makes browsing network file shares consume significant bandwidth and not perform as fast as expected.
For the complete list, or perhaps just as much as Microsoft wants us to know today, check out this whitepaper.

This is going to be a BIG download and only time will tell if the wait will have been worth it.

Remember you can still opt to try and SAVE WINDOWS XP by adding your name to the list on the InfoWorld website.

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