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Windows Vista Has Arrived

Is it worth the price of admission?

By Jim Fisher

Microsoft’s much ballyhooed and long-delayed new operating system, Windows Vista, has finally arrived. Originally planned as a stepping stone between Windows XP and future versions of Windows, over the years Vista morphed into a fully revamped version of the OS. So, has all this waiting led to a product that will change your life? The answer depends on how much you use your computer and what you do with it.

What’s New?

The OS features a new look and feel that Microsoft had dubbed “Aero” which, according to the development team, is an acronym for “Authentic, Energetic, Reflective and Open.”

Microsoft Vista
Translucent is in...

Aero’s slick new look is full of cool transparent windows, alpha blending and other eye candy. Not just a pretty new face, the interface also makes it easier to customize views, organize files and create new folders. Explorer windows now feature a sidebar that gives you easy access to your “Favorite Links” -- your desktop, places or documents you’ve recently visited, and just about anything else to which you want quick access.

Easier Navigation

The interface also lets you navigate through open applications by viewing thumbnail images of the contents of each open Window. This is a great feature for users who need to choose between multiple instances of the same application, such as a web browser or word processor.

Aero also adds Flip 3D functionality that lets you navigate through a 3D cascade of open windows seen from a side angle using your mouse's scroll wheel. The open Windows move across your screen like pages of a Rolodex until you select the page you want to view.

Vista in three dimension

Navigating in three dimensions

Improved Security, Stability and Search

Microsoft has improved system stability, hardware support and security, including a new integrated firewall with Windows Defender spyware protection. This is great news if you hate pop-up ads and other similar annoyances that plague internet navigation. Microsoft also promises that with Vista we will be seeing less of the “Blue Screen of Death” – that annoying blue screen that means your Windows machine has crashed.

“Instant Search” is an improved search tool, accessed right from the start menu, that helps locate documents and files quickly and efficiently. As soon as you start typing a keyword Vista presents you with links to any document, folder etc. that matches your term - you no longer have to remember exactly where you saved a file.

Microsoft's web browser, Internet Explorer, has also gotten an update. Version 7 adds tabbed browsing, RSS support and a convenient search box. It also has improved support for web standards, such as cascading style sheets. Vista also includes an e-mail program, simply dubbed Windows Mail. This replaces the Outlook Express application that was included in previous versions of Windows.

Different Editions

There are four different editions of Windows Vista available for most of the world:

It's the spice of live

Vista Home Basic is a “lite” version of the OS, designed to run on older computers, which offers basic functionality for web browsing, e-mail and basic productivity applications. Home Basic does not include the Aero enhancements outlined above nor does it include the Windows Defender and Firewall, Internet Explorer 7 or Instant Search functionality. This version lets you take advantage of Vista’s enhanced security and stability without having to upgrade your computer to power the new Aero interface.

Basic's big brother is Vista Home Premium which features everything in Basic, plus the Aero interface, Windows Mobility Center for notebook and tablet computers, Windows Meeting Space for group collaboration and Windows Media Center. The system requirements for Home Premium are a little more strict, but home power users will appreciate the enhanced features. The Media Center makes this version a great choice if you plan to use your computer as part of your home theater.

Corporate and professional users should look at the appropriately titled Vista Business. This edition features everything in Vista Home Premium except Media Center and adds data backup and remote desktop features. This is a good choice for anyone with mission-critical data on their computer or professionals who require remote access to their home computer from the office or vice versa. Vista Business also includes the IIS web server and fax support.

Finally, Microsoft offers Vista Ultimate for the professional who wants to use a computer for both business and pleasure. Quite simply, Ultimate includes everything outlined above and adds BitLocker data encryption, for securing the data on your hard drive. This is a great tool for anyone who keeps confidential customer or private data on their computer.


While all this sounds great, there are a few things to consider before rushing out and buying a new operating system. The Aero graphics are a bit of a strain on system resources; they may cause your laptop's battery to drain more quickly. Aero can also be too much for older computers to handle. Microsoft recommends a 1 Ghz processor, 1 GB of system memory and a dedicated graphics card for Aero (most pre-built systems with Vista are shipping with faster processors and 2 GB of RAM).

Aero is also quite dependent on your computer's video card. Microsoft has introduced a new video driver model, the Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM), that requires your computer to have a supported video card. Popular cards, such as the Radeon 9500 from ATI and the GeForce FX by nVIDIA, are supported; however, other video cards may not work with Aero.

Also, there is a chance that Vista may not support some of your current peripheral hardware. You should confirm that drivers are available for Vista in order to ensure compatibility. Microsoft provides an upgrade advisor program that can help to clear up any questions you have as to your system's ability to run Vista.

If you have any questions about Vista, feel free to contact one of the professionals at B&H.

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