Yes I have fallen off the blogosphere so I thought it was time for the where's Jeff post. Well for the last couple of weeks I've been buried in Windows Vista exploring all its goodness and preparing for my upcoming session at Innovation 2006. I've been running Windows Vista Beta 2 now pretty much since it was released in production with Office 2007 Beta 2! Is this and adventurous road to go down? Maybe..but thats what evangelism is all about! Living on the bleading edge! So your probably wondering what type of hardware I'm running this on. Well I've played around with a few and if you want to see a great post on some hardware that we have all been testing then head over to Chuck's blog. He does a great post on the hardware we've been testing.
We've been using 3 or 4 different Laptops but I have settled on the Toshiba Tecra A7. I've configured a Samsung X60, Toshiba M400 and tried it on one of my home machines. I decided to settle on the A7 because it just had everything I needed. I've got it configured with 2GB of memory and I'm running Windows Vista Beta 2 and Office 2007 Beta 2 and for the most part things are working fine. Aero works great thanks to the 128MB ATI video card and it worked out of the box which made things much easier.
So what do I think of Vista? Well to be honest we still have a way to go but I can use this in my day to day work which means its pretty solid. The things I like about Vista are as follows:
- Security - It's just so much more secure than XP SP2. We have really taken the layered, defense in depth approach to security to the next level. The user is constantly informed as they use the machine if their machine is vulnerable. Also the ability to run most tasks as a standard user is way cool. I didn't think I would like this but you really don't need admin rights for most things. If you do need then User Account Control elevates your rights as needed and lets you complete the task. The whole attack surface has been reduced which makes for a much safer computing experience.
- Bitlocker - as a subtitle to security this is a really important feature for organisations wishing to provide users with full volume encryption which is tightly integrated into the OS. This prevents someone booting into another OS and getting access to to the Windows file system offline. This was a top request by enterprise customers who have issues with laptop theft. I think it makes alot of sense. If you want more information check out the whitepaper and the Bitlocker Team Blog.
- Windows Firewall - We now include an outbound filter to allow directional control over traffic. This means you can control an application like messenger from sending messages outbound. This is really important for organisations that need to control which applications get access to outbound connecttions on their network. The ability to control this with Group Policy enhances the ability to do this across the enterprise.
- IE 7.0 - The best thing about IE 7.0 (apart from security) is the simplicity of using it. It just has clean interface that is easy to use. Tabbed browsing makes it easy to open multiples web sites and the integrated search is awesome. I like the fact that you can add multiple search providers if you wish without having to install a bunch of search toolbars. My other favourite feature is Quick Tabs. When you have several tabs open just click the quick tabs button and you can see a thumbnail of each page. This really makes finding a web page when you alot of them open at once. Of course you can get IE 7 for Windows XP by going to the download page as well. I run it on several of my XP machines and it rocks!
- Aero - I just love Aero! I was at the Auscert conference recently on the Gold Coast and we were demoing Windows Vista there. And you would think being a security conference that people would mostly want to know about the new security enhancements in Vista. Well uh uh! Most people said "Show me Aero man"! Well it is cool but not just for the obvious goodness of what the screen looks like. It really does make everything look so much nicer now when you have a graphics card capable of running it. Now for the first time we are taking advantage of the power of the graphics cards. So the result is a much more stable and better looking environment. But that's not why this is so cool. Windows Vista now supports the Windows Driver Display Model (WDDM) for graphics cards. This is important because we learned alot from the online crash analysis from Windows XP. We found that 30% of bluescreens in XP were caused by graphics drivers. The reason for this was that innovation in the actual display adapters outpaced the innovation in drivers which was one of the main causes. WDDM is a far more stable environment which will mean dramatically less crashes due to bad graphics drivers. One of the key reasons for this is we have moved alot of graphics processing out of kernel mode and into user mode which means if you do get a crash because of a bad graphics driver then it doesn't bring the entire system down; just the window you were working on.
- Deployment - There is just so much good stuff here and really this is what IT Pro's are going to care about. As Michael has said in a couple of posts we have been playing around with the many features of deployment and I have to say they rock! I've setup a Windows Longhorn Beta 2 server and enabled Windows Deployment Services which is the new version of RIS. I set this up and now I have an environment that allows me to image machines in about 20 minutes or so. For more on al these technologies go to the Deployment site on TechNet for all the details.
- Windows Media Player 11 - I had to put in something fun because after all we use our PC's for enjoyment as well. I'm a big fan of music! 511 CD's ripped to my Media Centre and counting and when you have a large library of music it can sometimes be hard to find the music that you want. The interface just makes it so easy to find music. You can view by artist and it organises it all alphabetically. Way cool! Or view by album and it shows you in a "stacked" view how many songs you have by a particular artist. One of my favorite views is by year. It shows each year stacked. Right click on 1985 and bingo instant 80's party! Sweet. You can also get Media Player 11 for Windows XP so you play with it now. Just go to the Windows Media site to download.
That's about all for now. I will be posting more in the coming weeks and months but for now I will leave you with some useful links.
Main Windows Vista Site
Windows Vista Team Blog
Resources for IT Professionals
Resources for Developers
Bitlocker Team Site
See Windows Vista Site
RSS Feeds for Vista
Network Access Protection Blog
Performance and Reliability Blog