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The Nuts And Bolts Of Vista

January 20th, 2006 by Patrick S

The Look is Different, but has the new OS changed significantly under the bonnet?  So is Vista a new OS, a ground up clean slate? No, of course not. It’s a natural progression of the work done for XP, taken forward some years. However, to dismiss Vista’s improvements so quickly is to be glib; there is a great deal that’s new, and there’s more to come before the product finally ships. The three big areas of change underneath the surface are in the GFX, the web services and soon the file system. 

FUNDAMENTALS

For the end user the graphics system changes will be the most immediately noticeable. Windows has lagged significantly behind the capabilities of modern desktop graphics cards for some time now, and with Vista it starts to take advantage of the processing power built into the latest and most powerful graphics cards. The so-called Glass effects add transparency, and the engine allows for a fully composited Desktop experience. The codename for this was Avalon, but it’s recently been re branded as Windows Presentation Foundation.  Then there’s the new programming interface code-name Indigo. Although this won’t be immediately visible to the user, it will allow a new class of applications to be built that rely totally on XML and web services. The Indigo system, now called Windows Communication Foundation, makes web services an integral part of the client and server experience. For Devs this is a huge step forward, at last, any client type can work with any server type, providing it’s communicating via web services.  

   Lastly, the new file system, codenamed WinFS, will come after the product is launched and will be the first wave of storage capabilities from Microsoft. It’s designed, like the rest of Vista, to break away from the simplistic file name and directory combination. The big push towards XML metadata is a key driver here, weather that data is held within a file or in data streams-a contact record or a diary appointment for example. Coupled to this will be a much stronger indexing and searching capability, integrated into the new search interface compared to XP’s. And in time, you’; be able to search across Longhorn Server system too!  


INTO THE CORE

So what about the core OS? Well there’s a new display driver model to support the increased #d capabilities, but this doesn’t mean older hardware is left out. You’ll be able to use existing Windows Driver model graphics cards instead, although you won’t get the benefit of all the new 3D capabilities. It isn’t yet clear weather driver signing will become mandatory in Vista but I hope it does, if only to help clarify when a driver is considered beta quality or release quality. There’s also a lot of fine tweaking going on to the core OS engine to allow for much faster start-up and shutdown; this is crucial for Intel’s newly announced Viiv PC’s.  There are also a few other little pieces that might get dropped before release but show interesting thinking. One is Auxiliary Display support, which allows notebooks and tablets to have a small secondary display, probably mounted on the outside of the device, which will give users a quick, at-a-glance view of system status or access o information when main display is closed. This could alert you to thinks like warnings for diary appointments, number of unread mail messages and battery levels. The latest set of Visual Studio programming tools and frameworks are the bedrocks for a lot of this new capability. 

Hopefully with less spelling mistaces mistakes now 🙂

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