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  (Source: Wikipedia)

The new Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2 will enable the writing of Blu-ray discs, and includes 671 hotfixes.  (Source: Mitsubishi/Sony)
Some new updates to Microsoft's OS's should soon be headed down the pipe

Windows 7, looking to be one of hottest products of 2009 when it debuts later this year, brings many improvements to the table over Vista.  The new OS, while it shares most of its underlying code with Vista, features a richer and much faster user interface and promises better hardware support out of the gate thanks to dedicated efforts by Microsoft's team and hardware partners.  The OS will also bring key technologies like multi-touch to the table, and is shaping up to be all that Vista could have been in terms of PR and polish.

However, before the hot new OS can ship to customers, Microsoft needs to prove its systems and ready itself for the massive deployment that a Windows release entails.  The critical first step of this process was to release a beta to the general public.  Now, Microsoft is readying the first real test of its new update system for Windows 7.

Starting Tuesday, February 24, Microsoft has announced that they will be releasing a series of five test updates to beta users.  The updates are available through Windows Update, but will not download automatically, even if Automatic Update is enabled.  Instead, Microsoft needs users to volunteer their aid, by volunteering to manually install the updates.

The updates are simply stock system files, which replace the identical system files.  Thus the update is simply a dummy test and includes no bug fixes or improvements.

However, in the realm of actual Windows bug fixes and improvements, Microsoft today released the Release Candidate (RC) build of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2 (SP2).  The RC features 671 hotfixes.  It is available, as a standalone installer package or via Windows Update or as a slipstreamed download.

Microsoft is offering the RC version of SP2 to its testers to verify that all the fixes are indeed working and that they do not introduce new problems.  It is urging its testers not to suggest new features, explaining that's outside the scope of the current testing. 

On the hardware side in Windows Vista, the RC should provides support for VIA's new 64-bit CPU, Bluetooth v2.1 and Windows Connect Now (WCN) Wi-Fi Configuration wireless functionality, faster Wi-Fi resume times after hibernation, and most significantly the ability to record Blu-ray.

On the software/connections side, the SP2 provides faster RSS feeds in the sidebar, Windows Search 4.0, the ability to configure the maximum number of TCP connections.

The service pack is also for Windows Server 2008, and offers the Hyper-V virtualization environment as a free fully integrated feature, with one free daughter OS with Windows Server 2008 Standard, four free licenses with Windows Server 2008 Enterprise, and an unlimited number of free licenses with Windows Server 2008 Datacenter.  It also improves the management options in Windows Server 2008 and fixes some licensing key problems.

In short, both for enterprise clients and for consumers, SP2 should bring a number of noteworthy improvements that will improve the Windows experience in little ways.  Microsoft has yet to announce the final release date for the production version of SP2.

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By omnicronx on 2/20/2009 1:49:34 PM , Rating: 3
Can't really complain about what is out of MS's control. The thing is many of the problems you mention are exclusively under 64bit. Chrome works fine in 32bit Windows 7, same as Gears of War and Norton 360. They obviously have no excuse for a Microsoft game not working in Gears of War and game Portal. Chrome 64bit also seems to work for some people, and not for others (doesnt work for me) but in the end the responsibility falls on Google to fix the problem.

Give it time, the OS is still in beta 1, although I do agree I personally cannot use it for more than the internet right now.

By IGoodwin on 2/20/2009 2:17:26 PM , Rating: 3
While I can't comment directly on the already mentioned compatibility issues, I can say that my experience is different. I have a partition with Windows 7 64 bit loaded and had very few issues. Including loading two old 32 bit games from 2003 and 2004 that worked without modification, KotOR and KotOR:TSL.

KotOR ran without needing anything different done, surprising as it is the older game. KotOR:TSL did need to be placed in Windows XP SP2 compatibility mode with administrator rights.

Many older games should not be installed in the default 'Program File (x86)' folder, as this has special authority setup. Installing to a directory not managed by the OS will help many older programs. Also, using the compatibility mode does make a difference

By omnicronx on 2/20/2009 2:33:23 PM , Rating: 3
I wasn't trying to imply that this is the case for everyone, this is just my personal experience with the applications I use on a daily basis. I have my girlfriend running on 7 64 bit and she has no problem with any of her daily tasks.

By Lotus SE on 2/20/2009 4:29:03 PM , Rating: 2
Actually I wasn't complaining, read my comments below including my appreciation for being able to try the software and see if it suits my needs...

My post was an observation based on the high percentage of software, that I picked at random, that failed to run in Windows7 at first install. If you think about the average user, this is actually a good test of the maturity of a beta build.

In no particular order:
1)Pick one old piece of software that was written for an older OS, see if it runs. (extremely complex 3D animation software MAYA 5) It ran well, but crashed when an overlay window was used to select a brush.
2)pick a recent high end game (distributed under the Microsoft Studios) and see if it runs (Gears of War, failed to install)
3)pick a competitor's software and see if it runs (Google Earth, Picasa, Desktop, and Chrome) Only Picasa and Google Earth Run!
4)Install the drivers for your system... one failed.
Pick another recent game distributed over the internet via Steam (Portal would not run)
5)Install movie editing/capture software. (Pinacle Studio 12 runs fine)
6)Install Windows 7 recommended AntiVirus software (picked Norton 360, it runs but it cannot complete a scan of the registry)

So my average, out of 9 installed items, was 6 failures or 33% success rate!

If you really want to know what happened, the message boards for Gears of War mentioned that there was a built in expiration of the DRM key, so the only way to play was to reset your clock to prior to Jan 29th. I tired this, and then Windows 7 ran a checkdisk scan the next time I booted, and it deleted several thousand entries... So I booted to win XP (on a separate drive) and it wanted to run checkdisk. I was out of the room, and after several hours it finally finished deleting many thousands of files, and my XP install was completely unusable. There was no task bar, quicklaunch was frozen, and nothing in the control panel would run. Now I might say that was my fault for setting the clock back, but I can't see why setting the clock back in Win7 should cause checkdisk to delete most of my XP install?!

By B3an on 2/21/2009 4:43:35 PM , Rating: 2
I had no problems getting Google Chrome to run on Win7 64-Bit... Also the Portal problem you mention is an old issue with a 64-Bit OS. If you google it theres a very easy fix.

Nearly everything i've tried with Win7 64-Bit has worked. The only stuff that hasn't are install .exe's that detect the OS and will not install unless it's Vista. Even running some of these in Vista compatibilty mode does not always work (like GTA4). This has nothing to do with Windows 7, a simple update to the installers should get these working.

Even every bit Adobe software worked for me on Win7 64-Bit and i have have the Master Collection, which includes just about every Adobe program there is.

"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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