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Windows 7's XP Mode has been improved in a new release candidate. This innovative virtualization feature allows applications to be run within the XP guest OS and seamless integrate with the Windows 7 environment. The front browser is running in XP, while the back is running in Windows 7.  (Source: LILkillaBees Blog)
Windows fans are invited to test out the innovative new OS feature

One of Windows 7's most interesting features is going to be the Windows XP mode, available on Professional and Ultimate editions.  Typically, virtual machines are only supported via separately purchase software from vendors such as VMWare or Microsoft.  This limits virtualization's audience and appeal, leaving out many everyday users.  So Microsoft decided to do something unique and bundle Windows 7 with a virtual machine with Windows XP inside.  This allowed them not only to bring virtualization to the masses, but also to seamlessly integrate compatibility for legacy applications.

The feature, however, was only in rough form in the beta candidate and previous release candidate builds.  Yesterday Microsoft release a new release candidate that at last added a near-finalized version of this functionality.  The build is available here and runs Windows XP SP3. 

Aware of security risks, Microsoft has accompanied the build with a warning that users should install anti-malware and antivirus software to protect Windows XP.  It has been speculated that malicious users could exploit the virtual machine's lack of certain security features -- such as ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization) or an Internet Explorer Protected Mode -- to perform guest-to-host attacks.  This problem is minimized by the fact that the install comes with a firewall and that Microsoft will be offering free antivirus support for XP as well as Vista and Windows 7 this fall (a second beta is expected to drop soon).

Brandon LeBlanc, a Windows communications manager at Microsoft comments on the new RC build, stating, "Windows XP Mode is specially designed for small and medium-sized businesses to help ease the migration process to Windows 7 by providing additional compatibility for their older productivity applications. The newly updated Windows XP Mode now works with the RC and RTM versions of the Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise SKUs."

The differences in functionality of the new XP Mode and the old are subtle, but significant. Windows XP applications running on the Windows 7 task bar can now be accessed by right clicking.  Disk sharing between Windows 7 and Windows XP mode can now be disabled and users can choose where there Windows XP differencing files are stored.  USB devices can now operate within Windows XP without needing to go into fullscreen mode, useful for accessing content from programs like Word 2003 running in XP Mode.  Finally, a tutorial about XP Mode is now included, a great feature for new users.

Tom Quillin, director of Intel vPro Ecosystem Development lauds the feature, praising that its not only a fun toy for home users, but a valuable asset to businesses.  He states, "The increasing prevalence worldwide of PCs based on Intel Core 2 processors with Intel Virtualization Technology is enabling a variety of new applications that provide business opportunities for greater manageability, security and cost reduction. Used with Windows XP Mode, Intel Virtualization Technology helps small- and medium-sized businesses migrate more efficiently from Windows XP to Windows 7.

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RE: 16 bit support?
By freeman70 on 8/5/2009 10:54:37 AM , Rating: 2
I am currently running Ubuntu 9.04 and using Virtualbox to run XP as a virtual machine with guest addons for Direct X support. The virtual XP actually boots faster than my genuine install. I have found that Civ II runs fine. Another favorite, Master of Orion II, actually runs better in the virtual machine than on my genuine XP install. I think virtualbox has really matured since its inception. It is quite easy to use.

It seems ridiculous that Microsoft can't give their virtual machine decent Direct X support. It is their code. It reminds of the lousy 32 bit support given to Win XP 64 bit users.

RE: 16 bit support?
By omnicronx on 8/5/2009 11:34:52 AM , Rating: 2
The way I see 3d acceleration for virtual machines does not make very much sense right now for most applications. There are a few reasons for this, first of all there is no GPU hardware virtualization, so probably no direct access to the hardware in the first place (remember before virtualization how slow guest OS's were). Even if you could, there would be some pretty significant overhead. Even Virtual box is not true DX, it translates all D3D calls to OpenGL on the host system which definitely requires ALOT of CPU overhead.

I also don't see the point for most DX9 games as they will work in Vista/7 and if your games are older than that, (DX8 or less) would require a compatibility layer to convert older calls to DX9. All in all, its probably a big waste of time for the few users that will actually make use of it, and DX support is certainly not a showstopper for corp users, as they probably don't have the GPU horsepower on most of their PC's in the first place.

RE: 16 bit support?
By The0ne on 8/5/2009 2:13:30 PM , Rating: 2
There isn't a point to support it. This is aim at businesses with old apps that they still need to run. Apps that are not 3D. These are apps that will most likely not make any type of transition to 32bit/64bit or any type of upgrade and apps that will take a LONG time to transition. People fail to realize there are still a ton of custom software out there that companies use that won't see the day of upgrade light.

Only a few people, like myself, will want to run old games. I'm a heavy retrogamer and there are options out there to allow you to play your DOS or older windows games. Google is really your friend if you really want to play old games. There are many links and information if you allow research a bit :)

RE: 16 bit support?
By Laitainion on 8/6/2009 6:48:15 AM , Rating: 2
I also don't see the point for most DX9 games as they will work in Vista/7 and if your games are older than that, (DX8 or less) would require a compatibility layer to convert older calls to DX9

I believe all DX versions (upto 9.0c) were backwards compatible. After all Half-life (a DX7 game iirc) would run quite happily on XP with DX9.0c and no compatibility layers required.
It was only with DX10 that Microsoft finally broke this backwards compatibility (both on the hardware and software side, I think) which was why it caused such a furor when Vista was eventually released.
Before then Pretty much any version of DX and any version of Windows and any graphics card could work in combination (although you were still limited by the capabilities of the card).

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein
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