Visiting Vista RC2, part 3

The final installation of the Oliver Rist trilogy

It's like I'm the producer of the Die Hard series -- or maybe Robert Jordan and the Wheel of Time and Endless Sequels -- you always need one more. My previous two columns focused on my own in-office experiences with Vista RC2. But naturally, because Microsoft was kind enough not to limit the license keys too much, I didn't hog the code all to myself. I also let a couple of my front-line systems administrators take a good look at -- you know, the guys who actually know stuff. So their feedback is what I'm calling "Vista Treats for IT."

First off, users may not see a big features difference with Vista on a day-to-day basis (aside from that pretty interface, assuming you're willing to spring for the video card), but administrators sure will. Deployment was foremost on our minds, so that's what the smart guys looked at first. Significant changes.

No more Remote Installation Services. They've gone the way of the dodo, replaced by WDS (Windows Deployment Services) -- which are still backwards-compatible with Windows Server 2003 but that's it.

Vista OS images are different, too. For one, if you were used to configuring these with Setup Manager in a text editor, then get set for glitz because that doesn't work anymore. Instead, you'll be using Windows System Image Manager, which has support for Microsoft's preferred imaging standard: WIM (Windows Imaging). And you won't be creating these image files using existing tools, either. The new toolkit includes ImageX -- the command-line tool with which to create WIM files -- and PEIMG, which is the configuration tool for Windows PE (Preinstallation Environment) 2.0.

My guys didn't get much of a chance to mess with Windows PE 2.0, but their early reports indicate a good baseline of functionality. Where ImageX allows you to configure the basic set of image files, PE allows you to tweak these images with optional components or new drivers and such and enables testing by being capable of booting directly from within a WIM image. Very slick, although we did notice that the average Vista WIM file is significantly larger than the equivalent XP image file. What my sys admins really liked, however, is that the WIM/PE combo is file-based, not sector-based. Apparently, this allows user-specific image data to remain on the local machine rather than being forced back onto the server for inclusion in the image installation process.

"Should really decrease the amount of network traffic surrounding a large deployment," they said, grinning eagerly.

"Enough so that we could do it during working hours rather than at night or on the weekends?" I asked, grinning just as eagerly in anticipation of less overtime moola.

"No," came the sad reply. I lost interest right around there, but for in-house enterprise people, it's undoubtedly still a happy day.

One thing you will need to do before putting the finishing touches on your WIM/PE master files is check out the Vista PCA (Program Compatibility Assistant). This is right there in the OS and can watch your installation of an application, analyzing for compatibility problems all the while. The Application Compatibility Toolkit is what you hit after PCA to analyze, test, and create deployment packages of entire business application portfolios. Definitely an enterprise-oriented tool but certainly useful if you've got a large library of business software -- especially one that has to be assigned individually to a large number of image groups.

Last goody that I've really liked thus far is networking. Microsoft's really done some work here and not just in it representation on the UI. The entire TCP/IP stack has been rewritten, which not only increases overall performance it adds considerable smarts. Now, Windows will automatically analyze every network connection, its surrounding network environment, and adjust performance accordingly. This really comes across in the wireless client. Noticeably faster and so reliable that you can forget you're running that way rather than over a cable. XP's on-again/off-again Wi-Fi client made that impossible.

If I have a ding, it's Aero. Given that Aero wants such a high-end video card in order to run, those vid cards will naturally want to default to a high resolution. That's fine, but on the Dell M90 I was using, for example, this resulted in a text size that was just too small. I'm inching past 40, true, but I'm not blind. If I need to squint at a 17-inch screen three feet away, then most of you are going to be getting help-desk calls from older users. Best to test this ahead of time and make a larger text size part of certain deployment images.

Herewith ends the Oliver Vista Trilogy.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Oliver Rist

InfoWorld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?