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Issue 51 - March 2007
Windows Vista at CityU
By Kevin Chan, Joe Lee

On 29 January 2007, Microsoft launched Windows Vista, the latest major version of their operating system for PCs since the launch of Windows XP five years ago. A team of IT professionals from the Computing Services Centre (CSC) have been engaged to evaluate Vista and determine when and how it should be deployed. Initially Vista will be made available in all lecture theatres, classrooms and the CSC Terminal Area. Details and timeline of the CSC’s support plan will be outlined in this article.

Much has changed in this operating system. To prepare you for a few of these changes, here lists some of its new and improved features benefiting different user types.

For All Users:

  • New GUI (Windows Aero™) provides better stability, improved user experience, richer visualization and easier navigation
    • This high-end, visually appealing interface uses transparency and other eye-candy techniques. It will only operate if the PC's video card is robust enough; otherwise a more basic interface, such as Windows Classic, is installed as the default.
    • Windows Flip and Windows Flip 3D offer new ways to manage windows. Flip provides a 'live' thumbnail shot of the contents of each window, while Flip 3D makes use of the mouse's scroll wheel to navigate through a stack of open windows

Windows Flip

Windows Flip 3D

    • Windows Sidebar provides a side panel for desktop gadgets, small mini-applications for things like displaying weather information and news updates, calendar, etc.
  • With built-in diagnostics, SuperFetch™ and ReadyBoost™ capabilities, the PC will be more reliable, responsive and hence result in higher user productivity
  • Powerful search capabilities help users to find almost everything on their PCs
    • A new Instant Search tool on the Start menu eliminates the slow cascading 'All Programs' view.

For Mobile Users:

  • Windows BitLocker™ Drive Encryption protects data when laptop is lost or stolen, and also when the old hard disk is going to be disposed
  • More secure wireless connections that protect mobile users
  • Improved power management that expands battery life

For Administrators:

  • User Account Control that reduces the attack areas while minimizing disruptions to user productivity
    • A more secure User Account Control system means there is less need to apply risky administrator privileges to get full functionality for a user
  • New imaging format that allows for hardware and language independence to reduce number of desktop images needed when deploying to corporate PCs with a variety of hardware and language settings
    • Improved tools for deploying and managing image-based installations of the operating system on a network of PCs
  • Advanced Group Policies to better manage critical usage scenarios and corporate PCs
    • Almost twice as many policies available to Vista
      • About 3000 Policies now in Vista (1600 in Windows XP)
    • Policy areas now include applications, printer management and USB devices

While it is certain that Windows Vista will run more effectively on a brand new PC (certified for Windows Vista), Microsoft claims that the minimum system requirements for running Vista are:

  • 800MHz processor and 512MB of system memory
  • 20GB hard disk with at least 15GB free space
  • Super VGA display
  • CD-ROM drive

To be able to get a reasonable performance and get the best out of Vista, including the Windows Aero experience, additional hardware is required. The recommended hardware requirements are:

  • 1GHz processor
  • 1GB system memory
  • 40GB hard disk with at least 15GB free space
  • Support for DirectX 9 graphics with:
    • WDDM Driver
    • Minimum 128MB of graphics memory
    • Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware
    • 32 bits per pixel
  • DVD-ROM drive
  • Audio output
  • Internet access

Therefore, in order to have a suitable environment to run Vista, most PCs on campus will have to be upgraded to match the requirements.

The Initial Plan

As Windows Vista is the most advanced PC operating system today, the CSC is working hard to design and implement a suitable working model for the campus environment and make it available for teaching and learning. Again, it may take some time for the CSC and some other service providers to solve the hardware and software compatibility issues before a campus-wide deployment.

As a pilot run, Windows Vista will be made available in the CSC Teaching Studios, Library’s Information Space, Lecture Theatres and Classrooms in late August 2007 before Semester A commences. Dual operating systems (Windows Vista and XP) will be provided on all PCs in the above-mentioned areas. While the Windows XP environment will be left intact, the Windows Vista environment will be launched together with some selected popular applications such as Microsoft Office 2007, Internet Explorer 7.0 as well as some updated Microsoft software/applications under the Campus Agreement. Software installations in the Vista environment for teaching and learning are welcome, but academic departments are expected to provide the software versions that are Vista compatible.

In order to help users get familiar with Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007, the CSC has already run two related Forums. Training courses will be offered to staff when the Windows Vista environment and Microsoft Office 2007 are ready. Invitation to training courses will be made through the normal staff development channel in AIMS and on the Staff e-Portal login page. As for staff PCs, we would have to make sure that all e-Learning, administrative systems are fully compatible with Vista before a large scale deployment of Vista will be made. We don’t have an accurate estimation of the time frame yet. If everything goes smoothly, it may happen as early as Semester B of 2007-08. However, we expect that some of the newly purchased PCs used for special purposes or those involved in research projects might choose Windows Vista earlier than the university-wide deployment.

Conclusion

Although academic institutions all over the world are hit by the Windows Vista wave, most of them are not ready to support it. For example, MIT currently does not recommend it, as many critical applications are not available yet. Also, Harvard provides limited support until Windows Vista passes their testing criteria and recommends users to wait until Service Pack 1 is available. Other similar recommendations can easily be found on the Internet. For the benefit of the CityU community, it is therefore recommended not be in any great rush to adopt Windows Vista. Windows Vista has not been thoroughly tested in terms of security and compatibility with the current campus applications, and it requires a computer newer or better equipped than what is currently available on campus.

Related resources

  1. Microsoft Windows Vista web site
  2. Windows Vista from Wikipedia
  3. Windows Vista Features
  4. Windows Vista Application Compatibility from MSDN
  5. Applications that are “Certified for Windows Vista
  6. Some Vista related news from CNET News.com

And also some news about upgrading to Vista in various sites:

Also in this issue...
Latest Developments on the e-Learning Project
Broadband Internet Access at Wi-Fi Hotspots
Current Email Spam and Anti-spam Situation on Campus
Fast Printing Service Support to Better Serve the Campus Community



 

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