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An In-Depth Look at Vista, Part 2

by Wei-Meng Lee

In my last article, I talked about my first experience with Windows Vista Beta 1. While some commented that it seems that Vista is nothing spectacular, it is important to know that it is still too early to pass judgment, especially because the product is still in Beta 1. Nevertheless, Beta 1 allows us a glimpse of what is to come in Beta 2 (and ultimately RTM), and most importantly, for testers to feedback on what should be incorporated in the OS and what should not. And so, in this article, I will take a closer look at some of the more advanced features of Vista.

Enabling Aero Glass

One of the most compelling reasons to try Windows Vista Beta 1 is the new Aero user interface. The Aero user interface provides a beautiful experience with transition animations. Windows are translucent, ensuring that text is easier to read. There are two levels of Aero user interface:

Aero is the baseline for all computers that do not meet the requirements for Aero Glass. Using Aero, you will not be able to see translucent windows. For Aero Glass, you need a video card that supports DirectX 9. Even if you have the video card with the prerequisites, you need to download the special LDDM (Longhorn Driver Display Model) drivers in order for them to work in Windows Vista Beta 1. At the time of writing, both ATI and nVidia has released alpha versions of their drivers for their cards.

The table below shows the nVidia card supported:

GeForce FX 5100

GeForce FX 5200

GeForce FX 5200SE

GeForce FX 5200 Ultra

GeForce FX 5500

GeForce FX 5600

GeForce FX 5600 Ultra

GeForce FX 5600SE

GeForce FX 5600XT

GeForce FX 5700

GeForce FX 5700VE

GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

GeForce FX 5700LE

GeForce FX 5800

GeForce FX 5800 Ultra

GeForce FX 5900

GeForce FX 5900 Ultra

GeForce FX 5900XT

GeForce FX 5900ZT

GeForce FX 5950 Ultra

GeForce PCX 5300

GeForce PCX 5750

GeForce PCX 5900

GeForce 6600 GT

GeForce 6600 LE

GeForce 6600

GeForce 6800

GeForce 6800 GT

GeForce 6800 LE

GeForce 6800 Ultra

GeForce 7800 GTX

Quadro FX 540

Quadro FX 1000

Quadro FX 1100

Quadro FX 1300

Quadro FX 1400

Quadro FX 3000

Quadro FX 3000G

Quadro FX 3400

Quadro FX 4000 SDI

Quadro FX 4400

Quadro NVS 280 PCI

To test Aero Glass, I reformatted my Dell Inspiron 5150 notebook (which comes with the nVidia GeForce FX 5200 graphics card) and reinstalled Windows Vista Beta 1. Aero Glass is not enabled by default, because the default driver shipped by Microsoft (for my nVidia card) does not support Aero Glass, so I need to download the LDDM driver from nVidia.

For the nVidia drivers, once the installation file is run, it will try to detect the appropriate drivers for your video card. Unfortunately, it failed to detect my video card and exited halfway through the installation. To fix this, you have to manually update the driver.

  1. Right-click on Desktop and select Properties.
  2. Select the Hardware tab and click the Device Manager button.
  3. Expand the Display Adapters icon and right-click on the display adapter displayed under the Display Adapters icon. Select Properties.
  4. Select on the Driver tab and click on the Update Driver button.
  5. In the Hardware Update Wizard dialog, select "No, not this time." Click Next.
  6. In the next window, select "Install from a list or specific location (Advanced)." Click Next.
  7. In the next window, select "Don't search. I will choose the driver to install." Click Next.
  8. In the next window, click on the Have Disk button to manually select the drivers to install. In the dialog window, navigate to the "C:\NVIDIA\WinVista\75.03" folder (created by the nVidia driver installer). Click OK.
  9. You can now choose the appropriate driver for your video card (see Figure 1). Once the model is selected, click Next and follow the onscreen instructions.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Installing the LDDM driver for your video card

When the driver is installed, you will be prompted to restart your computer. Once restarted, Windows will now use Aero Glass with the translucent effect (see Figure 2).

Figure 2
Figure 2. The Aero Glass effects

Under Aero Glass, the buttons in windows will glow when you move your mouse over them (see Figure 3).

Figure 3
Figure 3. Glowing windows buttons

Note: Remember that the drivers (at least for nVidia) are still in alpha stage. So, don't be surprised if using the drivers will cause problems later on. In fact, after running Aero Glass for a while, I was not able to log into my account after a reboot. The ultimate culprit turned out to be the nVidia driver. To restore the original driver, use Safe Boot (press and hold the F8 key during reboot) and then restore the video driver to the original one.

Broadcast Presentation

Another cool feature in Windows Vista Beta 1 is the new Network Presentation application. Using Network Presentation you can wirelessly broadcast your screen to other users. This is useful when you are in a meeting and each presenter in the meeting room can easily share his or her presentation without needing to use a projector. (Of course this is assuming that everyone has a computer in the meeting room.) Besides that, Network Presentation also allows you to broadcast your screen to a network projector (see Figure 4) without needing to manually connect to it.

Figure 4
Figure 4. The Sony VPLFX51 LCD Network Data Projector

Wirelessly Broadcasting a Presentation

To broadcast a presentation, go to Start->Programs->Network Presentation->Broadcast a presentation. Give the presentation a name (see Figure 5) and assign a password to protect the presentation. (Remember to use a relatively complex password to protect your presentation; you wouldn't want someone else in the network to view your confidential presentation.) Click Next.

Figure 5
Figure 5. Broadcasting a presentation

You will be able to pause the broadcast by clicking on the Blank screen button (see Figure 6). You will also be able to see who is currently viewing your presentation. You can also optionally connect to a network projector by clicking on the Connect to a network projector button.

Figure 6
Figure 6. Controlling the presentation

Viewing a Presentation

To view a presentation, go to Start->Programs->Network Presentation->View a Presentation. It will automatically search for a presentation on the network. Once a list of presentations is found, select the one that you want to view and click Next (see Figure 7). You will also be prompted to enter a password for the presentation.

Figure 7
Figure 7. Viewing a presentation

Figure 8 shows the viewing of a presentation broadcasted by another computer running Windows Vista Beta 1.

Figure 8
Figure 8. Viewing the presentation from another computer

Connecting to a Projector

To connect to a projector, go to Start->Programs->Network Presentation->Connect to a Projector. A list of projectors found on the network will be listed, or you can manually enter the URL of the projector (see Figure 9).

Figure 9
Figure 9. Connecting to a projector

Tips and Tricks

Getting Back the File Menu

Most windows in Windows Vista Beta 1 hide the familiar File menu. If you miss the File menu, you can press the Alt key to reveal the menu (see Figure 10).

Figure 10
Figure 10. Showing the familiar File menu

Creative Sound Cards

Windows Vista Beta 1 has known issues with some Creative sound cards (in particular the Audigy series). You can fix this issue with the drivers from the kX project.

Remote Desktop Connection

Remote Desktop in Windows Vista Beta 1 now sounds off a warning (see Figure 11) when you try to connect to a remote computer. While it still behaves like the old Remote Desktop, it is now taking security seriously, and it wants you to know exactly what you are doing.

Figure 11
Figure 11. Remote Desktop

User Account Protection

Another area that shows the improved security in Windows Vista Beta 1 is the new User Account Protection (UAP; formerly known as Least-Privileged User Account). Using the UAP, you can ensure that Windows will always prompt you for your permission before making changes that require administration rights to the system. This is much like Mac OS X, where you need to enter your administrator password in order to install new items into your system. To turn on (or off) UAP, go to Start->Programs->Turn UAP Settings On or Off (see Figure 12).

Figure 12
Figure 12. Turning UAP On or Off

Installing Windows Vista Beta 1 on a USB Drive

This is one area that I failed to successfully perform. I tried to install Windows Vista Beta 1 on a USB hard drive, hoping to externally boot from it. However, I only managed to get past the initial installation stage and, after a reboot, the familiar blue-screen-of-death appears. If you have managed to install it on an external USB drive, do share it with us at the Talkback link below.

Wei-Meng Lee (Microsoft MVP) is a technologist and founder of Developer Learning Solutions, a technology company specializing in hands-on training on the latest Microsoft technologies.

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