So, yes, it's a "wow" for myself, but the public campaign is going strong now. The Windows Vista Team Blog has put together a Windows Vista bus tour, visiting a number of cities and towns in the U.S. East Coast, but the official launch starts in New York, with the presence of Bill Gates in a special event.
Microsoft New Zealand has sent an invitation to some people to visit The Digital Home. Nothing very clear yet, but people attending the event will meet in a hotel in the Wellington CBD, and board a bus to take us to a home where Windows Vista, Xbox 360 and other stuff is running the show. We will see different situations including home use, home office, entertainment and more. All this with breakfast.
I've checked and people attending will be allowed to take pictures, so I will bring those and post in the news section on Geekzone after the event.
You see, I have decided to adopt a laptop as my work machine, thus making way for my current desktop to assume the server role in the house, and the old server box now being sold.
The "old" box is based on an AMD Athlon 2100 XP+ 1.7GHz with 60GB HDD. That box was running Windows XP Pro SP2 as a host, and with Virtual Server 2005 R2 I had two Windows Server 2003 virtual machines (for my Exchange Server and for my Microsoft SQL 2005 testing). This machine is being replaced with my desktop, an Intel P4 HT 3GHz with 160 GB SATA HDD and already running Windows Vista Ultimate RTM. I am also using a 1GB SD card for ReadyBoost.
Virtual Server 2005 R2 runs perfectly well on Windows Vista RTM, and booting the Exchange server is now mere two minutes instead of the previous nine minutes required to have the server fully operational. Also browsing some of the menus and options on the Exchange Server is much faster.
The new Acer Ferrari 5000 (AMD Turion 64 bit dual core 2GHz, 160GB SATA HDD, 2GB RAM and Windows Vista Ultimate) is replacing the Toshiba M200 Tablet PC (Intel Pentium Centrino, 1.5GHz, 60GB HDD, 1GB RAM with Windows XP Tablet PC Edition) and it too has a 1GB SD card for ReadyBoost.
The Acer Ferrari 5000 outperforms my desktop (now the server), with a Windows Experience Index of 4.8 compared with the desktop's 3.8.
The main reason for this change is because I wanted a solution that would provide me full mobility. While I used the Tablet PC a lot while out and about, I always had to synhronise its contents with my deskop, and the laptop wasn't powerful enough to be my main work machine. But the Acer Ferrari is grunty enough to replace the desktop and provide me with the mobility I need.
A couple of things regarding drivers for Windows Vista though... While most (not all) existing drivers may work on Windows Vista 32 bit, it is really hard to find signed drivers for Windows Vista 64 bit. Things are looking good though, with the release of Hamachi's new version with proper signed drivers - this is one of the most important applications for me, allowing secure private access to my LAN at home and to the Geekzone server, which is hosted somewhere else in the cloud.
I am still waiting for proper signed drivers from Vodafone for its Merlin XU870 HSDPA card (so far I've seen the new VMC release, but drivers are not ready for Windows Vista 64 bit) and I am worried about the Disc Stakka not working even with Windows Vista 32 bit.
Another annoying problem is a compatibility problem between Skype 3.0 and the 64 bit OS. I was told this was already reported, but I haven't seen any update yet.
Not too bad, and as pointed out by NotGartner, the Processor index might not be optmised for 64 bit.
For example I tried using the very good Hamachi virtual private network product (now a LogMeIn product) and it simply won't work on Microsoft Windows Vista 64 bit as it is.
You see, Hamachi uses the developer signing, which certifies the software is legitimate. But Microsoft Windows Vista 64 bit requires WHQL signed drivers, which are on signed after passing tests from Microsoft or affiliates. There are lots of guidelines listed here.
It is a pain for consumers who need to migrate from a 32 but environment to the 64 bit platform. People have been complaining about rogue applications and drivers, but the processes are not being followed, so users are left out in the cold. I have for example three programs I want to install that simply won't work on my current 64 bit machine and there is no (good) alternative to these tools.
You can go around this requirements if in each boot you press F8 and select the option to install and run non-signed drivers. But this is not persistent and in the next boot the user needs to press F8 again and repeat.
At 6:15pm I arrived at the specific point, and found quite a fair number of people waiting for something to happen. And it happened.
The fountain show started just to be abruptly interrupted, with Loki herself showing up on a projection upon a wall of water. She explained that the top prize for the winner of this competition will be a trip to the edge of space, plus other prizes for runner ups.
Below are some of my photograps, and you can see a video here.
Jim "shares overall responsibility with Kevin Johnson for the division of the company that includes the Windows and Windows Live Group, Windows Live Platform Group, Online Business Group, Market Expansion Group, Core Operating System Division, Windows Client Marketing Group, Developer and Platform Evangelism Group, and the Server and Tools Business Group." Is this enough of a job?
We talked about a lot of things, mostly private stuff. However, Jim's take on Vista is that the best feature is not necessarily what users will immediately see, but the stuff running behind the scenes keeping the PC secure.
Also, about his plans of retiring after Windows Vista ships on 30th of January 2007, he didn't tell us much, except that sailing is something in the cards. Asked if this was an option to go somewhere with no computer around, he joked that there are more computers on a boat than most can imagine, and with satellite communications no one can really be isolated while at sea.
Other website owners were present, and a variety of countries were represented at the very private event, with about 25 people attending the lunch at BOA, a barbeque restaurant located at Caesar's Palace The Forum Shops.
Mr Gates started by talking about the Digital Decade and how over 2 billion digital photos were taken in the last year. and how 65 percent of homes are using digital cameras are these statistics worldwide or U.S. only?).
Preparing for some of the announcements for later during the keynote, he also points out that over 40 percent of U.S. homes now have multiple personal computers and how the new generation spends more time on their PC than they spend watching TV and how information is everywhere, thanks to portable devices and connections possible thanks to 3G and Wi-Fi.
Justin Hutchinson was then called to talk to the audience about Windows Vista, the company's operating system shiping the end of this month to consumers. He showed the audience the new user interface eye candy and spent some time talking about the Ultimate Extras program. Users running the Windows Vista Ultimate version of this operating system will have access to extra programs that are available exclusively through Windows Update.
One of these new programs is DreamScene, an animated desktop that allows users to select a movie to be contantly playing in the desktop without interfering with other operations.
Justin also talked about the ShadowCopy, a feature that allows users to return documents and other files to a previous point in time, including a reference to the Vanishing Point game in the demonstration.
He continued by showing new capabilities on Microsoft Local Live service, which now includes the ability to show 3D rendering of maps and satellite imagery bringing an almost street level view of maps, thanks to Virtual Earth 3D technology that's built into Windows Live.
He then introduced SportsLounge, developed by Microsoft and FoxSports.com. The service allows sports fans to watch a live HD feed and constantly receive real-time information, and real-time scores for every sports program in a personal channel line up. The service also sends out real-time alerts about favourite players and teams.
Another feature from Windows Vista is the ability to create DVDs from media content on a PC and the GroupShot, a program that consumers can use to manipulate digitial photos and combine elements from different images to quickly fix problems or create new images.
Bill Gates was then back on stage and talked about a series of new devices coming up plus the expected announcement of Windows Home Server.
The new devices line up includes the HP TouchSmart PC, a multimedia machine with touchscreen based on an user interface similar to that present on UMPCs. He also just talked about the Toshiba Portege R400, a new tablet PC with SideShow, the feature that allows you to keep tabs on what's going on without having to turn on the PC, by using external displays. The Sony VAIO VGX-TP1 is a futuristic media centre, and the Medion UMPC is a new device in the ultra mobile PC class.
The audience then watched a short movie about digital content. The whole idea was to emphasise the amount of digital content present in our lives, and to introduce the Windows Home Server, slated to come out in the second half of 2007.
The Windows Home Server is for homes where you've got either multiple PCs, or Xboxes, with storage being available all the time to different devices. The product was developed with HP and branded as HP Media Smart Server, running the Windows Home Server software.
Features include the ability to automatically reconfigure storage when new discs are added to the box, plus manage connections inside the house. The software includes automatic backups for PCs, and connectivity for Xbox and Zune.
Robbie Bach took the stage to talk about connected entertainment and mobility in general. He told the audience how during the last year's CES Bill Gates introduced the MTV Urge music service, and how this was part of a strategy that continued with the introduction of the Zune media player.
According to Bach, the Zune is the number two player already in its mp3 player category and Microsoft is on track to ship and sell a million copies of Zune, although it's not clear in what timeline.
Microsoft declared its commitment to the platform, with promise to improve software and hardware, and the community of music around Zune. In his own words "This is a place where we are deeply committed to being successful, and you're going to see us in this space in a leadership position in the years to come."
In terms of mobility and smart devices the Cingular Blackjack from Samsung, Treo from Palm, the T-Mobile Dash from HTC, and Verizon's Motorola Q were listed as example of designs that are driving market share advances for Windows Mobile. And of course, with a stab at RIM's BlackBerry, Bach said Windows Mobile outsells RIM's messaging and communications platform.
The show wouldn't be complete without game. On-line game, individual gaming, multi-player gaming. The star of the show was a video of Halo 3 to come out soon. The video showed realistic images, great sound and music.
Gaming was a big part of the keynote. From the announcement of IPTV for Xbox 360, to the introduction of Xbox Live for PC. This new service allows users playing PC games with equivalent titles on the Xbox Live network to join and play games with other on-line gamers even if they are using different platforms.
The keynote finished with Bill Gates introducing concepts taken from the Microsoft Home of the Future, an exhibition in the Microsoft Campus which is just being revamped, with things Microsoft thinks could be present in a typical home, in the next decade.
An interesting keynote, and surprisingly bug free. This year we had no blue screen, infrared remote controls problems, delayed networking and alike. Everything worked smoothly and the audience was taken with some of the new concepts introduced.
The crowd specially liked the Windows Home Server concept design and features, certainly loved the new visual introduced with features such as DreamScene and was taken by the 3D map views shown with Local Live.
We had a session with the Windows Vista Ultimate Extras team during the Windows Vista RTM Lab, and here are the details...
Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate combines advanced infrastructure features of a business-focused operating system, all of the management and efficiency features of a mobility-focused operating system, and all of the digital entertainment features of a consumer-focused operating system. In summary, it's the version with all options enabled.
Enough said? Not yet. The Windows Vista Ultimate Extras add more software to that package. It brings some cutting edge programs, bundled with some innovative services. These packages will be available for download from the Windows Update service, exclusively to owners of Windows Vista Ultimate.
The first "extra" is an enhanced version of Windows Hold 'em, a poker game.
But the really cool thing to come out is Windows DreamScene, a full motion video desktop, capable of showing high definition visualitions on the desktop at 30 fps.
Bummer you can't see the things moving on those pictures: flames and river move like in a movie. Very nice, and you can select your own home made videos for this.
From Monday 8 January 2007 you consumers will be able to check blogs, showcased configurations, community forums and more through www.windowsultimate.com, a site exclusively dedicated to Windows Vista Ultimate Extras.