Windows Vista is actually quite interesting for an administrator. When I first saw it on MSDN, I thought, “Over 2 Gig’s. What could they have done for it to be that large without the drastic new UI?” Well, I have been looking at this thing for about a week now and I uncover more and more each time that I look into it. I just decided that it was time for me to stop digging or this review would never get out of the door. Microsoft has several press releases and other supporting documentation that really showcase the predominant features of Windows Vista.
Since screenshots of the basic functions have been presented all throughout the internet over the past week, let’s look at some other things. I am going to cover some of the enhancements that Vista will provide for administrators as well as a few neat little tidbits that I have not seen much of.
Missing Things and Games
Aside from the new UI, I noticed a few other things that were missing and there were a few items that I would like to see add if it’s not too late. Where is the Sidebar? The potential for the sidebar was amazing, but I can’t find it anywhere. I also was unable to find a place similar to the Add/Remove Windows Components… Not that this is a bad thing, but I would like the ability to see everything that Windows Automatically installed or has available and pick and choose what I want to have running. Let’s say I want to remove games off of my system. What is the easy way of doing that? Speaking of games…
When you install Games in Vista they are added to a new category of applications that can be accessed through the Start Menu called…Games. The new Games section of Windows shows all of the games currently installed on your system. When you navigate to each game, you can see a small summary that will show you who the developer of the game was as well as the rating and the reason for the rating. I think that this might be nice for those “parental admins” that have no clue what the games are that their kids are playing.
So, for those of you who are parental admins that would like to restrict what your children access, let me show you the features of Longhorn that may interest you. Microsoft has added a section in the Control Panel called Windows Parental Controls. The purpose of this feature is to allow a parent to control the types of games that the child can access. As you can see in the screenshot below, you can even choose to monitor access to certain games by your child.
There is a tremendously long list of restrictions that you can place on your user’s ability to play games. You can specify not only the rating that they are not allowed to go past, but you can also specify what type of content that they are forbidden to access. The list of restrictions is quite extensive, but it makes it very easy for concerned parents to control what their children are actually doing.
Let’s begin at the network, shall we. Networking features of Vista are to be expected. Vista takes advantage of many modern Networking protocols as does Windows XP. Vista however, will implement some of these natively, where XP requires the Advanced networking pack and some additional modifications. One example of this is how pervasive IPv6 is within Vista. It is actually native to the operating system and turned on by default. You can see this by simply running an IPCONFIG /ALL command.
I also noticed that there was a feature called “compartments” but I have unable to find any information on that. If you know anything about compartments, please feel free to contribute by posting something in the comments section below.
If you run an IPCONFIG /ALL, you will see some interesting new items that may spark your interest and give you an additional preview into the future of networking. One of the items is the mention of a protocol called Teredo that can be seen throughout the computer’s ip configuration. If you are unaware as to what Teredo is, I guess the best one-line summary that I can provide is that it is: “a Proxy for IPv6 to IPv4 Traffic.” More information on the Teredo protocol can be found by going to:
As far as Compartments are concerned, this is all that I can find on them:
I searched Help, MSN Search, Google, and Technet, but nothing seems to be out there. As I stated before, feel free to contribute on that topic because at least I would like to know.
Joining a domain has not changed as far as I can tell. We will investigate further as more information comes available.
The synchronization manager appears to have improved. Once you are joined to the domain, it does not appear to be turned on automatically. That was one thing that I can’t stand with Windows XP. I know that you can disable it with a GPO, but its just the point. Sometimes I forget to turn it off and if I need to remotely log off a user, it can take a very long time to actually get them off of the system. OK, unnecessary rant over, back to the review. The new Sync manager has a nice little UI with it that shows you the progress of the synchronization after you enable it for data files. Here is a shot.
You enable synchronization by going to the properties of the Shared Network Folder, or drive and selecting the Make available offline button. It is quite simple. At that point, you may enter into the Sync Manager, located in the Control Panel, and view the status of your items. You then have the ability to disable the synchronization from here or simply turn it on or off. Like I said, Easy…
I really like the preview of the new event viewer. The event viewer has always been a handy tool for Administrators. I have been an MCSE since NT 4 and accessed it frequently back then. It was quite simple and very limited. All that has changed. Microsoft has added and XML interface for it, they have added customizable Application Views, they even went so far as to add a preview pane for events. Here is a peek:
If you click Details whenever you are looking at the preview pane of an event, you will be able to see the XML structure of an event. Here is a sample:
This can be quite useful if a company were to build say, an administrative application that could query the events on servers and workstations on a network. An application such as that would surely be useful for administrators desiring to capture specific events on the network easily.
Application Views are also quite helpful since they provide an administrator with the ability to create a view that will filter and show only events that meet predetermined criteria. I guess this could be most easily compared to the Search Feature in the current version of Active Directory or the way that the Windows 2003 Small Business Server Console filters all User or Computer Accounts regardless of the OU in that convenient little window. With application views, you can have one that filters for TCP-IP error messages and have another that filters for Symantec Antivirus errors. With those filters, you can switch between views without having to go to the properties of the log and modify several different parameters each time that you desired a different filter. These filters can even span logs.
The new event viewer will also allow you to see the XML source for a particular view.
The Microsoft management console has become more robust. Many of these functions will not be as useful for everyday users, but they will greatly benefit administrators when the new version of Windows Server is released. The overall function and interface has remained basically the same, but there are much more advanced snap-ins and a new Action Pane that is on the right side of the Console.
There is a new Print Management Snap-In that allows you to see the entire configuration of printers available on all print servers within your network. You can easily view the Drivers installed, along with their versions, you can see the ports and available forms that Windows can print to. An administrator can easily create additional ports or upgrade drivers on remote machines without having to be local to that server or workstation.
I am sure that we could devote an entire section to this if we wanted to, but then again, what could I hold over someone’s head at Microsoft to give me a beta invitation to the new Windows Server Product. I want to see that!!! Anyways, here is a short summary of one of the more interesting features that I found with that. It’s called Pushed Printers. I know, it may not be as intriguing as Corporate Error Reporting, but I am not getting into that until I see a Server beta. So here it is, Pushed Printers. As you could imagine, this gives you the ability to push a collection of network printers to a group of either computers or users. I wondered why they didn’t add this earlier. After all, network printers are kept in the registry of the logged on user in 2000 and XP. That is why each user that logs onto a workstation has a different set of network printers. With this convenient feature, you can push network printers to a group of computers or users. How nice is that?
Vista appears to be a very interesting product. I would like to see more from the server side, but I am sure that will come in time. The enhancements, or conveniences, are mostly what I desire. Vista appears to have a great new set of those. There are some additional features that Microsoft claims such as the ability for Vista to be more of a “health conscious” operating system. (Supposedly it has the ability to detect bad sectors on a Hard Drive and automatically open a Wizard to allow you to backup your data to a remote or safe local location.) Those enhancements will be quite helpful, but I didn’t see any of them in action as I used my system. (I guess that is a good thing.) So we shall see how this progresses. I like it at this point I believe that it could have been a great incremental update for XP, like an R2 product in its current state. I haven’t had the opportunity to explore the new development features in depth, but that is next. I am pretty convinced at the product’s stability to this point and will begin further Application testing shortly. I hope to see more as the Beta’s progress, but I think that what I have seen is quite impressive so far…
For More Information
Longhorn Server Beta 1 Screenshots:
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