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Windows Vista upgrade Q&A with Preston Gralla

@32086 Get Windows Vista upgrade pointers -- including new security and networking features -- from Preston Gralla, author of Windows Vista in a Nutshell. Galla identifies prime candidates for a Windows Vista upgrade, benefits of upgrading and compatibility challenges. Find more information about the book at O'Reilly's Web site.

What Windows Vista upgrade benefits should channel professionals taut to their customers?
The biggest advantage will be to offer small-to-medium-sized businesses security. This is obviously a big problem for any company, but especially a big problem for SMBs. Either they don't have IT staffs at all, or they don't have big IT staffs; so they have no professionals making sure their networks and PCs on the networks are secure. Vista has a lot more security built into it.

Another big benefit is that it's much easier to essentially maintain all the computers on a network with centralized rules. For example, unless a laptop meets a certain set of security rules it will be denied access to the network -- so it can't infect other PCs. You can set a rule that says unless that laptop not only has the latest antivirus software, but also the latest virus definition, it's not allowed on to the network.

Furthermore, it's extremely easy to connect to wireless networks securely. Say we go and connect to a wireless network like a hotspot. That it is a public network so Vista will make changes to the operating system to make it more secure in terms of file sharing, for example. It recognizes you're on a public network, so it turns it off. When you go back to your corporate network, it turns that back on again. How is Vista more secure when it comes to privacy and reliability?
There are a lot of new security systems built into Vista. One which will be most accessible to end users is called User Access Control (UAC). It requires that before you do anything that could possibly harm or change the operating system, a prompt says, "Do you really want to do this?" Now this could be kind of annoying, but it does increase security. If a piece of malware or spyware or some kind of zombie or a bot gets in the system, the system is counting on a human being to click the thing. Now the malware may not be able to have run of the system and do its damage, as it would in Windows XP.

In addition there's the security I talked about earlier. For network security, it can allow a network administrator to set certain rules about the security settings they have to meet before connecting to the network.

In addition to that, you can access the Web using Internet Explorer in isolation from the rest of the operating system, so if some damage is done, it's confined to Internet Explorer rather than being allowed to run through the rest of the operating system. Internet Explorer also has some new antiphishing features, so you will be less likely to fall victim to identity scam.

The Windows registry has also been virtualized, so when you install software, it doesn't necessarily go straight to the directory itself. It's kind of in its own little sandbox there. To a great extent a lot of the security has separated the important components of the operating system from being touched directly by a lot of applications. What are the potential pitfalls of upgrading?
Vista requires a lot more hardware than previous versions of Windows, particularly for graphics; it really needs a very good graphics card and good graphics processor and memory. Another potential problem would be compatibility with the existing hardware and the existing software. This could be a problem if a company has custom built its own software. For hardware, the issue is whether or not there will be drivers available. For example, in my home office I have a Samsung laser printer that still does not have a compatible driver. Which customers should VARs target for upgrades sooner rather than later?
Any shop where security is a primary concern would be a really good candidate for the upgrade. Certainly information businesses would fall into that category. The security enhancements will be vital to them. For some company that relies very heavily on data, it would be very important to upgrade. Vista also includes a good search tool that wasn't built into XP. It makes it much easier to find data, not only on your own PC, but also across the network. What's Vista's biggest hardware hurdle?
The biggest issue really is going to be the graphics. It will require a pretty good graphics card, with a good name and a good processor. This will be more of an issue for laptops. A lot of laptops have their own dedicated graphics cards. The graphics cards built into the motherboard aren't always up to snuff. I expect over time this will not be an issue because any manufacturer who makes a PC will want to make sure that it works. But certainly for the existing hardware and the hardware that's coming out now, it could be a bit of a problem.

The other issue involves any kind of peripherals, and making sure they are compatible with Vista. With XP this is not a problem because any computer you have today is going to be running XP; any computer you buy can run XP and the drivers are available for XP. Not the case with Vista. What other compatibility issues should channel professionals keep in mind?
One issue would be Internet Explorer 7. Certainly you want to make sure that Internet Explorer 7 works with the Internet. I've read that some people are having trouble with the clear window interface. What have you been hearing?
I have found that one of the best things about the operating system, from a user experience, is that it's easier on the eyes. You seem to be able to compute for longer amounts of time without getting tired. I don't believe what Microsoft says about it increasing productivity. I don't think that's true at all. I don't see how a prettier interface increases productivity. It makes it more enjoyable; it's a much nicer experience. Whether that translates into better productivity, I'm not really sure.

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