The December Microsoft® Windows Vista™ Community Technology Preview (CTP) is the third in a series of early Windows Vista builds being released to an extensive technical community. The CTP program is designed to involve customers and partners in the various stages of Windows Vista development by facilitating timely and relevant feedback. Microsoft Corp. is on schedule to have the majority of Windows Vista features code-complete by the end of 2005, and the CTP program will help enable Microsoft to provide testers with a feature-complete version of the product sooner than for any previous Windows® release.
The December CTP will be distributed to testers in the Windows Vista Technical Beta Program, and is available to more than half a million Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN®) and TechNet subscribers. The December CTP offers developers, IT professionals, and Windows enthusiasts an opportunity to review and test some of the operating system’s significant security and performance enhancements and innovations. It also showcases progress on the overall user experience and design elements in Windows Vista.
As with the previous CTPs, the December CTP is intended for use by developers, IT professionals and the technical community. Given the nature of software development and the feedback process, many of the features in this CTP will continue to evolve throughout the development cycle. End users interested in testing pre-release versions of Windows Vista should continue to wait until the beta 2 version becomes available.
Today’s computer user is faced with increasingly sophisticated threats from a broad range of sources. Enhanced security is a fundamental element of Windows Vista; Windows Vista will help ensure users are better protected from threats and malware, and that they can be more confident using their PCs. The December CTP includes the following security advances, among others:
Windows Defender. Windows Defender (formerly known as Windows AntiSpyware) helps protect customers against spyware and other potentially unwanted software. The Windows Defender solution in the December CTP is a functioning early preview of what will be available in the final version, and includes several enhancements and new functionality that reflects ongoing input from our customers, including these:
Improved detection and removal. Based on a new engine, Windows Defender is able to detect and remove more threats posed by spyware and other potentially unwanted software. Real-time protection, which helps keep unwanted software from being installed, has also been enhanced to better monitor key points in the operating system for changes.
A redesigned and simplified user interface. The Windows Defender user interface has been redesigned to make common tasks such as scanning and removal easier to accomplish, and to deliver a warning system that adapts alert escalations according to the severity of a threat.
Protection for all users.Windows Defender can now be run by all users on a computer with or without administrative privileges. This ensures that all users on a computer are protected by Windows Defender.
BitLocker Drive Encryption. BitLocker Drive Encryption (previously known as full-volume encryption) is a hardware-based data protection feature that addresses the growing concern over corporate and customer data being accessed from lost or stolen machines. By encrypting the entire Windows system volume, data is better protected, preventing unauthorized users from breaking Windows file and system protection on lost or stolen computers. This improves data security and reduces equipment-repurposing concerns. The feature is simple to deploy and use, and enables easy recovery.
BitLocker works best when deployed on PCs with Trusted Platform Modules (TPMs), leveraging a new infrastructure in Windows Vista called TPM Base Services v1.2. BitLocker is available in Windows Vista Enterprise Edition, and should be implemented in a well-managed IT environment.
Control over installation of device drivers. IT administrators can use Group Policy in Windows Vista to block the installation of removable storage devices, such as USB flash drives and external hard drives, to help prevent corporate intellectual property or sensitive data from being compromised or stolen.
International Domain Names support in Internet Explorer 7. Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 in Windows Vista now includes support for International Domain Names (IDNs) in URLs, and protects against URLs that are designed to trick users into believing they have visited a trustworthy site. Supporting international URLs and allowing users to access the Web in their native character set enables customers to be confident in a truly worldwide Web browsing experience. Further, Internet Explorer has a number of built-in features to highlight potential spoofing of legitimate Web sites to increase security, including the anti-phishing capabilities that also are a part of Internet Explorer 7 in Windows Vista.
Parental controls. Windows Vista introduces a rich set of parental controls that help provide a safe PC experience for children by allowing their parents to limit and monitor the children’s computer usage. The parental controls in Windows Vista can help parents feel comfortable that their children are using the PC safely by enabling them to do the following:
Limit when and for how long their children use the computer
Control what Web sites their children can visit and limit what programs their children run
Restrict access to games based on title, content or Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating
Run detailed reports about their children’s computer usage
Enhanced firewall. The firewall in Windows Vista enforces the rules set in the Windows Service Hardening platform, which limit the file, registry and network access allowed to only those that are legitimately required for a service’s operation. If the firewall detects abnormal behavior, as defined in the Windows Service Hardening rules, it will attempt to block it.
Inbound and outbound filtering. The Windows Vista firewall adds full directional control to the personal firewall, configurable by enterprise administrators through Group Policy. It allows administrators to block applications, such as peer-to-peer sharing or instant messaging applications, from contacting or responding to other computers.
Advanced security. Internet protocol security (IPSec) and firewall management are integrated in a single console. This console centralizes inbound and outbound traffic filtering along with IPSec server and domain isolation settings in the user interface, enabling increased visibility into security settings.
Enhanced Performance and Power State Transitions
Window Vista is designed to provide more consistent system responsiveness than previous versions of the Windows operating system. Notable changes have been made to how Windows Vista will improve the reliability and consistency of transitions between power states, and initial work on some of these changes is evident in the December CTP. Windows Vista will diminish the ability of applications and device drivers to veto or suspend power state transition requests that are initiated by the end user, giving users a new level of confidence that their PCs will shut down or sleep on demand. Windows Vista also will improve the performance of starting up or running applications by optimizing the utilization of available memory to help keep PC performance at its peak. Related features include the following:
Single-button on and off control. Windows Vista will enable users to switch a PC to Sleep/off mode using a one-click button, much like a TV or other consumer electronics device. Unlike Windows XP’s multistep process, the Windows Vista Sleep and Shut Down interface is simple and clean.
Fast off. A Windows Vista-based PC will respond quickly and gracefully to the user’s Sleep, Shut Down or Restart request. This improvement eliminates the confusion caused by delays or a lack of responsiveness, and provides users with a consistent, reliable “off” experience.
Expandable storage devices for Windows SuperFetch. Windows Vista gives users the ability to insert a USB Flash drive to provide additional memory that can then be employed by Windows SuperFetch. SuperFetch is the utility in Windows Vista that proactively loads all or part of the customer’s most-often-used applications and files into unallocated system memory before they are needed by the system. Windows SuperFetch adapts to a customer’s usage patterns, optimizing the utilization of available memory to help keep the PC performance at its peak.
Progress on User Interface and Design Elements
The December CTP also shows significant improvement on the new Window Vista new user interface, design elements and some consumer-oriented features. While the December CTP represents significant progress relative to previous CTPs, these areas will continue to evolve throughout the development process. Microsoft plans to release more information in the coming months:
Aero. Aero is the new Windows design philosophy that encompasses an entirely new look and feel for the desktop, and represents a set of design principles that Microsoft is following throughout the overall development process. Evidence of Aero’s progress in the December CTP includes the translucent “glass” appearance of open windows, smoother transitions between windows and a re-designed start menu.
Windows Media Center. The December CTP includes Windows Media Center, which updates the look and feel of Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. Additional information about the new features and functionality of Windows Media Center in Windows Vista will be shared at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Jan. 5–8 in Las Vegas.
Windows Media Player 11. The December CTP includes significant upgrades to the look and feel of Windows Media® Player 11. However, important components of Media Player 11 are absent from the overall experience and will be added later in the development schedule. Additional details will be unveiled at 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show, Jan. 5–8 in Las Vegas.
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