Windows Vista 2005 and 2006

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October 24, 2005 3:30 AM PDT / Updated: March 15, 2006 2:29 AM PST

Windows Vista October CTP

During our hands-on testing of interim version build 5231, which Microsoft officially released to developers on October 17, 2005, we noticed several enhancements in Vista's network connectivity and system integrity, overall audio and multimedia capabilities, a major face-lift for Internet Explorer 7, another preview of Windows Media Player 11, and several overall improvements. As with last month's build 5219, which expanded on the "clarity" theme, this release expands on the "confidence and connection" themes. See our build 5231 slide show for a detailed look inside this release.

Diagnostics
Under "confidence," Microsoft is touting Vista's ability to ward off potential problems in the future as well as recover quickly from disasters. Windows Vista Memory Diagnostics, a collection of tools, can detect and automatically resolve problems associated with defective physical memory. Windows Vista Disk Diagnostics, another collection of tools, monitors the health of the hard drive and can proactively warn users of impending disk drive failure, allowing users to backup their data and replace defective hardware before the situation turns critical. Network diagnostics tools will analyze connectivity and network access issues and either resolve the issues or provide the end user with the next steps to resolve the situation. A new Windows Vista Network Center replaces My Network Places and My Network Neighborhood with a hub for managing computers and devices on a local network. And in this release, we saw increased reliability in the transition in and out of sleep on our laptop, giving us greater confidence when we closed our laptop lid. According to Microsoft, this was accomplished by eliminating the chance for applications, services, and drivers to veto or block changes in system power states.

Collaboration
For the "connection" part of the Windows Vista motto, Microsoft wants to make connecting to a variety of devices faster, easier, and more secure and the synchronization of data among devices simpler. Toward that end, this build of Windows Vista includes a new Windows Mobility Center, including the tools to adjust display brightness, power plans, volume control among applications, wireless status, synchronization status, and presentation status. Sharing files and folder contents (peer-to-peer technology) is easier in this build of Windows Vista, including the ability to create e-mail with embedded links pointing to shared content. And this build of Vista includes the Microsoft XPS Document Writer, allowing you to convert any onscreen document into XPS documents, which can be digitally signed to ensure that no one has tampered with the contents in transit.

Internet Explorer for Windows Vista
Although we got a taste of the new IE in last month's build, Internet Explorer 7 for Windows Vista includes new security and interface features. IE 7 for Windows Vista includes a Phishing Filter to protect against malicious Web sites; ActiveX Opt-In, reducing the likelihood of potential ActiveX attacks; and a new Protected Mode, to protect users against the silent installation of malicious code. There are also new parental controls and a redesigned Favorites Center to provide quick access to History, RSS, and saved Favorites. The interface changes include Quick Tabs, thumbnails of each open tab for quick reference; Tab Groups, the ability to save groups of tabs; Page Zoom, which magnifies any part of any Web page; and Advanced Printing, which shrinks output to fit on your printer's chosen paper size.

Features previewed but not yet ready in build 5231
Within this build is a new Windows Media Player with program controls placed front and center, à la QuickTime, with the right-hand margin providing additional information about the track currently playing. We also saw a new Migration Wizard, for transferring the data from one hard drive to another; a new Power Management Center, for better laptop control; and even a new Windows calendar.

See our build 5231 slide show for a more detailed look inside this release.

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As CNET's resident security expert, Robert Vamosi has been interviewed on the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and other outlets to share his knowledge about the latest online threats and to offer advice on personal and corporate security. Listen to his podcast at securitybites.cnet.com or e-mail Robert with your questions and comments.