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Vista's self-diagnosis tools

Vista's self-diagnosis tools

Living with Windows Vista beta 2: Day 4.

Over the holiday weekend, I successfully installed Microsoft Office 2007 beta 2 and other software, such as CA eTrust Antivirus for Vista. I also installed a few familiar Windows XP comforts, such as Trillian Basic. The latter, although it did install, wouldn't run under Vista.

If you remember back to the days when Windows 95 made the transition from 16-bit apps to 32-bit apps, apps simply crashed, often leaving you to wonder what happened. Rather than simply crashing apps within the operating system, Vista now displays a message stating whether or not the program is compatible. In the case of Trillian, the operating system protected itself by turning off some visual elements (although finding out which elements have been disabled isn't exactly clear). I decided to dig down and see if I could learn more.

There's a whole section of the Control Panel devoted to problem reports and solutions. Here you see a log file of all the recent activity within Vista. In theory, you can request additional information about the event. I chose a problem I had running a DVD movie in Windows Media Player on Saturday--in fact, I had several instances where the media player simply froze and had to be restarted. By checking a box next to the event, Vista calls home to Microsoft to learn more about what happened and presumably offer up a fix. In this case, after several minutes, I was informed that no solution was available. This is a beta, so I'm not going to be too critical.

Missing from the problem reports, however, are third-party apps, such as Trillian Basic.

There's another viewer that relates your system performance to specific events. As you load and use more software, the graph on this viewer heads downward as the system slows. However, if there's a particularly buggy app running and really dragging your system down, you'll see a notable drop on the chart. I don't have a buggy app right now, but in the Microsoft demos they were able to click on an event near the decline and determine that by loading software X the system suffered. By removing software X, they showed how the performance graph turned upward again.

If only all software diagnosis could this easy.