This week I had a chance to download and test Windows Vista Pre-RC1 (Build 5536). It is the next publicly-available release of Windows Vista since Beta 2. As with Windows Vista Beta 2, after downloading the almost-3 GB ISO image and burning it to a DVD-R, I booted up a new HP dc7600 workstation (Pentium 4 3.2 GHz, 2 GB RAM) and went through the easy, friendly installation process. This time, Vista detected my sound hardware without any trouble as well as all other devices (something Beta 2 struggled with). I installed Symantec AntiVirus version 10.1.4.4000 and strangely, I got a message saying I needed to upgrade (in this case, it would be a downgrade) to version 10.0.1.622.
In case you haven't heard, Symantec and Microsoft are in a legal spat over "trade secrets," but anyone will tell you that what it all comes down to is that Symantec is bitter about Microsoft getting into the security software game. I can't help but think that this Symantec AntiVirus incompatibility would have been fixed if the two weren't sparring. Whatever the reason, it is alarming that Symantec and Microsoft haven't been able to get it working. So, I ditched SAV and downloaded Grisoft's AVG Free. Unfortunately, it also threw a bunch of errors and I could not get it to work properly (although I did get it to scan once). So, with no working antivirus program (only Microsoft's antispyware program Windows Defender, which ships with Vista), I began my exploration.
Some exciting features that I thought were cool were the much-improved backup utility that allows you to schedule backups of your files or your entire computer to a storage device or network location, a very handy Snipping Tool for screen captures, and an improved user interface. The firewall is improved and allows you to block outgoing network connections, but is somewhat difficult to manage. Overall, we're making some good progress and Windows Vista RC-1 (Release Candidate 1) should be available shortly.