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Playing with the Vista SP2 Beta

Over the past week or two, I’ve been messing around with the Windows Vista SP2 beta. For a release with beta status, it’s amazingly stable, and some of the new functionality is welcome (burning Blu-ray media works as advertised, and indeed wireless connectivity is a bit easier and more straightforward). The update roll-up makes it much more convenient to build a new system: by my seat-of-the-pants comparison it shaves about an hour off the time required to get a new Vista system up and running, thanks mostly to cutting the number of updates required from 60-plus to less than 10. By the time Microsoft released the RTM version the first number will undoubtedly grow, and the second number will depend on the time lag between the RTM date and the public (RTW) release date.

Some interesting observations when building Vista SP2 systems, or doing an upgrade:

  • Keep your drivers handy: although “normal Vista” finds and supplies drivers for all hardware components on my test systems, Beta SP2 somehow did away with some key elements, including network interface drivers, some mouse and keyboard drivers, and a few other odds and ends, mostly USB related.
  • Use on several notebook PCs shows improved power management promises are true, but not excessively dramatic. I observed battery life improvements of about 20-55 minutes on various systems, right at or under the 10% improvement Microsoft promises.
  • I read about but haven’t tested issues with Wireshark (WinPcap problems? Microsoft Monitor Driver, says related to an inability to capture dial-up or VPN sessions with this tool.
  • Though MS claims SP2 requires fewer resources for and better performance from Windows Sidebar, I wasn’t able to observe a noticeable difference between “before” and “after” systems (though Task Manager does report lower memory consumption).

Recent rumors (see the update to TechARP ED#106) indicate that the SP2 release has slipped by one month, as MS hunts down some substantial bugs. Apparently that now means RTM in April or later, with release to Web about six weeks thereafter. Stay tuned! I’ll keep you posted as things develop.

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