Vista SP1 Driver Incompatibility Issues Still Unresolved

Four months since Windows Vista SP1 was released to manufacturing, the driver incompatibility issues affecting the implementation of the service pack are still unresolved. Vista SP1 RTM'd on February 4, 2008 along with Windows Server 2008. At that time, Microsoft informed that it was postponing the general availability of the release in order to give hardware developers a chance to adapt a set of problematic drivers which failed to integrate properly with the service pack. As a result, Vista SP1 didn't drop via the Download Center and Windows Update until March 18. But it looks that the extra time Microsoft provided hardware manufacturers to get their drivers playing well with Vista SP1, a source of obvious end user frustration, failed to deliver an actual result.

On June 5, Microsoft explained that Vista SP1 was still not being delivered to some machines running Vista RTM but featuring problematic hardware device drivers. The Redmond company continues not to serve SP1 through Windows Update or Automatic Updates for Vista copies which include a small set of device drivers causing functionality issues following the implementation of the service pack. With a few exceptions, the list is identical to what Microsoft published back in February.

Obviously, since the Redmond giant has put its evangelism wheels in motion, the hardware manufacturers did provide updated versions of the drivers. However, the problematic items were not tweaked to play well with Windows Vista SP1. In this context, the best course of action is to make sure that you have the latest versions of the device drivers available installed prior to deploying Vista SP1 in case the service pack is not delivered through WU or AU.

Here is the list of Vista SP1 problematic drivers as of June 5, 2008. (Please check the hardware vendors official websites for updated versions of the following device drivers tailored to Windows Vista SP1)

"Audio drivers
Realtek AC'97
• For x86-based computers: Alcxwdm.sys - version or earlier
• For x64-based computers: Alcwdm64.sys - version or earlier
• For x86-based computers: - published 12/17/07 or earlier
• For x64-based computers: - published 12/17/07 or earlier
• For x86-based computers: - published 12/17/07 or earlier
• For x64-based computers: - published 12/17/07 or earlier
Creative Audigy
• For x86-based and x64-based computers: P17.sys – versions earlier than
Conexant HD Audio
• For x86-based computers: Chdart.sys - version or earlier
• For x64-based computers: Chdart64.sys - version or earlier

Display drivers
Intel Display
• For x86-based computers: Igdkmd32.sys – versions between and including driver and
• For x64-based computers: Igdkmd64.sys – versions between and including driver and

Other drivers
• Texas Instruments Smart Card Controller with the GTIPCI21.sys driver file – version or earlier
• Sierra Wireless AirCard 580 with the Watcher.exe application – version or earlier

Symantec software driver for Symantec Endpoint Protection and for Symantec Network Access Control clients
• For x86-based computers: Wgx.sys – versions 11.0.1000.1091 or earlier
• For x64-based computers: Wgx64.sys – versions 11.0.1000.1091 or earlier

Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo LA 1703 Notebooks that have a BIOS release date of March 14, 2008 or earlier."


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Top 5 Reasons to Upgrade to Windows Vista SP1

Ever had the feeling that Microsoft is scrambling to salvage what little it still can out of Windows Vista? While continuously claiming that its latest Windows client is not a failure, and pointing to the 140 million licenses sold as of March 2008, the Redmond company seems keen on demonstrating that it can pull the operating system out of the sinking sands of public opinion. In this regard, Service Pack 1 is indeed used as a floating device, but a tad of marketing on the side can't possibly hurt, can it? The focus for the time being, as far as Microsoft is concerned, is business users. Traditionally slow to upgrade to a new Windows release, corporate clients are now looking at Windows XP SP3 and Windows 7 as alternatives to Vista upgrades. The software giant is working to push Vista SP1 down their throats even if XP SP3 continues to work, and despite the proximity of Windows 7.

"This one is for all you IT professionals out there. A lot of you are probably having discussions inside your company about when to deploy Windows Vista, or you've deployed it and want to know which of the new capabilities can have the biggest impact on your business. To help in your evaluations we've released a new white paper, The Business Value of Windows Vista: Five Reasons to Deploy Now. This document summarizes the top enterprise features, latest customer case studies, and research on the capabilities of Windows Vista all in one place," revealed Christopher Flores, Director Windows Communications.

Still, in order to catalyze upgrades to Windows Vista, now with Service Pack 1, Microsoft employs the same set of arguments currently associated with a failed Wow. The company places the focus on increased security, mobility, productivity, reduced TCO, and streamlined deployment. The only new addition to this equation is Service Pack 1. The fact of the matter is that all these arguments are just as valid for Windows Vista RTM. And yet, business users have failed to crowd to the latest Windows operating system, choosing to stick with Windows XP and, in some cases, even with Windows 2000. If SP1 doesn't do it for them, certainly a list of five upgrade reasons, however elaborate or true, will not spark Vista upgrade fiestas across enterprises.

Here is the complete list provided by Flores, for Vista SP1:
"1. Improves the Security of PCs and Confidential Data. Windows Vista Enterprise had 20% fewer security vulnerabilities than Windows XP SP2 did in 2007-and it includes BitLocker Drive Encryption to help protect your confidential data.

2. Unlocks the Potential of Today's Mobile PCs. Windows Mobility Center helps users quickly access key mobility settings all in one place and research shows that Windows Vista can help customers save as much as $251 per mobile PC, per year.

3. Makes You and Your People More Productive. Find the information you need on your computer and reduce time spent searching for information by up to 42%.

4. Speeds ROI with Rapid Deployment and Migration. New imaging technologies and free deployment tools make the process of deploying Windows Vista easier than with any previous version.

5. Reduces Support and Management Costs. The costs saving can come from multiple places including reduced help desk calls, less time spent on image maintenance, or a lower energy bill."


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Windows Vista Is Ready

Windows Vista Is Ready - For your business, claims Microsoft. Microsoft released Windows Vista to corporate customers in November 2006 and to the general public in January 2007. But it wasn't until 2008 that Windows Vista was actually ready for businesses. It took Mike Nash, Corporate Vice President, Windows Product Management, over a year and a half to acknowledge that the Redmond company had failed to hit the sweet spot with its latest Windows client from the get go, and that it had to work throughout 2007 to perfect it. In this context, the release of Service Pack 1 is a milestone synonymous with Vista's readiness for business adoption.

Nash stressed that an investment in Vista SP1 makes sense even in scenarios of companies dealing with a limited budget to manage their IT infrastructure not only for the favorable cost/benefit factor, but also for the fact that migrating to the new operating system would prove a good idea even after Windows 7 drops on the market.

"Investments [in security and reliability] often meant changing the way that applications and drivers run on Windows, and they impacted the initial performance and compatibility of systems. Many people saw the value of the work we had done on things like data protection, search, mobility, and deployment - but there was a tradeoff between those benefits and device and application compatibility," Nash explained.

Throughout 2007, Microsoft hammered away at the operating system in order to soften all the rough corners, struggles which culminated with the release of Vista SP1. At the same time, the company's evangelism efforts paid off, as the hardware and software ecosystem became increasingly tailored to Vista SP1. According to Nash, this is the right time to give Windows Vista, now with SP1, another try.

"It is my firm belief that Windows Vista is ready for your business. If I ran an IT organization, I would first test and remediate my applications on Windows Vista. Then I would make sure that all new machines had 2 GB of RAM and run Windows Vista Enterprise Service Pack 1. For existing machines, with modern processors and less than 2 GB of RAM, I would consider upgrading the memory, BIOS and drivers, and then loading Windows Vista Enterprise SP1," Nash revealed.


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Linux Cannot Connect to Vista SP1 over Cryptographic Security Services

Computers running open source Linux operating systems have problems connecting to Windows Vista Service Pack 1 machines when cryptographic security services are involved. Essentially, the problem affects all distributions of Linux and both Vista RTM and SP1 and is related to failures to establish IPsec connections between the platforms, in scenarios where the connection is initiated from the machine powered by the open source operating system. Internet Protocol security (Ipsec) is, of course, related to the cryptographic security services which are used to protect network communications.

"Consider the following scenario. You use Windows Vista Local Security Policy on a Windows Vista-based computer. Or, you use the new Windows Firewall with Advanced Security on a Windows Vista-based computer. You try to initiate an Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) connection from a Linux-based computer to the Windows Vista-based computer. In this scenario, you cannot establish the connection," Microsoft revealed.

Previous versions of the Windows operating systems, including Windows XP and Windows Server 2008 have no issues communicating with Linux. The same is valid for IPsec communications between Vista SP1 and Linux, when the connection is initiated by the Vista computer. This is not an interoperability problem, but rather a glitch in Vista SP1. Microsoft offers a hotfix for the customers impacted by this specific issue.

"In IPsec negotiation for transform proposal of the combination where Authentication Header (AH) and Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP) are used for securing the same packet (AH+ESP), Windows Vista switches the order and replaces the packet with ESP+AH. This behavior breaks the negotiation. In this case, when you initiate the IPsec connection from a Linux-based computer, the Linux operating system proposes that the IPsec security format is AH+ESP. Therefore, the connection cannot be established," Microsoft explained.


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Vista and Windows Server 2008 Application Compatibility Tool

Windows Server 2008 is bound to bring on a new round of compatibility problems, similar to those experienced with Windows Vista deployments, for customers making the jump from older versions of the operating system. One of the biggest issues in this context is the readiness of the ecosystem of solutions orbiting around Microsoft's server platform for the new version of Windows Server. Microsoft is well aware that real software incompatibility problems, or even their anticipation, can successfully keep customers from upgrading to Windows Server 2008. Microsoft does tackle such scenarios on its end, and an illustrative example in this case is the "Works with" Tool for Windows Server 2008.

"The 'Works with' tool is a time and cost-saving resource for developers and IT Pros to determine application readiness on Windows Server 2008. Within two to four hours the tool compares an application with Microsoft’s application compatibility criteria and provides a detailed summary. The 'Works with' tool can be applied to both commercial and custom in-house developed applications and helps provide IT Professionals increased confidence to deploy applications on Windows Server 2008," Microsoft revealed.

Customers can deploy the tool on computers where the software products will be tested. The 'Works with' tool is not limited at Windows Server 2008, as it also permits the evaluation of applications components designed to run on Windows Vista. According to Microsoft, the applications will be tested in accordance with the criteria used by the company for the Works with Windows Server 2008 Logo program.

"The 'Works with' Tool for Windows Server 2008 can help identify potential compatibility issues in your applications running on Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista operating systems," Microsoft explained. "This tool requires that you install the application on a machine running Windows Server 2008 and any client components on machines running Windows Vista. It will run tests and background monitoring to verify the application's compatibility."


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Microsoft Shares Windows Vista Web Services Protocols

In a new initiative designed to be an integral part of its new found commitment and strategic focus on interoperability, Microsoft has announced that it is sharing the Windows Vista web services protocols with the Printer Working Group. In this manner, PWG, a program of the IEEE Industry Standards and Technology Organization, will benefit from the Microsoft Scan Service Definition Version 1.0. WS-Scan specifically refers to the web services protocols tailored to scanning peripherals. By sharing the Vista web services protocols, the Redmond company is effectively landing a helping hand to partners offering support for the building of products which will play well across a number of platforms.

"This collaboration is a response to customer and industry interest in having the WS-Scan Service Schema mapped directly to the PWG Scan semantic model," explained Jack Mayo, group program manager with the Windows Experience team at Microsoft. The way the Windows Vista operating system shares information with scanning peripherals is a process controlled via WS-Scan. In this regard the Web Services Protocols provide nothing more than a framework bridging the platform with scanning products.

"The benefit to customers will be making great scanning solutions for Windows-based interoperable with other platforms. The ability to make interoperable solutions will also greatly reduce the development burden on the PWG partner companies," Mayo added. By offering WS-Scan to the PWG, the Redmond company enables members of the printing industry to create solutions that will be interoperable with additional platforms, and not just Windows.

"Microsoft’s WS-Scan specification is a significant contribution to the Printer Working Group. It will greatly help us in our effort for industry wide standardization of networked multifunction device behaviors and capability representation," added Jerry Thrasher, PWG chair and senior standards engineer for Lexmark International. Over a year since the general availability of Windows Vista, and following the introduction of Service Pack 1, the latest Windows client enjoys an ecosystem of both hardware solutions and device products which is over 77,000 strong. Via the WS-Scan, Microsoft aims to rub off some of Vista interoperability on other platforms.


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Watch the Full Windows 7 Video Presentation, Not Just the Official Version

Microsoft has sort of timidly started to share a couple of rather anodyne details about Windows 7, the next version of the Windows client due by the end of 2009, according to the company's Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer. Christopher Flores, Director Windows Communications even made available a video demonstration of Windows 7, but it showed only what Microsoft wanted its users to see. As such, the focus was placed exclusively on Windows 7's new multi-touch and gesture technology. But the entire video for the presentation of Windows 7 at D6 – All Things Digital features additional indications about the direction the Redmond giant is heading towards with the graphical user interface of the successor of Windows Vista.

In the video segment embedded at the bottom of this article you will be able to see Julie Larson-Green, Corporate Vice President, Windows Experience Program Management, and her full presentation of Windows 7 at the D6 – All Things Digital conference. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer are also featured in the video. Ballmer even manages to intervene at a certain point. Larson-Green's demo of Windows 7 is not intended to show anything else than the multi-touch and gesture natural user input model of the operating system.

However, a piece of the traditional desktop is still present, although evolved beyond what Vista delivered with the Windows Aero GUI. The Taskbar has been redesigned. It's by no means a complete overhaul, since the basic concept is still the same; however, the changes are notable. First off, the Start sphere button is completely separated from the rest of the area as is the tray icon in the right hand side corner. The new Windows 7 Taskbar is wider than the standard Taskbar for Windows Vista, and the new icons have also undergone an evolution.

Of course, Julie Larson-Green failed to utter a single word related to the new Windows 7 Taskbar. She only managed to say that "it’s something we’re working on Windows 7 and I’m not supposed to talk about it, not today." But, at the same time, Julie Larson-Green is responsible for the introduction of the Fluent/Ribbon graphical user interface in the Office 2007 System, so big things should be expected out of Windows 7's GUI.


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Windows 7 - the End of 2009

As much as Microsoft is trying to make the availability date for the next iteration of the Windows client ambiguous, officially pointing to a development process scoped for 2010, Windows 7 is actually dropping at the end of 2009, were we to believe Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer. In the past, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates also indicated that Windows 7 would be released in 2009. The only Microsoft top executive still on translucent barricades at this point in time and holding onto 2010 with both hands is Steven "Don't Call Me Transparent" Sinofsky, the Senior Vice President, Windows and Windows Live Engineering Group.

Here is the official position from Microsoft, a refrain that the company has played to perfection through its PR mouthpieces: "we are well into the development process of Windows 7, and we're happy to report that we're still on track to ship approximately three years after the general availability of Windows Vista. As always, we will be releasing early builds of Windows 7 prior to its general availability as a means to gain feedback, but we're not yet ready to discuss timing and specific plans for any Beta releases. In the meantime, customers can confidently continue with their Windows Vista deployment plans", revealed Christopher Flores, Director Windows Communications.

But an early 2010 date, even January, just doesn't make sense for the launch of a consumer product. Windows Vista missed the 2006 holiday season by hitting the shelves on January 30, 2007. And the move hurt not only Windows revenues but also PC sales. As of yet Microsoft's strategy for Windows 7 is to not repeat the same mistakes it has done with Vista and to deliver an evolution on the foundation provided by the current Windows client. Shipping in early 2010 would be repeating a Vista mistake.

In this context, one mistake that Microsoft is not repeating, because it simply can't afford to, is overpromise and underdeliver, as it did with Vista. This is why Sinofsky gagged all details on the Windows 7 project. And when the company did start talking it did not touch subjects such as Betas, features or delivery deadlines at all. What it did was focus on what the operating system will actually bring to the table, namely the natural user interface demonstrated at the D6 - All Things Digital, the same place where Ballmer revealed that Windows 7 would hit the shelves by the end of 2009.


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Windows 7 Is Not a Way Around Vista SP1

Despite the fact that Microsoft has released Windows Vista in two separate stages focused on entirely separate customer segments, for businesses in November 2006, and for the general public in January 2008, consumers in both target groups failed to crowd to the latest Windows client. And even if there is a general trend for adoption to pick up following the release of the first service pack, there is no guarantee that the Vista SP1 milestone will deliver sufficient proof of maturity for Vista so that uptake would get off the ground. Furthermore, the proximity of Windows XP Service Pack 3, planned to drop before mid-2008 and Windows 7, which Bill Gates stated would start popping out as early as next year, in 2009, are both delivering an impact to end users that are considering their alternatives when it comes to upgrading to Vista.

"Worldwide, businesses' reactions to Windows Vista have been mixed. Most companies are well under way with their software and hardware compatibility testing and are planning to start their deployment toward the end of this year and into 2009. Others have had to prioritize major infrastructure projects beyond the client and aren't yet convinced that Windows Vista lies in their future," revealed Benjamin Gray, Forrester Analyst.

In the April 16, 2008 - Building The Business Case For Windows Vista report, Forrester claims that Windows 7 fails to represent a way around Windows Vista Service Pack 1. This is of course valid not only for businesses but also for the end users. Considering that SP3 will do nothing for Windows XP, and that Vista's predecessor will no longer be available via the retail and OEM channels starting in mid-2008, Vista SP1 upgrades are starting to get a feeling of inevitability.

"In fact, Forrester has spoken with dozens of companies that are internally debating the possibility of skipping Windows Vista entirely and going straight to the next release, known as 'Windows 7.' Although we applaud companies for thinking ahead, there are some harsh realities for those considering skipping Windows Vista. As a result, we're recommending that most clients start the migration to Windows Vista sooner rather than later to avoid potential pitfalls," Gray added.


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Bill Gates: All Surfaces Will Be Windows Computers

Thanks to a new trend which is responsible for increasingly pointing technology in the direction of adopting natural user interfaces, Bill Gates’ initial goal for Microsoft – putting a computer on every desk in every home – is somewhat evolving. In fact, it has at this point in time transformed into efforts of integrating Windows computers into all the traditional surfaces that are currently inert, failing to represent items of focus or interaction in any manner. But this will change in the future, as Microsoft labors to introduce a Windows computer into every surface possible, be it a tabletop or a wall, and make not only the operating system but also the touch-based, gesture recognition UI, along with additional examples of natural user interfaces technology ubiquitous.

"Our view is that all the surfaces, horizontal surfaces, vertical surfaces, will eventually have an inexpensive screen display capability, and software that sees what you're doing there, so it's completely interactive. When I say everywhere, I mean the individual's office, I mean the home, the living room, all of those things. The cost of the hardware is not that great, and the quality of the software is improving substantially", Gates stated.

During his presentation at the Microsoft CEO Summit 2008, Chairman Bill Gates demonstrated the Touch Wall, a new 4-foot-by-6-foot prototype which is not a vertical equivalent of Surface, introduced in early 2007, but a new example of multi-touch user interface technology. Touch Wall is not developed by the same team that is building Microsoft Surface, but is instead a project developed through the combined efforts of Microsoft Research and Office Labs. The joint venture produced a touch-sensitive interface in a vertical surface but also the underlying software, labeled as Plex.

"Well, I always like to show something that's new, because that's kind of risky and exciting, and so what I thought I'd show is this future whiteboard, the intelligent whiteboard. So far, this display has just had the nice meeting logo, but, in fact, it's running a new piece of software. It's got some scanning cameras down here at the bottom, so whenever I go up to it and say just touch it, the software will notice that, theoretically", Gates revealed.


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Bill Gates Promises Windows 7 Will Be Less of a Resource Hog

There are but scarce details pointing the direction in which Microsoft is taking the development of Windows 7, and the operating system, for that matter. Nevertheless, if Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is to be believed, Windows 7 is going to be less of a resource hog than its predecessor, although such a comparison can only be speculated upon and was not actually stated. On May 7, 2008, one day after the Redmond company dropped Windows XP SP3 via Windows Update and the Download Center, Gates was in Tokyo, Japan, at the Windows Digital Lifestyle Consortium and he mentioned the fact that there was a focus in making Windows 7 play well with less physical system memory.

"I'm very excited about the work being done there. The ability to be lower power, take less memory, be more efficient, and have lots more connections up to the mobile phone, so those scenarios connect up well to make it a great platform for the best gaming that can be done, to connect up to the thing being done out on the Internet, so that, for example, if you have two personal computers, that your files automatically are synchronized between them, and so you don't have a lot of work to move that data back and forth," he commented.

At CES 2008, Gates refused to answer a question inquiring as to which software product he wished Microsoft had perfected more before releasing it on the market. At that time, the Microsoft co-founder only said that he would provide an answer after the next version of the Windows client becomes available. According to the latest details Gates unveiled, Microsoft will take Windows 7 where Windows Vista never managed to go, making it even greener, offering increased performance and even swallow less RAM. Of course, at the same time, the Windows 7 PC to Windows 7 PC bridging capabilities come courtesy of Live Mesh, Microsoft's recently released cloud synchronization platform.

"Obviously we'd all love it if people had more PCs per average, and so making that simple is important. Also the effort to upgrade, I think that's an area we got a lot of feedback in Vista, that we need to invest in that, and we're going to make that very, very simple for people. So Vista is doing well, and we're hard at work putting even more investment now in the version that comes after that," Gates added.


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Three Cups of Tea a Day Protect Women – But Not Men

Tea has been proven to protect women against heart attacks and strokes. Tea is not exactly the kind of thing you'd expect to show gender disparity – however, the latest research indicated that the millennia-old drink of mixed hot water and herbs has a documented tendency of proving more beneficial for women than for men - at least when it comes to its documented property of helping prevent heart attacks and strokes by fighting against the development of plaque in the arteries.

During a recent study, French researchers examined 2,613 men and 3,984 women with an average age of 73 and concluded that one third of the women who drank upwards of three cups of tea a day had plaques in their neck arteries. For the women who didn't drink tea, the number of subjects who had dangerous build-ups of fat and cholesterol in their arteries was around 50%. However, the same study, conducted by the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, based in Paris and Lille proved that the men who drank tea regularly didn't reap the same health benefits as the ladies.

The beneficial effects of the tea were even felt by women with high blood pressure. There's no explanation as to why men gain no protection as a result of regular tea consumption, but it is believed that there might be some complementary connection between tea and estrogen, the female hormone which (among many other things) protects women against heart problems.

"Findings in dietary studies are often confounded by other factors such as presence of disease in those taking part and other lifestyle behaviors. However, in this study, findings did not depend on whether the women were smoking or not, whether or not they took hormone replacement therapy and whether or not they suffered from vascular disease", stated Dr. Catherine Hood, a member of the Tea Advisory Panel in Britain, the world's largest per-capita consumer of tea, averaging about 3.5 to 4.0 cups per day. "No significant interaction was found with level of education, or fruit and vegetable intake", she added. So, ladies, what are we waiting for – put the kettle on and enjoy the benefits of a delicious cup of tea.


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