Saturday, December 08, 2007

Vista SP1 - More Technical Details Emerge

More Vista SP1 technical details come forth!

I read the Microsoft Windows Vista Service Pack 1 Beta Overview white paper Dwight Silverman recently linked to and found it a good (light) overview of the major changes coming in Vista SP1.

TechBlog: Windows Vista SP1 Release Candidate goes to testers

But sometimes you want steak and not ground beef.

Fortunately for the techies and IT crowd, Microsoft is now serving porterhouse: Windows Vista SP1 Guides for IT Professionals. These include the following (in .doc formats):

  • Deployment Guide for the RC1 Version of Windows Vista SP1
  • Enterprise Guidance for Application Compatibility Testing and Windows Vista SP1
  • Hotfixes and Security Updates in Windows Vista SP1
  • Notable Changes in Windows Vista SP1 Release Candidate
  • Overview of Windows Vista SP1

Microsoft watchdog Long Zheng has already done a lot of reading on these (Microsoft publishes detailed Vista SP1 "changelog") and has shared his highlights.

Of the long list Long Zheng provided, these stand out to me (edited down and bolded for emphasis):

Hardware Ecosystem Support and Enhancements

  • Adds support for new UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) industry standard PC firmware for 64-bit systems with functional parity with legacy BIOS firmware, which allows Windows Vista SP1 to install to GPT format disks, boot and resume from hibernate using UEFI firmware.
  • Adds support for exFAT, a new file system supporting larger overall capacity and larger files, which will be used in Flash memory storage and consumer devices.
  • Adds support for creating a single DVD media that boots on PCs with either BIOS or EFI.
  • Enhances support for high density drives by adding new icons and labels that will identify HD-DVD and Blu-ray Drives as high density drives.
  • Adds support to enable new types of Windows Media Center Extenders, such as digital televisions and networked DVD players, to connect to Windows Media Center PCs.
  • Enhances the MPEG-2 decoder to support content protection across a user accessible bus on Media Center systems configured with Digital Cable Tuner hardware. This also effectively enables higher levels of hardware decoder acceleration for commercial DVD playback on some hardware.

Reliability Improvements

Reliability improvements vary from PC to PC based on hardware, environment, and usage. Customers will experience varying levels of benefit.

  • Improves reliability by preventing data-loss while ejecting NTFS-formatted removable-media.
  • Improves Windows Vista's built-in file backup solution to include EFS encrypted files in the backup.
  • An improved SRT (Startup Repair Tool), which is part of the Windows Recovery environment (WinRE), can now fix PCs unbootable due to certain missing OS files.

Performance and Power Consumption Improvements

Performance improvements vary from PC to PC based on hardware, environment, scenarios, and usage, so different customers will experience varying levels of benefits. About 20-25% of these improvements will be released separately via Windows update, prior to Windows Vista SP1.

  • Improves the performance of browsing network file shares by consuming less bandwidth.
  • Improves the speed of adding and extracting files to and from a compressed (zipped) folder.
  • Significantly improves the speed of moving a directory with many files underneath.
  • Improves performance while copying files using BITS (Background Intelligent Transfer Service).
  • Improves performance over Windows Vista's current performance across the following scenarios: 25% faster when copying files locally on the same disk on the same machine, 45% faster when copying files from a remote non-Windows Vista system to a SP1 system, 50% faster when copying files from a remote SP1 system to a local SP1 system
  • Improves responsiveness when doing many kinds of file or media manipulations. For example, with Windows Vista today, copying files after deleting a different set of files can make the copy operation take longer than needed. In SP1, the file copy time is the same as if no files were initially deleted.
  • Improves the copy progress estimation when copying files within Windows Explorer to about two seconds.
  • Improves the time to read large images by approximately 50%.
  • Improves the effectiveness of a Windows ReadyBoost™ device in reducing the time to resume from standby and hibernate by increasing the amount of data stored in the ReadyBoost device that can be used during a resume cycle.
  • In SP1, PC administrators are able to modify the network throttling index value for the MMCSS (Multimedia Class Scheduling Service), allowing them to determine the appropriate balance between network performance and audio/video playback quality.
  • The Windows Vista SP1 install process clears the user-specific data that is used by Windows to optimize performance, which may make the system feel less responsive immediately after install. As the customer uses their SP1 PC, the system will be retrained over the course of a few hours or days and will return to the previous level of responsiveness.

Security Improvements

  • Service Pack 1 includes supported APIs by which third-party security and malicious software detection applications can work alongside Kernel Patch Protection on 64-bit versions of Windows Vista. These APIs have been designed to help security and non-security ISVs develop software that extends the functionality of the Windows kernel on 64-bit systems, in a documented and supported manner, and without disabling or weakening the protection offered by Kernel Patch Protection.
  • For customers upgrading from Windows XP to Windows Vista SP1, the MSRT (Malicious Software Removal Tool) will not run as part of the upgrade. Rather the up-to-date MSRT offered monthly by Windows Update will help protect PCs. The cryptographic random number generation is improved to gather seed entropy from more sources, including a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) when available, and replaces the general purpose pseudo-random number generator (PRNG) with an AES-256 counter mode PRNG for both user and kernel mode.
  • Enhanced the BitLocker encryption support to volumes other than bootable volumes in Windows Vista (for Enterprise and Ultimate SKUs).
  • Enables a standard user to invoke the CompletePC Backup application, provided that user can supply administrator credentials. Previously, only administrators could launch the application.
  • The Remote Desktop client in Windows Vista SP1 provides user interface improvements for user and server authentication. The RDP client streamlines the multiple steps end users must follow to providing their credentials to Windows Server 2003 (or earlier) Terminal Servers, and simplifies the management of previously saved credentials.

Support for New Technologies and Standards

  • Adds full support for the latest IEEE draft of 802.11n wireless networking.
  • Enhances Windows Firewall and IPsec to use the new cryptographic algorithms that are Suite B compliant.
  • Allows users and administrators to control which volumes the disk defragmenter runs on.
  • Allows users and administrators using Network Diagnostics to solve the most common file sharing problems, not just network connection problems.
  • Windows Vista SP1 includes a new Security Policy (UAC: Allow UAccess), which allows applications to prompt for elevation without using the secure desktop. This allows a remote helper to enter administrative credentials during a Remote Assistance session.
  • Enables support for hotpatching, a reboot-reduction servicing technology designed to maximize uptime. It works by allowing Windows components to be updated (or "patched") while they are still in use by a running process. Hotpatch-enabled update packages are installed via the same methods as traditional update packages, and will not trigger a system reboot.
  • Improves OS deployment by enabling 64-bit versions of Windows Vista to be installed from a 32-bit OS. This will allow IT professionals to maintain just a single WinPE image.
  • Improves patch deployment by retrying failed updates in cases where multiple updates are pending and the failure of one update causes other updates to fail as well.
  • Enables reliable OS installation by optimizing OS installers so that they are run only when required during patch installation. Fewer installers operating results in fewer points of potential failure during installation, which leads to more robust and reliable installation.
  • With SP1, Windows Vista will report the amount of system memory installed rather than report the amount of system memory available to the OS. Therefore 32-bit systems equipped with 4GB of RAM will report all 4BG in many places throughout the OS, such as the System Control Panel. However, this behavior is dependent on having a compatible BIOS, so not all users may notice this change.
  • SP1 reduces the number of UAC (User Account Control) prompts from 4 to 1 when creating or renaming a folder at a protected location.
  • SP1 modifies the text in the Ultimate Extras Control Panel to describe the Ultimate Extras program in more general terms.
  • Users are now required to enter a password hint during the initial setup of Windows Vista SP1. This change was made based on feedback from top PC manufactures that many customers frequently do not remember their password and because the administrator account is turned off by default on Windows Vista, these users do not have a way to access to their PCs. A password hint helps avoid this frustrating scenario.
  • While not reflected in the initial release candidate this week, we will also be making changes effective with SP1 in how we differentiate the experience customers have using non-genuine versions of our software. This is based on feedback we heard from volume license customers in particular as part of our Windows Genuine Advantage program.
  • Also coming with SP1 but not in the current release candidate, we will also be including updates that deal with two exploits we have seen, which can affect system stability for our customers. The OEM Bios exploit, which involves modifying system files and the BIOS of the motherboard to mimic a type of product activation performed on copies of Windows that are pre-installed by OEMs in the factory. The Grace Timer exploit, which attempts to reset the "grace time" limit between installation and activation to something like the year 2099 in some cases.

Yep. I like Vista and a number of these give me reason to remain hopeful that SP1 for Vista will just enhance those groovy feelings.

--Claus

3 comments:

The Guru said...

Well, this should be interesting. I would like to have seen the ability for UAC to 'remember' my choices (or is that in this long list of new and exciting features?

Anonymous said...

Oh boy! More DRM goodness!

Rob Moir said...

SP1 reduces the number of UAC (User Account Control) prompts from 4 to 1 when creating or renaming a folder at a protected location.

Hmmm I remember bugging this during the beta and being told there was nothing wrong and this behaviour was "by design". I had some very unkind comments about the designer at that point.

Glad to see it fixed. You know I've got a very different opinion of Vista than you, but I think everyone can agree there are some real improvements in SP1 which is what we need to see right now.