My Days with Longhorn

So, with WinHEC coming to a close, the biggest talk was of course the newest release of Microsoft (R) Windows (R) Codename Longhorn, now at build 5048. With nearly one year since the previous release (build 4074) build 5048 sports some new features and lacks some others. Recently, the talk was centered around the lack of WinFS, the new futuristic Windows File system. However, we’ll get to all that a little later.The whole install was simple enough, I started it while I was in Windows XP. It was simple enough, it asked for the basic things, and it was on it’s way. It rebooted around half-way through and booted into a Windows Pre-Installation Enviornment to finsh. The process was extremely simple and very efficent, a child could have completed it. I then booted into the OS to experience, what I had thought, would be a driver war zone. However, infact, the driver database turned out to be pretty good. My wireless (Broadcom 802.11g) wasn’t recognized but was available on my Windows Restore disk, same with my modem, and my Display Drivers (ATi Mobility Radeon 9600) were available on Infact, Longhorn recognized more hardware then either Windows XP or Windows XP x64 in a ‘stock’ install.

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Now, after the driver showdown was completed, and I rebooted, I found Windows Longhorn to be by far, much more stable and fast then I had expected. My biggest fear was that I was using the bare minimum of system ram (256mb) and that I would experience a world of BSOD. It was completely opposite. I’ve been running 5048 for about 2 days now, and I’ve found little slow down when really hammering the system.

By far the best feature I’ve seen in Longhorn so far is the new refined Search sans WinFS. Although it’s common knowledge that WinFS has now been removed from Longhorn there are still minor tweaks to Search that allow you to instantly Search a section, such as My Pictures or even the Start Menu, for the file or program you need, instantly weeding out other search results. While obviously one could attribute new refinements to desktop search to Apple’s efforts with Spotlight, Microsoft has implemented a flawless search technology.

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There are also very minor changes to the Operating System as well, like the new Aero Style that really change the feel of the OS. Simple additions like ‘glowing’ choices for ‘maximizing’ or ‘closing’ a window. The simple glass effects in the Start menu, and the new icons are also quite pretty. Also, the new folder views and My Computer setup make everything a bit more accessable.

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Intrestingly enough, the sidebar that was originally in Longhorn, has since been removed and the common memory leak in some of the early leaked builds of Longhorn, i.e. 4051 and 4015 is totally gone. Also, Longhorn is built upon Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, which in turn is based on Windows XP Service Pack 2, so you’ll notice some of the features like the firewall and the new Windows Security Center are common to Longhorn and Windows XP. Many things still remained unchanged, such as Internet Explorer 6 and Outlook Express which haven’t seen an upgrade in a long time.

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Of course, I can’t like everything can I? Well, no, Longhorn does have it’s short comings, however Longhorn does have the advantage that, it truly shouldn’t be judged in a pre-beta stage. The text in some the icons is a bit jagged, and unfortunately DCE, the Desktop Composition Engine, couldn’t be started on my hardware, so I couldn’t experience all the visual effects expected in Longhorn final.

Also, there are very small things which could tend to annoy you. Occasionally an icon looks like it’s been stretched too big just minor glitches which are normal in a pre-beta enviornment. However, having used Longhorn for a few days now, I have to admit that Apple, needs to be worried. Longhorn doesn’t even have a name yet, but it’s by far the most promising thing to come out of Redmond in quite a while. With the release of build 5048 the bar has been raised, and so have my expectations of Beta 1 and beyond of this remarkable Operating System.

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