Sat, Oct 14, 2006 - Page 16 News List

Are you ready forVista?

By Jay Dougherty  /  DPA , WASHINGTON

Top: It remains to be seen whether Vista will represent a new era for computing or be the last great push of the current epoch.
Above: The gaming interface for Vista, a new version of Microsof's Windows.

PHOTO: NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Microsoft promises that its next-generation operating system, Windows Vista, will be out early next year for consumers.

If you believe the pundits, this will be an operating system that individuals and businesses will find hard to resist. It combines improvements in security, searching, multimedia handling, networking, digital rights management, and much more. But will your hardware, software, and bank account be compatible with the new operating system? Read on to find out.

Q: Will I need a new computer to run Windows Vista?

A: If your computer was made in the last two years, chances are Windows Vista will run just fine on what you have.

The primary components of your computer that Vista is particularly hard on are graphics and memory. In the graphics department, you’ll want a video card that sports at least 128MB of memory in order to take full advantage of the slick, new Aero interface, which boasts plenty of 3D elements and other eye candy. But without sufficient memory, Aero will be disabled by default.

Performance of Vista is highly dependent upon how much memory you have in your PC. For Vista, consider 1GB of RAM to be a realistic minimum if you want to run the operating system with all of the Aero visual enhancements enabled and have two or three applications open at the same time. Vista can bog down to an intolerably slow pace without enough RAM. Two gigabytes of RAM would be preferable.

Q: Will I run into software incompatibility issues with Vista?

A: The short answer is yes. With the latest release candidate of Vista — representing code that is pretty close to final — some applications, notably security and communications software, simply do not work and will require updates or upgrades to be compatible.

In fact, lots of applications will have to be updated, even if in minor ways, to be compatible with Vista. Although the majority of today’s recent-vintage Windows-based software programs work under Vista, it’s not uncommon to find small glitches with many programs.

The good news is that Vista comes with a compatibility mode, as did previous versions of Windows. In theory, this allows you to run most Windows-based programs, even if they weren’t designed for a recent version of the operating system. You’ll have to wade through some special configuration steps to get compatibility mode working for each application, however.

Q: How much will Vista cost?

A: That will depend in part upon which edition of Vista you buy. Windows Vista will be released in four versions: Home Basic, Home Premium, Vista Business, and Vista Ultimate.

The Home Basic version will retail for US$199, while the Home Premium version will cost US$239. The Business version is to cost US$299, while the Vista Ultimate will run to US$399.

Upgrade versions — intended for those who have a licensed copy of an existing Microsoft operating system — will be priced lower. For Home Basic, expect to pay US$99, while Home Premium will be US$159. Business Vista will cost US$199, and Vista Ultimate will be US$259 for upgraders.

Q: What differentiates the various editions of Vista?

A: The Home Basic version will not include the vaunted Aero interface enhancements. It’s meant for lower-powered machines. Home Premium has Aero and most features of the high-end Business version except some of the networking functionality required to interact with some office networks. Vista Ultimate is the top-of-the-line version, including all features of less expensive versions plus the ability to work fully with office networks. It also includes the Remote Desktop feature found in Windows XP Professional. Vista Ultimate is the version that most people who use their computer for both home and office work will want.

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