Was it Worth the Wait?

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print

Can Vista SP1 rekindle the upgrade flame? eWEEK’s Channel Labs takes a look at what SP1 means for the channel and those that will profit or lose from the upgrade process.

The result seemed rather anti-climatic after all of the waiting; we did not notice anything different on our system, and nothing screamed out that we were now running SP1. At the very least, we were hoping for noticeable improvements in speed or performance, but for the day-to-day tasks of startup, shutdown and launching applications, there was no discernable difference.

But, when we started to play with the "now working" sleep mode on our Toshiba Portege, we were pleasantly surprised. Not only did sleep mode now work, it worked rather quickly--we were able to put the system to sleep and then wake it up in a flash.

While that may be ultra important for notebook users, there is another advantage that the sleep mode improvements offers--that is for those looking to "green" their IT environments. With the improved reliability and performance of sleep mode, desktop PCs across the world can be set up to automatically sleep and wake up as needed. That could prove to be a noticeable savings in electrical costs for many businesses.

Another improvement that should benefit enterprise users is the increased file copy performance, at least for those who routinely move large amounts of data around. We tested those enhancements by copying both large files and batches of small files around, both locally and to our network connection. Overall, we saw an improvement of around 20 percent, not so noticeable if your copying a 2MB file, but very noticeable if your moving a GB of data around.

Microsoft also claimed that compression and decompression operation performance was improved; we copied some files in and out of compressed folders and noticed a definite improvement. Before our upgrade, a selection of files totaling about 200MB took close to three minutes; after applying SP1, that time dropped to about two minutes.

So, are those enhancements worth going out of your way to manually install SP1? After all, SP1 will be pushed out via Windows Update automatically, so the short answer is no, but with a but. That but comes in the form of application compatibility.

Vista SP1 offers enhanced compatibility with legacy applications. For example, we have worked with some applications, such as Corel WordPerfect Office 8 and the initial release of WordPerect Office X3, that behaved strangely under Vista, and had to be used in Windows 98 or XP compatibility mode. Those applications seem to work under Vista SP1 natively.

The other improvement comes in the form of more drivers, a boon to the upgrader! We installed Vista SP1 to a few other systems that we had struggled with in the past due to drivers--a SuperMicro quad-core workstation and an AveraTec 3200 series notebook computer. Both of those systems benefited from the increased driver support offered by SP1, drivers for the integrated sound cards and other features included in the service pack--making life a little easier for upgraders.

One area that we were disappointed with was the overall end-user experience. Microsoft did not take away many of the annoyances that users have complained about since day one, such as excessive prompts for permissions, overbearing security prompts and so on.

So our short take on Vista SP1 is that it does solve some problems and it does make Vista a little easier to install, but overall, it won't be the panacea that Microsoft needs to get users to move off of XP and it won't fuel a mass demand for Vista users to add SP1, especially since Microsoft will be pushing it out automatically.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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