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It’s been a long and winding road, but the Microsoft Windows Vista release that’s been floating vaguely in the near future (for years now) finally appears to be close at hand.

First, though, comes what eWEEK Labs hopes to be the last in an extended line of next-generation Windows client test builds: 5744, also known as Vista Release Candidate 2.

eWEEK Labs somewhat wistfully loaded up this release on our test rig, which is outfitted with an Intel Pentium 4 processor, 1GB of RAM and—so that we may dip our cup in the waters of Aero Glass—a beefy Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra graphics card.

We noted that our RC2 installation process ran somewhat slower than some past installs we’d undertaken (about 50 minutes).

This may have been because we did a clean install but opted not to wipe our partition clean. Rather, we allowed Vista’s installer to move our previous installation, Build 5728, to a windows.old directory so that we could still access files from that incarnation.

That said, we saw very little difference in RC2 as compared with the last builds we tested, 5600 and 5728. These earlier builds delivered peppy performance, and our experience with 5744 was much the same.

As with previous builds, we installed the Trend Micro Vista Antivirus Beta that the system’s Security Center suggested as a salve for the lack of security add-on software it discovered.

What is the business case for upgrading to Vista? Click here to read more.

We forgot that in past tests the Trend Micro software replaced the Vista firewall, a swap we didn’t want and one that prompted us to uninstall the anti-virus software.

This time, however, Vista blocked the firewall swap itself, reporting that the Trend Micro firewall was unsupported and that, as a result, Vista would keep its own firewall running.

As part of our run-through, we tried out the New York Times’ new reader application, which is the first non-demo application we’ve seen that uses Vista’s new Windows Presentation Framework (once known as Avalon).

We found the reader rather slick, and, fortunately, the app supports Windows XP in addition to Vista.

Advanced Technologies Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at

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