Windows Vista SP1 RC1, Server 2008 Nov. CTP Released to Testers

Microsoft [[MSFT]] has just released another version of its most-eagerly anticipated Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista, labeled as Release Candidate 1; along with another build of Windows Server 2008: the November CTP. Both releases are available to official testers from Microsoft Connect.

This is the third SP1 release made “available” to the public, starting with the leaked build back in August, followed closely by the first official release of Windows Vista SP1 beta in September.

Vista SP1 RC1 (build tag: 6001-17042-071107-1618) has been available as both an slip-streamed ISO image and a standalone upgrade utility. The slip-streamed ISO image is available in either English or Japanese, while the upgrade utility supports the five main Windows Vista localizations (Arabic, English, French, German, and Japanese).

The Windows Server 2008 November CTP (build tag: 6001-17042-071107-1618) is only available as an ISO in English in multiple flavors (Web Server & Standard Edition) for multiple platforms (x86, x64, and IA64).

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EasyBCD 1.7 Released & Up for Download!

 Go and grab yourself a fresh, hot, right-out-of-the-compiler copy of EasyBCD 1.7 before your old bootloader realizes what hit it! Another release of EasyBCD is now available after months of beta testing and – in true NeoSmart fashion – brings dozens of new features and innovative ideas to the table; this time with even more versatility than ever.

Yes, there was a name change. Those of you keeping track of our beta builds are almost certainly wondering what happened to EasyBCD 1.61. To be totally honest here, it was supposed to be released 4 months ago – soon after the 1.6 release back in May. But we got caught up adding a couple of tiny features here and there, and before we knew it, we had a full-blown new version at our hands and not knowing what to do with it – so it’s just shipped as EasyBCD 1.7.

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How-To: Changing the Windows Vista Startup Sound

Of the many controversies surrounding Windows Vista, probably the most infamous (and pathetic) issues brought to the table is the Windows Vista Startup sound – and how to get rid of it. If  you were anywhere but under a rock during the beta, it’s impossible to have missed the posts going back and forth by haters and supporters of Windows Vista’s new startup sound – which, like almost everything else in Windows Vista, doesn’t even always work.

This sound isn’t the one you get on startup (which is still there, just like in previous versions of Windows), but rather the one that plays right when Windows finishes loading – and you can’t do a thing about it. In our opinion, it’s a quite nice sound, but unfortunately you don’t get to hear it (most of the time) if you have a analog/digital sound card with analog being the default. At any rate, for those of you that don’t like it, chin up: it can be changed!

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Vista SP1 (Beta) and ATi Drivers: Not a Great Mix

Continuing our line of Vista SP1 stories, we’ve been testing the leaked version of Windows Vista SP1 and have some interesting results with regards to the WDDM layer.

Since Vista RTM, one of the biggest sources of consternation and BSODs on Windows has been the graphics drivers. From ATi to nVidia, hardware manufacturers were very late in the game, not producing final drivers until January and February (3-4 months after the official release); and even then, their quality was definitely sub-par with what we’d come to expect with Windows Vista.

Perhaps we’re being unduly harsh here – after all, Windows NT driver developers had had over a decade of testing and real-world experience with the NT graphics driver subsystem, and here they were, required to learn anew everything from writing the drivers to getting them to work with Vista’s new (and stringent) driver protocols and more. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that driver-development teams at both nVidia and ATi just weren’t up to scratch.

Since then, bug reports have diminished as the list of issues and incompatibilities slowly were slowly vanquished, one by one – with nVidia undeniably in the lead. nVidia’s lead in driver reliability has grown even further with SP1: the same ATi drivers that were working just fine under RTM with the same hardware (and running the same games) are now BSODing under Windows Vista SP1.

Obviously no one is to blame here – not yet, anyway. Windows Vista SP1 isn’t even in beta yet (though it certainly isn’t alpha!), and ATi’s drivers weren’t intended for use with anything other than Vista RTM and its immediate updates. It’s quite simple, actually: if you’re a gamer using ATi and interested in checking out SP1, think twice before you act. And remember, forewarned is forearmed.

Thoughts on Windows Vista SP1

As we’ve previously covered, a pre-beta build of Windows Vista SP1 has been leaked to the internet recently, and we’ve been busy checking it out. You’ll be glad to hear that, so far, we like what we see.

Rather than mucking through paragraphs of text and observations, here are some quick and to-the-point tidbits about what seems to have been improved so far:

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Windows Vista SP1 and Windows XP SP3 Betas Leaked: A Bad Week for Microsoft?

It’s probably very safe to say that Microsoft’s [[MSFT]] two upcoming service packs are the most eagerly-awaited products due to ship out of Microsoft’s camp anytime soon, at least as far as most end-users are concerned..

Windows XP SP3 has been through the (rumor) mill for a couple of years of now, with enough fake leaks and “this-is-what-it’s-going-to-be” downloads plaguing the net for quite a long time. Most people looking forward to Windows XP SP3 are hoping to get that last bit of performance boost and maybe a reliability update or two – and to resolve a couple of outstanding issues that have been patched but never officially released; addressing some software issues, chronic bugs, and hidden nasties. But, for the most part, Windows XP SP3 is intended to wrap those hundreds of patches, hotfixes, and security releases that have been released since Windows XP SP2 first made it’s (much-welcomed) presence known on August 6th, 2004.

Windows Vista SP1, though, is – without a doubt – what’s on everyone’s minds today. Ever since the fiasco (a.k.a. Vista RTM) that was pre-maturely (yet after much delay) released on November 8th, 2006; Windows Vista has been plagued with endless issues from terrible hibernation support, FireWire issues, HD-Audio problems, unexpected crashes and reboots, incredibly slow I/O and LAN activity, buggy UAC, and a lot, lot more.

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Bootsect.exe Modifies the Bootsector Not the MBR!!

We’ve noticed a lot of people posting questions both in our support forums and in the Windows Vista newsgroups having issues getting bootsect.exe to do their bidding. Bootsect.exe is a command-line utility that ships on the Windows Vista DVD intended to repair a non-booting Windows Vista install – except it doesn’t always seem to work.

The problem that most people seem to be having can be traced back to single, simple fact: bootsect.exe does not modify the MBR: it only fixes/repairs the bootsector of your Windows Vista partition. The MBR is like a “global bootsector” that tells the BIOS where in the hard-drive it should look for a bootloader. The bootsector, on the other hand, is like a partition-dependant MBR – each operating system can have its own bootsector to tell your system how to boot it.

The source of all this confusion is that during the Longhorn/Vista beta program, quite a number of builds were shipped with a version of bootsect.exe (originally dubbed `fixntfs.exe`) that modified both the MBR and the bootsector.

However, in the Windows Vista RTM build and Longhorn Server builds following that, bootsect.exe is a command-line utility used to repair the bootsector and only the bootsector – it won’t get your MBR to use the Vista BCD/Bootmgr. In order to do that, you’ll have to boot from the Vista DVD | Repair Options | Command Prompt.

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iReboot 1.0 Released

NeoSmart Technologies is proud to announce the release of iReboot 1.0 – our first “helper app” for EasyBCD. iReboot is a minimalistic (taking up only 400KB of memory!) taskbar utility that lets you intelligently choose which operating system you’d like to reboot into.

iReboot interfaces with the Vista BCD (so the Vista bootloader is a requirement) and sets the operating system your PC will boot into the next time you restart. Instead of pressing Start | Shutdown | Restart and waiting 10 minutes for Windows to shutdown, your BIOS to post, then racing to select the right operating system from the bootloader before it times out; you just install iReboot, right-click your taskbar and pick the OS you want to boot into – then go out, get a cup of coffee, come back and find it already there.

iReboot, like all other NeoSmart Technologies’ projects and services, is freeware. If you’d like to donate to ensure continued development and help us cover our mounting expenses, please do so (the donation tracker is right there in the sidebar).

And, without further ado, the download link:

Download iReboot 1.0

[support] [beta thread]

How to: Install the Vista Bootloader on Windows XP

Ever since Windows Vista came out, a lot of hype has been going around the new bootloader. That’s the hype that drove us to create EasyBCD, and that’s the same hype that’s been driving people to ask all around the web: “Is it possible to install the new Windows Vista bootloader on a non-Vista machine? Can I get XP to use the new Vista bootloader? How can I install the Vista bootloader on my XP-only machine?”

First, a disclaimer: In order to use the Vista bootloader, you’ll need some licensed Vista files. The only legal way to get these is by already having Windows Vista legally installed on another machine and grabbing the files from there. Kapish? Second, the answer: Of course you can. And here’s how!

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Windows Vista’s Gamma Table Bug

Windows Vista has a new color-management/profiling format called Windows Color Systems. It purports to offer advanced color management and better results than the age-old (and forever dying) ICC/ICM color system. ICC has been buggy the whole way, with both political and technical issues plaguing its colorful history.

Windows Color Systems is a step in the right direction, but it comes at a very heavy price: Windows Vista no longer properly interfaces with ICC/ICM color profiles!

Anyone using the ATi Catalyst Control Center, BasicColor, ColorEye, Spyder, or any of dozen other color-management and gamma-correction programs available will have noticed the bug we’re talking about: once you lock your PC (winkey+L) the gamma LUT on your graphics card is reset.

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