Saturday, November 18, 2006

Windows Vista - Features Under the Hood

Windows Vista introduces some promising new features that aim to take desktop computing to the next level. Apart from all the eye-candy that is provided by the new Aero interface, gadgets and flip effects, there are some pretty neat features on offer under the hood. Some of these add improvements to the performance, security and productivity of the system.

Below are some of the features that I am really looking forward to in Vista.

Memory is usually one of the bottlenecks that affects system performance. As applications and background processes like anti-virus scans and drive indexing run concurrently, processor cycles and memory space are increasingly consumed. The result can be a drastic degradation in system performance. It would be great if memory could be added on the fly, providing extra space to ease the burden. Vista's ReadyBoost does just that.

With ReadyBoost, a USB memory drive with at least 512 MB of space can be plugged into the system and used by Vista as memory. The drive can be plugged out at any time without affecting or corrupting the system. Even more, all data on the drive is encrypted and hence is of no use to a malicious attack. With 2GB+ memory drives available today, this seems like a very promising technology.

Security of data is a primary concern these days to businesses and individuals alike. Regular reports of data theft, especially from notebook computers being stolen fuels our concerns. BitLocker is a technology that adds real-time data encryption to the Operating System volume. Hence lost or decommissioned computers are protected from data theft.

BitLocker which is available in the higher-end versions of Vista has some system prerequisites. A TPM (Trusted Platform Module), a cryptographic hardware chip needs to be present in the system. In the absence of a TPM, a USB stick that contains a startup key must be inserted at boot time.

Another new feature that exploits the latest developments in hardware is ReadyDrive. ReadyDrive makes use of hybrid hard drives, the latest hard drives that integrate non-volatile flash memory with traditional drives. This helps Windows to boot faster, resume from hibernation quicker and save on battery power. Finally the long wait for the boot process will be rather short!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

100% CPU!

I have been doing some heavy-duty image processing on my computer at work this morning and it's pushing my machine to the max! Looking at the performance graph, I was amazed to see my CPU crunching away going steadily at 100%. Looks like it's time to convince my boss to get me one of those shiny new quad-core chips from Intel...