Nov 07 2008

Five Things You May Not Know About Vista

Workarounds can help you adjust to the new OS.

By now, the list of new features in Microsoft Windows Vista should be familiar to most federal IT chiefs, but there are many small changes that are less well known. Some are new to Service Pack 1 and some are present in the release to manufacturing, but many are overlooked and a few still undocumented. Here are five areas you should explore:

ONE: Dive in and learn all the little changes.

The big changes to the user interface in Vista are obvious, but there are small changes in which settings have been renamed or moved — often for no apparent reason. Here’s an example: In Windows XP, you can find the version of an executable (.exe) file by opening Windows Explorer, right-clicking on the file and selecting Properties, then choosing the Version tab — the second of five tabs displayed. In Vista, this tab is called Details and is the fourth, not second, tab. Why? Bottom line is, you’ll need to spend some time learning new ways to perform familiar tasks (granted, some of these new ways are better than the old). And if some settings seem to be missing in Vista, check around — they may have been simply moved or renamed.

TWO: Study the Vista editions.

With the expanded slate of editions for Vista, some features you think will work may not. An example is Services For Unix (SFU) 3.5, which you could download and install on any Windows XP Professional computer — great for administering mixed environments from a workstation. Vista’s version of this, called Subsystem for UNIX-based
Applications (SUA), can be installed only on Vista Enterprise or Ultimate editions, not Vista Business. Check carefully what each edition does and doesn’t support before committing to one particular edition for your environment.

THREE: Log on manually to a specific domain.

Before Vista, if there were two or more Active Directory domains in your forest, or your forest had a trust set up with another forest, you could use a drop-down list to select a domain when pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del to log on. In Vista, however, this drop-down list of domains is gone. That means you must type in either domainname\username or a UPN name (for example, in order to log on to a specific domain.

FOUR: Open a command prompt at a specific directory.

In XP, when you open a command-prompt window, it opens at the current directory whether or not you use RunAs. In Vista, if you right-click on a shortcut to cmd .exe and select Run As Administrator, it opens at c:\windows\system32. There’s a workaround, however: If you want to open an admin-level command prompt to a specific directory (say, d:\somefolder) you can create a shortcut on your desktop to c:\windows\system32\cmd.exe /k “cd /d d:\somefolder” and then right-click on it and select Run As Administrator.

FIVE: Launch a program from the command prompt.

In Windows XP, you could drag and drop a shortcut for a program into a command-prompt window, then hit Enter to start the program. This meant you could use the RunAs command to launch a command prompt with administrator credentials, then use this trick to launch various programs as an administrator while still logged on as an ordinary user. All this could be done without having to type the full path to the application. Unfortunately, this no longer works in Vista. The workaround is to hold down the Shift key while you right-click on the shortcut and select Copy As Path, then paste the path into your command-prompt window.