[AI] Windows Vista’s best-kept secrets

vishnu ramchandani vishnuhappy at yahoo.com
Mon Jul 2 22:58:51 EDT 2007


Windows Vista’s best-kept secrets

DPA 

WASHINGTON: Listen to the buzz about Windows Vista,
and you’ll hear plenty of talk of improved security
and semi-transparent Aero interface. What you won’t
hear much about are the less glamorous improvements in
Vista that can make your daily life with the computer
easier and more fun.

Yet it’s really the many small improvements that add
up to an operating system that’s worth owning. Once
you get Vista, you’ll likely be wowed by the
interface.
But over time, the following enhancements may mean
even more.

Vista likes system memory (RAM), and lots of it. While
there’s good reason to bemoan the fact that Vista may
make you open your wallet to acquire more RAM
for your PC, there’s an unheralded feature of Vista
that can help notebook users and others who have
already maxed out the memory in a notebook or desktop
PC.

The feature is ReadyBoost — a moniker for a new
technology that allows Vista to take advantage of the
memory in ubiquitous and inexpensive USB flash drives
to enhance overall system performance.

When Vista detects that a ReadyBoost-compatible flash
drive has been plugged into a USB port on the
computer, the ReadyBoost feature asks you whether it
can use the memory available in the flash drive to
enhance the memory already in the PC. ReadyBoost uses
the flash drive as supplemental cache memory.
Typically, Vista and other Windows operating systems
use what’s called virtual memory, a portion of the
hard drive that’s set aside to swap in and out
parts of code of running applications in order to make
room for other code.

This swapping activity can slow overall system
performance. ReadyBoost employs the much faster access
times available with the non-volatile memory in flash
drives to take some strain off of the hard drive. The
result: improved performance through less thrashing of
the hard drive.

The beauty of ReadyBoost is the fact that no data is
lost if you remove the flash drive in the middle of
your Vista session. ReadyBoost is smart enough
to write two copies of all cached data.

With 1 GB flash drives costing as little as 15 dollars
on the internet, ReadyBoost provides a quick,
cost-efficient way to get more performance out of your
PC.

Want to make someone looking over your shoulder at the
new Vista operating system say “wow”? Use the new
Flip3D task switcher to move from one application
to another.

Task switching used to be pretty pedestrian in
Windows. You held down the Alt key and then tapped the
Tab key to switch among applications, or you clicked
a minimised icon on the Windows task bar.

There were problems with both approaches, though, as
most veteran Windows users know. The tiny icons you
see when Alt-Tabbing your way through applications
can be hard to decipher. And taskbars can get
cluttered easily by dozens of open windows, making it
hard to find the running application you need. Flip3D
comes to the rescue. 
Click the Flip3D button on the Vista taskbar and your
entire screen morphs into a cascading,
three-dimensional, tiled display of all running
applications.

This display consists of large thumbnails of what’s
current running on your computer, complete with the
contents of the applications displayed for easy
identification.  You can use the arrow keys to flip
through your applications, bringing the desired one to
the front of the stack.

There’s another way to access Flip 3D. You can also
hold down the Windows key on your keyboard and tap the
Tab key. Continually tapping Tab while holding
down the Windows key will cycle you through the open
applications. Releasing the keys causes the program
displayed on top of the stack of running programs
to be displayed full screen.

Windows XP was woefully inadequate when it came to
working with digital photographs. The best it could do
was offering a thumbnail view of digital images
from within Windows Explorer.

Vista addresses the shortcoming in a convincing way
with the inclusion of the new Windows Photo Gallery
application, free with every version of Vista. Windows
Photo Gallery combines the features of an image viewer
and manager, file tagger for easy identification and
later retrieval, as well as editing tools.
Each of these functions is necessary in taking a
digital image from camera to final output, without
having to rely upon third-party products.

The image editing tools may not make believers out of
PhotoShop enthusiasts, but for the typical digital
camera user, they’re more than sufficient. Click
the Fix button with an image highlighted, and you’re
whisked into a fairly feature-rich image editing and
improvement mode, with such features as automatic
red-eye removal, as well as exposure, colour, and
contrast correction.

With Vista, once you get over the initial shock of how
different the operating system is in some respects
from Windows XP, you’re likely to find your share
of pleasant surprises. Those discussed here are but a
few. Stay tuned for more.

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