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Virtual Vista: No, then yes, then no again
Virtual Machine (VM) software has exploded in popularity over the last several years. VMs allow you to run operating systems within an application on your desktop, on top of your “real” (host) OS. With VM technology, you can, for instance, run XP as your primary operating system and install Vista in a VM to try it out or to run Vista-only software without having to reboot to it. Those of us who write about new operating systems use VMs all the time. I can have my highly customized Vista desktop just the way I want it, and have another instance of Vista installed in a VM that’s configured with all the default settings for capturing screenshots for books and articles that require that.

Looks like nobody will be writing much about Vista Home editions, though. Most tech writers are likely to run the Business or Ultimate editions as their primary operating systems, but under the Vista license we aren’t allowed to run Home Basic or Premium in a VM. For a while, it looked as if Microsoft was going to change this, but then they did an about-face and announced last week they were sticking with the restrictions. That made a lot of people – not just tech writers – unhappy. You can read more about it here.

Which Desktop Search Engine works best?
The battle of the desktop search engines is playing out not just on users’ desktops, but now in the legal system as well. Google has filed complaints alleging that because Vista’s desktop search can’t be turned off, users who install Google’s competing product experience performance slowdowns. For the real story on that, see George Ou’s blog post of June 11th.

Meanwhile, both search systems have outspoken advocates, while other similar products such as Copernic also have their fan clubs. Search is a big issue with today’s computers holding hundreds of gigabytes of information. Being able to find what you want when you want it is crucial. Tell us what search methods or products you prefer.

Waiting on Vista Service Pack 1?
I’ve heard a number of people say that they were waiting to install Vista until after Service Pack 1 is released. Some of them make that a policy with each new operating system, preferring to let us early adopters find all the bugs and get them worked out before they take the plunge. If you’re one of those who’s waiting on SP1, there are some indications that a beta version might be available before the end of the year. You can read more about service pack speculation here.

BitLocker helps protect your laptop
Portable PCs have special security risks and needs. They’re subject to the same threats from the Internet as a desktop computer, but in addition there’s an increased chance of a laptop being lost or stolen – and then what happens if you have sensitive data? If it’s a work computer and you’re part of a regulated industry and you have confidential client data on there, you could be in big trouble. Of course, you can always use EFS file encryption to protect certain documents in XP, but with some versions of Vista you have an added layer of protection: BitLocker full drive encryption. It’s only in Enterprise and Ultimate editions, but if you have it, you can set it up so that a thief won’t even be able to boot into the OS. BitLocker can also be used on desktop computers that are vulnerable to unauthorized physical access. Read more about it here.

Deb Shinder, MVP