A small but welcome change in Windows Vista

A small but welcome change in Windows Vista

Summary: Most of the time, an operating system should be invisible. It should do its work behind the scenes and not get in your face.

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TOPICS: Windows
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Most of the time, an operating system should be invisible. It should do its work behind the scenes and not get in your face. But every so often, you have to dive into the belly of the beast. That’s when you expect the operating system to be clairvoyant, to provide exactly the information you want, with a minimum of clicks.

The reworked Task Manager in Windows Vista includes a new feature that’s almost invisible – until you need it. For anyone trying to troubleshoot performance problems or identify a potential malware installation, one small change is especially useful.

In previous Windows versions, the Task Manager separates its display of what’s running on your computer into two tabs. The Applications tab lists each running program by name; the Processes tab is a much longer list that shows every executable, including child processes, services, and processes that run in the background.

In Windows XP, you can right-click on any item in the Applications list and choose Go To Process from the shortcut menu. But once you reach the Processes tab, you’re at a dead end. If a process is sucking the life out of your CPU, or if you find a mysterious process that you can’t identify that you think may be associated with malware, you’re on your own. You have to use search tools to find the file responsible for that process and then figure out what it is.

Windows Vista simplifies this process. When you right-click any item on the Processes list, you’ll see two new choices on the shortcut menu.

new_taskman_options_1.PNG

Click Open Containing Folder and you can see the file responsible for the running process. Often, just knowing which folder it appears in is enough to help ease your mind about a process with a mysterious name. The Properties menu choice, also new in Vista, leads directly to a greatly expanded Details tab, which includes copyright information and additional details about the company that created the file, which can help you decide whether a file is legitimate or needs further investigation.

The big changes in Windows Vista are getting most of the publicity, but there are dozens, even hundreds of smaller changes like this one embedded throughout the operating system. In this case, at least, the change is welcome.

Topic: Windows

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  • This will deffinitly be a great and widely used feature...

    Great stuff on Microsoft's part. How many times I've wished to see exactly where the process is being run from. That usually tells me the tale in a heartbeat.
    ju1ce
    • You don't have to wait...

      ... for Vista. There are hundreds of free third party programs which will provide the information and more. The "more" includes such information as the dependencies (dll, ActiveX, drivers).

      Useful sometimes.
      Anton Philidor
      • I understand...

        But I like to avoid 3rd party software when it's not required, and when the "integrated" software is better. :P
        ju1ce
  • Malware Management

    Super!

    Malware management is a great new addition to Vista. Being
    able to observe and manipulate your malware will be a boon to
    the entrenched make-work culture. It further offloads the
    responsibility to users. What's not to like?

    Forgive the sarcasm, it's the weakest form of humor, I'll promise
    to stop using it if contributors do.

    Rather than preventing malware access at a low level, Vista, the
    next gen OS is including software for it's management. It's a
    scheme that will likely be torpedoed by malware writers within
    weeks if the record is any indicator. Lets ignore that for the time
    being and trust that this new tool for throwing deck chairs off
    the Titanic, helps in some small way.

    To think that finding a folder from which a program is running
    has only taken 5 years! Remarkable!
    Harry Bardal
    • This is not just about malware

      Any process on any operating system can can performance problems or conflicts with other programs. It's good to be able to identify the source of a process for many reasons, only one of which is identifying potential malware.
      Ed Bott
    • Oh, and one more thing...

      >> Rather than preventing malware access at a low level

      <p>Vista has a slew of features that will indeed block malware at a low level. User accounts run by default in a non-admin context. IE blocks add-ins from writing to any system areas. Anti-spyware protection is included with the OS.

      <p>Sarcasm is fun, but it works best when it's grounded in fact.
      Ed Bott
      • The Record

        Your "facts" revolve around Microsoft's promises of features to
        come. They include a grocery list of things that are promised to
        be fixed in a OS incarnation now likely 12 months away and 4
        years late. The solutions are technically dubious, likely easily
        breachable. More to the point, they presume to fix things that
        shouldn't have been broken to begin with. The new permissions
        scheme, by all accounts, is an elaborate kludge of virtual folders
        to allow legacy access, and the spyware protection is a
        protection racket. To even say "Anti-spyware protection is
        included" is to say you've already failed.

        Most importantly, when will this glassy eyed admiration of
        Redmond give way to the record. Billions have been lost in
        revenue due to a pooly implemented architecture and because of
        apologists who give pass after pass to this low grade vendor.

        After 6 years OSX is still effectively free of adware spyware and
        viruses. How do you resolve the incongruity? How do you
        advocate Vista in light of this?

        As you rush to invoke the "last stand" market share argument,
        you effectively abdicate your own critical judgement of the
        correct criteria to someone elses judgement of the wrong
        criteria. If you see fit to do it. Point me to someone who has
        autonomy in their tech decision making. They will surely put up
        a better fight.

        Microsoft's record is dismal. The guy who sells me a toaster
        wouldn't get these breaks on his birthday.
        Harry Bardal
        • I'm running Vista right now

          Harry, this isn't vaporware. I'm writing this comment on a system running Windows Vista. All the features I described are already implemented and working well.
          Ed Bott
          • Vaporware

            Don't doubt it. Didn't say it was vaporware that would
            presuppose that it isn't going to be released. I believe it will be
            released, then fail.

            The problems will crop up in the 4 year long public beta after
            the release. 50 million lines of code retrofit on a misguided
            kernal architecture will cause cascading problems. The enemy is
            complexity. Why make things more complex? The whole
            managed code environment is a graft that will chew up RAM and
            add a needless layer of abstraction. Why? because it wasn't
            operating right the first time. It will take years for it to settle
            down. Don't you deserve better? Ask yourself how OSX is
            capable of doing the same things that Vista can with a fraction
            of the code and with markedly better efficiency.

            Let's do a quick audit of the ZDNEt contributors. David Berlind is
            fond of running 14 versions of Windows in VMWare, presumably
            because the first 13 don't work properly. George Ou is running
            interferance for Windows IT throwing patches at people and
            gladly receiving the pats on the back, but he bristles at the
            suggestion that someone try a system with a spotless security
            record to the exclusion of Windows. Meanwhile you are glossing
            over endemic issues with Windows architecture by pointing out
            that after 6 years of nonsense, Windows finally may be able to
            track down a undesirable process? What's wrong with this
            picture? How about some higher standards people.

            The same holds true of the Boot Camp issue. The ability to run
            multiple OSs or additional run-times on top of an OS is a sign of
            a problem. It's not a feature. If a few developers would pull their
            thumbs out and a few more MS apologists would get a grip, OSX
            would be the only OS any individual would need. Ballmer is fond
            of his tipping points?he's about to see a big one.

            I think it's clear now. The reluctance to ditch Windows results
            from codependancy. In soliciting your involvement in OS level
            operations for so long, Windows users have all become Microsoft
            employees.
            Harry Bardal
          • An intellegent post

            Your post is very well written. I agree with many of your points.

            However, I don't trust Apple Computers anymore than I trust Microsoft. Apple appears to be trying to create their own DRM monopoly with iTunes. Why stop there? I truly believe that if Apple had a majority of the market share we would be getting Apple acting much like a Microsoft Monopolist.

            IMHO
            dragosani
          • iTunes

            Remember what iTunes is competing with.

            It offered the only alternative codec/DRM combo to what was a
            firmly entrenched Windows media monopoly. Fire with fire?
            Perhaps, but people were enamored with the choice of different
            mp3 hardware and it makes little difference if the brain (the
            codec) is the same? That's what we would have been gettting
            with Windows Media dominance. Choice between different
            shapes of extruded plastic, but no choice where it counts, in the
            technology, and in the value proposition.

            Fast forward and Apple becomes the market leader within a
            competititve environment. They win on merit rather than using
            coersive licensing. Are we to ascribe monopoly status to the
            player that wins? Monopoly's illegalities have to do with
            monopoly maintenance and anticompetetive behavior, not just
            market leading status. Apple is doing nothing to prevent
            competition and are in fact encouraging it.

            By not licensing FairPlay to all comers as Microsoft does with
            WMA, they encourage others to innovate where it counts. In the
            integration, the technology, and the deal. They encourage other
            companies to create complete packages including DRM. All of
            this is happening in an environment that is competitive. It also is
            happening in an environment where peer to peer still accounts
            for most music downloads, and CD's are being sold
            commercially.

            Apple has a record of good corporate citizenship and customer
            approval ratings that any company would love to have. Who
            would you rather trust, them, or a convicted monopolist?
            Harry Bardal
          • That is not what France says Harry!

            Isn't France trying to make Apple open up their DRM for other players to use because of the anti-competitive nature of vendor lock in. It would seem that despite your arguements to the contrary, Apple's refusal to license Fair Play is considered anti-competitive.
            ShadeTree
          • France

            It's the prerogative of France under the interpretation of their law
            to pursue action against Apple. I encourage the checks and
            balances.
            Harry Bardal
          • angry?

            Harry, you almost sound angry...

            [i]"The problems will crop up in the 4 year long public beta after the release"[/i]

            Agreed!

            [i]"Why make things more complex?"[/i]
            For the same reason that skyscrapers now stand where tents once did. Someone wants it. You're more than smart enough to piece the economics of it together from there.

            [i]"The whole managed code environment is a graft that will chew up RAM and add a needless layer of abstraction"[/i]
            According to whom? I can agree with some incarnations of this opinion, but not all. Especially not when RAM is so cheap... and getting cheaper.

            [i]"What's wrong with this picture? How about some higher standards people"[/i]
            You don't have to read ZDNet. You choose to. Just as they are the writers, they choose what to write about. To what standards would you have them write? Those too lofty for the common reader? You should create your own web site and blog for that purpose. After that, run a contest with ZDNet and see how long you can stay in business by doing things your way. Given the intelligence of your posts I'd say you are a fairly successful person, or will be someday. But if there's one thing I've learned, its to not make enemies or criticize others where you can do no better, especially since you (in common probability) don't own your own technology journalism site.

            I love it when people troll and complain about standards, without actually having something of their own to post about.

            Also, you hack on Microsoft, but do you have $40bil sitting in an account somewhere? Unless your name is printed in Forbes, you don't.

            And yes, I concede to you the numerous architectural flaws in so many things consumer (including Windows), but you must concede, that while we are sitting here posting to this blog like a couple of cyber-trolls, Gates and crew are probably just getting to the golf course for an afternoon of relaxation.

            IMHO, enlightened people should not blame the makers, we should blame the consumers: they accept things this way by spending the cash doing nothing about it when they realize they've been had.

            ...and there is very little that posting out in cyberspace is going to be able to do about it.
            kckn4fun
          • Rebuttal

            "For the same reason that skyscrapers now stand where tents
            once did."

            I'm of the opinion that the complexity of Windows has exceeded
            a critical mass and has gone beyond Microsoft's ability to
            manage it. Is compounding complexity a good thing indefinetly?
            Your metaphor is vague and doesn't draw a line. One assumes
            you don't have one.


            "RAM is so cheap... and getting cheaper"

            Is this an argument for inefficient engineering? Horsepower over
            balance at a time when Moores Law's furtherment depends on
            balance and refinement?


            "I love it when people troll and complain about standards,
            without actually having something of their own to post about."

            I consider this constructive if pointed critisism. I'm advocating
            the open mindedness that might allow the rebalance of vital
            technologies out of the hands of a single vendor. I practice what
            I preach. You needn't believe that for it to be true.



            "Also, you hack on Microsoft, but do you have $40bil sitting in
            an account somewhere? Unless your name is printed in Forbes,
            you don't."

            Well snap, you got me there.

            You're not really trying to score points with the MS widows and
            orphans fund are you?

            History is filled with large numbers of people doing entirely the
            wrong thing in a spasm of the hive mind. Is it admirable? Nope.
            Regardless of what the financial status quo is, YOU effectively
            divorce yourself from your critical judgement when you gaze
            and point at the cash pile. It certainly doesn't wash with me. Try
            another tactic. Microsoft can only buy you if you're for sale. Are
            you? When are you going to give your personal experience
            precendence over the desire of the herd?



            "And yes, I concede to you the numerous architectural flaws in
            so many things consumer (including Windows), but you must
            concede, that while we are sitting here posting to this blog like a
            couple of cyber-trolls, Gates and crew are probably just getting
            to the golf course for an afternoon of relaxation."

            So yes the software is kinda junky but darned if they ain't
            smarter 'n richer than me?

            I'm a little tired, and yes, a little annoyed at seeing so many
            people prepared to bend over for this. ZDNet contributors
            should know better, and so should you.
            Harry Bardal
          • Interesting points from both. And 1 great point:

            "I love it when people troll and complain about standards, without actually having something of their own to post about"

            This is a great point in that you are correct: What standard is Harry comparing this against?

            Arguably, I can claim that cars, planes and boats are pieces of crap that should not be allowed on the market as cars still break, planes still crash, boats still sink. My standards are that none of those things should happen to any of them, especially considering the length of time they have been around.

            How long has serious software and hardware been around? Is OSX any better? maybe on a Mac, but then, my guitar strings sound better on my guitar then on my piano.

            So port OSX out to a generic machine and let's see how perfect it is.

            But wait. How do you define "perfect", and at what point in history will it be achieved?
            John Zern
          • Let's look at your comments!

            "The problems will crop up in the 4 year long public beta after the release."

            Pure speculation!

            "Ask yourself how OSX is capable of doing the same things that Vista can with a fraction of the code and with markedly better efficiency."

            Since you obviously haven't tried Vista and Vista isn't done yet, how do you know that OSX is capable of doing everything it can?

            "Meanwhile you are glossing over endemic issues with Windows architecture by pointing out that after 6 years of nonsense, Windows finally may be able to track down a undesirable process?"

            What exactly does your post do to enlighten the public as to the endemic issues of the Windows archtitecture? If it doesn't enlighten us to the issues is it also unworthy of posting?

            "The same holds true of the Boot Camp issue. The ability to run multiple OSs or additional run-times on top of an OS is a sign of a problem."

            First your statement is wrong about how Boot Camp actually works. It is not the ability to run multiple OSs or additional run times on top of an OS. It is a dual boot mechanism.

            "If a few developers would pull their thumbs out and a few more MS apologists would get a grip, OSX would be the only OS any individual would need."

            Pure arrogance! Because you think OSX is the best OS there is no need for any other. A typical attitude of the Cult of the MAC.

            "The reluctance to ditch Windows results from codependancy. In soliciting your involvement in OS level operations for so long, Windows users have all become Microsoft employees."

            Neglects the possibility that people use Windows because it suits their needs.

            Your long winded psuedo-intellectual diatribes prove nothing more then a deep ingrained hatred of Microsoft. That is truly pathetic!
            ShadeTree
          • Amen ShadeTree! (NT)

            .
            NonZealot
          • Harry's Right on this point.

            "OSX would be the only OS any individual would need" The part he left out is "as long as they are willing to be locked into Apple's software and hardware."
            John Zern
          • Food for Thought

            At any time, any of these posts are nothing more than food for
            thought. I make postulations, have opinions, and float ideas.
            The fact that they are wrapped in some hyperbole and
            speculation doesn't invalidate the ideas. It's a forum, not a lab.
            Wasn't that clear? Please learn to deal with it.

            I'm railing against the ZDNet contributors because they are in an
            elevated position of influence and continually set the wrong
            agenda.

            As I've said to John Carroll - I have no problem with bias within
            the context of the right agenda. Bias is our birthright, and
            inevitably unavoidable. Unfortunately we are rarely given the
            opportunity to comment on anything other than a biased
            agenda. The wrong questions are being asked. Why is it any
            surprise the wrong answers are returned.
            Harry Bardal