What I Know About Vista


Not a lot, actually, but perhaps enough to straighten out some confusion about what it will do for games, including Flight Simulator. In the couple of weeks since we made our new product annoucement there’s been much speculation and, having been surrounded by information on Vista, I neglected to consider that not everyone in the outside world understands as much as I pretent to. πŸ˜‰

 

What is Vista? Simple. It’s the next major version of Windows, just like Windows 98 and Windows XP were major versions Vista is a MAJOR version. It’s a new OS, baby!

 

What do I need to run it? Like current versions of Windows you’ll be able to by a copy and install it on the PC you have. PC manufacturers like Dell, Gateway, Toshiba, etc. will also pre-install it on new PCs. I don’t know if you’ll have a choice of XP or Vista when you order. It used to be you could choose between Windows 2000 and Windows XP on new machines right after XP came out but now pretty much everything is XP.

 

Why do I want it? Why do you ever want a new OS? Because it provides the foundation for the way you use your computer, including the programs you install. Vista offers a bunch of new features like an improved UI and better security and stability. Probably one of the best things is that security features like limited access user accounts and anti-spyware and anti-phishing technology will come standard. The search capabilty kicks butt if you’ve ever misplaced an email or document file. Plus, the new UI is very cool and is now fully 3D–meaning it’s rendered using 3D APIs just like games are. Finally, running games on Vista will be much better than XP since you’ll have a central place to access your games (including saved games) and for those of you who own other games besides family-friend Flight Sim <g> there is built-in support for parental controls tied directly to the major game rating boards such as ESRB, PEGI and CESA.

 

What’s all this about DirectX10? Hopefully by now you know what DirectX is–a software layer and API to exploit the graphics, audio and other game/entertainment features of your PC. Well, Vista will include the next generation of DirectX–Direct 10 (a.k.a. DX10). The current version is DX9 and it’s available on Windows XP. Vista will support both DX9 and DX10.

 

Why both? The biggest reason is that DX10 will not work on currently available graphic cards. It’s just changed too much to be compatible–at least that’s my understanding. And since Microsoft wanted you to be able to run Vista on the PC you already own that meant including DX9. In fact, the new user interface is written in DX9. DX10 will be there for programs that make specific calls to it. For a game like Flight Simulator that means first checking the OS and DX versions and then deciding which functions to call.

 

What’s the big deal with DX10? DX10 is a complete rewrite of DirectX. That in itself is a big deal. The rewrite now treats the 3D graphics system much like the memory or CPU on your computer, meaning the core OS manages things like resource sharing and scheduling. That’s just a fancy way of saying that the stability and robustness of the graphics system will be as good as the core OS. Remember the bad ol’ days of Windows when an application crash might lock up your PC? Windows NT (and subsequently Windows 2000, XP and 2003) fixed that. DX10 will do the same thing for graphics. A crash in the graphics system won’t “blue screen” your PC.

 

Is that all? No. Not by a long shot. DX10 also promises greater capabilities and performance. One way it will do this is through Shader Model 4.0 (a.k.a. HLSL 4.0). Shaders are special programs that run on the GPU. Until now there was a size limit that caused many costly trips across the system bus to get the job done, slowing things down. Larger shader limits means less trips across the bus and thus better performance. The DX folks estimate you could see an increase of up to 8 times, depending on how shaders are currently used in your programs. The other thing HLSL 4.0 does is get rid of the difference between pixel shaders and vertex shaders, making shader programming a bit simpler. Now there are just shaders. In fact since shaders are basically massively parallel math programs HLSL 4.0 will allow for a lot for general purpose programming on the GPU. (Hint: all you folks clamouring for Flight Sim to support a separate and non-standard physics chip should really be lobbying for us to use the GPU.)

 

Should I get Vista? Duh. Of course. Not only will the OS be more robust, secure and useful but you’ll be positioned to take advantage of DX10 games when they come out. You won’t get that under XP. Of course you’ll need to upgrade your video card at a minimum, but that seems like a small price to pay for better, faster and shinier games!

 

Yes, a new version of Windows is coming. Yes, you should be able to run it on the PC you have (provided it’s reasonably new). Yes, you’ll probably want to upgrade your hardware so you can take advantage of DX10, but it’s not essential to run Vista. I hope this helps clear up the confusion. Feel free to comment on this post if things still aren’t clear.

 

 


Comments (24)

  1. OwenHewitt says:

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the low-down on Vista as far as you know and can reveal. My only concern about Vista is backward compatibility with my current development software. If there are *ANY* issues that would prevent me from using my current complement of tools, I’ll probably wait for Vista – unless I get another computer.

    Best,

    Owen

  2. tdragger says:

    Owen, unless you’re running something *really* non-standard I wouldn’t worry. The Windows team does a ton of app compatability testing with each major release. Chances are they’ve already tested whatever software you’re using.

  3. OwenHewitt says:

    Sure – many of the mainstream tools I use such as Max, Photoshop, Audition, etc. I’m not so worried about. It’s the FS-specific tools I utilize such as FS Panel Studio, FS Sound Studio, etc. that I’m a bit cautious about. Until I get word that these FS-specific tools are 100% trouble free, *then* I’ll be convinced all is well. πŸ™‚

    Best,

    Owen

  4. Fabio says:

    Hi,

    very interesting things… there is a question that i have … (and many people in var. forum/ newsgroup) DX9 will go out with a new refresh version for Windows XP that support some improvements (subset of DX10 features)?!? Or DX9 version set "parking brakes" to 9.0c?!?

    Thanks

    Fabio

  5. Francois says:

    Thanks Mike, your explanation will at least take away some of the anxiety with some current FS users.

    A little bit related to it, but more to Ownes concern, is the question we get a lot from developers: what about Gmax !!?? Can you comment on that at all?

    Kind regards,

    Francois

  6. David Voogd says:

    Is there any speculation on what the cost will be?

  7. Michael Carr says:

    Mike I really appreciate the info on vista, I for one am excited about it. Still unclear about the current hardware and DX10, so you are saying my ATI 850XT will never support DX10? Or will driver support enable it?

    Owen, do like I do, get 2 rigs, one I use for games/sims and the other has my design tools, Max, PSD, gmax, Rhino, Bryce, etc. πŸ˜‰

    Michael

  8. Mike707 says:

    I have looked at the physics processing unit from Aegia and am wondering if you are referring to a product like that when you state the following:

    HLSL 4.0 will allow for a lot for general purpose programming on the GPU. (Hint: all you folks clamouring for Flight Sim to support a separate and non-standard physics chip should really be lobbying for us to use the GPU.)

    I wonder what this means for FSX. Thanks for all of your hard work on the applcation. I am very much looking forward to it.

  9. Dreamer says:

    I will of course get Vista πŸ˜‰

    Reading you and your pers blogs is very illuminating, thank you for taking the time to share with us.

    Ok, I am a bit confused now. You say that no current hardware can run direcX10? but what is the team developing on?

    Also please elaborate on the 32 vs 64 bit, I see it can run on either type of CPU, how can it do that?

    Thank you

  10. denez says:

    "to support a separate and non-standard physics chip should really be lobbying for us to use the GPU"

    So, you mean that FS physics could be improved ?

    πŸ˜‰

    Please, use heavily the GPU !

    btw, LOD15 available ?

  11. tdragger says:

    Dreamer,

    <<Ok, I am a bit confused now. You say that no current hardware can run direcX10? but what is the team developing on? >>

    We’re developing on DirectX9, of course.

    <<Also please elaborate on the 32 vs 64 bit, I see it can run on either type of CPU, how can it do that? >>

    It’s just software–pretty versatile stuff, that software.

  12. Mike Frantz says:

    Hi Mike, thanks as always for the insights. I’m curious about your statement, "Of course you’ll need to upgrade your video card at a minimum".

    As someone with the highest-end nVidia cards in an SLi setup I wanted to clarify: did you mean those with older cards will need to upgrade, or everyone will have to upgrade?

  13. scott967 says:

    Thanks. I guess that confirms what I could get from the current Dx SDKs and Vista info.

    Can you talk about if you are using XNA at all, or how that is? Since XNA was announced I haven’t seen anything on it. Or is it still in the picture?

    scott s.

    .

  14. Miguel Bujan says:

    β€œThere is a bigger fool than the one that tries to stop the present from becoming the past, and it is that one that tries to stop the future from becoming the present.” <-MAB

    Go for it MS, some of us have been waiting for along time now. Like in the past, we will eventually adapt to the requirements each at it’s own self-pace. Bring Vista and FSX on. Bring the future to our present.

    Miguel

  15. tdragger says:

    Scott,

    <<Can you talk about if you are using XNA at all, or how that is?>>

    Hmm, good idea. I’ll add it to my list of blog topic ideas.

  16. tdragger says:

    Mike,

    <<Hi Mike, thanks as always for the insights. I’m curious about your statement, "Of course you’ll need to upgrade your video card at a minimum".

    As someone with the highest-end nVidia cards in an SLi setup I wanted to clarify: did you mean those with older cards will need to upgrade, or everyone will have to upgrade? >>

    Thanks for the question. To clarify, if you want to be ready for DX10-based games on Vista you’ll need to upgrade. My thought was that you’d upgrade the OS and H/W all at once and be ready to go. But to reiterate, you won’t *need* to upgrade (but some people may want to anyway) just to run Vista. Hope that helps.

  17. tdragger says:

    Michael,

    <<Still unclear about the current hardware and DX10, so you are saying my ATI 850XT will never support DX10? Or will driver support enable it? >>

    As far as I know no card currently on the market today will EVER support DX10.

  18. Mike Frantz says:

    Thanks again, the information you’ve shared helps immensely. I’ll update my Strategic Information Systems Plan accordingly <g>. I’m very much looking forward to the FSX/Vista combo.

  19. Cesar says:

    I’m glade I ran into your blog! Mike thanks for sharing some great info with us! keep up the great work Mike. πŸ™‚

  20. John says:

    That answered alot of questions for me, but I was wondering (and if this was in your post, I apologize for my stupidity), will Vista be required to fully utilize DX10 games? Or can a DX10 card on windows xp be just as good (without the benefit of the cool new OS of course)?

  21. PauloCesar says:

    Hey, many of the "new" features of Vista are in Linux or Mac, and Some peaple especulates Vista will need a Athlon64 dual or a PentiumD dual with 1gb ram… This is far, far, and very far from what me have in Brasil

    so, whats the vantage of buying Vista? Mac is still much more efficient in Desktop and Linux is much more secure and reliable on work

  22. Mahershalalhashbaz says:

    ^"will Vista be required to fully utilize DX10 games?"

    That’s a question I’m wondering too. Also, I’ve heard OpenGL support will be lacking, or atleast unrobust in Vista. Could you confirm / deny this and set the record straight? Thanks!

  23. Phil says:

    DX10 will only ever be for Vista.  There will never be a DX10 for XP.