Besides the normal amount of bug fixing and security patching, Windows service packs often contain new features. For most users Vista SP1 contains one, fat new feature…

Hotpatching–

Hotpatching is the ability to patch actively running software without a reboot. Only Windows components are supported at this time. If it works as billed, this should save users from those repeated annoying reboots after performing a system update. Even more so, it should save Vista network administrators from the seizure-inducing number of reboots required when updating a new installation.

Although hotpatching is the main new feature related to updates, several bug fixes and tweaks have been included in Vista SP1 to improve the updating process. These include improved failure recovery, quicker update query, and more robust uninstallation procedures.

Other New Vista Features–

Most of the other “new features” will only appeal to a narrow audience or are really glorifed bug fixes.

  • exFat is the successor to the infamous FAT32 file system. More and more users are experiencing limitations of FAT32 such as the 4 GB limit on the size of a file. Most power users switched to NTFS long ago; therefore, this is unlikely to help a huge number of people. exFat has smaller footprint so its main use may be limited toward portable devices and storage.
  • Data Execution Prevention is buffer-overflow protection that is built into the OS. The problem is that it breaks a bunch of existing programs. In fact, turning off DEP in XP is one of our most frequented tech-recipes. The new DEP API allows programmers to set how the program interacts with DEP to reduce conflicts. If this opens up a new area for buffer-exploits is unclear.
  • x64′s Kernal Patch Protection feature now has an API as well. Most anti-virus packages place code within the kernel and this new feature to Vista has shut them out. This new API allows for external programs to patch the kernel. Once again it is unknown if this will be a new target for security problems.
  • Certain AMD video cards will be the first to use Direct3D 10.1 support. Currently only MAD’s HD3000 series cards have this ability. It is unclear if programmers will even use the new 10.1 features; therefore, the consequence of this inclusion is minimal.
  • Vista now natively supports the 802.11n Draft 2.0 wireless specifications without additional drivers and applications.
  • UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) is now supported on x64 Vista installs. This means little for existing hardware (except for Apple devices) but will likely open up new boot and configuration options for the future supporting hardware.
  • HD-DVD and Blu-ray drives receive additional support including new icons and labels.
  • The hated vista file copying mechanism has been improved 25% to 50%. It will be enough to see the difference but still not reaching XP speeds.

One last note–

SP1 will temporarily slow down your experience. The optimizing performance aspect of the OS such as caching and prefetching is reset when SP1 is initially installed. Depending on your usage, speed will gradually increase again.

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Google’s APIs rock. However, by limiting developers to 1000 queries per day, it is very difficult to use this for anything but the smallest projects. Enter MSN Search API…

Today on the MSN Search weblog, the MSN Search Web Service was announced. This new SOAP web service allows 10,000 queries per application per day. Considering that a MSN Search API php class has now been released, this should be a big stimulus for new projects.

Finally, MSN Search starts opening up a little.