Vista looms on the horizon

Many NZ schools get major software through the deals done by the Ministry of Education with suppliers like Microsoft, Apple and Novell. This year, the agreements were up for renewal. MOE has now announced that the packages available to schools have been finalised. The major change in the Microsoft licensing is the introduction of Windows Vista Business Edition. It means that TELA laptops will now start coming out in a month or two with Vista installed instead of XP.

What does this mean? It means we have to start getting to grip with the new technologies needed for deployment, particularly in larger schools. With 100 PCs in my situation, transitioning to the new Windows Deployment Services technologies for image creation is one of the first steps, and one I’m already working on. The Service Pack 2 for WS2003 installs WDS. In my previous articles I referred to using it with existing RIS installations, because I installed SP2 a few weeks ago on our existing RIS server.

Although I had not planned to look at Vista on the desktop in any part of the school, it’s now clear this would be highly desirable. We will start to get laptops in with Vista soon and have to work with it. Not all of the school’s desktops will run it; the main limitation being 256MB of memory on the oldest ones. The biggest advantage of Vista is having only one deployment image. Gone are the days of multiple images for different hardware configs.

The deal also includes MS Office. At this stage it’s not clarified whether this is Office 2007. I’d want to look at the possibility of deploying both 2007 and 2003 in the same image, due to the changes in 2007.

I guess that having developed this RIS image for XP on our older machines (most of the ones that don’t have enough memory for Vista), the next image of any sort will be a Vista WDS image for the machines that can run it. These are mostly Intel motherboards with the onboard ATI Radeon Xpress 200 chipset with 512MB and should have the graphics capabilities as well as memory to run Vista quite well. This image should then be able to be deployed to any of our PCs that has 512MB or more, including those with other onboard hardware, such as laptops.

Part of Vista is Windows PE 2.0, the preinstallation environment that can also be used as a recovery tool. Formerly the only way you could get this for general use was as Bart’s PE, which has licensing issues. WinPE is now, however, part of all Vista installs. I’m buying a 512MB pen drive just to set up as a bootable WinPE drive for machine recovery.