Microsoft releases October Vista beta to developers, integrates IE browser

Redmond (WA) - Microsoft announced it will be releasing today, to subscribers to the company's development and beta programs, Build 5231 - also known as the October Community Technology Preview (CTP) - of the Windows Vista client operating system. This release comes in advance of Beta 2, which will be released later to selected end users.

In a statement, the company said the October CTP will include a first look at Vista's new battery of diagnostics tools, including a system that continually monitors local hard drives for signs of possible impending failure. A memory diagnostics tool will also detect possible defects in system RAM, while a network tool will address "connectivity and network access issues," apparently diagnosing problems at the stack level (TCP/IP protocol), and resolving some problems automatically. Such changes are logged, which will be important to beta testers, who will need to know just what automatic "repairs" the beta tools have attempted to make.

As promised, the 5231 version of Internet Explorer will include revised features that users can see right away, rather than dig beneath the surface to locate. A new "Favorites Center" will apparently improve the way bookmarked and previously visited addresses are displayed in the sidebar, as well as subscribed RSS feeds. In an attempt to "one-up" Firefox, not only can open pages be displayed in tabs, but tabs can be grouped together, and the resulting group can be saved as a bookmark or tab in its own right, to be launched all at once. The contents of tabbed pages can be shown as thumbnails, probably down the left side of the sidebar or top side of the workspace, according to user preference, if early peeks at this feature were accurate.

Other features in the new IE build include an advanced "Phishing Filter," which may operate in conjunction with an anti-phishing service that Microsoft has planned.

Testers of 5231 will also be able to experiment with the new digital signature system, which enables users with digital certificates to sign (though not yet encrypt) any XML document, using the XML Paper Specification format (XPS). For now, this will have to be tested on ordinary XML documents, as release of the first beta of Office 12 - which will be the first Microsoft suite to utilize an XML-based format by default - has been pushed back a few weeks to early November.