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January 30, 2007, Volume 53, No. 20

New Microsoft Windows Vista: ISC Recommends “Wait and See”

On January 30, Microsoft will release Vista, a new version of its Windows operating system. Not surprisingly, Vista is incompatible with certain other applications in use at Penn, so Information Systems and Computing (ISC) recommends postponing adoption of Vista. Individuals and offices considering upgrading to Vista or planning to purchase new Windows systems are strongly advised to review the information below and to consult with their Local Support Providers (LSPs) before making a purchase.

General Recommendations

Upon release, Vista will be pre-installed by default on most, if not all, new Windows systems, though it will still be possible to choose Windows XP on systems from Dell and Lenovo for some period of time. Vista will also be available as an upgrade for certain classes of Windows systems that currently run XP and 2000. To complicate matters further, five different editions of Vista will be available. ISC strongly recommends that users of older versions of Windows, including Windows XP Professional, Windows XP Home, and Windows 2000 Professional, adopt a “wait and see” approach and defer upgrading until the initial bugs in Windows Vista are identified and fixed. Even then, users should only upgrade systems that meet or exceed ISC’s recommended hardware specifications for Vista. ISC will support some, not all, editions of Windows Vista for its clients, including off-campus students, only on new workstations that ship with Windows Vista pre-installed. Recommendations and support policies in individual Schools and Centers will depend on local conditions and resources and may be different from ISC’s. Be sure to check with your LSP.

Current Incompatibilities

In anticipation of the Vista release, ISC and School/Center staff have been conducting compatibility tests for University-wide applications (financial, research, etc.), supported products, and local applications. Although many applications are Vista compatible, some are not. A handful of the most important incompatibilities are listed here, and a chart with compatibility information for a larger subset of important desktop and University-wide applications is available from the Vista information page,  www.upenn.edu/computing/product/windowsvista.html.

BEN Financials: Client software for BEN Financials, the University’s core business system for purchasing, general ledger, and accounts payable functions, will not install on Vista machines. The BEN team is working with the vendors, but there is no projected date for a solution. BEN Financials users should not upgrade to Windows Vista or purchase new Windows systems running Vista at this time. 

Air PennNet/SecureW2: Air PennNet is the wireless service installed in campus residential buildings and certain Schools. SecureW2, the Windows client software needed to establish a wireless connection in AirPennNet locations, is not compatible with Vista. ISC is currently working with the developer to obtain a Vista-compatible solution.

Directory lookup and certain email clients: Client/server email software such as Eudora and Thunderbird cannot obtain email addresses and other Penn directory information under Vista. Until the vendors provide fixes, users will need to look up addresses themselves in the Web-based online directory.

Office XP: This version of Office does not install under Vista. Users need to upgrade to Office 2003 or Office 2007, though Office 2007 introduces a different set of issues (see below). 

Palm Desktop:  The current version of Palm Desktop does not install or function correctly under Vista. This affects users of any Palm OS device including Tungstens, Zire PDAs and Treos. Palm promised an update around the end of January.

PennERA: PennERA, the University’s core research system, will not work with Internet Explorer under Vista. The Firefox web browser is required to use PennERA under Vista at this time.

Assistance, Resources, Next Steps

As ISC works to resolve the issues, we will continue to keep the LSP community advised of the progress vendors are making towards Vista compatibility. We anticipate that status assessments will occur in roughly three-month increments until all issues are resolved, and we will continue to communicate progress both directly to LSPs and through web updates until we can recommend adoption of Vista. ISC has created a Vista information page, with a link to the compatibility chart mentioned above, at www.upenn.edu/computing/product/windowsvista.html. Before purchasing a new Windows Vista system or upgrading to Vista, be sure to consult with your LSP to ensure that you maintain compatibility with the University-wide and local resources you use.


New Office 2007 for Windows: Proceed with Caution

Office 2007, a substantially revised version of Microsoft’s widely used Office software for Windows (includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.), is being released on January 30, the same day as the Vista operating system. Office 2007 includes a dramatically different interface and changes in a number of features, such that upgrading will likely entail a significant learning curve for longtime Office users. More importantly, Office 2007 uses a new default file format (.docx instead of .doc for Word and .xlsx instead of .xls for Excel) that previous versions of Office for Windows and Office for Macintosh cannot understand. Early purchasers of Office 2007 are therefore advised to use the Save As feature to save files in the formats that older Windows versions and Mac versions understand, especially if they need to share files with other people or applications. Free converter software from Microsoft is also available to users of other versions of Office for Windows who might receive Office 2007 files saved in their default format; however, a converter for Office for Mac is not yet available, so Office for Mac users can’t open Office 2007 files at this time. The new file formats are bound to cause some short-term glitches as users with different versions of Office figure out how to work together.

—Mark Aseltine, Executive Director, Technology Support Services, ISC

Almanac - January 30, 2007, Volume 53, No. 20