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Developers are closer to getting a full, pre-release copy of Microsoft's next client operating system with Microsoft's latest Windows Vista Community Technology Preview (CTP).

Microsoft on Monday re-committed itself to delivering a "feature-complete" Windows Vista CTP in "early" 2006, hinting this could be around the time of January's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Shanen Boettcher, senior director for Microsoft's Windows client group, promised Windows Vista would be "feature complete" by the end of the month.

Boettcher was speaking as he announced features tackling security, enhanced mobility and better performance in the latest CTP released to 500,000 developers on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and TechNet sites.

He was unwilling to say which features remained to be shoved into the Windows Vista code base for the next - and presumably final - CTP.

Monday's CTP features a simplified interface for Microsoft's AntiSpyware, rebranded Windows Defender, while the Windows Vista firewall can be managed through IPsec.

Group policies can be applied to PCs for the removal of USB devices, to help prevent copying and removal of data files through removable storage media. "This gives IT professionals a simplified way to control and block use of these devices with [Vista] machines," Boettcher said.

There is additional security for laptops with Bitblocker, which encrypts all information on the hard drive, like the operating system and boot sectors. Boettcher promised Bitblocker would render stolen or lost laptops useless.

Internet Explorer (IE) has been beefed up to tackle domain name spoofing. IE can detect whether characters have been used in a URL that are inconsistent with the alphabet and language selected by the end-user.

Performance of PCs running Windows Vista is boosted by harnessing the power of USB drives. A caching algorithm called Superfetch will cache frequently used tasks including those on a USB drive, improving data retrieval speeds.®

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