Sunday, October 18, 2009


I have been following the various commentaries about Windows 7 for almost a year. There were lots of user annoyance complaints that have gotten nearly all of the attention and to an extent seem to have been resolved. Most technical experts reporting on Windows 7 have been positive based on testing both beta’s and the early release version more recently. Most were positive as far as they went, but that was superficial. When you get into particular features then there is much less review feedback, or almost none. And so far the performance that effects serious digital photography editing and processing is not apparently an issue of any concern. In fact I was surprised some of the key color management experts have not given Windows 7 that much attention.
You may ask why I have not tested Windows 7 myself to see if the problems Vista caused have been fixed. The answer is simple, I use Apple Mac computers and run Windows as a virtual operating system, which precludes the very issues that have been a problem, in fact I can run Vista without difficulty, but choose not to for all the other reasons so many find it undesirable.

The main reason when I did test and review Vista I could not recommend it was an effect the Vista User Account Control warning pop-up window interfered with the video reverting it to monitor color space by inactivating calibration adjustment setting made during boot-up. This was discovered and posted by Chromix:
A more serious problem, and this one is a show-stopper in my eyes, is the authorization bug. As you use Vista, you are occasionally interrupted by the OS as it confirms you have the admin-level privileges required or confirms certain actions. As a user-interface effect, Vista dims the screen slightly while offering the user a password dialog. Unfortunately, this dimming of the display clobbers the calibration curves in the graphics card and they are not replaced. So you startup Vista, your 3rd party utility loads your display calibration correctly but then 5 minutes into your session Vista requests some authentication and your calibration is gone... so you restart Vista, reloading the calibration and start out again.... It will be difficult to have confidence in a system's state of calibration.

Many users do not realize that display calibration and profiling has two results: the display is tested for consistency with ICC color standards and to set it to run consistent with that color adjusts by the video card for proper configuration with the calibration setting, what some call an “LUT Loader”, a file that is an executable placed in the Start-Up folder. The actual display profile, has not been affected by the UAC pop-up screen implementation, describes the display color characteristics after calibration, and is only a reference used when color images are used for other actions like output printing and by the launching of a color managed application like Photoshop. There was no apparent change after a UAC pop-up window that put the display back to pre-boot pre-calibrated operation, but the affect on color managed operation would be severely inaccurate.

With the new Windows 7 the User Account Control can be adjusted or even turned off, which was not offered by Vista.

The reaction by Windows technical commentators has been almost entirely negative because a less alert UAC level would make the system vulnerable to security problems. One well known in particular, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes titled his criticism as, ” Time to ditch Windows for online banking and shopping “. Quoting Brian Krebs “ businesses not to carry out online banking on Windows-based machines and to use a Linux-based LiveCD.” According to Kingsley-Hughes, “the risk of using Windows outweighs the convenience.”
But if a user wants assurance a UAC pop-up will not invalidate display calibration and default color management, one would want to set UAC to “NEVER”, at least for any serious digital photography editing and processing. So Microsoft has responded to the user problems with Vista’s always on User Account Control by providing a user adjustment from maximum to never, but at apparently some security risk to the system from external threats (viruses and other infections). Sadly there was no Microsoft or tester information whether the pop-up UAC alert window still invalidates display calibration.
In addition I could not find that any of the credible testers and commentators have taken any interest in Windows 7 color management. According to the Microsoft web site on the subject Windows 7 continues at least a mix of what was only partially offered in Vista’s running, which the 3rd party color management industry has not supported with software or hardware implementation I have seen to this date. A couple of Microsoft web site users had reported problems with display profile handling, but there were no official MS responses to these complaints. Whether serious digital photography and color functioning will be a part of Windows 7 apparently will remain a question until after the operating system gets in users hands this week, and the results come to be published. I hope no news is good news for the many users out there either still clinging to Microsoft XP or suffering with Vista. But if you are averse to risk, wait and see before upgrading to Windows 7. In general it is better but the Windows 7 affect on digital photography and color management is still to be realized and known.

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