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Is Vista Close to Release Candidate Stage?

Despite calls by some beta testers for Microsoft to release a third beta of Windows Vista, the company appears to be instead readying to push its first golden code candidate out the door.

Windows enthusiast and blog site Neowin.net has reported that Microsoft recently created a Release Candidate "branch" in the code testing process for Vista. That usually means that the company is nearing the date when beta testing ends and the RC stage begins.

An RC is a candidate for "release to manufacturing," or RTM, the final step before the product goes to customers. RTM code is sometimes referred to as "golden" code. Microsoft typically releases a series of RCs beginning when the beta test phase ends.

The usual procedure is to ship an RC and wait for what's called a "quiet period." If no "showstopper" bugs -- bugs that have to be fixed before the product is released -- are found during that time, the product is RTMed. If a showstopper is found, it is fixed and a new RC is released. Again the clock starts ticking. This is done until the product finally reaches RTM quality and is released. Often, a new operating system release will only go through two or three RCs before being RTMed.

While on the surface, it would seem that there is only one collection of code being tested, in reality there are several strains of the code being tested simultaneously. When Microsoft gets close to the RC stage of testing, it creates an RC branch in the code and, typically soon after, begins releasing RCs.

In early July, .NET developer Robert McLaws published on the Web an analysis of the bugs still present in the consumer or Beta 2 release at that time -- some 5,700 left to go. By the end of July, he publicly called for Microsoft to slow the testing process and insert a third beta before moving to the RC phase.

But a sharp-eyed tester and blogger says that, from studying recent release numbers assigned to track various branches, the company has just begun a branch named "RC1."

"On Friday [Aug. 4], Microsoft made a branch for the RC1 Milestone build. The branch is known as 'vista_rc1' and began with build 5504.16385.vista_rc1. I should note that 5504.16385 is effectively equal to the build 5489.0.winmain which was built the same day," said a post from blogger Uktaz. The post was linked to Neowin's site.

The move may increase the likelihood Microsoft will soon begin shipping RCs. Several analysts have projected that Microsoft must finish the code and get it to manufacturing by the end of October at the very latest if Vista is to actually ship to businesses this year and to consumers early next year.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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