Longhorn Milestone 5 Makes the Rounds

Continuing the suspicious trend of major Longhorn builds appearing on the Internet like clockwork, Milestone 5 of Microsoft's next generation Windows release has leaked out of Redmond. The internal alpha build, numbered 4015, is the third Longhorn milestone to end up available for download on newsgroups and IRC channels.

After acknowledging previous Longhorn leaks, however, Microsoft claims it is working to find the source.

Longhorn M5 features incremental enhancements over Milestone 4, which leaked out in early March. Microsoft has finally given Longhorn its own boot logo (screenshot), and has added a new notification screen while logging in (screenshot). The "Bliss" wallpaper has been updated slightly, along with the Longhorn's Plex visual style (screenshot).

As introduced in M4, build 4015 utilizes the Windows Preinstallation Environment to install, reducing setup time dramatically. M5 takes longer install than M4, however, due to changes in the way Longhorn detects devices.

The Sidebar continues to mature in each Longhorn revision. M5 includes a new "Positions" tab in the Taskbar & Start Menu properties to graphically configure the location of the Sidebar (screenshot). An incomplete "Basket" tile has been added to the Sidebar for quick access to files, as well as a tile for Windows Media Player (screenshot).

Longhorn M5 features a new Synchronize wizard for scheduling times to automatically download content from the Internet (screenshot). Such content can be instantly synchronized by clicking a button on the Sidebar.

A unified Search interface, which debuted in M4, is more refined in build 4015 (screenshot). Longhorn can instantly search from a variety of locales, including local files, contacts and the Internet. "Filter by" options can also be used to narrow down results.

Microsoft has further evolved the "Library" concept in Longhorn, phasing out the need for a user to browse a physical hard drive for files or applications. The Music Library, for example, transparently gathers all audio files into a single virtual folder, no matter where they are located (screenshot).

Milestone 5 includes a new Game Library that provides quick access to all installed games, in addition to configuration options for gaming hardware and display properties (screenshot).

The virtual folder functionality in Longhorn is part of Microsoft's new file system technology dubbed Windows Future Storage. WinFS will eventually work like a SQL database and display files as they are needed for specific tasks, rather than based on physical location.

But improvements to WinFS in Longhorn M5 come at a price; the system can easily slow down to a crawl when performing simple file system operations.

Although definitive progress has made in each milestone release, Longhorn is not expected to enter beta testing for months and any current plans could change drastically. Microsoft has refused to comment on the leaked alpha builds, saying it is "too early to discuss" any features.

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