Server 2008 as a Workstation, Chapter 3: Simulating Vista

Because I often teach classes about Vista in which Vista runs in a virtual machine, where you can't see the AERO interface, I like to use my laptop to demo certain Vista AERO features: live thumbnails, Flip3D, and so forth. So it was relevant to ask whether Server 2008 could put forward a reasonable facsimile of the Vista GUI.

The first thing you must do is to install the Windows Desktop Experience, which the Server Manager console categorizes as a "feature." The descriptive text for the feature warns you that although installing it will put the binaries in the right place, you have to manually turn on the features, which seems sort of silly - why would anyone install this software unless they wanted to turn it on? However, I followed the directions, got the binaries installed, rebooted (is it just me, or do you have to reboot Server 2008 a LOT more than Server 2003?), and then went to the Display control panel (oops, I mean "Personalize," which is a good example of Microsoft renaming something for no good reason).

Alas, no Vista theme seemed to be present. A visit to the Services control panel and changing the startup type for the Themes service fixed that. Then another visit to the Personalize control panel and wallah, there was the AERO theme. Transparent window borders: check. Live thumbnails: check. Flip 3d: check. Sidebar seemed to be missing in action, but I could live with that; besides, there's probably some tweaky way to get it running, if I ever get desperate. I'm going to chalk up the Vista GUI capability as a win, and move on.

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