Games and Parental Controls
Obviously, only so much can be done in terms of game enhancements. If you are an XP user, you will find that the games included in Windows 7 are a more modern, hip version of yesteryear's options. Solitaire has even received a bit of a facelift (which you Vista users have already seen, most likely). There are plenty of game options to choose from, including Internet games that enable you to play against others online.
New versions of Windows typically include new versions of DirectX. DirectX is a grouping of application programming interfaces (APIs) that multimedia and game developers can use to tap into the latest and greatest features of an OS to make the most of a game. DirectX is a separate component that can be installed on an OS to bring it up to the latest version, but not always. For example, DirectX 10 required Windows Vista because of a dependency on the new Windows display driver model. So, certain games and multimedia apps requiring DirectX 10 would also require Windows Vista.
DirectX 11 will be able to work on both Vista and Windows 7. Features included in DirectX 11 will be support for GPGPU, tessellation, and improved multithreading support for better multicore utilization in games.
Windows Vista introduced Parental Control options that include a combination of game control, computer-use control, Internet access control, and activity logging. In Windows 7, this has been divided into two pieces. As discussed in Chapter 2, "Application Enhancements," we can download the Live application called Windows Live Family Safety to configure the Internet and activity log options. However, still included in Windows 7 is the ability to control gaming options.
From within the Control Panel, you can open the Parental Controls applet. Keep in mind that you need to have at least one Standard User account to exercise control options. Select the user, and then you can configure how that user can use the computer (see Figure 3.5). Note that you can still configure Time Limits, Games, and Allow and Block Specific Programs. If it is installed, you can choose additional settings through the Family Safety web filter.
Figure 3.5 Parental Controls configuration screen.
Time limits are relatively easy to configure using a grid system that allows you to determine whether there are any times the user should not be using the computer. If a user is logged on when the time marker hits the "no use" timeframe, the user is automatically logged off.
As for game settings, you can determine whether you want a person to have no ability to play games at all. You can also block (or allow) games by rating, which then enables you to use the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) to match the user with the rating on the game. You can go a step further and configure additional content-blocking options.
Finally, you can also determine which applications or programs a person can use. Windows will show you a simple interface with check boxes that allow you to choose only those applications allowed.