Posts tagged ‘Windows Vista’

My Oft-Repeated Advice -- Hold off on iOS8

There is nothing in the new Apple OS update that is particularly pressing, and even if there were, don't update on the first day.  Wait.  I gave this advice to my family for iOS7 and saved everyone a world of grief.  One would think that Apple would have a way easier time with releases than, say, Android or Windows.  Apple OS runs only on Apple devices, whereas Google and Microsoft have to deal with all sorts of hardware compatibility issues.  Nevertheless, Apple has had many issues with its round-number OS releases such that there is no reason to rush.  I suggest you wait 2 weeks, then Google "iOS8 issues" and "iOS problems" and see what you find.  If nothing scares you, then update.

Here is the problem with Apple - whether it be OSX or iOS or even iTunes - it is almost impossible to roll back.  I hated Windows Vista and Windows 8 (Windows is sort of like original-series Star Trek movies where every other release sucks more than average) but I was able to roll back in both cases.  Short of rooting your iPhone, I am not sure iOS rollbacks are even possible.

What Microsoft Windows Has in Common with [Original Cast] Star Trek Movies

Skip every other release.

Here are the original cast Star Trek Movies:

VI:  OK, kind of

V: Bad

IV:  Goofy but enjoyable

III:  Truly terrible

II:  Awesome, to the point that the two Chris Pine et al reboot movies have drawn more heavily on the Wrath of Khan than the original show

I:  Flat, boring

 

Here are the recent Windows releases:

Windows 8:  Sucks

Windows 7:  Excellent

Windows Vista (6?):  God awful

Windows XP :  Very Good

Windows ME:  God awful

Windows 98/2000:  OK

Do you see the pattern?  Windows 7 redeemed the awful Vista in the same way XP redeemed the awful ME.  I can only hope the to-be-released-in-October Windows 8.1 fixes some of the awful mistakes in Windows 8, not the least was the grafting of a butt-ugly touchscreen tablet interface to a PC OS most of us use with mouse and keyboard.  Until then our company is still only buying Windows 7  computers.  Some of my employees buy their own computers -- I provide all the company's tech support and have told them they are on their own if they buy Windows 8 and then can't find the control panel.

Duh: By Abandoning the PC, Microsoft Windows 8 Fails to Save the PC

From today's WSJ

The personal computer is in crisis, and getting little help from Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 8 software once seen as a possible savior.

Research firm IDC issued an alarming report Wednesday for PC makers such as Dell Inc.  and Hewlett-Packard Co.,  saying world-wide shipments of laptops and desktops fell 14% in the first quarter from a year earlier. That is the sharpest drop since IDC began tracking this data in 1994 and marks the fourth straight quarter of declines.

Gartner Inc., a rival research firm, estimated global shipments sank 11.2%, which it called the worst drop since the first quarter of 2001. Gartner blamed the rise of tablets and smartphones, which are sapping demand for personal computers.

Windows 8 was never, ever going to save the PC, because Windows 8 represents an abandonment of the traditional PC.  It is essentially a touchscreen tablet OS forced onto the desktop.  Like Windows Vista, it is an absolutely awful OS that our company has banned any employee from using on a company machine.  Fortunately, we can still buy a few Dell computers with Windows 7, and when that is no longer possible, I will go back to building our company machines and putting Windows 7 on myself, the same thing I did to survive the Vista nightmare  (hanging on to XP until Windows 7 came out).

Later in the article, the author recognizes that Windows 8 is killing the PC rather than saving it

But there is little sign that buyers are responding. In a surprisingly harsh assessment, IDC said Windows 8 hasn't only failed to spur more PC demand but has actually exacerbated the slowdown—confusing consumers with features that don't excel in a tablet mode and compromise the traditional PC experience.

Mr. Chou said not only has Windows 8 failed to attract consumers, but businesses are keeping their distance as well. Chief information officers at several companies echoed his opinion Wednesday.

Ricoh Americas Corp., which replaces about a third of its 17,000 PCs every three years and upgrades to the most current operating system available, said this year it is sticking with Windows 7, released in 2009. Tracey Rothenberger, the company's chief operating officer, said the benefits of switching to the new software aren't worth the effort of training employees to use it.

I am sympathetic to Microsoft's goals, if not their tactics.  Certainly market share in OS is shifting to handheld devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and Microsoft has largely missed this market.  To stay relevant, they need to gain share in these markets -- and trying to gain a foothold by somehow leveraging their market share in desktops makes sense.  It would be great to have an OS for tablets that allowed more access to the file system and customization options, as a competitor to Apple's walled garden, though Google is way ahead in that particular niche.

But the imposition of tablet aesthetics, user interface, and apps framework on desktop PC's is just frustrating as hell for those of us who still like using a mouse and prefer our traditional desktop interface.  The training issue for employees is not a trivial one -- when Microsoft completely abandoned the menu structure and user interface of their Office products several years ago, we decided not to upgrade any of our PC's and, when necessary, to use the OpenOffice alternative, as much because it retains the old Office interface as for its being free.

I still use Word, Excel, and Powerpoint 2002 on this computer, because I have never really been happy with the new Office interface.  I use no other software even remotely that old.  I routinely upgrade everything I have.  I dutifully upgrade Quickbooks and Norton Security and a dozen other programs every year.  So to go a decade without upgrading shows how little I think of Microsoft's upgrade strategies.

I'm Still Not Down with Vista

I have now tried out Windows Vista with its first service pack and I am still not clear what Vista adds over XP, except upgrade costs, an interface system that requires retraining employees and a lot of extra computer overhead, and compatibility problems.  XP is stable and great for us. 

As you may know, most XP OEM sales come to an end on June 30.  Dell has already announced they will still sell XP units under the downgrade options in the Vista license.  Good for them.  In fact, it looks like Dell expects that customers will be willing to pay additional money ($20-$50) for the older operating system.  LOL.

Anyway, this month I bought an additional 5 Windows XP OEM licenses from NewEgg.com to put on the shelf to cover future computer builds out past June 30 (I build many of the computers for myself and the company).

By the way, if you want a gauge on how Vista is doing, check out the right bar pn this page at Amazon.com.  On the top 10 bestsellers (on June 18, 2008), XP occupies slots 2,4,6,7,9 while Vista is in slots 3,8 & 10.  Note that is over 18 months after Vista was introduced to replace XP.

Vista Gaming Performance Improved

I have been a big Windows Vista detractor, and continue to be skeptical that Vista offers the average corporate user any advantages over XP, while carrying substantial disadvantages in terms of legacy equipment and software compatibility.

But, credit where it is due, service pack 1 combined with better graphics drivers have at least apparently eliminated the Vista-XP gap in gaming speeds, with graphics applications performing now nearly as well in Vista as in XP.

Save XP!

InfoWorld is hosting a petition to Microsoft to save XP and continue to sell it past the middle of this year.  You can sign their petition .  I signed the petition, but the real petition for MS may be the numbers coming in for XP sales, which are still strong.  On this Amazon bestsellers page, as of 2/1/08, places #1,2,3,5 where XP and only #4 was Vista. IT News builds on my Amazon analysis:

Gates, in
Las Vegas Sunday, boasted that Microsoft has sold more than 100 million
copies of Windows Vista since the OS launched last January.

While
the number at first sounds impressive, it in fact indicates that the
company's once dominant grip on the OS market is loosening. Based on
Gates' statement, Windows Vista was aboard just 39% of the PC's that
shipped in 2007.

And Vista, in terms of units shipped, only
marginally outperformed first year sales of Windows XP according to
Gates' numbers -- despite the fact that the PC market has almost
doubled in size since XP launched in the post 9-11 gloom of late 2001.

Speaking
five years ago at CES 2003, Gates said that Windows XP in its first
full year on the market sold more than 89 million copies, according to a Microsoft record of the event....

A survey published by InformationWeek last year revealed that 30% of corporate desktop managers have no plans to upgrade their company's PC's to Vista -- ever.

As de facto IT manager for my company, you can include me in that 30%.  My other posts on Vista here.

Update:  Face-saving suggestion for Microsoft:  Rename XP as Vista Lite or some such.  Then they can keep it and claim 100% acceptance of Vista.

Vista Still Sucks, But I Actually Found A Mac I Kindof Liked

Now, I won't argue that Vista will someday not suck - after all, give an infinite number of monkeys $30 billion a year in cash flow and they'll code Shakespeare.  Or whatever.  But I have to agree with this post by Glenn Reynolds that Vista is still not ready for prime time.  Now, I wrote this same conclusion over a half year ago, but incredibly, no updates of any seriousness have been issued.  It is still the mess it was then, and Moore's Law has yet to catch up to make the average machine run it acceptably  (particularly with laptops).   When I set up the dual boot back to XP on my kid's laptop, I did not make the XP partition large enough because my kids absolutely refuse to install anything on the Vista partition, which they use only because that is where MS Office is installed. 

Am I a lone wolf on this issue?  Oh my God, am I a Vista denier! Well, check out this announcement from Microsoft reported by ZDNet on June 28:

Microsoft is simplifying the processes via which its PC-maker
partners will be able to provide "downgrade" rights from Windows Vista
to Windows XP for their customers.

Microsoft will implement the first of the policy changes for its
Gold Certified (top-tier) OEM partners within the next couple of weeks.
The company will streamline downgrade-rights policies and procedures
for the broader channel somewhat later, said John Ball, general manager
of Microsoft's U.S. Systems Group....

Microsoft is working on ways to allow the rest of the channel to
take advantage of these simplified downgrade procedures, but is still
in the midst of hashing out the details, Ball said. He didn't have a
timetable for when Microsoft will make its more liberal
downgrade-rights policies available to the rest of its PC partners.

I am not sure this is the sign of a healthy product line when your top customers are demanding easier ability to go back to the old version.

As a side note, I have never, ever liked Macs.  First, I never wanted to be one of "the rest of us" and I enjoy tweaking and upgrading too much to be a fan of Macs.  Also, I thought their historic resistance to some obvious improvements, like the two-button mouse, was just stupid.  All that being said, I will admit that I really like the new iMac I bought my wife.  It is perfect for her, and it is gorgeous.  The keyboard is not great for speed-typing but it looks really cool and my wife is fine with that.  The iMac did a great job with the tough stuff - it immediately recognized the PC's on my network and was able to trade files with them (something our Vista laptop still balks at from time to time) and it set up a network printer on the first try.  And, for perhaps the first time ever on a Mac, I didn't feel like the things was wallowing in first gear when compared to my desktop PC.

Vista Update -- It Still Sucks

Short version: avoid Vista.  Longer version:  I wrote previously about Vista writing a new chapter in fair use: 

Because, having killed fair use for multiple copies, believe it or
not, the media companies are attempting to kill fair use even for the
original media by the original buyer!  I know this sounds crazy, but in
Windows Vista, media companies are given the opportunity to, in
software, study your system, and if they feel that your system is not
secure enough, they can downgrade the quality of the media you
purchased or simply refuse to have it play.  In other words, you may
buy an HD DVD and find that the media refuses to play on your system,
not because you tried to copy it, but because it feels like your system
*might* be too open.  The burden of proof is effect on the user to prove to the media companies that their system is piracy-proof before the media they paid for will play...

Back to the book
analogy, it's as if the book will not open and let itself be read unless
you can prove to the publisher that you are keeping the book in a
locked room so no one else will ever read it.  And it is Microsoft who
has enabled this, by providing the the tools to do so in their
operating system.  Remember the fallout from Sony putting spyware, err copy protection, in their CD's -- turns out that that event was just a dress rehearsal for Windows Vista.

Via Instapundit, Bruce Schneier concurs:

Windows Vista includes an array of "features" that you don't want.
These features will make your computer less reliable and less secure.
They'll make your computer less stable and run slower. They will cause
technical support problems. They may even require you to upgrade some
of your peripheral hardware and existing software. And these features
won't do anything useful. In fact, they're working against you. They're
digital rights management (DRM) features built into Vista at the behest
of the entertainment industry.

And you don't get to refuse them.

The details are pretty geeky, but basically

Microsoft


has reworked a lot of the core operating system to add copy protection
technology for new media formats like HD-DVD and Blu-ray disks. Certain
high-quality output paths--audio and video--are reserved for protected
peripheral devices. Sometimes output quality is artificially degraded;
sometimes output is prevented entirely. And Vista continuously spends
CPU time monitoring itself, trying to figure out if you're doing
something that it thinks you shouldn't. If it does, it limits
functionality and in extreme cases restarts just the video subsystem.
We still don't know the exact details of all this, and how far-reaching
it is, but it doesn't look good....

Unfortunately, we users are caught in the crossfire. We are not only
stuck with DRM systems that interfere with our legitimate fair-use
rights for the content we buy, we're stuck with DRM systems that
interfere with all of our computer use--even the uses that have nothing
to do with copyright....

In the meantime, the only advice I can offer you is to not upgrade
to Vista.

We have about 50 computers in the company and I have banned everyone from upgrading to Vista.  I have studied Vista and there is nothing there that helps my business, and a lot that hurts it (e.g. higher initial price and much higher system requirements.)  If we upgraded, we might have to replace half our old ink jet printers just because the manufacturers are really unlikely to write Vista drivers for them.  We have 4 Dell's in the closet with XP loaded.  After those are used up, I will build all the future computers myself.  I have several OEM copies of XP on the shelf (less than 1/2 price of the Vista retail upgrade) and I will buy more if it looks like they are going to stop selling it.  I would switch everyone to Linux, except most of my employees are not very computer savvy and its just too hard to get them all trained.  I will probably only buy Vista for one box, which is my gaming machine at home, and even that is at least a year away before anyone has a killer DirectX 10 game I have to have.

The Next Milestone In Killing Fair Use

Back in the stone age (say, about 20 years ago) we used to have this quaint concept for media we purchased called "fair use."  I won't get into the legal definitions, but it meant in practice that if I had a book, I could read it at home, or I could take it into work and read it there.  In college, I would read novels in the back of boring lectures, and soon hit on the tactic of xeroxing 20-30 pages of my book and putting the copies in a folder to disguise what I was doing.  Fortunately, fair use let me do so without penalty.  Sometimes a friend would read an article in a magazine he thought was cool, and he would xerox a copy of the article (a sample of the magazine, so to speak) and share it with me.

Increasingly, in the digital age, none of the behaviors are allowed anymore.  For years I used to install my copy of turbo tax on both my home and office computers, and carry my tax file back and forth on a floppy to work on it.  Then, a couple of years ago, Turbo Tax installed a form of rights management that required that I buy a second copy of the same software for my own personal use for my office.  In effect, I could no longer carry my novel to work -- I had to buy a second copy if I wanted to read it at the office.  The same situation has prevailed with digital music files - increasingly recording companies are taking the position that if you want a digital file on both your iPod and your home system, you need to buy two copies.  And the sampling and sharing we used to do all the time with magazine and newspaper articles are not longer permitted for digital media.

Having firmly established the principle that multiple uses by the same individual of the same digital media should require multiple purchases, where do we go next?  Well, I think that we will look back on the release of Windows Vista as the next great milestone in killing fair use.  Microsoft may have left out nearly every product enhancement they originally promised for Vista, particularly the revamped file system, and tried to hide the fact with some pretty desktop eye candy, but they found plenty of time to add numerous DRM and copy protection schemes to the OS. 

Because, having killed fair use for multiple copies, believe it or not, the media companies are attempting to kill fair use even for the original media by the original buyer!  I know this sounds crazy, but in Windows Vista, media companies are given the opportunity to, in software, study your system, and if they feel that your system is not secure enough, they can downgrade the quality of the media you purchased or simply refuse to have it play.  In other words, you may buy an HD DVD and find that the media refuses to play on your system, not because you tried to copy it, but because it feels like your system *might* be too open.  The burden of proof is effect on the user to prove to the media companies that their system is piracy-proof before the media they paid for will play (emphasis added). 

PVP [a new Vista DRM component] eliminates these security gaps, enabling a series of DRM measures that keep
a high-resolution content stream encrypted, and in theory completely protected,
from its source media all the way to the display used to watch it. If the system
detects a high-resolution output path on a user's PC (i.e., a system capable of
moving high-res content all the way to a user's display), it will check to make
sure that every component that touches a protected content stream adheres to the
specification. If it finds a noncompliant device, it can downgrade the content
stream to deliver a lower-quality picture -- or it can even refuse to play the
content at all, depending on the rights holder's preferences.

So you see the next step.  First, they prevented fair use of copies.  Now, they are going to prevent fair use of the original.  Back to the book analogy, its as if the book will not open and let itself be read unless you can prove to the publisher that you are keeping the book in a locked room so no one else will ever read it.  And it is Microsoft who has enabled this, by providing the the tools to do so in their operating system.  Remember the fallout from Sony putting spyware, err copy protection, in their CD's -- turns out that that event was just a dress rehearsal for Windows Vista.

As Rosoff's statement implies, many of Vista's DRM technologies exist not
because Microsoft wanted them there; rather, they were developed at the behest
of movie studios, record labels and other high-powered intellectual property
owners.

"Microsoft was dealing here with a group of companies that simply don't trust
the hardware [industry]," Rosoff said. "They wanted more control and more
security than they had in the past" -- and if Microsoft failed to accommodate
them, "they were prepared to walk away from Vista" by withholding support for
next-generation DVD formats and other high-value content.

Microsoft's official position is that Vista's DRM capabilities serve users by
providing access to high-quality content that rights holders would otherwise
serve only at degraded quality levels, if they chose to serve them at all. "In
order to achieve that content flow, appropriate content-protection measures must
be in place that create incentives for content owners while providing consumers
the experiences they want and have grown to expect,"

Nope, no arrogance here.

Matt Rosoff, lead analyst at research firm Directions On Microsoft, asserts that
this process does not bode well for new content formats such as Blu-ray and
HD-DVD, neither of which are likely to survive their association with DRM
technology. "I could not be more skeptical about the viability of the DRM
included with Vista, from either a technical or a business standpoint," Rosoff
stated. "It's so consumer-unfriendly that I think it's bound to fail -- and when
it fails, it will sink whatever new formats content owners are trying to
impose."

More links on Vista DRM issues here

Update:  OpenOffice 2.1 is out.  We love OpenOffice at our company.  We stopped buying MS Office a couple of years ago and have been thrilled with the decision.  The version 1 release was weak but since version 2.0 it has been a very strong offering.  It is nice to see Sun getting its Microsoft hatred out in a more productive manner than suing them all over the place.