How Can XP Cost More Than Win 7?

When you move from XP to Windows 7 you either buy a new machine or upgrade the old one. The first approach clearly costs money. You buy a new machine. Then you have to get security software, possibly some other news apps -- and there's a decent chance the old peripherals won't work (I've got a stack full of defunct HP printers, if you don't believe me).

And management tools all have to move along with the client shifts.

Then you and your end users have to learn the new OS. If you upgrade older systems, almost all the costs are the same (minus the expense of buying new computers), though you may need RAM and other sundry hardware items.

The No. 1 reason IT doesn't buy new operating systems? They cost more money.

A new IDC study that Microsoft paid for says that what seems intuitive to me is actually completely backwards. If I had half a brain (or if Microsoft paid me to think), I could be bought to think that Windows 7 is way cheaper than XP.

IDC claims maintaining an XP machine cost an average of $870 a year. Windows 7 is dirt cheap at only $168. This is largely because Win 7 is less prone to malware, so IT spends less time on the phone with users and less time fixing the infected machines.

I think Win 7 is substantially better, but still not perfect as it still has a lot of XP-style behaviors. I have apps that still semi-freeze for no apparent reason (I guess Win 7 likes to take a break whenever I even think about printing) and I've had my laptop reimaged at least twice (but I do admit, I use my machines hard and put 'em away wet!).

What do you make of IDC's math? Compare it with your own at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/30/2012 at 1:19 PM5 comments


Bye-Bye, Aero

Aero was released with a lot of fanfare. It is now being killed  off with not so much fanfare. Sort of like that old Hollywood actor that you aren't sure is still alive or not.

Well, Aero will officially not make the Windows 8 cut. There is no place for a rather useless semi-transparent overlay for Metro, I reckon.

Seemingly no one else noticed the lack of Aero in the Win 8 test releases. I'm not sure it was even necessary for Microsoft exec Jensen Harris to write a 1,300 word obituary for Aero.

According to Harris, Windows 8 is all about user interface unification, bringing the desktop UI into the world of tablets and phones. Aero just doesn't fit that model.

That sort of makes sense, though I still need to see if Win 8 truly unifies or fragments the UI. After all, we'll be using traditional apps for many years to come (alongside the Metro OS UI and new Metro apps).

How will your mind cope with this change? Are you already playing with Win 8 and has this been at all an issue? Will you miss Aero? Explain at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/23/2012 at 1:19 PM10 comments


Flushing Crapware

It's been a while since I bought a new computer from a retail store. The last three times they were Macs from the utterly pretentious (and kind of creepy) Apple stores, and each time they went to one of my kids. And in no case were they loaded with a bunch of third-party crapware.

Meanwhile, I've had dozens of PCs that were loaded with this junk.

In the rare cases when they were thusly bogged down, I swiftly (but not always easily) removed it. This garbage clogs the desktop, clutters the hard drive, and makes your PC perform like it's running in mud.

Now, Microsoft is offering to remove the vileness for a mere $99 (can't they round up to $100? What are they, Kmart?).

My initial reaction: "It is charging to remove what they are responsible for in the first place?!"

Then I read the full article and the comments below, and was set to thinking. Microsoft may dictate a lot to OEMs, but it doesn't tell them each and every piece of software they can throw on a machine before it goes out the door. One article reader pointed out that he is often asked to get rid of all this software -- and it is worth more than $100 of his time.
If Microsoft can do a good job for that amount of cash and stand behind its work, my hat is fully off to it!

What is your take? Share your thoughts a dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/23/2012 at 1:19 PM12 comments


Doug's Mailbag: A Hate Letter to Internet Explorer

One reader gets it all of his chest on why he does not like Microsoft's Web browser:

I used IE in 1996 on both Mac and PC, even thought it was a slow and horrible browser that crashed often -- and no, it wasn't the Windows 95 machine (even though that crashed often as well).

Move forward to 2012: IE is still a slow and horrible browser. And it still crashes. I seriously doubt IE 10 will reverse this trend even though it is already being hyped by Microsoft. Oh, I'm sure IE 10 will be the latest and greatest according to all the writers and experts, but give it a few months for the new smell to wear off and take another look. As for Mac users running IE, I do not personally know of any.

The only thing I think IE has going for it is its two main historically consistent features that every user can count on: slow speed and crashing (which many blame on the Web sites they were on).

Add to that the fact that there is a cumulative security patch for IE every two or so months that both rebuilds the browser and also resets some of your IE settings during the process, and you have easily got what I consider the worst browser available. I don't care what anybody else says in favor of it, it is a horrible browser! If you run a network like I do, you can count on having to push the proper IE template settings out to the entire domain all over again every time there is a cumulative IE update released.

So what is IE good for? Microsoft updates and the few corporate Web sites that require it for them to work properly -- and absolutely nothing more. Don't believe me? I know of two huge corporations (that have to remain nameless) that are currently in the middle of a three-year, $8-million rewrite of the entire corporate Web site and all its applications to upgrade and get away from dependence on Internet Explorer. Wasted time in these environments and wasted productivity equals wasted money. One of these corporations has already done a benchmark study and the results show that by switching from IE to Firefox, the employee time savings and productivity increase alone will amount to about 2.5 months of payroll every year -- way more than paying for everyone's annual vacation time.

When IE 9 was first released, every tech writer out there was hyping how fast it was. Well, the only thing it beat Chrome or Firefox on for speed was Java page loads (and there is a lot more to a browser than Java page load speed), and it wasn't in reality all that much faster. That speed brag lasted for about three or four weeks. How does it compare now?

Why do so many people use IE? Simple -- it comes for free with the computer they bought, and many users either don't know that there are other choices or they are too cautious to try something else. For the past 15 years, everyone I have ever introduced to Netscape, Firefox, Chrome or Opera have permanently switched, use IE only for what absolutely requires it, and have never looked back.
-Dave

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to dbarney@redmondmag.com. Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/23/2012 at 1:19 PM12 comments


A New Way To Virtualize Your Desk

Desktop virtualization (I'll use the term loosely because the definition has become a bit murky) has a lot of advantages:  ease of management, fewer hardware demands and greater security. Cost is not always on the list of benefits. That's because even thought the desktop may be virtual, the licensing costs aren't.

Wanova, a Turkey-based cloud company, thinks it has a way around this with a new system based on Windows Server 2008 R2 where the desktops are used across wide area networks (WANs).

The company says it is not VDI, nor is it hypervisor based. As for cost, all you need is an existing Windows 7 client license (you don't have to buy an extra Virtual Desktop Access licenses) and to already own Windows Server 2008 R2. The apps can be served up from the Windows Server to existing thick clients, PCs or laptops.

 "There is absolutely no issue in terms of VDI licensing -- it doesn't require VDA or SA [Software Assurance] because we're just using Windows the way you normally would use Windows," a Wanova exec said. "It somewhat helps us because there is a lot of confusion there in terms of how Windows licensing works. Whether you're accessing from home, from work ... [and] there are lots of service providers that become very cautious about violating Windows licensing and they'll move to somebody like us because of that. The good thing for us is it has absolutely no bearing on us at all."

Get all the details here.

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/21/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


No One Beats On Microsoft Like the Woz

If you had a Mac 16 years ago and ran Internet Explorer on it, you probably crashed a lot. Of course, if you had a PC 16 years ago and ran Internet Explorer, you probably crashed a lot too, but a Mac crashing that much was unusual.

Some blamed MacOS. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak blamed Microsoft, is still irritated, and let it all fly out recently in a speech to mates in Australia, by crikey!

Woz himself found a bug in IE that made it crash pretty much constantly on the Mac. Here's how Australian news.com.au covered it:

"Everyone who ran Internet Explorer...would have several crashes every day," he said. "Move something into folder, it would crash, and you'd have to restart. Type something, crash, restart. Everyone thought it was the OS [Apple's operating system]. I guess it kind of was because it was allowing all this to happen. But in reality it was Microsoft Internet Explorer."

The Australian news site also quotes Woz from an earlier interview saying he would invest in Facebook. I'm thinking Steve might want to walk that one back!

Did you use IE on a Mac or PC in 1996? How did it work? Let us all know by writing dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/21/2012 at 1:19 PM2 comments


Doug's Mailbag: Ballmer Bashing Justified?

Readers present their arguments on whether or not it's fair to criticize Microsoft's CEO:

Couldn't agree more with Forbes. Ballmer and Sinofsky need to be purged, and Scott Guthrie put into a position in which he has the power to at least attempt reversing the damage done to Microsoft by the other ass-clowns' abandonment of Silverlight, hosing of Windows Phone and the slow-motion train wreck that is Windows 8/ARM/WOA/RT (all of that DOA, for sure). I don't know that even Guthrie can reverse the massive damage done to Microsoft's credibility within the developer and enterprise communities, but his ascendancy would at least restore a minimalistic sense of hope in a time in which I've none whatsoever. Have heard a lot of people say Windows 8 will be another Vista or worse, but they've got it wrong -- Windows 8 is far more akin to the resurrection of Microsoft Bob. Purge the ass-clowns and do it soon!
-Anonymous

I forget how we are supposed to judge the virtues of Microsoft. Is it based on profits? Or are we to key in on a specific product that Microsoft has marketed? To my mind the worst leader was Bill Gates. He never could get people to buy Microsoft Bob. Microsoft has been an utter failure ever since... right?
-Dan

Ballmer needs to be pushed out in favor of someone, anyone, with enough vision to keep the many subcomponents of Microsoft working together. There have been way too may failed products and initiatives that were lost due to lack of leadership. Windows Live. Zune. Azure. Kin, Silverlight. Windows 8/ARM/WOA/RT (a disaster still in progress). The record profits are notable, but Ballmer didn't invent or oversee development of those cash cows. He is responsible for the new initiatives failing under his watch. One wonders how much MORE profit Microsoft could be making with better leadership.
-Tom

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to dbarney@redmondmag.com. Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/18/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


SQL Server 2008 Gets SP2 in 2012

SQL Server 2008 R2 users can now test a nearly ready version of Service Pack 2 (SP2). What will you find in this little gem? Like most service packs, it is not designed to trot out new features, but to bat bugs, fix flaws, make up for mistakes, burnish blemishes... Ah, you get the point.

This pack has no less than 25 fixes, including many that have already rolled out and are now rolled up in SP2. Here are few highlights from  Kurt Mackie's report:

"Microsoft listed three highlights to be found in the CTP. It's designed to fix an issue where charts in Windows 7 reports get inexplicably cropped. Another fix addresses a problem with 'hidden rows,' which causes rows or cells to get collapsed in reports. Finally, Microsoft added a fix for a caching problem associated with 'batch files containing the alter table command,' according to the company's announcement."

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/18/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


EMET 3.0: A Hacker Emetic

Some security tools are straightforward. Antivirus software stops or eradicates viruses. Anti-spam software does the same for spam. Firewalls stand guard at the perimeter (or wherever you happen to place them). Malicious software removal tools remove malicious software after it is has been unfortunately installed.

Microsoft's free Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit 3.0 (EMET 3.0), now available, is a bit harder to figure out. In general it could be called anti-exploit software. But like firewalls, spam and virus tools, it doesn't pretend to block all exploits. That's probably one reason previous versions were not officially "supported" by Microsoft.

Here's how Microsoft describes it: "Security mitigation technologies are designed to make it more difficult for an attacker to exploit vulnerabilities in a given piece of software."

OK, I still don't get it. I went through all the material Microsoft seems to offer and I'll tell you what I think I know. Afterwards I'm sure a true expert, i.e. a Redmond Report reader, will cut to the chase for us all by writing dbarney@redmondmag.com.

First, EMET is designed to "make it more difficult for an attacker to exploit vulnerabilities in a given piece of software," Microsoft says.

According to Redmond, other mitigation tools force you to recompile software. EMET is based on an opt-in method -- you submit your software to EMET and it works to protect it. This tells me EMET is a very application specific and not a general purpose tool like Windows Defender.

You can even place mitigations on processes rather than the entire product. This is deep-in-the-weeds security and seems ideal for corporate developers. EMET is also aimed at legacy apps that are often no longer protected by their providers. Here you can take matters into your own hands and use EMET to help harden the old stuff.

With EMET and other tools, hopefully when hackers invade, we can hurl them right back out!

I see this as one more layer of protection -- not quite a full layer and certainly not "the" layer.

What's also cool is that it is totally free and, as you can tell by version 3.0, Microsoft is fully committed to this tool.

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/18/2012 at 1:19 PM1 comments


FreeBSD, Meet Hyper-V

Microsoft keeps making friends and influencing people in the open software world. Today it has a terrific détente with Novell, which leads to interoperability and support for Linux, and is a major supporter to the Linux code base and other open source projects.

Now comes word that FreeBSD will run as a host under Hyper-V, a nice little bit of interoperability normally the purview of tools such as Xen.

The project was announced this past October and is now being finalized -- though no release date has been set. With the growth of Linux, it seems BSD has been overshadowed.

You tell me where FreeBSD excels and where its future lies at dbarney@redmondmag.com!

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/16/2012 at 1:19 PM3 comments


Doug's Mailbag: Windows Media Center Praise

Here's a couple of readers who will miss the fact that Windows Media Center won't be free anymore:

WMC is very good software. I have a TV tuner card and use WMC all the time. I have two monitors so I can write e-mail on one screen and watchthe news on the other. You are missing out. But I suppose your Mac doesn't have Windows Media Center, does it?

The DVR function is also very nice. Why pay TIVO every month when you can get the same features on your computer with no extra fees?

I gather that the entire DVR market is not growing, and the impending switch to on-demand programming lessens the chances that a Windows DVR machine will successfully challenge TIVO. Apparently TIVO is no longer growing and has probably seen its best days.

But what about the hints that the new Xbox720 will target the non-gamer with enhanced media capabilities? The WMC development team was recently reported to have been broken up and the developers transferred to the Xbox team. Even though Microsoft has been reported to have capped off WMC development, I won't be surprised to see something like it residing in a new Xbox for the media center.
-Eric

In my opinion, Media Center is one of the best things about Windows. It supports multiple tuners (including network tuners and CableCard) and plays a variety of formats (including Internet TV, DVD, Netflix, etc.). Guide updates are free. With a $100 HD tuner, I can watch one show while recording another, or record two shows at the same time. You can get small USB tuners that allow laptop users to watch broadcast TV anywhere.

PC users have always paid extra for third-party software that enables functions not built into the operating system. Although Microsoft has not announced a price for Media Center, Steven Sinofsky has said Microsoft is aiming for single-digit dollars. That sounds more than reasonable when compared to other media applications like CyberLink and Nero.

As for DVD, the OEMs already include playback software on any PC that comes with an optical drive. The excellent and free media player VLC also plays DVDs.

We're used to getting Media Center at no extra charge, but I don't find it at all unreasonable to pay under $10 extra for such a useful product. I think those who are so vocally condemning this should consider the great value they obviously get from Media Center (or why would they be complaining?), compared to the very small amount they are likely to have to pay going forward. I don't believe there's a better software DVR available anywhere, at any price.
-Dave

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to dbarney@redmondmag.com. Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/16/2012 at 1:19 PM1 comments


Ballmer Bashing Time

For many in the media, Microsoft bashing is a regular sport. And the favorite event here is Ballmer bashing. Armed with just a J-degree, a well-worn keyboard and copy of WordStar, these scribes think of all kinds of reasons why Mr. Ballmer is such a failure.

The latest entrant, Forbes, which places Ballmer's wealth at nearly $17 billion, now also ranks him as the executive most in need of firing:

"Not only has he singlehandedly steered Microsoft out of some of the fastest growing and most lucrative tech markets (mobile music, handsets and tablets) but in the process he has sacrificed the growth and profits of not only his company but 'ecosystem' companies such as Dell, Hewlett Packard and even Nokia. The reach of his bad leadership has extended far beyond Microsoft when it comes to destroying shareholder value -- and jobs."

Now, keep in mind that Microsoft has never lost money, has record after record quarters, owns the gaming console market, server database market, PC and laptop OS market, PC server market, productivity software market and is now making a nice cloud play.

So it didn't invent the iPad. Boo hoo!

Guess who else is on the list? Mike Duke, head of Walmart, and John Chamber, head of Cisco. I guess decimating nearly any and all competition isn't enough for the ink-stained hacks at Forbes.

I think a little Forbes bashing is in order. Walmart and Cisco? Give me a break!

Who makes your list and how do you rank Mr. Ballmer? Honest and forthright opinions always welcome at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/16/2012 at 1:19 PM9 comments


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