White House: You Want Us To What?

It's safe to say the Bush White House won't go down in the annals of IT as a shining example of how to use technology. It seems that George W.'s people have but three days to explain to a federal judge why they shouldn't be required to copy all of its hard drives in order to preserve its e-mails. It's hard to fathom why anyone connected with the White House would even have to ask this question.

It gets worse. The judge involved with these proceedings, John Facciola, made public that e-mails from March to October 2003 have already been lost through "improper archiving." Interesting that e-mails starting in March of that year are missing, given that's the month the U.S. invaded Iraq.

Facciola's order is part of a case brought against the Bush administration by the National Security Archive. That agency has conveniently pointed out to the boys and girls at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. that e-mails coming in and out of the White House are part and parcel of the historical record, so federal law mandates they be saved.

White House officials said they intend "to fully comply" with the order. I hope they didn't send that intention to comply via e-mail.

Microsoft Makes Hyper-V, Vista SP1 Available
Microsoft made available for download yesterday two long-awaited products: one that figures to excite more than a few IT pros and another that will cause them to yawn.

First, the more stimulating release. Redmond officials said that a feature-complete (well, they took out a few features last year, but who's counting?) release candidate of Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V is available. With this development, Microsoft is declaring the much-anticipated virtualization product is now on schedule for completion by August of this year.

Just reporting that Microsoft is promising, again, to hit its delivery date makes me nervous. But I've got a feeling that the Redmondians will come through on this one -- mostly because they need to get this thing out soon, given the competition they're facing from VMware and Citrix.

RC1 focuses more sharply on testing and qualifying guest operating systems, including Novell SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP1, and its own Windows Server 2003 SP1 and Windows XP. This improved capability should make the new release more appetizing for time-constrained IT pros that want to dig in and see what value it brings to their Windows-Linux environments.

The release also sports wider support for host servers and languages, including the three 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2008 with German and "partial Japanese" language options. The third area of improvement is the almost obligatory bump in performance and stability compared to the last beta. Users can download the product here.

The second, more ho-hum product that's finally ready is Vista SP1. Any time you have to ask (and many, many users are), "Do I really need this?" it's never a good sign.

With no new significant features added (although, importantly, Microsoft has further improved Vista's security features), SP1 largely consists of a massive number of updates to the OS going all the way back to February 2007. Many of these updates are necessary -- and some are even useful -- but decidedly unexciting. After more than a year of waiting, Vista users deserve something a little better than this.

Most reports about the SP1 beta indicate that Microsoft has succeeded in improving the product's performance. Some testers, however, believe the company has overstated some of the product's performance improvements.

Anxious users -- I can't imagine who they would be -- can download it now, but they can also wait for it to come to their nearest Windows Update button. I have a feeling that no one is going to get trampled by those rushing to their computers to download this update.

Intel, AMD Engage in a Little One-Up Man-Chip
Things are heating up in the multi-core chip market -- not the temperature of the chips, thankfully, but the competition.

After laboring through a number of delays, AMD has finally announced Barcelona, its quad-core processor, which will be broadly available by the end of April. Barcelona represents the latest turn of the crank in the company's Opteron series of chips.

Counter-punching this news was archrival Intel, which took the wraps off a six-core processor (why not jump to eight?) with the decidedly less exotic codename of Dunnington. Dunnington should be available some time in the second half of this year.

So, while AMD closes down the technology gap between itself and Intel in the quad-core market, Dunnington ensures that Intel will maintain its technology lead in the higher-performing end of the market by a year or more.

On the bright side for AMD, it did garner some quick support among some top-tier players including HP, which has promised a server based on the chip by May. Competitors including IBM, Dell and Sun also pledged to deliver systems based on Barcelona some time this year.

Of course, multi-core chip technology doesn't figure to reach its full potential, at least among x86-based chips, until Microsoft builds a version of Windows capable of fully exploiting such chips. While there has always been a necessary lag between advances made at the chip level and the matching capability in the operating system, Microsoft is farther behind than usual. Windows 7, due no sooner than 2010, supposedly will have full support for multi-core chips.

Mailbag: Dearly Departed...
After reporting that Microsoft lost its appeal in the Novell antitrust suit over WordPerfect and Quattro Pro, Lafe asked readers what they thought of the two apps, and whether there were other apps they'd like to make a comeback. Here's what they said:

WordPerfect was OK, though it never offered the integration that Microsoft managed to put together with its Office suite. Not that Microsoft is perfect, far from it. I just don't buy the "evil empire" idea. It sure does make a good target if you're looking for someone to sue, though.
-Mike

WordPerfect was a better word processor circa 1992. The trouble came with that first Windows release. They never really got a good understanding of Windows until it was too late. The install consisted of a DOS component and a Windows component. At some point, Novell bought the company and it became a total bust.

The funny thing is, had Novell realized the gem it had with Unix System 5 that it bought for a song, it would still be a major player. Drew Major, where is your NetWare messiah now?
-Stephen

Back in its heyday, WordPerfect and Quattro Pro were the way to go. I started out using WordPerfect and enjoyed some of the features, like letter transposition, that don't exist in most packages today. As I type these days, I'm finding this lost feature more in need than ever before.

As for Quattro Pro, I used to perform a lot of data acquisition and my data files were usually quite large. I had used Excel at that time and found the limit to the number of rows one could import a major impediment to my analysis. I had to break files up into chunks and then run an analysis on the chunks and then an averaging algorithm to get the correct results. I believe that the practical limit was 8K.
-Mark

I LOVED WordPerfect when I was using DOS and everything was character-based. I also fought with my boss about Quattro Pro; his argument was that Lotus 1-2-3 was the spreadsheet standard, while my argument was that the file format was the standard and we'd get better cost and features by using Quattro Pro.

However, like many applications, Windows migration was beyond them. I hated MS Word, the DOS version, but I'm afraid that after a while, it became the best on Windows, and WP just died. Same story with 1-2-3 vs. Excel. If Microsoft can be accused of evil-doing, then product improvement is evil.
-Stan

I've been a fan of WordPerfect since the DOS days. I'm a computer consultant with a number of law office clients, and I have observed over the years that a lot more work gets done in WordPerfect than in Word, mostly because the formatting is easier and WP doesn't make the uninvited "helpful" formatting that Word does -- that then has to be undone. I also used Quattro Pro in the mid-'90s, though not extensively enough to prefer it over Excel. I found that Excel was easier to program for complex repetitive tasks like converting data tables into frequency charts, though that wasn't easy, either.
-Jim

I miss WordPerfect. Used it back in the 1990s while working for US Air (now US Airways). I was forced out of US Air for, I felt, illegal reasons. I filed a lawsuit over my discharge in the U.S. District Court, District of Columbia. My case was assigned to Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson. He, concurrently with my case, was the presiding judge in the case of U.S. v. Microsoft. In addition to my case, I was able to attend quite a bit of the Microsoft trial and hearings while waiting on hearings related to my case. It was fascinating.

At any rate, my reason for stating all this is that my documents, per Judge Jackson's instructions -- disseminated in WordPerfect -- were to be submitted in WordPerfect and he even specified what version. So, I, along with Judge Jackson (apparently), preferred WordPerfect to MS Word.
-Jim

I, for one, find WordPerfect much easier to use and do what I need to do. Formatting a document is much easier for me to do to my specs. If I have to have a document or spreadsheet done to make the most impact, then I use the WordPerfect family of products. I can do things that are nearly impossible to do in Microsoft Office products.

Of course, I started my PC experiences with a Radio Shack Model 4 running CPM and WordStar 3.3. I loved the use of ctrl key functions and not taking my hands off the keyboard to get special effects. But then I think Lotus 1-2-3 was about the best spreadsheet I have ever worked with. I could do about anything, including graphing VIA macros. In Excel, it can be done if one purchases and learns Visual Basic (this is the way Microsoft can sell you more programs).
-Stephen

I used WordPerfect back in the day, when the keyboard commands and "F" keys were the only ways to move around. I loved using WordPerfect. I could make it do some pretty amazing things, even when printing out on a dot matrix printer.

Somehow, when Office became popular, WordPerfect seemed to disappear. I don't remember when WordPerfect came out with a GUI-based interface, but I do remember that when I tried to use it, I was very confused by the layout and the functions. So I went back to Office.
-Allen

Back in the early '90s, I cut my teeth on WordPerfect for DOS. I used Corel Office 13 for 2.5 years before recently going back to an environment that uses M$ Office. After having nearly daily frustrations with that product, I wish that Corel Office would do everyone a favor and sunset. OpenOffice, functionality wise, is better than Corel Office.
-Kurt

Long live OS/2! I often wonder what the desktop would look like if IBM and Microsoft had not parted ways.
-Anonymous

In response to the WordPerfect, Quattro Pro write-up, I don't have much to add or say about those. But as far as dearly departed applications: Whatever became of Microsoft Image Composer? To this day, I carry around a copy of Image Composer 1.5 on a thumb drive. I have it backed up in at least three places, as well. For basic graphic manipulation, it can't be beat.

I'm not sure what the difference is called, but the premise of functionality of Photoshop, GIMP and the others like them are very different from Image Composer. Mostly, it is the "workspace" you get in Image Composer that you can't find in any other image editor (that I have found, anyway). No worries as I have my copy, but I sure would love an updated version of that program.
-Kris

Check in on Monday for more reader letters on Microsoft, Novell and more! Meanwhile, tell us what you think; leave a comment below or send an e-mail to escannell@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.

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