SQL Server: We Have Lift-Off...Almost

I'm not exactly sure how Microsoft ships products. This week, Microsoft announced that SQL Server 2008 is released to manufacturing. This is such an exciting event that it comes with its own acronym, RTM. That's TWU, or Totally Weird and Unnecessary.

So it's Aug. 7, 2008, and SQL Server code has been sent to the manufacturers, who'll get it in your hands by the middle of next month, more than a month later. What exactly is the manufacturer doing? It could be making boxes and burning CDs, but that's SOS (So Old-School). But these days, it's all about the download. So what's taking so long? Maybe you can tell me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

In any event, subscribers to TechNet or MSDN can check out an eval version now, and volume license customers will get it late next week. Or you could just wait 'til Sept. 15 and buy one of seven different versions. That's right, there are seven different versions ranging from a free compact version, a developer rev, a Web edition, all the way up to the high-end Enterprise release.

Patch Tuesday Enhanced
The second Tuesday of every month, Microsoft releases and publicizes a series of patches. It also gives a basic severity level, such as low to critical. Starting in October, Microsoft will give far more information about the actual threat these vulnerabilities pose, helping IT figure out which patches have to be done pronto and which can wait a bit.

Microsoft is also hoping to work more closely with other security firms to find and fix flaws. That's good news, but most of the security companies I've talked to already report a good relationship with the folks up in Redmond. Not sure how much that's changed, now that Microsoft competes with so many of them.

What else can Microsoft do to improve security and how would you grade its current efforts? Send your "A"s, "B"s, "C"s, "D"s and "F"s to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Microsoft Wants You
Are you an experienced server manager who cares about usability, have two hours to spare for a "study session" and, lastly, can make it up to Redmond to meet with Microsoft? If so, Microsoft wants you to help test out a new product.

Microsoft won't yet say what the product is, but if you sign up as a tester, drop me a line and let me know at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Mailbag: Search Engines of Choice, More
Readers share their their favorite non-Google search engines:

I use Ask.com for two reasons. One, context is king for me and Ask gives me better context than Google. Two, I don't appreciate the way Google says "Don't be evil" and is. Three, Google has no product and is therefore a parasite relying on advertising revenues to subject users to adverts they don't want to see. Four...

Did I say two? "Don't be numerate.

-Christopher

The first is/was still the best: AltaVista. Allowed multiple user parsing (date range, near, etc.).
-Anonymous

Try Mamma.com. While it isn't a direct search engine but rather a meta search engine (and it displays Google results), you should at least check it out. It may not find as many copies of the same whitepaper, but it does a good job of weeding out the junk and returning only the pearls.
-Donna

One of my pet peeves about Google is that while sure it can find stuff, it just can't count. I have frequently tested Google's hit counts, and they are almost always overstated by one or two orders of magnitude. For a company that creates no content (as you frequently point out) and which built its whole reputation on search and uppity technology, is this really OK? It feels like fraud to me.

Looking at Google's hit counts always reminds me of that scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" where Indiana Jones says to Sallah: "I said NO camels. That's FOUR camels. Can't you count?"
-Chris

And here are more of your thoughts on OSes, Vista problems, and whether Microsoft should build its next OS from scratch:

I feel the biggest problem with Vista is lack of drivers for printers, scanners, etc. Example: HP Photosmart 1315 and HP Scanner 5470C work fine on XP, but Vista offers no drivers.
-Richard

All one has to do is look at the sales figures to know that Vista has been an incredible success in terms of the typical consumer. In the enterprise space, the rate of adoption of Vista is no more sluggish than the rate of adoption of XP in 2001.

Have people had problems? Yes, some have. But many of those problems are related to ISVs who weren't ready when Vista shipped and OEMs who refused to provide drivers for old hardware. Many more problems were the result of those consumers who expected the transition to Vista to be painless -- even on OLD hardware. The only thing that has changed since the transition to XP is that the "blogosphere" was far less accessible than it is today. The squeaky wheels have a much larger forum now and the number of journalists who are willing to repeat what they've heard instead of doing their own testing has increased.
-Marc

Can Win ME be anything except an unnecessary expense? My least favorite MS trick? Pulling the upgrade to Win 98 that made it equivalent to Win 98SE from the Web before I learned to save such things. Put this in the MS Hall of Infamy. Does anyone remember this?

I have to say Win 95 is the best, for its time. Win 2000 was the longest-serving relevant OS from MS. (SP4! That's a lot of free upgrades, folks.) Win XP was the most successful transition from a hard-coded bunch of bailing wire that worked exceptionally well (Win 98 SE) to a real multi-processor, multi-threaded, priority-interruptible OS. Many kudos to MS for this one. Vista is the best version of Windows -- if you have the new hardware you deserve.
-Eric

It's asking a lot for Microsoft to start from scratch with a new OS. For years I have heard that the big advantage for Microsoft Office is that they have had access to OS development and could request code be written to make their products work better than their competition with Windows. If Microsoft rewrites their desktop OS, they may be in for a major rewrite of their whole Office suite. If access to OS development is true, then either Microsoft is going to have to give up a major advantage to the competition or their OS project doubled in size. Wow!
-Anonymous

ME was bad and compared favorably only to BOB when it was launched. I feel Vista is in the same vein (though I don't hate it, I don't use it either). My point is, now is a better time than most for Microsoft to start a new OS from scratch, and it could prove quite fruitful.

First, forget hardware; make it a tiny hypervisor (not unlike ESXi, or is that blasphemy?). Include a loader where the OS of choice can be loaded -- XP, Vista or any new OS you develop with this. Provide specs early and use your clout to get hardware manufacturers to make drivers that plug into standardized inputs to the hypervisor. All video cards must address xyz address space at location grpl on port spzbt. Extra features may access your card directly through ports xxzs-xxzz. All sound cards must yada, yada.

Then, once this hypervisor is out and the hardware vendors are writing to it, you can settle down for some real functionality in a new OS that loads into this hypervisor. Moreover, it isolates the user data and programs from the hypervisor so upgrades to the hypervisor does not upset a user's settings, programs, etc. It is a new twist on desktop computing, but it is what I have been dreaming of for a while. Don't go for the all encompassing OS, just make something that works out of the box and allows users to upgrade to the new OS when it actually benefits them!"
-Thomas

I would like to call for an open forum where ALL the hardware and software concepts are presented and discussed. If Microsoft would sponsor this, involving many from communities outside Microsoft, with open design reviews, we may truly get a better operating system. The tendency to limit focus, get stuck on a design and exclude alternatives must be fought. This will take some time, and we may have to deal with intellectual property and copyright issues, but I think the outcome will be better. Or we make the tradeoff to accept whatever Microsoft comes up with.
-Brian

Let us know what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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