Google Browser Nearing Reality

There may soon be more competition in browsers as Google is reportedly prepping its answer to Internet Explorer and Firefox. No real details or features were available, but the company has apparently been working on this puppy for a couple of years.

Google must have been reading Redmond magazine. I wrote a column for Redmond, "The Barney Browser," in June 2008. My idea was for Google to build a browser and focus on intelligently storing searches, along with archiving the overall process of exploration. I wrote: "The Google Barney Browser integrates searching with a file system so the intelligence that comes from searches can be organized, used, shared and built upon. Perhaps these strings of pages can be cached so if the site goes down, the information isn't lost."

But from what we know, Google is instead focusing on video and improving the performance and safety of Web apps. I guess Google didn't read my column after all.

A beta of the browser is supposed to be available today. What would you like to see in a Google browser? Features welcome at dbarney@redmondmag.com. And if you take this baby out for a spin, shoot me your impressions.

Patch That Web!
Windows admins and IT types are familiar with Patch Tuesday. Every month, Microsoft publicly releases a bunch of fixes and you or someone on your staff gets to fixin'.

The Web is a wilder, woollier and perhaps more dangerous world. Researchers and vendors such as Cenzic have been pointing out how unpatched many Web servers and apps are. In fact, Cenzic claims that seven out of 10 sites aren't safe.

While a security company has an incentive to show flaws, this information should make all of us pause. And after we pause, we should get to patchin'.

A Patch for an IE Patch
Microsoft late last week released an out-of-cycle patch for IE that fixes a hole in Vector Markup Language (VML) that could let a hacker control your machine. Microsoft last month sent out the original IE patch, but tweaked it to deal with the VML problem. So I guess it's a patch for a patch.

Letters -- Wow!
The letters in response to last Thursday's newsletter must have set some kind of record -- at least 34 in all (now you know what I read over my long weekend!). Of course, when you write about Vista, the Mac and your daughter all in one fell swoop, it's bound to raise some eyebrows.

We're posting as many as we can in our Mailbag section, and apologize if we can't publish them all today. But we always appreciate reading your thoughts, so keep sending 'em to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Mailbag: Vista This, Vista That
Mention Vista and the critics come out of the woodwork. This week, readers share their thoughts on why they haven't migrated to Vista:

I read your article in Redmond Report and just wanted to respond. The main driver for our organization wanting to continue to run XP is the stability of the OS, minimal issues, and the cost in time and money to replace old hardware. Today, these older desktop machines run acceptably well with XP, but they would not meet the hardware requirements for the new OS.

Secondly, we have monitored the issues surrounding Vista and believe we would be significantly adding to our work load if we migrated. Most organizations have more work on their to-do list than they have resources to accomplish them, leaving only the most critical and cost-effective projects to be funded. The value is not high enough to make the move at a corporate level.

-Jonathan

Even with all the problems we had with the XP SP3 upgrade, I still like XP a lot more than Vista!
-Tony

I tell all of my customers and clients not to buy anything with Vista on it. If you really need a new system, look online for machines that still ship with XP. Often, these are refurbished machines, so the end user has a tough choice to make: get an antiquated machine with XP or I can de-Vistafy your machine for you. And people are buying it; there is an actual demand for this service. What choice does the user have? Try to work with Vista and pray that any software they buy that isn't explicitly rated for Vista has a 50/50 chance of working, and you all know the penalty for returning opened software.

This Vista debacle is beyond belief. Learning Linux, any distro, is easier than dealing with Vista. The tech support time is so high that it is prohibitive. The only people who have made money on Vista is Microsoft, and while I have nothing against capitalism, this is out and out theft. Vista does not work, and NO amount of patching by Microsoft will ever get it to work with the ease and finesse of XP Pro. This has to be illegal, but who can afford to sue Microsoft?
-Ari

I work for a school district and we have no plans to move to Vista.
-Anonymous

The poor economy has less to do with our reluctance to go to Vista here at the City of Eugene, than the fact that there is no perceived advantage to go to Vista, even with some increase in security. The UAC, with all its prompting, is seen by management as too burdensome for the users. There is great reluctance on the part of upper management to force this on our users. The move to Vista would be costly in having to upgrade many workstations to 1GB or more of memory. Then the departments would see an annoying UAC and no bang for their buck after buying more memory.

The culture here is "everybody a local admin." With IT already seen as a cost center, we really don't want to make the departments pay more money in hardware costs for an annoying OS. There have been suggestions in upper management that if we went to Vista, we are to rip the UAC out of our install set. No increase in security with a hardware cost to the users translates into no Vista for us.
-Robert

After many hours of saving and retrieving ghost images from my XP machine, I decided to upgrade to Vista. What a big mistake! I have now decided to downgrade back to XP, because I cannot connect to the Vista machine using NET USE after many hours of trying, and I am sick and tired of searching for solutions. It shouldn't be that hard for an experienced IT pro. Computers are supposed to make life easier, and upgrades are supposed to do just that -- upgrade. Vista is not ready for prime time.
-Richard

I'm waiting for Vista SP2, hoping that will finally restore the Fax Wizard that even XP Home had, and that MS, in its infinite wisdom, opted to leave out of Vista Home Premium. But I'm not holding my breath waiting, and my hopes aren't high. I'm more likely to go the dual-boot route with Ubuntu, where a fax printer is just another package that's part of the distribution.

Beats me how Microsoft can think it's encouraging customer loyalty when it refuses to allow customers to buy the MS products they want.
-Fred

In the spirit of constructive criticism, Doug asked readers what they would do to improve Vista. Here are some of your suggestions:

Abandon the current Vista. Start all over with the XP code base. Rid yourself of the arrogance of imposing automatic updates (on any and all OS components). Rid yourself of the arrogance of imposing "proprietary rights enforcement" and any other nanny-ware on your potential customers. Rid yourself of the arrogance of filtering/sanctioning/certifying what third-party software can run on the new OS platform (no one ever asked Mr. Bill to interfere in this manner). Stop making changes to the interface just for the sake of change. Drop the pretense that the new OS is any more secure than XP (XP SP2 is perfectly secure if you simply don't use Internet Exploder and if you avoid ActiveX).

Ask the user (for a change) what, if anything, the user would like to be different in the new OS before developing change requirements. Undertake some legally binding commitment to the user community (possibly through a performance bond) in which you can promise and try to convince users that this new OS does not contain a built-in rootkit or any other clandestine/stealth functionality that can run or act without the user's cognizance. Have some motivation in developing this OS product other than the planned, periodic obsolescence of your former product just in order to generate revenue. Stop thinking of your customers as "Mom and Pop Stupid" who simply want to store recipes and family photos. Recall that the P in PC stands for "Personal" and not for "Proprietary."
-Anonymous

Add several "Classic" options to allow Vista to run older stuff in the same locations as in XP. Make a wickedly fast desktop search for documents and e-mail. Make a far smaller menu of Vista options (Not Pro, Ultimate, and on and on). Add a "speed accelerator" option.
-Dave

Remove the @!%$ DRM from Vista. I should not have to bear the burden of this additional overhead if I am not using it. It should be an add-on pack if someone wants premium content.
-Lee

First, simplify and fix access security. I used to be a pro with VAX/VMS ACL rules and organization, so I'm somewhat familiar with the concept. If you have ever tried to change ownership or access rights on a file structure under Vista, I find it an unworkable nightmare.

Second, if you are joining a new Vista machine to your home network, this takes a lot of hunting and digging. It is so simple under XP to specify the local group name, turn on sharing for specific folders, and be done. I about never found the place to change/specify the local group name (like MSHOME) under Vista.

-Wayne

I would work on the hibernation/standby issue. Vista aften crashes after you shut the lid on your laptop. XP rarely has issues with hibernation/standby.

Slow startup is more like 2000 Professional also, so without standby you get to wait for up to 10 minutes for the system to turn on and load your profile. Then you get to wait until it checks every connection before it is responsive. I often have wireless turned off; takes a long time for Vista to realize the radio is off and allow me to work.
-Cindy

I'm from Switzerland and I work in the same building as the Swiss Supercomputing Center, where they have the CRAY system. I think Microsoft should go there and check it out. No matter how powerful the CRAY supercomputer is, the operating system is very light. All the supercomputing power is used for computation.

Now, Microsoft should learn something from this. If you have a powerful PC, it doesn't make sense that all resources are sucked up by just booting the system.
-Dave

Simply, Windows XP SP3.
-Mark

We already have fixed Vista. It's called Linux.
-Anonymous

One word: LEOPARD!
-John

My fix for Vista? Buy a Mac. It just works.
-Bob

But despite all the bad press, there are plenty of people who do like Vista. A few of them share their thoughts:

Vista ain't broke. Don't waste time "fixing" it.
-Anonymous

I have been a staunch Vista basher for a few months now. Then I realized that I had not actually run anything other than the beta on some test boxes. Thinking back to the days of the intro of Windows 2000 and Windows XP (yeah, I am getting really old), I realized I hated all of them when they came out. After forcing myself to take the plunge and just immerse my computing into the new OS (yes, I also upgraded to Server 2008), I soon found myself wondering how I ever got by on the previous stuff.

Well, I am about one month into the total immersion and, to tell the truth, the experience is no more frustrating than what I have experienced in the past. Sure, the drivers thing is a big pain, but I have found in the past that the sooner you figure it out and start becoming an expert instead of a whiner, the higher your stock rises in the company when everyone else finally gets on board. I almost hate to say this now, but I can't stand using XP anymore.
-Mike

As an early adopter of Vista and an IT manager of a medical device incubator with 50-plus computers and laptops, we have completely moved to Vista, except for a few engineers that have specific needs and have to run XP. I can tell you confidently that since SP1, Vista has become even more stable and is more secure the XP. The performance in some cases even surpasses XP. Although the hardware requirements for Vista are definitely higher than XP, computers have become so cheap that it does not really matter. I can also tell you that we run Vista on a couple of our older Pentium 4 machines and they run just as well as XP (of course, some of the eye candy is not enabled). Most of our machines run 2GB of RAM, and again hardware is so cheap the cost is negligible.

My only point of writing this is that I am really tired of so-called professionals such as yourself doing a disservice to Vista just because it is popular to do so. If you really used Vista, you would know that it is now very stable, compatible with most of today's software and hardware, 1,000 percent more secure than XP (not one malware or virus infection on any of our computers; cannot say the same when we used XP), and runs just as fast as XP on similar hardware (x64 Vista kills XP in speed and performance). Many companies are slow in adopting Vista for the same reason they were slow in adopting XP: Migration is expensive, time-consuming and eats up a lot of manpower.
-Asif

There's a lot of Vista-bashing (or Microsoft-bashing in general) in the press and on blogs, which makes this Computerworld article refreshing as it reminds us that XP -- the OS people are stampeding to "downgrade" to -- was just as criticized, echoing many of the same gripes, at the same point in its lifecycle. In fact, Vista's much-criticized low adoption rate is slightly less pathetic than XP's was.

Which is to say Microsoft will continue to listen to customer complaints and release patches/service packs until Vista, like XP, is solid and hits critical mass.
-Anonymous

We LOVE Vista. We have been running it since its release and we are very happy with it. I use Vista on all of my company's PCs, as well as on my personal gaming PC. We have not had any problems with Vista, and we have been installing it mainstream for our clients, too, since that period (32- and 64-bit versions).

I really wish everyone would stop knocking Vista! Before Vista, everyone hated XP; we were told how unreliable that was, and that it had so many security flaws. Now, XP is the solution to everything, and we constantly have to hear how Vista is the devil. I suppose I can only look forward to Windows 7, so that we can hear how crappy it is and how wonderful Vista has suddenly become. Vista is not Windows ME, and I wish people would stop flaming it as if it is.
-Deric

You state in your Aug. 28 newsletter that you have never heard anyone say they love Vista. Yet in the same newsletter you quote a letter from "Scott" who says both he and his wife love Vista. You also blame your daughter's failing Toshiba laptop on Microsoft. I don't get it.

I am guessing that you are just trying to be sensational to elicit a response, which you did from me. I read your magazine and newsletters to get unbiased information. Can you say this information is unbiased? I will certainly hold your newsletters in lower regard going forward.
-Chris

Check in tomorrow for more reader letters on Mac, IE 8 and more! Meanwhile, share your own thoughts by leaving a comment below or sending an e-mail to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

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