Scaring Scareware

I know you've been there. Your computer is happily chugging along, and all of a sudden a pop-up warns of a virus, critical performance problem or some other such catastrophe. Being the IT guru that you are, you ignore it, knowing it's all a scam.

Not everyone is so smart. Plenty click on the pop-ups and buy the unnecessary -- and often bogus -- security software offered. I had a whole machine destroyed this way, and I never even clicked the link! I swear!

Microsoft is working with the state of Washington to sue companies that exploit Windows to deliver these misleading pop-ups. I hope Microsoft and the state attorneys kick some major pop-up butt.

Have you or anyone you know been victimized by this garbage? Horror stories welcome at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Unified Communication Still More Hype than Reality
Over a decade ago, I covered unified communications; back then, everyone from Microsoft to Novell was talking about not just blending voicemail and e-mail, but tying all your devices -- like cell phones, pagers and Palms (remember those things?) -- together.

The emergence of VoIP should've made all this much, much easier, but when it comes to UC, we aren't really any closer than we were 12 years ago.

Some of you have figured all of this out and have effective UC strategies. You're a minority, and I'm envious. Most of us still have unintegrated pockets of contacts, messages and data -- work phones, home phones, home office phones, cell phones, corporate e-mail and private e-mail. How do you make all this work together? Solutions welcome at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Chuck Going Back in Space
Charles Simonyi is famous in a few largely unrelated circles. PC vets know him as the man behind Word and Excel. Celebrity stalkers know him as the boy-toy who picked up Martha Stewart from jail. And space junkies know him as the man who spent millions to go into space as a private citizen.

Simonyi either liked space so much, or has so much cash to burn that he's heading back up. Good luck, Chuck!

Mailbag: Much Ado About the Cloud, .NET vs. Java, More
Yesterday, Doug wrote about Larry Ellison's criticisms of cloud computing. Here are some of your own thoughts:

Cloud, shmoud. Yes, the cloud is way overhyped. I'm already tired of hearing about it. Isn't this just another name for client/server computing? Ho-hum. Been there, way past that.

Oh, and the day I would trust our company's data and/or applications to the cloud is the day the entire Internet decides to take a dump and I would be shown the door. No thanks.
-Phil

I think that anyone dismissing cloud computing as hype doesn't know what's going on around them. We're going through another swing toward "mainframe" computing, but this time instead of using thin clients to access user sessions on beefier servers, individual servers are being virtualized on large servers, and the new thin client is the browser.

I would recommend that people look into hosted cloud offerings such as Mosso.com, Amazon's EC2 and others to get an idea of what utility cloud computing really is. You pay for what you use, and your environment scales dynamically to meet your usage needs. You no longer need to spec out individual pieces of hardware for hosting certain applications. You just put your applications online and go. You pay for the disk space, bandwidth and CPU time that you use. Cloud computing is service on-demand. Many SaaS providers are hosting on these types of platforms to dynamically scale their application as they add subscribers. The mainframe is getting much smarter. We apologize if it has a catchy name.
-Jeremy

A recent survey suggests that .NET is making gains against Java. Readers share where they stand:

A lot depends on what you are doing and what you need to do. We use both .NET and Java; some of the tools we use are .NET-centric and some are Jave-centric. The tools perform very well and play nicely with each other. Here's my take, though: If Microsoft doesn't start lowering the prices, I think it's going to end up pricing itself out of the market. Yes, its tools are well-polished, but it's not like the average programmer can pick up a copy and play with it. You used to be able to do that with VB and still afford lunch, but that day has disappeared. Plus, the toolset has gotten a lot more complicated and more pricey. I can download any number of IDEs for Java development and pick the one that suits me. With .NET, I'm pretty much limited to MS -- especially if what I'm doing is mission-critical.

I used to have an MSDN subscription, but I honestly can't justify the cost to my boss. In fact, I'd rather have them spend the money and give me a standalone SAP system, which is another thing I develop for. I don't even need to worry about .NET vs. Java in that environment; I just use what they provide and it all plays nicely together. So if you're developing the latest tool for Symantec, then yeah, .NET and MSDN is the way to go. But if it doesn't matter what builds your app, I think MS has a LONG way to go to justify the cost.
-Bruce

As far as .NET vs. Java, we are a custom software dev shop in Austin, Texas that USED to do both Java and .NET -- but we have not had a single customer requesting Java in more than three years! Every project where the customer's RFP specifies the base technology, it has almost always been .NET (and occasionally PHP on Web projects). And where they have not specified, I cannot remember a single project that ended up being a Java project. The only Java developers I still know are some guys who are evolving a five-year-old application for Pitney Bowes, and even they are starting to move to .NET for future versions. As for us, we are now pretty much exclusively a C#/.NET house.
-Shaune

A few more of you chimed in on VMware and its plan to create a datacenter OS:

VMware's plans for the datacenter OS are great ideas if it can make them work. This would allow us to use some of our older hardware for the processing power that otherwise have gone to the scrap heap. It could also lead to faster results and provide a better user experience. In terms of moving this eventually to the cloud, I believe there are going to be many reservations and there will have to be some high-level SLAs to justify this move.
-Andy

Not so long ago, I worked for a litigation support company with a close relationship with EMC, a relationship that was doomed because EMC eventually decided to be a competitor and the litigation support company was acquired by a search engine vendor without a single clue. During the EMC days, however, we had VMware forced down our throats at every opportunity, first on our development machines and later with the enterprise edition forced into our datacenter. I hated it on the development machines, both because of its effect on peformance and because we repeatedly lost significant amounts of development due to virtual machine issues. (I eventually refused to continue using VMware on development machines, switching fully to Virtual PC for improved performance and greater stability.) Use of enterprise editions of VMware in the datacenter proved nearly catastophic. The servers on which it was deployed suffered severe performance degradation and increasingly erratic behavior. It was yanked from all production servers shortly thereafter.

In my opinion, VMWare enjoyed success in the virtualization market as an early, major player with few competitors, a level of success that's quickly fading, in part because it lacks the technical and business expertise to effectively compete with later-arriving players and because virtualization is a technology best embedded in the core operating system. I fully expect Microsoft to reduce VMware to "also-ran" status in the virtualization market -- and I look forward to it doing so.

-John

Philip shares his thoughts on exactly what Microsoft's High Performance Computing (HPC) Sever is capable of doing:

The whole HPC issue is a little muddied since the cores of current desktop and server machiens are plenty busy due to them being dispatched by the large number of concurrent threads running on the typical machine. Sorry to disagree with you -- and also Microsoft -- on this issue. Microsoft's HPC push is designed to deal with the next generation of processors that will have MANY more cores (dozens, hundreds), and there may not be enough work via a typical multithreaded application and operating system to keep the cores busy

In essence, the HPC push is an educational and technical push to get developers to break up their applications into smaller subunits of execution (which is not possible or practical with current compiler and OS technology). HPC is also a necessary evolution of Microsoft's .NET technology to provide it with better scalability and also some unique distinctions so that it is a more attractive platform for high-end/high-performance applications.

-Philip

And Fred thinks there's more to Microsoft's recent $40 billion stock buyback than meets the eye

I wonder whether this is Microsoft buying back assorted shares of lots of small investors on the open market...or Bill and Steve cashing in by having Microsoft buy back some (or all?) of THEIR shares before the market implodes on them.
-Fred

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

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