Election Day in the USA

It's Election Day in the U.S.

I told my staff to figure out the best time to vote and to go ahead and do it -- don't worry about time away from work. I can't reach half of 'em by phone or e-mail so they must have chosen the busiest time and the longest line! Hey, anyone ever heard of a BlackBerry?!

I have no idea who'll win (could be a stunning Nader upset, eh what?), but I do know that the main candidates talked more about George W. and William Ayers than about our huge IT industry.

And of course, both lectured about the economy, but seemingly none (except maybe the Libertarian) passed second-grade math. Apparently, when you have a $10 trillion deficit and a collapsing economy, the answer is to increase spending and cut taxes. If I ran Redmond that way, it would be out of business; and if I ran my house that way, I'd be in a run-down apartment and my 1980 Porsche 928 would be repossessed.

And you have to run your IT shop within a budget, and can't justify massive deficits by quoting John Maynard Keynes. Unlike you and me, our candidates love to focus on Keynes' idea that deficit spending stimulates the economy, forgetting that he advocated paying off these debts during prosperity. Oops.

That said, I personally like and admire the two leading candidates. I'd defend each with equal ferocity in a bar fight. (Who would be a tougher tangle and why? Place your bets at [email protected].)

What can the U.S. to shore up the economy, and should it even mess with what might be natural business cycles? And what about tech? Should politics get involved? Hanging and non-hanging chads welcome at [email protected].

E-Mail Security Lax
Remember the bank guard on "The Andy Griffith Show," the old coot who was always asleep and whose gun fell apart every time he drew it? Well, it seems that's far more protection than many of us give to our e-majl systems. An IDC survey shows that almost no shops control the data sent out over e-mail, which may or may not contain corporate secrets.

In my opinion, this isn't an e-mail issue. Even if the mail is locked down, there are a million ways to ship out confidential information -- via an envelope, Gmail, thumb drive or CD. The real solution is to control access.

The survey also found that only one in 10 shops use anti-spam software. The implication is this is a bad thing. But I'm not so sure. Spam filters have to be set up very, very carefully. I've had 'em where the quarantine held all my important e-mail, and my inbox stored all my spam. Do you have any spam filter horror stories? Send the scariest tales to [email protected].

HP is trying to reinvent the world of magazine publishing with wholly-owned MagCloud.com, a Web site and system that makes it almost as easy to publish a magazine as it is for an amateur (to be kind) writer to blog.

That's pretty cool, but what's cooler is that the site is testing out Azure, Microsoft's new cloud platform.

MagCloud.com uses HP printing technology to print these rags on the fly. I've long had what I think is a better idea: Have home printers built to print magazines and Web sites formatted as magazines.

Here's what I wrote in April 2007: "I think the computer industry can and should save print, and here's how. We get HP, Lexmark and all the other printer companies to make inexpensive printers that can take a digital publication, print it in all its four-color glory, staple it and let you take it to where the real learning takes place -- the bathroom."

Mailbag: Thumbs Up for Vista
Microsoft released Vista SP2 in limited beta last week, prompting Doug to ask readers what they've thought so far about SP1. From your responses, it looks like it's faring better than expected:

I use Vista Business Edition SP1 at work, and Vista Home Premium Edition SP1 at home. I have no problems at all with either of them. I can do all of my work just fine on the work system, and I play all kinds of graphics-intensive games on my home system. Vista works great for me, so I don't know what everyone is complaining about.

Don't be afraid of Vista! I am running all Vista boxes in my office, and have been for a year. I run both 32- and 64-bit machines without any problems. I do have to admit, however, that there are more issues with 64-bit boxes regarding driver functionality, but they're workable. SP1 was smooth as silk with 32-bit systems, but there were a couple of hangs in installing the correct 64-bit patch. Some of my customers for whom I've recently built new Vista systems are well over 65 and run Vista flawlessly. I receive very few help calls!

With Microsoft getting ready to retire XP soon, we are all feeling the pinch to switch over. If we were to wait for Windows 7, we would still be in the same "wait and see" boat, because I don't think Microsoft is ever going to have one OS hang around that long again (as in NT, for instance).

I've been on Vista since day one, on a machine that was labeled as Vista-ready and that shipped with XP installed. And it's a x64 machine. I should have more problems than anyone, but I've been virtually problem-free. I think you guys all give Vista a very undeserved bad rap. -Anonymous

To be honest, I have no idea what the fuss is all about with Vista being deployed from an IT perspective. I'm currently working for a good sizeed corporation (800-plus employees) that owns a large base of financial institutions. We have a mixture of Windows XP and Vista Business Edition 32-bit SP1 deployed at the majority of our banks. Vista is working great with our bank applications and a majority of the older bank apps have been made to work with little effort. We in IT have welcomed the additional security added to Vista, like a more robust Group Policy that allows even better control over our users.

We are not waiting for Windows 7 as an answer to what's wrong in Vista (and we have yet to see many issues at all), as those will be fixed like anything. I would like to see Vista stop being treated like the ill-fated stepchild of Windows ME.

We had been holding back on Vista rollout internally as our early experience with Vista was pretty discouraging. The net assessment was the gains from Vista were pretty even with the downsides, so why move from XP? But we recently acquired an HP laptop machine and discovered that it would not be easy to do with it what we usually do with a new machine, i.e., wipe what the manufacturer loaded on the hard drive and reload with an RTM version of XP SP3. The RTM version of XP did include disk drivers for the type of hard drive controller built into the laptop. We would need to locate the right disk drivers and hope they would integrate correctly into the XP installer.

It had been a while since we had looked at Vista, and we also were curious about 64-bit performance, so we elected instead to replace the Vista Home 64-bit version shipped with the laptop with an RTM Vista 64 Ultimate version. The Vista shipped from HP included all sorts of add-on "crapware" programs that killed its performance during boot-up. Replacing this with RTM Vista 64 Ultimate SP1 eliminated the add-on programs and their negative effect on performance. We were amazed at the high performance of RTM Vista 64 SP1 on this laptop. The hardware choices and Vista seemed tuned for each other. Vista 64 performed noticeably faster on this laptop than Vista 32 on desktop machines with faster hardware.

Our take is that Vista's bad reputation comes from insufficient hardware performance, operating in 32-bit rather than 64-bit mode, manufacturer-installed applications, and the many pre-SP1 compatibility issues. It is a shame that this OS is not more appreciated!

I have run Vista since it was first released and have been pleased with it, although it's not without issues. The thing I noticed, though, is that most of the issues were application/driver-based and not with the core. Once the problem applications/drivers were updated, the issues went away and I can honestly say that Vista has run fine since then. The amazing thing is that my laptop in not a high-end machine like most Vista "haters" state you have to have, and I still have no real major issues.

SP1 has really helped with compatibility and performance and I really hope that MS improves the performance even more with SP2. The start up time is still too slow. I'd also like to see the SP2 include all the latest versions of the .NET Framework. This is important to me as a developer, since it helps make deploying applications I write.

Speaking of things you'd like to see in Vista SP2, here are a few more:

There are a couple of things that I'd like to see in the new SP2 update, namely:

  • The Vista Media Center TV Pack 2008 included and not remain an OEM-only add-on. This is core functionality that would increase the adoption of Vista Media Center and thus Vista as an OS. Microsoft has a real jewel with Media Center and some of us geeks migrated to Vista just for the added functionality, only to see it get lost in the shuffle.
  • The ability to Remote Desktop into Vista Premium PCs re-added. With a Premium edition, you expect to have the features you had in Windows XP Professional, and more. To remove this ability and only make it available in the Ultimate edition was simply a bad decision.
  • Addition of hooks to support the Motorola CableCard software edition. Since it will soon be available (if it's not already), this would be a better solution to providing multi-stream decoding in multi-tuner setups than CableCards on the individual tuners themselves. Besides, CableCard tuners are more expensive.
  • The ability to share a single physical multi-stream CableCard on one tuner among all tuners in the system.

May it be so!

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected].

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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