Vista Suit Has No Class

Often, I scratch my head over our legal system. Sometimes, juries seem to get it wrong, as they did with OJ. Other times, judges are the ones making random decisions. Case in point: A judge last week denied class-action status for a suit claiming that Vista Capable computers were Vista Less than Capable. The PCs in question had the "Capable" logo, but barely supported the OS and only ran the lowest-end versions.

If you want to quibble over words and view "capable" as meaning "able to," then these machines are capable. But most of us see "capable" as "able to do something with some modicum of efficiency." A capable baseball pitcher isn't someone who's barely able to throw, but has some kind of true capacity.

Now people upset with Vista have to file separately. Great -- so you can pay a lawyer $10,000 to hopefully recover a grand or some from Microsoft. I doubt that Judge Marsha Pechman has spent much time using Vista with a gig of RAM!

Meanwhile, Emma Alvarado is also suing Microsoft, claiming it's unfair to pay for a Vista PC only to pay more to downgrade to XP, an older operating system. I hope Judge Pechman isn't hearing this case, too!

Time for IE 6 To Go
A group in Norway has launched a public campaign to end the use of IE 6, claiming the browser has never met a standard it actually liked and makes it hard for developers to build compatible sites.

You'd think Microsoft would be upset that an outside group is trying to kill its product -- but Microsoft has been trying to kill IE 6 for years! Microsoft always tries to knock off an older product way before customers are ready. Don't believe it? Then just say these two letters: XP.

DNS Disaster
The Domain Name System (DNS) lies at the core of the Internet and our own corporate networks, but most admins and network pros barely give it a second thought. An exploit discovered last summer that's now starting to spread should make us all take DNS seriously.

The problem comes with the scary name cache-poisoning vulnerability. "The vulnerability involves a weakness in the transaction ID used in DNS queries. Currently, replies to a DNS query have to contain the proper transaction ID, which is chosen randomly from 65,000 values," our report explains. Fortunately, there's a patch -- and has been for about half-a-year.

Your Turn: Microsoft's Economic Stamina
Microsoft had a tough last quarter. Revenue and profits were down and the company announced 5,000 layoffs. I'm working up an essay looking at how Microsoft technologies may see it through tough times.

Do you think Microsoft has the stuff to make it through economic calamity? What are the strongest parts of its portfolio -- Azure, Live Mesh, SaaS, Visual Studio, Windows 7? Shoot your best supply-and-demand analyses to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Your Turn: Green IT
Do you care about green technology? Is there pressure to save energy? Have you pushed any green initiatives, such as virtualization? Are there ways to use Microsoft software more efficiently and has Microsoft told you about them?

Help me spread the green word by writing dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Mailbag: Supporting XP, IE 8 Feedback, More
Last week, Doug asked readers how long they think Microsoft should support XP. Here are just some of your responses (more to come Wednesday):

Simple! As long as it doesn't have a viable alternative.
-Anonymous

Microsoft should continue to support XP until popular opinion says otherwise. The people are the ones using it, not The Enterprise.
-Rick

Until Windows 7 comes out.
-Anonymous

XP should be fully supported until at least the day that Windows 7 Service Pack 1 is released!
-George

Readers who've tried out the available versions of IE 8 share the good and the bad:

On using IE 8, the answer is no. For me, this is a significantly inferior product. On the same router, I have two machines in close physical proximity. Using IE on either machine, page load speeds and download speeds are far slower than on either Firefox or Safari. The only great equalizer is Hotmail. Over time, Hotmail performance has been on a steady decline. After marking one or more messages for action, clicking on "Junk" or "Delete" results in a long, pregnant pause, leaving me staring at a "Loading" status message. Worse, IE 8 often kills all Internet connectivity. When this happens, every page produces a timeout error. The only fix is to reboot the machine. I was surprised that the Internet movie database (IMDB.com) was not one of the built-in accelerators. But so far, the scariest thing about IE 8 is that it seems to protect some tracking cookies. However, this may be related to gathering information from Windows 7 beta users.

Given all these issues, there are a lot of good things to be found in IE 8. From simple things like having a palette of emoticons on the edit toolbar to jazzy things like a simple, easy way to create custom accelerators, IE is showing tremendous improvement. Microsoft is one of those rare companies that forges forward, aware it will make mistakes along the way. Microsoft has a proven ability to learn from its mistakes and apply what it learns (as evidenced by the classic "turn the entire corporation on a dime to embrace Web technologies and the Internet"). From the amount of improvement so far, I am looking forward to seeing what happens as Microsoft continues to focus attention on performance, reliability and usability. The future for IE looks pretty bright.
-Dave

Yes, IE 8 R1 is more stable than the final beta, but it still gets in a wad and dumps altogether more frequently than IE 7. That said, it has the courtesy to recover tabs and offer to restart where one left off -- one for the "plus" column. Each browser window is not insulated from the death of another -- very sad to see; one had hoped Microsoft would be able to apply virtualization techniques by now to ensure isolation, but no. It is decently quick at rendering but internal ASP.NET 2.0 apps elicit far too many F5 needs, despite telling IE 8 repeatedly to run in Compatibility mode for the entire internal site. IE 7 doesn't behave in the same way on the same pages on the same version of the app, so it's not an app design "feature." Oh, and Fidelity.com is still MIA even in the supposed "C. Mode" -- very disappointing, MS (and Fidelity).

As a browser and app user, I can't say there's anything "killer" in IE 8, but the "Accelerators" feature is handy. I just wish it would open Google Search or Maps in another window! It's in its early days and many Web sites simply churn out HTML (or whatever) that IE 8 has a stab at rendering. I suppose the C.Mode is a boon 'cos turning it on sure improves things in a hurry. I think my list of compatibility sites is getting very long.
-Stephen

And George has this to say about the impact Bill Gates would have on the economic stimulus -- if he had any say at all:

You wrote: "Imagine if Gates ran the U.S. stimulus effort. We'd see a clean, tight, effective bill for sure!" If I recall correctly, the first principle espoused by Laurence Peter in "The Peter Principle" is that the primary goal of any organization is to prolong its own existence. Hence, the goal of all those in Congress is not to produce a "clean, tight, effective bill" to stimulate the economy; their goal is to produce a clean, tight, effective bill to buy them votes to get re-elected. That is what "pork barrel" politics is all about and it works remarkably well.

We ought to know better, but apparently we don't. We should refuse to let them use our own money to buy our votes, but we merrily pretend they have given us a gift without remembering that they took the money from our wallets to pay for it (plus a lot of overhead). We will get a better class of politician when we become a better class of voters.
-George

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

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