I can't remember the last time I took a whole week off from Redmond Report. While there was less stress, I felt much less connected to the world of IT. I'm used to offering a snippet of news and then hearing from all of you what it really all means. That's how I come to understand the IT world.
I want to thank my more than worthy substitutes and for all the readers who kept the letters coming in my absence. Now let's get back to business.
XP and Office Support Saga
All good things must come to an end. On Monday we reported that Microsoft is ending free or "mainstream" XP support. If you have an XP problem, you best have a valid credit card. Then yesterday we ran a nearly identical story -- only this time it was free Office 2003 support that got the boot.
If Vista and Office 2007 were easy transitions, I'd cut Microsoft some slack. But Vista is a known nuisance and the new Office 2007 interface is more confusing than a conversation with Paula Abdul. My quick take? If the software can be installed and work properly on existing hardware, not utterly confuse the customer, and has a reasonable upgrade price, then phasing out free support is justified. Neither Vista nor Office 2007 seem to suit this rather simple criteria.
When is the right time to end free support, and who out there likes the ribbon? Answers to either question equally welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patches in Abundance
Patch Tuesdays are unpredictable affairs. Sometimes, there are fewer patches than there are on a pair of Donald Trump's socks. Other months, we get walloped with more fixes than if we were spending an afternoon with Amy Winehouse.
This month is on the high side, with eight patches that cure some 23 software ills. Among the patches are remedies for WordPad and the Office text converter. Microsoft also fixed an HTTP hole that plagued virtually all versions of Windows.
I'm no expert on Microsoft security, but here's what Eric Schultze, CTO of Shavlik, thinks. While eight patches may seem like a lot, much of the work was to fix problems Microsoft earlier argued took much time to resolve, or weren't a big deal. The fact that Microsoft went back and fixed these holes is to be commended.
Yes, my friends, Microsoft really does want all these security hassles to go away.
IE an Intranet Attack Vector?
IE has always had the rap of being an insecure browser, something that I believe will change as more IE folks move to the more robust IE 8. (Side note: Over 50 Redmond Report readers helped me craft a May cover story about IE 8 which says, in short, that test versions of the browser were a mess but the final product is stable and sweet -- and more secure.)
Regardless of the extra measures, IE 8 and earlier versions have one big flaw, at least according to one security firm: There are four core security settings and the one for internal networks, intranets, is too lax. This could allow scumbag loser hacker creeps to creep into your network and have their way. The saving grace? The hackers need some detail on how your intranet interface looks.
I wouldn't mind more of us using honeypots to lure these hackers in, solid forensics to find out who they are, and law enforcement to nab 'em. Even better, how about a few Navy Seals? Should more be done to identify hackers and would you implement technology that helps? Calm, rational and off-your-rocker commentary welcome at email@example.com.
Mailbag: Windows 7
Readers have Windows 7 (and the associated complications of transitioning to it) on the brain. First are some of their thoughts about the lack of an XP-to-7 upgrade path:
No upgrade path from Windows XP to Windows 7 will just delay the rate of implementation as Corporate America isn't going to go buy new systems just for Windows 7. An upgrade would have made it much more appealing. Bad more on Microsoft's part. You would have thought it would have learned by now.
The might of Microsoft at work again! No soup for you, XP rebels! My way or the highway! OK, the highway it is. The prospect of a decent, lightweight OS (Windows 7) was -- I say WAS -- worth waiting for. But no upgrade path from XP? Is Mr. Ballmer barmy? Who the hell do they think they are? Microstupid deserves to feel the wrath of Corporate and Citizen America for its unabashed arrogance.
My NAS is happy with Mac machines. I don't need my Windows box for anything beyond TurboTax, so I think I finally have reason to say, "Up yours, Micro$oft -- you are truly superfluous!" Apple, I will happily expend my dollars on your rock-solid, fast-booting OS, and bid the trogs farewell. A decade of struggles and finally I can see an end to them. Thank you, Mr. Ballmer -- to every cloud there IS a silver lining, and it is freedom from Microsoft! Thank you in spades!
I can't put a dollar value on the costs associated with "upgrading" to Vista, but I can't imagine migration expenses for even a small company will be less than what it costs to hire a full-time employee. For us, I think the last straw was when Microsoft pushed an update to a machine that was three days into reconstructing a 4TB RAID array, and it caused a reboot. We are transitioning to OS X and Solaris everywhere. Windows CE smartphones are also outlawed. We don't miss Active Directory one bit. In fact (and you can quote me on this because I have never seen it in print), you wouldn't need Active Directory if it wasn't FOR Active Directory. Blue screens are a thing of the past. We still use Exchange, but it is outsourced to Rackspace so it is no longer my headache.
I have no doubt that Microosft will break all Vista-related records for missed earnings and disappointments with Windows 7 -- and I also declare that anybody who proposes Windows 7 deployment puts their job at risk.
Saying, "There will be no upgrade path from Windows XP to Windows 7" is extremely misleading. XP license holders will be able to upgrade to Windows 7 without a problem. What they will NOT be able to do is perform an 'upgrade'-type installation. This is not at all uncommon for changes of the magnitude of those involving the differences between the NT5 (XP) kernel and the NT6 (Vista, Windows 7) kernel. Further, the bootstrap loader process was changed dramatically from XP to Vista.
The bottom line is that Microsoft wants customers to have the best experience possible. And when customers don't follow guidelines, bad things can happen to negatively impact that experience. Those of us in the trenches know that the best installation is always a clean installation. And yes, from what I have seen, Windows 7 WILL be worth the switch.
A few others share their takes on Windows 7's XP downgrade option (and whether it makes sense at all):
It does not make sense -- why would I want to buy a new PC downgraded to XP when the current PCs I have running XP are doing fine? Especially when there is NO path to upgrade the OS when I'm ready to use Windows 7. Is the same group that gave us Vista responsible for this as vengance for not wanting to accept a subpar OS? Again, Microsoft's biggest enemy is itself.
I would not get a downgraded PC. There are some apps we use that I would have to test if they would work in Windows 7 that would influence laptop purchases.
First, users have to find out if they legally can downgrade. If they can, sure, it is a great option. However, I really feel that once users see Windows 7 in action, they will want to ditch Windows XP pretty quick. It runs much faster than Vista and as good as XP on decent systems. This is nothing new and I feel that any story representing such is bad journalism.
What do you think? Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.