Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Avoid Windows 7

Microsoft is launching Windows 7 in a few weeks, so I wanted to get ahead of the marketing. But the Microsoft PR engine has been working overtime, so maybe I'm too late ... but some are pushing back against the PR, which is great.

Lest we forget: Windows 7 is just like Vista, folks. "Windows 7" is Microsoft's attempt to re-brand the damaged "Windows" name after the extremely poor "Windows Vista" release. I love that you can still buy systems with Windows XP "downgrade" because Windows Vista still isn't trusted 3 years after it was released.

According to Wikipedia: A number of capabilities and certain programs that were a part of Windows Vista are no longer present or have changed, resulting in the removal of certain functionality.*

Also note that various Windows Vista features and components have been removed in Windows 7, including the classic Start Menu, Windows Ultimate Extras, InkBall, and Windows Calendar. And Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Movie Maker, and Windows Mail (previously bundled in Windows Vista) aren't even in Windows 7 - you need to add them manually from the separate Windows Live Essentials package.

Let me go back to that again - the Start Menu won't even be in Windows 7. The user interface changes again under Windows 7. I guess that raises the question: if you have to re-learn the interface for Windows 7, isn't it just as easy to pick up another operating system ... like Linux?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Why "We're a Microsoft shop" is bad

Not really related to Windows on the desktop, but interesting to point out anyway. There was a great article last month about server virtualization, which I think also exemplifies why being a "Microsoft shop" is a bad idea. To summarize the article:

Nissan North America Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization last year, reducing their physical server count from 159 to 28, eight of which run Hyper-V. A year later, the team still uses Hyper-V's "Quick Migration" feature to move virtual machines off a Hyper-V host, a process which takes the system down for about 30 seconds while it gets rebooted on another host.

30 seconds doesn't sound like a big deal, right? Well, it is a huge deal if that server is part of a system that moves cars through the plant. You don't just turn those servers back on without testing. Reboot the server for 30 seconds to migrate it to a new Hyper-V host, and you actually have 10-15 minutes where the plant effectively is shut down.

Nissan is actively testing the next version of Hyper-V, which supports seamless "Live Migration" but hadn't deployed it by the time the article was written a month ago.

If you happen to work in IT, you may recognize "live migration" as VMWare's "VMotion", or [Citrix] XenServer's XenMotion. You guessed it - both can already migrate a virtual machine from one VM physical server to another server while the virtual machine is running. This is a problem that's already been solved, folks, and long before Microsoft's Hyper-V came onto the market.

But if other products already support this feature, why use Microsoft's Hyper-V, which clearly wasn't up to the task?

According to Phil D'Antonio, Nissan's manager of conveyors and controls engineering: "We're a Microsoft shop, and they were the first ones that we looked at ... We have a good relationship with Microsoft that we leverage and utilize."

And that is why "We're a Microsoft shop" is bad.

When you are a "Microsoft shop", there's a certain tendency to run with other Microsoft products. I've seen it before: go with Microsoft "Product B" because it should work with Microsoft "Product A" that we already have. Integration should be easy, right? And I'm sure that Nissan N.A. found it easy to integrate Microsoft's Hyper-V into their Microsoft Windows Server environment. Until they needed to do basic tasks like migrate workload from one VM physical server to another, and not completely halt their business.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sorting files is confusing

I really am confused about how Windows Explorer sorts files and directories. Is it supposed to be this hard?

Let me show you a good example from my "Documents" folder:

I've blurred out the rest of the filenames. As you can see, the list is arranged: M, D, p, A, D, m, N, w. Note that 3 folders are mixed with 5 files, but are still not listed alphabetically!

And what's with the (unused) columns for "Date modified", "Type", "Size", "Tags"? These should have data in them!

Clicking the "Views" drop-down menu doesn't present me with any options to re-sort the view. And call me stupid, but I don't remember how I did this very basic task a few weeks ago. All I can remember is I managed to put Windows Explorer into a properly sorted view, and that it took me a while to figure out how to change the view.

Under Linux, it's very simple. Folders normally display their contents in "Icons" mode, so it looks like you'd expect to find on Windows or a Mac. If you want to see more, you can click the "View" menu, and select "List" mode to show extra details such as "Size", "Type", "Date Modified". Click on any of the list headers to sort the view according to a new criteria.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Windows Update stinks

I know I've complained about Windows Update before, but I stumbled upon another great example today. Wanted to share.

I saw that Windows had some updates it wanted to apply. I had just finished going through my email, and my next "to do" was to read a report someone had dropped off for me. Might as well let Windows install updates while I read offline.

My first problem: there was no indication how many patches Windows Update wanted to install. Under Linux, I can always see how many patches are ready to be installed - but Windows just says that patches are "available." I have to guess how many that might be. I'm usually wrong.

Turns out, there were 11 patches. Annoyingly, Windows didn't tell me how many updates it had to install before I committed to doing it, nor how long it would take to install 11 updates. I'm sitting there, thinking how fortunate I was to have time in the middle of my workday to do this. 11 updates could take hours to install, or it could take minutes. Since you can only install these updates at "shutdown", you're committed to doing them. If they take an hour, you're stuck for an hour until Windows Update is finished.

Fortunately, these only took 15 minutes, and the system rebooted. I had finished reading the document by this time, and was ready to get back to work.

But wait! Windows Update wasn't done there! Some of patches (apparently) needed to make registry changes, so I had to wait for Windows to do that on reboot.

Then, other updates required doing their thing after boot, but before login, so I waited some more.

When my system was finally ready for me again, 30 minutes had gone by.

To be clear, I'm not complaining about the time required to install all these patches. I know installing updates takes time, I get that. But I'm taking the viewpoint of someone who had used Linux for years, now trying Windows for the first time in 7 years. And compared to Linux, the Windows Update process stinks.

With Linux, I know how many patches will be installed, and I can keep using my computer while Linux installs them. Not so on Windows. At the least, it would really help if Windows Update let me know how many patches it had to install before I committed to installing them.