Random Thoughts – Randosity!

Xbox One is already dead before its launch?

Posted in entertainment, gaming, microsoft, redmond by commorancy on November 6, 2013

Xbox One family-580-90Wow… just wow. Infinity Ward, the developers of Call of Duty, has recently stated in this IGN article and this IGN article that Call of Duty Ghosts can only run in 720p resolution and 60hz refresh rate on the Xbox One. Let’s explore why this is yet another devastating blow to Microsoft.

Xbox One

Clearly, Microsoft is banking on Xbox One to last for another 8 years like the Xbox 360. Unfortunately, not gonna happen. The Xbox One is clearly under powered for full next gen console needs. And, you would think the Microsoft hardware engineers would have thought of this issue long before even breaking ground on new hardware. You know, like actual planning.

With all of the new TVs supporting 120 Hz refresh rates and higher and TVs running 1080p resolutions (and 4k TVs not far off), it would be natural to assume that a next gen console should be capable of producing output in a full 1080p 60hz frame rate (as its base resolution). In other words, Xbox One should start at 1080p 60hz but be able to go up to much faster speeds from here. According to Infinity Ward, this is not possible on the Xbox One. I’ll say that one more time. Infinity Ward has just said that 1080p 60hz is not even possible on the Xbox One.

Next Gen Consoles

Because of this significant and avoidable Xbox One hardware deficiency, Infinity Ward has taken the step to produce Call of Duty: Ghosts in 720p at 60hz refresh rate (upscaled to 1080p) on the Xbox One to keep the ‘experience’ similar on all platforms. Let’s compare. Every big game title produced on the Xbox 360 is already 720p 60hz upscaled to 1080p.  What this ultimately says is that the Xbox One hardware is no better than the Xbox 360.  This hardware is basically dead before it’s even hit the store shelves. A next gen console should not see limitations in hardware until at least 2 years following its release. A new console should never see any limitations being hit by any launch titles.

If one of the very first launch titles is already taxing this console’s hardware, this platform is dead on arrival. This means the Xbox One has no where to go but down. It also means that you might as well stick with the Xbox 360 because that’s what you’re buying in the Xbox One. It also means that the games will never provide a high quality next generation game experience no matter which game it is. Seriously, getting high resolution at full speed is why you buy a next generation console.

Granted, I can’t vouch for Infinity Ward’s programming capabilities as I don’t know any of their developers. But, I know they have been producing this franchise for years. I would also expect their software engineers to have both the knowledge and expertise to properly produce any game for any platform they set their sights on.

In other words, I cannot see that this is some agenda on the part of Infinity Ward to try to discredit the Xbox One hardware.

Xbox One vs Xbox 360

The Xbox 360 hardware is well capable of producing games in 720p at 60hz already. It’s been doing this resolution and frame rate for years. Why buy another console that also has this same exact limitation of the current hardware? You buy into a next generation console to get something new. Namely, higher resolution gaming experiences. If the Xbox One cannot provide this, there is no point to this platform and this platform is dead.  DEAD.

Xbox One: Dead on Arrival?

Based on the above, the Xbox One’s lifespan has been substantially reduced to, at best, 1-2 years on the market before Microsoft must redesign it with a new processor and graphics card. This also means that early adopters will get the shaft with ultimately dead hardware and have to buy new hardware again very quickly to get the newest Xbox One experience.

If you’re considering the purchase of an Xbox One, you should seriously reconsider. I’d suggest cancelling your pre-order and wait for the newest next gen console from Microsoft. Or, alternatively, buy a PS4 if you can’t wait that long. Why spend $499 for a console that gives you the same capabilities as the Xbox 360? It makes no sense, especially considering that there are no compelling launch titles on the Xbox One that aren’t also coming to the Xbox 360. It’s worth giving the extra time to make sure your $499 investment into this console is a sound choice.

Coding to the Weakest Hardware?

For the longest time, the Xbox 360 was the weakest hardware of all of the consoles. Clearly, it is still the weakest of hardware.  For the longest time, developers catered to developing their games to the weakest hardware choice. That means, lesser graphics quality, lesser texture quality, lesser everything quality. I’m hoping this is now a thing of the past.

It now appears that game developers are tired of developing to the weakest hardware. Call of Duty Ghosts hopefully proves that. And, rightly so they should. Instead of producing low-res low quality gaming experiences on all platforms, they should provide the highest quality gaming on the best platforms. Then, take that and scale it back to fit on the weaker hardware platforms.

So, this scenario has now flipped the development practices. I’m glad to see developers embracing the best hardware and delivering the highest quality gaming experience on the best hardware. Then, reducing the quality to fit the weaker hardware. It makes perfect sense. It also explains why Infinity Ward reduced the resolution on the Xbox One. But, being forced to reduce the quality of the game to a lower resolution doesn’t bode for longevity of the Xbox One hardware.

What about the PS4 and 4k gaming?

According to those same articles above, the PS4 apparently doesn’t have this 1080p limitation. Call of Duty: Ghosts will run on the PS4 in full 1080p with 60hz refresh. Whether the PS4 is capable of higher resolutions is as yet unknown. Consider this. One of the very first 4k TVs introduced was produced by Sony. I would expect the PS4 to have been built to possibly support 4k gaming experiences. That doesn’t mean it will right now, but it may in the future. The Xbox One? Not likely to provide 4k anytime soon. If Microsoft’s engineers weren’t even thinking of 1080p resolutions, then they most certainly weren’t thinking about 4k resolutions.

If you’re into future proofing your technology purchases, then the PS4 definitely seems the better choice.

Microsoft Surface: Why Windows is not ready for a tablet

Posted in botch, microsoft, redmond by commorancy on July 4, 2013

Microsoft SurfaceMicrosoft always tries to outdo Apple, but each time they try they end up with a half-baked device that barely resembles what Apple offers. Worse, the device barely even understands the purpose of why Apple created their product in the first place or even what space it fills in the market. But, leave it to Microsoft to try. Let’s begin.

Microsoft Surface

I’ve recently come into contact with a Microsoft Surface tablet. Let’s just dive right into the the heart of the problems with this platform. Windows and a touch surface are simply not compatible, yet. Why? We have to understand Window 8. For the release of Windows 8, Microsoft introduced Metro. This interface is a big tile based interface that is, more or less, touch friendly. It’s the interface that was adopted for use on both the Xbox 360 and Windows phones. The difference between Windows phone / Xbox 360 and Windows 8 is that you can’t get to the underlying Windows pieces on the Xbox 360 and Windows phone (and that’s actually a good thing). With Windows 8 on a tablet, unfortunately, you can. In fact, it forces you to at times. And, here’s exactly where the problems begin.

Windows 8 under the hood is basically Windows 7 slightly repackaged. What I mean is that Windows 8 is essentially Windows 7 when not using Metro. So, the window close button and resize button are the same size as Windows 7, the icons are the same size, the tiny little triangle next to a folder hierarchy is the same size. Easily clickable with a mouse. Now, imagine trying to activate one of those tiny little icons with a tree trunk. You simply can’t target these tiny little icons with your finger. It’s just not touch friendly. That’s exactly the experience you get when you’re using the Windows 8 desktop interface. When trying to press the close button on the Window, yet you might have to press on the screen two, three or four times just to hit the tiny little control just to make it activate. It’s an exercise in futility and frustration.

Metro and Windows

Metro is supposed to be the primary interface to drive Microsoft Surface. However, as soon as you press some of the tiles, it drops you right into standard Windows desktop with icons, start button and all. When you get dropped into this interface, this is exactly where the whole tablet’s usefulness breaks down. Just imagine trying to use a touch surface with Windows 7. No, it’s not pretty. That’s exactly what you’re doing when you’re at the Windows 8 desktop. It’s seriously frustrating, time consuming and you feel like a giant among Liliputians.

No, this interface is just not ready for a touch surface. At least, not without completely redesigning the interface from the ground up… which, in fact, is what I thought Metro would become. But no, many of the activities on the Metro screen take you out of Metro. This is the breakdown in usability. For a tablet OS, Metro should be it.  There should be no underlying Windows to drop down to. If you can’t do it Metro, it cannot be done!

A Tablet is not a home computer, Microsoft!

The offering up multiple interfaces to the operating system is the fundamental design difference between IOS and Windows 8. Microsoft would have been smarter to take Windows phone OS and place that operating system straight onto Windows Surface. At least that operating system was completely designed to work solely with touch screen using 100% Metro. That would have been at least more along the lines of what Surface should have been. Instead, Microsoft decides to take the entire Windows 8 operating system and place it onto the tablet, touch-unfriendly and all. Is anyone actually thinking in Redmond?

In addition, putting full versions of Word, Powerpoint and Excel on Windows Surface might seem like a selling point, but it isn’t. The point to the iPad is to provide you with small lightweight applications to supplement what you use on a full computer. Or, better, Cloud versions of the apps. I understand the thinking that having a full computer as a tablet might be a good idea, but it really isn’t. Tablets are way too under powered for that purpose. That’s why notebooks and desktops are still necessary. The size of the processors in flat tablet devices just aren’t powerful enough to be useful for full-sized apps.  That’s the reason why the iPad is the way that it is.  Apple understands that an A6 processor is not in any way close to a full quad core i7 processor. So, the iPad doesn’t pretend to be a full computer knowing that it can’t ever be that. Instead, it opts to provide smaller light weight apps that allow simple communication, entertainment and apps that an A6 is capable of handling within the constraints of the limited ram and storage. That’s why IOS works on the iPad and why Windows 8 doesn’t work on Microsoft Surface.

Herky Jerky Motion

One of the other problems I noticed is that when you’re dragging around Metro’s interface and transitioning between Windows 8 desktop apps and back into Metro, there is this annoying stuttering jerky motion the screen does.  It appears that this was an intentional design and not the graphics card going haywire. I’m not sure why this was let out of Redmond this way. Just from that problem alone, I first thought that Microsoft Surface tablet was having a problem. Then I realized that it wasn’t a tablet hardware problem. Indeed, that problem was inherent within Windows 8 and Metro.  If you’re planning to offer a dragging, fading, transitioning experience, make it smooth. That means, no jerky shaky transitions.  It makes the device seem under powered (it probably is). At the same time, it makes Windows look antiquated and unpolished (it definitely is).

Multiple Revisions

Microsoft always takes two or three product iterations before it settles into a reasonably solid, but second rate, product format. With the exception of the original Xbox, I don’t know of any single device that Microsoft has gotten right on the first try. It was inevitable that they would get the Microsoft Surface tablet wrong. If you’re looking to get into Windows 8, I’d suggest just going for a notebook outright. You’ll get more for your bang for the buck and you’ll have a much more usable Windows 8 experience.

I really wanted to like Windows Surface, but these fundamental problems with Windows prevent this tablet from being anything more than a clunky toy. The iPad actually has a use because the icons and screen elements are always big enough to tap no matter the size of the device. This is one of things that Apple fully understands about touch surfaces.  Although, Apple could do with some nuanced improvements to touch usability.  Unfortunately, when you get to the Windows 8 desktop interface, it’s a complete chore to control it via touch. I just can’t see buying a Windows Surface first version tablet. It tries to be too many things, but fails to be any of them.

Microsoft, figure it out!

Windows 8 PC: No Linux?

Posted in botch, computers, linux, microsoft, redmond, windows by commorancy on August 5, 2012

According to the rumor mill, Windows 8 PC systems will come shipped with a new BIOS replacement using UEFI (the extension of the EFI standard).  This new replacement boot system apparently comes shipped with a secured booting system that, some say, will be locked to Windows 8 alone.   On the other hand, the Linux distributions are not entirely sure how the secure boot systems will be implemented.  Are Linux distributions being prematurely alarmist? Let’s explore.

What does this mean?

For Windows 8 users, probably not much.  Purchasing a new PC will be business as usual.  For Microsoft, and assuming UEFI secure boot cannot be disabled or reset, it means you can’t load another operating system on the hardware.  Think of locked and closed phones and you’ll get the idea.  For Linux, that would mean the end of Linux on PCs (at least, not unless Linux distributions jump thorough some secure booting hoops).  Ok, so that’s the grim view of this.  However, for Linux users, there will likely be other options.  That is, buying a PC that isn’t locked.  Or, alternatively, resetting the PC back to its factory default state of being unlocked (which the UEFI should support).

On the other hand, dual booting may no longer be an option with secure boot enabled.  That means, it may not be possible to install both Windows and Linux onto the system and choose to boot one or the other at boot time.  On other other hand, we do not know if Windows 8 requires UEFI secure boot to boot or whether it can be disabled.  So far it appears to be required, but if you buy a boxed retail edition of Windows 8 (which is not yet available), it may be possible to disable secure boot.  It may be that some of the released to manufacturing (OEM) editions require secure boot.  Some editions may not.

PC Manufacturers and Windows 8

The real question here, though, is what’s driving UEFI secure booting?  Is it Windows?  Is it the PC manufacturers?  Is it a consortium?  I’m not exactly sure.  Whatever the impetus is to move in this direction may lead Microsoft back down the antitrust path once again.  Excluding all other operating systems from PC hardware is a dangerous precedent as this has not been attempted on this hardware before.  Yes, with phones, iPads and other ‘closed’ devices, we accept this.  On PC hardware, we have not accepted this ‘closed’ nature because it has never been closed.  So, this is a dangerous game Microsoft is playing, once again.

Microsoft anti-trust suit renewed?

Microsoft should tread on this ground carefully.  Asking PC manufacturers to lock PCs to exclusively Windows 8 use is a lawsuit waiting to happen.  It’s just a matter of time before yet another class action lawsuit begins and, ultimately, turns into a DOJ antitrust suit.  You would think that Microsoft would have learned its lesson by its previous behaviors in the PC marketplace.  There is no reason that Windows needs to lock down the hardware in this way.

If every PC manufacturer begins producing PCs that preclude the loading of Linux or other UNIX distributions, this treads entirely too close to antitrust territory for Microsoft yet again.  If Linux is excluded from running on the majority of PCs, this is definitely not wanted behavior.  This rolls us back to the time when Microsoft used to lock down loading of Windows on the hardware over every other operating system on the market.  Except that last time, nothing stopped you from wiping the PC and loading Linux. You just had to pay the Microsoft tax to do it.  At that time, you couldn’t even buy a PC without Windows.  This time, according to reports, you cannot even load Linux with secure booting locked to Windows 8.  In fact, you can’t even load Windows 7 or Windows XP, either.  Using UEFI secure boot on Windows 8 PCs treads  within millimeters of this same collusionary behavior that Microsoft was called on many years back, and ultimately went to court over and lost much money on.

Microsoft needs to listen and tread carefully

Tread carefully, Microsoft.  Locking PCs to running only Windows 8 is as close as you can get to the antitrust suits you thought you were done with.  Unless PC manufacturers give ways of resetting and turning off the UEFI secure boot system to allow non-secure operating systems, Microsoft will once again be seen in collusion with PC manufacturers to exclude all other operating systems from UEFI secure boot PCs.  That is about as antitrust as you can get.

I’d fully expect to see Microsoft (and possibly some PC makers) in DOJ court over antitrust issues.  It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.  I predict by early 2014 another antitrust suit will have materialized, assuming the way that UEFI works comes true.  On the other hand, this issue is easily mitigated by UEFI PC makers allowing users to disable the UEFI secure boot to allow a BIOS boot and Linux to be loaded.  So, the antitrust suits will entirely hinge on how flexible the PC manufacturers set up the UEFI secure booting.  If both Microsoft and the PC makers have been smart about this change, UEFI booting can be disabled.   If not, we know the legal outcome.

Virtualization

For Windows 8, it’s likely that we’ll see more people moving to use Linux as their base OS with Windows 8 virtualized (except for gamers where direct hardware is required).  If Windows 8 is this locked down, then it’s better to lock down VirtualBox than the physical hardware.

Death Knell for Windows?

Note that should the UEFI secure boot system be as closed as predicted, this may be the final death knell for Windows and, ultimately, Microsoft.  The danger is in the UEFI secure boot system itself.  UEFI is new and untested in the mass market.  This means that not only is Windows 8 new (and we know how that goes bugwise), now we have an entirely new untested boot system in secure boot UEFI.  This means that if anything goes wrong in this secure booting system that Windows 8 simply won’t boot.  And believe me, I predict there will be many failures in the secure booting system itself.  The reason, we are still relying on mechanical hard drives that are highly prone to partial failures.  Even while solid state drives are better, they can also go bad.  So, whatever data the secure boot system relies on (i.e. decryption keys) will likely be stored somewhere on the hard drive.  If this sector of the hard drive fails, no more boot.  Worse, if this secure booting system requires an encrypted hard drive, that means no access to the data on the hard drive after failure ever.

I’d predict there will be many failures related to this new UEFI secure boot that will lead to dead PCs.  But, not only dead PCs, but PCs that offer no access to the data on the hard drives.  So people will lose everything on their computer.

As people realize this aspect of this local storage system on an extremely closed system, they will move toward cloud service devices to prevent data loss.  Once they realize the benefits of cloud storage, the appeal of storing things on local hard drives and most of the reasons to use Windows 8 will be lost.  Gamers may be able to keep the Windows market alive a bit longer, otherwise. On the other hand, this why a gaming company like Valve software is hedging its bets and releasing Linux versions of their games. For non-gamers, desktop and notebook PCs running Windows will be less and less needed and used.  In fact, I contend this is already happening.  Tablets and other cloud storage devices are already becoming the norm.  Perhaps not so much in the corporate world as yet, but once cloud based Office suites get better, all bets are off.  So, combining the already trending move towards limited storage cloud devices, closing down PC systems in this way is, at best, one more nail in Windows’ coffin.  At worst, Redmond is playing Taps for Windows.

Closing down the PC market in this way is not the answer.  Microsoft has stated it wants to be more innovative as Steve Balmer recently proclaimed.  Yet, I see moves like this and this proves that Microsoft has clearly not changed and has no innovation left.  Innovation doesn’t have to and shouldn’t lead to closed PC systems and antitrust lawsuits.

Bluetooth Mouse Pairing: Fix ‘Authentication Error’ in Windows 7

Posted in microsoft, redmond by commorancy on June 25, 2012

Every once in a while my bluetooth dongle decides to go whacky on me and the mouse won’t work any longer.  Sometimes the keyboard also.  Usually, I can unplug the dongle and replug it.  This generally recovers both the mouse and the keyboard.  Sometimes it requires repairing one or both of the devices.  Today was a repairing day (at least for the mouse).  Except, today didn’t go at all smoothly.

Note: Before proceeding with any pairing operation to battery powered devices such as mice or keyboards, always make sure your batteries are fresh.  Dead or dying batteries can cause pairing problems simply because the wireless transmitter in the device may not produce a stable enough signal for the receiver.  Also note that dead or dying batteries can sometimes be the source of device connectivity problems. Therefore, always make sure your batteries are fresh before attempting pairing operations with these devices.

The Problem

Normally I just go into ‘Devices and Printers’ and delete the device and pair it again.  This usually works seamlessly.  Today, not so much.  I successfully delete the Targus mouse from the ‘Devices and Printers’ and that works correctly.  I then put the mouse into discovery mode and start the ‘Add a Bluetooth Device’ panel.  The panel finds the mouse fine.  I select the mouse and click ‘Next’. I then see the next image.

So, this is a reasonably stupid error because it’s a mouse.  Mice don’t have authentication errors because they don’t use pairing codes.  I have no idea why Windows would even present this.  It’s clear that something is completely borked in Windows.  And, you know, this is one of the things about Windows I absolutely hate.  It gives stupid errors like this without any hope for resolution.  Note that clicking the little blue link at the bottom of the window is completely worthless.  Clicking that link won’t help you resolve this issue.  It leads you to some worthless help page that leaves more questions than answers and only serves to waste time.  I digress.

So, now that I’ve received this error, I proceed to Google to find an answer.  Well, I didn’t find one.  After traversing through several forums where people are asking the same questions, no answers here. Then, I proceed to search the registry thinking it left some garbage in the registry from the previous pairing.  Nope, that search was a waste.  So now, I’m basically at the trial and error phase of resolution.

I finally get to Microsoft’s knowledgebase which is probably where I should have visited first. Unfortunately, even that didn’t help, but I did find that Windows Server doesn’t support Bluetooth devices (not that that’s very helpful for my issue because I’m on Windows 7).  What visiting this page at Microsoft did is give me an idea of how to proceed based on some images I saw.  Not images of what I’m about to show you, though. Just an image of something that triggered a thought about how silly Microsoft is which lead to another thought and so on leading to the below.

The Fix

So, I go back to trying to pair again.  I set the mouse up into pairing mode and then start ‘Add a Bluetooth Device’.  Instead, this time I decide to right click the device about to be added:

You’ll need to do this pretty quickly as the device won’t stay in pairing mode for very long.  So, click ‘Properties’ and you’ll see the following window:

Now, check the box next to the ‘Drivers for keyboard, mice, etc (HID)’ and click ‘OK’.  This should immediately pair the device without the ‘Authentication Error’ panel appearing.  At least, this fix worked perfectly for my situation.  I can’t guarantee this will work with every Bluetooth mouse or every Bluetooth hardware.  So, your results may vary.  It’s definitely worth giving it a try, though.

Note: The differences in Bluetooth drivers may prevent this fix from working across the board.  So, you will have to try this and relay your experience of whether or not it works for you.

Note, after I unpaired the mouse and repaired it after having done the above, I now see the following panel instead of the authentication error panel. This is the correct panel for the mouse.  Clicking ‘Pair without using a code’ works perfectly now for this device.  I have no idea what caused the other panel to present above.  Note that once Windows gets into that state above, it stays there.  Not sure why Windows would cache an error, but apparently it does.  I’m at a complete loss why Microsoft would cache anything to do with real-time device connection activities like this! However, the mouse now unpairs and pairs correctly again.  Whatever causes this issue, the Windows development team needs to fix it.

My Rant

These are the stupid little things that make Windows such a hacky time-wasting experience.  It’s these stupid quirky behaviors that give Microsoft a bad wrap and that continue to make Microsoft perceived as an inept operating system development company.  It’s problems like this that make Windows a 1990’s level computer experience.

And, I’m not just talking about the error itself.  I’m talking about the overall experience surrounding the error to the lack of any help in finding an answer.  It’s having to resort to searching Google to find answers when Microsoft’s knowledgebase has nothing and offers no answers.  It’s the having to guess using trial and error to find an answer.  It’s the bad experience and bad taste that this experience leaves.  Microsoft get your sh*t together.  It’s long time for Windows to be done with experiences like this and time wasting experiences.  If there are resolutions to a problem, then the time has long past to lead your users who see errors like this one to an exact resolution page with step-by-step instructions that work.  Clearly, there is a resolution to my issue and I present it here.  Why can’t your team do the same?

Seriously, I don’t understand why Microsoft relies on sites like mine to help users fix problems that Microsoft cannot be bothered to document properly. Yes, I realize I’m contributing to the problem by writing this article and ‘helping’ Microsoft out.  Note, however, it’s not so much about helping Microsoft as it is helping users who run into this same stupid experience.  The purpose of this article is to show just how stupid this experience is.  It’s clear that Microsoft has no want in helping its own users who PAID for this product to actually give them real support and documentation.  So, why do we continue to use Windows?

Windows 7: Should I upgrade / install?

Posted in botch, corruption, microsoft, redmond, Uncategorized, windows by commorancy on December 6, 2009

After having used Windows 7 for at least a month now regularly, I’ve come to realize one thing… Windows 7 is not stable!  Things that had been fixed in Vista are now clearly broken again.  For example, I could run Vista for probably a month or longer without the need to reboot.  If I’m lucky, I can get away with running Windows 7 for about a week or two before its innards get flakey.  For example, there are now processes that hang and cannot be killed by Task Manager.  This forces the need to reboot.  Once the apps hang, it’s impossible to reboot cleanly.  So, I have yet to be able to reboot Windows 7 without having to force power off the system.  Just today, I once again tried to use the ‘Restart’ function which did absolutely nothing.  Windows 7 appeared to start the shutdown process and then clearly hung and did not finish.

I have also had a problem with Windows 7 drivers.  For example, the ATI driver I now have installed on Windows 7 is clearly bugged.  When I run Daz Studio 3, I can load a specific 3D model set and crash the system with a BSOD.  Worse, Windows 7 knows that it crashed, but it doesn’t have any clue what crashed it.  It knows it was a driver crash, but not the specific driver.  When I click the troubleshoot panel that appears after the system reboots, the panel goes away and offers no advice.

These are clearly the problems of yet another immature and sad operating system attempt by Microsoft.  Windows 7 should be more stable than Vista (which was, according to a lot of people, very unstable).  Well, I’m here to say that Vista is a ton more stable than Windows 7 is.  Yes, Vista is quirky and odd in places, but the underlying OS is pretty much rock steady.  I rarely had crashes or BSODs.  I could leave the system running for long periods of time without instability.  Windows 7, on the other hand, is just completely unstable.  This thing should never have made it out of Beta, let alone to the store shelves.

Should you install?

To answer this question is… no, do not install this disaster of an OS.  Wait until at least Service Pack 1.  When that arrives, Microsoft might actually be able to make this disaster workable.  Right now, it’s an unmitigated unstable mess.  In fact, this OS is far worse than Vista in a lot of respects at this point.  If you are on XP, stay there.  Since there is no upgrade path from XP, you probably don’t want to try an upgrade anyway.. let alone to something that’s much more unstable than XP.  Not to mention, Windows 7 has a far bigger disk usage footprint than XP.

If you are running Vista, carefully examine if you really need this OS.  Frankly, the bells and whistles that Microsoft added aren’t enough to justify an upgrade or the expense.  If you happen to buy a new computer with Windows 7 loaded, then take it.  If you want to upgrade an existing system, don’t do it.

Side by Side installs no longer available

Since the release of Vista, Microsoft has done away with side by side installs.  You used to be able to install a new operating system on the same disk drive as an existing other Windows version.  As of Vista, Microsoft stopped that.  Instead, you are now required to buy a new disk and install it on that fresh drive.  You cannot install it on the same partition as an existing other Windows install.  Windows 7 will rename the old installation to Windows.old and make it no longer bootable.  You might be able to get away with a side-by-side install on a separate partition, but I’ve never tested this.   So, if you’re thinking of taking Windows 7 for a test spin first, you should buy a new disk and install it on that blank disk.  Then, decide if you want to upgrade your Vista partition based on that test drive.  Alternatively, I’d recommend using something like Ghost to clone your existing partition for a test drive upgrade onto that blank new drive.  If you don’t like it, put your old disk back in and boot your system back into Vista (or whatever).

If you really must have Windows 7 on your machine, go for it.  But, be warned that it is not stable by any stretch.  Perhaps Service Pack 1 will fix these issues, but right now be warned that you will likely experience the same issues I have.  If you are an IT professional thinking of upgrading an employee’s computer, you should wait until Windows 7 is far more stable than it is today.

Tagged with: , ,

The Microsoft Botch — Part II

Posted in botch, microsoft, redmond, windows by commorancy on January 17, 2009

In a question to The Microsoft Botch blog article, jan_j on Twitter asks, “Do you think Microsoft is going down?”  In commentary to that question, I put forth this article.

I’ll start by saying, “No”.  I do not think that Microsoft is ‘going down’.  Microsoft is certainly in a bad way at this point in time, but they still have far too much market share with Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 server as well as Exchange and several other enterprise products.  So, the monies they are making off of these existing installations (and licenses) will carry them on for quite some time.  Combine that with Xbox Live and the licensing of the Xbox 360 games… Microsoft isn’t going anywhere for quite a while.  The real question to ask, though, is.. Is Microsoft’s userbase dwindling?  At this point, it’s unclear, but likely.  Since the Vista debacle, many users and IT managers have contemplated less expensive alternative installations including Linux.  The sheer fact that people are looking for alternatives doesn’t say good things about Microsoft.  

As far as alternatives, MacOS X isn’t necessarily less expensive than Windows, but it is being considered as one possible replacement for Windows by some.   Some people have already switched.  MacOS X may, however, be less expensive in the long term strictly due to maintenance and repair costs.  Linux can be less expensive than Windows (as far as installation software costs and continuing licenses), but it requires someone who’s knowledgable to maintain them.

In comparison…

To compare Microsoft to another company from the past, IBM comes to mind.  IBM was flying high with their PCs in the early days, but that quickly crumbled when IBM started botching things up.  That and PC clones took off.  To date, there has not been a Windows OS clone to compete head-to-head with Microsoft.  So, Microsoft has been safe from that issue.  But, Linux and MacOS X do represent alternative operating systems that do function quite well in their own environments.  Although, MacOS X and Linux interoperate poorly, in many specific cases, with Windows (primarily thanks to Microsoft).

Linux as a replacement

While it is possible to replace Windows with Linux and have a functional system, the Windows compatibility limitations become readily apparent rapidly.  Since most of the rest of the world uses Windows, Linux doesn’t have fully compatible replacement softwares for the Windows world.  Because of Microsoft’s close-to-the-vest approach to software combined with their release-just-enough-information to allow half-baked Windows compatibility.  Thus, Linux (and other non-Microsoft OSes) can’t compete in a Windows world.  This is a ‘glass is half empty or half full’ argument.  On its own, Linux interoperates well with other Linux systems.  But, when you try to pair that together with Windows, certain aspects just fall apart.

That doesn’t mean Linux is at fault.  What it usually means is that Microsoft has intentionally withheld enough information so as to prevent Linux from interoperating.  Note, there is no need to go into the gritty details of these issues in this article.  There are plenty of sites on the Internet that can explain it all in excruciating detail.

However, if your company or home system doesn’t need to interoperate with Windows, then Linux is a perfectly suitable solution for nearly every task (i.e., reading email, browsing, writing blogs, etc).  If, however, someone wants to pass you an Adobe Illustrator file or you receive a Winmail.dat file in your email, you’re kind of stuck.  That’s not to say you can’t find a workable solution with some DIY Linux tools, but you won’t find these out of the box.

This is not meant to berate Linux.  This is just a decision specifically by Microsoft to limit compatibility and interoperability of non-Microsoft products.  This decision by Microsoft is intentional and, thus, Windows is specifically and intentionally designed that way.

Microsoft’s days ahead

Looking at Microsoft’s coming days, it’s going to be a bit rough even when Windows 7 arrives.  If Windows 7 is based on Vista and also requires the same hardware requirements as Vista, Windows 7 won’t be any more of a winner than Vista.

Microsoft needs to do some serious rethinking.  They need to rethink not only how their products are perceived by the public, they need to rethink what they think is good for the public.  Clearly, Microsoft is not listening to their customers.  In Vista, Microsoft made a lot of changes without really consulting with their target userbase and, as a result, ended up with a mostly disliked operating system.

Apple, on the other hand, is able to introduce new innovative tools that, instead of making life more of a hassle, it simplifies things.  Microsoft isn’t doing this.  

Rocky Road

While this flavor of ice cream might be appealing, Microsoft’s road ahead won’t be quite so much that way.  They are heading for a few rocky years coming.  Combine their bad software design decisions with a bad economy and you’ve got a real problem.  Microsoft’s problems, though, primarily stem from lack of vision.  Windows roadmap is not clear.  Instead of actually trying to lay out design goals for the next several revisions, Microsoft appears to be making it up as they go along… all the while hoping that the users will like it.   But, their designers really do not have much in the way of vision.  The biggest change that Microsoft made to Windows was the Start button.  That’s probably the single most innovative thing that Microsoft has done (note that the start button is not really that great of a design anyway).  

Microsoft forces everyone else to do it the Windows way

Microsoft’s main problem with Windows stems from its lack of interoperability between Windows and other operating systems.  While Windows always plays well with Windows (and other Microsoft products), it rarely plays well with other OSes.  In fact, Microsoft effectively forces the other OSes and devices to become compatible with Windows.  Apple has been the one exception to this with many of their products.  Apple has managed to keep their own proprietary devices mostly off of Windows (with the exception of the iPhone and iPods).   Even Apple has had to succumb to the pressures of Microsoft (with certain products) and compete in the Microsoft world even when Apple has its own successful operating system.  Note, however, that Apple’s softwares on Windows leave a lot to be desired as far as full compatibility goes.

 Microsoft has an initiative to allow open source projects access to deeper Microsoft technologies to allow for better compatibility between open source projects and Windows.  There’s two sides to this ‘access’.  The first is that it does help open source projects become more compatible.  On the other side, the developer must sign certain legal agreements that could put the open source project in jeopardy if Microsoft were to press the legal agreements.   So, to get the interoperability, it becomes a double-edged sword.

The tide is turning

Microsoft’s somewhat dwindling installations of Windows, lack of quality control and bungling of major products may lead more and more people away from Microsoft to more stable devices.  But, the market is fickle.  As long as people continue to generally like Microsoft products and solutions, Microsoft will never be gone.

Note, you can follow my Twitter ramblings here.

The Microsoft Botch

Posted in botch, microsoft, redmond, windows by commorancy on January 14, 2009

Well, what can I say?  Microsoft has been one series of botch jobs after another recently.  I guess every company goes through a spate of problems, but this series of problems seems a bit excessive (and avoidable). Consider that Windows ME more or less started the botches (ignoring Microsoft Bob).  But, after ME they had the successful 2000 and XP series… then Vista.  Vista is the albatross that Microsoft would like to soon forget.  But, that’s not all of their problems.  We’ll come back to Vista.  

The Office botch

Office 2008 for the Mac has been a huge bust (just check the reviews on Amazon) by the users because of the lack of VBA (among other compatibility issues).  Then, there’s Office 2007 for Windows, which some developer in their infinite wisdom decided to use Microsoft Word’s HTML parser to render HTML emails!  So, when you’re viewing HTML emails in Outlook 2007, there are page breaks!  I’ll say that again, “page breaks”.  You read that correctly.  Since when does anyone paginate web sites?  What makes Microsoft think that people want to see web pages paginated?

That doesn’t even take into account the entire GUI change they made between Office 2003 and Office 2007.  Sure, 2007 is supposed to look modern and streamlined.  But, instead, the new GUI ends up with a huge learning curve and is basically incompatible with previous versions of Office.  Instead of doing actual work, now you have to chase down the function you need because it’s not where it used to be. The addition of the stupid round Windows Flag button instead of an actual menu bar is completely assinine design.  Let’s hope that whomever thought up that innovation no longer works in Redmond.  There are some things that just need to be user tested and this product clearly wasn’t.

The Zune botch

Consider the Zune 30GB had a leap year bug that caused the entire unit to completely freeze up.  This required the owners to wait until the battery completely drained to reset the unit.  That and wait until after the new year, otherwise it would refreeze.

The infamous Xbox 360 overheating botch

To this date, Microsoft STILL has no clue what’s causing the issue or how to resolve it.  They *think* it’s related to heat so they’ve added a heat sink to try and help the issue.  Even still, they had to take a huge financial hit and extend the Xbox 360 warranty out to 3 years from its original 1 year.  

The Origami botch

“What was Origami”, you ask?  Nuff’ said.  If you really want to know, read this Wiki article.

Tablet Computers

Um, where are they today?  No where. People don’t want to lug tablets around.  They didn’t want to lug them when Grid was around.  What made Microsoft think people would want to lug them around 10 years later?  Oh right, I guess they thought they would because that oh-so-heavy tablet was running such a wonderful touch screen version of Windows.  Doh!

The IE7 botch

Ignoring Microsoft’s constant security flaws as a botch job, although some of them certainly qualify, another is Microsoft’s decision to remove the ability to uninstall IE7 after you install Service Pack 3 (SP3) on XP.  So, for an IE repair that should have taken all of about 15 minutes, you’re now saddled with the task of whipping out the Windows installation media and running repair on the entire operating system (broken or not).  Thanks Microsoft.

Note that Microsoft’s justification for this IE change stems apparently from some files that SP3 installs.  The SP3 installer may overwrite either IE7 or IE6 files that, were Microsoft to allow removal of IE7, might leave the system in an unstable state if you were to use IE6.  Well, hello, you guys wrote the software!! So, instead of actually taking the time to write SP3 properly to still allow software removal of IE7, you take the easy way out and leave the system owner saddled with a huge task just to repair IE7 when it breaks.

Why does this matter?  Been living in a cave?  IE7 is not completely stable.  Much of the time the search provider installation process doesn’t work.  You try and you get ‘Errors on page’ and the search providers cannot be loaded.  Then you have the ‘Save Your Settings’ problem.  Once you install IE7, it asks to save default settings.  Yet, much of the time this process won’t save settings and always continues to present this panel on startup.  I’ve searched and searched and have been unable to find a workable solution to either the search provider or the save defaults issues.  The ONLY workable solution (uninstall/reinstall) was conveniently taken away by Microsoft in their infinite wisdom.  So, instead of a 15 minute fix, it now takes 2-3 hours to completely repair the system, reinstall windows updates and test everything.  Of course, it is possible to remove SP3, but at what risk to the system?  These things rarely work once you’ve installed apps on top of the system after an SP is installed.  In other words, be prepared to have things begin breaking and applications to need to be reinstalled.

The bottom line is that Microsoft made this change to make things easy for Microsoft.  For the end user, however, they will now incur high priced repair bills simply because Microsoft decided to make things easy for themselves.

The Vista botch

Well, what can be said about Vista that hasn’t already been said?  Vista has so many user interface problems, lackluster performance, the overreaching and underperforming Aero system and the constant flickering between various modes and resolutions that make Vista seem more like Windows 3.1 than it does a mainstream OS.   Combine this with constant driver issues, Vista is completely unsuable for any real purpose.  You’re forever repairing it instead of actually using it.  Vista also requires a hefty powered system to even perform decently.  So, it’s no wonder businesses didn’t adopt it.

Combine all of this with the marketing of Vista, it’s just been a disaster.  For whatever reason, Microsoft decided to put out 5-8 different version of Windows Vista… 3-4 of which were targeted at home consumers.  This is more confusing for consumers than it is helpful.  This should have been paired down to 1 to at most 2 versions.  Consumers don’t want 4 choices in an OS.  They also don’t want to pay $400 for an operating system.  Yet more botch.

Windows 7 botch or not?

If Microsoft adopts Vista’s codebase to build Windows 7, this product will be no better than Vista and will likely end up being yet another botch.  Vista’s codebase for the driver subsystem is a complete disaster (and continues to be a problem even as of this blog article).  By taking Vista’s codebase for Windows 7, Microsoft ensures that Windows 7 will be just as problematic as Vista.  The interface is only half of Vista’s problem.  People can overlook the GUI learning issues when the components under the hood simply work.  But, they don’t.  For example, one of the most significant problems that Vista suffers from is “Display Driver has stopped responding and recovered”.  Ok, now what is this?  We’ve never ever had this issue before.  Granted, maybe it prevents the blue screen of death, but having the display driver stop responding means what exactly?  And, why is it now that the video drivers are just now having this problem.  Using Vista’s codebase practically assures this issue to contiinue in Windows 7.  So, 7 will end up just as driver problematic is Vista.

Suffice it to say that Microsoft is going through a bad way.  Perhaps they’ve had an exodus of people who actually knew where to take things. But, Windows has become such a bloated hodge-podge piece of trash, I don’t know if Microsoft can honestly salvage it.  Vista and Windows 7 may end up being the death knell for this operating system.  By Microsoft basically botching their two flagship products (Office and Windows), I don’t know if they will be able to recover easily.  Combine this with stupid programming mistakes (like the Zune) and clearly, Microsoft has major internal issues that need to be addressed.

Whatever the issue, I don’t see this botch trend ending any time Zune (pun intended).

Tagged with: , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: