Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Vista visited

By the way, I have tried out Vista, on a machine on which it should have run like the wind and shown like diamonds.

Sad to say, it did neither. In fact, I was aghast at how poorly it performed and how buggy it seemed.

Only Microsoft gets away with shipping such schlock.

Sure, it'll get better, starting with the first service pack, but it has a LONG way to go to live up to the hype. Chances are it never will.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

war, escalation, and silence

I'm feeling embarrassed for having had nothing to say about the deepening quagmire in Iraq and the possibility of it spreading to Iran. The fact is, I have nothing to say that wouldn't simply be parroting something already said by others.

Am I glad that Sadaam Hussein is out of power? Sure. Am I glad that he's dead? No. Do I agree that something had to be done about his continued reign? Beyond the sanctions that were already in place, not really. Do I think that what's been and is being accomplished there has been worth the rising price? No, because I don't think it will hold together without continuing U.S. presence and all that means. Do I think the world is safer becasue of it? Safer from some things, but more at risk from others, so not really. Do I think that more troops will produce better results, or at least lower the risk to those there? Doubtful.

Do I think there's anything at all to be gained by attacking Iran? Words fail me. I want to scream "Are you NUTS" at the top of my lungs.

But, as has long been apparent, at least a few of those in Bush's inner circle are exactly that, nuts. Sometimes I think they're there to make Bush look like a moderate, but then I remember it was by him following their advice that we got into our present situation in Iraq in the first place, so I don't count on his resistance to their foolish counsel holding out for long.

If we do attack Iran, I hope to see Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle strapped to the first two bombs dropped.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

can Microsoft compete?

At first blush, that would seem to be a ridiculous question, given they've got something like 90% market share (a bit more perhaps) among personal computers. But that's sort of the point; they've practically owned the market since the Mac slid out of sight in the early 1990s. They really haven't had to compete.

In fact, you could say they've never had to compete, not since they landed the contract to provide the operating system for the IBM PC, PC-DOS and then went on to develop their own MS-DOS, which, along with the PC-compatible BIOS, enabled the clones to rise up and overwhelm IBM's own personal computing effort. It was a market position borne up by irresistable logic, and they've been on a rocket ride ever since, but that rocket is finally running out of fuel.

True, it didn't come entirely for nothing. A degree of competence, delivering working code, was necessary, but this was easier back in the days of MS-DOS than it has become in the days of Vista, with its Byzantine complexity. True, some of their customers wanted to take advantage of larger memory capacities than MS-DOS could initially accomodate, and there were other such issues early on, but the main thing Microsoft had to be careful to do was to not break the main applications many people were using as they updated MS-DOS and then Windows. Compatibility was the byword which defined the market, initially compatbility with the IBM PC and PC-DOS, then compatibility with MS-DOS and with programs such as Word Perfect and Lotus 1-2-3. (Actually, once they had competing products, breaking these programs mattered considerably less.)

But, to judge by what the rumor mill has to say about Vista, compatibility is no longer the central concern at Microsoft; apparently it has been replaced by brand recognition. It's called Windows, therefore it's just the next version of what you've been using for years; nevermind that you can't install it on your old machine and that it won't run your old software. It's Vista, but it's Windows Vista, get it?

Okay, let's assume they get past this, that they don't lose many customers to the need to upgrade hardware and/or software and their cash cow continues to show up for milking. There's still the issue of the six billion dollars they spent refreshing it and the open question of whether they'll make $6 Billion more off of Vista than they would have made continuing to sell XP.

Now, to that calculation add their intention to ship yet another major update of 'Windows' - one likely to be even less compatible with previous versions - by late 2009, just over two and a half years from now, so the above question becomes whether they'll make $6 Billion more off of Vista than they would have made selling XP between now and January, 2010, at which time we'll have to add the cost of developing Vienna to the bill.

Meanwhile, Linux continues to press forward and Mac OS X is progressing by leaps and bounds.

Place your bets.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

why Vista Forever is A Good Thing

I'm using the expression "Vista Forever" to refer to the long, slow decline of Windows after Microsoft realizes the only way to continue to make money from it is to cease further development beyond bug fixes, security updates, and drivers for new hardware. It presumes that Microsoft will come to their senses before having invested heavily in yet another major iteration of the platform, and that Vista will be the final one. It also presumes that Microsoft will continue to take your money for a copy of Vista for years to come.

The Windows market hates change. That's how Microsoft got so hemmed in by legacy code in the first place. Once it's developed sufficiently to serve their needs, many Windows users would prefer that it stopped changing, as in 'XP is good enough, why do we need Vista?' and 'Does this mean I'm going to have to upgrade all my software again?' (The answer to the first of these is "because Microsoft spent $6 Billion to develop Vista," and the answer to the second is "not necessarily, although it's quite possible.")

A stable system software environment would mean gradual improvement in the performance of other software, as minor bugs are located and fixed. A stable API (basically the same thing) would mean that alternatives, like Wine, have a chance to mature, and you'd eventually be able to run most Windows software on a variety of other platforms, even without a copy of Windows installed. A stable API would also mean that some software which currently exists only on other platforms would finally be ported to Windows, since doing so would become trivial.

Better yet, Windows Forever inevitably means that a license for a copy of Windows would become cheaper and cheaper, as other platforms in a better position to do so continue to evolve rapidly (for a small fraction of what equivalent advances in Windows might cost), further eroding Windows' market share and forcing MS to compete by lowering prices.

As for Microsoft, they'll continue to suck in some revenue from Windows and - once they've written off the $6 Billion development cost of Vista - post profits. They'll also be in a far better position to concentrate on application software and game machines. They'll be fine, really.

It's a win-win scenario. Cheer up! ;-)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

New Apple Ad

This new Apple ad takes a hefty swipe at Vista's supposedly superior security.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

of audacious misrepresentation and squandered credibillity

Steve Jobs has a reputation for taking a 'reality distortion field' with him wherever he goes, but, even at its highest setting, the RDF can't hold a candle to whatever it is that has been interposing itself between Bill Gates and reality lately.

Rather than rehash arguments that have already been made better than I could by others, allow me to point you to John Gruber's Daring Fireball weblog. (Just scan through the entries of the first few days of February.)

While takng Gates to task for grossly misrepresenting the relative state of Vista security versus that of Mac OS X, Gruber concedes that it might be true that Vista is more secure than version 10.4.8 of Mac OS X.

What Gruber migth have said and hasn't yet, that I've noticed, is that even if true that's likely to be a very short-lived state of affairs. The release of 10.4.9 might put Mac OS X back in front, and if not that then 10.5, due within the next few months.

But even without any improvements to Mac OS X security, that of Vista is sure to degrade rather rapidly, once it gets into the hands of the people who write the malware that has so dogged previous versions of Windows.

I invite you to recall that the kernel of Mac OS X is open source software, whereas the source code for Vista hasn't even been shared with the companies that write security software (unless that's recently changed), so the current state of Vista security is at least partly a matter of secrecy, secrecy that will succumb to the techniques of reverse engineering sooner or later.

Moreover, Gates' challenge to produce a "total exploit" of Vista once a month is all too likely to be taken up enthusiastically by an assortment of hackers and crackers with the skills to do that and then some.

Bill Gates had managed to build up a little credibility in recent years; now he has none.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

futureproofing your tech investments

The writing is already on the wall; the days of the Windows hegemony are numbered.

That's not to say that you'll see either Mac or Linux marketshare pass that of Windows anytime soon, but that the forces that may very well eventually lead to that are already hard at work.

Witness the lukewarm reception with which the world has greeted the release of Windows Vista, the successor to Windows XP, which was itself released half a decade ago, and compare that with the anxious anticipation prompted by the impending release of Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard), the successor to 10.4 (Tiger), which was itself released only two years ago.

The plain fact is that Windows's rivals don't have to grab >50% marketshare to drive it into the ground; they merely have to apply enough pressure to make further development unprofitable for Microsoft, and that may already have happened. Microsoft spent a huge amount of money on Vista, and may not have anything to show for it at the end of the day.

Granted that Vista Forever is likely to last quite a bit longer than some other abandonware has, with continued updates to important applications for years to come, but sooner or later it has to grind to a halt, and hanging on as the market moves on to something else is sure to become an increasingly expensive proposition.

Is it time to jump ship? Well, if you're heavily invested in Windows software, maybe not, but it probably is time to begin to consider other options and, where possible, reduce the degree to which you're locked in to Windows.

If you're not heavily invested in Windows software, then now is as good a time as any! By most accounts, Mac OS X is a superior operating system, and several Linux distributions at least merit a serious look. Also, the advantage that Windows once enjoyed in the availability of application software is fast dwindling, as more and more publishers come out with Mac and/or Linux versions.

For people working in IT, it's high time to consider whether you might not be too young to spend the rest of your career patching Vista.

Think about it.