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The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

One Windows to rule them all

Jason Hiner from ZDNet gives some credit to Microsoft for the new approach, but shares my opinion that the one-size fits all approach is a tried and failed:

I would have thought Microsoft learned its lesson here. It has already tried to take the full version of Windows 7 and run it on tablets. These “slates” — as Microsoft calls tablets — have gotten trounced by the iPad. Now, Microsoft has decided to take the full version of Windows and make sweeping UI changes so that it’s much more tablet-friendly and then apply all of those changes to the standard desktop/laptop version of Windows as well. Say what?

My comparison to the old Windows Mobile world, although not technically “One Windows to rule them all”, covers similar ground.

As a developer, I love the idea of write once and run everywhere, but in today’s world that applies to only one technology HTML5 and JavaScript.  It just doesn’t apply to the OS.

The users have already spoken on this.  And they are right on so many levels.

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Thoughts on Windows 8

Here are various thoughts I have about Windows 8:

On the name:

  • I hope this “codename Windows 8” stuff is just a joke.  Just call it Windows 8.  Every other OS that I can think of has first and foremost a number associated with it.  In fact, I think this must just be a joke, because Microsoft is more and more coming around to the “Windows” name as the brand.  Calling it Windows Flambe or Windows Azule or Windows Enchilada doesn’t help with the brand.  8.
  • Now, of course, this ignores the fact that Windows 7 is a name, not a version.  So implicit in my plea for Windows 8 is that it actually be version 8, not just named 8.  Sorry if that is confusing, but I’m not the one who decided that Windows version 6.1 would be called Windows 7.

On the new interface:

  • Looks kind of interesting, but I’m concerned about the “one interface to rule them all” approach.  Remind anyone of the original Windows Mobile?  Just a small form-factor Windows machine with Start menu.  That seemed logical, but it turned out that it was nearly unusable.  The Windows Phone 7 Metro UI is pretty cool for a phone.  It would work well for a tablet.  It seems wierd for a desktop/laptop, but maybe not.
  • The bigger problem is that I hope Microsoft gets that standard Windows applications don’t become productive tablet applications with the addition of touch.  I have a convertible laptop.  It would be interesting to have Metro on it, but that will only solve one piece of what makes it nearly unusable in tablet form.

On Silverlight:

  • So, unlike Windows Phone 7, Windows 8 won’t use Silverlight for the Metro UI.  This isn’t surprising.  Microsoft has eschewed .NET for core Windows development from day 1.  OK, from day 2, because on day 1 they said .NET would be the new Windows API.  It never happened.  And this is just another indication that it never will.
  • That said, I think it makes total sense for them to use HTML 5 and not Silverlight for Windows.
  • This begs the question: if HTML 5 and JavaScript are good for Windows 8, then how long until these replace Silverlight for Windows Phone?
  • Which begs another (future) question: what will Silverlight be good for then?

A little snarky, but I’m feeling snarky today.

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Windows Virtual PC / XP Mode Saves the Day

I have been critical of poor performance in Windows Virtual PC (most recently, here).  I still can’t explain the performance problems I have seen, but Windows Virtual PC’s improved USB support saved the day.

I was helping my Dad with a piece of hardware that just doesn’t work with Windows 7.  The manufacturer’s instructions say that it will work if you turn of UAC, but it doesn’t.  I had just about given up, and then remembered that Virtual PC is supposed to have better USB support.  I really didn’t believe it would work, but had nothing to lose.  After much downloading, installing, a little rebooting, and more installing, I was able to attach this USB device to an XP Mode VM.  The corresponding software also launches correctly on the Windows 7 x64 desktop. 

It even performs well.  All cool.

The only annoying part of it is that I can’t figure out how to stop the running VM instance without opening the VM and then closing it.  The VM gets started automatically when running the XP Mode application, but there is no simple way to stop it.  I suppose that XP mode is designed for people who run it all the time, but really, no clean way to stop it?

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Windows Virtual PC is slow!

I am extremely annoyed with Windows Virtual PC.

It is markedly slower than Virtual PC 2007. And startup times are six to ten times worse.  Same host, same VHD.  Painfully slow.

I have witnessed this on three different host machines.  I’ve seen other complaints of this online, but all of the suggestions of help completely miss the point.

There are some threads that suggest that it is caused by aggressive CPU throttling.  In a comment on a post, Virtual PC guy suggested that installing SETI@Home might solve the problem.  Seriously?

Virtual PC 2007 didn’t suffer from this problem, so I’m not going to bother with that.  It would be great if I could find confirmation that either:

  • Microsoft decided that Windows Virtual PC needn’t support laptops.
  • There is a new bug or major flaw in Windows Virtual PC that is going to be fixed.

I have rolled back to Virtual PC 2007.  I shouldn’t really care, except that I prefer the integration in Windows Virtual PC.  I suppose I should move onto VMWare, but I really don’t want to hassle with this anymore.  It works well enough for now.

Microsoft, are you acknowledging the problem?  Perhaps you can blame it on the laptop vendors, but the customer experience is just terrible.

BTW: I recorded a video of starting a Windows 7 guest using Windows Virtual PC, but a 3 minute video of a crawling progress bar seemed intolerable.

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From PDC 2009 Day #2: Windows 7

Sinofsky talked about the new features of Windows 7 and some of the new hardware.  I didn’t think it belonged in the keynote, because there weren’t any announcements.

He did announce they are giving away laptops to all attendees, though, so I suppose it was worth it.  :)

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Don’t Fail the HighVersionLie

This is a public service announcement to release engineers and developers out there.

Your installers — and core components for that matter — shouldn’t be performing checks that preclude new versions of Windows.

This is particularly relevant with a new version of Windows coming soon.  In fact, I’m writing this because recently someone told me that his team’s software wouldn’t install on Windows 7.  The release engineer fixed it by increasing the high version limit.

That is the wrong approach.

The right approach is to eliminate any upper bound on a version limit.  The premise is that developers shouldn’t assume that their software won’t work on future versions of Windows. 

Windows Logo requirements have required this for some time, and in fact there is a certification test called the HighVersionLie that tests for just this case.  The test sets the Windows version to an artificially high number to see if the tested software still installs and runs.

BTW: One reader from Microsoft told me a similar story at last year’s PDC – this posting was prompted by a different conversation altogether.

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Podcast on PDC2008

Last Wednesday, while still at PDC2008, I did a quick podcast with Colin Steele of the Search IT Channel.  From his introduction:

In this podcast, Microsoft developer Robert Anderson checks in from the Microsoft PDC 2008 in Los Angeles. Anderson, the chief technology officer for Microsoft partner Digipede Technologies in Oakland, Calif., says Windows Azure has a leg up on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, the Google App Engine and other cloud computing platforms. But when it comes to Windows 7, Microsoft has to do a lot more to move on from the “perceived failure” of Windows Vista.

Listen or download from here.

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Windows 7

Recently I lauded the new name in my post, Windows 7? Right on!  I led that post with

First of all let me say that I’m not that excited about the “Windows” part of Windows 7.  I’m sure that will change when I see it later this month at the PDC.

A Microsoft guy not involved with the Windows team emailed me to tell me that his experience with Windows 7 is that it performs dramatically better.

That got me interested.  And now I’ve seen it at PDC2008.  Am I excited?

Well, not really.  With Windows Vista I allowed my love for shiny new objects to drive some of my decisions.  Windows 7 does have plenty of new — and cool — features.  Some that struck me:  some real improvements in Windows management (finally), create and mount VHDs, bitlocker on thumb drives, boot from VHDs, better multi-monitor and high DPI support, multi-monitor remote desktop,

These are all good things that make Windows better, but what I really care about is that it perform better and that the features can be used without killing performance.  To this end, they have worked on reducing Windows memory footprint, reduced disk I/O for indexing, better power management, increase boot speed, device readiness and responsiveness

If Windows 7 enhances my productivity through performance and stability, then I can get excited.

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Windows 7? Right on!

imageFirst of all let me say that I’m not that excited about the “Windows” part of Windows 7.  I’m sure that will change when I see it later this month at the PDC.

I have a long history as a Windows user.  In fact, I have Windows 1 sitting on my desk.  Actually, these are installation floppies for the Microsoft Windows Operating Environment. 

I have disliked the Windows product naming convention since Windows 95.  That should have been Windows 4.0 with some extra designation to distinguish it from NT.  Since then, the naming of Windows versions has been absurd.

I’m thrilled that the next one is called Windows 7.  I hope this is the end of the trend of seemingly arbitrary names interspersed by release years.  If the subsequent name isn’t 7.x or 8, however, this will actually just have been worse then calling it 2010.

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