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Mailbag: Remembering 9/11, Fixing Vista, More

Readers recall where they were on the morning of the Sept. 11 attacks:

I was on my way to a technical college -- a Windows Server 2000 class. The first news report I heard said a traffic helicopter hit one of the towers. I remember thinking how odd that was. The instructor had the TV on during the entire class. We all sat in horror as the towers came down and as more planes crashed. My nephew, then 14, was frantic until he found out his mother was safe (she is a flight attendant for United). He had recently lost his father. My niece and her family live in Manhattan. Her husband works close to the towers. Again we were frantic for knowledge that he was safe.

I didn't lose any immediate family that day, but I think all of us lost from our American family. How did we as Americans start to gloss over this horrible event so fast? I heard we have an attention span of about two weeks. I think it's shorter.

I had just walked out my front door to go to work. Finding that my car had been broken into, I went back into the house and called the cops. While waiting for the police to arrive, I turned on the TV. The news was just breaking; everyone was speculating on whether this was an accident or an act of terror. Then on live TV, we all got our answer as the second tower was hit. When the cops showed up, that police report just didn't seem quite as important. This showed me that even when you think you are having a bad day, you really should go back and count your blessings.

I was on-site at a client office in the medical center in Houston, where we live. Colleagues called me out to the area sitting room to watch the news of the first one. I was touched by the loss of life, digested that, and returned to my desk. After a while came the news of No. 2. I returned to watch and listen. After taking in the images for a few minutes, my heart sank. My wife was in downtown Houston, at her job, on the 44th floor of one of the tallest buildings in Houston. I went immediately to the phone, called her, said something really stupid, then got my wits and told her to leave the building immediately.

Of course our family was safe. There was no threat in Houston. We have counted our blessings many times since that day, sometimes in remembrance of that day. Thank you for taking a moment to remember it, and to invite reflection. Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones on that horrific day. Special sadness comes over me each time I think of the brave responders running into those buildings and helping others exit. My heart breaks for each innocent life lost.

I had the unusual distinction of being in both New York and Washington on 9/11 and saw both the Twin Towers and the Pentagon just before they were hit. You may recall that Jeff Immelt had the unfortunate timing of taking over GE from Jack Welch on Sept. 10. Jeff scheduled a live satellite video feed to introduce himself companywide (worldwide) to over 330,000 employees. I am based in Washington, D.C. and flew to White Plains, N.Y. to work on that project at a Danbury, Conn. building.

I was scheduled to fly home to D.C. the night of Sept. 10, but a big thunderstorm came in and grounded all of the flights. I got a hotel in White Plains and a reservation on a flight out the next morning. The flight took off at about 8 and I flew over Manhattan at about 8:20 (the first plane hit the tower at about 8:45). I had a window seat on the left as we headed south. We flew just west of Manhattan and I got a magnificent view of the city. I recall thinking how I never grow tired of seeing the city from that perspective.

By the time we landed at Washington National, the place was buzzing. No one was quite sure what to do. They knew about New York, but had not yet grounded all flights. I got in my car and started heading to my office in Northern Virginia. The route took me up the George Washington Parkway, which goes right next to the Pentagon (they have since moved the road a few hundred feet to the east so it is not as close). Shortly after I passed the Pentagon at about 9:40, the radio announcers said there was smoke coming from the Pentagon. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw it firsthand. It was all still very confusing and surreal. The gravity of the situation did not kick in until I got to my office and saw the second tower fall on live TV.

I was working at my job in Columbus, Ohio (systems analyst with a large insurance company). When the first plane hit, we turned on a TV in our break room and watched as the events of that morning unfolded. I could not help but feel a deep sense of loss, but could not put my finger on exactly what. Having grown up in New York City, I had many friends and relatives living there. Friends who worked in Lower Manhattan. My cousin's wife was on her way to work, but was not in the immediate area yet. Another friend was out of town that day.

Later, I learned that 11 high school mates were in the towers. Seven of them were firemen, and one had been in my graduating class. Two members of the sports car club that I race with were on Flight 63. To this day, I wear the pin from the fire department I belonged to in Upstate New York, and carry memorials on the sides of my race car. I also proudly wear the unit patch from the fire station that my classmate belonged to.

On 9/11, I was in Houston with three other co-workers. We were expanding our office there and we had brought in two new racks with new hardware. We were eating breakfast at the hotel before we went into the office and the TV was on, showing the WTC and talking about how a plane had hit one of the buildings. With shock and confusion, people watched the TV, some standing, some still eating. Then the second plane hit the other building while we were all watching.

Knowing this was not TV but reality was completely heart-stopping. I called my daughter as she was in New York with her dad. They typically take the subway train which passes through the WTC on up to mid-town. Thankfully, they had not even gotten up yet. I called home to Virginia to check on the rest of my family. I have a sister whose husband worked at the Pentagon. She had not heard from him, and by this time a plane had hit there. She was understandably in a panic. As the day went on she finally got in touch with him; he was helping people within the Pentagon who had been hurt.

Several days later, our work in Dallas completed, I remember sitting out by the pool, still seething with anger over the attack...and in the late evening sunset, an airplane finally took into the air. After the skies above Dallas had been empty of jets, this was a small but significant event, and I was proud. I got on an airplane the next day and the airport was fairly empty. All the employees and passengers were at high alert. I have always enjoyed flying and this day the flight seemed special. The clouds below the wing more fluffy, the land far below more rugged, the people, with or without fear, pushing forward.

I was in the dean's office of the engineering college at Ohio Northern University for my work study. The exec assistant came in and said that one of the towers was hit. When I went down to watch, the Pentagon had been hit. It was amazing how the university came together that day and you could walk down the hallway of the dorms and hear CNN without missing a beat.

I remember calling my mom and she said that this event would be, for me, like the assassination of JFK was for her. The world would never be the same.

A couple of you share more of your thoughts on Vista:

It is easy to fix Vista. Just demand that people buy hardware that will run Vista well. Apple sells Macs based on quality, not price. HP, Dell, etc. sell PCs based on price. I tried Vista on a relatively low-end computer but it was duo-core with 2GB RAM. It ran badly. I put it on a quadcore with 4GB RAM and it runs well.

Some of the things Vista users hate, Mac users accept without hesitation. One example is Vista demanding Administrator credentials to install programs or updates. Mac does the same thing. I support Windows, Macs and Linux. I prefer Windows, even Vista, to the Mac OS.


I'm currently working as a consultant at Microsoft and want to admit full-disclosure to that fact when I give my opinion on the subject. Vista was hard to get used to at first, I agree. There were many pieces of software that didn't incorporate the new rules for coding or new locations of files that wouldn't run on it. There were also hardware issues -- you couldn't just load Vista onto any old machine and expect it to perform.

I'm now happy to say we're past those problems. Most IBM-compatible machines are now built with the intention of running Vista and most software has been upgraded to be compatible with it, as well. It's like any new platform/software/system you have to learn. Once you get used to it, you have a hard time using something that doesn't have the latest features.

And readers chime with their thoughts on the virtualization front:

I would like to see VMware refugees make an even cooler package that will make money and kick others in the pants. Maybe a suite of virtual IP 6-based "hardware" or multiple virtual RAID arrays. With the failover abilities that are out there now with VMware, I think they may have many more ideas up there.

The question shouldn't be whether Hyper-V is a viable competitor to VMware. It should be whether the hypervisor matters at all. And though it does today, that won't be the case for very long. The hypervisor is a commodity and all the vendors know it. Microsoft made a huge play with the System Center Virtual Manager and that is going to be worth way more money and market share to them than having Hyper-V out there.

Check in tomorrow for more reader letters! In the meantime, share your thoughts by leaving a comment below, or sending an e-mail to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on September 25, 2008