Windows 7 Up, IE Down

In news less shocking than a Lindsay Lohan relapse, a research report finds that Windows 7 is taking off while IE is steadily losing market share.

The gloom-and-doomers love to criticize IE, calling it bloated and insecure and predicting its demise. But despite the retreat, IE still has 64.8 percent share, according to Janco Associates. In presidential politics, that's a landslide!

IE 8 is my default browser so it opens from e-mail links and so forth. Firefox is my day-to-day browser. I really see almost no difference, and have had no security problems with IE.

I kinda like the browser market fragmenting. Databases, mobile phones and game consoles all have loads of competition and the pace of innovation is intense.

I also use Windows 7, which makes me part of 12 percent of the population. That's pretty good share for being on the market for only about a half-a-year.

Posted by Doug Barney on February 24, 2010 at 11:53 AM7 comments

Cisco Tells HP To Take a Hike

If you thought the breakup of Britney Spears and K-Fed was messy, HP and Cisco are bringing it to a whole new level. Until recently, HP was a Cisco systems integrator. Then two things went wrong: Cisco entered the server market and HP bought 3Com.

Like Britney, Cisco was the one to break things off, fearing that HP would use inside info against the networking giant. Feeling slighted, HP countered that plenty of competitors also cooperate.

The big winner is probably Microsoft, who just renewed its vows with HP and promises to do even more with the hardware giant.

Do you have any cases where vendors really do work together to the benefit of customers? Successes and failures equally welcome at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on February 24, 2010 at 11:53 AM1 comments

For Better or Worse, Mac Gains Office Parity

Lately, Mac users have had most of the newest Office features, but were either stuck with -- or blessed with -- the older-style pull-down interface. But later this year, those folks will have to use the ribbon interface if they want the latest goodies in Mac Office 2011.

Besides requiring the ribbon, Mac Office 2011 will include Office 2010 features such as collaboration, social networking and more sophisticated presentations.

I'm used to the ribbon, but it wasn't an easy transition for many others. I was in Redmond in 2007, right after Office 2007 and the ribbon debuted, at a fancy winery with a bunch of Microsoft execs. I got to talking to an Office product manager (I think there must be dozens!) about the ribbon, and he asked what I thought. I said it doesn't matter what I think, but what customers think: I pulled out my BlackBerry and starting reading messages from Redmond Report readers about the ribbon.

Ouch. These messages, which had just shown up, were brutal. I'm sure the product manager was happy there was plenty of free wine available!

Things have calmed down since then...or have they? Do you like the ribbon? Let us all know at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on February 22, 2010 at 11:53 AM16 comments

SQL Service Packs Scheduled

SQL Server 2005 and 2008 will get some new features late this year when service packs for both ship.

SQL Server 2005 is winding down, so this will probably be the last pack for this package. Unfortunately, Microsoft didn't release any details on either of the packs.

Do you use SQL Server? If so, why choose that over Oracle, DB2 or any other enterprise database? Send your thoughts to [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on February 22, 2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments

Windows 7 Anti-Piracy Only There To Help

Microsoft last week released a new Windows 7 anti-piracy tool with a unique marketing proposition: By allowing Microsoft to check your PC, the machine will actually be more secure.

At first blush, this sounds like a cop protecting your safety through a strip search. But Microsoft counters that there are as many as 70 exploits that attack Windows activation files, and this tool can make sure these files are protected.

Apparently, the new tool will pester non-licensed users to get licensed and will change the wallpaper to something dull, but won't disable the operating system. Even better news, downloading the tool is strictly voluntary.

What do you think of anti-piracy tools? Reveal your true feelings at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on February 22, 2010 at 11:53 AM4 comments

Doug's Mailbag: Happy with Windows 7?, Where's the Support?, More

A recent survey of Windows 7 users suggests that they're mostly pretty happy with the OS. But a few of you, like Doug, are still having issues:

I suppose I'm "pretty happy," but I still have XP boxes around, and I am afraid to get rid of them. Windows 7 64-bit is pretty good, but I was expecting better. Pros: fast, as you'd expect a new piece of hardware to be; after getting used to the search box, I love never using cascaded menus again; and my kids only want to use the new computer because they say their homework gets done a lot faster.

Cons: a new HP computer has serious problems printing to an HP Photosmart 2400 printer (OK, it's 5 years old, but please); Quicken runs but has serious printing problems, too; Check Point VPN software doesn't support 64-bit; and annoying magic directories like "My Documents" (or sometimes "Doug's Documents") have now been replaced (yeah!) with equally confusing magic "libraries." Why can't we all just learn to deal with path names?

I was having an occasional blue screen when trying to wake my desktop from sleep (I have Windows 7 Ultimate x64). That latest reliability update -- the one people have said is making their systems unreliable -- seems to have fixed it for me. I'm speculating that it's the issue with the log in screen saver, although my symptom was a blue screen rather than unresponsiveness.

I haven't experienced any crashes when Windows 7 sleeps, but I have noted a couple of recurring anomalies when it wakes back up. First, if I was logged out when Windows 7 went to sleep, when I wake it back up and attempt to log in, my first attempt always fails. No message is displayed. Instead, the first time I select a user and enter the password, Windows 7 says that it's logging in, but then just returns to the top-level screen with the user list. A second log-in attempt at this point will then successfully log in.

And second, sometimes when I wake up Windows 7 from a sleep state, it refuses to restore the monitor display. Instead, the monitor goes right back into power save mode. The only way to restore the system is to force it off by holding down the power button, and then restarting. When the system comes back up, it then restores itself to a waking state. The system does not appear to go through a normal boot sequence when power is reapplied -- it simply emerges from the previous sleep state. Very odd.

Given the amount of custom-rolled software out there, it should not surprise anyone that Windows 7 has a lot of software issues. With that said, most of the issues I personally have had with Windows 7 are with software vendors' profound desire the make it look different. For most of the interface changes they made, I can think of no functional reason other than to make it look different.

I have been able to fix most of the issues I have had, but I am only running out-of-the-box COTS on my desktop. Some of the more complex issues with drivers and such are still nagging. I think Windows 7 will probably be a pretty good operating system by SP3. Not better than the one it replaced (XP) but good.

After doing the (free) manufacturer's upgrade on my laptop from Vista to Windows 7, I no longer can use the built-in microphone for voice recognition. It works otherwise for sound recording. I can use an external mic plugged into an external jack as that works. Go figure.

After Microsoft reently announced it's dumping Unix/Linux support in future versions of FAST Search, Doug asked whether Microsoft should make an effort to support other OSes. Readers say yes:

Yes, it should. Otherwise, I believe, Microsoft's actions become anti-competitive and actionable under antitrust laws, which were designed to prevent just this sort of thing. Example: In the '50s, to promote competition in the transit bus market, GM was required to sell its Detroit Diesel engines to other manufacturers, such as Flxible. AT&T was broken up because it stifled competition in the long-distance market.

In this case, unlike GM, Microsoft did not develop the FAST system but bought it, so that if GM ended up being required to market an engine THEY developed to competitors, then Microsoft certainly should not be allowed to take an 'engine' not developed by them and limit its use on competing operating systems.

It may not always be easy, convenient or hugely profitable to support consumer choice, but it is the right thing to do. Always.

Microsoft should always support other operating systems like Unix and Linux and not just Mac OS. SHAME ON THEM.

Although I understand why M$ doesn't want to support competitors' Unix/Linux desktops and workstations, I think this sort of business decision is short-sighted and ultimately self-destructive. Many of us in larger businesses have a mix of different OS workstations, like it or not, and when a particular vendor chooses not to support us, their customers, they had best expect us to re-evaluate everything we buy from them!

This is why my organization is now in the process of dumping all of our MS Office 2007 for open source OpenOffice.

The final straw between me and Sun was when they purchased a great, but not cheap, third-party tool. I had used it on many applications running on Microsoft Web servers. When Sun bought the product, they killed it for MS platforms. From that point on, I only had bad things to say about Sun and Java.

Microsoft should not be the same.

Finally, how do you use social networking -- if you use it all?

Yes, I do use social networking for both business and pleasure and try my best to keep them separate -- with one lone exception: Twitter. By compartmentalizing them, I have found it easier to ensure that I maintain the appropriate decorum for each. Unfortunately, I have found some unintended bleed-over because of actions of certain firms but I am working hard to rectify those leaks.

Twitter is the exception because I use it for more than simply networking. By following a variety of contacts (such as the Hutchinson News, the Detroit News, and KWCH-TV), I have found it to also be a great source of encapsulated news. I have also found that because of developments within the social networking realm, I rarely use any instant messaging services any more outside the office.

As a bank, we work to make sure that sensitive customer information does not leak. We monitor e-mail on our Exchange server and block access to other e-mail accounts and social networking sites. If Microsoft incorporates social networking into Outlook, then we will be looking for a new e-mail client that matches our security goals.

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to [email protected] Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on February 19, 2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments

Windows 7 Debugged

Windows 7 is a major leap forward, but it's by no means perfect. I mentioned recently how my Windows 7 Latitude D520 hangs when it goes to sleep, leaving me to sort through recovered documents. (Why is it that when I auto-save every five minutes, the recovered document is often a shell of its former self?)

Others experience Windows 7 bombing out in various ways, prompting Microsoft to release a series of patches for various system hangs. Unfortunately, none of these patches address my specific problem. Of course I could just shut down my laptop at night, but that actually involves me pushing a few buttons.

One kernel security patch aimed at nearly all versions of Windows may have actually made Windows XP, in particular, more brittle. Installing the MS10-015 fix is giving some XP users the dreaded but cool-ly named "blue screen of death." Fortunately, it won't make my Windows 7 any worse (and trust me, it ain't that bad). Apparently, there's a rootkit that attacks the patch itself and causes these freezes. For now, the patch has been recalled until the problem is solved.

My favorite computer, the Amiga, crashed more than the last five laps at Daytona, but made you feel better with the friendly glowing orange Guru Meditation error. Which of your computers crashed the most or the least? What's the most important item ever eaten by a crashed or dead computer? Sob stories welcome at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on February 19, 2010 at 11:53 AM12 comments

Going Mobile

It usually takes three iterations for Microsoft to rule a market. In the case of mobile phones, it may take seven.

Microsoft has been in the mobile PDA and phone space for a decade-and-a-half with little success. Its Palm alternatives were kludgey and beat on batteries worse than my daughter's Barbie Jeep. And Windows phones were just like Windows PCs -- they crashed (and more than the last five laps at Daytona).

Fifteen years later, Redmond is still struggling, and is getting particularly rocked by new mobile competitors Apple and Google.

Is Microsoft ready to say, "No mas"? Not on your life, Sugar Ray. Ballmer just keeps going, and this week was talking up Windows Phone 7, hoping some of this "Windows 7" magic will rub off on his mobile efforts.

Microsoft is apparently tossing out its old code and starting fresh with Windows Phone 7. On the UI side, expect these new phones to look a lot like the Zune, but get to the Web via a scaled-down rev of IE. The key could be its hooks to core Microsoft apps such as Outlook, Office and SharePoint. That's very compelling to someone like me who lives in Word and Outlook.

What about you? Why did you choose your phone, and what do you love and hate? Write (don't pocket-dial) me at [email protected]

In related news, all Microsoft embedded operating systems will get the Windows 7 label.

Posted by Doug Barney on February 19, 2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments

Visual Studio 2010 Back on Track

Visual Studio 2010 hit a minor glitch recently when beta testers complained of performance issues. Microsoft took a very public stance, detailing the issues and pushing back the product release.

Now VS 2010 is back on track, having reached release candidate status, which means it's feature-complete and basically tuned and ready to go. Testers think the extra time is worth it as the product is far faster than the beta.

The Microsoft developer group, I've found, is both transparent and listens to customers. I wish all division worked that way! What are your favorite and least favorite parts of Microsoft? Spill your beans at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on February 17, 2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments

Windows 7 Battery Warning a Feature, Not Bug

Windows 7 users getting warnings that their batteries are on their last legs thought it was all a bug. Instead, it's simply Windows 7 giving more detailed information about the true state of your battery. If Windows 7 says the thing is dying, chances are it's really dying.

The alerts come when the battery is operating at 40 percent capacity. Hey, I'd rather listen to Windows and change the battery than lose work when the laptop shuts down! I've been there before.

Do you still lose data despite auto-save and other safeguards? Complaints welcome at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on February 17, 2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments

Windows 7 Users a Happy Lot

A recent report from Forrester Research shows that early Windows 7 users are pretty happy with their decision. While the company only interviewed 40 customers (this is far more anecdotal than scientific), it found they like the new features that replace third-party products such as VPNs and encryption.

On the downside, Forrester believes that two-thirds of XP apps don't work with Windows 7. I'm not sure where they're getting this; I only had a problem with a driver for an old LaserJet 1000 printer (which Redmond Report reader Mike G. helped me fix).

I like Windows 7 a lot, but it still crashes when it goes to sleep. I hate waking up to a bunch of auto-saved docs I have to sort through. What about you? Any problems with Windows 7? Report glitches and glories at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on February 17, 2010 at 11:53 AM10 comments

Not So FAST for Unix/Linux

Microsoft bought its way into the enterprise search market when it bought Fast Search & Transfer ASA, with its semi-eponymously named FAST line of search tools (makes it almost easy to remember). FAST was a multiplatform system and is just as easily installed on Linux or Unix boxes as it is on Windows.

That will all end with next round of Windows-only search tools. The good news? While FAST won't install on Linux/Unix, future versions will still be able to search across them.

Should Microsoft directly support other operating systems (other than Mac OS)? Shoot your best advice to [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on February 17, 2010 at 11:53 AM3 comments