Windows a Mainframe Alternative -- No Duh!

In 1986 I covered microcomputing for ComputerWorld newspaper. At the time micros, from companies like Vector Graphics and Altos, along with rudimentary LANs, drove the downsizing movement where mainframe apps were moved to these cheaper systems.

Twenty-four years later IDC claims that high-end versions of Windows (with clustering, HPC, etc.) are taking on apps that used to run on mainframes. Where have they been for the last two and a half decades?

One area where Windows servers on x86 chips are making inroads is non-Intel architectures such as RISC, Power6 and Itanium-based servers, IDC says.

Posted on April 21, 2010 at 11:53 AM1 comments


Doug's Mailbag: Microsoft Support Life, Outsourcing Issues

After Doug commented on the news that Microsoft will be offering limited troubleshooting for expired Windows Service Packs, here are a few of your responses when asked how long they should support their products:

Even though I would personally like to see Microsoft support their products as long as someone is using them, I can also see that nearly everything we buy has a warranty that expires over time. If the customer chooses to continue using the product after the warranty expires, such as a car, then they need to pay out good money to get the product fixed by someone else.

When it comes to software, the Internet provides a wealth of information and free help that can keep many of Microsoft's products going for years on end. So I am torn on this issue for the home user.  

However, when it comes to the corporate environment where hundreds of thousands of dollars may have been invested in Microsoft, then I feel that support should be provided indefinitely for a MODEST amount of money. Give the corporations as much time as they need to upgrade. Microsoft will still be making some money off their older products, the customer will be happy and more likely to buy their newer stuff when the need arises and users feel confident that Microsoft will support them long into the future.
-Joe     

I thought they were to support a product seven years after it was retired?
Government mandate?
-Anonymous

For three years after the release of the first service pack for the next version of the product. For instance, three years after the release of Windows Vista SP1, support for Windows XP should end.
-Pat

One reader shares insight on why outsourcing IT support overseas may not be a good thing:

My company, which I often refer to as the biggest company nobody's ever heard of ($11B annual revenue, 45,000 employees in 11 countries), is a systems integrator/project and program management enterprise-class vendor.  If we were to outsource OUR IT operations, how in the world would we compete and win such work from prospective clients?  I can just see the conversation now…

 Yeah, that will win us lots of work!  LOL
 -Mercury

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to dbarney@redmondmag.com. 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 on April 19, 2010 at 11:53 AM2 comments


Laying Into the Lama

We all know that hackers are after government and corporate computers. But someone must have been mighty curious about the Dalai Lama. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald... striking.

A group of hackers managed to purloin a whole year's set of e-mail. Perhaps the hackers were looking for a little something, you know, for the effort, you know. Perhaps on their deathbed, they'd like to receive total consciousness. But that's asking a lot from a group of two-bit hackers.

I guess if a man whom many believe is the physical manifestation of the Tibetan God of Compassion isn't safe, then I guess none of us are.

Is corporate espionage for real? Have you come across real-life examples? If so, shoot me a non-secret message at dbarney@redmondmag.com. And if you can spot the items I plagiarized, tell me from whom those lines were stolen.

Posted by Doug Barney on April 19, 2010 at 11:53 AM1 comments


PCs Roar Back To Life

I'm not sure if it's Windows 7, record low computer prices or an economy just starting to get back on track, but PC sales rose nearly 25 percent in the first quarter compared to a year ago. That equates to nearly 80 million PCs sold worldwide in a short three months.

Analyst firm IDC attributes much of the growth to long delayed refreshes that are now back on track.

What about you? Is your shop refreshing key tools or still holding the line on costs? Tell me what you think at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

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


BPOS Semi-Worldwide

You think something as potentially exciting as a series of Microsoft cloud applications would have a cool name. You'd be wrong. What name did Redmond choose for its online versions of SharePoint, Exchange, Office Live Meeting and Office Communication Server? Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). Marketing 101 suggest that one never create an acronym with the letters POS embedded.

Despite the lame name, the apps are pretty cool and now will reach a larger audience. BPOS and the better-named Azure are now available in 20 countries. That's pretty critical for international organizations who'd rather not run on the cloud in the U.S. and on physical servers elsewhere.

Have you tried BPOS or have a hankering? What is the worst product name or acronym you've ever come across? Answers to both welcome at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on April 19, 2010 at 11:53 AM11 comments


TechNet Wiki Awaits Your Input

TechNet is an amazing resource. I should know. My group now runs TechNet magazine and MSDN magazine. Thank you Microsoft!

TechNet (the overall site, not the magazine) has a new wiki that IT pros such as you can contribute to. All you need is a Windows Live ID and you're good to go.

Microsoft will not police or censor the site, but will leave that to a community council. After just a month in business, the wiki has over 500 pages (screens) of content. Not too shabby.

Do you read either TechNet mag or MSDN mag? Share your thoughts with us at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on April 16, 2010 at 11:53 AM1 comments


Microsoft Disses Da Docs

A Microsoft Office official Andrew Kisslo may be the Dennis Miller of software (without Miller's obscure and inane references to Boswell). Kisslo blogged about the Google Docs upgrade, ridiculing exciting new features such as being able to move spreadsheet columns and have a margin ruler in a word processor (a feature that seems to have disappeared, at least as a default, in Word 2007).

Kisslo also warns that old Google documents and files may not work with the new Google Docs.

If Kisslo ever leaves Microsoft, he has a great career waiting for him doing standup in the Catskills!

I walked out of a Dennis Miller show after his third Boswell reference. Am I wrong or is Miller the most pretentious comedian ever? You tell me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on April 16, 2010 at 11:53 AM4 comments


Google Docs Goosed

One of the problems with cloud apps is they are only as fast as the servers that house them, the network that carries them and the PC that ultimately runs them. Google is hoping to increase their performance with tweaks to Google Docs that speed their JavaScript processing, not just making them snappier but able to handle larger files as well.

Google is also adding a bunch of new features so Google Docs can compare more favorably with Microsoft Office. One tweak seems pretty simple to me -- the word processor now has a margin ruler.

More details will be released April 20, and we will bring you all the news then.

Is Google Docs any good? Let us all know by writing dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on April 16, 2010 at 11:53 AM3 comments


Doug's Mailbag: Ribbon Rage, Tablet Computers, IE Feedback

We start today's mailbag with an e-mail from a reader calling Doug out on some of his statements regarding Microsoft's riboon and sharing his own thoughts on it:

Your column in the April issue marks at least twice you have somewhat misinformed your readers on the subject of menu commands in Office 2007. The old menu commands are still there; there are just no menus to get to them. You have to remember the keystrokes (always beginning with Alt-something) on your own (which shouldn't be too hard for the "curmudgeonly users"). In fact, you generally get to the old dialog boxes directly from the ribbon interface for the more sophisticated tasks (such as changing axis features in Excel charts).

My personal opinion is that the ribbon is a disaster. It is slightly more convenient for the simple tasks, but requires many more keystrokes (or mouse clicks) to get to the really detailed stuff. More importantly, it's ugly and uses up too much real-estate; I keep it closed most of the time. I have also voted with my feet. I use OpenOffice whenever I can.
-Anonymous

After the highly publicized release of the Apple iPad and a whole slew of tablet-based computers on the horizon, Doug asked you whether one is in your budget for the near future:

Regarding your question is there is a table in my future. I would say yes. I am not an early adapter. I'll give the market some time to sort out. I hear that there will be an Android tablet before the end of the year. As far as HP Slate vs iPad I'd pick the iPad over the slate. I'm a windows guy but the iPad has all that I need and more.

I'm strongly leaning towards the iPad (my wife hates Apple and I'll probably be drawn and quartered for buying one, but what the hey).

I'll probably pick one up next year when I would suppose the second generation version would be out.
-Daryl

There is a tablet in my future: Windows 7 Tablet -- outdoor viewable AND Wacom pen capable. Touch would be nice. Doesn't need to have a keyboard, but it better have at least two USB ports, SD card reader, Wifi and Bluetooth. I intend to use it with a Clear Wimax dongle for on the go. As long as the battery is replaceable and lasts 2-plus hours going full out, I'm not going to whine about battery life.

If I had to pick a brand, I'd prefer it was Lenovo, with Toshiba as a second choice and all others being equal after that.
-Anonymous

With the info that IE 9 may just be around the corner, one reader shares their thoughts on what Microsoft should do to make it great:

Work closely with Adobe to get a version of Flash to work in the 64-bit version. I like IE best but use Foxfire all the time because of stability issues.

Out of the box with my newer HP Win 7 laptop, IE would continuously freeze whether in the 32- or 64-bit version. I love the accelerators and the private browsing features. I see no sense in purchasing a 64-bit laptop, with a 64-bit OS when I won't be able to use the browser because of Flash. After about four months I'm still waiting for the bugs to be worked out.

Another feature I would like to see is a one-click, clean cached info button instead of going through the menus. Then again, if they could get PrivateBrowsing to work reliably I wouldn't need that!

-Anonymous

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to dbarney@redmondmag.com. 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 April 16, 2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments


Service Pack Support Extended (a Little)

Until this week, when a Service Pack stopped being supported it actually stopped being supported. Under a new policy, when a Service Pack stops being supported, Microsoft will offer limited support in the form of quick and dirty troubleshooting.

But Microsoft will only go so far. If it can't fix the problem quickly, it will advise customers to move onto the next Pack or product revision.

This policy will be welcome news to Windows XP SP2 and Windows 2000 users for which support ends this July.

How long should Microsoft support its products? You tell me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on April 14, 2010 at 11:53 AM2 comments


Doug's Mailbag: Is Net Neutrality Dead?

A regular to Doug's Mailbag comments on what the FCC/Comcast court ruling spells out for Net neutrality:

For Comcast and all other cable operators, the issue is network stability. Why should a neighborhood of 100 (or 1,000) Comcast customers be at the mercy of one customer who decides to turn on three or four computers in his home and start a massive peer-to-peer file-sharing download?

The cable company needs to be able to throttle back certain kinds of traffic in order to keep a small number of customers from negatively impacting performance for a large number of customers.

Networks are built on average loads, not peak loads, like the electric company, the gas company or the water company. If network operators cannot regulate a handful of abusive customers, who saturate their network at certain times of the day, they cannot guarantee any of their customers reliable service at any time of the day.

The cable provider's ability to control how many hours of porn you download (or even which porn you download -- or which TV station you watch) is a peripheral issue because demand will drive which services you can access.

The threat is not that Comcast has the technical ability to do that. The threat is that the Patriot Act permits the U.S. government to ask them to do that without presenting them a warrant served in a public court. And even worse, legislation protects them from being sued even if the government action is illegal and the network provider complies anyway.

There is simply too much money to be made for Comcast, or anyone else, to care what you do with their service, as long as your use of their service is not detrimental to others who also expect a certain level of service from the same provider.

Thanks for the opportunity to comment.
- Marc

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to dbarney@redmondmag.com. 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 April 14, 2010 at 11:53 AM1 comments


Keep in Touch with Mama Kin

Microsoft is a lot like the British -- under withering fire the company keeps a stiff upper lip and simply plods on. That is exactly what Redmond is doing in the mobile phone market with the upcoming release of Windows Phone 7, which I hear is pretty good.

But Redmond isn't about to wait for 7 -- it wants more mobile territory now, and is invading the youth space to get it. The Kin phones, made by Sharp, are built from the get-go with social media in mind. They have sliding keyboards and store data, such as photos, in the cloud. This is actually designed not just to store more stuff, but to make it easier to upgrade to new phones since you simply have to download all those items to the new device.

What will it take for Microsoft to win in the mobile phone space? Advice welcome at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on April 14, 2010 at 11:53 AM1 comments


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