Who's Cool?

Coolness is the eye of the beholder, and when it comes to computer companies, opinions vary more than tastes in clothing. I took a crack at determining who was cool and who wasn't and concluded that Google and Apple have lost a portion of their coolness (the former more than the latter),  and that Microsoft was regaining a semblance of coolness by virtue of Windows 7 and the Xbox 360.

One online poster took a more scientific approach and used Google Trends to see how often "cool" and the vendors' names were intermixed.

Turns out I was right about Apple -- it was low on the cool analytics, as was Redmond.

Google had been climbing the cool ladder, but is getting its head handed to it by Facebook -- a call I fortunately made.

Who is hot and not in your opinion? Share at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on July 19, 20101 comments

Doug's Mailbag: Sunbelt Suggestions, XP SP2 Thoughts

One reader gives some thoughts on how Sunbelt can improve their software:

There's nothing to not like about Sunbelt and its Vipre suite. I'm about to re-up and expand my subscriptions.

Well, in the interests of full disclosure, I did e-mail some Sunbelt managers this "complaint" message:

Years ago, I kinda liked the dangerous, exciting adventures I had with Symantec/Norton and Panda. One of them would catch an evil critter when the other missed. Scans gave me cool announcements of catastrophes barely averted. I had to remember to update and, if I didn't, I got to obsess whether my tardiness had barely averted a disk-crushing disaster. Very Indiana Jones!

By comparison, Vipre is boresome. It gives me no emergencies. Not even close calls. No pirated browsers. No adware to fuss about. I never get cool, cryptic messages like, "This scan detected and eradicated the system-frying, zero-day malware, smurf_butt87."  

Nothing! Where's the fun?

For your PR benefit, let me suggest:

  • As scans run, display mock battles on the screen where Vipres eat canny, wiggly, fast-moving viruses.
  • Display messages like: "Today, 4,892,643 Windows users were infected with KarmaGeddon99. You weren't."
  • Each time Vipre stops malware on its way in, play an audio-visual "SNAP!" like a mosquito-zapper incinerating its prey.
  • Give users a slick, on-screen TurboButton. It doesn't have to do anything. But pressing it will give us some feeling of participation.

 You get the idea, right? Enough of this quiet, behind-the-scenes efficiency! Jazz it up!

I'm still awaiting those product improvements.


It looks like the end of Windows XP SP2 is bringing conflicting opinions. Here are a couple:

 I remember when Windows 95 was being phased out and any upgrades to MSN sites (notably the old MSN gaming zone) were rushed through with no support for Windows 95. I cannot tell you how many people I had approach me because they suddenly lost the ability to log into the gaming zone.

On a similar note, we see hardware and firmware like floppy drives being omitted on new computer builds simply because the manufacturers decide that CD/DVD drives have replaced any need for floppy disks. I still regularly use floppy disks (yes, even the antique eight-inch disks) on special systems that are old enough not to have the latest technology available. Getting a simple floppy disk is rapidly becoming an impossibility -- am I supposed to tell my customer that the millions of pounds they invested only a few years ago is now worthless junk ?

About time...and good riddance! Much ado about nothing.

Anyone still using XPSP2 deserves whatever they get. If enough users clump together and put their money where their mouth is, they can pay Microsoft for additional patches. If not... it's their problem, not ours.

We moved from XPSP2 to SP3 as soon as it came out. We moved to Vista starting in February 2007. A lot of that hardware is now running Windows 7.

If people don't like it, let them buy a Mac or a Linux box. Microsoft has no duty whatsoever to continue support of such an antique OS. It is not like they suddenly descended out of nowhere with the "end-of-life" thing. It's been posted on my wall for years (a listing of the "End of Support" and "End of Extended Support" for every piece of software we use).

Stuck with XP? Well, remove admin rights from all users and hire lots of IT Security staff to watch and fix things...hmmm, might be cheaper to upgrade, eh?

All this whining is disgusting! What's wrong with SP3? What's wrong with Vista that a four- or five-year-old machine can't handle? (Oh? You bought the cheapest possible hardware? Oops.)

Would I buy a machine, netbook or otherwise, without Windows 7? No. Nor would any staff/friends who sought my opinion.

It's dying. Deal with it.

XP -- RIP (August 2001 - April 2014).

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 July 19, 20102 comments

What Does Microsoft Know About You?

A few years ago, Redmond Channel Partner (rcpmag.com) Editor-In-Chief Scott Bekker came up with a brilliant idea: Let's investigate what Microsoft knows about us as consumers and business customers and see if they cross the line.

The idea languished for so long that Bekker forgot that he even though of it! I didn't and assigned the piece to Redmond Executive Editor Lee Pender, author of the popular and feisty Pender's Blog (original, eh?).

The timing actually couldn't have been better. Google has had a heap of privacy problems, as has Facebook.

Turns out that while Microsoft may not be perfect, it does a darn good job protecting our privacy -- far, far better than Google, in my opinion.

I've seen this first hand. My group now runs TechNet and MSDN magazines, and Microsoft goes out of its way to protect the privacy of these readers.

Am I becoming a Redmond fanboy and, therefore, missing what Microsoft is up to, or is it really concerned about your privacy? You tell me at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on July 19, 20101 comments

GFI Has Eyes for Sunbelt

Sunbelt is one of my favorite companies. Going up against the likes of Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro, Sunbelt has won over many an account with Vipre, a lean, mean, malware-fighting machine.

Another of my favorites, GFI Software, is headed by an amazing entrepreneur -- one Walter Scott, who is now based on the island of Malta (yeah, I'm plenty jealous!).

Now, hopefully, we'll see the best of both worlds as GFI just bought Sunbelt. GFI plans to integrate Sunbelt products into its own portfolio.

I'm actually kind of bummed about this. Sunbelt has done an amazing job building its brand and trying to topple the big boys. I hate to see this name disappear.

On the other hand, GFI now has a much broader and deeper product set and will clearly be a company to watch. I'm sure Symantec will keep its eyes open.

Are you a GFI or Sunbelt customer? What are your thoughts? Shoot them to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on July 16, 20102 comments

Russian Spy with a Redmond Twist

Microsoft has become a far more transparent company, so I wasn't entirely surprised when the company disclosed that one of the 12 Russian spies (alleged, of course) worked as an employee.

Alexey Karetnikov tested software in Redmond for a full human gestation period (nine months) before the spy stuff hit the fan.

It leads one (that would be me) to wonder if he sent any confidential Microsoft information to Moscow. Given the brilliant computer minds coming out of Russia, I'd be more worried about the opposite.

Posted by Doug Barney on July 16, 20102 comments

Brainiest Tech Titans

Fortune magazine (for which I worked as a college senior) has chosen what it deems "The Smartest People in Tech." In the CEO category, it picked Steve Jobs, which I have difficulty contesting. Even though the Mac isn't reaching its full potential due to pricing, Jobs is setting the agenda for consumer electronics. Heck, I reckoned Apple was dead two decades ago. But now it is worth roughly the same amount as Redmond.

I didn't see Steve Ballmer on the list, who was probably overlooked because he's been helping drive Microsoft for a full three decades.

One shocking entry was the inclusion of Demand Media founder Richard Rosenblatt. If Google is public enemy number one for quality journalism, Demand Media is clearly number two.

Google takes content that folks, like myself, worked hard to create and sells ads against my links -- with no recompense.

Demand has a different approach: They pay out-of-work journalists (many of whom are unemployed thanks to Google) and amateurs chump change to crank out junk all designed to show up in search results. This is what Fortune considers genius? They could have just as easily chosen the founders of Chinese sweat shops that crank out Wal-mart sweat suits.

Rosenblatt may be far smarter than me, but smarter than Ballmer? I don't think so.

Who are your choices for the smartest (and dumbest) tech titans? Vote at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on July 16, 20102 comments

Doug's Mailbag: Win 7 Upgrading, The Government Knows All

With this week's news that Win 7 SP1 is on the way, Doug asks if this is the push to get you to upgrade to Microsoft's newest OS:

Yeah, right! Seriously?

I jumped ship (figuratively) when I acquired my first public beta on Windows Vista -- warts and all! I officially jumped ship on XP when Vista "went golden." I jumped from Vista to Windows 7 just as quickly. Windows 7 is the most stable version of Microsoft Windows I have ever seen (and I've been using Windows since Version 2.11, in 1987).

There are the pioneers (early adopters like myself) and there are the late adopters, the ones with arrows in their backs (because they are entirely dependent upon obsolete software).

Anyone still using Windows XP (especially SP2 or earlier) who is without a plan to move to Windows 7 at their earliest opportunity either has nothing of value stored on their computer or is being exceedingly reckless. If you have Windows XP now, you can upgrade to Windows 7 for as little as $120. Considering that Windows 7 will run all of your aged Windows XP code (either natively or using XP Mode), there is just no reason to continue to put it off!

One reader shares his thoughts on the government's involvement in electronic security:

I obviously can't speak to the efficacy of these secret data-collection programs, whether run by Microsoft, NSA, or any other of the thousands of organizations that constantly try to amass personal data. They are, after all, secret.

All I can do is wonder who names these projects. "Perfect Citizen," really? "ECHELON" sounds a little foreboding, but apparently someone felt the disconcerting need to seriously creep out all of us not-quite-so-perfect citizens.

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 July 16, 20101 comments

Doug's Mailbag: The Death of XP SP2

With Microsoft pulling the plug on XP SP2, here's some reader thoughts on those hesitant to make the upgrade switch:

Service Pack 3 was released over two years ago! (A year after Windows Vista shipped and FOUR years after Service Pack 2 shipped.) Anyone who is serious about their computing environment has long since upgraded to XP Service Pack 3 (or to Vista, or to Windows 7).

Just because you changed the oil in your car the last time it was recommended doesn't mean that you shouldn't change it this time. Nor do you expect to get the oil for free!

Microsoft has offered free updates to Windows XP for 9 years now and has promised to continue to do so for four more years. Microsoft is not forcing anyone to do anything but when you disregard the manufacturer's recommendations, you take unnecessary risks with your investment.

If you are a consumer, the risks are yours and yours alone. When you are a business, failure to observe Microsoft's recommendations place all of your business data and the personal data of all of your customers at risk. The potential impact of a loss of this data can be profound.

I just don't see that anyone still running Windows XP (for whatever reason) has any right to gripe because Microsoft asks them to upgrade to SP3 in order to continue to receive support. (Nobody gripes at Apple for having the same attitude about far newer code than Windows XP SP2.)

Sooner or later, Microsoft has to pull support for old code and six years after XP2 first hits the streets strikes me as more than reasonable.

We are in the software business, and although the situation is a bit different, we build development systems that run on Windows, Linux, Unix and VMS, so we support a lot of OS platforms. We have yearly releases of our products to resolve problems, add features and to support new ports of the different OS platforms. Being pragmatic, supporting a lot of old OS platforms is problematic from a support point of view -- it is not feasible in the long run.

The upgrading to XP SP 3 is relatively painless, at least in all the XP SP2 to SP3 upgrades we have done, as it is not destructive and does not require a clean install like going to Win 7. Sooner or later the SP2 guys are going to need to suck it up and move-on, and going to XP SP3 is about as benign as you can get. That is my opinion.

We've had multiple occurrences on the retail side of our business where customers bring in old PCs. When we put SP3 on them USB ports stop working correctly. It's not an uncommon issue (do a quick Google search and be shocked at the number of results).

I'm not sure that this attributes the large percentage of SP2 computers in your article, but it doesn't keep the number down by any means. We've been pushing Windows 7 (and Vista before it) but sometimes its either support the customer or lose the customer. And I'm the one these issues get escalated to.

- Chad

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 July 14, 20101 comments

Ballmer Reaches for Cloud

It's no secret that Microsoft is gunning for the cloud. It might prefer good old-fashioned significantly priced packaged software, but the market is moving into the upper atmosphere. Google, Amazon and IBM are already there, but Microsoft has one advantage -- hundreds of thousands of resellers and technology partners.

That was Steve Ballmer's message in his keynote at the Worldwide Partners Conference in D.C. He wants this army to get behind Azure in a big way. Ballmer admits that the move from packaged pricing to subscription models is just as scary for resellers as it is for Redmond itself, but the move is inevitable (my personal take is that the cloud is indeed inevitable in that it is coming, but it won't entirely displace on-premise computing).

Ballmer was characteristically blunt, telling partners that "If you don't want to move to the cloud, we're not your folk."

Ballmer also reiterated plans to battle the iPad with Windows slates, and taking a serious stab at phones with Windows Mobile 7.

Is the Redmond partner network an asset? Let us all know at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on July 14, 20101 comments

Win 7, Server 2008 R2 First Service Pack En Route

Many wait for the first Service Pack before moving to new software. In the case of Windows 7, I found the Release Candidate a zillion times better than XP, so I didn't give two hoots about a Service Pack.

Still, the impending release of SP1 for both Win 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 is good news (how confusing to an outsider is Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1?) for IT.

Here's what you need to know: SP1 (in beta) for Win 7 adds virtualization features such as dynamic memory which does a better job of sharing memory between virtual machines. Remote FX is also there, which gives remote Win 7 thin clients richer graphics.

Are you waiting for Win 7 SP1 to make the move? Come clean at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on July 14, 20101 comments

On-Premises Azure

Since Microsoft announced its Azure cloud platform, folks have wondered what Microsoft will do about private, on-premises clouds. For more than a year, Redmond had no answer. This week there is one, and it is one I didn't expect. I assumed Microsoft would just sell software to let companies craft their own private clouds, which could be a complicated enterprise.

Instead Microsoft is working with OEMs to build appliances that combine servers, networking and storage to ease the creation of these corporate clouds.

Unfortunately no real details or specs were released.

Do cloud appliances make you more interested in cloud computing? You tell me at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on July 14, 20101 comments

XP End of Life Means Trouble

Microsoft is in the process of winding down support for Windows XP SP2 and after tomorrow will apparently stop releasing patches. If Vista wasn't such a dud, I'd have no problem with this, but given the choice between Vista and XP, the wise chose is the latter. That means millions of corporate customers will remain on XP.

The news is not all bad. If you are on XP SP2, all you need to do is upgrade to SP3 and you'll have all the patches you can handle.

One problem with Microsoft's plan is that plenty of folks will stay with SP2 -- which is now more vulnerable to attack. Some estimates put SP2 at 45 percent of all current XP installs. That's a lot of targets!

Here's one indication that XP isn't going anywhere: A big chunk of new netbooks come with XP, not Windows 7 (and clearly not Vista).

How long should Microsoft support XP, and is it fair for Redmond to force an upgrade to SP3? You tell me at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on July 12, 201015 comments