Doug's Mailbag: Win 7 Upgrading Issues, Future of Palm

After Doug discussed the problems associated with upgrading to the newest Microsoft OS, here's what a few of you think regarding Windows 7 compatibility testing:

Our experience with Windows 7 application compatibility has been very positive.

The only small hang-up is our very old accounting/ERP system. The only way we could get it to function was by turning off user account control. We had the same issue under Vista, so this was not a surprise to us.

A somewhat larger problem had been hardware compatibility, especially for printers. The printer compatibility problems are even more problematic on the 64-bit version. For example, we have a couple of HP Color Laserjet 2600n printers. These are vista-era printers. Under 32-bit Windows 7, no problems. But under 64-bit, the printer will work fine via USB, but becomes very difficult to get working over a network.

However, all that being said, nothing has been show stopping. We are bringing in all new computers with Win 7 factory installed.

Here's an aside on app compatibility -- sometimes "run as administrator" just isn't enough.

In my off-time I am a PC gamer, so I 'play' with my computers at home quite a lot. I just can not list the number of games and other programs that won't run under Vista/Windows 7 until User Account Control is disabled. I don't recommend turning off UAC to most folks because the security benefit it provides is well worth it. UAC is fundamentally behind much of the compatibility grief with older software. So if you absolutely need to run something, try disabling UAC and hope you stay safe on the net.

Either an application is compatible with Windows 7 or it's not. Few (if any) applications should be dependent upon features found in "Professional" which are not found in lesser versions of Windows 7.

I assume they chose "Professional" because it's the least feature-rich (and least expensive) edition which is designed specifically for business networks utilizing ADS. Kind of a "lowest common denominator" for business apps.

Maybe the point is that if they are running under Windows XP Professional now, then it may 'require' Windows 7 Professional.

Let's be honest though, the NT 6.x kernel was designed specifically to enforce Windows XP certification standards. Programs which were certified to run under XP should work fine.

Sadly, many applications written for XP ignored Microsoft programming standards and never sought certification. The problem was even worse for in-house developed programs and drivers.

Microsoft did not enforce those standards because they were more concerned about supporting legacy applications than they were about protecting the integrity of the operating system. That has all changed.

Microsoft paid a high price (and is still paying a high price) for not enforcing standards under XP and then not driving home the point with its ISVs during the Vista launch.

Undoubtedly, late adopters (those still on Windows 2000/XP) will continue to suffer until all of the software has been upgraded. (But Microsoft will be the one getting the black eye!)
-C. Mark

One reader shares his thoughts on Palm in the wake of last week's buyout news:

Five years ago I got my first Palm, the Treo 650 -- solidly built (it's still working perfectly), stable platform, lots of great apps, free and paid.

But the single-tasking became a problem in a fast-moving world, and Palm was too slow to address that deficiency -- especially outside the U.S. where Windows-based Palms weren't readily available. So came the move to Windows Mobile on HTC -- which had to wait until 6.1 for decent message threading, and whose hardware is nowhere near as well built.

Time to upgrade again, so I was looking forward to the Pre, having monitored its release a year ago. But, after a year, there is still no real take-up by developers. On top of which webOS doesn't support my (coerced) investment in Windows Mobile apps. In any case, the Pre has not been type-approved in South Africa yet.

Hmmm... hopefully HP will take the highly-promising webOS and make use of its marketing muscle and worldwide reach to increase turnover. This would ensure that Palm doesn't die out.

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 May 03, 2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments

Win 7 Reaches Embedded Mart

There is now an embedded version of Windows 7 aimed at thin computers, industrial devices and other machines that used embedded OSes. Both HP and Wyse have already announced thin clients using the new OS.

What does this mean? My guess is that as reliable as embedded-OS devices are, they will become more so with Win 7.

Windows 7 Embedded also now supports Media Center, giving it a play in set-top boxes and other entertainment devices.

Am I wasting my time telling you about embedded operating systems, or do they have a role to play in your shop? Come clean at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on May 03, 2010 at 11:53 AM1 comments

IE 8 To Get XSS Fix

In more than a month's time, a flaw that allows hackers to launch cross-site scripting (XSS) exploits against IE 8 should be fixed.

Microsoft has already patched an XSS hole, but security researchers have found new forms of XSS attacks, prompting the new patch.

This type of attack is pretty tricky. It requires a Web site that lets outsiders post content. Then those users have to click and follow a link to a malicious Web site.

Posted by Doug Barney on May 03, 2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments

In the Palm of HP's Hand

Years ago I read a book, "Piloting Palm," which chronicled why the Palm handhelds were so dang hot. Turns out founder Jeff Hawkins was obsessed with creating the most efficient, not the most feature-rich interface possible. Palm simply worked better and ran longer -- and much this was based on what seemed to be minor design decisions.

Hawkins has long since left, and Palm has slipped greatly.

HP thinks it can bring Palm back and paid just north of a billion dollars for the company. The company is serious about Palm and plans to invest big bucks to move Palm's webOS to more devices and platforms.

Have you used Palm? What would it take for you to come back? What's your mobile device of choice? Answers to any and all questions welcome at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on April 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM2 comments

Windows 2000 Servers Users Take Note

If you are running Windows 2000 Server, there is a fix for a fix. Microsoft prepped a fix for a remote execution flaw, only to pull the patch because it wasn't entirely effective.

Now the patch has been done right, and was released earlier this week.

If you installed the first fix, you need not uninstall before putting on the new patch.

Posted by Doug Barney on April 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments

Software Licensing Nightmares

This is from my associate, Lee Pender: "We're putting together a story for Redmond magazine about the worst experiences you've had with software licensing. Has the Business Software Alliance or Microsoft ever raided your office? Have you had trouble clearing your name? Have you actually had to deal with a problem you didn't even know existed? Send us your worst tales of licensing woe -- confidentiality guaranteed, of course. The address is [email protected]."

Posted by Doug Barney on April 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM3 comments

Gizmodo Gizwrongo

You've probably heard the story about Gizmodo getting its greedy little mitts on an iPhone prototype. The phone was left in a bar by an Apple employee (not sure if he's still employed), picked up by a patron and sold to the Giz for a cool five grand. The site then posted all the details, creating a firestorm far hotter than deserved.

Apple has never liked to have its news leaked before it is good and ready and isn't afraid to threaten journalists with high-priced Apple lawyers.

In this case, it sicced the cops on the Gizmodo editor, which raided his house and confiscated his computers -- after he gave the phone back to Apple!

Apple and the cops clearly overreacted, but what Giz did was also clearly wrong. It bought a device from someone who didn't own it. This is morally, if not legally, wrong.

Over my 26 years as a computer journalist, I've revealed a lot of things Microsoft and others preferred be kept quiet. I was only threatened with a lawyer once, and it sure wasn't from Microsoft!

I've never had Apple as a beat, which probably saved me millions in legal fees.

Ironically the best coverage from one Jon Stewart.

Is Apple the cuddly company most think, or is there a more sinister side? Shoot your thoughts to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on April 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM8 comments

Doug's Mailbag: Thoughts on Windows Home Server, XP and Microsoft's Overall Reliability

With Microsoft's Vail hitting beta, one reader discusses his thoughts on Home Server:

I tested WHS RC on a 1 GHz PIII machine, purchased and installed the WHS OEM version when it was released and have been running backups on occasions ever since. WHS works well. Each service pack has installed without glitches using a wide variety of disk drives, both internal and USB external.

I don't presently use any of the file-sharing features.

WHS has one glaring unmet requirement -- off-site copy. My current WHS machine is not 64-bit capable so an upgrade to Vail will be big decision. Without wizards or other procedurized means for off-site copy backups, I am hard pressed to see improvements that warrant new WHS hardware and software. I am not an expert in the new Vail WHS version but I have observed any references to the off-site copy requirement. I am keenly interested in whatever future direction guidance Microsoft may be giving in regard to the off-site copy requirement.

Here's another opinion on Windows XP reliability after news broke of a security hole associated with the OS and McAfee Antivirus:

I've never experienced an XP crash in all the years I've been using it. I can't remember anyone else in my department ever complaining of such a thing.

I've had applications freeze up, but I usually have 40 things open and I'm starting and stopping code in Visual Studio in debug mode way too fast. And even that is rare and my fault, as I've probably written something that the system just can't handle or haven't waited long enough for the pieces to properly fall back into place. But during normal usage, never. Same for Vista. And I give these OS's a workout, believe me.

And crashes, never. At least, as of me writing this. Hope I'm not jinxing it.

Finally a reader writes in to discuss Microsoft's overall vulnerability after Barney discussed a report that says most problems come from third-party software vendors, not the OS:

I have used Microsoft products professionally since 1983. The critical jump in reliability for me came with the jump from Windows 95 to Windows NT4. (Windows 98/98se/Me were simply too unstable for me to use.) I have not had an attack by malware or a virus of any kind since I took that leap.

Along the way, I have worked professionally with a number of flavors of Unix and even tinkered with Linux. In my experience, Windows has been, by far, the easiest and (ironically) the least costly to maintain.

If one takes a few simple precautions, keeping your Windows system reliable and up-to-date is a snap.  
-C. Marc

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 April 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM1 comments

Outsourcing Help

Has your shop outsourced any key functions? If so, how did it affect your organization? Did it change your job? Was it a positive or negative experience? I'm looking to write a feature story based on YOUR experiences. E-mail me at [email protected] and I'll get in touch!

Posted by Doug Barney on April 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM2 comments

Unveiling Vail

You may be wondering why an IT newsletter such as this is talking about Vail, the new rev of Windows Home Server. Well, IT folks have home machines too, and more than a few of you have raved to me recently about Windows Home Server.

Small shops with small budgets can't always afford high-end backup and data synchronization solutions. For users you really want to keep happy (like the CEO), Home Server may just do the trick, making sure files are always available and protected.

The new Vail, now in beta, can be shared by as many as 10 PCs -- enough for a small office or large family. Vail has better remote video streaming and shares folders through Windows 7's HomeGroups.

While most shops will opt for a more robust server, small outfits and branch offices are a target audience for the tool. Just don't tell the boss it's called ‘Home' Server.

Have you tried Home Server? Send impressions to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on April 28, 2010 at 11:53 AM3 comments

Scoping out Win 7

There are two major things stopping folks from moving to Win 7 (beside a Mac or Linux fetish) -- lack of budget or fear of application incompatibilities.

Microsoft can't help you with the first, but a Microsoft partner can with the second through a free service that tests to see if your apps will run on Windows 7 Professional (not sure why it doesn't check for all Win 7 versions).

Gold partner ChangeBase is testing out the service, which is free -- at least for now.

The answers aren't a simple yes/no, but will tell you if there are minor install problems, if a whole new driver is needed or if you are just plain out of luck. In some cases, the ChangeBase tool can solve the problem.

While Microsoft has its own compatibility test tool, the advantage of ChangeBase is checking custom corporate apps.

How is your Win 7 compatibility? Or do you have a Mac or Linux fetish? Answers can be sent regardless of operating system to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on April 28, 2010 at 11:53 AM3 comments

It's the Software, Stupid

Microsoft has been taking it on the chin for security holes for most of its corporate life. Now it's time to fight back. In the latest Microsoft Security Intelligence Report, Microsoft says that ISVs are the ones that need to improve their game. The facts seem to back these assertions. Last year, less than half of all attacks went after Windows XP third-party packages. Vista and Windows 7 attacks were based on third parties 75 percent of the time.

Microsoft's take? Hackers have to go after ISVs because Windows is getting tougher to penetrate.

Are you buying all this? What's your experience? War stories and opinions welcome at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on April 28, 2010 at 11:53 AM3 comments