Microsoft's IT Outsourcing Deal

Microsoft is full of thousands upon thousands of software geniuses. And who knows Microsoft products better than Microsoft itself? That's why I am blown away by the news that Microsoft is outsourcing a good deal of its IT to Bangalore-based Infosys.

Infosys will support apps, infrastructure, PCs and take over the help desk.

It turns out that for years Microsoft has outsourced these functions to a bevy of partners. I just didn't know it. Now all that work is consolidated under Infosys.

Does your shop outsource? What is good and bad about the practice? Let me know at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on April 14, 2010 at 11:53 AM11 comments

Exchange 2010 Awaits Tweaks

Exchange 2010 shipped only five months ago, but already Microsoft is looking to trot out tweaks. SP1 will enter beta this June and will feature new management functions and a tool that imports .PST files. In case you hadn't heard, Exchange 2010 has a whole new way of dealing with personal folders and archives. The .PST import is really just a bridge between the old and the new.

Exchange's search function will also be fine-tuned by giving only one result even if the searched for e-mail was sent out to multiple mailboxes.

Finally, OWA is faster by using a "pre-fetch" and can better handle big attachments.

Posted by Doug Barney on April 12, 2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments

Patch Tuesday To Include 25 Fixes

If you are responsible for patching at your shop, clear your schedule tomorrow cuz it's going to be a monster. Eleven patches will fix more than two dozen problems. Best tell the family you'll be late for dinner.

As usual, remote code execution fixes lead the charge, but denial of service, spoofing and elevation of privilege attacks also get their fair share of attention.

IE has had more patches lately than a pair of old hippy pants, but one IE flaw is not ready to be fixed just yet. A browser flaw that came out of the recent Pwn2Own contest may not be patched until May or later.

Are these vulnerabilities as bad as they seem or is Microsoft just being extra cautious? You tell me at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on April 12, 2010 at 11:53 AM4 comments

Office 2010 Blows Standard Shift

Microsoft promised that Office 2010 would be fully compliant with the ISO/IEC 29500 document standard otherwise known as Office Open XML (OOXML). Now before we get into this discussion, can we use real English to describe these things rather than random numbers and letters? Is that possible please?

So here's the back story: Office 2010, due any time now, was supposed to support the ISO file format standard. For some reason, it doesn't fully implement the format, and now Microsoft says that support will come with Office 15, which isn't even on our radar screen.

Is this a big deal? Give me your best lesson in standards at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on April 12, 2010 at 11:53 AM2 comments

Doug's Mailbag: Two Cents on Itanium, Sunbelt and Windows 7 Experiences

A couple of readers chime in on Doug's analysis of Microsoft's decision to discontinue Itanium versions of Windows Server 2008 R2:

As I recall, Intel did not have the x64 chips compatible w/ x86 -- AMD did.  That's what led to the Opteron rush -- they were still compatible, Intel's offerings were not.  And unless I am remembering incorrectly, Intel licensed that backwards-compatible technology from AMD...

Unfortunately, it's my anniversary, and I have husbandly duties to attend to, otherwise I would attempt my own fact-checking, but I think you're wrong about the history of Itanium and the x64/x86 chips…

Well, being a long time DEC customer, we moved through versions of Digital's/Compaq's/HP's Tru64 UNIX. So when the Alpha chip began reaching EOL, we had to move to another UNIX and HP made licensing very attractive, so we went to HPUX on Itanium. We had thought very hard about Linux on x64, but being used to solid operating system support underneath our ERP apps and because HP said Linux just wasn't mainstream enough for ERP, we choose HPUX (Itanium). It's been solid for us, but I believe if we have a chance to make a jump in the far future, we will probably opt for x64 and Linux.

I saw the writing on the wall for Itanium when it took too long for updates, Red Hat dropped support and now the Microsoft situation.

Microsoft is all about market share and having ran Windows NT on Digital's Alpha processor (Alpha 1000a and the NT only Alpha 5305, which was simply an Alpha missing the firmware to support Tru64 and VMS) and running Digital's Clustering for Windows NT,  I never really took Microsoft's support of Itanium seriously.

One reader comments on why he fully backs Sunbelt and its Vipre Antivirus program:

Saw your recent note about Sunbelt and their CEO, Alex.  Largely based on a leap-of-faith (and disgust with Symantec), I moved my 35-user SMB network to Vipre approximately six months ago and have never looked back.  Although there have been a few complications requiring tech assistance, I've found their support to be top-notch; their representatives even take accountability and seem genuinely concerned that your problem has been resolved -- a rarity among support these days.  The product has a small footprint and works as advertised.  As a result I have since recommended and installed Vipre for my handful of other SMB clients.  Sunbelt does, in fact, seem to take a different approach then other vendors.  I've noticed and applaud their efforts.

After the announcement of users being able to test-drive Windows 7 until the end of the year, here are one reader's thoughts:

I've been playing with Windows 7 on a VM via VirtualBox at work. I'm not too impressed but also not too disappointed either -- this coming from someone who is no MS fan.

A couple things I really don't like: they seem to like to change the looks of things just to make it seem different. I really don't get the change of add/remove programs to programs and features. Where did add/remove Windows components go? I can't find it.

 Also, I finally added the Windows 7 VM to my domain. When I logged in as a domain admin and try to install software it tells me to log in as a user with administrative privileges. I thought I am. I looked in the local user accounts as domain admin are automatically added to local admin group in XP when you add it to the domain. I searched a bit and found that the UAC setting were the cause. There should be an easier way where privileges can get elevated temporary then back to standard user. Something like sudo in Linux would be nice.

MS usually does like to make these things easy though. I'm thinking now maybe they just don't know how.

Posted by Doug Barney on April 12, 2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments

HP vs iPad

The iPad is out to mixed reviews. Apple fans love it to death, while others are knocking the new gizmo. The main beefs -- it won't run Flash, which drives the bulk of Internet video, Apple controls all the apps and you don't get a fully free browsing experience.

But hey, critics also said the graphical user interface would never catch on!

HP hopes to take advantage of the iPad's lack of computer features with its upcoming Slate based on Windows 7. HP is taking pains to point out that the Slate will indeed run Flash, and will support external storage.

I'm waiting to see how the Slate handles standard productivity apps like Office. Starting at $550, the price is also competitive, though netbooks are up to $300 cheaper!

Is there a tablet in your future, and if so, which one? Send your decision to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on April 09, 2010 at 11:53 AM17 comments

Doug's Mailbag: Chip Duel, Windows 7 Reviews, Information Age War

With Intel and AMD announcing their new processor chips this past week, Doug turns to you to see which side of the fence you're on:

As a good American, I've always got to support the underdog. I try to use AMD where I can and there isn't much performance cost. It serves us well to have these two competing. Each inspires the other to greater efforts.

I usually go with what seems best when I purchase (or which is more readily available), as I don't believe that one is substantially better than the other.

I prefer a chip that works!

I used to sing the praises of AMD but I started getting upset that I had to over clock the AMD based processor to get the speed that they said it was capable of. If I buy a 3 GHz processor it should be a 3 GHz processor without over clocking.

I also can't help but to wonder how much of a 64-core processor we could actually use. We run a grip of statistical analysis software and even of the most advanced applications we have do not know how to utilize 4-cores, let alone 64. Until the software geeks start writing code that utilizes these cores, it looks like we're heading for another case of hardware technology having to wait for the applications to catch up.

BTW my vote is for Intel.

On the news of Microsoft extending the trial for Windows 7 until the end of the year, Doug, once again, asks if you are satisfied with the new Windows OS:

Generally I like Windows 7 -- better performance and easy to use. But on my first a few days' use, I noticed that the windows update automatically shutdown my pc without asking -- I feel like Windows 7 is very rude :-) -- does it know that my data/ documents might get lost if it shutdown my pc with brute-force?

I do love many of the new features that make Windows more user friendly, and I certainly love the back-end improvements that allow the same CPUs to run faster than with (choke) Vista. Are there still glitches? Undoubtedly. This is, after all, a Microsoft OS! Come on -- even though retirement draws near for Windows 2000, there are still security patches being released regularly!

I love Windows 7. Best OS Microsoft has ever put out. Vista was a dog -- more like Windows 3.0 than Win 7. I had to keep XP on one machine because Vista was so bad. I've finally converted that one to Win7/64bit and it's been a dream come true.

The new Task Bar is great. The new UAC is a like having Bob disappear.

I've seen a couple minor Win7 glitches:

Outlook e-mails open and flash the body view from the previous e-mail before showing the body. A visual oddity with no apparent harmful effects.

I did some odd drag and drop Windows Explorer stuff that got the system befuddled and my desktop gadgets ended up on top of the application windows. Had to reboot. Minor, difficult to reproduce as I've only seen it once.

And finally, one reader comments on what the court ruling between the FCC and Comcast means to the average Internet subscriber:

 I see a great war coming: an information age war of epic proportions.

On one side, I see an evil alliance of service providers fighting for metered Internet access with ever escalating rates. On the other side, I see cloud proponents like Microsoft, Google and Apple, allied with Internet content providers like NetFlix, Hulu, Facebook and MMO game sites.

Should the evil alliance win, streaming a movie or TV show from the web at $10 per GB would spell economic doom for NetFlix and others. Streaming video would move completely out of the financial reach of all but the richest users. World of Warcraft would end in total destruction. Even on-line stores could face financial ruin.

Should the streaming-cloud alliance win, we will see development of new Internet-based technologies to improve our quality of life, pull us from our current financial doldrums and further shift power from sellers to buyers.

 Okay, so it's pretty obvious which side I'm rooting for. Let's look at how the war is going: the streaming-cloud alliance is losing. They are not organized or taking actions to achieve victory. Maybe, in their complacency, they are oblivious to the threat. On the other hand, the evil alliance is a well funded, well organized collection of ruthless conglomerates that share a common goal -- metered Internet service. The first major battle is already lost. The streaming-cloud alliance must win a terrible uphill battle to recover the lost ground. Cellular Internet access, once unlimited, is now limited to 5 GB per month at almost $10 per GB before taxes and fees. With some providers, the cost tops $15 per GB.

As I said earlier, I see a great war coming. It's time to choose a side and dig in for a long, hard fought battle for our future. 
-Dr. Dave

Posted by Doug Barney on April 09, 2010 at 11:53 AM2 comments

IE to the Nines

IE 8 came out just last year, and already beta testers are getting excited about IE 9. In fact, over 700,000 folks just like you have downloaded the developer preview. The new rev has a speedier rendering engine and HTML5.

The fast creation of a new IE shows that Microsoft remains 100 percent committed to the browser market, and would likely be embarrassed if it ultimately lost to FireFox or even worse, Chrome.

I still hear complaints about IE, but I use it for about 10 percent of my browsing and for me it works just fine.

What should Microsoft do to really make IE great? Advice welcome at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on April 09, 2010 at 11:53 AM6 comments

Cloudy Security

Vendors say cloud computing is the next big thing, but they are the ones selling, not buying. Almost half of potential cloud buyers aren't buying -- worried that security is not proven.

IT folks are used to battening down their own IT hatches, and don't yet trust a service provider to do it for them, at least according to a survey by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA).

While 45 percent have real security fears, only 17 percent are gung ho about the cloud, and of these only 10 percent will put critical apps in the cloud. Nearly 40 percent aren't too concerned or too excited.

What will it take to prove the cloud is secure? Do you fear the cloud will eliminate IT jobs? Send your answers through the ether to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on April 09, 2010 at 11:53 AM3 comments

Itanium Suffers Blow from Microsoft Blow-Off

The Itanium processor is a curious thing. It was designed by Intel to be the next big thing. But Intel had its own next big thing -- powerful x86/64 chips that weren't only fast but backwards-compatible. Intel nearly killed its own creation.

But Itanium fans, in particular HP, never gave up and the processor kept moving forward. Like IBM's Power6, Itanium drives high-power, high-capacity data center servers largely running Unix and Linux. (I recently interviewed the head of the Itanium Solutions Alliance and got a fascinating look at where the chip stands.)

But unlike Power6, Itanium could run Microsoft apps. That won't be the case forever as Microsoft will be discontinuing Itanium versions of Windows Server 2008 R2, Visual Studio 2010 and SQL Server 2008 R2. Microsoft is giving plenty of warning: Extended Support for Windows Server won't end for more than eight years!

Do you use Power6, SPARC or Itanium? Tell us why at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on April 07, 2010 at 11:53 AM2 comments

Net Neutrality Suffers Court Loss

The FCC's hopes to enforce Net Neutrality got a vicious slap from a federal appeals court which ruled that Comcast has the right to regulate what happens on its broadband network. In effect, this gives Comcast the right to punish those who use too much bandwidth such as BitTorrent users.

If the decision stands, ISPs will be able to do nearly whatever they want, meter usage and charge per use. Who knows what else?

This is a pretty scary deal except for one little thing -- competition. In my area, I can use Comcast, Verizon, mobile broadband or satellite. Hopefully this will keep ISPs from abusing their newfound rights.

Are you worried about what could be the end of Net Neutrality? Thoughts welcome as always at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on April 07, 2010 at 11:53 AM8 comments

Doug's Mailbag: The Great Ribbion Debate, Is IE Worth Your Trust?

In the April issue of Redmond magazine, Doug discussed the impact of Microsoft's ribbon interface and asked your thoughts:

I think Microsoft's ribbon is a disaster. All the products (Microsoft Office) for which the ribbon was introduced are failures. A product is a failure when users go shopping on the Internet looking for add-on tools to make the new ribbon looks like the classic interface.  

The human brain prefers productivity; previous tasks -- such as cut, copy, paste, bold, italics -- now requires several clicks of ribbons. That is unproductive and inefficient. Microsoft doesn't get it. With all the money they have, they can not hire PHDs in artificial intelligence to tell them how the human brain works.

Microsoft have completely lost its credibility. Its new product launches are taken with a grain of salt. It's almost like, as Apple's Steve Jobs put it, "They have no taste."

- Duro

I'm not sure I agree with your conclusions, based on the fact you only received 30 letters, with no statistically correct sampling.

You were bound to get more angry, unsatisfied users, and not hear from most of us, who actually like it (my opinion, not a scientific poll). From what I know, the ribbon was not created by MS alone -- it was the result of an extensive usability research. Besides, complaining that UI changed is pointless. I'm actually glad that finally something new came to the Office UI.

If people spent a fraction of the time they spend complaining in learning the new features, they would gain more. Classic menus would not be able to contain all the new features, and if you don't want to change, just stick to the old version.
- Wanderlei

When I first installed Office 2007, I thought the ribbon was a pain. I could not understand why they needed to change things again. If you remember, the ribbon has changed with each of the releases of Office since Office 1997.

One of my first complaints was that there is nothing to inform you that the Office log in the upper left-hand corner actually did something. Once you figure that out, a lot of the major issues with Office goes away. My biggest epiphany was when one of our administrative people pointed out that you can basically do a right-click on almost anything to get to the dialog boxes that you are trying to find.

One of the biggest annoyances to me is that once you get to the dialog box you are looking for, it looks just like the Office 2003 dialog box. So what did Microsoft spend all of their time on? Apparently making Word and Excel more difficult to use for the person that had experience.

The ribbon has made Word and Excel easier to use for the newbie; however, for the person that has been working with Word and Excel for years and years, the ribbon has become a big pain in the neck to deal with, as you have to go hunting down things as to where Microsoft thought they made the most sense to place them. One of the biggest complaints I have heard from our administrative people is wondering why Microsoft hid some of the dialog boxes. They tell me that there are some dialog boxes that are so well hidden that you really have to go digging to find them.

However, the biggest problem we have come across is the Microsoft implementation of OpenXML for Word (i.e., DOCX format). When you use Change Tracking Mode with DOCX, there seems to be a problem with Word determining which changes are the current changes, depending on the user viewing the document. I was editing two large reports right after we converted and had instances with both where the changes I made were not seen by the administrative person. We were on the phone and what I was looking at and what they were looking at were two different things. We used DOCX for about two weeks until we realized that Word documents were getting corrupted and switched back to DOC formatting. This seems to be a hidden secret with Microsoft that this does not work. It will sure be nice when Microsoft gets this fixed.
- Jeff

Seems to be a good idea but Microsoft introduces new technologies and leave us (old tech guys) behind. Most of users get lost and can't find what they want until tech support does the research on it.

As you mention before, how hard would it be to leave the old clunky menu with the ribbon for 2007 and then phase out the old menu on 2010?
- Anonymous

Last week, Doug ask if you trust Internet Explorer's aggressive push to fix known problems:

I don't trust IE because it doesn't follow W3C standards -- Firefox does. In addition, Firefox gives me a plug-in that gives me a debugging platform for Web development with Javascript, CSS, Ajax, Prototype, etc.
- Richard

When I am using IE 8 and Win 7, IE 8 freezes almost nonstop. Once it stops, it's almost impossible to use without reboot. I didn't get that with XP nor do I have the same problem with other browsers, such as Mozilla and Opera. Thanks for letting me vent.
- Mitchell

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 07, 2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments