Green Advice?

Have you greened your datacenter, server rooms, desktops or even storage arrays? If so, how'd you do it? Your advice and experiences could help drive an upcoming feature story on green computing and datacenter efficiency. Let me know how you can help at [email protected].

Posted on October 30, 2009 at 11:53 AM0 comments


Microsoft Gets Gartnered

If you want attention, you must do something outrageous, even if it's falsely outrageous. We have Madonna kissing Britney, celebs purposely leaking risqué tapes, and now Gartner publicly questioning whether Microsoft is still relevant. And, like a dope, I'm falling for the Gartner bait.

At a recent Gartner event, analysts grilled Stephen Elop, head of the MS business division. These know-it-alls argued that Microsoft hasn't adapted to the new world and still pushes fat clients and monolithic applications.

Now, I also believe in leaner software, but let's look at a few facts. The Mac -- a good, old-fashioned fat client if I've ever seen one -- is the gold standard for many as to what's cool. And while I believe Office is bloated and unwieldy, it remains the standard. (Its open source rival, OpenOffice, is not much slimmer and it's doing just fine.) Microsoft is moving to Web-based apps at about the same speed as IT -- slow and steady.

If these Gartner analysts are so smart, why aren't they running Microsoft? As they say, those who can't do, analyze.

Am I too rough on the self-inflated eggheads from Gartner? Tell me where I'm wrong at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on October 28, 2009 at 11:53 AM8 comments


Is XP Mode Worth the Trouble?

OK, now that I've lambasted Gartner, I do have to admit the group was one of the first to push the idea of giving Windows 7 a virtual machine to run older apps. Actually, this was an idea I and a few others also promoted and, as I recall, slightly before Gartner made its pronouncement. Microsoft -- being, I believe, far smarter than me or Gartner -- was apparently already working on what's now known as Windows 7 XP Mode.

The idea is simple: A full rev of XP runs alongside Windows 7 so all your old apps and drivers still work. The implementation is a bit more complicated. First, your PC's processor must be virtualization-enabled. Second, you need a high-end version of Windows 7 (Home Basic users need not apply).

The biggest issue involves security and administration. Let's face it -- you're now running two complete operating systems which must be managed, secured, updated and patched. Is all this worth the trouble just to run a handful of older apps? You're the expert, so you tell me at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on October 28, 2009 at 11:53 AM10 comments


My Take on Windows 7

Last Thursday, Steve Ballmer was in New York announcing the availability of Windows 7. Meanwhile, I was clear across the country, in Redmond, meeting with Microsoft executives on another matter.

Before I give my take on Windows 7, I have to comment on the very notion of a product launch. For an important product, Microsoft starts by leaking details literally years before it ships. As it moves along, the company announces the various alpha and beta versions. By the time the product formally ships, hundreds of thousands are already using it.

So what's the point of launching a product that's already been launched? Publicity! Only Microsoft has the clout to make such an approach work.

While I'm usually against this hype-factory launch strategy, it's justified for Windows 7. After using 7 for the last few months, I'm not blown away by the features -- but that's not the point. The real revolution is in its stability and enhanced security. This combined with some nice interface tweaks give Microsoft an OS that stands up well to the Mac, saves IT time and headaches, and is fun to boot!

Is Windows 7 all it's cracked up to be? Answers welcome at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on October 26, 2009 at 11:53 AM6 comments


Microsoft Earns C+ in Finance

The recession is finally catching up with Microsoft as its profits dipped nearly 20 percent compared to last year.

While it's easy to see the sky falling, keep in mind that Microsoft is still very profitable, pulling in $3.6 billion in the last quarter. Given the circumstances, the Wall Street intelligentsia congratulated Microsoft for doing so well. (And after the trillions Wall Street has lost, they'd better!)

Microsoft has taken some dramatic steps to keep profits on course, slashing expenses and handing out a Redwood tree's worth of pink slips. This bodes well for a recovery. A leaner, meaner Microsoft can really take off when this economy finally comes around.

What is Microsoft's financial future? Predictions welcome at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on October 26, 2009 at 11:53 AM2 comments


Google and Microsoft at War

Doug is still in transit today, but he'll back for Monday's edition of Redmond Report. Filling in for him is MCPmag.com Editor Michael Domingo.

One rumor floating around the blogosphere is that Microsoft is making a deal with Twitter and Facebook that would allow Bing to search status updates. Twitter would be an easy one to do, but Facebook is problematic, as most of those updates are private.

It's funny, but as I was writing this and looking for confirming reports straight from the Redmond campus, like a shot across the bow, Google straight-up announced its own Twitter updates search deal.

Looks like Google is taking Microsoft and Bing seriously now. Does that mean we have a real war brewing or has it been brewing all along? Tell us what you think by e-mailing [email protected]

Posted by Michael Domingo on October 23, 2009 at 11:53 AM1 comments


Ballmer Is Windows 7

Doug is still in transit today, but he'll back for Monday's edition of Redmond Report. Filling in for him is MCPmag.com Editor Michael Domingo.

Live from New York, it's Steve Ballmer stating "I'm a Windows 7 PC, effective immediately" at the official launch event. (I'm guessing when he made that proclamation, he wasn't as adorable as the little girl in the ads.)

Now, if Ballmer really were a PC, I'd guess that he would be the shiniest, most souped-up, Windows 7-sporting Alienware desktop, not an underwhelming ASUS netbook.

Windows 7 officially went on sale a day earlier in the U.K., on Oct. 21, because of a postal strike. The early launch doesn't matter much; Windows 7 has been tested, debugged (for the most part) and manhandled by well over 8 million beta testers, so we weren't expecting any surprises.

For consumers, an upgrade is likely to come from the purchase of a netbook or a new computer. And for enterprise folks, there's a modest list of upgrade-worthy features, outlined here.

Worth an upgrade? Especially if you're running Vista, the answer is yes.

Posted by Michael Domingo on October 23, 2009 at 11:53 AM2 comments


Sun Dims on 3,000 Employees

Doug is still in transit today, but he'll back for Monday's edition of Redmond Report. Filling in for him is MCPmag.com Editor Michael Domingo.

Fallout from the Oracle-Sun Microsystems deal rained down on Wednesday, as Sun announced 3,000 employees would be cut. The damage amounts to 10 percent of the workforce.

It's a move that wasn't unforeseen, according to this SFGate.com piece that has Sun bleeding red at the rate of $100 million a month.

Posted by Michael Domingo on October 23, 2009 at 11:53 AM1 comments


Microsoft Makes an Impact on Security, Really

Doug is traveling today, so filling in for him once again is Online News Editor Kurt Mackie.

Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE), Redmond's free anti-virus software for consumer users, is on the job and has detected nearly 4 million malware threats in a week's time after its full release. The United States leads the malware tally, particularly with trojans, according to Microsoft's findings.

Shouldn't everyone be happy now that Microsoft has gotten involved in the industry it helped spawn (the software security industry)? Companies like McAfee, Symantec, Computer Associates and others have followed close to Microsoft's software like a barnacle to a ship's hull. In fact, their anti-virus and anti-malware solutions now tend to dog Windows. Consumer users are hit with daily security uploads and installs on power-up, and a complete virus scan of a machine can take multiple hours.

Perhaps this security software "bloatware" is one aspect that moved Microsoft to get involved in the business of its partners. Moreover, MSE is free, without the annual subscriptions of third-party security software.

Microsoft has said that MSE is solely aimed at providing basic protection for users who wouldn't buy anti-virus software anyway, such as in the developing world. However, based on Microsoft's own stats, it seems people in the United States aren't buying security software either, or their subscriptions have lapsed. And we're not the developing world...yet.

Software security experts still seem to be assessing MSE's impact. In particular, there's worry that the sharing of security information will break down if proprietary concerns become more important than cooperation. Some unkind words have been exchanged over MSE's release by software security vendors, who say Microsoft just can't cut it.

Will Microsoft Security Essentials spell the end of third-party anti-virus companies? Will Microsoft bury its partners this time, meaning fewer eyes looking out for malware? Is the road to good intentions going to have a bad side effect, or will you be glad to be finally rid of security bloatware under Microsoft's watchful eyes? Tell Doug at [email protected]

Posted by Kurt Mackie on October 21, 2009 at 11:53 AM3 comments


Does Windows 7's Arrival Mean XP's End of Days?

Doug is traveling today, so filling in for him once again is Online News Editor Kurt Mackie.

Windows 7 hits the streets on Thursday, and some retail stores will be open at midnight tonight to let the teeming hordes get their hands on boxed copies of the OS, as well as new PCs running it.

But let's face it: That's the general public that's been watching those Kylie TV ads. IT pros are a different, tougher breed, unimpressed by the ease of taking pictures of pet fish and transferring them to your PC. Windows 7 means hard work ahead: app compatibility testing, hardware assessments, deployment planning, image packaging, migration and management. Does that spell excitement...or dread?

It turns out that the IT pro crowd was particularly unmoved by the last big Microsoft OS splash, namely Vista. IT organizations ignored Vista in droves and continued to run XP, such that 79 percent of PCs running in organizations today run XP, according to a Forrester report.

Forrester is warning IT pros that their days of resisting the Microsoft OS refresh cycle are coming to an end. Like some cataclysmic apocalypse, support for the venerable XP will eventually come to a close, and then IT personnel will be judged -- maybe by a bad job performance rating, or something, if things go awry.

Those preparing for doom need a date, and Forrester gladly provides it. It's "the end of 2012" -- that's when organizations should be off XP to avoid app compatibility issues, Forrester says. Those poor IT souls not heeding such advice face additional torments, such as the end of the security patch delivery cycle. On April 8, 2014, no more security patches will be issued by Microsoft for XP.

If all of the neat features in Windows 7 haven't convinced you to move off XP, maybe fear will. And maybe you'll want to buy a little Software Assurance while you're at it. The Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) is a set of tools that's one of the perks to Software Assurance licensees. It contains MED-V, which lets large organizations continue to run legacy apps while also centrally managing those apps. In fact, Microsoft just announced that MDOP 2009 R2 has just been released to its volume licensing customers.

Even high Microsoft officials tend to downplay Windows 7, suggesting that OS upgrades will happen with the PC refresh cycle, rather than, say, tomorrow. But really, won't you repent for ignoring Vista and just upgrade to Windows 7? Confess your OS migration plans to Doug at [email protected]

Posted by Kurt Mackie on October 21, 2009 at 11:53 AM3 comments


Netbook Sales Faster than the Machines Themselves

We've had some interesting discussions about netbooks lately and even have some fresh letters on the topic here. Some see netbooks as crippled, neutered or otherwise barely capable computing devices.

That, apparently, is the minority as these puppies are leaping off the shelves, with sales rising an astonishing 264 percent this year.

Maybe our stimulus money should've gone to a netbook startup rather than cutting hiking trails and building museums for politicians.

Posted by Doug Barney on October 19, 2009 at 11:53 AM3 comments


Microsoft Ditches Works

I was never a fan of Microsoft Works. It was just too different from Office in everything from interface to file formats. And that was probably the point -- make it so unlike Office that you had to actually have Office to get anything done.

Microsoft finally gave Works what it long deserved: retirement. In its place, and only available on new PCs starting next year, is Office Starter 2010.

Starter has only Word and Excel, and those versions are reduced-function (which could be good or bad depending on what functions get pulled out). I'd actually like to see these apps and, if I like 'em, to see them hosted in the cloud.

My favorite word processor of all time was from New Horizons and ran on the Amiga. It was graphical, clean, fast and ultra easy. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't see the need for more than a handful of fonts -- unless, of course, you're art directing one of my magazines (and many of those fonts are custom-built). Starter Word could be perfect for me, at least on a netbook.

Do crazy fonts and feature overload drive you batty? Let it all out at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on October 19, 2009 at 11:53 AM7 comments