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Mailbag: Microsoft and Apache

Readers share their thoughts on Microsoft's somewhat unexpected alliance with Apache, which includes a $100K pledge:

I am so sure that this will be good for Apache. After all, look at all the other "successful" collaborative efforts that Microsoft has had with other vendors:

IBM + Microsoft = OS/2 (IBM got the short end of that stick) Sybase + Microsoft = Does anyone still use Sybase?

And let's not forget Sun + Microsoft with the Java fun, which led to Microsoft coming out with .NET.

Microsoft's mantra has always been: Embrace, extend, exterminate. The $100K is the embrace part. A set of open source extensions that make existing Apache-based code easier to run on IIS7 and vice versa will come next under the guise of interoperability. The ensuing migration to Windows Server 2008 w/IIS7 will trigger self-extermination over time.

I personally love the way Microsoft is handling itself now. Minus the Linux threat to maybe 3 percent of its server share, MS has been stepping it up for the developer side. I had no idea it provided the MySQL connectors for dotNet, and was happy to hear about the Silverlight "help" it is giving Novell -- not that I use *nix. Projects such as SubSonic, Ajax Toolkit and log4net have made me start building more Microsoft projects. I'm still treading lightly, though, because of the threats they put out there when the open source culture shock hit.

MS made its money being the integration vendor and standards-compliant. Now that it is getting back to its roots, it should get stronger.

Doug asked readers recently to share their least and most favorite OSes. Here are some of your votes:

Remember Windows ME? It frequently caused issues on my old PC, so much so that the more pleasant conversion to Windows XP has made me hesitant to switch to anything other than XP. It does leave me wondering if in the next decade long after the next version of the Windows OS (Windows 7?) is stable, whether Vista become the OS that everyone should have skipped.

The worst OS to come out of Redmond has to be Windows ME. I ran it on a few home computers and it made us suffer tremendously.

Favorite OS? XP, of course. Problem with Vista is it is a huge resource hog. It is the ME of the 21st century. I do not know who Microsoft went with in the development, but it was not the users.

I am an Microsoft Certified Professional providing IT support to small businesses. So far, I have seen no reason to move to Vista and several reasons not to.

Least favorite O/S: Windows 95 (Windows ME was a close second, but I have only seen it on one machine).

Most favorite: Windows XP Pro.


Most favorite: XP Pro. Least favorite: ME.

I'm in the 91 percent that goes out of their way to purchase only XP desktops/notebooks.

I like OSes that don't give me grief. Am still running Win2K SP4 on two home machines (Toshiba P-300 and Thinkpad P-500), and am debating a new purchase -- might go with Linux to avoid Vista.

At work, I still support some scanstations with Fujitsu 93GX scanners which will not work in XP and Kofax Ascent, so I run them on older Gateways with Win2K and the latest version of Kofax Ascent. I've got a couple more scanners, Fujtisu 4097Ds, which will work with Kofax Ascent 7.5 and XP SP2, but not if the XP is running on a dual processor Dell GX 755! Kofax and I still haven't figured that one out, so I'm sticking with single-processor Dells for those applications. With these kinds of compatibility issues on older hardware (the scannes cost a lot more than PCs do!), I don't even want to think about Vista!

Windows 2000 was probably my favorite OS from Microsoft. I never thought Microsoft would be able to put out an OS that I hated more than ME -- but Vista proved me wrong! Even XP, with its original problems with drivers, etc., didn't require wholesale replacement of equipment like Vista did in the beginning.

I got my copy of Vista Home Ultimate and installed it on my Shuttle system I built myself. It has an AMD 6000+ X2 CPU, 2GB of memory and a 1TB hard drive with a 16MB cache. The video is an nVidia GeForce 7600 with 512MB of memory. I was totally unprepared for how slow my system felt after the install! Plus, my printer no longer worked in anything but basic mode, my scanner wouldn't work at all, my label printer would print double size if it printed at all, etc. I also had several software programs that would no longer work properly. I would have had to spend about $2,000 to replace everything with stuff that would work with Vista...if they could be found at all. Clients had trouble getting things to work that were listed as Vista-compatible and the Vista drivers were terrible! After two months, I yanked Vista off my system and reinstalled XP on it.

Speaking of Vista, readers air more of their concerns -- and some praise -- over the maligned OS:

Vista has three big obstacles, which is why I don't see it here within three years.

  1. It requires all-new hardware. We simply cannot run Vista on our old XP machines, even with added memory.
  2. It has not shown itself to operate either faster or better.
  3. It will require our people to learn a new way of doing things.

This is not Microsoft's first OS bomb; ME was also a disaster. Its biggest failing was that it was incompatible with most of the existing software. XP solved that problem as was a tremendous hit. We moved directly from Windows 98 to Windows XP. Current plans are to wait for whatever is after Vista and hope it solves all of Vista's problems. We also plan to wait for the next version of Office.

I don't follow blogs/forums on Vista, but I can tell you the thing that hit me upon Vista's release and continues to prove true. A dominating reason for not moving to it is Vista's failure to support Microsoft's own products that are not that old. If I recall correctly, for instance, if you're not running Office 2003 or later, it won't run under Vista. It looks to me like Microsoft just plain shot itself in the foot.

I am going to reiterate that Microsoft's own worst enemy this time around is itself. Windows XP is a solid OS, and was seriously upgraded with SP2. We're already at SP3, which breathed new life into it again, and after Vista's launch.

Microsoft should take a lesson from its own success rather than try to make a (very) fat client out of every PC in the world. In our slowing economy, homes and IT departments cannot cost-justify a rich user experience on every desktop -- especially when XP did that job more than sufficiently. A lightweight, functional OS is where it's at in most cases, and most applications are being delivered via Web browser anyway. Where is the real value add?

I must take exception to the common assertion/misconception that Windows 7 will magically fix compatibility and migration issues. It will not; all indications are that, architecturally, Windows 7 is an evolution of Vista. That being said, anyone who does not start making efforts to migrate will be in for a painful surprise in three years and find that many of the same issues remain. I am not defending MS, but any shop that plans on staying with Windows in the future would be very well-served to start their migration efforts now, meaning testing, hammering vendors for updates, getting hardware roadmaps, etc. This will save much heartache down the road when forced to go with whatever Windows 7 turns out to be.

As to what went wrong with Vista: As I see it, the public and the press have been (rightly) clamoring for years for Windows to be more secure. So MS focuses on exactly that, with the result that everyone complains that Vista is not XP and they do not like, or see the reason for, UAC. (Mechanisms similar to this exist and have existed for years in OS X and *nix, by the way. And do what they were intended to do.)

As an IT person, I believe that Vista is still getting the wrong end of the stick. I have been using Vista Home Premium for about a year now. I purchased a new computer with the OS already installed. I have not experienced any of the horror stories of devices not working, slow, always crashing, etc. Now is that to say it's perfect? No. I don't believe that we will ever see the perfect OS from a developer because when you're trying to satisfy the masses, there is always going to be one feature missing or it doesn't work right.

I guess my biggest hang-up about Vista would be the UAC. Now, being a savvy IT person, I could go in and disable it, but I don't want to do that, even if I could. The reason why is UAC does exactly what it is supposed to do: It makes it painful to install software and thus forces me to make the decision, "Yes, I want to do this." I myself hope Microsoft includes it in the next version of Windows because as painful as it is to click a button (two to three seconds max) it reminds us that we have a choice. You can't have security without a little pain.

I've had a totally different experience in moving to Vista (100 workstations). Our move from Win98 to XP was FAR more painful. The security model and driver model changes were far most numerous and difficult to accommodate.

Our Vista migration has been relatively smooth and painless. I love the UAC feature (our admins have it much easier now -- no logging off and back on as admin). I also love the integrated search, the vast improvements to the task scheduler, better wireless management, better overall security, much improved power management (including group policy improvements), far better backup and restore, and hundreds of minor refinements.

I didn't want to touch Vista with a 10-foot pole as all I saw in the press and heard from my friends was that Vista was not any good. I believe that Vista did have its share of problems but is slowly overcoming them.

Once Microsoft released Vista SP1 and RSAT, and I found I could do all my Windows administrative work using Vista, I decided to switch from running Vista as a VM on XP to Vista being the host OS and XP being the VM. My experience is that Vista with SP1 works and does so quite well. Yes, there was a little learning curve, but it did not take too long to get use to it. I don't have any problems with Vista and I find the new features useful.

Reed's got a gripe of his own -- this time, about OneCare:

I installed a beta version of OneCare early on. After the install, neither my administrator account or any other account would allow me to log on. Nothing worked. I tried and tried to get help from Microsoft, but they had absolutely no interest. I had to reformat my entire disk, losing some data, in order to have a functional machine. Subsequently, I advised everyone in our enterprise and others that OneCare was real trouble. I sincerely hope companies do not make it a part of OEM default software installation.

And finally, Graham keeps us honest:

I smell some scare-mongering here. In yesterday's Redmond Report newsletter, you had a link: "a rash of DNS attacks." So I followed the link, interested in knowing more about these attacks. Well, to quote you a second time, from the page I landed on: "Nevertheless, Microsoft is 'urgently warning' IT to patch their DNS. The vulnerability can allow spoofing attacks, although no such attacks have yet been reported."

Hmph. I'm going to coin a new phrase here: "hyperlink letdown." What attacks? Just trying to get people excited about a problem that so far hasn't been exploited by hackers?

Join the fray! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on July 31, 2008