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Mailbag: Search Engines of Choice

Readers share their their favorite non-Google search engines:

I use for two reasons. One, context is king for me and Ask gives me better context than Google. Two, I don't appreciate the way Google says "Don't be evil" and is. Three, Google has no product and is therefore a parasite relying on advertising revenues to subject users to adverts they don't want to see. Four...

Did I say two? "Don't be numerate.

The first is/was still the best: AltaVista. Allowed multiple user parsing (date range, near, etc.).

Try While it isn't a direct search engine but rather a meta search engine (and it displays Google results), you should at least check it out. It may not find as many copies of the same whitepaper, but it does a good job of weeding out the junk and returning only the pearls.

One of my pet peeves about Google is that while sure it can find stuff, it just can't count. I have frequently tested Google's hit counts, and they are almost always overstated by one or two orders of magnitude. For a company that creates no content (as you frequently point out) and which built its whole reputation on search and uppity technology, is this really OK? It feels like fraud to me.

Looking at Google's hit counts always reminds me of that scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" where Indiana Jones says to Sallah: "I said NO camels. That's FOUR camels. Can't you count?"

And here are more of your thoughts on OSes, Vista problems, and whether Microsoft should build its next OS from scratch:

I feel the biggest problem with Vista is lack of drivers for printers, scanners, etc. Example: HP Photosmart 1315 and HP Scanner 5470C work fine on XP, but Vista offers no drivers.

All one has to do is look at the sales figures to know that Vista has been an incredible success in terms of the typical consumer. In the enterprise space, the rate of adoption of Vista is no more sluggish than the rate of adoption of XP in 2001.

Have people had problems? Yes, some have. But many of those problems are related to ISVs who weren't ready when Vista shipped and OEMs who refused to provide drivers for old hardware. Many more problems were the result of those consumers who expected the transition to Vista to be painless -- even on OLD hardware. The only thing that has changed since the transition to XP is that the "blogosphere" was far less accessible than it is today. The squeaky wheels have a much larger forum now and the number of journalists who are willing to repeat what they've heard instead of doing their own testing has increased.

Can Win ME be anything except an unnecessary expense? My least favorite MS trick? Pulling the upgrade to Win 98 that made it equivalent to Win 98SE from the Web before I learned to save such things. Put this in the MS Hall of Infamy. Does anyone remember this?

I have to say Win 95 is the best, for its time. Win 2000 was the longest-serving relevant OS from MS. (SP4! That's a lot of free upgrades, folks.) Win XP was the most successful transition from a hard-coded bunch of bailing wire that worked exceptionally well (Win 98 SE) to a real multi-processor, multi-threaded, priority-interruptible OS. Many kudos to MS for this one. Vista is the best version of Windows -- if you have the new hardware you deserve.

It's asking a lot for Microsoft to start from scratch with a new OS. For years I have heard that the big advantage for Microsoft Office is that they have had access to OS development and could request code be written to make their products work better than their competition with Windows. If Microsoft rewrites their desktop OS, they may be in for a major rewrite of their whole Office suite. If access to OS development is true, then either Microsoft is going to have to give up a major advantage to the competition or their OS project doubled in size. Wow!

ME was bad and compared favorably only to BOB when it was launched. I feel Vista is in the same vein (though I don't hate it, I don't use it either). My point is, now is a better time than most for Microsoft to start a new OS from scratch, and it could prove quite fruitful.

First, forget hardware; make it a tiny hypervisor (not unlike ESXi, or is that blasphemy?). Include a loader where the OS of choice can be loaded -- XP, Vista or any new OS you develop with this. Provide specs early and use your clout to get hardware manufacturers to make drivers that plug into standardized inputs to the hypervisor. All video cards must address xyz address space at location grpl on port spzbt. Extra features may access your card directly through ports xxzs-xxzz. All sound cards must yada, yada.

Then, once this hypervisor is out and the hardware vendors are writing to it, you can settle down for some real functionality in a new OS that loads into this hypervisor. Moreover, it isolates the user data and programs from the hypervisor so upgrades to the hypervisor does not upset a user's settings, programs, etc. It is a new twist on desktop computing, but it is what I have been dreaming of for a while. Don't go for the all encompassing OS, just make something that works out of the box and allows users to upgrade to the new OS when it actually benefits them!

I would like to call for an open forum where ALL the hardware and software concepts are presented and discussed. If Microsoft would sponsor this, involving many from communities outside Microsoft, with open design reviews, we may truly get a better operating system. The tendency to limit focus, get stuck on a design and exclude alternatives must be fought. This will take some time, and we may have to deal with intellectual property and copyright issues, but I think the outcome will be better. Or we make the tradeoff to accept whatever Microsoft comes up with.

Let us know what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on August 07, 2008


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