Tag: "microsoft"

MobileMe, push e-mail, Microsoft and ignorance on the blogosphere

Apologies for not blogging lately but I've been a little busy over the last couple of weeks. Anyway I want to touch on a bit of Apple/iPhone/MobileMe/Exchange stuff.

So as I'm sure most people are aware Apple announced "push" e-mail with their MobileMe service launched a few weeks ago which costs $100 a year, of course everyone, well those in the Apple Cult anyway, were raving about it. Apple dubbed it "[Microsoft] Exchange for the rest of us".

However "push" has recently been completely dropped, which has added to the continuing failure that is MobileMe.

Some on the blogosphere though are asking where Microsoft's consumer level Exchange is?

You see, somewhere along the lines of Xbox breakdowns, Vista problems/negative PR, and chasing after copying Apple with Zune, Microsoft completely missed the boat. For a nominal fee to the user, Microsoft should have created "Exchange Hotmail": a paid-for part of Hotmail that "brings your data with you at the speed of *push*" (my marketing tagline).

Microsoft already offer push support for Hotmail, and custom domains that use Hotmail as their backend, and they offer this for free, and have done for a year or two.

You see, somewhere along the lines of buying into the anti-Microsoft fanboy nonsense, this blogger forgot to actually check what they were talking about.

Exchange Hotmail would have been a perfect play for Microsoft. So in the end, Microsoft is left with a very popular online mail solution (Hotmail) yet has not made a significant effort to monetize it.

Yeah I think it was a good move for Microsoft. It's just unfortunate people like yourself either don't know it exists, or pretends it doesn't so you can claim that Apple were first.

But it wasn't to be. Apple brought it first because Microsoft was too busy defending its "server plays".

It also runs on more than just Windows Mobile phones (which have ten times the marketshare of the iPhone), but also on Blackberrys, Symbian and any other phone with the full Windows Live client.

Less of the reality distortion field please.

Randall Stross proves he should stop writing about technology

What a rubbish article, I'm very disappointed at the New York Times for allowing this to go to print. Almost as much as the BBC giving the Free Software Foundation free access to write technology articles on their website, the equivalent of letting Microsoft have their marketing department write for the BBC.

Windows Could Use a Rush of Fresh Air

Ohhh that's new-age sounding, it's gotta be good.

Beginning as a thin veneer for older software code

Yup Windows began as a GUI for DOS.

it has become an obese monolith built on an ancient frame

Wrong, there's nothing of the "ancient frame" remaining in Windows today. It's completely different. More details below.

Adding features, plugging security holes, fixing bugs, fixing the fixes that never worked properly, all while maintaining compatibility with older software and hardware

Oh yeah all very good. Let's stop doing that, we won't add any new features. Then of course you'll be complaining because the new version of Windows doesn't have anything new. Security holes, OK we won't do anything about those, patching bugs, meh we'll just sell you the new version instead like Apple do. Compatibility, ah nobody needs that, we'll just stop worrying about that so you can buy all your hardware and software again every time a new version is released.

What planet is this guy on? Anything as an excuse to bash Windows.

Vista is the equivalent, at a minimum, of Windows version 12 — preceded by 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 3.1, NT, 95, NT 4.0, 98, 2000, ME, XP. After six years of development, the longest interval between versions in the previous 22-year history of Windows, and long enough to permit Apple to bring out three new versions of Mac OS X, Vista was introduced to consumers in January 2007.

Oh here we go Apple must be nimble and quick because Microsoft didn't release anything new for six years. Wrong.

Microsoft shipped two server releases, four versions of Media Center, and at least two Tablet PC Editions, without counting Windows Mobile and Embedded that's eight versions of Windows right there. I should also mention Windows XP SP2, which could of been sold quite easily as a new version of Windows - Microsoft put pretty much the entire Windows team on SP2 for a year, pushing Windows Vista back so they could give you a free upgrade. I suppose you'd rather of seen a Windows XP R2 or SE in the shops for $200 though right?

The internal code name for the next version is “Windows 7.” The “7” refers to nothing in particular

Wrong, the seven refers to the next major version of the NT kernel, which in Windows Vista and Server 2008 is version six.

Yes version six (with four major releases), so your twelve versions of Windows is junk too. Why? Because there was a version of Windows started up from the ground up. It's called NT, which is why your ancient frame comment in your first sentence is utter nonsense. In fact Microsoft did it so well that apparently Randall doesn't even know they pulled it off.

the company should take heart from Apple’s willingness to brave the wrath of its users when, in 2001, it introduced Mac OS X. It was based on a modern microkernel design

Completely different. Apple took an existing operating system, FreeBSD (based on Unix) and built on it. So on the one hand you're proposing they "borrow" somebody else's operating system, and on the other hand you're telling them to start over fresh. Which is it Randall?

Asking Microsoft to chuck compatibility in the bin and start over new would be the biggest disaster ever in the technology industry, and no doubt the most expensive undertaking in history. Do you have any idea of the scale of forcing a complete overhaul for over a billion computers? Apple only had to worry about the backlash of a few million of their strongest supporters. Microsoft have to worry about a billion computer users, the largest companies in the world and everyone else. Talk about letting Microsoft give ammunition to people like you, who in next week's article would be attacking Microsoft for hurting backwards compatibility.

Windows Vista represents the biggest leap forward in changing the system since Windows 95, huge aspects of the operating system were thrown away and written from the ground up, NT security measures were enforced. That hurt compatibility, and Microsoft spent a considerable amount of time working on using visualisation to keep the impact to a minimum (something I believe they were extremely successful with). Something the scale of change we saw in Windows Vista was really as far as Microsoft could push it. Don't get me wrong, I'm one of the people who say we need to move forward, and that ensuring compatibility does hold things back. But what you're saying a completely re-write of the entire system from scratch, with modern ways of building a system is so far out of the real world. The press and blogosphere have a field day with Windows Vista already because it was so much of a change (completely unwarranted in my opinion Windows Vista is the best OS to date), what you're suggesting would amplify it a hundred times over. But I've got a feeling that's what Randall wants to see, or at least the people he got all these crazy ideas from.

They believe that problems like security vulnerabilities and system crashes can be fixed only by abandoning system design orthodoxy, formed in the 1960s and ’70s, that was built into Windows.

Now he's talking utter crap. Mac OS X you keep going on about is based on Unix from the 1960s!

Windows NT comes from the early 1990s, it was based on VMS which was created to address all the problems with Unix. You've got things completely upside down Randall. And even if they were right, it's not like you can use old or modern in this space to assume an operating system is good or not.

A MONOLITHIC operating system like Windows perpetuates an obsolete design.

What? Oh you're using a technical term to the general public so they think monolithic means bloated and big, and even that is 10 years out of date. This strikes me like creationists calling evolution a "theory", knowing full well how the general public understand the word, and how scientists use it are completely different. Windows NT uses a hybrid-kernel, not a monolithic kernel. He seems to be brushing over the fact that internally it is extremely modular, and not at all similar to something like Windows 95 or Linux, which use a monolithic kernel.

We don’t need to load up our machines with bloated layers we won’t use. We need what Mr. Silver and Mr. MacDonald speak of as a “just enough” operating system. Additional functionality, appropriate to a given task, can be loaded as needed.

What you mean like Windows? When you need to load something, you load it up and when you're finished you close it so it's not using any resources. Jeez.

I can't even be bothered talking about the rest, this guy just has absolutely no clue, everything he says is wrong, it started off completely wrong, and he just went further and further towards cluelessness. He's got so many concepts just completely backwards, and he's propagating so many myths straight out of the Apple/Linux crowd like Microsoft didn't do anything for six years between Windows XP and Windows Vista.

You're wrong Randall, totally wrong.

Hyper-V released

Windows Server 2008 Hyper-VMicrosoft have released their new visualisation package, dubbed Hyper-V. This effectively replaces Virtual Server 2005. Originally due to ship with Windows Server 2008 earlier this year, it needed a few more months in the oven, but it was available for download in beta and later as a release candidate form.

The IT industry often gets flak from environmental groups, when you've got companies like Google adding I'd assume thousands or even tens of thousands of servers to their data centres every month, maybe they've got a point, even more so when you see statistics like the average CPU utilisation in a data centre is something like 10%, ouch that's a lot of waste.

Putting 10 virtual servers on a single physical machine, and scrapping the other 9 physical boxes would sure save a lot of energy, and time. Now if a server fails all you have to do is copy the virtual machines off the hard disks, and boot them up on another machine. There's no worrying about getting identical hardware to boot the system on, or trying to find images suitable for different types of hardware, all virtual machines run on the same virtualised hardware and so can boot anywhere.

I run two servers at home, Windows Home Server, which acts as a file server and backups all the machines on the network and is actually running on the metal, and virtualised on it Windows Small Business Server 2003, which handles Exchange for Catherine and myself. If it wasn't for that I'd have to have another physical machine running dedicated to Small Business Server, and if the hardware fails, I can just copy the virtual machine to my desktop computer and run it on here until I can get a replacement server.

Heck even my server I've got hosting these websites on is virtualised; it just makes so much sense.

Virtualisation has long been dismissed by some as being too slow, sure Virtual Server 2005, which I use at home a virtual machine will probably get something like 75% the performance of the machine it is hosted on. Not great, but hardly a deal breaker especially considering the amount of free CPU cycles and disk I/O so many servers have.

Hyper-V improves on this dramatically, SQL performance is something like 97% that of a physical machine, and disk I/O something like 99%. Essential this release ends the performance argument? 1% slower? Pfft who cares.

Microsoft have had 25% of the Microsoft.com servers running virtualised for weeks now, and that's a website that gets something like 15,000 requests per second, they aim to have 50% of the server virtualised within a couple of weeks and be completely virtualised in a month or two. MSDN has been fully virtualised since March time now on Hyper-V.

There's no doubt in my mind that most technology companies will have their servers virtualised in five years, and probably most servers in the world within ten.

Virtualisation also has its place on desktops; Windows Vista already virtualises the file system and registry for some applications to help with backwards compatibility. In the future, I definitely see virtualisation providing most if not all backwards compatibility, which will allow the OS to move forward at a faster rate as the developers wouldn't have to waste time worrying about backwards compatibility. Which also means it can be an optional component, so people like myself who have no desire to run an application from the 17th century won't need the extra stuff on the machine in order to run it. Already we've got things like Virtual PC which saves developers having multiple physical boxes, or dual booting different operating systems and browsers - I'd go insane doing web development having to boot into another partition on this machine or get another PC and dedicate it to running Windows XP and IE6.

Even with a conservative estimate, virtualisation could half the number of servers in the world, having a quarter the number of physical server probably isn't that far off the mark either. No doubt in my mind that in 20 years virtualisation will be seen as something as import as the Graphical User Interface, or even the microprocessor.

Apple and iPhone - the BBC loses it

Well the BBC was on a little roll, but it looks like some of their tech journalists need a kick up the rear for this article.

Apple fans are waiting with bated breath - and a seemingly unending supply of rumours - for the iPhone Version 2.

Yeah, maybe it will get 3G like we've had everywhere else for years, or maybe GPS like we've had for years already. I'm sure they're keen to catch up.

The first iPhone has been a big hit

I wouldn't define having a marketshare of 5.3% for Smartphones in Q1 2008 a "big hit". RIM and Microsoft are the big players here, and in Europe I think Windows Mobile is in the strongest position, we've had Windows Mobile devices on the market here for nearly a decade and I often see Windows Mobile devices out and about, I can't remember the last time I saw a Blackberry, or an iPhone in public.

I think this video explains it all...

Unlike more traditional technology companies like Microsoft or Google which are run by geeks and have feature-rich and innovative products and services that are very extensible and customisable. Apple today is dominated by the marketing department, as a result we get feature-poor, often buggy and insecure products that are locked-down to end-user customisation, but they can get the press on side thanks to their slick propaganda department and as a result, some people drink the kool-aid.

Of course some people, even Apple fans can get passed it sometimes and see the light, like when Nik Cubrilovic tried Windows Vista.

I have been running Vista for a little less than 24 hours and I can't believe I didn't switch back sooner, the main difference is that the interface is much much smoother and neater and despite popular belief performance is actually fantastic. I was used to waiting on Mac OS X while my standards apps would open up - Quicksilver, Firefox, Skype, etc. but Vista goes almost straight into the desktop and most apps boot very quickly.

I didn't expect it to be like this, I didn't want Vista to be this good - I was expecting to boot back into OS X and living happily ever after, but damn, this is one fast, slick and nice operating system.

The bottom line is, no matter how much hype Apple's marketing department can generate, and how much they attack their competition in adverts, they're years behind what Microsoft and others have done.

Why isn't my computer seeing more than 3 or 4GB of RAM?

Increasingly I'm running into these sort of questions in technical communities, to the point where its happening several times a day. Questions like:

"I've 4GB of RAM, but Windows only shows 3GB" and "My PC's got 8GB of RAM but it only shows 3.1GB" etc

This stems from the fact that a 32-bit computer (sometimes referred to as x86) only supports a 4GB (2^32) address space. So why doesn't 4GB of RAM show up? Because the computer also needs to address other hardware in the computer like the CPU, motherboard, graphics card etc these all need addresses so the computer can access them.

It's time for one of my dodgy analogies, and for the 5 year old artist inside me to break out.

This is what the address space on a 32-bit computer with say 2GB of RAM "looks" like using my dodgy street/house analogy. The first row of houses are the first 1GB of addresses, and so on.

Say the red house is where the CPU lives, the sound card lives in the yellow house, and the graphics card in say the orange house, these are all occupying addresses within the 4GB limit. The green houses are all filled with RAM. And there are some empty houses shown in white.

So what happens if we try sticking another 2GB of RAM in the system to bring the total RAM to 4GB?

Uhh ohh... All of the houses are full up, and we've got some RAM left over. This RAM is unaddressable, and as such the system has no address by which to communicate with it, and it goes unused.

This is why people's computers are only seeing about 3GB of RAM (that number varies due to different hardware, some needs more address space, some needs less). Despite the address space being 32-bit, the rest of the hardware needs its addresses and so the extra RAM is pushed out of the address space.

The solution

There is no easy solution, if you want your computer to use more than around 3GB of RAM. You have one option.

Ensure your hardware is 64-bit compatible, and use 64-bit Windows.

The mainstream version of 64-bit systems were mainly developed by AMD (dubbed AMD64, x86-64, often shortened to just x64), which debuted in their Athlon 64 chips. Intel later adopted the same technology in their own chips, for the last couple of years almost all CPUs sold are capable of running in both 32-bit and 64-bit modes. In 2005 Microsoft released versions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 that had been rewritten to support these 64-bit CPUs, and along with the 32-bit versions of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 Microsoft also ship 64-bit versions.

64-bit has a significantly larger address space, 2^64 is 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 bytes, that's about 16 exabytes. About 17 billion GB of address space, using the analogy it looks like this:

Our street/house analogy breaks down here, and there's no way I can draw all the houses, but you can see the left over 1GB of RAM now gets an address.

Recent changes, and putting 64-bit to work

Microsoft made some changes in Windows Vista SP1 so that the system properties will display the installed RAM, instead of the usable RAM. This no doubt came at the request of computer manufacturers who were getting too many calls to their help desks about this issue. Instead of doing the obvious thing - which is using Windows Vista x64 when selling computers with 4GB or more RAM, they'd rather cover the problem up, it's not like the 64-bit version is anymore expensive to buy off Microsoft than 32-bit.

You can still check what RAM is usable by opening the Task Manager and looking at physical memory under the performance tab.

It is only a matter of time until computer manufacturers have to get their act together on this - in a couple of years when you can buy computers with 8GB of RAM they won't be able to get away with 5GB going unused and they'll have to start moving 64-bit versions of Windows in large quantities.

Using 64-bit versions of Windows does have its trade offs, the hardware needs to support 64-bit by supplying 64-bit compatible drivers, and some motherboards need an option to be changed in the BIOS to support 64-bit. There are also some software compatibility changes, although Windows XP/Vista x64 is compatible with 32-bit software, applications that dig in deep to the system like anti-virus will probably need to be replaced, in addition 16-bit applications from the DOS/Windows 3 era are no longer compatible.

A few interests tidbits

A 1 exabyte hard drive would cost somewhere in the region of $200 million to manufacture. I don't know how big it would be - but it would be pretty huge.

All the words spoken by every human through history would weigh in at about 5 exabytes.

Yes, a 16EB address space is pretty big, and we won't need to move to 128-bit for address space reasons anytime soon (and yes in 30 years I'll probably regret saying that).

Thoughts on the recent Microsoft HP deal

REDMOND, Wash. — June 2, 2008 — Microsoft Corp. today announced that it has won a key distribution deal with HP, the world’s largest PC manufacturer, to install a Live Search-enabled toolbar on all HP consumer PCs planned to ship in the United States and Canada, beginning in January 2009. As part of this deal, the default search engine setting in the browser on all HP consumer PCs will also be set to Microsoft Live Search.

OK, fair enough. Microsoft give HP money, HP put Microsoft's toolbar on their computers and set the default search engine to Live Search.

Paul Thurrott however asks us:

[I]s this ironic? Hypocritical? Or just pathetic?

I think its all three.

OK, sure he's got a point. Computer manufacturers should stop bundling junkware with computers, and yes Microsoft employees have hinted that they're not too pleased with how much junk is installed, and that it is damaging the user's feelings towards Windows, despite not being anything to do with Microsoft or Windows. Obviously they can't stop computer manufacturers from doing this, especially with their past legal record.

To solve this, you need a customer revolt. So the money that the computer manufacturers get out of these deals isn't worth the damage done to their sales from bundling all this junk. The trouble is for Joe Public, there's no way to tell before hand, and if there is the junkware is sold as a feature (without mentioning the negative side-effects) as such market forces don't act against the problem. So despite technology enthusiasts going on about it for years, no progress is being made.

If Microsoft hadn't done this deal what would be on the computer instead? The Yahoo or Google Toolbar, with their search engines as the default.

End result? No change for the end user on the amount of junk installed on the computer.

In short, I think it stinks. The Windows Live Search toolbar—like Windows Live Search itself--should succeed or fail on its own.

I think Google should be allowed to succeed or fail on its own. We all know its not going to happen because Google start throwing money at computer manufacturers to install their junkware, when was the last time anybody brought a computer that wasn't covered in Google junkware, or had the browser search set to Google?

Microsoft shareholders aren't going to be happy if the company just sits back and watch as every computer sold has Google's search engine on it, its called business. It isn't nice, but its all we've got (for now).

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