Saturday, April 4, 2009

Note to Microsoft; Start Over....

Microsoft bashing, over the last few years has become sort of a national passtime. I have to admit, I've done my share of bashing, and probably will continue to do so as long as they keep putting out products like Vista. Even XP is not exactly a shinning example of what an operating system should be.

I could go into the details about the virtues and demons in each OS, however that would accomplish little but build up my word count for this article and add very little real value to it...
So instead of griping about XP and particuly VISTA, how about a way to fix the problem?

It's simple : Start Over. Incremental updates and service packs do little to fix underlying problems. All they do, or at least is band-aid them. Service pack and the like may fix some problems and security holes, and defiantly make the end user feel like they've done some good for their beloved OS, but in reality, they may have done little more then fix emeracy hole that was found after many machines had been messed up, One way or another.
They do nothing to fix the underlying problem that caused the problem or hole in the first place. I'm not saying, not to do service pacts the update, DO THEM !! But understand they're not really fixing the os. Thats because the os was broke before you ever got it. But then we knew that.

What is needed is to start over completely, writing a whole new kernel, and driver support and new hardware support. What this will mean is limited or no support for old devices. Anything that is over a year or two years old won't work, because the driver set won't see the older hardware. Apple did this when they introduced os X. of course there were issues and problems, but in the long was worth it as venders were able to write new drivers for hardware, and port he programs to the new os.
Apple also covered the gap in the old os 9 and the new osX buy selling their machines with both operating systems installed on them. They booted to x, however you go into 9 if you needed to run programs that didn't work in X. Then as support for OSX came along they phased out the os9. I don't think they come with 9 on them now, but its been several years since they started. The point is that they didn't just jump ship from os 9 to osX with support and allowing folks to go back to os 9 if they needed to.

The amount of space the operating system takes up on a hard drive has become huge , every operating system seems to take up more of the primary hard drive then the one before it. XP needs 32-3 gigs of space to live and work, and Vista needs upwards of 15-20 gigs of space to be happy. Granted the new hard drives are large, that doesn't mean that the operating system should grow in relation to the size of the hard drives its living on. Compare that to a typical install of Linux, usually down loadable on to a CD, thats right a 700mg cd will hold a entire Linux os. Granted there are differences in the two operating systems. I have played with Linux on several occasions, and been very impressed with the it and and finish of the desktop and the whole thing in general. This just shows how bloated windows is. There are many areas where they could the code down and retain functionally, one that comes to mind is the install process, Currently There are a number of build in routines the programs can use to install themselves on to the operating system. Lets make it simple, build one set of installing routines that all programs need to work with to install themselves, Make the code available to anyone who needs it and streamline the who process. It would also cut down on errors and make coding easier fro programing. The number of lines of code each operating system has has jumped along with the space that it takes, According to my research, Vista has over 50 million lines of code, and Xp had around 35million lines of code when it was released. It probably has gone up since then, when you ad service packs and updates it continues to go, As will Vista, when service packs and update are factored in. So is it any wonder why Xp is considered to be more stable and generally better then Vista, There's less code under it to start with. Most Xp machines run with 40-60 process or services running in the background. Vista can have upwards to 100 process running in the background,depending on whats been installed on the machine from the manufactures and whats set to start on start up.

One has to question, do we really need all of the bells and whistles that Vista offers, What is really need is a good stable secure operating system, That has all of the needed programs to do mission critical work Word processing, and the like should be built in, along with programs to handle pictures, both in seeing them, and managing them, of course it shouldn't take 10 click through Menus to ad a picture to a word document, Any program should automatically see any media that stored on the computer, and able to use it without going through import menus just drag and drop, or copy and paste, and resize as need. The same with audio files,and video files, Making a cd or a dvd should be easy.
All audio and video codecs should be supported Nativity and without requiring a special download from a download site.

There is no need for more then 2 versions of any operating system, A basic home user version and and a beefed up media center version, which mainly has a fancier interface and uses a remote, that included in the package, along with proper video card and other hardware for use as a media center. Everyone else just needs basic multimedia capabilities, with the options to add others if needed. Six and Seven versions not only confuse the consumer, but also make it very hard for troubleshooting over the phone and a nightmare for tech support, trying to figure out which one the person on the other end has, many barely know they windows or if it XP or Vista, much less which version they have on their machines. The possibilities of 7 versions of Windows 7 is not a pleasant one, and I probably won't touch it for a long time after been released.

Security is as more important now then ever before. The windows firewall should be turned on by default and it should be hard to turn it off. Anti-virus and ad ware software should be included and dovetailed to work with the firewall.

The rest of my start over plan includes following in Apple's footsteps and releasing the new operating system with either a basic version of Vista, or better yet, XP either installed on a separate partition or on a install disc to be installed, it would probably be better to install the older os on a separate partition. This would allow users who had driver issues with older hardware to switch over the the older os to use them, the same thing for software. As we all know Vista was famous for not liking older software. The new OS should fit on a dvd, and NOT fill it. It would probably be too big for a cd, but theres no reason why it should fill a whole 4.gig dvd. The the footprint should be not as huge as the current systems are.

This leads to another area that should be addressed, while not technically the operating system, RAM, or memory as is often called. RAM is the workspace of a operating system. The bigger the workspace the better. Microsoft knows very well that XP likes at a minimum of one gig of ram, it would in most cases be happier with two gigs of ram. How about requiring that manufactures put in the proper amount of ram in the machines when their sold. especially considering the most will share the ram with the on board video and thus rob the cpu of ram. Vista wants at least 2 gigs of ram, so install it on machines with it on it, and provide easy access to upgrade it if needed.

Other ideas include educating consumers about how to uses their new system. Including a dvd with every new machine showing how to do basic things like saving and retrieving documents and photos and music, ect. Also educating consumers about safe computing, ie anti-virus and anti spy ware and other necessary programs, also detailing how to back up data to a second hard drive and make back up copies of their data on dvd for safe archiving. This should not be a form of advertising for MS but real education and information they need to know with no bias to MS or any operating system.

A whole new approach to selling computers is in order, particularly, to the non-geek, or casual user who doesn't understand the theories behind working with computers and saving their photos and and data and lower the risk of losing them to a hard drive failure or other disaster .

If I was putting together a system for retail sales I would defiantly include the fast CPU, 2-4 gigs of ram, good video card,with ports to get video out to allow it hook up to a tv or other type of monitor, and a good sound card with outputs for optical or fiber outputs to a external amp or stereo, he biggest change would be the hard drive, there would be two. Yes two hard drives, The primary drive installed in the machine, the c drive would be relatively small, 80gigs or so. Windows Xp and any extra programs would neatly fit and run off it and the 2nd hard drive would be a external included in the package,the size would probably be from 500gigs up depending on the price point. When the machine is first set up and ran here would be a on-screen demo on how to hook up the hard drive, plug the power in and plug the usb into the plug in in the back of the box, and more importantly it would show how to create folder and shore data to the folder on the external hard drive, Documentation showing how to use the dvd-r to back up data and how to get programs to automatically save data to the external would help keep consumers safe from themselves. We all know the windows will need to be reinstalled again at some point, or the hard drive will fail,its just a matter of time. Having your life on one big 500gig hard drive and Windows decides to take a dive due to virus spy ware ect or just plain bit rot, and you have to a a complete format and install, and all your pictures, Mp3's ect are on the same hard drive you need to wipe and no way to save them is not a good thing. So it seems to me a responsible computer vendor, whose been in the business long enough to know theses facts of life, would wise to put together such systems and take the time to explain why they're selling their machine in this configuration and offer service after the sale, helping customers learn how to do the file creation and saving, even better have a demo system set up and teach them right there on the floor, hands on, actually make them sit down and create folders and move data around between hard drives ect so when they get home with their new system, they know what they're doing. As part of the in-store training I show show them how to use whatever audio and video ports were on the machine, so they know he possible ways to use and hook up their new box. I realize that most of the folks reading my blog probably already know most or all of what I've talked about. Let me ask you this, who taught you? Did someone sit down and take the time to explain the in and outs or creating and moving folders and telling programs where to install, or did you like me figure it out mostly on your own through trail and error? This sale approach is geared for the non-geek, who just wants it to work, How about they make it work and not curse that day they bought it when it dies terminally and all their family pictures are a a dead hard drive? A hard drive can be replaced, priceless family pictures can't.

In the end, the new Windows 7 will be what Microsoft wants it to be, not what we necessarily want it to be. Hopefully Redmond has been listening over the last few years.
I'm not going to hold my breath ..