Thursday, June 15, 2006


Today I ran across a news article announcing the demise of Windows 98 and Me:

I find it slightly humorous that Microsoft is incapable of creating an upgradeable OS. Linux, and to some extent, Mac OSX, are upgradeable. Okay, Microsoft has attempted it in the past and generally failed miserably. What would be nice is if I could buy just the features I need. This would allow Microsoft to develop the software at their leisure and if I bought a feature (say for $5), I'd get that feature and any security updates for it forever. Let's take a few examples:

1) MS Paint. I never use this feature and, frankly, don't want it either. It hasn't changed since Windows 95 and people shouldn't have to pay multiple times for the same application. It is a terrible image editor. However, a lot of children in schools use it because they either are bored or really don't know there are plenty of better tools.

2) Remote Desktop. A versatile tool I use frequently. However, most users never touch it.

3) Task Manager. Something almost everyone uses. There might be the occasional person who won't buy this feature but it would be considered something more or less "essential".

4) WinFS. Some people might want it, others won't care or will really hate the idea. While removed from Vista's set of initial releases, it will be thrust upon the masses through a Windows Update sometime in the future. What if you could CHOOSE whether or not WinFS is installed and pay for the feature if it is installed or save money and not install it?

5) Specialized API calls. Windows still depends heavily on the Win32 API - or is it Win64 API now? Erk. Anyway, I'd say roughly 33% of the APIs in Windows never gets used because the APIs are for specific OSes. If Microsoft only released one version of Windows and sold "API packs", that would solve a huge number of issues. A software package being installed could ask the OS, "Hey, do you have these packs installed?" And the OS would reply 'yes' or 'no' to each request. Then the installer could say to the OS, "Hey, since you don't have these packs, could you initiate the 'API pack' purchase wizard for these packs? Make sure the user knows I need them installed to operate properly." The OS would then launch the "API pack" purchase wizard and the user could buy the necessary API packs to run the application. If the user decides to not buy the packs, the application will simply not install (or could install and the user could buy the packs at a later date).

Windows 95 isn't even mentioned in the article. My guess is that support for it died a long time ago. Windows 2000 support is coming to an end shortly too. My guess is that it will be an uphill battle for switching users from XP to Vista and terminating support for XP will be like pulling teeth. XP, despite its (easily changeable) color scheme, is actually the most stable OS Microsoft has. Vista is going to be incredibly unstable (something along the lines of WinMe unstable).

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

How to force users to upgrade OSes...

Internet Explorer holds the primary market share in web browsers. Still. And this week Microsoft made it clear that "IE7+" is not going to be available to WinXP users despite the fact that it probably wouldn't be hard to do. The difference is most likely three #ifdef statements:

This is a blatant attempt to garner sales for Vista and is a wholly monopolistic tactic. Those are some seriously expensive #ifdef's! Probably worth $1 billion each!

The real reason I'm writing this blog entry is not because IE7+ has features I want or need. I'm writing this because Microsoft is attempting to redefine words and phrases that have predefined meanings. One specific phrase, "protected mode" (or PMode, for short), refers to the flat addressing memory model of all 32- and 64-bit operating systems that the CPU "protects" using multi-layered rings. The Intel CPU has 4 rings where the kernel resides at Ring 0 and user code resides at Ring 3. The most popular OS only uses two of the 4 rings. I'm not aware of any OS that uses all 4 for their intended, original purpose (probably for performance reasons).

Microsoft is pulling one of their classic marketing strategies out of the hat by calling something "protected mode". Essentially, the company wants to dominate this phrase for some reason. Someone searching Google for the phrase "protected mode" gets about 33 million hits. And usually someone doing that type of searching is researching OS development perhaps to create a competing OS. Basically, by doing this, Microsoft will quickly rise to the top 10 listings and the waters will be considerably muddied between the real definition of "protected mode" and IE7+'s definition. Confusion is one of Microsoft's primary marketing tactics. If they can confuse you about the competition (or just confuse you enough to believe there is no competition), then that's one more sale for them. Phrases are carefully chosen by Microsoft for maximum effect. By choosing the phrase "protected mode", Microsoft does maximum damage on multiple fronts just as they do by differentiating IE7 from IE7+.

Despite that, Internet Explorer is my favorite web browser. It has nothing to do with marketing. It has to do with which rendering engine I find more "beautiful". See my previous post, but as you can tell, I'm an artist. IE, while it has its shortcomings, displays what I call "pixel perfect" pages. Pixel perfect means that if I place a pixel in a specific spot on a page, it always appears in that spot on the page. No other web browser is pixel perfect. Pages always appear "uglier" under, say, Firefox when compared to IE. It may only be two pixels different, but I see those differences and that just bugs me. I'm not talking about websites I create (those that I make look pixel perfect under all popular browsers), I'm talking about websites I visit. The biggest annoyance is how fonts are handled under two different browsers. IE, IMO, does the best job and almost achieves pixel perfect status but it still falls short on occasion.