Sunday, April 23, 2006

Windows 98 Support Ends

It is now official - Microsoft has ended all support for Win 98, even including paid support. How many Win 98 machines are still in service? At least one that I know of ;-)

In spite of all the derision, I have found Windows 98 to be quite stable and useable. And, behind a router and firewall it is just as secure as any other OS - dependent more on the actions of the user, than the design of the system.

My 98 machine is a Pentium II at 400 MHz with 384 Megs of RAM, serving as my "personal computer" it has a 2nd parallel port and an external USB hub, and accommodates all my antique peripherals such as a flatbed scanner, Zip 100 drive, TV tuner, UPS, serial Palm cradle, 2nd parallel inkjet printer; most of which not WinXP-compatible - but it all still works.

The installed software includes Visual Basic 4 and 6, Access 2.0, Office 97 Pro, Access 2000, Office XP Pro - but it all still works. In fact, the only bad experience (aside from a Nimda infection years ago whilst on dial-up) was trying to upgrade to Internet Explorer 6 which was extremely slow but luckily uninstallable.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Planned Obsolescence

The preliminary specs are out for Office 2007, and it looks like Win 2000 users will be out of luck - you'll need at least Windows XP, or Server 2003, to run the next version of Office.

Of course, this is nothing new - you needed at least Win 95 to run Office 95; Win 98 to run Office XP; Win 2000 to run Office 2003; and so it goes. But where does it stop?

The company mantra is twofold: That the new version is easier to use, and that it is more secure. Which implies that the previous version is difficult to use, and it is not secure. We've heard that about each new version of Windows and/or Office. But where does it stop?

This is not just an issue with Windows and Office - in fact, the Linux world is also possessed by the update / upgrade paradigm.

I believe that we technologists need to alter our "rapid design" philosophy to ensure that the core functionality:

  • works as required
  • meets the user's needs
  • is easy to use correctly
  • provides a secure environment

If these basic needs are not met, then you have no business adding fly-out property sheets, floating toolbars, right-click popup menus, and all the rest.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Waiting for Vista SP1

I am very satisfied with Windows XP, but it didn't start out that way. I had beta tested XP Beta 2 and RC1 on my old "workhorse" PC with much less than breathtaking results. Aside from absolutely dismal performance from a puny 400 MHz CPU, the new interface was too far from what I was used to. The night before XP went live at retail, I purchased Windows 2000 as a hedge against the New Technology.

In the meantime, with a new Pentium 4 PC with XP pre-installed (and all the goofy XP-style stuff turned off) with SP2, I find the OS to be safe and stable, their best effort to date.

Now that XP has hit the mainstream, and SP2 is settled in, I don't see a need to upgrade. After viewing the Vista demo at the MS Small Business Summit, I see many new features that are being touted as improvements but, reading between the lines, these are fixes for inherent defects in XP.

The recent schedule slips IMHO will push Vista adoption out to 2008 for many entities. I will certainly avoid attempting an upgrade; in my experience, every successful upgrade begins with FDISK and takes all day :-) A much better choice would be to wait for Vista SP1 pre-installed on a 64-bit computer.

Speaking of which, let's hope that new Windows Installer technologies will eliminate the "interactive install" -- insert the CD and then: wait; read and answer prompt(s); wait; [repeat until done]. What an incredible waste of time that is.