Windows

Microsoft's mainline products 'break' many development paradigms

Justin James recently asked Microsoft Senior IT Pro Evangelist Blain Barton how the software giant is addressing the fact that its current batch of mainline products is breaking so many development paradigms. Read Blain Barton's reply.

At last week's Microsoft Heroes Happen Here event in Charlotte, NC, I got the chance to ask Microsoft Senior IT Pro Evangelist Blain Barton a handful of questions about systems administration, development, customer feedback, and more.

My first question was a tough one: How is Microsoft addressing the fact that its current batch of mainline products (Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, and Microsoft Office 2007) "break" so many paradigms that developers and users had gotten used to?

He said Microsoft knows it's a tough road and that it will be "like going from Windows 3.0 to Windows 95." He reminded me that many of the same problems were experienced with Windows 95 and that it took years for everyone to catch up, but they eventually did. This is not the answer I wanted to hear (I remember the Windows 95 transition with not-so-fond memories), but it is a reasonable one.

I agree with him that Microsoft is going in the right direction. Windows really needed security enhancements (at the risk of breaking some applications and being a hassle), and Microsoft Office was pretty hard to use, even if millions of users were used to it.

Read the entire write-up in the TechRepublic Network Administrator blog, and find out what Barton says developers should do to help their desktop apps work side-by-side with mobile applications.

J.Ja

Disclosure of Justin's industry affiliations: Justin James has a working arrangement with Microsoft to write an article for MSDN Magazine.

About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

20 comments
dfvidalo
dfvidalo

Hello, I think that Microsoft has a long history of launching some bad operating systems. Remember Windows Millenium. Vista have a good interface and some interesting features, but it have big compatibility problems and it has high hardware requirements. I see that companies are viewing Vista cautiously but they don't want to deploy it. I love to view some day a linux distro emerges and defeat windows in the desktop. For databases sql server is far from competing with Oracle and Office 2007 is hard to use but it lets more records to manage. I think that .net plattaform is the only area where Microsoft innovates and offers a good product.

sboyce
sboyce

Seems a reasonable statement of the facts of software development. However, Microsoft and friends still slate for doing anything as drastic. It just goes to show the different mindsets deployed when development of the two OS's are critiqued. With even Microsoft understanding that the roadmap and the API's must of necessity change, they criticise Linux for enacting the same modus. MVS, MVS/SP, z/OS, Windows, Linux, Solaris, MacOS, they all undergo radical change periodically.

GusConiglio
GusConiglio

I now use less features of Office than I did previously and so are most of the others in my office. As a result I'm being questioned on "why don't we use Open Office..." [since it's "cheaper"] I don't think that was Microsoft's intent.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

MS sometimes seem to change something just because they can. They are, I will admit mainly tending in the right direction, but they still whacked in a load of 'unnecessary' spangly stuff for the marketing types to have something to sell. I remember 95 too, and NT and 2000 and even to some extent XP. Things shifted about each time. The real change this time is that MS chose to sacrifice some backwards compatibility in return for some future potential. They had no option and in my opinion should have done it years ago. For all it's signifance though there's still a heck of a lot of the old stuff under the hood and they've allowed access to a good deal of it. It's generally true that if you go for a half hearted approach you simply end up annoying everybody.

Justin James
Justin James

I agree completely. They needed to do this YEARS ago, regardless of breaking backwards compatability. But now they're in a corner because now there are a lot more choices for folks. It will interesting to see how this plays out. J.Ja

dawgit
dawgit

It seems to me (and others as well) it's a bit of a "Gray-mail" situation. One pays Microsoft a lot of money, get to be a '___' Partner, and they "Help you make your program work with theirs. Don't deal with Microsoft, your stuff won't work with theirs either. It's a widely accepted, and unfortunatly often seen, notion. -d edited to add a bit on Vista. It seems to be a non-issue here. Ok, it's out there on some consumers PCs, and yes they're having problems. But it's not likely to see any full production time. It's just not needed, so why go through the wasted resources, headaches, to acheive what you started out with. (That's if you're lucky) Add to that the fact it just won't work with what we have. -d

Justin James
Justin James

To be honest, I have been seeing that a lot less lately. It's still out there, of course. I will say, I've had to use an MSDN support incident or two lately over things which arguably should have been in the documentation (like how to force System.Net.Mail to use a particular authentication method for SMTP Auth). The big item, I think, is the .Net Framework. It encapsulates in a comprehensive and coherent manner the vast majority of those Windows API calls that used to be "secret knowledge". Of course, that ties you to the Microsoft development tools, environments, etc. So yeah, the "grey-mail" is still there to a large extent, but at least now people who simply buy Visual Studio and are willing to use .Net get invites to the "inner circle" as opposed to it being only the elite partners. J.Ja

bluesrenegade
bluesrenegade

If someone walked up to you on the street and put you in a stranglehold, you'd do all you could do to get out of it. That's what MS did to computer users years ago, only they got people to embrace their "Master," rather than rebel and fight back. I fought back and switched to Linux years ago, and I'm very glad I did. The security and performance are yet to be matched by anything from Microsoft. I remember when Bill Gates dismissed Linux as non-viable and non-threatening to Microsoft. Over the years, Microsoft has changed its tune, and is now trying to convince the world that it has "seen the light" and is embracing open source software. Of course, how can a company that's made billions on closed proprietary software suddenly be a big advocate for open source software? It can't--it can only spread misinformation and hype via its marketing and press channels. Is Vista anymore secure from kiddie VB Script than previous versions of Windows? Is that what MS wants the world to believe? Do you believe it, Justin? I don't. Enough said.... John

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

If you put the entire thing, Vista, IE7, UAC, Protected mode and defender together then it's more secure than it was. As has been pointed out though, people don't like UAC, so they don't get PM and they are still running as an admin user, so .... The big problem will always be the scripting mechanism itself, it's still effectively allow all, deny some and so if you allow scripts to run you are taking it on trust they they aren't a kiddie. Not a tenable position in my opinion, from a security point of view, but the 'market' wants us to trust them all by default.

dawgit
dawgit

You're totaly correct on that. A lot of folks had seen the .net enviroment as one of the better things from Microsoft. Personally I still haven't decided if it's still worth it. (The newer versions) I had realy been in favor of the Communition Platform, but agian the buy in factor. It just rubs people the wrong way. IMHO anyway. It seems that again Microsoft as had a good program, at let it grow into a monster. Geeeze I wish they'd quit shooting themselves in the foot. As for the Visual Studio, at least they have a distributable version out there for those of us not useing it for production. As for you Justin, I'm kind of glad you're going to be writing a bit for the MSDN mag. I might start getting it again. I got turned off by the "Use Microsoft ______, it's the gratest. I want to know how it works, and how to get to work better for me. The rest is just infomertials, and I turn that stuff off. -d

Justin James
Justin James

I see a lot of what you are talking about too. People really resent the way this has been handled, and as a result, instead of giving .Net "buy in", they push back, HARD. I think that probably 50% of resistance to .Net is people dragging around 7 year old information from when it first came out to justify why they would rather stick with VB 6 (which is an insane decision, from where I sit, but I also spent the VB 6 years writing Perl code so I have little investment in it). Glad you noticed the bit about me writing an article for MSDN Magazine. :) It's kind of funny, I've been reading it for years, writing here for a while, and I kept saying, "I wish I could write in an area about some more advanced topics. I wonder how you get to write for MSDN Magazine?" I went to their site, saw the link, clicked it, some back-and-forth later, and here I am. It really goes to show that all of that stuff I used to think was silly like "follow your dreams" really isn't that silly! J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

What are you doing to ensure that the applications you write are working with Vista without causing headaches for users? J.Ja

john.decoville
john.decoville

With nearing 3,000 employees, most of them on the network, we cannot afford the many "Gotchas" in VISTA. So Vista is dead on arrival.

knudson
knudson

My experience has been one of very little in terms of changes that we have had to make in our development processes. All along we have operated with the notion of operating within the smallest possible set of privileges as our target. It has meant some additional testing but nothing out of line with other operating system version changes we've been through in the past. We're used to running in the minimal privilege mindset. Our corporate policy forbids user accounts to be administrative accounts -- amazing how that one simple policy minimizes the impact of nerfarious software within an organization. If you need to do something that requires administrator privileges, you will be explicity requesting that privilege via a Run As Administrator. You won't have administrator privileges on your user account and you won't ever remain logged in as administrator "just in case" you need to install an ActiveX control or do system updates or software installations. This is not unlike using sudo in the Unix world to perform administrative tasks and elevating the privilege on an as needed basis only. As far as I'm concerned, I simply consider this a best practice no matter what the operating system in use. How many times has a developer been frazzled when the application they've worked on fails at the client's site due to security issues seemed non-existent because the developer was using adminsitrative privileges on his/her user account all of the time while working on the app? I've had to come in and bail out new hires on more than one occassion for that specific scenario. Inevitably whenever someone new joins our staff, they find the policy to be too restrictive. They talk about how we have lost so much productivity by having to jump through all of these hoops all of the time to perform basic operations etc. In time they come around when they see how their workstations continue to perform well and behave over time. No more "nuke and pave" of your machines every quarter because it gets sluggish and you're not really sure why etc.

Justin James
Justin James

Something I see a lot, is that most developers run as a local admin, for a variety of reasons. Some reasonable, some not. What ends up happening is that they don't see where their code meets the security restrictions until they get to QA, and too many QA computers are *not* set up like typical user machines either, so even then the problems are not seen until deployment. :( J.Ja

read
read

Our main product (which has been around since the late 1980s and slowly morphed from Windows version to Windows version) functions for admin users (sort of) but we have had to completely redesign major portions of it and that work is still underway. Releasing a new version because a new Windows release broke something is nothing really new (we did it for 95, 98, NT, ME, 2000, XP, and the worst so far was XP SP2) but the extent of the work this time is far greater. Every release of Windows has broken some feature in our products (often to do with changes MS has made to the way standard OS-supplied dialogs like those for File Save/Open, etc, operate). A long time ago we decided to limit the number of Windows versions to "current" and one back, but Vista security has changed things so much we currently count XP as "current" and 2000 as "one back". MS warned people for years that security was coming, and they suggested making changes for XP and particularly XP SP2 (moving stuff out of Program Files and other restricted areas), but as with most companies we could not justify making changes unless absolutely necessary. Now we're there. We've got quite a few major clients (with hundreds of seats of our products) that are specifically waiting for us to officially move to Vista. In fact, a few groups at MS use the product and they have been forced to run as admins (presumably because they have been mandated to run Vista) to use the software.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

we can not take the risk of converting to Vista right now. the outlay would be in the billions.

Justin James
Justin James

You must work either for government, military, or a megacorp. Given your location, I'd take Choice #3, and guess that it is either a major pharmeceutical company or a major telecommunications company. :) J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

You are right about the "trickle down effect". I think that faced with trying to force old apps to work in Vista, a good number of shops are going to opt to make them Web apps. Not the majority, most likely, but enough to make a difference. After all, why move it to Vista and worry that you miught have to go through this again in 4 or 8 years, when you can really go through the lake of fire, make something a Web app, but never have to do it again? J.Ja

dawgit
dawgit

You can just pick one, or all of them. It really doesn't mater. She's just being truthful. You also have to consider the "trickle-down effect" on that. For every major player there are thousands of suppliers, contractors, sub-system manufactures, that also cann't / won't be useing Vista either. -d

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