AAx Why Not Just Go With Windows

The startling consequences

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Can You Afford Windows?

Microsoft so persistently drummed home the point that Windows costs much less than alternatives that nearly everyone believed them. Then came real figures. Gartner Group, Forrester Research, and other major research and consulting firms pegged the real cost of Windows workstations on corporate networks at from $8,000 to $14,000 per PC per year. Intel (with every reason to minimize their figures) admits to $8,000 per PC per year for their network. Some companies and agencies have come up with internal figures as high as $24,000 per PC per year. We know exactly what Microsoft thinks they really cost, because they pay an outsourcing company $16,000 per PC per year for theirs. Now, if you can show me two instances where Microsoft paid too much for anything I'll be willing to believe this number is too high.

How can something that costs under $2,000 to buy cost that much per year? The above figures triggered immediate disbelief, but disbelief turned to distress as companies did their own numbers.

Most of the high cost of Windows networks is buried: lost productivity, disruption from continuous upgrades, network downtime, high training costs, employee "fiddle" time, extra servers compensating for poor performance, excessive help desk calls, etc. etc. All difficult to track, but all just as real.

A small business will see costs at the low end, be even better hidden in overhead and time lost. Companies that used to see their "computer guy" twice a year see him twice a week now that they are running Windows.

Now you know why so many computer businesses aggressively promote Windows. To repeat the advice of the marketing guru in a prominent computer dealer's magazine, Don't sell the best solution, sell Windows. You will make a LOT more money than on any other solution. There will be endless "add-ons" and "upgrades" to charge for, and to charge for installing. (Index)


Productivity: Where Is It?

Corporate America has spent a huge amount of money converting every desktop to Windows and is now looking for the promised improvement in productivity. They aren't finding it. Every bit of improvement has been absorbed by the time it takes to keep Windows and Windows software running and the disruption caused by frequent upgrades.

Even magazine columnists completely devoted to Microsoft and Windows have taken up the cry. The only cure, don't run Windows, they reject out of hand. This is simply not an acceptable solution for magazines that derive 90% of their advertising revenue from Windows products, or to columnists who need do little work because Microsoft writes their columns for them.

Don't run Windows is also an unacceptable solution to the companies now looking for the missing productivity. The budget is already completely blown, and any more money found has to be spent trying to make Windows work, or upgrading it to the latest version. There is no escape.

Microsoft will never fix these problems. Sure, specific bugs are fixed with the next version, but many new ones are introduced. As long as you are dissatisfied with the current version, you will buy the next version A quality product would destroy Microsoft's revenue stream which depends heavily on upgrades. (Index)


Performance - "We need more Servers!"

In 1986 you did Accounts Receivable and Word Processing on an 8-MHz 286 with a whole Meg of memory and a 20-Meg hard disk. Today you do the same stuff on a 330-MHz Pentium-II with 32-Megs of memory and a 6000-Meg hard disk. The screen is a lot prettier, but is the business value worth the $8,000 you spent in upgrades since then?

On the server side, informal test have shown a 250-MHz Pentium-II with 64-Megs of memory and a FastWide SCSI hard disk system running Windows NT to be only 5% faster at database services than a 486DX 66-MHz with 16-Megs and an old IDE hard disk running Linux.

Companies that have converted to Windows NT Server have found they need two to three times as many servers to get the same level of performance as what they had before - and newer, faster servers at that. And now the servers crash all the time.

For reasons of both performance and reliability Microsoft strongly recommends a separate server for each significant task! Is it any wonder NT sells more copies than Unix? (Index)


Reliability: The "Yorktown Syndrome"

In keeping with the U.S. government's decision to go "All Windows NT", the missile cruiser Yorktown, first of the Navy's "Smart Ship" program has been fitted with a Windows NT network for all its control system. So far, practically every time the Yorktown has put to sea, it has gone dead in the water and had to be towed back to port due to failure of the NT servers. Were this a combat situation, it would give a whole new meaning to "Blue Screen of Death" (BSOD is the common failure mode for Windows NT computers).

The problem is simple: Windows NT goes down too often, and when it does, it takes a skill level that may not be available to bring it back up. Frequently a reinstall of NT and its associated Service Packs is required. If you have to call off-site for help, you may experience extensive downtime. (Index)


DLL Hell, A Uniquely Windows Problem

Software written for Windows makes use of common code modules called DLLs which reside in the \Windows\System subdirectory. Every time you install a new program, it is free to replace DLLs with the versions it works best with. Other software on your system may depend on the replaced version and may now not run, or exhibit unstable behavior. If you reinstall the older package, the new one may become unstable. Every new Microsoft program and every upgrade replaces many of these DLLs (the IE 4.0 (Internet Explorer) package is mostly DLL replacements).

"DLL Hell" is one of the major reasons Windows95/98 systems become progressively more unstable with time. Many companies have resorted to simply wiping Windows off every computer every few months (every 95 days for companies with a smart ass in charge) and reinstalling fresh to regain stability.

Why has Microsoft not fixed "DLL Hell", making Windows work like any other operating system? Shared libraries should never be touched except by an upgrade to the operating system itself. The answer is clear. Manipulating DLLs allows Microsoft to sabotage the software of their competitors any time they wish. It may take the competitor months to figure out what happened and fix it, meanwhile a lot of business is lost that will never return. The beauty of this technique is that malice can never be proven. Yet another reason why there will soon be no significant software except Microsoft's running under Windows.

Some time before the release of Windows98, Microsoft distributed new versions of a number of DLLs to all the software houses using Microsoft programming tools (most of them). These new DLLs were incorporated and distributed with new software and upgrades for many months. When the Windows98 upgrade is installed, it removes these DLLs and replaces them with older versions. Now some programs on your machine don't work any more, but strangely, all the Microsoft programs still work because they never used the newer DLLs. Microsoft's explanation? "We wanted every Win98 upgrade to start with a known baseline configuration." (Index)

Upgrades, Upgrades & More Upgrades

Microsoft and its camp followers now live on upgrades. After all, almost everyone has all the software they really need, so what else is there? The fun thing about Windows is you will be forced, either by Microsoft or another software vendor, to upgrade their program just to get support for a problem. So you get the upgrade. Now you find you have to upgrade your Windows to run your new program, and replace your computer to run the new Windows, so you do that. Now all your other software has stopped working because of what the upgraded stuff did to the DLLs. You upgrade everything else - now you can't exchange files with another of your computers because the newer software on this machine uses a different file format from the older version on your other machines. By time you get them all upgraded, it's time for a new round.

It's not just the cost of the hardware and software that hurts, its the cost of downtime as you upgrade everything, and the cost of training to adjust to the new way the programs work, and the reloads when the upgrades go wrong and the . . . . well, you get the picture.

A Microsoft exec on OS/2, "We want to get two or three upgrades out of Windows before giving our customers that kind of power". (Index)


Security: Risk from Within and Without

Windows95/98 offers no security whatever. Anyone who has physical access to the computer can do whatever they wish. Anyone who has access to the network a Win95 computer is on can do whatever they wish (with a little more trouble). If your network administrator works at a Win95/98 computer your entire network has no security whatever regardless of the Network operating system you use (NetWare, OS/2, Windows NT, Unix, whatever). This will not be fixed because that would require a total rewrite of Win98. Since Microsoft considers Win95/98 a dead product line, the work will not be done.

There are many ways into Win95/98, but Cult of the Dead Cow's Back Orifice is currently the most prominent example - but not nearly the worst - try Netbus on for size, and Netbus does NT too.

Well over 90% of all computer viruses attack only Microsoft environments. Further, Microsoft continues to make their operating systems less secure by incorporating new things like more powerful macros, ActiveX and "integrating" their Web browser into the operating system.

When you receive Microsoft Word documents (on disk or as email attachments), examine them with a plain text editor. You may see stuff the sender didn't particularly want you to see. By default, large amounts of material not part of the document is included. While this material does not show up in Word, it is easily seen using other tools. Negotiators can use this "feature" to gain unfair advantage against companies distributing documents in Word format. This "feature" can be turned off, but you must do so deliberately and check it every time you update or reinstall.

So determined is Microsoft to control all access to the Internet, they are integrating the Internet with the desktop (Win98 Active Desktop). This is not a security risk, this is security suicide.

Microsoft strongly implies Windows NT Server is US Government certified for security level C2. This is not true. At one time, three specific computer systems running Windows NT Server version 3.0 with Service Pack 3 were certified for C2 provided they did not have a network card. Might we ask what good is a server without a network card? In any case, NT version v3.0 was never widely sold and is no longer used anywhere.

Microsoft employed security consultant Ed Curry to promote their case to the U.S. Government. When Mr. Curry questioned Microsoft's security claims, Microsoft destroyed his company, making it impossible for him to get consulting jobs anywhere (by threatening prospective employers).

Microsoft has hired a new security company to work on C2 certification for Windows NT v4.0, and claims loudly that certification is "in process". This claim has become the basis of the widespread conversion to Windows NT in the U.S. government, but insiders say practically no actual work toward certification is being done. It is highly unlikely Windows NT 4.x or 5.x can ever be C2 certified because of changes made to improve performance. (Index)


Ownership - Microsoft Thinks it Owns your Windows Computer

In keeping with the claim that "software is licensed, not sold", Microsoft feels it owns your Windows computer and can do with it as they please. You may remember the Windows95 "Registration Wizard", which searched for about 200 software products and transferred a coded inventory of your hard disk to Microsoft. Microsoft angrily denied this was so, but it was proven beyond doubt by Andrew Schulman, author of "Undocumented Windows".

Windows98, with the "integrated" IE4 (Internet Explorer 4) is free to "call home to Microsoft" whenever it detects an Internet connection - without your permission and without your knowing anything is happening. This is "so it can automatically download upgrades to your software". Given a history of bugginess in Microsoft's "service packs", this could easily destabilize a working computer.

Another really bad thing about this automated update system is it can easily be subverted by persons even less ethical than Microsoft. Is it really getting updates from Microsoft, or is it transferring your Quicken or QuickBooks files to someone else? (Index)


Invasion of Privacy - Microsoft wants to know!

Microsoft has a long history of wanting more information about computer users than seems right. As often as possible they gather this information without your knowledge. With persistent Internet connections, especially cable modems, they can gather a lot more a lot more secretively.

Users of Microsoft's WebTV may not realize it but Microsoft polls their machines at night to see where they go on the Internet. The same will be true of Microsoft "set top boxes", scheduled to ship early next year.

And, what about those "automatic updates" (see ownership, above). What might they be uploading while downloading changes? You can be sure what is uploaded will be carefully concealed (as the Registration Wizard data was), and that Microsoft will deny everything (as with Registration Wizard). Will this become another way for Microsoft to enforce licensing? Or are they just gathering "marketing data".

Office 2000 will stop working after the 50th load if you do not register. Registering will require answering some rather detailed questions (more "marketing data"). If you don't provide the desired information, you will not be allowed to use the software you already paid for.

Microsoft web sites make very heavy use of "cookies", as do most sites written using Microsoft Active Server Pages. These cookies gather and store personal information about you and where you go (more "marketing data"). If you set your browser to "no cookies", you will be sternly warned by Microsoft and prohibited from major areas of their Web site. (Index)


Corrupted Protocols - "Embrace, Extend, Exterminate"

Microsoft makes a big noise about embarrassing standard protocols, like TCP/IP. The problem: the Microsoft versions are always bastardized to make it difficult for Windows computers to interact with non-Windows computers using the same protocols. Microsoft depends on their heavy advertising and high level PR to convince users the problem is with the "non standard" (non-Microsoft) products.

This policy is becoming a problem even for Microsoft. Most of the standard protocols were first implemented on Unix systems, and remain universal on these systems. Microsoft has had to back off from the concept of Windows NT as a "Unix killer" - it just can't cut it - so now they are trying to reposition as "gets along well with Unix". Too bad it doesn't. The rise of Linux as a direct competitor to NT is expanding this problem. (Index)


Employees Will Play - it's just like at home!

Once Windows is on the desktop, even the most determined companies have found enforcing any semblance of standards or desktop controls nearly impossible. Employees bring all kinds of stuff from home (including viruses and other security risks) and load it on their work computer. Only a few play games on company time, but many fiddle around endlessly with fonts, colors and screen savers to the detriment of productivity.

Companies have tried banning Windows upgrades to avoid high expense and severe compatibility problems, but find employees just bring the upgrade from home and try to install it - even if they know the policy. You find out about it when something goes wrong and they call for help. Now what do you do? Fire an important employee, or upgrade everyone? That means upgrading ALL your software, because only the latest versions work properly together. This is how Bill Gates builds a pipeline to your bank account.

Don't bother carefully configuring the desktops to be efficient for the company's work. Since Win95/98 offers no security, each employee will soon have his/hers "the way I like it". And they expect you to fix any problems they create getting there.

By contrast; Unix, Linux and OS/2 desktops are likely to stay just the way you set them up for years, because employees are afraid of "screwing something up". (Index)


Many Incompatible Versions - "Legacy Code" Problems

Not so long ago, Windows was fresh and new. Microsoft laughed at systems with generations of "legacy code", with troublesome backward compatibility issues. Now it is Windows that is the "legacy code" with compatibility problems. Here are some of the versions currently in use:
  • Windows 3.1 - 16-bit, MS-DOS based - many corporate computers still use this version. Nothing before 3.1 worked, so we don't list those.
  • Windows95 - 16/32-bit mix, MS-DOS based but they lied about it.
  • Windows 98 - 16/32-bit mix, MS-DOS based but they lied about it. Filesystem not compatible with some versions of Win95.
  • Windows 98 SE - 16/32-bit mix, Win95 with Internet Explorer tied in tight, and a whole new set of bugs.
  • Windows ME (mid 2000) - Successor to Win98SE. NO legacy support (serial and parallel ports, ISA slots, etc.) and most networking stripped out to force business to Windows 2000.
  • Windows NT 3.51 - 32-bit, some DOS/16-bit compatibility - most stable NT, so some users don't want to upgrade.
  • Windows NT 4.0 - 32-bit. Not fully compatible with 3.51
  • Windows 2000 - Almost complete rewrite - No DOS/16-bit compatibility. There will be at least 4 versions of Windows 2000. It is unlikely much compatibility will be maintained between "home gaming" and "enterprise server" versions. "No more DOS" says Bill Gates (but he said Win95 had no DOS in it - what gives?).
  • Whistler - code name for next consumer operating system, based on Win2000 code, but slanted for home use.
  • Windows CE - for handheld and other small devices - little compatibility with Win95/98.
  • Windows CE 2.0 - the version that's supposed to work. Ooops, CE has a bad reputation now so they renamed it "Pocket".
  • Windows NT for Embedded Systems - we can pretty much forget about this one . . .
  • X Box - a whole new Windows for Microsoft's new game machine, due in late 2001.
(Index)


Clustering - Better, but needs testing

Wolfpack, Microsoft's NT clustering technology, delivered only a two-server failover configuration. NT's instability make this configuration essential for any installation requiring decent reliability, but that means you need twice as many servers to stay up a reasonable amount of the time.

Windows 2000 brings better failover and load balancing to clustering, which is good news for shops already committed to Microsoft, but it still has to be tested in the real world. Compared to the fully developed load balancing and failover clustering major Unix vendors offer for 24/7 critical systems, Windows 2000 is definitely not in the ball game yet. As always, "The next version will fix all that".

Performance clustering is something Windows 2000 doesn't do at all. Linux now holds a lock on turning a bunch of cheap computers into a single, low cost supercomputer (the U.S. Postal Service has over 900 of these Linux clusters in use sorting the mail). (Index)


Software Choice: Fact or Illusion?

A huge selection of software is available for the Microsoft Windows environment, but there is less and less significant software other than Microsoft's. Bill Gate's mission statement is clear: "A PC on every desk, running only Microsoft software". Microsoft now has the power, and the will, to make this come true.

An amazing amount of the available Windows software claims to fix Windows problems. These packages are not available for any other operating system, creating the illusion that Windows is "better supported". In reality, no other operating system needs any of these packages. Beyond this, the bulk of Windows software is games and "edutainment".

The main exception to Microsoft domination is accounting software, but when Microsoft buys an accounting software publisher (my guess is Great Planes), that market will also will dry up. Microsoft's goal is to eliminate choice entirely, and consumers seem to like it that way. Many software companies see the handwriting on the wall and some are trying to flee the Windows market. Most won't make it. (Index)


Single Vendor - you know the rest

Putting one Microsoft program on your computers is like getting a "little bit pregnant". It may take 9 months, but you are going to have the kid (or a traumatic experience). Eventually you will be "All Microsoft" just to get away from all those little problems Microsoft makes for their competitors. Then, it's just too expensive to replace all that software and retrain. You are now an integral part of Microsoft's upgrade revenue stream.

There is a faster way. If you install any of Microsoft's "client server" products (SQL Server, Back Office, Exchange Server) you are married to Microsoft and Windows NT Server permanently. These won't run on anything else (even Linux/SAMBA), and there is no migration path out. You can't escape without ripping out your business' entire infrastructure. Stay or leave, this is going to be expensive. (Index)


What Happened in France

France is the first location where Microsoft Office achieved a true monopoly, essentially eliminating all other office automation packages (the French worship Bill Gates like they worship Jerry Lewis - go figure). The immediate result was a doubling of the cost of French versions of Microsoft Office and other Microsoft products. They still cost half as much across the border in Germany where OS/2 is still a significant contender.

Anyone who imagines that won't happen here is fantasizing. In fact, it already has. Now that Microsoft Office has over 80% of corporate desktops, Microsoft eliminated concurrent licenses, roughly doubling the cost of Microsoft products to most corporations. Previously, a company needed only as many licenses as would be used simultaneously. Now, they must have a license for every user who might ever use the products. The corps squealed like stuck pigs when this happened, but, like stuck pigs, there was nothing they could do about it. Once committed to Microsoft, you can't afford to deploy anything else.

NEWS FLASH: OCT 1998 - The French Ministry of Education has signed agreements for assistance in installing Linux in any primary and secondary schools that feel pressured by the cost of Windows. Additionally, Dell Computer has agreed to provide computers without Windows for Linux installation, and IBM has signed agreements to support Linux in the French schools. (Index)


Windows 2000 - Will it Solve the Problems?

Windows NT 4.0 has about 17 million lines of code, most brought forward from Windows NT 3.51. NT 4.0 is not nearly as stable as NT 3.51 due to "enhancements" made to gain performance. Microsoft knew full well Windows NT could never be made into what they claimed it was, an "enterprise operating system". So, Windows 2000 has at least 35 million lines of code, 85% of which is new code, untried in the marketplace. It was released with 63,000 known "points of focus" (bugs).

If you haven't already read our article on the consequences of adopting Windows 2000, you will find it right here.

The big research firms (Gartner, Forrester, Giga, etc.) warn that no-one should try to go production with Windows 2000 until they have thoroughly tested, and not before mid 2001. Microsoft, on the other hand is in a growth bind and will try every trick they can think up to speed adoption. (Index)


What the Future Holds

"Well, this is all very depressing, but don't I need to go through this to keep up with what is happening in the future?"

Microsoft sure looks on the top of the world today, invincible and omnipotent, but, no. Windows is an anachronism - so steeped in programming practices of the past it can't be moved forward. Microsoft tries to stave off the future by buying up and liquidating new companies as they create new products threatening Windows. This is a losing gambit in any case, but they can't buy the Java coalition of Sun, IBM and Oracle - and they can't stop Linux. One is far larger than they, the other has no owner they can buy.

Realizing Java represents the wave of the future, Microsoft tried to corrupt it - to lure developers into programming in a "Windows only" version. At the recent Windows programming confab in New Orleans, Microsoft president Steve Balmer asked how many of the assembled 3,000 were programming in Java. Many hands! He asked how many were programming using Microsoft's J++ (corrupted Java). One hand - out of 3,000. Game over, thanks for playing.

The future is entirely networked, and Windows doesn't do networks well. The future is modular, and Windows is monolithic. The future is object oriented, and Windows is procedural. The future is centrally administered, and Windows is administered at the individual desktop.The future is multi-platform, and Windows runs only on Intel. The handwriting is on the wall - Windows will fall, and Microsoft with it, because Windows is really their only product. They that have gathered under the "All Microsoft" tent will be scrambling like roaches when the light's turned on. (Index)


Competitive Advantage

All said, you must consider this. Can you gain competitive advantage doing "what everyone else is doing"? Should you stay with a marvelously well marketed but dysfunctional information system? Should you yield control of your critical information systems to a huge company in Redmond Washington? Is the risk of going with a relatively "unknown" solution worth taking for a fast, stable, low cost system?

It is very possible the importance of running MS Office, SQL Server, Microsoft Back Office, Microsoft Exchange Server, or some other Windows program, or the convenient availability of thousands of software titles, or the ease of finding people familiar with Windows and Windows software, or having at work the same thing you have at home will make the "All Microsoft" path the right path for you. That is OK with us, but we feel full disclosure is necessary to an intelligent business decision. We would be doing no-one a favor (except Microsoft) by keeping the disadvantages of that path secret. Keep your eyes open and take your best shot. (Index)


Running Microsoft

Microsoft is a very, very smart company - anyone who says otherwise is just blowing smoke. So how do they run their business? Well, they've got a huge Windows NT network, as you might expect, with Exchange Server, Back Office, SQL Server, and all that, but when it comes down to the core business functions, Microsoft runs on IBM AS/400s. AS/400s do many things, but they don't do Windows. Ok, they do - but you need add-on boards. This became widely known and an embarrassment to Microsoft, so they "outsourced" the AS/400s. Now they can say "We don't have any".

Why AS/400s? AS/400s are stable as rocks, mature, extremely secure, downtime is measured in minutes per year (99.97% uptime in most cases), faster than any Intel platform could ever be, support a zillion simultaneous users, are smoothly scalable from "mom & pop" to multinational enterprise, support truly enterprise level software, are totally virus free (not even one!) and have the full strength of IBM's service organization behind them. In short, they are everything NT is not. (Index)

©:Andrew Grygus - Automation Access - www.aaxnet.com - aax2aaxnet.com
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