4+ Things I don’t Miss About Windows

So now I have transitioned my desktop into Linux, this means I no longer have any system that runs Windows (at least at native capacity.)

1. No more crappy update systems

Apparently, Windows has a defect (that roots from Windows XP) on its Windows Update driver, that can cause very high disk load on every startup/resume, mainly, for parsing datastore.edb file. This actually caused in bit of issues trying to use my system. Essentially, every time I turn on my machine to use, it’d take at least 10 minutes to “stabilize.” This has happened in three of prior systems, and latest machine, which is i7-2600 with 16GB didn’t help solve this issue either.

Besides, I have a lot of complaints of how the update system works on Windows. Unfortunately, Windows pretty much requires restart and just about any updates, perhaps thanks to its locking file system, too.

2. I am no longer underprivileged citizen of the system

Why am I getting “Access denied” when you are using your machine as Administrator? Because on Windows, you are not the man of the house. Windows has layers of the system that prevents people from doing stupid things in their system.

Essentially, on Windows, you are prevented to do a lot of stupid things. This mentality often causes cases where I know what I’m doing, but the system is not letting me do that.

For instance, on Linux and other Unix system, you can cause a bit of damage by doing something like:

sudo rm -rf /*

I am more than willing to take a risk, and if this command does kill my system, that’s my own fault. After all great power comes with great responsibilities.

 3. Exiting out from the blackbox

In any computing, you can’t really escape from error messages. Things happen in many degrees of issues. Some are minor, and some are major. If anything goes crazy on Linux, I can usually just type dmesg to find out what exactly happened in few seconds. Windows also has logging facility, but even after spending a long time trying to boot system event logs, information I can get is extremely limited. Something as simple as a defective thumb drive is a bit hard to investigate under Windows.

4. Locking file system

You can’t delete or move files that are in use. This is somewhat a legacy from old Windows versions. On Linux, you can do these things as executables are mostly preloaded into RAM, hence many system updates don’t require a reboot of the system.  Most of system has more RAM than you ever use, so this is very ridiculous notion that you still can’t do this on Windows.

Ranting continues…

Another thing I want to point out is that Microsoft has been harsh on IT professionals (well, I don’t know if I’d call myself “IT professional” but I do maintain a handful of systems…) lately. TechNet Plus was a useful resource in evaluating softwares, so I can support the platform that I don’t necessarily use. First, they degraded its contents of the subscription, and then they decided to retire it altogether. I was paying my own hard earned money to stay on top of the platforms I have been supporting. An enterprise may be able to move to MSDN, but smaller business, which relies heavily on personal expertise of staff, this won’t be very realistic. Anyways, Microsoft no longer seems to care. So why should I care? That’s pretty much what I will have to tell people from now on.

Why Windows 8 Will Be Support Nightmare (Especially in Small Businesses)

Windows 8 offers a radically new interface for computers, with new features like new Metro (what do they call it now? Windows 8 interface?) and other features, or non-features like lack of the Start button.

So why this is bad for small businesses? Simply put, it is bad for small businesses, unless whoever taking charge of IT in the organization is a Microsoft fanboy. In the context of small businesses I’m talking here, it is a size of around 3 to 10. (If the company is small enough, that it is only by yourself, or with just one other person, this is probably less relevant as IT administration is more of personal user than business users.)

So what small businesses lack that bigger corporation don’t? Usually, it comes down to more unstructured, and unorganized IT policies and privileges.

To name a few:

  • Smaller companies lack well defined upgrade path. Upgrade happens whenever the system gets updated. If the company is not big enough to take advantage of volume licensing, upgrade paths are often tied to the system being replaced.
  • Generally speaking, smaller businesses do not have access to downgrade privilege.
  • IT human resources for small businesses may not necessarily be dedicated. They may be wearing more than one hat beside IT. This means skill set of IT staffing in smaller company may be motivation driven — for instance, one who are investing more time on Linux or Mac may not be willing to improve their support ability in the new aspect of Windows 8 even when they are already knowledgeable in general know how.

I am maintaining IT assets for company size of 4 people, and it has been already bad enough when I have to support iOS devices — often I have to resort to unhelpful response, “I don’t know, I don’t use iOS.” Being a LibreOffice user (with a copy of Microsoft Office 2007 installed on the VM for occasionally compatibility, that I rarely boots up) I am more comfortable supporting Microsoft Office 2003 than what’s offered in those “ribbon interface” which makes it very difficult to support the application as well. (After all, I consider myself to be a computing expert, not vendor expert.)

So, yeah, this is pretty scary when it is time to upgrade a machine in the office is newer device. Hopefully, configuration of those devices is close enough that Windows 7 would be enough.

Fun with WINMAIL.DAT (not)

Someone told me of this problem when certain people reply to him, he does not see reply, but rather his own copy of the E-mail. (appears if the E-mail was resent back at him, but with recipient’s E-mail address.)

Investigating problem, I concluded this is bad implementation of Microsoft Outlook and also non-standard behavior of recipient’s E-mail system.

So here’s what happened. When he sent out his E-mail, it sends out winmail.dat, and that particular recipient was sending back original attachment, in this case winmail.dat back at sender when that person replies.

Winmail.dat, for those not familiar with it, is Transport Neutral Encapsulation Format which sounds like some sort of standard, but really is proprietary format used by Microsoft Outlook. When you send E-mail containing any RTF, the text of E-mail and its attachments are encoded into this format, and attached as winmail.dat.

It seems to be Microsoft Outlook reads winmail.dat higher priority than anything on the body of a E-mail, even when contents of these differs. Therefore, receiving original winmail.dat with reply caused Microsoft Outlook to display contents of winmail.dat (the original message) rather than contents of the body. (the reply)

Now, while I don’t think sending attachment with reply is a good thing, this same problem can potentially happen if someone forward E-mail with attachment, so I think Microsoft should be blamed on this case. In fact, this kind of problem is main reason I never use Microsoft Outlook. I had to use it at my work while ago, but I’d be trying to find some work around to not use it if I was forced to use one in future… Really, I never understood reason why they have to send E-mail in RTF at first hand, while there’s clear alternative of HTML for formatted E-mail. (Microsoft Outlook does support HTML E-mail, so why not dropping RTF?) Furthermore, encoding attachment into a proprietary format should be serious crime, really.

Searching for solution, I found out that KB958012 is a solution to this problem. This article explains the way to edit registry to disable Microsoft Outlook’s behavior of attaching winmail.dat. So here’s a question I want ask Microsoft. Why did you not include this option in options screen on the program, rather than forcing users search through your knowledge base to offer registry fix? Also, you should never ever allow winmail.dat on the internet E-mail. (I don’t want receive them either) What you’d be doing between users in your Exchange server is fair game; but at least use of winmail.dat should be whitelist basis.

Using Microsoft Excel as Word Processor? You Bet!

Few weeks ago, Japanese Slashdot.org put up an article, titled Americans Surprised in Craze, Japanese Using Excel for Graph Paper. Idea is that a lot of Japanese use Microsoft Excel for doing work seems to be more suitable with word processors, such as Microsoft Word. (I personally like OpenOffice.org, but that’s not the point here…)
Indeed, I have seen a lot of people writing anything from concept proposal, to design documents (or specifications) on Excel. Luckily, I haven’t had to edit or maintain any of them.
Somehow, Japanese developed obsession to lines on paper — there are many electronic document they are creating consisting of boxes, which you’d see on IRS forms, just they are everywhere in Japanese documents. (In fact, earlier versions of Japanese Microsoft Word had its own special function to make it — now it should be there universally. OpenOffice.org is slow to adopt some advanced aspects of those features, because this is quite localized requests.)
This maybe due to the fact that Japanese language consists of character in constant size, with no kerning. A lot of Japanese people seem to use spreadsheet applications, for ease of being able to start paragraphs anywhere on the paper.
I haven’t seen anything personally, but apparently, there are people out there who would paste bitmap image on Excel, and send it off to others. (I’ll go nuts if I see that happening!)
I’m strong opponent of using Excel (or any spreadsheet application) for making document. There are some valid reasons to it.

  1. Spreadsheet application can’t define hierarchical structure of the document. Which means the resulting document will not have structured heading, contents, or sub-headings.
  2. Cross referencing is nearly impossible. Mostly, coming from the fact above. If there are no structure, it cannot be defined. If you think you can define it as a position of a cell, read on.
  3. It is nearly impossible to retain structural information without extensive repair, should the document needs to be updated. Any primitive aspect of the document, including line break needs to be adjusted manually. (you could put the contents on one big cell to solve this problem by having line wrap take care of this, but doing this defeats whole purpose of the spreadsheet supporters trying to achieve using spreadsheet to do word processing.)
  4. Printing is nightmare. If you try to print it, especially across different paper sizes, or even different printing environment (fonts, etc.) this will be nightmare.

So what do I recommend? Do it on word processing applications! Well, it is practiced mostly in Japan, so I guess saying this in English wouldn’t help much. Though, there are now a lot of Japanese website that showing strong opposition of using Excel for this purpose, it seems like this is strong trend, and I feel sorry for opponents living in Japan…