Thursday, June 29, 2006

All good things....


"Microsoft is dying. Windows will lose it's crown as the dominant desktop OS within 5 years." - Robert Rittmuller

There, I said it. I suspect that many who read those words will disagree, but I suspect that there are those who are beginning to suspect I might just be right. Why? Read on!

If you have been following the news lately you might have noticed an interesting trend. Microsoft seems to be generating a significant amount of negative attention from most media outlets, and for good reason. The giant software company has been thrashing around in what seems like a never-ending attempt to find corporate direction. Over the last 10 years all Microsoft knew was how to expand it's core products. If it needed something "innovative" it simply looked outside itself for some small company to buy. Also, it had the deep pockets to lure talent to back up those transactions. I remember back during the boom years, being purchased by Microsoft was considered to be "making it". Wow have times changed, now Microsoft is struggling with several major issues. Together these issues will present an insurmountable challenge over the next five years leading to a vastly different operating system and general software marketplace than we have today.

So what are these challenges? Out of the almost unlimited possibilities I have selected several key challenges that I feel are critical to the developments leading to Microsoft's OS downfall over the next five years.

1. Too big for their britches.
Over the last 10 years Microsoft has grown from a small software company to this 800 pound guerilla that can't get out of it's own way. Innovation came mostly from acquisitions of smaller companies and through imitation, often long after it became obvious that the industry was moving in that direction. Today's computing markets move many times faster than those of 10 years ago, leaving Microsoft with a huge mobility problem in supporting the current implementations of both Windows and Office. Combine this with Microsoft's belief that they "own" the OS market and you have the makings of downward trend.

2. Brain drain.
With Bill Gates heading for the door, and several key engineers also making a run for it (to google no less), I think we can expect to see things begin to gum up even more than we are seeing now. Recent missteps in both product development (Windows Vista delays) and customer support (Windows Genuine Advantage Program) have show how the software giant is starting to falter just when the market in finally in a position to take advantage of these mistakes.

3. Brave new world.
With recent advances in virtualization technology, multi-core processors and most importantly, the introduction of the Linux desktop OS market, Microsoft has to face a battle on several fronts. This is by far the greatest technological threat Microsoft has had to face yet. Until recently Microsoft almost always was the direct beneficiary of whatever new hardware technology that was coming down the development pipeline. Recent advances have focused less on Windows directly, playing more to the general OS marketplace. This industry trend is a strong sign that vendors are worried that Microsoft might not be the only game in town anymore. Over this past year, hardware virtualization has also allowed several non-Microsoft OS platforms to run Windows at a performance point good enough to impress even the most critical business user. This is very important for business who wish to support legacy Windows applications while still having access to recent advances in both Mac OS and Linux (plus many others) operating systems. Virtualization will allow existing Windows users to run their older applications right alongside state-of-the-art, modern (aka legacy-free) software with far less concerns about both security and stability.

4. The foundation is cracked.
One major problem that has plagued Windows for years now has been that it was never designed for today's world. Each new version of Windows has simply been a revamp of the version that came before, adding new features without removing any old ones. This might be good for compatibility, but it has been a disaster for security and OS stability. Windows Vista appears to be a continuation of this trend. Linux and several other OS platforms were developed much more recently and, most importantly, are being developed on a almost constant basis. Both Linux and Mac OS X undergo annual releases and in the case of Linux, sometimes even more frequently than that. This new rapid software development cycle also puts the code out in front of the general public so legacy problems are found and addressed much faster. Another interesting byproduct of this process also seems to be a rapid cycle of what I usually call "code rebirth". This occurs when developers abandon legacy code when it has outlived it's usefulness in favor of leaner, more modern code. Through the "code rebirth" process we get applications that benefit from legacy knowledge (same developers) without the dangers of legacy code itself. Simply put, today's OS and application environment is running circles around the traditional development cycles. This has put Microsoft at a huge disadvantage and will continue to produce problems for the software giant through the next five years.

5. When money can't save you.
Out of all the reasons listed so far this one is the biggest. Why? It's simple. Microsoft has always had deep enough pockets to pull itself out of every hole in the road so far...until now. Enter Google, with bright and highly motivated engineers, and most importantly, pockets too deep for Microsoft to get their hands into. And Google is not the only company that Microsoft can't buy. We now have an entire marketplace full of companies that are valued far above what Microsoft could hope to realistically offer. In addition to the pure money factor we also have an environment where anti-trust issues are all to easy to run into. This situation has Microsoft paralyzed. They simply don't know what to do! For the first time in 10 years they have to face a market where they have no choice but to compete.


So to wrap up this mega-post, I predict that in five years Microsoft will no longer be a "player" in the OS, and maybe even the general software market thanks to both recent technology changes and the rise of OS independent software, and the companies that support it. I am sure there are many more reasons than the those I listed, but I think real change is in the air, and ultimately for Microsoft, all good things (like this post!) must eventually come to an end.

It's a bad thing

Not much I can say that won't just fan the flames on the latest news regarding internet neutrality laws. Looks like the Senate has shot down the latest attempt to keep the media giants at bay. Like I said in my last post on this topic....if you enjoy having streaming video and services such as iTunes then this is very bad news indeed.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Samsung D807 Mini-Review & Tips

Last week I decided that I needed the ability to access the Internet on my cell phone and my current phone lacked this function. Yes, I know...not quite the best idea, but I wanted to try out several services such as Google Calendar notifications and this seemed to be the best way to go about it. So, I picked up a brand spanking new Samsung D807 slider cell phone. Since I have only had this phone a few days I will leave a full review for a later date but so far I am quite satisfied with my purchase. One feature I wanted to try out right away was the ability for the phone to function as a modem (in a pinch) for my Macbook Pro. This effort required several small software and settings adjustments that took me several hours to track down. In the interests of sharing the wealth, I will give a quick walkthru here on how I managed to get the modem feature (Edge) working through Bluetooth on a Macintosh notebook using the Cingular Edge network.

Step One: Get the software! Before you can do anything you need the right modem scripts which can be found here. (You need to grab the generic 3G scripts.)

Step Two: Get the details on which settings to program into the Internet Connect software. Just in case the forum post goes away here are the basic settings:

Service Provider: Cingular (optional)
Account Name: WAP@CINGULARGPRS.COM
Password: CINGULAR1
Telephone Number: wap.cingular
Step Three: Pair your phone using Bluetooth with your Mac and use the above information when prompted. I selected "Modem" during this process and was prompted for the information automatically. If you want (or you don't get the prompt) you can enter this information (or edit it) through the Network settings under System preferences in the Apple menu.

If all goes well you should be able to make a connection through your phone (works great using the D807!)

Another great tip for anyone using the Samsung D807 would be to download Opera Mini, which I found to be significantly faster than the built-in browser.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Apple iTunes Movie Service

Not that downloading movies from the iTunes service would be any huge surprise but I wanted to make a few observations regarding the latest rumors about this new service.
Although I have always been a huge fan of downloadable content, and I continue to be a strong supporter of the whole concept of podcasts and TV shows, I have some concerns regarding the same service for full length movies. One aspect of DVD video that I really like is the high quality video and dolby 5.1 surround sound since I usually watch movies on a large format screen. If the current quality of iTunes video is the standard for which these movies will be also distributed then I most likely will only make use of such a service if the movie is simply not available via DVD. I do like the $9.99 price point, but without the "DVD quality" I can't really see this being something I would really get into. The technology is there for DVD quality, as demonstrated by all the DIVX movies one can find on eMule and other such services but it remains to be seen if Apple will use something similar in this new service.

Computer Bugs

Funny thing happened to me while using my trusty Macbook Pro while enjoying the nice weather we are having here in the Boston area today. I was sitting outside and had my machine on a stone wall (which I was also sitting on) and used it for about 10 minutes or so to check email and catch up on news. Apparently I must have picked up some hitchhikers...Because when I fired up my machine to write a post for this blog back home I observed several small bugs (the kind with little legs) running for their lives once the computer began to heat up. Anyone know owns a Macbook Pro can tell you all about just how hot these machine can get under the right situations....so just imagine how fast these bugs were beating a hasty retreat as things began to heat up! Hmm, new way to eliminate hardware bugs?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Net Neutrality: The Hidden Agenda

Now here is an issue that should be cast out of the shadows right now. The raging debate on net neutrality has nothing to do with about half of what both news and broadband providers are currently talking about. The basic arguement, that they have the right to charge more (or anything at all) for internet content delivery to end users has very little to do with any monies they may collect through this process. The real deal here is the coming war over major changes in the way we watch/listen/read media. Currently most people watch cable TV in order to get their daily fix of news and other programs. But that's all about to change, and in ways that the cable companies are starting to become very afraid of. You see, people are starting to use high speed broadband connections to download and watch major shows using services that allow you to only view (and pay for) just what you want. Let me make this very clear, THIS IS HUGE. This completely cuts out the cable providers from delivering TV to homes AND gives consumers what they have been asking for, a-la-carte programming, making this a very large threat indeed. The issue is such a hot potato that even opposing media forces are getting into the mix!

So, what's a typical cable company to do....well, what just about every established media company or sector tries when confonted with a major technological shift that threatens an established buisness model, they try to block it. In this case they are attempting to gain the right to restrict what goes through cable modem connections. Make no mistake, this is the first logical step towards blocking or greatly restricting VOD (video on demand) services such as Apple iTunes and many others. Loss of access to this technology would force consumers to continue to pay the inflated cable TV prices , something I think we all would like to avoid.

UPDATE: Caught this on Ars Technica and found it very amusing.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Patch Tuesday Looking Ugly

It's looking like this Tuesday is going to be quite busy for anyone running Windows XP thanks to a whole crop of updates being released by Microsoft. As usual, there are some critical ones and those who run Exchange might want to take a peek also this time around. Here is the official details from Microsoft regarding the June patches.

News.com also has a good story outlining the impact of several of the changes made in these updates.

UPDATE: Of course those who do not have your Microsoft Genuine Advantage spyware/software running and up to date need not apply, since it will just refuse to download the updates.

UPDATE 2: Now officially released....start your patching!

UPDATE 3: Exploits out, start patching faster!

Less than trusted computing from Microsoft

One of the more annoying things about computing today is the stupid things software publishers are doing to try to reduce software piracy. This recent news story about Microsoft's latest attempts to thwart people's attempts to use bogus copies of Windows XP is just unreal. I ran across this at work the other day when I noticed that my 3rd party firewall software kept alerting me to a new process which was trying to "call home". After some investigation I learned that it was this new "feature" of Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) software. Every time you boot Windows XP it now calls Microsoft to "check in". I think it's about time people start voicing some outrage over things like this before we spend more time wondering what our legitimately purchased software is doing in the background than we do actually using it.

One quick note: I was able to stop this issue cold by setting my firewall software to always block the outbound request. I have no idea what the long term effect of doing this might be but at least I know it's not calling home anymore!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Microsoft Kittens XP

If you are like me and have allergies and love cats then you might just find this story on CNN very interesting. Too bad the price is now up to $4000! Not to mention that I will always wonder what the "side effects" might be... (do they turn evil?) They do look cute though, and life without sneezing sounds almost worth it! Another interesting point the story raises:
"Brodie said the cats would be spayed and neutered to prevent breeding with naturally born animals."
Not sure about how well that's going to work out for them, maybe someone should send them a copy of Jurassic Park just in case :-/

Product Review: Parallels Workstation - It's a virtual world!

One new technology product that has been very high on my radar recently is this new software from a small company called Parallels Workstation. What this software does, put simply, is to allow you to run multiple OS instances at the same time. This ability is by no means a new idea, as VMware and others have been doing this for quite a while now. What's new about Parallels take on this is how smooth the process has become, and how tightly integrated the support for Intel's latest hardware virtualization (buzzword!) is. The speed is impressive, and my own daily use has resulted in no major compatibility issues. My computer of choice right now is a Apple Macbook Pro and I have very quickly become attached to the Mactel (Intel Macs Only) version of this software. I run Windows XP, Fedora Core 5, and even sometimes Solaris 10, all without breaking a sweat (2gb ram helps a bunch!). I can't say enough good things about this package, and the price is just about awesome at only $39 right now.

For those who want to know more about how virtualization can be used, consider these ideas. Lets say you are a developer, you are coding for a new web application but the system administrators are too busy to setup a new development machine for you to play with. No problem, just fire up Parallels and create a new VM for your project, just install the desired OS, configure things for your application, and off you go. One neat trick I use frequently is to create basic installations of my two main OS flavors, Windows XP, and Fedora Core 5. I save these to an external hard drive so when I need to create a new VM I just make a copy of the one I need, saving hours of configuration time! Another common use for virtualization is to create several virtual worlds for server applications on one large machine (which supports virtualization). Commonly referred to as server consolidation, this allows for more effective use of data center resources. If you were to use my trick mentioned above then you could conceivably deploy whole new "servers" for customers in minutes vs. days due to the reduction in the installation times.

My final word: If you have an Intel Mac get it now! (Newer XP machines might also find it useful)

Wow, that was easy...

So that took about 30 seconds... All I wanted was someplace to drop off my daily techno-rants for those who care to give the nod, and I got this awsome blog tool! Not that this is my regular cup of tea mind you, but something new and exciting for me to explore and since this is my first post I feel somewhat obliged to offer up a simple explination as to what I plan on doing with this blog. Well, simply put I will be offering up my daily observations on all things technology related. This might be product reviews, observations on technology trends or just rants about wasted commute time into work, but I pledge that it will all somehow be technology related and well worth a quick read for those in the know ;-)