Windows 8 and Microsoft Accounts

Windows 8 and 8.1 consumer versions need and use and Microsoft Accounts. A lot of the incremental value of the modern UX and even some of the operating system fundamentals (ex: device encryption by default) is wrapped up in having an account. If you choose to go a different way, as did this Washington Post reporter, please understand that you have gone a different way and your opinion of the tiles, modern UX and the like is going to be relative to a custom mode you’ve arbitrarily set up. Like shutting off the file indexer for “performance”; the OS will limp along best it can, but it’s not our intended experience. There are plenty of places in the OS to criticize (including making you use a Microsoft account) about what we did intend without making us own an experience you created by following 3rd party instructions on the web.

Also, I’ll note that cloud integration is a big part of where computing is going. If you are running a mainstream computing experience, there will be a cloud ID attached to soon it if there isn’t already. There may someday be a mass market for a consumer experience without such, but I haven’t seen it.

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Silverlight, Netflix and Tech Support

In response to some news from Netflix regarding the need for less specialized tech support after going to silverlight, the correct answer is “Duh”. Doing your own custom ActiveX control means a lot of exposure to install and platform issues goes away or becomes someone else’s tech support problem.

DRM Thoughts

Saw yet another comment on a blog about Vista and DRM, and thought I could contribute a few distinctions:

DRM Supporting Features
This refers to a set of technologies that help enable practical DRM, but aren’t DRM themselves. This includes stuff like APIs that tell applications that if the output path for audio or video enables perfect digital quality capture without protection. It also includes technologies like “Protected Processes”. Most DRM Enforcing features have hacky ways to do this stuff which can lower system reliability or performance, so adding it as a OS feature improves system reliability and performance in the presence of such applications. These features also tend to overlap with other aspects of security, such a trusted OS private data store or generic encryption decryption libraries. This is the “DRM” support that Vista included in Windows.

DRM Enforcing Features
This refers to applications and shared libraries that allow DRM’d media to play. Typically this handles media decryption and uses various DRM Related Features to help enforce the DRM policy. ITunes, Quicktime, Windows Media Player, Zune and IRM are examples of this type of category. In this category DRM is a capability not a requirement.

DRM Limited Features
This refers to a product or feature that requires DRM and only DRM. The IPhone Apps, most of the iTMS, and the Zune Pass are all examples of this. The hallmark of this notion is that some key device usage is conditional on DRM enforcement.

I’m okay with DRM Supporting and DRM Enforcing, and have a personal policy with regards to DRM Limited Features. Basically it’s a personal acknowledgement that you can’t own DRM’d stuff.; you can only rent it. If you understand this, then you can enjoy features like netflix streaming, the Zune Pass or other time fee based services. The furthest I’ve crossed this line is “buying” Xbox360’s arcade games. Anyhow, when people bitch about Vista and DRM, I’d love to hear reasons why DRM Supporting Features are a bad thing, and specifically how Vista’s actual implementation of them have been problematic.

More on the IE8/Standards fun

I really enjoy Joel’s writing. He does a nice job explaining the state of affairs: Martian Headsets – Joel on Software

Not understanding the Constraints

Reading the original IE Blog Article and the /. Discussion on the X-UA-Compatible markings, I have reached a couple of conclusions.

  • There is a camp of people who think that standards are an end to themselves free from nitty gritty details like solving real world problems.
  • Some people understand the issues but are happy to give the finger to billions of lines of working HTML pages and HTML generating code because it didn’t have the honor of being standards compliant years ago when it was written. (I think these people are secretly interested in donating their time to a  Y2K style effort of fixing all these old sites)
  • Many commenters don’t understand the constraints of this particular problem

For the sake of the last camp, I will attempt to make the issues clear up the problem constraints (and fail).

  1. It is unacceptable to break existing pages. If a person’s favorite site doesn’t work, they will avoid the upgrade or downgrade back to the old browser.  Assuming that all browser upgrades brings us closer to interoperable web standards, non adoption of the latest browser version is a very bad thing.
  2. Most existing content is immutable. There is too much of it and too much work to fix all the HTML and HTML generators which originally produced it.
  3. Web Standards and Implementations are not instantaneously mature, which means that all implementations will ship with bugs. While this is painfully obvious in IE, it is also demonstrated elsewhere: Firefox 2 doesn’t pass ACID 2, Firefox 3 will. What happens to pages depending on the bugs in Firefox 2 fixed in Firefox 3?
  4. There is an awful mess of pages out there that will forever be in Quirks mode and IE6/7 "standards" mode. Any solution that doesn’t deal this issue is broken.
  5. It can’t be a one time fix (debatable?). Something like a one time doctype change is not sustainable and leads to the same problem over and over again (since there will always be the latest new standard). Any solution should be good to handle this type of problem again and again for every browser vendor.

So now that you understand the constraints and you still have issues, make the world a better place and figure out a better solution then Microsoft did.

They are just more critical these days

Since the launch of Vista, I’ve simply been amazed and the frequency and severity of criticism Vista has received. I humbly accept the places where the complaints make sense to me (Performance/Compatibility; and in many cases I grok the reason compatibility was broken), but much of it, like the DRM hype is just astonishing to watch. Worse, there are many features and improvements that I’ve yet to see Vista get credit for. Anyhow, I’ve been collecting theories of what happened:

  • Security trumped compatibility in this release. (Most of the things that Windows could do without breaking stuff was done in XPSP2)
  • We didn’t focus on compatibility like we did in Windows 95
  • We shipped new Networking, Audio and Video stacks in Vista, and that will cause application compatibility issues and it’s going to take a while for drivers to catch back up to the level of optimization we had before.
  • Too many little features, not enough big ones.
    • Broken planning, dependency tracking, etc.
    • Ship everything at once mentality, instead of incremental improvements
  • There wasn’t enough architectural oversight of the product
  • Too many shifting and impossible to follow through “Basics” (Don’t worry if you don’t get this one)
  • Vista wasn’t selfhost-able until way too late in the product cycle
  • Since the product shipped late, expectations were set to negative by default
  • XP brought the reliability people were screaming for, XPSP2 brought the security people were screaming for. Vista just meet a fundamental need the way XP did.
  • The big stuff people were promised didn’t show up (WinFS and ???)
  • This is really the same thing XP went through
  • ABMs (Anything But Microsoft) people are more are listened to more and more effective with FUD then in the past.
  • They are just more critical these days

I must admit, I didn’t get the last one when I was told it, but I’ve been warming up to it. Enough people are computer savvy now that they no longer blame themselves when things break, they blame the hardware and software people. Well actually, most people just plain blame Microsoft, but give it a couple another decade and people will get better at blaming individual hardware/software manufacturers. While none of the the list is self sufficient as a reason, the recent criticism around Apple’s Leopard release is giving more and more credit to the theory.

Vista

So I’ve started to see some press getting way down on Vista about things I haven’t experienced and decided to go and see if I could figure out what was going on. First off, let me summarize my house’s trip to vista.

  • Machines
    • 3 older machines
    • 1 brand new nice 64 bit box
  • Issues
    • Memory
      • Most of my machines needed a memory upgrade to be happy on vista.  Where I Couldafford it machines went to 2Gb.
    • RAW photo support for my camera on 64 bit windows
      • Canon was in no rush to release it and I still don’t have RAW support on 64bit (which is where I do photo stuff)
    • Media Center on 64 bit
      • It was either the 64bitness or trying to also use the machine as a desktop while it was a media center, but this led to a lot of crashes of media center.
    • Loud machines
      • Since vista supports sleep better then previous versions, I started used it for my desktops. I then started to notice the noise difference between on and off.

 

And while I’m at it, the BS issues that people complain about, but I don’t get the issue.

  • DRM
    • Everyone gripes about it and it’s the default reason people give for anything that is broken, but it probably has nothing to do with anything since I’m not aware of anyone using it’s new features yet. It’s a passive, when the application asks for it, feature not an active (lets look for violations) system.
  • UAC
    • When you get a okay/cancel UAC prompt, you are running as an administrator and if you weren’t you would have been asked for administrator account and password. Even when you run as administrator with UAC, you are not administrator. The prompt authorizes a process to run as true administrator. There is a reasonable amount of security value here. The main question is “Should this require administrator rights to run?” whenever you see a prompt. Frankly I don’t get prompted often, and when I do, I find it’s appropriate. The notable exception is when I want to see details of what driver is loaded for my network card or video card. The UI for viewing and setting the settings weren’t separated and so you get a prompt even when you don’t want to change anything.
    • If you think UAC is annoying, the question is, what did it prompt you for that it shouldn’t have?
    • It’s very amusing when people comment about UAC and get recommend another OS that does the same thing, except requires you type in a password.

Okay, so now that I have that out of the way… I’ll next write on where and what I’ve learned