Big Tin

Big tin: IT infrastructure used by organisations to run their businesses. And other stuff too when I feel like it…

iPad? Just say no

If the world needed an iPad, why hasn’t one been invented before? Oh look: it has. Called the Newton when Apple launched it in 1992 – there were a couple of others released about the same time but the Newton got the headlines – it died in 1998 as not enough people bought it.

Will the iPad be different? Do you care?

Amid the inevitable hoopla and swooning going on in Applista diasporas at media outlets such as the Guardian and the BBC, let’s be clear: the iPad is a blown-up iPhone. And already we hear calls for there to be a cut-down version of the iPad so that you can carry it in your pocket. Thought that’s what an iPhone was…

The iPad’s remit seems to be more limited than the Newton’s. There’s no handwriting recognition for a start but it is very shiny, has bright colours and maybe the battery life is long enough to make it useful enough to carry around all day. I await review samples for verification. There’s no talk of local connectivity to either Mac or Windows, no talk of open access to all the applications you want, no talk of opening up the OS so that others can develop extensions or applications.

And for all of Jobs’ sneering at netbooks, mine works for hours on a single charge, runs Ubuntu quite happily – though I suspect that Windows 7 might actually be easier to to use in terms of getting everything working, but at least I have the choice.

As one blogger has already pointed out, this closed-world mentality could be the fatal flaw in the iPad’s shiny armour.

iPad? I don’t think so.

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Filed under: Laptop, mobile, operating systems, Product launch, , , , , ,

Guidance for upgrading to Windows 7 RTM

The purpose of this post is to help you start with a copy of the Windows 7 RTM code and upgrade an existing installation, especially if you installed the Windows 7 release candidate.

Note that this is not a detailed how to – there’s plenty of those on the Web already, and anyway it’s really not that difficult. Instead, this is a list of some of the gotchas that could put a spoke in the smooth ride that Microsoft promises but so often fails to deliver. Rule one: be patient…

1. Copy the installation files onto your hard disk. It’s faster than installing from a DVD and allows you to make a small tweak that you’ll need if you’re upgrading from the Windows 7 RC (release candidate) as I did. Even better, install from a second hard disk or a USB stick, as this will speed things further.

2. Get a proper copy of the OS and check the files are all valid. If you don’t do this, you could get a third of the way through the process only for the installation process to throw up an error because it couldn’t read a file. That’s annoying.

3. If you’re upgrading from the release candidate of Windows 7, then you need to make a small alteration to \Sources\cversion.ini, as an in-place upgrade, as opposed to a fresh installation, is not officially supported. However, it does work without problems if you do the following:
i) Open cversion.ini with Notepad. This is what you’ll see:
[HostBuild]
MinClient=7233.0
MinServer=7100.0

ii) Alter the first line so it reads:
MinClient=7000.0

iii) Save the file. That’s it.

4. Start the installation and load up your patience.

5. After a few prompts, the system will tell you that it doesn’t need your attention: effectively, it’s telling you to go away and come back in a while. If you’re upgrading an existing installation, that timescale is longer than you think. I left it running overnight and it took over six hours to copy across an installation of several hundred gigabytes. Don’t be tempted to reboot if it seems to be doing nothing at the start of the ‘Transferring settings’ section.

6. If you do reboot before the process completes, check the logs in the c:\$WINDOWS.~BT\Sources\Panther folder, especially setupact.log, to find out why it failed. There’s a workaround available here for an installation that gets stuck around 61%-62%. The system should then roll back to your original OS – it worked three times for me after rebooting at different points in the installation process, despite the dire warnings about doing so.

7. Why might you want to do this?
i) Your Win7 RC licence key runs out in June 2010
ii) The release candidate manifested a few glitches
iii) The release candidate certainly included some debug code, slowing things down.

Each of these three reasons is a good one to get onto the RTM code asap – together they’re compelling. Unless of course you decide that Windows 7 is not for you and you want to go run Ubuntu…

Filed under: How-To, operating systems, , , , , ,

Microsoft trashes its brand — with Apple the big winner

You have to wonder if Microsoft really knows what it’s doing. There’s a lot of hoo-hah around the Web about Windows 7, and how it’s going to fix Vista’s problems. Thing is, the signs are that it won’t — and that Apple will be the biggest winner.

That Microsoft understands it has a problem with Vista is obvious: the company took — what? — six years to drag Vista onto dealers’ shelves after the launch of Windows XP, following which Microsoft seemed to just squat on its haunches and watch the money roll in. In comparison, Windows 7, slated to launch later this year, follows hard on Vista’s heels, just over two years later.

Windows Vista’s done a lot of damage to Microsoft’s reputation and brand. The last sheer dog was Windows ME, which answered a question no-one asked (a bit like a Porsche Cayenne – only prettier) but proved to have all sorts of technical problems associated with it (not at all like a Porsche Cayenne, apparently).

But when ME was launched, messing with PCs was still by and large a minority sport.

No longer. Everyone and his or her dog has at least one PC. My sister-in-law, who knows close to nothing about computers, has two in her family — and guess who gets the tech support questions — but let’s just leave that one there. The point is that the brand is now ubiquitous, and Microsoft messes with it at its peril.

So the damage to Microsoft is proportionately bigger when it messes up as it has done with Vista — it’s so bad even people who know nothing about Vista notice. They notice that some of their old software doesn’t run properly any more. They notice too that they keep getting asked stupid questions to which they don’t know and couldn’t possibly be expected to know the answer. So of course they click OK — in which case, users quite reasonably say, why does the computer bother them at all?

Is Windows 7 going to fix these issues? We’re told so and I hope to be able to report on a copy on the release candidate in the not too distant future.

Just as important from Microsoft’s point of view is the enterprise market. A recent survey of over 1,100 IT managers and commissioned by KACE, a systems management company, found that “84 percent of IT staff polled do not have plans to upgrade existing Windows desktop and laptop systems to Windows 7 in the next year”.

Why aren’t IT managers following the Microsoft roadmap — assuming such a thing exists (Redmond used to flaunt one but hasn’t done so for years)? They cited software compatibility, cost of implementation, and the current economic environment as their main concerns.

The story told to me by the company’s Wynne White is that enterprises are sticking with XP for the time being. Some 89 per cent of the 500,000-plus desktops managed by KACE appliances use it, while just 1.89 per cent use Vista. For sure, deployments of new enterprise desktops are always slow — it’s the nature of the beast — but White reckoned that he could see at least five years’ life in XP yet.

And while they’re not going to Vista, they’re also being much more cautious with Win7. “People’s perception is positive but they’re being much more cautious in their approach,” he said.

“Eighty-four per cent are not going to adopt Windows 7 in the next 12 months, but more telling is that 72 per cent said they were more concerned about upgrading to Windows 7 than they were about staying with XP,” said White.

What all this suggests is that Windows has run out of steam. People no longer have any real reason to upgrade — if that’s the right word. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that, for all intents and purposes, Windows XP is good enough: it’s easy to use, robust, stable, and reasonably secure (could do better, of course). Neither of its two successors offer all of that — and they’re just as expensive.

Linux looks to be a big desktop OS winner — at least in the enterprise. White reckoned that, in the 2007 version of this annual survey, 42 per cent said they’d switch to Linux, but two years later in 2009, half said they’d switch. And when asked if they either had switched or were in the process of switching, nine per cent said yes in 2007, 11 per cent in 2008 and 14 per cent this year.

But Linux isn’t the big beast Microsoft fears: it’s Apple. Between a half and a third of those IT managers said they were contemplating going Mac for their next tranche of desktops.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Microsoft seems to be in the process of trashing its brand — and Apple looks to be the biggest picker-up of the pieces.

It’s just a major shame that Apple’s business model and contempt for its users is even less appetising than Microsoft’s…

Filed under: desktops, operating systems, , , , , , , , ,

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