Thursday, August 9, 2012

Are You Upgrading to Windows 8?

Microsoft recently announced Windows 8.  In their announcement, they claim that it has been totally overhauled, redone, and as far as I can tell the biggest news is - it is using the Metro live-app panel made famous in its smart phone interface for the start menu.  Are you ready to make the switch?

My first introduction to Windows was version 1.0.  In Version 1.0, they introduced the mouse, pull-down menus, graphical interface - all the stuff Xerox developed and gave away to the world.  Wow.  It wasn't until version 3.0 that it was "stable" - and by "stable" I mean usable.  The graphics back then were really low resolution, it didn't leave much room on the screen for stuff.  DOS was better.

By 3.0 there was VGA graphics, and it did the trick.  But the Mac had PhoneNet, a networking over phone lines where you could hook up computers, share files and printers.  So Microsoft had to compete - and they came out with Windows for Workgroups.  That was a mess - ask anyone who worked with it!  Forget it.

As the industry and technology matured, they finally came out with a viable version that networked, and that was called Windows 95.  Finally, a version of Windows you could use and only reboot once a day to maintain stability from crashes.  Kind of.

Long story short, there were many many released versions of Windows - with only a few stable versions in between.  More than half of the versions were considered by the professional community to be stable, as indicated by boldfaced type below:
  • Windows 1.0 c. 1987
  • Windows 2.0 c. 1987
  • Windows 3.0 c. 1988-1989
  • Windows 3.1 c. 1989 - Didn't freeze that often, only had to reboot a few times a day on average, had to format hard drive and reinstall OS every 6 months or so to maintain performance
  • Windows 3.11 c. 1989-1990
  • Windows for Workgroups c. 1989-1990
  • Windows 95 c. 1995 - Didn't freeze or Blue Screen that often, only had to reboot a couple of times a day on average, had to format hard drive and reinstall OS every 6 months or so to maintain performance
  • Windows NT c. 1996 - (Server version) Recommended reboot once a week to maintain "stability"
  • Windows ME c. 1999
  • Windows 2000 c. 1999 - Only had to reboot once a week, had to reformat hard drive and reinstall OS once a year to maintain performance
  • Windows 2003 c. 2002 R1 and R2 - (Server version) First stable, able to run long periods without reboot
  • Windows XP c. 2002 - (not stable until Service Pack 3 several years later - hence both bold and non-bold characters)
  • Windows XP 64 bit c. 2004 - Although generally considered a stable operating system, many of the applications were inherently unstable because of the underlying Operating System's unstable handling of 64- and 32-bit applications
  • Windows Vista c. 2008
  • Windows 7 c. 2009 - I reboot my laptop about 2-3 times a month because of instability that does not usually crash the whole system, just makes things annoying
  • Windows 2008 R1 and R2 c. 2009 - (Server version)
  • Windows 8 (the jury's out as it's not yet released)
Now, it is important to define what we mean when we say Released.  All software vendors have pre-release versions of their software for testing and preview, and it is universally accepted that these pre-releases (called Alpha or Beta releases) are or may be unstable.  A Release is an actual production of the software, deployment on sold equipment.  That is to say, that machines ship with the software loaded on them, and there is no downgrading (unless you have the disk and do it yourself).  Above are only the Releases listed - except for Windows prior to its initial release at 3.0.

By my count, that is 15 releases since 3.0.  Of those, 7.5 were considered stable (XP is mixed).  That puts Microsoft's track record on Release at 50% (let's be generous and say XP 64 really was stable, 57%).  That's pretty close to every other release.  Further, they claim that they completely rearchitected Windows.

As an analogy, let's imagine that we were a company that made cars.  We develop a car in R&D, test it out, then put it out in the dealerships to sell.  Every other model we release just doesn't work.  What happens?  A whole host of things - but many of them just crash.  Stuck accelerators, won't start, brakes fail, steering freezes.  Yet, we sell more cars than anyone else - Honda, GM, Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Chrysler, Hyundai, Fiat - anyone.  Why is that?  How is that - I mean really, you must have everyone hoodwinked, right?  Perhaps it's because we have the coolest styling - yeah it may suck and isn't reliable, but at least it looks cool?  Works for Jaguar.  But I digress.

Knowing that Microsoft has "completely rearchitected" it - whatever that means - and they have a 57% track record, how do you feel about "upgrading" to Windows 8?  Are you going to do it?  How would you feel if you bought a machine that came with Windows 8 pre-loaded, and you didn't have a choice (remember ME)?

Whether you use computers for business, recreation, leisure, home, or all of the above - remember that you DO have a choice.  Your choice begins with your wallet.  Where you choose to spend your money dictates what organization your money goes to.  Do you give your money to a company with a 50% track record on their Operating System, and depending on how you count it, a 0% track record on hardware (many think X-Box is successful, albeit it is not a real money-maker in Microsoft's earning reports)?

You can buy a PC without an Operating System, and download and install Linux for free.  This runs just fine, and many apps are free.  You can buy a Mac, and be rest assured that everything works great, and you won't pay much more than you would for a non-Mac (unless you wand to get a low-end PC, in which case Apple doesn't have anything that competes at the low end).  These are 2 alternatives that are quite manageable for the average guy - if you only think a little, and take a little action to find a local store that can support you.


  1. Nice write up Jay.

    I think Windows has been stable since the 2000 release. Vista gets a bad wrap for releasing on underpowered hardware and horrid drivers.

    I just updated my primary computer from vista to windows8 a few weeks ago. So far I like the interface, but it would be better on a mobile device. The real weakness is that a lot of the app style programs have a long way to go, especially IE10. They work fine, but most are missing small things that make a better experience or functionality.

    Linux, well for all of its strengths if someone doesn't have a friend/family member on speed dial that can work with linux, then it leaves to much to chance. It just isn't ready for mainstream yet.

    Macs are a solid choice, but I'm curious where Apple is heading with the mac. Where Microsoft took the instant death approach to unify mobile/desktop under windows8, Apple seems to be taking the death by 1,000 cuts to unify their systems. Not saying either is dying, but moving away from their segmented platforms.

    -Steve K

  2. Steve, thanks for the comment. I did my own testing of Vista on 64-bit hardware, hardware that would be considered "adequate" today. Also, we had perhaps a dozen customers (large companies) whose IT staff did extensive testing, and one customer on the west coast who actually did deploy Vista. All of those combined experiences had very little to do with hardware - it was not a matter of whether the hardware was capable (these customers are companies who do engineering design on the equipment, so they have quite capable hardware). It is rather a question of stability, crashes (lots of blue screens), and overall usability. The introduction of the UAC prompts was supposed to provide security; however, as the "I'm a Mac / I'm a PC" commercials pointed out, all those "Cancel or Allow" prompts merely get in the way and are an annoyance rather than provide any real security. My big "beef" if you will is releasing software that is buggy as heck, and calling it a "release" - something Microsoft does quite often and you can count on it. With 5 Macs at home, I have 1 that is a PowerPC G5, built c. 2004, 1GB RAM, and it can keep up with Windows machines built in the last few years. From a performance standpoint, it is quite exceptional - now look at the 4 Intel-based Macs (Core 2 Duos and Core i7's), they blow away the performance of the Core i7 8GB RAM, SSD Hard Drive Windows 7 machine. It's definitely the OS, not hardware. I have been using OSX 10.5, 10.6, and 10.7 - the last 3 major releases of Mac OS, and all of them have been rock solid stable, no crashes at all (except on my laptop, which is a development machine, I have to reboot it perhaps once every other month).

    So while I can appreciate for some people Windows is relatively stable, the relative that comes in is compared to Linux and OS X, it really isn't. And relying on every other release is ridiculous. Each and every release of Ubuntu Linux I have used since 8.04 has been rock solid as well - you upgrade, it continues to work fine being powered on for months on end.

    The Metro interface seems like a cool idea - in fact I found that on a mobile device to be truly revolutionary, a real invention. However, I fail to see significant differences in the OS itself - if you do have any insight, please share! I do enjoy learning when I am wrong.

  3. Another thing - why is it Windows makes you responsible for things such as defragmenting your hard drive ( and backing up your system ( These are things that should just be built into the OS, and it should handle for you, rather than having to pay extra to get some half-baked way of doing it. To think Microsoft charges $150-$200 for the OS, while Apple charges $40, and Ubuntu is free? It's really a no-brainer if you look at it like the system is supposed to provide an elegant, reliable platform for you to do your work - if it doesn't I say don't buy it.