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The More I Use Windows 7, The More I Want My Clients on Linux

Bill Malchisky  May 4 2011 04:00:00 AM
Started upgrading clients to Windows 7 a couple of months ago. Yes, many of you have done this a while ago for yourself, your company, family, or friends. Most of my clients take a long time to upgrade their desktop OS as XP works and meets their needs. My family members use Mac's or Linux desktops and I use both of those UNIX variants myself. Thus, I commenced the process with a fresh optimistic perspective, with much zeal. This blog entry represents my thoughts after installing Windows 7 on four client workstations the other day and in many cases, contrasting them to a Linux desktop experience to illustrate how an alternate environment handles the same scenario.

Note:
in all cases for this post, the machines were a stock Windows 7 OEM provided disk installation. At no time did I utilize a customized corporate or otherwise personal image. I did not customize the OS in anyway to arrive at the experience below. Also, it is entirely possible that if you purchased a machine with Windows 7 pre-installed, your experience might be different and thus feel that some of the items below either are inapplicable or nitpicking on my part. Actually, I expect things to work as advertised. Very simple: if you advertise a product, most to all of the included basic functionality should work out of the box.  All software has bugs which I accept, but if for example, a button says, 'Print', it should do just that. I will provide my experience as factual and my opinion occasionally to keep the post from getting too dry. Enjoy!

Overall Synopsis:
Windows 7 is basically the same old Windows, with fancy new eye candy.

Detailed Substantiation

The points below are what occurred after installing the factory provided OEM installation, in a somewhat arbitrary order, after the first reboot. At times I contrast to a desktop Linux experience

* User unfriendly patch process. Shutdown -> installing update 1 of 67; Mac and Linux also have some patches that require a reboot. The difference is that they install the patches and suggest you reboot when you are ready. Then the reboot is just that, a quick bounce (down and up). With Windows 7, you reboot, then it installs the patches. That is quite user unfriendly. With over 80M lines of code that is the best they can do...the same approach as Win95 through XP.

* Post-patch Registry Updates. Installing Registry update 1 of 20496 (upon reboot post Install patches)
Yes, all operating systems have patches to install but after the patches, you then Windows 7 applies 20.5k Registry updates

* Too many programs require a reboot when installing or uninstalling. Uninstalled many of the pre-installed programs that came with the disk, as they were inappropriate or inapplicable to this business.  On Linux, even for anti-virus programs...you just install and run. Uninstall doesn't require a reboot. Why is Windows 7 so different here? I thought Windows 7 is a new version of Windows with a new design. The answer here is that it is too complex. Mainframes can calculate hundreds of thousands of transactions per second and require 8M to 10M lines of code. Windows 7 to print one file on one machine, needs 80M.

* Excessively long time period to install completely (before the first reboot). These machines came preinstalled with XP and the option to upgrade to Windows 7 (actually you bought a Windows 7 license and it was preinstalled with a downgraded XP license, but it's a semantic really). In the time it took to just install the Windows 7 pieces (not counting the reformatting, etc. before the install, I could have installed six Ubuntu desktops installations on the same laptop in less time, with an almost equal number of reboots. That is really just shameful, in my opinion.

* Disabling the screen saver. The setting doesn't stick. Had to keep entering each users' respective password every ten minutes = huge waste of time and annoyance. This is a new security feature, I presume.

*
Computer Description field needs help. I also entered data into the Computer Description field and clicked Apply, then OK on each machine. Rebooted (see above) and when I returned to add the machines to the domain, the description fields were blank on all of the machines. Successive visits back to the dialog box showcase all the description text as missing. Every time. Across all machines.  That indicates flawed iteration testing.

* Preloaded icons on the 'dock bar' will not remove permanently. The process is supposed to allow you to drag them off the dock bar to 'release' them. In fact you will see a trash can icon appear next to the dock icon. Great, it is now gone....reboot the machine later and poof the purged dock icons reappear. It is unclear to me if the OEM provided this full icon set or Microsoft, but it matters less to me, on this point. The hardware's OEM vendor did not know how to remove them permanently as well.

Remove work-around:
You have to close and re-open the dock bar to save the state. Unreal. The dock bar help information clearly indicates how the removal process should commence, but omits this crucial step. Apparently, it is insufficient to show the icon as being deleted. If you do not close the dock bar and reopen it before restarting or logging-off, your deleted icons reappear. Windows is notorious for having a subpar GUI, this counterintuitive functionality only re-emphasizes this fact. Mac and Linux are generally far better with intuitive usage across all window and widget functionality, from my experience. For both, when you remove an icon from the respective dock bars, they are gone. Period.


McAffee Removal

Although I started this as one bullet in the previous section, I realized the complexity and scope warranted its own subtopic.

McAffee Total Protection (MTP) is difficult to remove. Included as part of the OEM disk and not the brand of choice at this client site. So, rather than have two anti-virus programs on the same machine, went to remove this one. MTP is actually installed as a service and the software uninstall program fails, because the program is a service, is running, and does not inform the user of this little detail. Unless you are a power user and have server experience, you may never have heard of a service or how to manage them. The prospect that some desktop programs require an administrator level of knowledge for their removal is horrifying.

Additionally, some pre-installed programs cause conflicts or overlap the user's intended plan (e.g. using a particular security or anti-virus program). If an end-user has to (a) call the OEM's tech support line, or (b) pay someone to remove it, I hardly see how that is an advantage, or "Simple. Just like I told them," as the Microsoft advertisements indicate. (Corporate users will have their tech perform the image install, so this facet should never be seen by those users.)

While calling the OEM tech support line to resolve a DIMM chip configuration error,  I asked to see if they were aware of the uninstall glitch with MTP--they were not and were stunned with the prospect. Technote draft being created.

In my case to remove this one program (MTP) completely, I performed the following steps:
  • Uninstall the software -- which failed sans any error or warning dialog box presented
  • Disable the service
  • Uninstall the software
  • Clean-up the registry
  • Purge the system level directory structure
Seems a bit extreme to me, and this Windows 7 box was one hour old.

Proposed Suggestion To Improve The Software Removal Experience

What should occur or at least be better is to state when removing a package, "This program is installed as a service. In order to proceed with the uninstall process, you must disable the service. Click here _hotspot_ to launch the Windows service dialog box so you can proceed," or even better, ask the user to enter the account name (if not the current account) and password of an administration account to disable the service and proceed with the removal process.

Linux and Mac do not suffer from these type of process errors. They both provide, install, and remove software that has many of the same constraints and also developed by ISVs. Each OS provides a significantly better end-user experience here. In this scenario, if you need administrator level access to perform the requested task, they prompt you, before proceeding. Thus, the user rather than the OS controls the process and ensures minimal wasted time. Failing to provide even the most basic of messages to guide the user is a sign of a flawed UI. As Chris Blatnic's blog's premise indicates, "Interface Matters."

In the attempt to improve the Windows 7 interface, some design decisions appear to be made which increase the complexity gratuitously.
A good example is the video management settings. Windows XP and earlier (I did not try this on Vista), you could right-click on the desktop, choose Properties, and verify/set the display matrix (resolution) and color depth. Other tabs within the dialog box also included screen saver options and desktop manager's themes. Now in Windows 7, these preferences are split into multiple separate programs, accessible via the search option. I appreciate their removing some of the basic performance options from there and organizing the eye candy magnitude better, but display matrix, screen saver are coupled. Separating them introduced needless complexity. Appears to me that this design decision makes sense to the developers, but lacks customer vision.


Conclusion

The most frustrating aspect of working with Windows is that I have been performing many of these same exact fixes and scenarios since Windows 3.1, Windows for Workgroups, and Windows95. In 20 years, Microsoft has succeeded in bloating the OS to consistently eclipse each Windows predecessor as the most complex software package on the planet (in-terms of lines of code), and it has yet to fix some very basic issues. If they truly innovated software, then why are members of the tech community, release after release still solving the same basic types of problems? Macs, and Linux do not. Again, all software has bugs and hardware will at times be problematic. It is the nature of the beast. I personally have had absolutely seamless Linux desktop upgrades version over version, and some that were horrible. But good senior management combined with good developers will produce good or better products. I wish that was the case here, as I am not seeing it. Those that get Windows 7 preinstalled, can be thankful that you just may be sparred some of the issues here.
Comments

1Darren Duke  5/4/11 6:43:07 AM  The More I Use Windows 7, The More I Want My Clients on Linux

It's funny you use the word "eclipse" to help describe increasing bloat ;)

2David Schaffer  5/4/11 6:50:40 AM  The More I Use Windows 7, The More I Want My Clients on Linux

Bill: While I agree with the general thrust of your comments I haven't seen some of the specific problems you've described. My guess is that the account you're using isn't set as administrator -- in Windows you don't get a prompt to escalate to root privileges, things just fail to work. An undocumented (that I've seen) but important trick is to right-click an icon and select "Run as administrator" whenever a process will require heightened privileges.

If you can't get McAfee to uninstall using the regular Windows uninstall process you can often download an executable to do it. McAfee has way too many flavors of the product (Symantec does this too) which makes it hard to know what you've got and what uninstaller you need.

David

3Flemming Riis  5/4/11 8:34:58 AM  The More I Use Windows 7, The More I Want My Clients on Linux

Shutdown -> Windows Update is a admin controlled setting so you can set it not to default install at reboot but just do a regular reboot at patch when you have time.

Post-Patch well i often wonder what it does but at least its normally fast.

A majority of apps have reboot after install/uninstall set in the installer even while its not needed , but yes there are to many cases also with MS programs where a boot is needed

I try to stay away from OEM but normal install time is less than 20 mins on a new machine from USB , with normal billing hours its cheaper to throw a clean install in that sitting and wait for a upgrade

ScreenSaver since its domain joined machines its most likely a gpo that sets the security level

Computer Description is a domain feature when domain joined so setting it on the client is void , not very user friendly though

Icons/Dock no clue havent seen it

Mcafee your own fault :) wipe

there is room for improvement but a majoirty if the issues are casues by microsoft licensing so people buy oem filled with crap

OEM should deliver a usb key that you can install from with a option to load crapware or now.

4Chris Whisonant  5/4/11 11:40:14 AM  The More I Use Windows 7, The More I Want My Clients on Linux

@1 - rofl!

@ Bill - I do think many of these are just due to OEM and/or domain policy issues as Flemming stated. Using a Windows DVD and running in workgroup mode would give you a different experience.

That said, I totally agree that the frequent rebooting and horrible speed of installing updates is pathetic. I have a very fast laptop (i7, 8gb ram, ssd) - even Notes can load in under 10 seconds! But installing Windows updates may be the slowest process on the computer... Oh yeah, I just installed 5 updates and rebooted and Windows tells me there are more updates! lol But most of the time I update the patches in the background and then have to reboot (even then, there may be a patch or two that get installed during the shutdown). By the way, how do you turn off your Windows system? By pressing the START button, of course!!

Many Windows application installers have a process for checking for and stopping services (BES, for example).

But I would like to say that at least with a Windows system a user can VERY easily install Firefox, Java, and Flash without having to jump through hoops. Until the Linux community can overcome ease of installation for these types of applications it will never gain ground. Users are used to having to wait on Windows updates, etc... but they're not used to a command line for software installations. For example: { Link } :)

Oh yeah, and I would love to go Mac or Ubuntu, but until Domino Admin (yes, I know about webmin...) and Designer work as well as other systems management utilities (such as vSphere Client) then I see myself having to stick with Windows. :(

5Keith Brooks  5/4/11 12:10:17 PM  The More I Use Windows 7, The More I Want My Clients on Linux

Bill, The endless reboots, updates circle is vicious and should be resolved but that would mean MS rewriting code, they don't do that.

The problem with Linux, as Chris says is simplicity. Yes, some things install fairly easily, like firefox and browsers or anything from the Ubuntu app store as I call it.

But try to update Java? Ouch.

Command line is painful for most non-IT people.

Security is better and worse in Win7 just depends how one uses it and which version they are using.

In general, if my apps would run on Linux, without a VM, I would do it. Maybe will do it even with a VM.

Then there is the Ubuntu updates that break one's device and will not go back or open previous versions. This is what happened to my netbook. Don't mind because it was not filled with data but still this is one piece that Microsoft or any one else can not fix entirely without loading 1,000's of drivers.

6Bob  5/5/11 9:21:27 PM  The More I Use Windows 7, The More I Want My Clients on Linux

Application support is much more difficult on Linux....why do you think we don't have a 64-bit compatible Lotus Notes option? Or Linux Designer or Admin?

There are way too many variables with Linux that make it hard for a software company to stand behind and support their product on it.

Just today, I upgraded to the latest Ubuntu, and now can't skype to run unless I sudo it. I have never gotten LN to work on 64-bit Ubuntu.

Fixpacks for LN on Linux? Good luck...I've spent hours trying to get them to install, in hopes that they will fix some display or rendering issue....and they don't.

Linux is good for lots of things....but because of it's variables, I don't think it will ever be ready for the desktops of many users, because application vendors can't easily support it.

That's not to say MS can't improve on lots of things....but system requirements for Windows apps need to say "supported on Windows XP, Vista, 7"

Linux apps need to specify Kernel, X server, and the version of a bagillion dependencies....and if you upgrade those dependencies, you might break the software.

7Bill Malchisky  5/10/11 12:29:31 AM  The More I Use Windows 7, The More I Want My Clients on Linux

Good thread. Thanks for the comments, everyone. Now that my client's office move is complete...happy to get to responding.

@6 Hey Bob... I appreciate your directness and your comment. However, I completely disagree on most parts. Here's why:

* First, it appears that many of your problems are self-inflicted, with all due respect. If one runs unsupported configurations, one does so at one's own peril. LN is unsupported on x64 Linux because they haven't certified it till recently. If you run the LTS versions of software like, Ubuntu 8.04 or 10.04, that is the version where most large ISVs can work. So if you try to install fix packs which are unsupported for the OS you are using, against an unsupported base application installation... and well, you are surprised that you are having problems here?

* For me, I run Notes in supported configurations and it works fine. Demos at LUGs, and all proceeded sans issue. Why? Because the configuration selected is supported.

I have tried Notes on x64 and it doesn't work well. I have not done so on Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, but spoke with a Lotus Developer (on other matters), who is keen on Linux and he showed me his Notes on 10.04 LTS and how well Notes worked--in x64. So, when I upgrade my test box, I will do so.

* Not all Linux software is built against a kernel, but a vendor and version -- which implies all of the contingencies you specify: kernel, X server, and the dependencies. That is called a release -- just like Windows.

* Windows changes its API with every new release, forcing ISVs to rewrite their code. To get a package to run on "Windows " is a significant amount of work, occurring behind the scenes.

* As for the Skype issue, ... did you check with Skype to see if the version you have is supported *before* you upgraded? If the ISV of a package you utilize hasn't complied their software against a particular OS version, then again, you are running an unsupported configuration and thus, assume the risk. Know that Skype is good product and will release an update or patch soon. This scenario is the same when people tried to run Notes, or other programs and use them on the latest OS before the ISV was ready. I had a client that wanted Notes 8.0.0 on Windows XP x64 and had issues. Unsupported configuration at the time. When the x64 support became available, their issues went away. Is that the fault of Microsoft?

* As for Designer and Admin... it's a decision with IBM, not being a Linux one. I have coded software on Linux, both at the network layer and application layer. The IBM code can be ported, but they do not feel there is a market at this time, despite the outpouring of support for admin on Linux and designer on Mac. Ed Brill stated if IBM decides to do so, it will happen (paraphrasing his quality post on the subject, and not doing it justice, to be fair.)

* Know that there are other costs that go beyond what you may see as a user. Windows 7 x64 wasn't supported till 8.5.1 FP1, and with very limited support at the time Windows XP Professional x64 Edition and Windows Vista x64 Edition – both unsupported at the time (Technote #1385293); iNotes users also required an additional hot fix -- 304.2CHF1 Technote #27018120 and Technote #7015198 provide specifics. People who tried iNotes, or Notes on that OS flavor sans the proper fixes applied, had issues. Is that the fault of Microsoft? No. Hardly not.

* As for Linux not being ready for the desktops of many users, I have several case studies of which I speak in my Linux sessions that state otherwise. Keep watching my blog, I'll mention another soon.

* Again, I appreciate your perspective, but realize that how much one enjoys their desktop system--regardless of which you choose--is partly up to the user adhering to system requirements for their software needs. Have a great day and thanks for reading.

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