Windows Vista: viscous circle

Windows Vista comes closer to it’s first year in public, and Service Pack 1 is taking shape.

However, there a still public and open rants about it, and still, probably your software, too, has not been tested on Windows Vista yet!

I’m wondering why that is.

Longhorn Beta 1 made it’s first public appearance at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in April, 2005.

If I remember correctly, it was build 4072 and could be installed in virtual machines with only a bit of a hassle.

So all the hardware and also the software vendors had at least one year before RTM to make their stuff Vista-ready.

They didn’t. Most still haven’t.

Every major software and hardware company has at least some issues with, or outright no support for, Windows Vista, for most or at least some of their products. Even Microsoft. (I’ll add links when I’m not too lazy.)

I read a lot of Microsoft blogs but I haven’t got word that they rolled out Windows Vista enterprise-wide. May be I missed it but I shouldn’t have been able to.

Now, what I know is that at the time Longhorn Beta 1 came out, my business desktop was running Windows 2000 SP4/Office XP and I had to request an exception to get Windows XP/Office 2003 on my business laptop.

And I guess, there are still some companies that haven’t even switched to Windows Server 2003/Windows XP/Office 2003.

What this means is, if only a few software developers make the same experience as I do today and haven’t got much of a test environment or just "exposure" to Windows Vista, it hasn’t arrived in the software industry workplace.

Companies don’t switch because they are afraid their old machines and systems don’t support Windows Vista. Because there are no drivers. Or the Source Control or bug-tracking software doesn’t work. Or they fear issues with older versions of Microsoft Visual Studio or Office or the favorite text editor. Or they have intranet applications that don’t run with Internet Explorer 7.

So testing under Windows Vista and fixing bugs in drivers and applications cannot be a day-to-day routine, it’s a job to do in an isolated, restricted and limited environment.

Which causes the software we write to have more undiscovered bugs and issues with Windows Vista than with Windows XP or Windows Server 2003.

Which causes the software we sell and, thus, buy, to cause grief trying it under Windows Vista.

A viscous circle.

 

And even if we buy new machines, those shiny multi-core processors just go to show what other people didn’t know about the multi-threading software bugs.

 

So the hurdles for writing good software today are high. Security, multi-user, multi-core, multi-platform are only a few of the software taxes we commonly pay too little attention to.

Windows Vista also demands for a new look and user interface. Most of us haven’t even understood what’s that all about this theming thing that was introduced in Windows XP.

And then, on Windows Vista, users are not local administrators anymore. Now you can’t write to arbitrary folders on the machine. Even admins are not usually admin.

 

This almost doubles test cases. And we usually don’t have the time to fix the bugs for all the existing ones…

 

So my thinking is, instead of picking up the pace, Microsoft should slow down and invest much more in developer education and put itself at the forefront of a public software quality push.

 

And we as software developers and users should learn to not accept bad software. First and foremost, our own.

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