Monthly Archive: February 2005

XP and Nero

I knew there was something else I encountered when building the computer that I wanted to mention here.

In XP, Microsoft incorporated some crude CDRW function native to Windows. I’ve yet to see it actually work, but it’s there, and was supplied by Roxio, an Adaptec spinoff.

Because Microsoft is what it is, and Ahead Software, which makes Nero, not having been the chosen vendor for the integrated stuff, XP makes a stink if you try to install the OEM version of Nero.

Well, it did when XP was still relatively new, so you’d assume a newer OEM release of Nero would come out to satisfy whatever hoop XP is making it jump, shark-like. It’s been well over a year since I made any effort to install a CD burner that came with Nero on an XP box and actually – gasp! – use Nero with it.

I didn’t think anything of it when I ordered my preferred brand of CDRW, which is preferred in part because it ships with Nero. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Adaptec CD burning software. Oh wait, it’s not Adaptec anymore. Right.

When I installed the software for the CDRW, it installed without complaint. When I tried to run it, there was the same old message on XP SP2 and the latest OEM version of Nero that there was on the original XP with the OEM version of Nero extant before XP shipped.

No, people. Wrong.

Either Microsoft is making absolutely sure it keeps Ahead Software’s Nero product looking bad to end users, such that more of a preference for Roxio will be created, or Ahead simply didn’t care and never updated the OEM stuff, or Ahead is taking advantage in an effort to funnel people into buying the full version of Nero software to make the error go away. It’s lousy no matter who the culprit is.

On the original computer I encountered this on, which has to be wiped and reinstalled anyway so it will become moot, neither the XP CD writing capability nor Nero have ever worked, rendering the CDRW useless. Way to go Microsoft.

Unless the native CD burning with XP works, having put a CDRW into that computer, instead of a standard CD-ROM will have been a waste. Not much of one, since the prices are so close now, but still.

Outlook 98 Mugged By XP Service Pack 2

Had some fun setting up a new machine with XP Pro. Sadly, it was the latest, updated to include the dreaded service pack 2, which is so bad that in my house we have stopped doing Windows updates, and I have a client who can no longer update at the expense of losing functionality.

I’ve never had any problem installing Outlook 98, which the client is still on, onto XP.

The procedure is to run setup, tell it to do a “full” installation, then when it’s done, to run setup again and add components that don’t install as part of a “full” installation.

Being that Microsoft was pushing to make everything it possibly could require Internet Explorer at the time, so it could justify its integration of the program into Windows all the better, the secondary component install for Outlook 98 is “web-based.” It checks what you have already installed, prompts you to tell it whether or not it’s okay for it to check what’s already been installed, and if you say yes, it shows the list of components and allows you to check off any you want to add (or presumably remove).

On XP with SP2, this web-based install is barred from functioning because it is unsafe; a security threat. It is barred from scripting and from generating that popup. Oh yay.

Ironically, one of the first programs I had installed on the machine was Firefox, removing IE from the desktop to discourage its use. But here’s a program using it unbidden, whether I want it to or not.

So I disabled the Windows firewall completely, lest it cause that or any other troubles. I made Internet Explorer as lenient as it can possibly get, allowing basically anything.

Nope. Still the popup is blocked. Still the adding of components is prevented. There appears to be no other way to add, them, either. What an outrageous thing to do.

Welcome to the world of “upgrade because I said so and will do everything I can to make things tough if you don’t.”

Carnival of the Capitalists

First, some catching up I need to do. As a one time host of Carnival of the Capitalists, it behooves me to link regularly as each week’s new edition comes out. Oops.

Oh well.

This week’s CotC, the February 21 edition, is at The Raw Prawn.

Last week’s, the February 14 edition, was at Weekend Pundit.

The February 7 edition was at Catallarchy.

The January 31 edition was at Ashish’s Niti.

Finally, the January 24 edition was at Business Opportunities Weblog.

Phew, all caught up!

As for next week’s edition, it will appear at Coyote Blog.

Software Project Failure Even Happens To The Feds

Back on January 13, Aubrey Turner noted the failure of the FBI’s terrorism information sharing software project, after spending $170 million. His discussion of how and why software projects is essentially what I would say, so you should read that first and foremost.

I would add that it is well worth reading Rapid Devlopment, by Steve McConnell, and perhaps similar books, if you are in any way involved with a software development project enough to make it worth understanding how they fail and how that can be avoided. That’s the one I am most familiar with and can’t recommend enough.

What reminded me was seeing Michelle Malkin mention the same project failure yesterday, referencing discussions of it by Craig Henry and Photon Courier, which are also interesting, but do not get into the large topic of software project management the way Aubrey Turner did.

I’d comment at length myself if I had more time, but I at least wanted to toss this out there for people to see, and Aubrey represents what I might say.

Dying Microsoft? Don’t Panic

Is Microsoft a dying company?

I’d say “dying” is a strong word for it, but my perception is of size and hubris problems enough to place them near their pinnacle of size and success before having to rethink themselves, and probably shrink, whether in a controlled, planned, voluntary way, or a more chaotic, seemingly unpredictable way.

Malone’s observations are good ones. Microsoft really is, as Ian notes, full of marketing and business smarts. My experience working in Microsoft tech support years ago was that they wanted superior customer service because they were fully aware they weren’t automatically going to stay on top forever, and it was important always to scramble as if you were still the scrappy underdog, not the IBM. Have they forgotten that? Probably not overall, but maybe in parts of the company.

All of which might matter little if they are up against sufficient powerful outside forces, accumulated perceptions, and maturation and demystification of the PC market.

I always point out the problem of creating a magnum opus and then not being able to improve on it enough to be compelling. For instance, Word 97, or even Office 97 more generally. Almost nobody would ever want or need anything more in that type of software. If they ended up on Word 2000 instead, the same applies. Microsoft ends up chasing a tiny share of people who really do need exotic new or improved features, first time or “with a new computer” purchasers, and any upgraders they can force. In that last case, they end up looking like bullies. Blam! There goes some mindshare.

Which is not to say that Office 2003 isn’t nifty, but there’s no compelling reason for most users to upgrade, and it’s a business challenge for Microsoft that they seem to have trouble facing. It’s worsened by the fact that writing an adequate word processor is a relatively easy programming challenge, so there is price pressure to boot.

I think Malone is onto something. I also think it will be a long, slow decline that could be arrested at any time, and will be in no way complete, ever. They’re not going to be the next DEC getting eaten by Compaq getting eaten inexplicably by HP in a fit of corporate rock star CEO insanity.

Article link and some of his own commentary via Ian Hamet, who also keeps us posted on the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie here, here, here, here, and probably elsewhere, but those are the recent ones.

Advice On Linux?

Andrew Cory, posting at Dean’s World, is looking for advice about what Linux distro to install, and has some related questions about functionality.

One of them I think is especially good:

I’ve had past experiences with Linux where there was no good way of doing file management. Windows Explorer represent the minimum level of functionality I am interested in…

Yeah, really. That is precisely the kind of thing I want, and found lacking, in Linux in my modest exposure to it. Has there been any improvement along those lines? My reaction to Linux, apart from the GUI and program availability making it seem impressively close to ready for prime time to me, was “where are my drive letters?” Talk about a changed conceptualization.

Pop Goes The PC

I have four old computer carcasses that ended up stacked in the office because they were “dead” for some reason or another. This almost always means the power supply died, and may or may not have taken out something else with it.

My objective is to build at least one working computer out of the mess.

It’s been so long for all but the most recent, I forgot entirely what the story was, and two of them appear completely intact; no missing parts. I just plugged in the first of those. It started to fire up, had me thinking “maybe there was nothing actually wrong with this one…”, and then blew out the power supply with a bang and a puff of smoke. One of the most impressive displays of power supply failure I have ever witnessed.

Guess it really did belong in the dead computer pile. Now what will happen if I put in a new power supply? If I am lucky, nothing fried besides that. The computer may have ended up her simply because it kept refusing to turn on or something.

What is it with power supplies anyway? Really! There are dozens of ancient computers around here; P60, P100, P200… all with their original power supplies, still functional.

Every machine from P2 450 boxes to P3 800 boxes has had the power supply go at least once. Some also lost the replacement after a while. While most of the cases were of a particular brand, they varied. The brands of power supply used in them varied. The failures happened in many locations, so it’s not just the power in one building being prone to surges killing them.

Worse, I have even had to replace one in a newer machine, a P4 built by me, in a quality case with a good power supply. It’s as if the people who make the components that are used in power supplies have serious quality problems.