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Other OS Any other OS such as Microsoft Windows, BeOS, Plan9, Syllable, and whatnot.

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Old 23rd September 2009
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[RANT]

I just don't get it. Windows, after all these years, continues to be an unmanageable mess. For example:

----

My customer runs Win XP on almost all workstations, company wide, except for the few that are specifically used by Unix application developers or HPC engineers. The customer is large, so that is tens of thousands of Windows laptops and desktops.

I have been consulting with them for just over two years, and was issued one of their laptops in order to be able to interconnect properly on the company networks; vendor supplied equipment is prevented from being used at all.
Since the laptop was issued, their desktop support organization has been forced to wipe-and-replace the OS image three times. In all three cases, a configuration problem of some kind developed within in the registry or underneath C:\WINDOWS somewhere that was never even diagnosed, either because of a lack of time, interest, tools, or skill. The average lifespan of an OS image has been 7 months, for me, before something happens where the support staff feels it necessary to scrape the drive clean and start over. I'm not a "power" user -- the laptop is used for office automation, and little else. Each event was usually preceded by a hang, power cycle, then a failure to operate properly on reboot.
Re-imaging Windows desktops is such a common task at my customer's facilities that their trouble ticket system has a button to press to request it.

Whenever I mumble something about Windows non-manageability to someone at my customer's IT shop who has no infrastructure or OS background and only Windows desktop experience, I get questioning looks, if not an outright "What are you talking about?"

My usual response is: "So, how long since your laptop had to be 'slammed' then?" Once I ask the question, I see recognition dawn on their faces.

I know, I know. The world runs business communication on MS Office. OO has come a long way, but it is not a complete replacement, nor is it plug-compatible.

But there -must- be a better way to manage Windows than what I've seen, which has stayed pretty much the way it's been since the Windows 3.0 / 3.1 days. And, is there anyone on the planet -- including in Redmond -- who actually understands the current Windows Registry completely, and can diagnose its problems and make appropriate reparations? I don't think so.

[/RANT]

Last edited by jggimi; 23rd September 2009 at 03:31 PM.
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Old 23rd September 2009
BSDfan666 BSDfan666 is offline
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I like being aware of how my systems work, often I hear horror stories detailing how unmaintainable Windows is.

How many poorly documented services are running now by default? does anyone really know what they all do?
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Old 23rd September 2009
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Hi Jggimi,

Have you considered a disk imaging solution something like Acronis Disk Image?

It works very well for me personally. Anytime I have an unrecoverable situation like mysterious registry issues or slowdown etc. all I need to do is recover a recent disk image.

Disk space is cheap & the imaging process both creation & restore are very fast operations. Saves a lot of time & unnecessary effort.
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Old 23rd September 2009
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Unfortunately, I am prevented both by Policy Group where automated governance can be applied, and by corporate policy when it can't -- from installing infrastructure software of any kind.

And, even though it might reduce their workload -- the MS System Restore feature is not used by the desktop support staff. It is also effectively unavailable to desktop users, who are not normally given any admin-level authority on their personal desktops.

Granted, MS's System Restore doesn't solve every problem, and may create new ones, but it is a simple thing to try, and, if it works, it is far faster than the typical 3-4 hour turnaround for a re-imaging and the two following days of pushed patches, automated and manual installs, and manual steps of reconfiguration, restoration, and recovery borne entirely by the desktop user.

My complaint really centers on the fact that every time I've opened a problem of this nature -- this last one, prompting the thread, was an error in the WinMgt repository, which I reported -- they jumped straight to a re-imaging, and came and collected the lappy for half a day. Never any attempt to analyze, repair, recover, or restore.

It tells me that the effort to do diagnostics is significantly more costly and difficult and time consuming than the minimal effort expended to re-image. I'm sure the latter is completely automated. Unfortunately, from my perspective, the cost to the -user- for the re-imaging has been left unaccounted for.

And while the Acronis tool may be better than System Restore, it still doesn't alleviate the complexities -- or impossibilities -- of actually -fixing- a Windows platform when it comes down with a case of OSitis.

Last edited by jggimi; 23rd September 2009 at 07:22 PM.
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Old 23rd September 2009
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You could maybe persuade upper IT mgmt or whoever to get a site-wide license to
BootIt. (Bootit supports "165/A5h: xBSD" partition slice formatting (at least if
one has that syntax on hand, it is not in all "fs type?" menus. And instruct the
users to image their FS weekly if the data is company-valuable. (BootIt can run
before the OS does). That way your company can run the OS forever, maybe
much longer without upgrade (best-case scenario)... Saving money on both
instances... Reducing trouble ticket calls... (Batch imaging at the Bootit (dual-)boot
menu is possible)... Upgrading hardware? image to a new disk, put it in the next
machine. Etc...
(Reasons why not exist, I'm sure, but too optimistic to think of them, before any
next post in this thread).
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Old 23rd September 2009
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Thanks, jb, but this is, once again, another restoration/recovery tool. And, like System Restore or other 3rd party restoration tools, is merely a circumvention of the problem which my customer's company policies just draw into sharp relief. Mainly: a) Windows gets OSitis, regularly, and b) there is relatively little interest in diagnosis and repair.
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Old 23rd September 2009
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There are twice (and growing) as many mostly useless services in XP and later as there was in W2K. Most are completely undocumented, the "help" files containing no useful information whatsoever. All you can do is *guess* what they do from their names and description or maybe using a debugger or disassembler (which is illegal?) and wasting your time trying to read and understand the obfuscated code.

Securing the machine from the outside is a nightmare too. Even if you stop all the useless network services (plus file/printer sharing), some ports will remain open unless you delete or modify some cryptic registry keys... and break the entire connection in the process.

7 months for the "average lifespan of an OS image", you're kidding? Few days after the installation, the boot time doubles and within weeks, programs become very slow on startup, and the whole system becomes less responsive.
By that time you've also been infected by dozens of viruses, spywares, adwares, etc. even with an up-to-date AV and LUA accounts (new privilege escalation exploits are frequently discovered). And most people out there don't even update their AV definitions and work with admin privileges anyway!
Also, don't forget the many well-written setups that modify one thing or two in your system without even asking or providing a way to undo it.

As for repairing the registry, forget about it. It's probably easier and faster to wipe the partition and reinstall from scratch. The registry is one of the worst ideas in the history of computers. Even using regedit, it would be very difficult to find an error and fix it, unless of course you keep plain-text backups and spend hours comparing them with your current registry. Good luck with that: in a fresh install, it's hundreds of KBs big only, but it grows to dozens of MBs after making all your configurations/customizations and installing all the software you need.
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Old 23rd September 2009
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The thing is that (broken) Windows systems are just so damn hard & time-consuming to fix, C:\Windows is a mess, let's not even start about the registry.

Even pretty simple problems are difficult, there's no such thing as single-user mode (safe mode is not the same thing) or the boot loader command prompt and the horrible tangle makes things worse (For example, see this).

As someone who works with Windows system all day I share your pain jggimi ... I've tried explaining to my coworkers how FreeBSD or OpenBSD for example are much easier in this regard. But they can't see past the command-line interface and say it's much more difficult ...

People say Windows is easy, and up to some point they may be right. But if you need to do some serious work with it, it's damn hard to get anything done.
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Old 23rd September 2009
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Thank you, Beastie and Carpetsmoker, for your additional insights.

I will say that while I may have a few "usability" tools such as FF (with adblock and no-script) and cygwin (for a usable shell) and similar tiny things, the platform runs what they gave me.

My consulting has nothing to do with client system decisions, in any way, shape, or form. If it did, at the very least some Root Cause Analysis would be required on every recovery -- if for nothing else then for some very nice pricing leverage on any future acquisitions of other MS products under consideration.

Thanks for letting me vent. I'd love to hear from folks who are responsible for large numbers of MS desktops, but I may not get that on this small forum.
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Old 23rd September 2009
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Poking around the registry can be fun, even if it is sometimes a bit of a rob Peters GUID to look up Paul kind of pain. When I have to deal with problems, I do whatever I can to diagnose and try to fix it -> until learning more of Windows becomes more time consuming then redoing the machine would. Maybe the reason I'm more hesitant then some, when it comes to wipe & clean over fix or die trying, is it took more then an entire week get my desktop fully configured, compared to a few hours for a FreeBSD machine.


My personal desktop has only had XP reinstalled once in 3 years, the machines I've had to deal with for business reasons [sic], have never needed nuking period... but we also don't surf porn off the servers


Quote:
Originally Posted by Carpetsmoker View Post
The thing is that (broken) Windows systems are just so damn hard & time-consuming to fix, C:\Windows is a mess, let's not even start about the registry.

....

People say Windows is easy, and up to some point they may be right. But if you need to do some serious work with it, it's damn hard to get anything done.
Quoted for the terrible truth of it.
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Old 24th September 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jggimi View Post
Thanks, jb, but this is, once again, another restoration/recovery tool. And, like System Restore or other 3rd party restoration tools, is merely a circumvention of the problem which my customer's company policies just draw into sharp relief. Mainly: a) Windows gets OSitis, regularly, and b) there is relatively little interest in diagnosis and repair.



Regarding B.
Soon after I started using BSD I discovered somewhere that one
can run two firewall simulatenously.
So on Win98 I put two antivirus
(one on-demand, one tsr) (each shareware) and two firewall
(one shareware "in effective mode", not-so-effective in freeware mode)
and one "other top-rated" .
Both firewalls ran at the same time.
So (shareware) firewall_and_firewall_and_antivirus may be
effective for protection on those machines (you'd want an anti-trojan which
I also ran semi-weekly IIRC).
Then rather than a reinstall you'd face antivirus updates.

addendum: regarding A: "defrag before each shutdown"...
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Old 24th September 2009
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I'm going to play devil's advocate -- take the opposing viewpoint simply to show that there is more than one interpretation to this situation. I'm leaving out names because the focus is to look at the validity of the assumptions -- not call out individuals in particular.
  • Quote:
    The customer is large, so that is tens of thousands of Windows laptops and desktops.
    This is most probably the most important point from the corporate vantage point. How are so many installations with users ranging from near ill-literacy to uber-power-tweaker to be managed? What kind of staff is needed, & how much money/resources/employees can be dedicated to day-to-day user support issues?

    I, too, have been in mega-corporations where support was done on the cheap, & reimaging was the standard answer to support issues. I recognize that I have not been employed by so many corporations such that my experience may be statistically unbiased, but I have found that in corporations where IT/development is not core to the revenue stream, funding of infrastructural support is done more meagerly than for companies where IT/development is central to the bottom line.

    I have also found that a number of non-Microsoft developers don't completely understand Microsoft's memory management & process paradigm, so application stability suffers. Not that Microsoft gets it right all the time either, but user beware of any productivity gizmo downloaded from where-ever.
    Quote:
    Since the laptop was issued, their desktop support organization has been forced to wipe-and-replace the OS image three times.
    Yup, been there. No, I was not able to diagnose the root cause either. However, I have also noticed that when I have complete control over the configuration, I fare better than when I have to contend with "corporate images" which are locked down to any degree.
    Quote:
    And, is there anyone on the planet -- including in Redmond -- who actually understands the current Windows Registry completely, and can diagnose its problems and make appropriate reparations?
    Yes, but a corporation has to be sending lots of money to Redmond where they notice. The core developers can be pulled into support issues if the account is deemed critical, but those developers aren't going to be called unless it is absolutely essential.
  • Quote:
    I like being aware of how my systems work, often I hear horror stories detailing how unmaintainable Windows is.
    Understood. However, how scalable is any management process given the number of users jggimi describes? Given that most departments don't lock down their systems such that the Internet is freely available, who can definitively say what software is installed on every system across an enterprise? Can the risks ever be quantified?
  • Quote:
    How many poorly documented services are running now by default? does anyone really know what they all do?
    If it was a question I was really interested in answering, give me Internet access along with a good debugger, & I can piece a lot together, however, it would be very time consuming. There are a number of sites along with Microsoft's documentation which can serve as aids. Mark Russinovich's Sysinternals site has been a traditionally useful site for documenting undocumented or feebly described functionality.
  • Quote:
    Have you considered a disk imaging solution something like Acronis Disk Image?
    ...
    Unfortunately, I am prevented both by Policy Group where automated governance can be applied, and by corporate policy when it can't -- from installing infrastructure software of any kind.
    Something that has to be considered in disk imaging is that clients & domain controllers negotiate magic numbers which are used in authentication. This number is not static, but re-negotiated as time passes. If a disk image contains a number which is no longer valid, then the client will not be able to rejoin the domain. Some imaging products takes this into account, but other products don't.
    Quote:
    It tells me that the effort to do diagnostics is significantly more costly and difficult and time consuming than the minimal effort expended to re-image. I'm sure the latter is completely automated. Unfortunately, from my perspective, the cost to the -user- for the re-imaging has been left unaccounted for.
    Yes. Most front-line corporate support gigs are frequently manned by newly minted degrees & certifications who are not commanding high salaries. Once they learn the ropes, it is common for them to move up the career ladder & out of front-line support.
    Quote:
    You could maybe persuade upper IT mgmt or whoever to get a site-wide license...
    In mega-corporations, unless you happen to be on a first name basis with the top management of the division, unsolicited suggestions are usually filed in the trash can. The chances for solicited comments are slim as well.
  • Quote:
    People say Windows is easy, and up to some point they may be right. But if you need to do some serious work with it, it's damn hard to get anything done.
    I did debugger development on Windows XP several years ago, & I wouldn't say that the environment was a serious impediment to progress. Our development staff had a fair amount of latitude to do as we pleased, but we also supported our own systems. Waiting for the IT folks to eventually show up to fix problems was unrealistic, & sometimes they created more problems than if we had dealt with it ourselves in the first place.

    Nevertheless, as I understand your gig Carpetsmoker, you are having to deal with people who have minimal literacy at best. They download everything conceivable off the Web, & let their systems fester until they are nearly unusable before bringing them into your shop. Without being able to reinstall (for licensing reasons...), you are left with the worst of situations. You have some justification for your comments above.
I don't pretend to have the answers, nor do I completely defend Microsoft's practices. Supporting enterprise infrastructures are not a trivial task, & desktop support is perhaps the worst to maintain. Micrsoft is not guilt-free, but the way many corporations deal with the issue (or don't deal with the problems...) makes them even more culpable.
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Old 24th September 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TerryP View Post
it took more then an entire week get my desktop fully configured, compared to a few hours for a FreeBSD machine.
It surely won't ever beat FreeBSD, but if you don't already do that, you could backup many things you need (e.g. "quick launch" icons) instead of recreating them every time. Even Windows customizations and software settings can be backed up (if you can find them!) using the regedit utility (File > Export).
This can save you a lot of time.


Quote:
Originally Posted by TerryP View Post
My personal desktop has only had XP reinstalled once in 3 years
3 years, wow! You don't use it much, or at least you don't install/uninstall a lot?


Quote:
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we also don't surf porn off the servers
Nah, Facebook will suffice.
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Old 24th September 2009
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Thank you, ocicat, for your other-side-of-the-fence insights.

Just for the record, none of the re-imagings were caused by virii, spam, undefragged NTFS filesystems, an overload of pron cookies, or any of the typical user-instigated problems. They were self-induced by Microsoft software -- either internally by the OS, or perhaps by the filesystem's inability to properly journal.

---
Speaking of Facebook, Beastie, I just heard a George Clooney quote on the radio this a.m. -- apparently his name came up regarding a role in a Facebook related movie -- perhaps it was to play Mark Zuckerberg, or some other Facebook-founding related person. He'd been asked about turning down whatever role it was, and apparently about his views on social networking. He is reported to have said:
Quote:
I would rather have a prostate exam on live television by a guy with very cold hands than have a Facebook page.
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Old 24th September 2009
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My apologies to the OP for a bit of OT here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beastie View Post
3 years, wow! You don't use it much, or at least you don't install/uninstall a lot?
When projects demand a specific environment (e.g. unix or win) for getting things done, I will use it that most all, but under normal conditions: I run the WinXP machine under load for upwards of 8 hours every day. I install/uninstall things as needed, especially software updates and troublesome-drivers. Because only my BSD laptop is important enough to maintain stability on, I also subject the windows machine in question, to use as a "Guinea pig" whenever one is needed.

I attribute my win-machines survival rate to my computer-literacy.
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Old 24th September 2009
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Re: prostate exam versus Facebook

A quick google turned up this: http://www.switched.com/2009/09/18/g...s-to-facebook/
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Old 25th September 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beastie View Post
3 years, wow! You don't use it much, or at least you don't install/uninstall a lot?
I'll second what Terry said. I've used Windows for certain general-purpose applications for a *long* time, and I have never, ever reinstalled. There has been some installation and uninstallation of various applications, but not constantly. The oldest system is a Win98SE computer that is now over ten years old. I've just not had an issue with these sorts of things.

Now my Windows network is pretty small -- four, plus two VMs -- but they have worked very reliably over many years.

That said, I would not wish administering a huge network of Windows computers with variable-skill users on anyone. That could be a new circle of Hell for Dante. Still, I would not want these people on FreeBSD either.
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Old 25th September 2009
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It's just that Windows automatically and inevitably becomes slower as soon as you install device drivers and the software you use everyday.
Plus the registry grows a lot with time (with no obvious reason) and it rapidly increases startup time from, say, 50sec to 1min 30sec on computers that are always cleaned of useless/temporary files, free of malware, constantly defragged and customized for performance (only required services are running, all useless features are disabled, swap space is fixed, etc.)
I generally don't have more than 30 installed program, and yet, within 6 months or so I can easily get a +50MB big registry, 2min long startup, programs that freeze on startup or closing (but work perfectly on FreeBSD), and most programs just start and run much slower.

This applies to every version I've used enough, that is, every version from 95 to Vista. I don't remember 3.x well enough.

Even better! On one machine I installed both W2K (probably the fastest and lightest modern Windows version) and FreeBSD at the same time just 2 months ago. I use Windows on it only once every week for a few hours. Windows still works fine but its startup time is already 1min 35sec, up from 55sec, while X is up and running within 50sec... as it was 2 months ago.

Lack of experience results in infected machines, badly installed software, and all. But I'm sorry, all the above has nothing to do with experience or computer-literacy, and there is NO way to fix it aside from un/re-installing software and ultimately the operating system itself.
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Old 26th September 2009
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Sounds a bit like one of my customer's computers: random failures and glitches, most of which hackable with help from MS's knowledgebase (and various searches). The link between them seemed to be disk corruption, and after replacing the disk and finding similar problems during the reinstall/configure, at last did a memory test. (In my defense, page- and protection faults were - well, well within windows normal M.O.) Well, 3 or 4 dozy bits in one of the modules.
It might be worth running memtest on that machine. One of my maxims is "any symptom could be caused by memory" - it is suprising how they hide at times!
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Old 26th September 2009
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I've run a memtest several times. It can prove you -have- a RAM problem, but ... it cannot prove you -don't- have one.
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