What Art Thou, Windows?
Love it or hate it, Microsoft Windows is a part of your life, at least in some way. It matters not if you personally use Linux or Macintosh. And unless you barter goods for services even if you don’t use Windows, Someone you are interacting with does. Even then, chances are they are using the venerable operating system.
It is a matter of future history that Windows 8 will land on planet Earth, and it will impact you. Let’s take a brief tour to see what is coming at you, one way or another.
The computers of yesteryear were character-based. Technically, we just didn’t have the spare machine power for a Graphical User Interface (GUI). Xerox had a research center known as PARC (Paolo Alto Research Center). They also had a small investment and a small computer company that sounded more like an orchard. They call themselves Apple Computer. At this research center, they daydreamed up things such as: the mouse, ethernet, and the GUI.
In the time period when Steve Jobs was considered a black sheep the Apple Board of Directors. He was ousted and worked on the NeXt computer. As CEO they had brought in the marketing maven John Scully, who wanted to go directly at IBM. IBM and Microsoft were in bed together. Bill Gates strong-armed Scully for licensing of GUI patents in exchange for MS office on the Mac.
Mr. Gates was having a fight with IBM over what to do with the next-generation operating system (OS/2), which included the GUI. The short story is IBM and Microsoft got a divorce. Windows sitting on top of a character-based operating system (DOS) stayed with Microsoft, while IBM got OS/2.
With hardware technological advances growing by leaps and bounds Gates wanted out of the limitations of DOS. He snagged Dave Cutler from DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) to work on NT. To this day Microsoft vigorously denies that stands for New Technology.
NT was created to address a multitude of issues with a DOS-based Windows. The two biggies being segmented memory, and the nonexistent security. Game programmers hated NT. The digital equivalent of checkpoint Charlie, every step of the way, crushed real-time game performance. Microsoft gadfly Alex St. John (an avid game developer in his spare time) solved that with DirectX.
In an effort to slide the consumer over, Microsoft released its last space Windows calling it Windows Me. It looked like NT-based Windows 2000 (really NT version 5) buying game developers a little more time to adopt DirectX. On the server-side Windows 2000 was the first iteration to adopt LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol). They called it Active Directory (AD).
Next came NT 5.1 which marketing called XP. It was the first time Microsoft offered Windows as either 32 or 64-bit code.
At this point Microsoft had a challenge. XP was carrying legacy code deep in its bowels from the mid-80s. A great deal of the tribal knowledge had either retired or died. They wanted to clean up NT’s act. The internally numbered NT 5.2 became the disaster known as Vista. While the effort was valiant, it broke a tone of applications. To make matters worse, they wanted to clean up the open door security that made it previously so easy to connect everything together. The challenge was it made it easy for the bad guys too. So Vista became a mother hen, are you sure? End users despised it.
So much so that when Windows 7 came along planet Earth was fearful of Vista: the sequel. That’s too bad because technically Windows 7 modernized security and had considerable improvements in everything from features to actually reducing resource needs by eliminating legacy garbage and have given time for application developers to catch up.
So here we said at the close of the year and Windows 8 is not even yet in beta. Yet there are some of us who have been living in Windows 8 since its release in late August 2011. The verdict?
So far Windows 8 looks like hot stuff. It’s resource needs are less than Windows 7. And they seem to be managing the impossible of addressing the demands of the desktop and a tablet-based computer. Microsoft is even going so far as to support the super low power processors known as ARM. Often these are found in smart phones and tablets.
Clearly they are looking to match Apple, which is merging OS X and IOS. OS X runs on desktops, while IOS is for iPhone, iPad, etc.
Microsoft claims that whatever runs on Win 7, it will run on Win 8. Overall, our experience of that has been true. Only a few applications have really choked. And it’s early in the game.
A word of warning to you. If you’re still on XP, plan for a complete reinstall. There will be no migration path. The underlying code has simply changed too much. It would be easier to convert your car from gasoline to diesel. If you’re thinking of staying on XP, think again. The operating system is over 10 years old, and has security issues that simply cannot be addressed. Forewarned is forearmed.