Cleaning a Vista PC

Microsoft needs to lock down Vista even tighter. This should be something that comes in Service Pack 1 – the Nuclear Bunker version of Vista. I’ve long been calling for the Homeland Security release of Windows, in which they make every app take its shoes off for the X-ray machine before it can come in. It’s clear the antivirus companies don’t see the advent of Vista as an end-of-the-road after which all their revenues will dry up. And that isn’t good enough.

Cleaning a Vista PC

Now, on the subject of SP1, what can I say? The official Microsoft line is that Windows Update is presenting lots of opportunities to roll out the updates and fixes necessary to keep a Vista machine happy (hah!), and that there’s no real need for a service pack just yet because it would put out the wrong message. I’m sorry, the wrong message? Ah yes, the logic goes like this – release a service pack too quickly and people will know that something was wrong with the first release. And how is that any different from the snowstorm of updates we’ve endured since the beginning? The advantage of a service pack is that it draws a line in the sand: we know that if we install SP1 we’ll have all the patches that came before and can deal with it all in one hit. Of course, from within the reality distortion field known as Redmond, they can imagine that each and every one of us is diligently rolling up all those patches into our installation disc images, whistling a cheerful tune as we go! And that’s despite the fact that the majority of home Vista machines don’t come with any installation media.

So is SP1 going to arrive this year? I doubt it. Just about everything else promised for the second half of this year has slipped, and that’s a long and particularly impressive list. When the head of Microsoft says the launch event will be in late February 2008, you might be forgiven for thinking he means late February 2008. And you might also be forgiven for wondering how late February 2008 equates with, quote, “a shipping date in late 2007”. You’re forgetting that Q7 and Q8 are perfectly legitimate quarters in the Microsoft calendar. Actually, 28 February 2008 turns out not to be a launch. Code for Server 2008 will ship in December, it’s been promised, and 28 February is a marketing launch. Or some equivalent rah-rah thing. And it’s taking place in Los Angeles, so is this the first morning of the already-cancelled Professional Developers Conference? Who knows?

What else has slipped? Well, Office 2008 for Mac has vanished from “right about now” to sometime in early 2008. Apparently, the code quality wasn’t good enough, whatever that means. It’s been harder than expected porting from one compiler to another, and from the PPC chipset to the Intel one, despite them having had several years to get this right. And it will still ship without any Visual Basic for Applications macro language, which completely screws any attempt to maintain cross-platform application code built within Excel or Word. Anyone would think that Microsoft had comprehensively lost its ability to ship anything on time anymore. Maybe it doesn’t matter to the company any more, as its corporate customers are all tied into rolling licensing contracts, so the revenue stream isn’t geared to folding cash paid for real products on a release date any more.

Mathematica and NKS

And now for something completely different. Sometimes it’s a fine idea “to get out of your comfort zone” and stick your toe into uncharted waters. Perhaps a little background explanation is in order. Wolfram Research is a small, privately held software company headquartered in the US, but owned and run by an ex-pat Brit called Stephen Wolfram. You can do the appropriate search to read his history: suffice to say, the man is a genius. In fact, geniuses think he’s a genius. Around five years ago, he published a book called New Kind of Science, a huge tome and one I strongly recommend you read because I know it will make you think, quietly ponder what he’s saying and then worry deeply that maybe this is as big a leap as Einstein’s.

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