The Case Against Vista Part 1

Today, I am here to start to make the business case against Microsoft’s new Operating System called Windows Vista. I will consider this topic from the point of view of a business entity. I’ll take a look at the history of the OS and the features that are different between Vista and XP, we’ll also look at some of the costs involved migrating to Vista.

First, let me introduce myself from a systems administration view. I presently am a systems administrator for the State of Delaware (I don’t think the specific agency I work for is important so I’ll not disclose that information). I have been an admin for over 12 years. I have handled migrations from Windows 3.1 to Windows NT4/Windows ’95, Windows 98 to XP, and Windows 2000 to XP.

Before we get to the nuts and bolts of Vista’s features (and I don’t plan for this to be a review of Vista), let’s look at some of the history of the Windows OS. Windows 3.1, as anyone who ever dealt with this OS on a regular basis would tell you, was a nightmare to administer. For those of you who are new to the computer game, I’ll tell you that for Windows 3.1 you had the following problems:

  1. There was no built in network support. So, in order for you to allow it to use a network, you had to load a Novell (or whatever Network Operating System you used) client on the machine at startup. Additionally, Novell did not use TCP/IP to communicate, so if you needed TCP/IP on the machine (for connectivity to other non-Novell network devices or to the Internet) you also had to load a TCP/IP client at startup.
  2. You had the 8.3 limit on file names. This was a huge pain in the butt for new users to grasp.
  3. Windows 3.1 was built on top of DOS, so most of your programs had a 640K memory limit. As mentioned above though, you had to load the network clients. This impacted your DOS memory limit.
  4. No Plug and Play hardware support. This meant that every hardware device (CD ROM’s, modems, NIC cards, etc) needed to have settings (and sometimes DIP switches on the device itself) set. An interesting aside: When people ask me how I learned my computer knowledge, I always tell them that I’d love to give them an old Packard Bell SX-25 and have them hook up a modem, video card, sound card, and then get either Lucas Arts games or DOOM to properly work. Then they’d understand how a computer geek 20 years ago learned his craft. He had to. It was the only way to get the damn thing to work!
  5. With the DOS memory limit above, you had to use edit config.sys and autoexec.bat so that your programs might work. When installing a new program/game you needed to check your XMS and/or EMS memory so that your computer could run the program/game without crashing too much J. This entailed editing the config.sys and restarting, then rinse and repeat, until your EMS/XMS was right. Most of the time, I had a boot menu that entailed different loading scenarios in order to get my software to work right. For instance, if I was playing a game, I’d only load stuff that I needed. No printers, no crazy fonts, no network protocols, etc.

My point with all of this rambling, is that there was a BUSINESS NEED to replace Windows 3.1 when Windows 95 came out. My next post will cover that