Tag Archives: windows

Just below the Surface of Windows RT

I went to the Seattle Microsoft Store this weekend to check out the Surface RT. I was already skeptical that anyone should buy the Surface RT. After using it, I no longer have any doubt: Buying a surface RT would be foolish.

The Surface RT is a Windows product from Microsoft. I think people will expect it to be like an iPad that runs Windows applications, and they are going to be disappointed to find that it really isn’t. Even so, I assumed it would well executed.

I was surprised then, when I actually used a Surface RT, is that even the Metro/Modern UI experience was sub par. The hardware was very nice. Many things were smooth and speedy with the UI, but many things were not. Lots of the built-in apps took a lonnng time to launch. Rotating the screen involved a considerable delay, made more apparent by jerky animation. In the 10 minutes I was using it, I had (built in) apps exit unexpectedly more than once.

Microsoft makes a big deal about the keyboard cover. I found it harder to type on than an on-screen keyboard –I constantly had to check to make sure my fingers were over the right keys. I tried to rely on the autocorrect, as I do with the iPad’s on-screen keyboard, but it was not up to the job.

People should see for themselves if they have the chance. I did, and learned that Microsoft’s execution was worse than I expected. I really don’t know what they were thinking. They needed to bring their “A-game.” Maybe they did, if so, their A-game is a lot of flash, and not much substance. It feels like demo-quality, rather than a finished product from one of the largest software companies in the world.

copssh, an sshd installer for windows, is a nice idea, didn’t work for me

C:\Program Files\ICW\bin\sshd.exe: *** fatal error – could not load user32, Win32 error 1114I’m using rsnapshot to do efficient file-based backups of disparate on & off-site servers to a big disk on a backup server here in the office.  Up until this point all the machines involved have been running some form of Linux, but I spent today roping a Windows server we have hosted at The Planet into the mix.  The files I’m concerned with are backup dumps produced by MS-SQL.  In the past I used a Windows-friendly file-sync service to move the files, but I’d be happier if I could do everything from my Linux backup server.

The solution seemed obvious, get an ssh server and an rsync client working on windows so I could treat it like any other machine.  I tried using copssh, which starts with openssh and adds just enough cygwin to get it running on Windows, and wraps it all up with some utility scripts in an easy-to-use installer.  I ran into a few little hitches with passwordless public-key authentication, but after uninstalling and reinstalling, everything seemed to be working well.  I was able to ssh in to the server without entering a password and run commands.  Next step was to install rsync, I went with cwrsync, another cygwin-based port of the unix standard software.

Then the problem began, I tried running rsync from a Linux machine against the windows machine and it failed with the following error when I used a non-administrator account:

C:\Program Files\ICW\bin\sshd.exe: *** fatal error - could not load user32, Win32 error 1114

A little searching suggested I wasn’t the only one.  If I sshed in to a shell and ran ‘whoami’ I saw that I was actually using the service account that had been created for sshd, rather than the account of the user I’d tried logging in as.  More digging didn’t give me much hope.  I found some tweaks to the cygwin environment used when starting the service, but that didn’t help.

So, I ended up giving up on copssh, uninstalled it and cwrsync and just installed cygwin, and used it to install openssh and rsync.  Cygwin packages openssh with some scripts that take care of installing it as a service.  I didn’t use these instructions, but they seem to give a good overview.

So, my advice, just use cygwin it was faster than the “shortcut” I tried.

Google’s ChromeOS Doesn’t Have to be Popular to Matter

This week Google confirmed a long running rumor that they were working on their own operating system when they announced their ChromeOS.  Most of the resulting commentary I’ve seen have missed the mark.  A lot of tech journalists and bloggers focused on the Google / Microsoft rivalry.  Dave Weiner found that predictable narrative to be a boring one, and dismissed it for the same reason the journalists seemed to find it interesting, because it was yet another fight between two big tech companies. Ultimately ChromeOS didn’t interest him because the Chrome browser didn’t support his favorite browser extension, a bookmark synchronization tool, and because, being Linux based, it wouldn’t run Frontier, the desktop software he wrote that he uses to develop and run most of his websites. On Slate, Farad Manjoo criticized the move with an article titled “Five Reasons Google’s new Chrome OS is a Bad Idea.

Here is the thing, and it is really simple, Chrome and ChromeOS don’t need to become popular for them to do well by Google, they just have to have influence.

It works like this.  Google benefits when more people use the web more often for more activities. They benefit primarily from increased opportunities for advertising revenue, but also they are getting paid for Google Apps.

More people will use the web more often for more activities as:

  • Web applications offer more and more utility and usability
  • Devices that can access the web become more affordable
  • Internet connectivity becomes cheaper and more widespread

I don’t think ChromeOS helps with internet connectivity, unless it includes easy to use mesh networking, and even then, its not going to make that big a difference, but the effort helps with the other two.

Chrome the browser helps make web applications more useful and easier to use. It has already helped make both performance and robustness a bigger issue in the browser world. Since Chrome published their first performance numbers, both Safari and Firefox have made strong strides of their own on Javascript performance. I’m not saying that WebKit and Firefox weren’t already working on the problem, the speed with which they responded shows they were, but I think the entry of Chrome has helped accelerate the pace of improvement.  Just this week, the Firefox developers let out some news about their work on a multiprocess architecture like Chrome’s to help with stability.

Chrome the OS both helps make web applications more useful. It has the potential to create an environment where web applications work better with each other, and also with local applications and files. By doing so Chrome OS also puts pressure on other OS vendors (ie Apple and Microsoft) to do a better job of supporting web applications as well.

It also gives them away to influence the cost of client operating systems, and, by extension, desktop, notebook and netbook computers. Linux may ultimately be an unpopular choice on netbooks, but its presence helped put pressure on Microsoft to keep selling XP and make it available for netbooks at a lower cost.

It would be a mistake to look at this through the cost issue through lens of the US or Western Europe. This really an issue in the developing markets where computer penetration among “consumers” and small businesses is still quite low.  In those circumstances fewer people think they need to run Office or Photoshop, etc so compatibility with desktop applications isn’t as important as it is to tech journalists and bloggers. These markets represent a huge opportunity for Google’s advertising and also Google Apps. When computer penetration is low, even pushing the price down $20 could lead to a big bump in the number using computers, and that will help drive economies of scale that help make the hardware even cheaper, and network effects that increase the relative value of having a computer.

That all this might hurt Microsoft by putting pressure on their prices and revenues is kind of a bonus.