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The Life and Death of Microsoft Software 187

coondoggie writes "With Microsoft aiming to release Vista real soon now, they've been retiring older versions of the Windows OS. For IT outfits it's yet again time to evaluate what stays and what goes, and make plans for the future. Network World discusses the life cycle of Microsoft's software." From the article: "'Generally, it is a bad idea to run unsupported software, but there can be a business case to run it,' says Cary Shufelt, Windows infrastructure architect at Oregon State University, in Corvallis. The university still has some NT machines running in isolation in its labs. But Shufelt says there are security risks in allowing connections to legacy machines and that the university makes sure to minimize those risks. 'We don't allow [Windows] 9.x clients to connect to our Active Directory,' he says. 'But we try to stay current with technology so these issues don't typically come up.' Others say they also stay current to avoid headaches and fire drills."
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The Life and Death of Microsoft Software

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  • Re:Don't allow? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jarg0n ( 882275 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:00PM (#15720431) Homepage
  • ReactOS? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Adm.Wiggin ( 759767 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:08PM (#15720511) Journal
    I think those are the exact machines ReactOS is targeting.
  • by saleenS281 ( 859657 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:09PM (#15720522) Homepage
    This is exactly why we have VMware. Need to run an app for 98? Put it in a virtual session. Get all your *real work* done on the external OS, whether that be Windows/Linux/whatever. You turn on your network connection to the virtual machine only when you need to transfer files on and off of it. IIRC, you can also setup a firewall to block what can and can't get to that virtual machine... need ftp out? Only allow ftp. Most of this can be setup so even the most illiterate user can figure it out.
  • by bmajik ( 96670 ) <matt@mattevans.org> on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:25PM (#15720632) Homepage Journal
    What you say is true, but i am not sure it is unique to software or even closed source software.

    I visited the Mercedes museum in Germany a while back. One thing that struck me was the display of old fashioned factory equipment that was based on the then-new Otto cycle engine. The machine would have a leather drive belt that went up to a rotating drive wheel hanging from the ceiling. It seemed that there'd be one engine turning a row of linked drive wheels and each separate machine would have a leather drive belt that powered it.

    I am sure that at some point, that engine broke, or a leather drive belt broke, or a machine broke. Supposing that any of the companies involved had moved on (think about the rapid pace of engine development during the earliest years of internal combustion engine deployment into factories) and would no longer offer parts or replacement units for any of the peices of this big moving puzzle.

    The factory would be in a position to
    - create the needed replacement parts themselves
    - pay the original creator to fix the problem
    - pay some new person to fix the problem
    - abandon some or all of the systems and retrofit something else in its place

    Now, you might say "ok, but if the engine had failed, wouldn't any engine work as long as it had a shaft outout and spun the same direction at the same speed?"

    Probably, with some work. I assure you, i cannot go and put my BMW's engine in my Audi and have it all just "work". Engine swaps even when you're taking an identical engine from an identical car are non-trivial. Once you have different interfaces, lots of custom work has to be done to make things work, and it is a painful laborious process.

    This would tend to suggest that retrofittability is critical in selecting the components that make your business run, which, when taken to the software analogy would suggest "demand documented open interfaces with open source software".

    Yet the question arises - are any of the machines I've described still in use? Is using a leather belt still the best way to transfer power to a factory machine? Or do thinigs become obsolete not because of abandonware, but because progress has truly taken place? Now power is distributed via electricity, not leather belts and drive wheels. And the power doesn't come from a gas engine installed on site, the production of power has been outsourced to the power company. every part of this original system has become obsolete, irrespective of the simplistic, logical, obvious interfaces and boundaries.

    Sometimes, it makes sense to just throw the old stuff away because the cost of evolving outweighs the cost of leaping.

    And often times, the cost of compatability is high. Everyone seems to understand that one big reason Microsoft gets into security trouble is due to the desire to maintain backward compatability... the need to maintain interfaces and expected behaviors. Compatability/retrofittability/ease of integration are sometimes at odds with innovation and progress.

    As an aside, if you're interacting with Microsoft Application X and require the binary, it usually means COM. Newer versions of X often include a backward compatible COM interface. Have you tried App Y with App X+1? Or are you going off of what the vendor says -- that to use X+1 you need Y+1?

  • by wiggles ( 30088 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:32PM (#15720670)
    AD 2003 has stronger password hashing than did older versions. I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but 98 only supported old LanMan passwords, where 2000+ will support Kerberos.
  • Microsoft [microsoft.com] has promised to continue to sell XP to OEMs and retail for a year post-Vista, and to system builders for two-years post-Vista. They can't wrap up support while they still sell it. They'll still be selling it (with very few takers) until Q1 2009, assuming no delays. Based on Win98 and WinME, it'll have support for 12-24 months after that. So we'll see XP supported when Blackcomb/Vienna is rolling out.
  • Re:stupid comentary (Score:3, Informative)

    by Shipwack ( 684009 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:39PM (#15720706)
    Well, we (a US Navy shop) have one machine running Win 3.1, and another that was "upgraded" to Win98... Though I doubt that as stand alone machines they qualify as being in a "high availibility enviroment". The machies run some specialised RF testing programs, and it just isn't cost effective to re-write the programs and/or QA the programs to run in a more modern version of Windows.
  • by HappyUserPerson ( 954699 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:41PM (#15720719)
    Microsoft app X+1 is now available. App Y *will not export* to app X+1 because the executable has been moved and it can't talk to the new version anyway.

    Okay, so stick with Microsoft app X. Dedicate a machine to it; hardware is cheap and Virtual Machines [microsoft.com] are cheaper. But you say...

    App X is no longer available in the company and we cannot buy licenses for a variety of reasons (mostly due to integration and the fact that version X and X+1 running together cause major problems).

    It is extremely improbable that you have no options here. Microsoft offers downgrade rights to all volume licensed software. Contact your Microsoft reseller for more information.

    If you are not a volume license customer, you should become one. Otherwise, you're either buying your software retail, which carries higher prices and you don't get volume license benefits (like downgrading, and other surprising licensing flexibility), or you're buying OEM versions, which again doesn't carry the volume license advantages.

    If you are using OEM licensed software, you should also consider that the OEM license agreements are quite restrictive (they can't be transferred from machine to machine, COA requirements). Further consider that "paying for" software does not give you the right to use it anyway you see fit, you must follow the license agreement or you have no legal right to use the software.

  • by Anne Thwacks ( 531696 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @03:05PM (#15720890)
    We have several laptop machines running Win98 at work. Why? because they are used for engineering. They have floppy disk drives and serial ports, which are needed for engineering, and new laptops dont have them.

    The old machines hare processors and memory which are far to small to run Win2k, and XP is too modern to be considered well enough tested for mission critical work :-)

    When I have convinced people that Win98 is a security risk because its EOL'd so all the hackers know its a good virus target, these machines will have NetBSD installed. We cannot scrap them because we need them to support instruments that cost humungous amounts of money, and to run chronically obsolete tool chains to support products with a 30 year life span. - Yes its true - not everything with an embedded process or has a lifespan of 8 months, or even 8 years.

    Think about it - some complex systems take two years to specify, and two to build, one for certification, then they take an age to get delivered and installed, possibly requiring a custom designed room, and then users take two years to learn how to use them, after that, people expect a 7 year _minimum_ product life. If you dont believe me, check out diagnostic equipment your local hospital, airport, rail depot, garage, etc.

  • huh? (Score:2, Informative)

    by just_forget_it ( 947275 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @03:33PM (#15721077)
    From TFA: "It isn't only aging operating systems, however, that have their support lapse. Windows XP Service Pack 1 will be retired for good on Oct. 10, and users are being advised to start planning now for completing upgrades to XP Service Pack 2, which has been touted for its security improvements."

    This is a non-issue. Service Pack 1 is not an Operating System, it's a major bug fix/addon revision. Service Pack 2 has all the features SP1 has, plus it's a free upgrade to even pre-SP1 Windows XP. This is not the same as Windows 98 being retired and a business buying new software (and most likely hardware as well) as a result. I can just run Windows Update to get service pack 2, it adds features but it doesn't change the way the core of Windows works or make it incompatible with any of my software. Did I mention it's free?

    It's not as if Microsoft were making customers buy a new $129 license for every minor service pack release, or worse yet, changing the name of the OS for each bug fix and feature addition in order to justify it, that would be unethical.

  • by molarmass192 ( 608071 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @03:49PM (#15721197) Homepage Journal
    ... except if you need to make use of a specialized ISA/PCI card, that's where the weakness of virtualized hardware comes into play. FWIW, I have a vmware image of Win98, just in case, I've only ever used it to spy on USB traffic from Win-only USB drivers, and even that's been a while.
  • old isnt always bad (Score:2, Informative)

    by MERVERNATOR ( 589408 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @07:20PM (#15722392)
    At the organization where I work, 500+ user systems run Win2K(few XP) and all our servers run NT4. when an oddball virus hit about a year ago that we actually sent samples of to Trend Micro because no one had seen the thing yet (some new variant of rbug or something) it was killing network ability on everything, as well as crashing explorer.exe on many systems. the only systems it didnt hurt were the NT4 ones. had those serves been upgraded to 2K/2003, we probably would have had a total failure. I also have to hand it to MS though for making (for the most part) Win2K as good as they did... and in doing so, I think they view it as a mistake. it runs better on old hardware than XP does, it seems quite a bit more stable than all the other versions minus NT4, and it has a nice non-doofy (eg green start button, rough edge graphics) look to it. which I think is why they are so eager to stop people from using it. I find it incredible when I buy a new PC for the business that I can go to the manufacturers site and find all the XP drivers I want but no 2K ones... or only ones for about a quarter of the hardware in the system... with the 2 OS's so close that most drivers usually work in both, I find more and more that tell you that it wont allow install to 2K. I almost feel as if MS is paying off companies that make hardware to not release 2K drivers anymore so they can get people all on XP. Its like they want you the least secure environment you can be in so they can get a kickback form the higher sales of the antivirus companies that have their own programmers writing viruses so theres something to protect against.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments