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The Life and Death of Microsoft Software

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the holding-vista-above-pride-rock dept.


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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Don't allow? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15720381)

Windows 9x doesn't work with Active Directory at all.

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

jarg0n (882275) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720431)

Re:Don't allow? (1)

TripHammer (668315) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720739)

Slick...learn something new everyday.

Re:Don't allow? (1)

MrNougat (927651) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720899)

Note that there's also an NT4 version of DSClient: []

Also note that there is no DSClient for WinME, officially, though "you may be able to install Active Directory Client Extension on a Windows Me computer for testing purposes." []

Re:Don't allow? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15720459)

Yes it can. You just need to install the "protocols for microsoft networking" or somthing like that in the network properties.

Why do I know this?

Article Summary... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15720389)

Users may have custom software that does not work on new versions of Windows... could present IT challenges as Microsoft retires old products...

Nothing to see here... Move along...

Re:Article Summary... (5, Insightful)

phillymjs (234426) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720938)

Users may have custom software that does not work on new versions of Windows... could present IT challenges as Microsoft retires old products...

That's why Microsoft has such a hard-on for virtualization-- they want businesses to buy shiny new Windows 2003 servers and run, for example, their business-critical NT 4.0 legacy app that hasn't been updated, in a virtual machine on that server.

That's exactly why they bought Virtual PC from Connectix.


Re:Article Summary... (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 8 years ago | (#15721022)

Microsoft has such a hard-on

Isn't it an oxymoron?

All NT here (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15720412)

The university still has some NT machines running in isolation in its labs.

All our Windows PCs run NT, from NT 4.0 to NT 5.2.

Re:All NT here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15720440)

Where, or at least what sort of place, is "here"? University, small business, technical school, enterprise?

Re:All NT here (1)

freeze128 (544774) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720963)

Likewise, NOBODY is running Windows 9.x, because it hasn't been released yet.

Perhaps they mean Windows 9x.

Joke (5, Funny)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720436)

I *knew* if I just type "microsoft life cycle humor" into google something would come up:

The Life Cycle of Software

      1. Programmer produces code he believes is bug-free.
      2. Product is tested. 20 bugs are found.
      3. Programmer fixes 10 of the bugs and explains to the testing department that the other 10 aren't really bugs.
      4. Testing department finds that five of the fixes didn't work and discovers 15 new bugs.
      5. See 3.
      6. See 4.
      7. See 5.
      8. See 6.
      9. See 7.
    10. See 8.
    11. Due to marketing pressure and an extremely pre-mature product announcement based on over-optimistic programming schedule, the product is released.
    12. Users find 137 new bugs.
    13. Original programmer, having cashed his royalty check, is nowhere to be found.
    14. Newly-assembled programming team fixes almost all of the 137 bugs, but introduce 456 new ones.
    15. Original programmer sends underpaid testing department a postcard from Fiji. Entire testing department quits.
    16. Company is bought in a hostile takeover by competitor using profits from their latest release, which had 783 bugs.
    17. New CEO is brought in by board of directors. He hires programmer to redo program from scratch.
    18. Programmer produces code he believes is bug-free.
    19. See step 2

You forgot: (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15720510)

20. Profit.

Re:Joke (5, Funny)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720524)

Pure fiction. What programmer gets a royalty check?

Re:Joke (1)

IflyRC (956454) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720540)

In many cases, gaming programmers get salary bonuses and in some cases royalty checks.

Re:Joke (2, Funny)

fishybell (516991) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720977)

that is exactly why I left programming for new career as a linux sysadmin. ... oh wait.

Re:Joke (1)

silentsurfer (969556) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720743)

The mod's are clearly anal, this is a 5 comment and perhaps we need to invent a new +6 comment. Cheers dude your alright.

Re:Joke (1)

srock2588 (827871) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720795)

So how is this any different from most other software companies?

The risk is not just direct (5, Insightful)

also-rr (980579) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720438)

We have a piece of Microsoft software, X. An application Y outputs its data to application X. So far so good...

It does this by (during the export process) loading the software X. Don't ask me why, I didn't write it.

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.

The App Y developers could fix this... but they wont because they have moved onto App Y+1 which we don't want to buy (not yet mature enough). 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). There are no other export options except to pay for monkeys to retype all the data - on a weekly basis.

Software upgrades and end of support can attack you in the posterior in unexpected ways, and sticking with old software may not be an option. If you have given away the ability to make your own modifications, or put your data into formats you cannot read, you better make sure it's in your risk register.

Re:The risk is not just direct (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15720553)

MS application X wouldn't happen to be Internet Explorer, would it?

(I joke, but the IE situation is *almost* that sad, with it being very difficult to run more than one version at a time, and each version having its own special, quirky behaviour)

Re:The risk is not just direct (1)

Not The Real Me (538784) | more than 8 years ago | (#15721010)

Microsoft used to work on a bunch of different software. About 15 years ago, we had a multiline voicemail application that ran on OS/2 v1.2 that was written by Microsoft.

Microsoft's multiline voicemail app would not run on later versions of OS/2. It was a non-GUI text app that (for a Microsoft product) was incredibly robust and almost bulletproof. Too bad there was no documentation, and the help files were a joke.

Re:The risk is not just direct (3, Informative)

bmajik (96670) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720632)

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?

Re:The risk is not just direct (2, Insightful)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720722)

In the industrial setting you refer to, you can maintain a staff of master mechanics to craft replacements parts and perform repairs when needed (sure, sometimes you may need to bring in outside help, but for day-to-day, it works). A few years ago I supported a distribution center in Indianapolis which ran on that same model. They had cheap forklifts from the early 70's, and had two mechanics on staff who maintained them in-house. You're right, at some point, it becomes the wise financial choice to bring in new equipment and reduce the maintenance group, but those kinds of situations tend to linger far longer than you'd expect (there's always a hotter project to spend that capital on).

When it comes to modern technology, however, the majority of commercial software doesn't include the source code, so you're left at the mercy of the vendor.

Re:The risk is not just direct (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720788)

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.
Are they in use now? I can't answer that, but I can tell you that my father's factory used this type of setup until well into the '80s. Earlier, they had converted from DC power to AC. Being essentially an open system, many small companies can start up and offer patches to the existing infrastructure to keep it working.

Re:The risk is not just direct (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15720843)

I remember at my dad's hanger they were very keen on compressed air rather than electricity. Something about it not going "kaboom" in the presence of various chemicals and fuels perhaps.

Re:The risk is not just direct (1)

Foolicious (895952) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720927)

Whoa! You've got a BMW and an Audi?

Re:The risk is not just direct (1)

bmajik (96670) | more than 8 years ago | (#15721030)

Yeah. 2 BMWs, actually. And an Audi. And a Volkswagen.

The BMWS and Audi are from 87, 88, and 88, respecively. The VW is a '00 and is my wife's car, and cost me more than the other 3 combined :) (And all of them are paid for, as you might expect with older cars)

I could make the same analgous argument about car maintenance. I do _all_ of the maintenance on all of our vehicles. There are a lot of times when i drive or work on my 88 Audi and think "supporting this outdated thing just isn't worth it any more". Fortuneately, car ownership or driving cars isn't my business, so I can afford to be more sentimental than financially rational in how I handle my automotive stable.

(to answer the eventual question, here's why i have 4 cars:)
- one new, shiny, safe, reliable, comfortable car for my wife
- one classic BMW M5 for a fair-weather driver, providing a driving experience like nothing else
- one older, cheaper, Audi Quattro with snow tires, so the M5 can stay nice in the winter, and so I can have maximum fun and safety at the same time in the severe winters we get here
- one dirt-cheap BMW 3 series, which i am rebuilding into a dedicated track car, so that I can retire the M5 from race track events (it's a rare car and hard to replace if i have a shunt)

Plus, I just like cars. Some people like watching sports, some people like building car stereos, some people like putting Neon lights in their PCs. I like the different driving experiences I can get from each of the above vehicles. I don't even put all that many miles on them, so when I do, I want them to be pleasurable, not functional.

Re:The risk is not just direct (5, Interesting)

jimicus (737525) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720640)

It runs even deeper than that.

Consider the following scenarios - all fictional, but all perfectly conceivable in any sizeable organisation:

  • App X runs just fine, but is reaching the end of its supported life. Version X+1 has already been discontinued and cannot be licensed, any upgrade has to be to X+2. But there is no upgrade path from X to X+2 unless you want to re-key all several million rows of data, so you've got to go to X+1 first. However you never bought version X+1, so you don't have installation media and, as discussed above, you can't (easily) get it.
  • App X is used exclusively by the finance department and is reaching the end of its supported life. X+1 is available, but it's very expensive. The finance director will have to sign off on any migration plan and he doesn't see the business need to upgrade - after all, version X has always worked so far. He's the one who'll be signing the cheque to buy version X+1. So what if the older version is not supported? We've not needed the support yet. In this case, technically the finance director is in the right - the change is expensive, has a risk attached and has little perceived benefit - however it might be wise for the IT department to have a plan B sitting in the wings in case application X suddenly breaks one day...
  • App X depends heavily on Fred's Shiny Database and will not speak to anything else. The company that developed App X went out of business long ago, but their product is still critical to the business. Nobody's got around to investigating a replacement because the only people in the IT department who even knew it existed were made redundant in the last round of layoffs. Meantime, Fred's Shiny Database Company has been taken over by Ceefax Data Ltd, who are discontinuing Fred's Shiny Database in favour of their own product.

Re:The risk is not just direct (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720642)

Without knowing the problem it may be possible to write a fake app X that would take the data and then export it to application X+1.
Or if it is just the location of the executable you couldn't you just put a link from the old location to the new one?

Access 97 forever! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15720647)

We have the exact same problem. It's fucking insane to be installing Access 97 on brand new 3+ ghz machines, but what can you do?
We finally EOL'd Win9x last year after fighting to do so for about 4 years. We still "officially" support OS9 on Macs, fortunately we only have a few hundred Mac users and almost all of them are obsessed with getting new machines every chance they get. I think maybe a half dozen are clinging to OS9.
We supposedly have a semi-mission critical piece of software that runs on OS/2. The developer has been out of business for 10+ years. From what I've heard the box sits in a closet humming along and no one is really sure who is in charge of supporting it anymore. Someday it will die and probably land in my lap...

Re:The risk is not just direct (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15720715)

This raises an obvious question: why are you importing Shakespeare into Microsoft products?

Re:The risk is not just direct (2, Informative)

HappyUserPerson (954699) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 [] 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.

stupid comentary (-1, Troll)

GC (19160) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720443)

ummm get real.....

I may be drunk, but who the f*** is running Win98 in their high availability environ?\\\

ReactOS? (2, Informative)

Adm.Wiggin (759767) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720511)

I think those are the exact machines ReactOS is targeting.

Re:stupid comentary (3, Informative)

Shipwack (684009) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:stupid comentary (1)

kalaef (677578) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720849)

Have you tried running a Virtual PC version of windows 98 on a Windows XP machine. That way you could use that machine for something else other than just hanging around becasue you need windows 98

Re:stupid comentary (1)

Shipwack (684009) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720943)

Interesting idea, but not really needed. The PCs in question are rack mounted, and only used for those two programs to test out some radio frequency cards, so we don't need to wait on them for anything. Plus, we'd have to be allotted money for the programs, and testing, etc... The current set-up costs nothing and works. In actuallity, I kind of enjoy running Win 3.1 on a modernish (the motherboard might hold a Pentium II) machine; it burns through boot-up, DOS, and Windows 3.2 into the test program so quickly that there is little time spent waiting for the machine to get ready.

Re:stupid comentary (2, Insightful)

jtyost2 (964236) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720713)

Acutally there is a whole host of companies even Fortune 500 companies running Windows 98. Dumb, yeah but cheap for the companies. Money wins over common sense far too often.

Re:stupid comentary (2, Interesting)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720810)

Millions of retailers using Win98 on their POS registers...

I predict a quick death for XP after release of V. (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720453)

There are rather few "good" reasons for the everyday user to buy Vista (unless it comes bundled with a new PC anyway). There have been many incentives to switch from NT to 2k (USB support), or even from 2k to XP (better support for a lot of hardware). But so far, the big "visible" incentive (aside of the 3D interface) is the DX10 support. Now, that's not something you can sell to a company. What for does a company need a component that mainly carters to gamers? Actually, most would love to NOT have it.

Also, there's the big black cloud of DRM that hovers over Vista, where pretty much nobody really knows yet just how dark it will be. Many people will abstain until that fog cleared, definitly something neither MS nor the content industry would enjoy. So, another incentive will be that certain content will only be available to you if you use Vista and its stronger DRM.

Another thing that doesn't bother companies too much. Actually, yet another incentive NOT to migrate, so your employees can't waste their time watching youtube.

What does bother companies, though, is support. So the faster support for XP ceases to exist, the faster companies will migrate. So, let the spinning start.

Whoopsie, already started.

Re:I predict a quick death for XP after release of (2, Interesting)

TheNetAvenger (624455) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720592)

Vista is also updated from the ground level up. New memory management, caching techniques, security protections, networking stack, audio stack, video driver ring move, etc etc etc...

It may not 'look' that much different, but has as many differences as NT4 to Win2k did.

I find articles like the one posted quite suspect. Legacy hardware can easily run WinXP as well, and there is Virtual PC for the hard core legacy apps that can be tightly wrapped in the new OSes security...

Re:I predict a quick death for XP after release of (1)

UNIX_Meister (461634) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720949)

I find articles like the one posted quite suspect. Legacy hardware can easily run WinXP as well, and there is Virtual PC for the hard core legacy apps that can be tightly wrapped in the new OSes security...
I am just astounded by the lack of interest in this approach. We have a product development group here that has to support the products on OSes going back to Windows 3.1, with a large number of win95 and win98 customers. No, I kid you not. Our customers all over the world vary from large companies to small mom and pop shops, and the smaller ones tend not to upgrade at all. So in a server consolidation measure I proposed, loading up 60 of these servers into VMware guests running on just a few beefy machines. The parent is right: the security can be managed at the host level, putting the guests behind NAT. But why aren't more people doing this sort of thing for their 'vintage' OSes and product support needs? I guess it's inertia - if it's still working the way it is, don't change it.

Re:I predict a quick death for XP after release of (1)

Trouvist (958280) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720666)

or even from 2k to XP (better support for a lot of hardware).
Last I checked, the driver subsystem for windows 2000 and windows xp was identical. Ever wondered why all of the drivers you download for it say "2k/xp" instead of having different drivers for each?

Re:I predict a quick death for XP after release of (2, Informative)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720677)

Microsoft [] 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:I predict a quick death for XP after release of (1)

kyouteki (835576) | more than 8 years ago | (#15721074)

You mean, while Blackcomb/Vienna is being delayed...

Re:I predict a quick death for XP after release of (1)

clodney (778910) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720756)

For businesses I think there are two reasons to upgrade, neither of which you mentioned:

1. Improved support for remote administration. That is not an area I am at all familiar with, but I keep hearing that group policies are much more comprehensive in Vista.

2. Better security. I know, MS always claims the next release will be locked up tight, but to some extent they are correct - each version is tougher than the one before At this point there is no reason to believe that Vista will not be an improvement over the security in XP. Just having the default accounts run as non-admin, and the whole principle of LUA will serve to stop lots of attacks.

Re:I predict a quick death for XP after release of (1)

mjm1231 (751545) | more than 8 years ago | (#15721073)

1. Improvements to GP are already available with Windows 2003 server R2 (though I'm still trying to figure out what the heck R2 is. Is it a service pack? A new product? Do I have to pay for it?) and is fully compatible with XP SP2.

2. Most businesses already don't allow users to run as admin. The legacy apps that require writing to HKeyLocalMachine, etc., are the problem here. Not Windows. If users are already running as limited accounts, it's really no change at all.

Another big impediment to adoption by business is the Aero interface requirement of a 128MB video card. Remember that the biggest selling video chipset is the intel integrated. The vast majority of business PCs deployed right now do not come close to meeting this requirement. For me, the possiblity of having to deal with an environment where there is all one OS but some machines have one UI and others a different one is huge disincentive to upgrade.

Re:I predict a quick death for XP after release of (0, Redundant)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 8 years ago | (#15721146)

Another big impediment to adoption by business is the Aero interface requirement of a 128MB video card.

Wrong. Aero isn't a requiment in the Business lines of Vista. Would it really hurt to do some basic research before you post?

Re:I predict a quick death for XP after release of (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720789)

Not only do I not know why Vista would be such a tremendous improvement over 2k/XP (fine, fine, they changed a bunch of stuff, does that really make it worth the lateral upgrade?), but the issues with DRM and the Mac OS X-induced feature creep have made me decide to replace my old laptop before Vista is released, to guarantee that I don't get stuck with it.

This isn't just a MS-hatred-induced unwillingness to upgrade. 2k/XP are orders of magnitude more stable than 9X was - so stable that I don't feel like going to Vista would get me anything that I need but don't already have.

hmmm... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15720457)

all universities should probably start introducting linux in to the schemes since it'll open up things a bit. Eventually turn to all open source to cut costs... not that students would ever see the savings in their tuition. MS and others give educational discounts, mainly so that they can prey on the kids in school and make them addicted to their software and hardware and make them not know of or be schooled on the free/cheap alternatives, so that when they graduate they want to get something, and just get the software/hardware that they've been brought up on. Schools are indirectly creating millions for MS and Adobe... They make much more on the deals indirectly than they lose in giving universities discounted educational software.

Hardware and Software lifecycle (4, Insightful)

suggsjc (726146) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720472)

I'm not trying to flame here, but whenever a topic like this comes up there will always be someone posting about how they've had the same *nix/BSD box running for X years.

I do understand the concept of legacy hardware and software, and that if it ain't broke... However, almost EVERYTHING has a given lifecycle. I don't think that software should be any different. People are going to complain that M$ stops supporting their older OS'es (especially close to a new OS release) but honestly, how long should they be responsible for maintaining the code?
I hear the statement that "we paid for the they should support it." In the open source realm, most people don't pay for the software, just for support and updates. So, in that same respect the people that bought windows paid up front for their support and maintenance, but how long should that be for? Is that something that should be included in the license...we guarantee to support this product for X years?

Sorry for the slight rant, but I know how people like to get all uppity about this stuff. But at least in this case I think it is completely justifiable.

Re:Hardware and Software lifecycle (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720516)

I don't expect support after X years (though it would be nice to get at least "guaranteed" support for X years when you buy software Y). But from what it looks like now we'll be facing software with a "best before" date soon.

XP already has the potential for being some kind of software with an expiration date. What if MS decides that they won't "activate" your copy anymore after the support ended? So far, I can't see a reason why they could not.

Re:Hardware and Software lifecycle (1)

just_forget_it (947275) | more than 8 years ago | (#15721007)

That's an interesting point about the product activation.

I was going to say how expecting your software to be supported forever is like expecting Ford to make parts for the '65 Mustang indefinently. But if Ford had a feature where the car had to communicate with central headquarters in order to start, I would expect them to at least extend that feature of it. What they may end up doing (Microsoft) is discontinuing XP but make the servers still accept activation keys. It isn't difficult.

Re:Hardware and Software lifecycle (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720725)

I'm not trying to flame here, but whenever a topic like this comes up there will always be someone posting about how they've had the same *nix/BSD box running for X years.

Oddly, yours is the only post I've seen that makes mention of that ...

Re:Hardware and Software lifecycle (1)

suggsjc (726146) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720941)

You know you wanted to post it, but I called you out before you had a chance.
Haha, you got p3nd

See, I was doing slashdot a favor by doing a "prevenative post"

Re:Hardware and Software lifecycle (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 8 years ago | (#15721101)

Curses. Foiled again. Darn you and your preemptive strikes. Darn you to heck.

Re:Hardware and Software lifecycle (1)

geoff lane (93738) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720986)

I have a laptop running Win98. The laptop cannot run XP and so Vista is not even a faint possibility. There is nothing wrong with the laptop, it works fine. It has no residual value, but replacing it with something that can run Vista (even without all the fancy chrome) will cost $700 or more.

Microsoft have decided that they don't want my business and they would really prefer it if my laptop were consigned to landfill.

If Microsoft doesn't want my business, then perhaps one of the lightweight Linux distributions does.

Re:Hardware and Software lifecycle (1)

suggsjc (726146) | more than 8 years ago | (#15721070)

No the electric company wants your business.

So now my question is, what do you use your laptop for? Basic internet and email? If you really aren't able to run XP in a minimal configuration, then it can't be for very intensive applications. Therefore, why would you need an OS like XP or Vista in the first place?

Microsoft does want your business, but not it means "supporting" laptops from 5-10 years ago. And by business what do you mean? Are you going to pay or donate to one of those "lightweight Linux distributions?" If not, then you aren't the type of customer that microsoft is looking for afterall. They are, afterall, in the BUSINESS of software.

What reasoning is that? (3, Interesting)

guruevi (827432) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720473)

"We don't allow Win 9x to connect to AD". It's not like there is a huge security risk for having AD run authentication for Win 9x. I can agree that you don't run AD on those boxes, but I have Win NT and Mac OS boxes connecting to AD. I can't change anything in the AD, I can just read stuff everybody else can read. Or is AD broken? In my company there are still Win NT 3 boxes standing around, they are firewalled...

Re:What reasoning is that? (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720664)

I think that banning 9x from AD is just a convenient way of making sure that users, who have AD credentials, don't use them to connect to various network services which could be impacted by an infected or rootkit'd machine.

Of course, there's always the issue of key loggers harvesting passwords, but that's probably a lost cause anyway, short of a search and destroy mission for all Win9x in position of staff.

Re:What reasoning is that? (2, Informative)

wiggles (30088) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Not actually Kerberos, but an amazing simulation. (1)

Bob_Robertson (454888) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720827)

Be aware, the "Kerberos" that Microsoft supports is Microsoft Kerberos.

Any resemblance to the Kerberos prior to their "embrace, extend, extinguish" effort is entirely coincidental.

That said, I agree with the thrust of your argument.


Re:What reasoning is that? (2, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720774)

It is most likely because of the ease with which you can bypass 9X security.If you actually want to know who is on your network it would be foolish to allow Win9X machines as all you have to do to bypass login is press cancel.

That said,I think Microsoft will find it a lot easier to get companies to toss Win9X than it will be to get them to toss Win2K Pro and WinXP Pro when Vista comes out.The 9X line was notorius for being crashprone and buggy,whereas Win2K Pro and WinXP Pro are very capable OSes.And from what I've seen (have a couple of friends running Vista Beta 2 at the moment) Vista is going to run even worse on older hardware than WinXP does.So I'm betting a lot of the smaller companies stick with what they've got and simply replace their boxes with new Vista boxes only when the older ones die off.

They don't want to encourage it on their network (1)

HighOrbit (631451) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720942)

I would wager that 9x authenticating against AD per se is not the problem, its having 9x plugged in at all and running on their internal network that's the problem. Allowing it to authenticate is just encouraging the problem. Also, since 9x boxes were client machines, they would likely have users interacting on them and therefore more things are likely to go wrong than just having a service running on a firewalled NT box in the closet. If MS is no longer supporting 9x, then the AV vendors aren't going to either (at least not for long). A firewall isn't necessarily going to stop a naughty user from bolloxing your entire internal net by clicking on an email attachment (that has not been sanitized because your AV vendor no longer supports 9x).

Brings up the question (0, Troll)

robertjw (728654) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720483)

What constitutes 'unsupported software'? While patches from Microsoft are nice and all, the important thing is software vendor support. Until the killer app that keeps my business running is supported on Vista there is no way I would change. In fact, I'm sure it will take quite some time for vendor support to reach the level it's at for current Microsoft OS's.

This article is somewhat misleading because we are talking about Windows 98. 98 sucks and pretty much always has. I can't understand why anyone wouldn't move from 98 to 2000 or XP (or slackware). Running an unsuppported OS is one thing. Running a worthless buggy OS is completely another.

Re:Brings up the question (2, Interesting)

Trouvist (958280) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720691)

Apparently you never played Tyrian, Conquest of the New World, Settlers 2, High-Octane or any other game written for DOS that barely ran correctly in windows 98. These games won't run without some sort of workaround, let alone natively, in any operating system newer than Windows 98 SE. Sometimes I like to whip out the virtual machine and play a few oldschool games (the fun ones where there is more interesting things to do and the graphics don't matter). Sometimes, the sound doesn't work correctly in the VM, so having an oldschool pentium laying around with win98 on it can be useful.

Re:Brings up the question (4, Informative)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Old code sometimes is the best code (1, Insightful)

mhollis (727905) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720488)

Despite Microsoft's Windoze vulnerabilities, we may be running some pretty old code for a while. We're international and pretty reluctant to export technology and software to certain countries, like Russia and China.

Most of our desktops that run Microsoft Office applications are running Windows 2000 Pro. We have a few high-end workstations that run XP and they may be upgraded to XP-64 if we can solve a particular problem with some software (there are no 64-bit Quicktime codecs for Windoze and we're reliant on Quicktime for a lot of our media files as it can deal with keying).

Our servers range from pee cees running Windoze to pee cees running Linux to Apple X-Serves. But on the desktop, we're still using some pretty old code because it's too expensive to upgrade and there is the potential that we'd be exporting a means by which someone may pirate Microsoft software.

Re:Old code sometimes is the best code (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15720733)

Are you proud of that person who writes "pee-cee" and "windoze"?

Re:Old code sometimes is the best code (1)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720803)

Our servers range from pee cees running Windoze to pee cees running Linux to Apple X-Serves.

I believe you meant to say:

Our servers range from pee cees running Windoze to pee cees running Linux to Apple X-Serve pee cees running OS X

Or more accurately, you shouldn't have used the term "pee cee" for any server

Old versions of windows never die (5, Funny)

MECC (8478) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720494)

They just slowly get virtualized....

9.x?? (1)

electronerdz (838825) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720498)

I thought we were still on 5.x?? You mean Windows is still around at 9.x in the future?

Virtualization anyone? (4, Informative)

saleenS281 (859657) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720522)

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.

Re:Virtualization anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15720569)

Most of this can be setup so even the most illiterate user can figure it out.
Never underestimate the power of the illiterate. We can really screw things up !! :P

Fire drills (3, Insightful)

AJWM (19027) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720558)

Others say they also stay current to avoid headaches and fire drills.

Strange. I always though staying current was a headache and a fire drill.

(Heck, I still use 9.x on my kids' computers. Works fine for their software, and they're usually not on the internet. When they are it's behind a NATed firewall and using firefox.)

Thin clients (1)

PinternetGroper (595689) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720591)

This may be worthy of another topic in itself, but I think we will be looking at replacing some desktop machines with thin clients next year. The patching routine, as well as the routine explained in the summary, wears on my 1 man IT department, not to mention the constant hardware failures of the PCs themselves. I'm sure there will be software/firmware updates to the thin clients, but the goal is to reduce the administrative burden as much as possible. Of course, I'll be working through the same process in determing server software, operating system, etc... --

Point of Sale Systems (5, Interesting)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720633)

On the day of the 11th, the day support for all Win 98 systems, I stopped by a Fedex and realized their POS systems (pun intended), were are win98. I let the guy know that Microsoft stops support for them and he said 'good luck getting corporate to upgrade'. At that point I realized that this was a POS system that was sold to them by another compny and that it is most likely that TONS of POS systems still ran 98.

I suspect that alot of companies at this point may actually decide to replace these systems with Linux based POS to save money and as a result of that, they will see the benefit of using Linux elsewhere as well. The big issue will be that these companies will have to upgrade all their terminals and hardware as well as all their software and potentially, if they just switched to Linux and a Open Source POS system, they could save MILLIONS.

Feel free to insert opinions here. I'm interested how others think corporate America will respond.

Re:Point of Sale Systems (1)

jtyost2 (964236) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720799)

I have to agree with you that there are a ton of companies that run Windows 98, even 95. Dumb, yeah but cheap for the companies. Money wins over common sense far too often. I also doubt many companies are going to switch to Linux machines, for your average empolyee at a company running Linux brings up all the issues that you hear about for Linux. A lot of low level employess really don't know much computers in general, just how to do the tasks that they have been given. Also a lot of software is custom designed even just a little bit for the companies so all of their software has to be rewritten to work on their Linux boxes. People complain now about how much problems there are with people using old boxes, what happens when you have all the old Windows boxes and add Linux boxes with that? Pure chaos for an IT department trying to manage things from a central office without having the resources to go to each indivdual store location and train and upgrade as necessary at each location. The firms that have gone on to use Linux and use it very sucessfly are firms that have one or two office locations. They aren't firms such as FedEx that have locations all across the United States. Yes Linux doesn't need to use a command line anymore, yes it does have a very good UI, and yes you do have Virulazation software. But again to do all this conversion for an average computer user is a very scary thought and they want training and the compaines wont pay to train their users to use Linux and the associated tools to get their programs running that they run day to day, that only works on Windows.

Re:Point of Sale Systems (1)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720851)

I have to agree with you that there are a ton of companies that run Windows 98, even 95. Dumb, yeah but cheap for the companies.

Why dumb? It sounds pragmatic to me, especially if they have a vendor in hand which is providing support for those older boxes (as many companies do).

Re:Point of Sale Systems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15720807)

Our CAFE systems(FedEx shipping software) runs on a W95 box provided by FedEx.

Re:Point of Sale Systems (1)

laszlo462 (946606) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720864)

Sure they could save millions that way, but what about their IT dept. If it is a halfway large organization, or huge like FedEx, their teams supporting the POS equipment may not be qualified or fully understand how to support the equipment in a Linux environment. Then they would have to re-evaluate their support stratagies, as in finding people qualified to support the Linux based systems, which would cost money as well as render the current Windows support fellows useless to POS support. So it may not be cost effective for an organization to just switch over to Linux. Unless a third-party company is contracted for POS support, then it's a different story.

Re:Point of Sale Systems (1)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720975)

Either way they have to higher new staff. Current staffing will not be able to revisit all these store with new hardware AND new software and configure everything all over again and get it working.

They have to higher new staff to get these machines up and running on new os's in the stores no matter what. It's part of the cost and part of the equation no matter what they do. But by7 going with open source POS and OS, they will save millions. Plus if their current staff cannot adapt, they can easily be replaced by the new hires that just installed all those systems.

I interviewed at a company called Centeris that makes a product so that Windows admins can easily integrate with Linux systems via a GUI interface. They found that Linux sys admins usually can easily integrate Windows and Linux because they are used to it but Windows sys admins become bogged down because of the unfamiliarities.

So still, the hires they have to make to install all these new systems could still do the same job of the current admins in a mixed environment.

Re:Point of Sale Systems (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720904)

It's actually not a pun, it's more of a double-entendre...

Re:Point of Sale Systems (1)

CharlieG (34950) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720931)

They will upgrade based upon the POS software, NOT the OS that is under the software.

Most folks here on /. were not around for the Windows 3.x - win 95 VS OS/2 wars. Whant to know why Windows won? Marketing helped, but the BIG thing was Microsoft introduced this nifty, simple (and much maligned) programming tool that made it EASY for companies to get their custom apps on the desktop - Yep, Visual Basic, plus things like Visual C++ (and Borlands C++ and Pascal etc)

Companies don't _REALLY_ care what the OS is - they want to know what the computer can do for them, and if the best custom POS sale application runs on Windows, they'll buy Windows - if it runs on Linux, they'll buy boxes with Linux

It's not those wide market apps like Office and the like that make or break the OS (LACK of them will break the deal, but..), the BIG deal is ease of custom stuff - which is why "thin client", browser based applications were/are such a big deal. The BIG thing is that most custom applications just don't give the end users what they want VS "rich client"

Re:Point of Sale Systems (1)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15721085)

They may. If the upgrade requires a new OS and hence new hardware, this is when the situation becomes more difficult. Most older POS systems either have upgraded to newer OS's or have gone out of business. Assuming that the company is still in business, the only OS's that are sold that they could upgrade to are XP. This will require new monitors, hardware, etc.

The bottom dollar then becomes...
new employees to install all new systems + new POS system + new OS + new hardware

This in comparison to
new employees to install all new systems + open source

If the company is smart and wants to save money (two not being mutually inclusive), they most likely will go with open source.

Re:Point of Sale Systems (1)

CharlieG (34950) | more than 8 years ago | (#15721110)

IF (the big if) they can get the POS software the want/need

Like I said - they will probably evaluate whatever is available from the terms of the functionality of the POS software, choose 2-3 candidates, get quotes, and go from there

If there isn't a POS program that fits their bill in OSS, guess what? Aka for most companies, the functionality comes FIRST

Re:Point of Sale Systems (2, Insightful)

HoboMaster (639861) | more than 8 years ago | (#15721040)

Or, they could not upgrade at all and save yet more money over Linux. A company like FedEx isn't going to get rid of their old POS machines just because the underlying OS isn't officially supported anymore. They're gonna use the things until the fall apart. As another poster said, I've seen quite a few POS machines still on Win 95 and going strong. Like the guy said: "good luck getting corporate to upgrade." Corporations like that don't upgrade until they're forced to.

Get out the funeral attire... (0, Troll)

abscissa (136568) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720634)

Vista will be stillborn!

I still cant believe (1, Insightful)

alexborges (313924) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720659)

Active directory has been elevated to any degree of an interesting piece of infrastructure.

AD is a souped up directory server with stupid lockin code on the clients.

Its all it is and its pretty sucky at that.

Is is obsolete beacuse it is old? (3, Insightful)

plusser (685253) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720783)

Just because a product is old, it does not mean that the product is obsolete. That is something that the IT industry needs to learn.

The Automotive industry is a good example. Suppose you bought a brand new car today, you would expect that you would be able to operate that vehicle for a number of years, after all it is a big investment. However, if the vendor said after 4 years that the engine could no longer be maintained and that it must be immediately replaced at your cost, you would not be very impressed. You would be tempted to perform your own DIY and install your own engine from a different vendor.

Thing is, Microsoft in recent years has tried to market a versions of Windows for embedded applications. When users of these operating systems realise that after 4 years that microsoft will expect you to upgrade a major piece of equipment as they no longer support the software it is based on, the customers are not going to be happy.

An old computer may run old software, but there is every chance that in every other respect that it may still be just as useful as a new one. The computer may have features that are no longer supported such as ISA cards or serial ports that are required to operate certain useful external equipment and embedded applications. In essence the cost of upgrading the computer operating system may be much greater than requesting that existing software is maintained. Unfortuately this is one area where Microsoft are running the risk of loosing the plot.

As for Microsoft saying that Windows ME is 6 years old and is therefore unsupportable, until 4 and a half years ago it was the latest operating system for home computers. XP isn't even 5 years old yet, but one thing is certain, if Microsoft imsists that I upgrade to Vista within the next 2 years, I will upgrade to Linux or OSX.

Vista is likely to push our shop to all Linux (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720801)

Right now we only have two non-Linux machines, including my WinXP box, and the only reason we have that is MSFT Access. If a push to Vista breaks that, given that we've already migrated most of our SAS databases to MySQL on a Linux database server, it might mean we decide no more MSFT OS at all.

They might call it planned product obscelescene - we call it killing off your reason to exist.

I wrote about this last week... (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720831)

I wrote a blog for Free Software Magazine [] about the dangers of buying into a proprietary system. In summary, if you give up the freedom to make your own IT decisions, you can expect to pay for it (and dearly). It's no fun to have your core logic hostage to the whims of a third party who doesn't know you exist and wouldn't care if they did. We're doing new development in Python, and while I hope that people keep updating it, we don't go out of business if they stop.

Vote for Death (1)

bobs666 (146801) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720928)

I only use Windows for the one thing its good for.

When World of Warcraft is ported to Linux
I can scrub my Windows partition.

Hopefully This Means Andy Got Canned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15720952)

There was only one reason why old versions of Windows lived on for so long. There was one jerk-off that had SteveB's ear and kept extending the dates of Win95, NT, ME, and Win2000 to completely arbitrary dates against the product groups recommendations....he's also the brainchild of software assurance. Andy is a real thinker...another director level clown at MS just looking for a circus.

I'll know that MS is on the right track when I hear, "Andy? 'E got canned!!"

Staying with Windows 2000 (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#15720989)

There are still advantages to staying with Windows 2000. The absence of a backdoor that allows Microsoft to install software is the big one. The stuff coming in via Windows Update is sometimes a win, and sometimes a lose. Do you want to take that risk? Especially since Microsoft doesn't make any contractual promises that they won't break your machine or install a new security hole. And since occasionally, they do.

Until software requires it (1)

night_flyer (453866) | more than 8 years ago | (#15721057)

I see no reason to upgrade, most applications still run fine on windows 98, even though I did migrate to win2k for its security and folder permissions aspect. Before I switched, my win98 machine was bulletproof, no crashes, no viruses and very little overhead. If I didnt have to play with permissions I would probably go back to win98. so until it becomes "manditory" to upgrade the OS, I wont be switching... and even then it would probably over to Linux

huh? (2, Informative)

just_forget_it (947275) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.


Article Summary: (1)

Flashpot (773365) | more than 8 years ago | (#15721126)

Vista is dead. Quoth Bill Gates.
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