back to article Moving to Windows 7: Is it worth it?

Windows 7 may be prettier than XP; but does it really pay to ditch a working Windows XP network and replace it with Microsoft’s shiny new version? Every organisation is different, so there is no definitive answer, and migration is costly. That said, sticking with XP has costs as well. It is coming up to ten years old, and …

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Hmm

"We are also beginning to see significant applications that do not work on XP, like Microsoft’s forthcoming Internet Explorer 9. Support is another issue, with Microsoft set to end extended support in April 2014."

Surely this merely represents Microsoft deliberately forcing users to upgrade, as it always has? There are no reasonable reasons why IE9 shouldn't be engineered to work on XP, and Microsoft ending extended support is also a marketing decision.

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You mean aside from...

The need to refine and improve an underlying architecture and then make software that utilises said architecture.

By that rationale, a modern Sat Nav should be engineered to work on a 60's era car (one with a Dynamo and not an Alternator). The point is it won't because cars don't have dynamos any more and engineering a modern device to work on a legacy architecture is just fallacy.

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Headmaster

@Duncan Hothersall

"There are no reasonable reasons why IE9 shouldn't be engineered to work on XP, and Microsoft ending extended support is also a marketing decision."

... where to begin... OK, first up, there is a perfectly valid reason that IE9 shouldn't be made to work on XP - IE9 is designed to use elements of the OS and hardware to augment browsing, but XP just wasn't designed to run on modern hardware, which makes it harder for IE9 to work with. Plus, XP hasn't had a service pack in about 3 years. Security-wise, it is going to get harder and harder to justify spending resources on securing XP vulns AND Vista/7 vulns. Designing IE9 to support XP is simply not a good use of time or money.

Second, Microsoft is in business to make money (unlike Apple, Google and Mozilla, who are clearly all just here to fill our lives with candyfloss and joy... obviously...). From a money-making perspective, it is perfectly reasonable of them to decide which of their products they will let you use with which other products. Apple does it too, and does it to a far greater degree (that's not an anti-Apple dig, just an observation).

Third, it is perfectly valid for a company to stop extended support for a product that will be 2 (possibly 3) versions and FOURTEEN YEARS old by the time they drop it - particularly in the software world.

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Hmm

Regardless of what you think the reasons for not supporting IE9 are, the facts are XP doesn't support it. If that's important to your business you need to upgrade.

I upgraded because the XP box I was using wasn't up to the demands I had of it. Eclipse was slow then upgrading to [recent] MS Office was the final nail in its coffin.

Once I'd turned off Win7's more obnoxious graphics I actually like it. It's a tiny bit crashy but much better than XP. Updates are handled automatically and it does get out of the way and let me get on with my job (and commenting on these fora).

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Hear Hear

and I want them to engineer it to work on Windows 2000, NT4, NT3, ME, 98, 95 and 3.1

They can leave DOS 5 support for a later update

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Linux

Age differences past adolescence...

> but XP just wasn't designed to run on modern hardware

This is just hilarious.

The hardware that XP was shipped with 10 years ago is much the same as hardware it was shipped with recently or even hardware that's shipping now. Not that much has changed in the intervening time. Machines are much the same on the lowend. Even machines on the high end are not that different fundementally.

Multiple cores, MMX/SSE, 64-bit, large memory, 3D acceleration, video playback acceleration?

What exactly did you have in mind that's in XP-hardware that isn't in Win7-hardware?

It's a WEB BROWSER we're talking about here, not Crysis.

It's not like the beginning of the 90s versus the end of the 90s.

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Flame

Dynamo?

A SatNav system will work fine with a dynamo. You may need a bit of tweaking to work it on a 6 volt system but then the in-car system is largely redundant since a decent phone does the same job (plus a whole lot more).

Complex systems are made from a collection of relatively simple components. Once of the complaints people have about Microsoft is that they don't use this approach in the design of their systems; from the earliest days of MS-DOS they've used excessive complexity as a marketing tool, a way to corral and retain customers. They don't fool everyone; if you've got enough experience you can see the underlying mechanisms that they've appropriated, customized and so made their own. They're usually -- not always, but usually -- half-assed copies of standard mechanisms.

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FAIL

Not a problem ...

Simply replace said dynamo with a modern alternator.

What's yer problem with than? Some people want to hang on to their '60's classics and will pay handsomely to keep them within regs.

Anyhow, such people still use proper maps. To hell with these satnavs of which you speak.

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Differences

"Even machines on the high end are not that different fundementally.

Multiple cores, MMX/SSE, 64-bit, large memory, 3D acceleration, video playback acceleration?

What exactly did you have in mind that's in XP-hardware that isn't in Win7-hardware?

It's a WEB BROWSER we're talking about here, not Crysis.

It's not like the beginning of the 90s versus the end of the 90s."

ASLR for one. The method of sandboxing perhaps? An underpinning need for DirectX11 to run their DirectWrite calls? Perhaps jump lists and taskbar previews? There's a whole proverbial boatload of underlying APIs that only work (or work best) on Win Vista/7, DirectX10+ included, which doesn't run on XP either btw.

Other, more hardware related things? SSDs for one. WinXP starts partitions at sector 63, whereas sector 64 is better, for alignment purposes to prevent unnecessary write amplification. Win7 can tell the difference between a "virtual core" and a real core in your CPU, and gives priority to the real cores, rather than what XP does of mindlessly chucking your Crysis process on a Hyperthread core rather than a "real" one. Great game performance there I bet....

Perhaps you should actually research what underlying changes were made before laughing that XP could inherently support modern tech. It fails on many counts. Just try loading SATA drivers for WinXP without a floppy or slipstreaming the ISO. Yeah, thought not. Win7 allows drivers from USB if they're even necessary.

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Perhaps

""Perhaps you should actually research what underlying changes were made before laughing that XP could inherently support modern tech. It fails on many counts. Just try loading SATA drivers for WinXP without a floppy or slipstreaming the ISO""

Loaded SATA drivers on MANY XP SP3 machines with no floppy or slipstreaming of the ISO required.

Perhaps a little more research is needed . . . . .

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XP service pack 3 has SATA support

XP service pack 3 has inbuilt SATA support - no need for floppy or slipstreaming

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G_C
FAIL

IE9

Don't worry about XP... it didn't work on Windows7 either... uninstalled...

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Another option?

A good article to cover the subject with less FUD than most.

But my own preference, and it certainly won't suit all, is to make a VM of the working XP system and run that on a Linux host. No more hardware & activation issues for XP and you can segregate the software-useful but malware-vulnerable OS from the web/email facing part.

Should you need IE6 for some God forsaken reason, set it up so the VM only has internal connectivity and won't route to the big bad world outside. Then use a proper browser on Linux, taking your pick of Firefox, Chromium, Opera (and obscure others).

Also need Win7 for some application? Got packages that won't cooperate if installed together? Simply use a 2nd or 3rd VM solves that issue.

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Haha

Yeah, and there's absolutely nothing long-winded, overly complicated and utterly unnecessary about that setup that might stop you doing a company wide-deployment of it.

If you took that to the board as a realistic proposal two things would happen. The first is that they'd look at their calendars to make sure it wasn't April 1st and the second would be you getting laughed out of the building.

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Happy

Hear hear!

Any one who gets onto the 'net with ANY version of Windows, regardless of browser version and email client, is asking for trouble.

Running a Linux host with (a) virtual Windows machine(s) works. If you're accustomed to IE under Windows, then Firefox under Linux is a dead ringer. You couldn't ask for a better email client/organizer than Evolution; it's an Outlook clone, except safe.

I run Linux Mint 9 LTS 64-bit as host. VirtualBox 4.x handles virtualization. They are both free. I set up 32-bit WinXP and 32-bit Win7 virtual machines, for running programs that require either. The only 'net access that the virtual machines get is for the monthly Windows updates and other updates, like Flash, Java, etc.

This arrangement also facilitates my support of clients, regardless of whether they use WinXP or Win7.

Regardless of your choice of platforms for host and virtual machines, check out VirtualBox. Even if you want to run Win7 as host and WinXP as virtual machine, use VirtualBox rather than Virtual PC.

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Anonymous Coward

@Haha

No, that sounds perfectly reasonable. It's not long-winded to suggest to 'the board' that they can roll out VMs across their network by just copying a single drive image. Sounds pretty easy to me.

A really easy way would be to run Win7 in a VM with XP support enabled (Win7 Pro/Ultimate only) to handle your legacy XP stuff. SIngle VM with a single OS and enhanced security.

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FAIL

"This is lighter weight and less risky than VPN"

Hahahahahaaaaa!

Yeah, right. Really. So you are going to hang a Windows new-shiny-now-its-secure-honest file sharing port out on the Internet, 'cos it's all fixed now?

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Whatever.

I've been happily Redmond & Cupertino free for about 15 months. Both my bank balance and my digestion are better for it ... Try it, kiddies. There are alternatives out there. All mod cons & none of the drawbacks ... Even me DearOldMum and GreatAunt are Slackware users these days, not that they really understand it/why ... but then they have both been using telnet (now SSH) to access my email system for around a third of a century. It's all in the presentation ;-)

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Grenade

Happy

..and yet you still feel the need to take a cheap shot at the opposition. Fly away, penguin - this article is not for you.

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Joke

Title

She just wants other people to hear the penguin gospel and lead a happier life.

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y'know

There really is nothing more tedious than an OS zealot. Except possibly one that adopts the patronising tones you seem to prefer.

All hardware sucks and all software sucks, deal with it. I'm glad that you've found a solution that works for you but one size doesn't fit all...

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Anonymous Coward

Whatever indeed...

Whatever the relative pros and cons of Win vs [INSERT OS HERE], if you fill an entire office/university/hospital/callcenter with non-Windows machines the average users will go utterly fucking mental at the brain overload.

For better or worse, they want Office and IE and freecell - outisde of certain high tech companies they don't give a hoot about any of this, they just want what they're used to. You should be glad that MS are at least moving in the right direction.

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@Tathan Jones

"outisde of certain high tech companies they don't give a hoot about any of this, they just want what they're used to."

They won't like moving from XP to 7 then.

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@ various commentards ...

AndrueC writes:"..and yet you still feel the need to take a cheap shot at the opposition."

It's a cheap shot to point out that an alternate methodology can be better/cheaper/faster? And please note that I'm not "opposition", rather I'm "let's get this done as easily and smoothly as possible, given current technology".

"Fly away, penguin - this article is not for you."

Whilst I do use Linux for (most) of my internal installed desktops, the backend systems are nearly all BSD ... and the public-facing systems are pretty much all eComStation. More to the point, why do you want my to "fly away"? What are you afraid of?

@AC14:00

It's not a matter of happier. It's a matter of just getting on with it. And what's with the assumed "she"? Grace Hopper is going to hit you right in the mouth when you get to the other side ...

@Rob Moir: "There really is nothing more tedious than an OS zealot."

Where, in mine, did I comment on my personal OS of choice?

"Except possibly one that adopts the patronising tones you seem to prefer."

Um-kay. Please note that I'm not an OS zealot. Why did you read that into mine? Are YOU an OS zealot? Am I putting a dent into your personal opinion?

"All hardware sucks and all software sucks, deal with it."

Agreed. In addition, all OSes suck, and all fanbois suck. And I'm a zealot?

"I'm glad that you've found a solution that works for you but one size doesn't fit all..."

Again, agreed. Am I still a zealot?

@Tathan Jones: "For better or worse, they want Office and IE and freecell"

All of which are far more trouble than they are worth, from both a business perspective and a sysadmin perspective. (You allow fucking GAMES on business computers? You are a part of the problem ...)

"You should be glad that MS are at least moving in the right direction."

Post proof or retract.

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Yag

"They won't like moving from XP to 7 then."

Actually, we still have some NT4 around here... But don't worry, there's plans to upgrade them to XP.

I'm pretty sure I can also find some 3.11 if I look hard enough...

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FAIL

win7 backup

i have had two laptops with win 7 on (both home premium) maybe other versions are different, but i doubt it

after about two weeks of using the backup to a DVDrw it wont do it anymore

no matter how much playing formatting etc you do, it just wont

the DVD can be used for anything else, except backup then

and with service pack 1 it still hasn't changed

of course you can use another and another and another every 2 weeks and have a library of all the backups i guess

maybe it is a feature !

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Isn't this article about a year too late?

Next week - MS Office - is it any good?

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Anonymous Coward

No...

Most corporates won't look at an OS or other major software, until it's got to service pack 1. Service pack one is just out, so this article is bang on time.

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FAIL

forthcoming Internet Explorer 9

"forthcoming" ? Nope - it's already out.

There is no reason for an organisation to spend thousands (or more ?) upgrading all of it's PCs from XP to Windows 7, if the PCs and applications are currently working fine then there is no reason for them to "stop" working fine, no reason to justify all of that expense.

And "XP fails to take full advantage of today’s hardware" just doesn't cut it - first of all if a PC had "todays hardware" then it would in all likelihood be a new PC that will have been bought recently with Windows 7 already installed on it, and I'm not aware of much hardware that Windows XP doesn't like, power management works fine with existing motherboards, I've only ever come across a couple of really old laptops where it didnt like the ACPM.

And Duncan is quite correct - there is no genuine reason why IE9 couldn't work with XP unless it was "made" deliberately to NOT work with XP.

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Gates Horns

hardware that XP doesn't like

"and I'm not aware of much hardware that Windows XP doesn't like"

I certainly am. My partner bought a new PC with Windows 7 about a year ago. She was intending to use Windows for a single legacy desktop publishing application as most of her work uses Linux Ubuntu. She previously used a dual boot Linux/XP system.

Unfortunately her legacy application didn't run on Windows 7. So, having installed Linux on it as a dual boot I thought an XP downgrade installed onto the Windows 7 partition would solve this problem. Like hell it did.

Result, entire Windows 7 and Linux system blown away, all partitions destroyed and beyond my understanding or capacity to recover them. Attempting to do a clean XP install on the now bare hardware failed, I think due to incompatibilities between XP and modern partition tables and BIOS. I've installed dual boot setups dozens of times previously, and never seen such a complete mess. Just as well we keep good backups...

When I finally got her system working as intended this involved using Linux as her main system, with Windows XP running as a virtual machine using VirtualBox and Samba to share some disk space between the 2 OSs. She much prefers not having to reboot in order to use her Windows applications. As she does all of her networking on Linux, Windows insecurity problems don't affect her which saves on the cost of antivirus.

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Linux

Not really ..

It is indeed quite polished looking, but I don't see how it is going to speed up my browsing/emailing/video watching habits ...

> Direct Access, which requires Windows 7 and at least one instance of Server 2008 R2, lets users connect to file shares across the internet and without VPN ..

SSH + IP tunneling ?

> When support is needed, Remote Assistance in Windows 7 is easier for non-technical users to enable, and more resilient than in earlier versions of Window

I don't want some techie spying on my screen. Is there any way you can tell when someone is accessing my screen through Remote Assistance.

> A related feature is thumbnail previews, which give users visual information when selecting between running instances, just by using the mouse. This is quicker and more intuitive than cycling through applications with Alt-Tab

Except when you're using virtual desktops under Ubuntu ..

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Anonymous Coward

Ok..

You sound like a linux user just trying to find fault:

Windows uses CIFS, that's just how it's done, there is now a server option which allows end users to easily move files out of their local environment, presumably under centralised control, and you complain that it's not SSH? Even if SSH were the right tool, it's going to be too complicated for your average desk jockey.

If you don't want someone to assist you ("spy" on you) just don't send any remote assist requests, and don't accept any. There is an icon that tells you you're being watched as well, do you really think that they didn't think of this?

As for virtual desktops in Ubuntu, it's a nice feature, but it's not a task swapper, it's err, virtual desktops - each desktop still has multiple apps running on it and you don't get a nice image of what each app is doing at that time.

Now I really like Windows, but I also really like Linux, Unix and Mac OS, this trying to slag off other OSes by people who don't use/understand them is wearing very thin indeed.

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You need to remember something

**I don't want some techie spying on my screen. Is there any way you can tell when someone is accessing my screen through Remote Assistance.**

If you're at work then it isn't _your_ screen.

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Anonymous Coward

Reply to post: Not really ..

"I don't want some techie spying on my screen. Is there any way you can tell when someone is accessing my screen through Remote Assistance."

Yes, there is.

First, there are two ways to get Remote Assistance: either the user can request it directly or an admin can initiate it. Obviously, if the user initiates a request, he knows it's coming. If an admin initiates the session, the user will see a pop-up window on their screen saying that an administrator has requested to see your screen. The user can then choose whether to accept the RA offer or not. If the admin wants to directly operate the mouse or keyboard, the he has to request that from the user as well.

Second, once RA has been initated, the computer in question will have a Remote Assistance window pop-up. This window contains useful things like a chat box for the user and admin to talk to each other. It also has an icon at the top that displays the status of the connection, i.e. whether the admin is still connected.

Third, since simply closing the RA window is enough to kick the admin off the computer, as long as you don't see it on your screen or in the taskbar, then noone is using Remote Assistance to access your computer.

There are other, non-Microsoft solutions that aren't nearly so transparent about what the admin has access to though.

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JDX
Gold badge

There are no reasonable reasons why IE9 shouldn't be engineered to work on XP

Speaking as a software developer with experience in the technologies IE9 uses for acceleration (DirectX), there are. The more valid question is whether DX10 should have been supported on XP , DX10 dropped XP support years ago and that's what IE9 uses.

FF4 for Windows uses DX10 where possible but also supports DX9 and thus provides hardware support on XP... IE9 is built linked with DX10 and therefore simply doesn't run on XP.

For a company as obsessed with backwards compatibility as MS this is rather unusual.

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Thumb Up

What are MS playing at?

I agree that not backporting some form of IE 9 to XP is a mystery, hardware acceleration is irrelevant. MS is touting its new browser to all and sundry only for them to find out that it "doesn't run on their system". A system which will be supported until 2014... So, the alternatives are for safer browsing are: shell out for software and possibly hardware upgrade or install a free browser. IE 9 is not much of a reason to install Windows 7

Back to the article - nice overview. From what I've seen of Windows 7 I think most Windows users will like it.

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Anonymous Coward

Let me fix that for you...

'The biggest usability feature of Windows 7 is the taskbar, which both shows running applications and enables users to launch them.'

should be

'The biggest usability FUCK UP of Windows 7 is the taskbar, which both shows running applications and enables users to launch them.'

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Sort of agree

I think the TB works fine but the previews do annoy me for some reason. Perhaps it's because I normally know what each icon is anyway. I hardly ever resort to Alt+Tab and for stacked items I'm happy to make the menu pop up.

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Gates Horns

advert

Well Tim, that was a nice MS advert you produced, I hope they paid you well.

"XP fails to take full advantage of today’s hardware in areas such as power management, graphics and multimedia." Why is that, one operating system rendering graphics with a video card, or playing noise through a sound card,is much the same as any other.

IE9 won't work on XP, another reason to use firefox.

Vista was not a step forward, it was, and is, a steaming pile of shite; have a look at this article.

http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/vista_cost.html

Win7 is a bit more shiny but it still has problems, and no real compelling reason to update.

Bite the bullet, change to Ubuntu and use the money you save to train people on it; couple of hours should see them up to speed. They update every six months, for free:)

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Anonymous Coward

Sigh...

So Tim is a corporate shill for doing a positive article about Windows.

I take it that when a positive article about Ubuntu is written whoever wrote that will be a corporate shill too, or is that different?

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Flame

Frankly

Your comment that a 6 monthly upgrade to any system is "free", especially as the article was clearly talking in the context of a business and not a home user, shows just how unqualified you are to have an opinion on this area.

I'm glad you like ubuntu, but please be quiet while the grown ups are trying to have a discussion eh?

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Linux

You should follow your own advice.

> I'm glad you like ubuntu, but please be quiet while

> the grown ups are trying to have a discussion eh?

Your house is made of glass.

Business users will be dominated by concerns of obscure 3rd party apps. They will be fixated on vendor support. Therefore, the single most important factor here is what your app vendor supports. It doesn't matter if it's a $50 copy of WinDOS or a 60K copy of Oracle's clustered database. "it's the apps stupid"

That said, I know small business users that found Office 2007 and Vista annoying enough that they considered defecting from Microsoft entirely. It was those obscure 3rd party apps (the sort you've likely never ever heard of) that kept them from doing so. When it comes to any upgrade, you have to first consider what your applications support and then whether or not you want to potentially break everything by adding new variables (changes) to the environment.

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wow ...

"I'm glad you like ubuntu, but please be quiet while the grown ups are trying to have a discussion eh?"

Its news to me that grown ups use Windows, so there you are.

Patronising, much?

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Anonymous Coward

Businesses can't afford to upgrade every six months....

In which case we'd be talking about LTS releases, or RHEL and CentOS for businesses.

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Useability my foot

Being here at work and on XP, they are threatening, once the CAA approves Gloucester Old Spots for takeoff, to upgrade us to W7 within the next few months. Trouble is it'll feel like a move backwards. We've already sneaked Open Office in under the radar and our all singing and dancing CRM we've been advised to run under FF by our own IT bods.

The trouble is "upgrade" really translates as "wiping out" - we can stick a lot of our work elsewhere on the network but all the tweaks and shortcuts will be lost in the meantime. Of if there was some way to pull off all your stuff in one lump and reinstall it in one go. Sorry, just considering this other OS that a significant proportion of us here use at home for a minute - we'd just backup the Home directory...

We're not looking forward to it, but it's on the way.

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MeJ
Stop

Xp till '14 for most...

As a company we dumped XP as a principal desktop system for ourselves as soon as 7 came out. But we are a consultancy, and for most of our clients we'll be leaving them on XP until it is no longer supported. Why?

- problems with vertical market software

There's hundreds of special VM applications out there, for solicitors, EDM, accounting, design, electronics, - you name it, that won't work either under Windows 7 or Office 2008 or Win7/64 bit (thank you Sage). These are business-critical and until they are working there will be no change of OS.

- problems with new tech

XP install = 4GB, 7 install = 17GB, SSD = 60 GB. Which OS would you prefer?

- problems with training

Most people who claim to be computer literate mean that they can type a letter in Word 2000/3. Moving to 7/Office 2008 means a complete retrain. For zero gain, mind you.

- costs

Everything needs to be replaced. CBA says 'no'.

OTOH, some new PC's from HP that are supposed to give downgrade rights do not have XP drivers. Really!

So overall we'll wait 'till '14, when we will also need to replace the rest of the infrastructure as IP4 will be dying...

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Pint

Only PHBs will sign up for the W7 ride in the big corps

Yep, at my shop, about 2,000 desktops, we only moved wholesale to XP about 2 years ago from Win2000, fat chance of us dumping XP for at least another 2-3 years! Everytime there is a new desktop upgrade we have about 350 in-house written client-server apps to test ( some people will not let go of their old crap apps and no one will tell them they have to, so stupid! ) , it's not much fun for the Windows lads when the upgrade cycles start, they have my sympathy.

Personally I use an Ubuntu desktop with double head for my admin work, the XP box just runs Outlook and the IE6 coded apps we are forced to use for the various documentation systems. I've asked about getting it VM'd only to be told it's not supported, in the meantime a bit more polar ice melts and we pay a little bit more to the leccy company! Only PHBs who have been given new W7 laptops will be bleating about everyone needing W7 on their desktop, the rest of us are happy if we come in and the apps are working OK.

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Anonymous Coward

IE9 ??

So IE9 doesn't work on XP? Oh dear, the world will end.

Meanwhile:

Our CAD doesn't work on Win7.

Our MathCAD / Matlab don't work on Win7.

Our internal programs (VB shudder!) have to be ported to VB.net

We have to shift to Office 2010 on Win7 (even more cost!)

Office 2010 refuses to open the crystal reports generated files by our PDM.

Office 2010 is not compatible with the new document manager / paperless authorisation system.

Yeah, having IE9 is really going to make up for all that.

Basically it looks like everyone will have Win7 and Office 2010, but with Win2K servers acting as terminal servers and everything running on them. Oh and the terminal servers are going to have to be bought as well; is this the most expensive desktop refresh ever?

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Silver badge
Alert

Wait..

Windows 8 will be out before 2014 XP EOL.

People are best to look for alternatives to Exchange and Sharepoint which are clunky, proprietary and need expensive Windows Servers. Servers is one thing Linux does do well.

So the netbook/Laptop/desktop choice is Windows 8 if you insist on being locked to MS Server apps. and Windows 8 or Ubuntu for XP replacement if your Server side is "open".

I see no compelling need to upgrade to Windows 7 unless you have vista.

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FAIL

Windows 8?

Have a bad feeling about that, given that MS appear to alternately release gems & dogs:

Windows 3.1 Gem

Windows 95 Dog

Windows 98 Gem

Windows ME Dog

Windows XP Gem

Windows Vista Dog

Windows 7 Apparently this one does work

Windows 8 Get ready for a true abomination

Totally agree IE9 doesn't make for much of an incentive, and equally sick to the back teeth of MS blocking access to their latest browser based on OS in an attempt to force upgrades.

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