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back to article The Sinofsky Letters: Defenestrated Windows overlord corresponds

Last year when Windows 8 Developer Preview shipped, a British techie found a few usability problems. Why not take it to top? This correspondence followed. Enjoy. From: D Sent: Friday, September 16, 2011 8:45 AMTo: Steven Sinofsky Subject: Hi Steve,   Hello Steven,   I thought I better help. http://www.ghacks.net/2011/09/15/ …

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"Do you honestly think I come to work and say to myself “how can I kill [D] and offer him a death by a thousand cuts”?"

No, Steven, I think that you designed an operating system with nobody but the consumer in mind. Professionals of various stripes were seen as "the edges of the bell curve." By not being "the majority," providing the tools they need to do work efficiently and without impediment is not a priority: building an operating system geared towards easy consumption of content is.

There is validity to the argument that "you can buy third-party tools to modify Windows." XYPlorer for explorer, Classic Shell for the Start Menu, Firefox or Chrome to get a real browser. I think, however, that this misses the point. By not having proper tools - which you used to have, just by the by - embedded into the base operating system, professionals are denied the ability to use workstations belonging to others.

In a sane and rational world, given the technology available to us here in 2012, this wouldn't be a problem. We would use solutions similar to VDI to solve this issue; we could have a cloud-based user experience migration tool, or even full blown-drag-the-screen-across-RDP VDI. Unfortunately, Microsoft's glorious please-kill-them-with-fire licensing department demands a difficult-to-find number of virgins to be sacrificed at equinoxes into even more rare volcanoes before you are allowed to do anything.

Any you'll pay a yearly subscription with a 6-year TCO nearly five times the buy-to-own fee to do it.

Microsoft wants to be on every machine, and take a significant rake from that presence. They want a fee if you use their stuff remotely, and a different one if you use it under different circumstances. They want a fee if you don't use their stuff and a different fee if there is a combination of stuff in play. They really – really – don't want you under any circumstances to use VDI. Have you tried touch? There's this nice Surface…

The issue with this, of course, is that your now fondle-friendly consumptive* operating system if absolute fucking pants at anything approaching user experience migration excepting under some very specific and carefully massaged circumstances. If you're part of a domain, there's a good pipe, storage with adequate IOPS, all your apps are certified (and even then, chicken entrails are required,) you have your GPOs, third-party wrappers and so forth set up…you might be able to take your desktop, apps, configuration, look-and-feel, third-party explorer apps, Classic Shell and so forth with you from physical endpoint to physical endpoint.

Congratulations, Microsoft, you have successfully failed to live up to the standards of mounting /home/%username% on a remote system, or using bloody rsync properly.

15 years after you started trying.

But lo! You are the monopoly, you don't have to worry about these bell curve edges. They are but rounding errors, grouchy internet commenters and so forth, no? Analysts will flock to your cause and cheer you on because you have targeted "the majority" with an operating system that removes the barriers of "thinking" and replaces them with an excellent tool to consume both of the pieces of content you have managed to secure for distribution on Xbox live. Hookers and blow for everyone!

Well that's great, Steve. I know you didn't walk into work every day trying to ruin D – or my, or anyone else's – day. We just didn't matter to you. We don't matter to your replacement, your former boss or the overwhelming majority of people who work there.

We're nerds. Professionals. We have these weird needs and angsty desires to get shit done. It's amazing how much of a pain in the ass that is, because when someone doesn't provide us the tools to do something, we build the fucking things ourselves.**

We don't matter on the balance sheet. Yet.

Very soon here, however, you're going to be reminded of what happens when you let engineers design a tool to increase productivity and save end users money. Once the world is reminded why it was we made these damned computers in the first place, the Microsoft, Apple and the rest of you geniuses that let "user interface experts" take control…you folks are fucked.*

* Consume what, exactly? You can't get licences for the digital enjoyment of fucking anything. Especially if you live in Canada, where the few pitiful things that are on offer to Americans – streaming only at some ungodly price, natch – "aren't available in your region."

** When a vendor gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Make the vendor take the lemons back! Get mad! I don’t want your damn lemons, what the hell am I supposed to do with these? Demand to see life’s manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give a sysadmin lemons! Do you know who I am? I’m the man who’s gonna burn your business model down! With the lemons! I’m gonna get my engineers to invent a product that does what yours does in a third the time with a tenth the effort for half the price.

***Lots of people are going to moan "it's impossible to challenge Microsoft" or some other such tosh. Bull. If enough of the right people are irritate enough, you'd be surprised exactly how fast a decent competitor can spring up. Even for an operating system. Ask Research In Motion, Novell or Yahoo about the permanence of market dominance and the lack of incentive for innovation some day, hmmm?

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Trevor, this has to be the best comment I've read on El Reg for quite a while. Thanks for the reading.

I could I written every word of it, except I couldn't (English isn't my native language).

You've perfectly summarised the amount of frustration we've reached, us IT professionals, seeing our everyday work tool becoming less and less usable. We are sacrificed by MS because we are considered as not significant compared to the consumer masses. Someday this timebomb will explode in their faces, or so I hope.

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So _that's_ why Sinofsky walked

Trevor actually sent him that comment a week ago. Sinofsky had MS Corporate Services bring him a bottle of whiskey and a large mirror to sit on his desk, then spent the rest of the afternoon with calls diverted and the blinds drawn...

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@Alain "this has to be the best comment I've read on El Reg for quite a while"

I agree entirely. Even though I am not anywhere near as dissatisfied with Win 8 as Trevor clearly is I will happily say that that post was one of the most intelligent, well argued and constructive that I have seen here at El Reg concerning Win8. I am so piss-tired of the "contributions" from the "Gold Card Members of the Anti-Microsoft Choral Howling Society" that I do not know where to begin to describe my feelings. However, this kind of post is another kettle of fish entirely. This kind of post is a real contribution to the debate and I personally felt that I learnt something from it. Major thumbs up to Trevor for that.

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Anonymous Coward

Damned Good Stuff, Trevor.

What they don't seem to remember is that it is not just nerds that copy a file from one place to another. Very un-nerdy accounts clerks have heaps of them, and an ever growing number of of people are organising their movies and their music on their home machines.

If MS really think that half-decent GUI file management is nerd stuff, the end is nearer than I thought.

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Re: Damned Good Stuff, Trevor.

All I can see is a fist full of typos resulting from rolling my face around on the keybaord in rage at stupid o'clock in the morning. Proof reading. I should do it some time...

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Re: Damned Good Stuff, Trevor.

And then I typoed the typo comment. SONOFA...

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Re: Damned Good Stuff, Trevor.

Never mind Trevor - it's the thought that counts - well done !

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Holmes

** Applause **

Nicely done! Icon is for you.

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Pint

Re: Damned Good Stuff, Trevor.

Indeed, they kinda add to it in a way.

Brings up the mental image of someone so irate and fuming at the whole thing that they can't even type properly.

The only other thing I would say is that being here in the comments of the original article may hide this beauty from people who don't generally bother to look in the peanut gallery. The thing deserves to be a full article in itself as a proper follow-up!

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"Deserves to be a full article in itself as a proper follow-up."

I've written several. Nobody cares. (Isn't that the point?) I'll probably report it on http://www.trevorpott.com after I'm done writing this Server 2012 thingy....

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Flame Of The Year!

All it needs is a sentence in all caps and it would be prefect. ;)

Actually perfectly relevant and correct, sumarises my thoughts on Win8.

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Headmaster

Re: The typos

Teacher says... Just sometimes what you have to say is more important than spelling, punctuation and grammar.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I've written several. Nobody cares.

Come on El REg! Publish this as an article!

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Another

Example of 'this is how it's going to be done' no matter what the feedback is. Using Ubuntu on a number of machines I got used to Tabbed file browsing and began to miss it when I found myself in a windows environment. Enter QTTabBar, freeware and works in Vista, 7 and 8. gives you tabbed browsing and works a treat.

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up arrow

Fantastic, I've been using windows 8 for a week or so now hadn't even noticed the up arrow was back, losing it had to be the worst thing introduced in windows 7. Thank you to who ever persuaded them to put it back, from this email interchange I can see that it must has been a hard job. 3rd party file manager? Are we going back to the days of 3rd party TCP/IP stacks?

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Windows Explorer

I was shocked when XP demoted Windows Explorer to an Accessory as most veteran users would consider it an essential. I much prefer to use WE than My Computer as the latter starts programs, often when I don't intend to.

Solution is to manually place Windows Explorer back on the Start Menu or create a Desktop shortcut to it.

Windows8 developers not understanding the importance of tiling Windows vertically to most (?) users, demonstrates that there's little hope for Win8 being adopted, except reluctantly.

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Re: Windows Explorer

Win + E works pretty well too.

But to show how much MS developers are clueless, try putting the task bar on either side of the Window, and watch how the UI struggles in pretending it's still at the bottom.

I always keep my task bar on the left side of the window, as this is the only way in which you can actually see more than four windows at a time.

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Re: Windows Explorer

there's little hope for Win8 being adopted, except reluctantly.

The whole point is that MS doesn't give a damn about our reluctance: why bother with such petty details when you have OEM deals with virtually every manufacturer and that your product, no matter how bad it is, will be forced upon users anyway?

No wonder that Sinofsky's my way or the highway attitude made him so successful inside MS since that's exactly what their customer relationship policy is about.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Windows Explorer

"Solution is to manually place Windows Explorer back on the Start Menu or create a Desktop shortcut to it."

Or hit Super-E when you need it...

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Holmes

Re: Windows Explorer

Honestly there is no excuse for not learning the shortucts for basic system commands

Win = Start Menu

Win + E = Windows Explorer

Win + R = Run

Win + D = Show the Desktop

These are just the basic everday shortcuts using the Windows Key..... The start menu has its role but the shortcuts should not be forgotten,,,,, I try and teach them to all of our staff, they have a complete list though, especially the Ctrl+X,C,V,F,A,Z which are highlighted and in bold ( ctrl+b).......

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Re: Windows Explorer, my excuse......

.....for not using Win key is I don't have one.

Still using IBM PS2 keyboard from 1985 -- unmatched feel and (self-evident) durability.

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Big Brother

Re: Windows Explorer

@Khaptain

Or in the case of Sinofski, Ctrl+freak.

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Re: Windows Explorer, my excuse......

And you are probably running the a 386dx and understand the following lines

DEVICE=C:\Windows\HIMEM.SYS

DOS=HIGH,UMB

DEVICE=C:\Windows\EMM386.EXE NOEMS

LH C:\Windows\COMMAND\MSCDEX.EXE /D:123

Seriously though, there are some nice keyboards today and the windows key is actually really damned usefull...

Shame that my Thinkpad never had one

or alternatively for the Linux Ladies

xev | gawk '/keycode/{if($0!=l)printf "0x%x\n",$4;l=$0;}'

( et voila you have thewindows key)

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Re: Windows Explorer, my excuse......@ Khaptain

You're almost right. I certainly used the same keyboard with a 386/40. And, yes, I can almost remember all that HIMEM and UMB stuff. In fact, I bought my first PC in 1985.

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Re: Windows Explorer

Come on, there are lots of problems with Windows but this is not one of them. Click with the right mouse button on the 'Start' button and select 'explorer' from the popup menu. The only difference is that you click on the Start button with the right to display a context menu not the left mouse button to display the start menu.

Ergonomically, using the right mouse button it's even easier because the mouse doesn't need to travel as far to find the 'explorer' menu. Oh, and in Win 7 you are able to pin the Explorer icon to the task bar.

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Re: Windows Explorer @ Sirius Lee

Brill. Didn't know that. Now I do and will use it.

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Re: Windows Explorer

Honestly there is no excuse for not learning the shortucts for basic system commands

Here's an excuse: I almost never use Explorer, and I can't remember the last time I needed "Show the Desktop". With Vista and 7, Ctrl-Esc is equivalent to Win-R; for XP Ctrl-Esc followed by R does the job.

Not everyone is exactly like you.

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3rd Party

If that's their opinion on Explorer, perhaps I should get a 3rd party OS.

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Symptom of a bigger problem...

I feel a little sorry for Sinofsky - after all if you walk into work to a torrent of *that* in your inbox you'd soon get to the state where the only two options were to walk away or wire Ballmers balls to the three-phase and turn it on, or trigger the EMP in his car just as he hits the off ramp... The possibilities are endless and appealing.

But its all a sign of a bigger problem and yet again its the US to blame. When I was a kid you bought something you were something called a customer (remember them?) with the rights and respect accorded pursuant thereof. Companies didnt raise their customers prices 45% on the sly (yes I mean you SSE), they didnt prank call their customers for a laugh and they certainly didnt make it company policy to annoy as many members of the human race as possible by ignoring their customers like Microsoft appear to be doing (bar possibly British Leyland). When you asked a company to do something there was a good chance they'd do it - because a happy customer is a good customer and a good customer is worth their weight in gold, or at least they used to be.

Now we're 'consumers' and good customer service is about as respected as Jill-me Savile. Its ok to raise prices for customers on the sly by 40% and then openly do it by another 10%. Its fine to put peoples lives at risk with unsafe vehicles and only do something about it after 30 odd people are dead, injured or permanantly maimed. Its company practice to ignore users repeated requests for an OS that doesnt make Mickey Mouse look positively user friendly and feature rich. Telling a 'consumer' that something is free and then charging them to make the product usable is fine too...

Why? Because there is a deliberate disconnect in many companies between the meaning of the word customer and the word consumer. In their mind a customer has their own mind, requirements and rights (which needless to say is a bad thing). A consumer on the other hand is a mindless drone who will swallow anything barfed in their general direction - notwithstanding price, fitness for purpose or anything else (thank you Jobs et al).

You never hear the term 'consumer service' do you? Strange that until you think that if a company calls their customers consumers and keeps customer service they can use it as an excuse to do nowt when the car they sold cooks a family in an accident because of a brake design fault... Not our problem, they never told consumer service/theyre consumers not customers...

Put simply it boils down to 'if we dont call them customers, then we dont have to treat them as such'.

I get the impression that Sinofsky was old fashioned in that sense and having person after person rail at him from every side as a result of Ballmers decisions and other considerations - im not surprised he called it a day. I think theres also an element of getting out while the getting's good. I think he knows just how bad Windows 8 is going to bomb... And with features like printing & network printing seeping into Android MS simply cannot afford a pup right now. Thats over and above public relations triumphs like the 'does 16gb free = 32gb debate'. Fair enough, 16gb phone with 14gb free is one thing - advertising something as having a given capacity when the available is 50% less is something different.

We are your customers people, hear us roar (or at least do us the courtesy of listening to us whinge, you'll benefit in the long run).

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Re: Symptom of a bigger problem...

I'm not sure 'we' are their intended customers anymore. A pc is a tool for me, to others it is a portal for entertainment and a method of communicating. MS have clearly shifted their priority away from the former, towards the latter. They haven't made it unuseable as a tool, just when there was a choice to be made, they favoured a consumer over a worker. They probably did the maths and thats where they feel they need to win.

Luckily it's no huge problem OS X and any number of nix variants will do the job and vmware running win 7 takes care of any legacy programs.

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Norton Commander

Basically what we want for managing files is something like the old Norton Commander. Two panes (three on a widescreen monitor), quick tabbing between them, quick file preview, quick editing. And we want it all built in to the OS, not a $17.99 App Store purchase. Ballmer, make it so!

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Happy

Re: Norton Commander

I started managing DOS networks with Norton Commander. Now I am retired I use Midnight Commander on Debian or OS X, because it still works well. I can use one window on a local drive, and the other on FTP.

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Holmes

XTree Gold?

Now that was a decent file manager. And it would run off a 1.4M floppy!

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Re: XTree Gold?

Explorer++ isn't bad and it's free. That's what I use on Win7.

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Re: XTree Gold?

ZTree Win only takes up about 4MB on a USB Drive and feels just like Xtree Gold - it's still my FM of choice.

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Re: Norton Commander

There's always Directory Opus at gpsoft.com.au - 22 years on from the Amiga original and still going...

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Re: XTree Gold?

I'll join the old farts club and highlight Total Commander. OK it's like the rest but in sync'ing My Documents with my backup device it just works.

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ZAM

Re: XTree Gold?

I remember back in the late 80s the joy of finding XTree Gold. :) Damn . . . I guess that makes me an old fart :(

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Qdir portable...

Not saying it in anyway means that the O/S provider shouldn't have had proper explorer functionality, but I get round it by keeping a copy of this handy. I think M/S and even some of the Linux Distros could learn a lot from how this great piece of Windows software works.

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I'd say way more than half of the reaction to Metro is negative

But that reaction never factored into what Microsoft did with the product, even though they claimed they were listening.

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Unhappy

If you want to see how far we've gone backwards stick a copy of DR-DOS on a modern computer (bit of a fiddle, but do-able) and run some stuff on it. Then weep at how much more productive and responsive it is than anything on any modern OS. And yes, that include Linux.

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Idea

So, Steven Sinofsky has left Microsoft and Scott Forstall has left Apple. They were both in charge of their companies O/S.

They could collaborate and form a new company that could produce a new, radical O/S [does anyone remember Pink / Taligent ?] - either they would produce the best O/S in the world or they would kill each other.

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Re: Idea

I thought they may have already collaborated secretly on Ubuntu?

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WTF?

Vote with your feet, people!

No-one forces you to "upgrade" to the latest version of Windows (well, not for a few years anyway), and if it's all really so bad, there are flavours of Linux that will feel far more like home than the latest brainfarts from Redmond. I just don't comprehend why folks bother to take issue with what Windows has become.

I haven't used it for anything productive in over three years, and I absolutely don't miss it. No way would I go back.

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Re: Vote with your feet, people!

Consumers can, and if Apple's success is anything to go by, do. I see far more personal machines with a fruity logo than one with panes.

However, when the next version of outlook and windows management software only works with W8, corporates will just go with it, because the unseen cost of a some lost productivity is easier to deal with than missing features. Drop too far behind on your licensing and you'll lose cheap upgrade options.

Change is very expensive for a corporate. That isn't helped by simplistic cost modelling (employees or transaction-rate x hours-a-service-isn't-available=cost) which doesn't take "working around the problem" into consideration.

The lock-in is one reason I wouldn't recommend starting a business on windows. Use it tactically if you need to, but keep the strategy unix (be that mac, bsd or linux).

The W7 control panel is an abomination. Its full of things which have no meaning. What is "System"? Does that include your network connection or services? Is remote access a service or part of the system?

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Re: Vote with your feet, people!

You hit the nail on the head. Many people I know have migrated from Windows to Apple. Younger ones who already have iPods and iPhones go straight to a Mac computer. As they come into the workforce, Corporates may find it less traumatic to dump Microsoft.

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Alert

I have never wanted, nor needed, Explorer or any other tree-based file managers. I loved noodling around in Workbench and was flabbergasted that people would slap DOPUS on top of the Amiga's elegant desktop system and felt the same way when "friends" would grab my PC for whatever nefarious purpose (when I finally got one in the mid 90s after C= died) and immediately blow up Explorer and proceed to lecture me on why it was better than <whatever>.

BUT

With that said? Regardless of whether you still want to use Norton Commander in Windows API clothing or whatever, Metro is and always will be trash. It's about as much fun to navigate as a Tiger Electronics game.com, and about as colorful, too. My sincere hope is that I'll wake up in 2015 and MS won't be trying to force-feed me Windows 2000 running in four-color safe mode like they are at present - or rather, like they aren't until they can come up with an actual and compelling Direct-X to try and make me leave 7 at gunpoint.

Windows 8, you are trash to me. Just not in the same way as most other folks here.

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FAIL

downgrade rights

Microsoft wouldnt have to worry about downgrade rights if they would quit making each version of windows worse than the last....

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