back to article Memo to Microsoft: Windows 10 is broken, and the fixes can't wait

Windows isn't working – and Microsoft urgently needs to change how it develops the platform, and jettison three filthy practices it has acquired in recent years. In 2014 Microsoft decided it could do a better job if it discarded a lot of software testers. This bright new dawn was lauded at the time by Peter Bright at Ars …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Software Testers

    Microsoft would have fewer problems go out the door if they read the feedback they're getting from insiders. They maybe have some system where they read reports if 10 people flag it, but it could well be the odd uncorroborated report that canaries a subtle issue

    1. hitmouse

      Re: Software Testers

      Agreed. There are issues which the Insiders flagged in volume from early releases which nonetheless ignored.

      Most US software companies do a terrible job of testing non-US English language installs - developers and testers assume that US settings for keyboard, dates etc will apply for all English locales, when in fact it tends to be unique amongst the 15 or so in place)

      Microsoft has historically been "least worst" in this respect, but has really gone backwards in respect of these settings for example, years of Windows 10 updates resetting English US for all users in UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong, .... Office 365 barely pretends to respect non-US settings. It's not yet Google-bad or Facebook-bad, but it's headed in that direction. These companies do not encourage testers outside the US, so feedback is not heard.

      A properly managed test team CAN make up for deficiencies in these areas, but if management has a mindset that doesn't allow it to cover "unknown unknowns" then it's started ceding the market to other players.

    2. DryBones

      Re: Software Testers

      Wrote a diatribe, WiFi bounce lost it, rage. Short version then.

      MS managed to do worse than just spinning up their own JIRA instance and packaging a browser session to it as a UWP. They deserve all the scorn they get and most of what they don't.

      If Insiders are so valued, where are the severity, frequency, criticality, and impact selectors? They set themselves up for failure.

  2. TaabuTheCat

    Patching has been a shitshow for months

    I'm glad to see the semi-annual release has finally caught up with the Patch Tuesday fiasco that's been going on for the last six months.

    And don't even get me started on the cumulative update deltas that totally break CBS from month to month. What the actual fuck have these guys been smoking?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not listening

    I totally agree with Andrew's comments, but do not believe Microsoft will listen to the swelling chorus of complaints about the problems they have caused, let alone do anything to really fix the underlying causes of those problems.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Not listening

      I think that they are listening, they are just waiting the chance to offer everyone the new update ... once W10 is bad enough everyone will leap at the chance to get the new release.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Not listening

        once W10 is bad enough everyone will leap at the chance to get the new release.

        That's in their wildest dreams. I think reality is about to bite them in the ass in the not too distant future. The problem is that they destroyed the competition back a few decades ago, so who would replace them. I don't see Linux as it's too fragmented by too many distros at this point.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not listening

          The problem is that they destroyed the competition back a few decades ago, so who would replace them. I don't see Linux as it's too fragmented by too many distros at this point.

          I don't think they are sitting on their hands though.

          Few weeks ago out of the blue we got a call from a company designing infrastructure around RedHat with a question whether we would be interested in their offer.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Not listening

          "I don't see Linux as it's too fragmented by too many distros at this point."

          There are relatively few that matter and even then they have their particular niches.

          If you want something to put on your rellies' PCs when you get fed up with digging them out of their malware pit it's likely to be Mint or Zorin.

          If you want something for your own desktop or server to do serious work and don't want to spend time tending to the latest shiny it's likely to be Debian or Devuan depending on your take on systemd ditto with paid support OpenSuSE or Red Hat (maybe a few Red Hats for the support and a stack of CentOS for most users).

  4. cornetman

    What happened to the hardware abstraction layer that gets out of the way of running programs?

    That's what an OS is right?

    What could Microsoft possibly be doing that is creating so much chaos?

    1. theOtherJT

      RE: What happened to the hardware abstraction layer that gets out of the way of running programs?

      Microsoft saw what happened to the ISP's, from whom what we all really want is a dumb-pipe service where we can pull data and they get out of our way. It's a race to the bottom and there's no money there.

      Look at all the advertising there is scattered throughout the Windows ecosystem now. Look at all the various licences and subscriptions. Microsoft know full well that if all they do is sell you a piece of software - once - that you install - once - and then it goes into the background and you don't even know that it's there... that is _not_ the way to maximize profit, indeed, it could be enough to see them fade into irrelevance.

      They know they have to be all up in everyone's face to stay relevant... the problem is that they don't know how to do that in any other way than "Run around changing things like crazy so people keep paying attention" The message "There's no such thing as bad publicity" seems to have taken hold, and much to their detriment.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: RE: What happened to the hardware abstraction layer...

        IOW, there's no business like repeat business, but changing over to a SaaS, subscription, or other repeat-business model is tough to do in a market used to one-and-dones.

        As for the hardware abstraction layer, that's a potential pitfall as well if people think your HAL is the balls (recall what happened so often with the old BIOS--so pathetic that coders worked around it and went straight to the metal).

  5. usbac

    Well... everyone wish me luck with the big lottery tonight. I told my wife that if we win, I'm giving $10 million to the React OS guys (she looked at me like I was from Mars). Maybe even more if it looked like they would actually finish the thing.

    I would even fund an open source replacement for Outlook. For us, that's the one app I would have huge problems with prying from people's hands. I think it's the case for most enterprises. I could replace Word/Excel with Open Office or Libre Office, but Outlook is where I would get the most resistance.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: outlook

      100% accurate - it's the only reason that we have Office on the machines.

    2. J. Cook Silver badge

      Replace outlook!

      Along with Exchange, although I know there's at least one or two 3rd party apps that might give it a valid run for the money.

      1. A.P. Veening

        Re: Replace outlook!

        Thunderbird is a perfect replacement for Outlook and I've been able to convince quite some people already.

        1. JimmyPage Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Replace outlook!

          Thunderbird is shit - I've had to switch to Evolution.

          Sorry, but T-Bird seems to struggle with odd little things - the Lightning extension for calendars in particular.

          There is - and always has been - a Linux-shaped hole in the desktop OS space, just ready for the first company to actually seriously build a looks-like-Windows, acts-like-Windows distro. But for some reason (which suggests the free market is shit) they simply haven't.

          Part of the problem is the Linux' desktop strengths - diversity of apps, customisable beyond belief to name two - are actually what scares the horses. Imagine trying to deliver a Linux desktop in a non-trivial (>20) user space.

          If someone could come up with a straightforward Linux desktop, with a settled GUI, and a Windows approach to installation and operation, and a bombproof email/calendar program (not "app") that could connect to Exchange if needed, and that could run click-for-click versions of Word/Excel/Powerpoint, then you'd probably be able to put it on 80% of the corporate desktops and few would notice.

          The fact that no one seems to have worked that out yet - and been willing to back it with cash - suggests it's not something that interests the Linux community.

          The closest we've probably got is Mint. Which still needs some techie smarts to get around. Even then we hit snags like the Evolution calendar widget (which provides an Outlook feature) won't work on Cinnamon. (Guess what the default Window Manager is ?). True, you can switch to GNOME to have a working widget. At which point you've proved the Windows fanbois point.

          All of that said, it's curious that when it comes to computers, an awful lot of megacorps really have backed a single horse, which means they are incredibly vulnerable to any flaws in that landscape. Surely for the sake of resilience, there should be a driver to run different desktops ?

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Replace outlook!

            You forget one other problem: an OS is nothing without applications, and while you cite possible replacements for Office programs, don't forget the existing ecosystem of custom linchpin software that can't be ported (dev no longer exists) OR replaced (custom job paid up front that's probably still being amortized), and nine times out of ten they use some quirky thing that makes emulation a non-starter. So basically, they're at the end of the rope with nothing below them, which means all they can do is hang on for dear life.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Replace outlook!

              You forget one other problem: an OS is nothing without applications, and while you cite possible replacements for Office programs, don't forget the existing ecosystem of custom linchpin software that can't be ported...

              Yep. Plus, the replacements for Office are often just replacements for basic Word and Excel stuff. Custom add-ins to link into your document management system make moving a bit trickier. Outlook has been mentioned, but Access is also a huge issue that is not typically addressed. There's a lot of database front-ends written in Access, even if the back-end is SQL of some flavour. Often very non-trivial to replace.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: Replace outlook!

                "Access is also a huge issue that is not typically addressed"

                There's a line of argument that says losing that would be one of the gains of switching from Office.

                1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                  Re: Replace outlook!

                  "There's a line of argument that says losing that would be one of the gains of switching from Office."

                  Which is quickly countered by having Access-specific stuff being critical to their operations, meaning without a ready-to-go alternative already at hand, they can't move without shutting down and potentially ceasing as a going concern.

            2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Replace outlook!

              "custom job paid up front that's probably still being amortized"

              If you've paid up-front for a custom job and don't have the source you're doing it wrong.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Replace outlook!

            "acts-like-Windows distro"

            What? Slowly applies breaking updates at its own volition? Nope.

            "a Windows approach to installation and operation"

            Again, nope.

          3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Replace outlook!

            "Imagine trying to deliver a Linux desktop in a non-trivial (>20) user space."

            What do you do with Windows in the equivalent user space? You have a standard image that gets installed on all the PCs. Isn't that a clue to how to deploy Linux?

    3. tiggity Silver badge

      usbac

      Much as I would like to write you an outlook clone, I don't think I could bring myself to write amail app that was not standards compliant, coped badly with hiberntion / other network connectivity "drops", far too single threaded in many areas, massively resource hungry etc., etc.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        There's your problem. Do you write what they want or what they really need but swear they don't want? And in either case, is there a chance you won't get paid/get demanded a refund for unfit-for-purpose?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One good thing's come of the Windows 10 crapfest, I discovered that Linux is finally at a place where it 'just works' and is a usable, fast, effective complete substitute for Windows.

    1. jglathe
      Windows

      ...or MacOS

      Dallying with both for testing purposes, or to be more precise, non-work work. Both are useable, MacOS is nicer and a bit stranger, but you can get used to it. The hardware is a bit like technology from the future. Amazing what you can get out of an i5 with these drivers and GUI. And most of it without even starting the fan on the 'book. Fascinating. Weird keyboard, though.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: ...or MacOS

        "MacOS is nicer and a bit stranger, but you can get used to it"

        Honestly, I've never been able to get used to it. Pretty much everything about MacOS/OSX is counterintuitive to me. However, that doesn't mean it's a bad OS, it just means that the OS is not compatible with my brain.

        1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

          Re: ...or MacOS

          Every time I try to use an Apple computer the thing crashes on me. I get a lot of jokes about it. The weird part of it all is that NeXT machines and I got along great.

        2. Updraft102 Silver badge

          Re: ...or MacOS

          However, that doesn't mean it's a bad OS, it just means that the OS is not compatible with my brain.

          It could be argued that being compatible with your brain would be one of the basic requirements of a good OS. An OS that is highly configurable would be compatible with a lot of brains, but as I understand, this is not Apple's way. Apple's way is to tell you you're holding it wrong.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: ...or MacOS

            "It could be argued that being compatible with your brain would be one of the basic requirements of a good OS."

            I hear what you're saying, but I suppose that how true that is depends on what the goal of the OS is. That I find Apple OSes difficult to use (despite having done a fair bit of application development on them) may be a personal problem, so I'm hesitant to slag them just because of that.

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: ...or MacOS

          "it just means that the OS is not compatible with my brain"

          More likely it's not compatible with your learned habits.

      2. J27 Bronze badge

        Re: ...or MacOS

        Mac OS also ties you down to very limited hardware that quite often has major issues that you can't fix because the parts are restricted. It's not a good replacement for Windows, and not only that, almost everyone who owns a Mac was Windows installed anyway! Linux is pretty much the only viable alternative OS.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Re: "Linux is pretty much the only viable alternative OS"

          Linux certainly is, at the OS level. I am certain that, in time, Linux will be the Enterprise OS of choice.

          But at the application software level, Linux is woefully undersupplied. LibreOffice works fine for me, but Calc doesn't have the polish of Excel's formatted tables, or the fun but useful things like Sparklines, not to mention that its charts are somewhat disappointing and lack every formatting option Excel charts have.

          Writer is not much more evolved, has no themes, no header formatting, is basically Word circa 1998, albeit a bit more efficient and faster.

          For the rest, a company migrating from a Windows environment will have a devil of a time getting apps in Linux that can compare with the ones they use in Windows.

          So no, Linux is not actually an alternative and won't be until those gaps are filled.

      3. Domquark

        Re: ...or MacOS

        "The hardware is a bit like technology from the future"

        Only on the outside. The inside is just the same as any Windows PC. OK, so the iMac's do tend to utilise components more normally found in servers. But you can take an iMac and load Windows (or Linux) and it'll run quite happily. You can take OSX and load it onto a PC.

    2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      At CodySydney, re: Linux suitability.

      I wish I could have upvoted you, I'd really love to be using Linux right now, but the screen readers for Linux are still woefully lacking. I've tried to buy computers from the Vinux Project, System76, & ThinkPenguin, all to no avail. Until accessibility on Linux is a drop in replacement for that on Windows, folks like me *can't* switch over yet.

      If I could see to make the switch then you would certainly get my upvote, I would have switched right around the WinXP EOL hit & never looked back.

      Join me at the pub & I'll buy you a pint. You can toast your Linux experience, I'll drown my sorrows in mine. *Clinks tankard* Cheers.

    3. jMcPhee

      Yeah - just did a new i5-7500 build. For the first time in 32 years, my PC has no MS product installed. What should I do with all the extra time I used to spend cleaning up MS screw ups?

      As an aside, the most functional, reliable MS product I ever used was Commodore Basic. Who would have guessed...

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        "Yeah - just did a new i5-7500 build. For the first time in 32 years, my PC has no MS product installed. What should I do with all the extra time I used to spend cleaning up MS screw ups?"

        Looking for the replacements for the Windows programs you were using but didn't realize it and making sure your system is actually running at top performance (given the known Linux graphic issues, especially if you have to use nonfree driver blobs, this isn't a gimme).

  7. Mage Silver badge
    Flame

    Plan B

    Persuade all the key Enterprise / Commercial / Business SW sellers to port to OS X *AND* Linux. Not just Red Hat either.

    That's a better solution than funding React OS, because MS will need to listen to Business and essentially have Win98/Win2K/XP/Win7 GUI and concentrate on coherent control centre, admin tools, functionality, bug fixes etc instead of Fashion, Cloud, Tablets & Phones.

    We don't need anything "new" in Windows, we just need it to work. Fix the things people have complained about for 15 years. Don't copy Android, ChromeOS, or even OSX.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      " *AND* Linux. Not just Red Hat either."

      Too many distros and too many subtle differences across them. Plus, ugly and limited widget sets for the GUIs, compared to macOS and Windows. Linux is a system still very unfriendly for GUI applications, and also it lacks good development tools for them.

      Linux really needs a complete, well designed GUI system and libraries, managed like the kernel. X is too limited, and you can't let the interface elements do be developed by KDE or Gnome for their desktops - also being forced often to use libraries designed to be cross-platforms means less perfomant and uglier GUIs. Qt, wxWidgets & C. are not adequate.

      Bad ugly fonts because they need to be "free" is also a big issue. License good fonts. If the graphic cards needs closed source drivers, support them - users want great graphic performance, only a subset (the 4% actual users, probably), has its heads stubbornly buried into the "free" sand. Many companies won't give their IP away, learn to live with it.

      GUI uniformity across application and across systems, plus performance, is very important for users. It's what the loot at and feel as soon as they start to use an application. Otherwise even the uglier GUI of Windows 10 will look better and faster.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: " *AND* Linux. Not just Red Hat either."

        @AC above:

        I work in an environment with mixed Linux and Windows desktops. We deployed a cross-platform GUI app that was pretty core to the business function. Even the most illiterate of users flocked to the Linux version because 'the fonts look way better' and 'it looks much nicer' and I almost had a mutiny on my hands when the vendor skipped the Linux build for one of their updates (they got that fixed pronto). In both cases it was using (or at least looked like it did) the OS native UI toolkits (Win32 and GTK). Even had me surprised.

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: " *AND* Linux. Not just Red Hat either."

        "Linux really needs a complete, well designed GUI system and libraries, managed like the kernel"

        I thought that was the goal of Ubuntu.

        I like the idea of there being a distro to meet that need. I would hate it if that meant that the other distros had to be the same way, though.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
        IT Angle

        Re: " *AND* Linux. Not just Red Hat either."

        "ugly and limited widget sets for the GUIs"

        Amen. I think it's because they're trying to ape the MacOS & Windows. There's an oversupply of W7-like decoration themes for KDE. With a bit of effort I have a nice, clean-looking set-up which looks very much like what W2K could have evolved into.

  8. Mage Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Win 10 issues

    Common problem is the app style programs simply not starting. Including Anti-malware update, Windows update and PC Settings! Since the last time you shut down!

    MS official Solutions:

    1: Use Admin command line to add a new admin user (because they removed creating new local users from control panel). Try whatever didn't start as new user.

    OR

    2: Use Power shell to reinstall all apps

    OR

    3: Reinstall all your apps from the Store (won't fix other users).

    OR

    4: Recommended solution: Download the win10 ISO and do a complete restore. It should let you keep your data.

    WUT!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lean and Agile?

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned from talking to outfits who do Agile well, it’s that they have a ratio of test engineer* to software engineer I can only dream of.

    * Some them even understand the not terribly subtle distinction between QA and testing.

  10. Jason Hindle

    I like Windows 10

    And, as I believe I’ve written here before, every time I start to think my current Mac might be my last*, Microsoft goes and does something monumentally stupid.

    * And let’s face it, Apple doesn’t always shower themselves in glory when it comes to finding major bugs before release.

  11. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    The reason it worked with bing is that nobody in their right mind uses bing.

    But seriously, the thing that gets me how can the company be so arrogant as to reduce the number of testers and QA staff? It really beggars belief!

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      We have had no problems with BING at all, not a single error report, oh wait - that's because nobody uses it.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      "The reason it worked with bing is that nobody in their right mind uses bing."

      I'm more worried they compared a search engine running on servers fully under their control, and with a limited end-user interface, with a single use-case, with an OS running on users system and needing to support many thousands applications, and very different use cases. The way they break drivers looks to show they don't understand the difference. Once, they went even too far to ensure backward compatibility with admittedly badly written code - but too widespread or important to kill it.

      Without also not understanding why Google still rules - and why so few people use Bing. Also, that Amazon ad always on top, is really useful? You can look for "corpse" and find on top "look for discounted corpses on Amazon!!!" or something alike. Maybe a good tester would have spotted a better context awareness would have been helpful?

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