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SQL Man of Mystery

Wes Brown is a PASS chapter leader and SQL Server MVP. He writes for SQL Server Central and maintains his blog at http://www.sqlserverio.com. Wes is Currently serving as a Senior Lead Consultant at Catapult Systems. Previous experiences include Product Manager for SQL Litespeed by Quest software and consultant to fortune 500 companies. He specializes in high availability, disaster recovery and very large database performance tuning. He is a frequent speaker at local user groups and SQLSaturdays.

Three Years late, Was It Worth The Wait? Windows 7, Vista Promises Delivered.

Having been married to Microsoft for most of my professional career doesn’t mean I drink the Kool-Aid.

I have had the distinct privilege to grow up in interesting times. I loved DOS. As a BBS operator DOS was the de facto OS for most BBSes that ran on x86 hardware. Combined with QEMM/DESQview  I was a multitasking fool, running many nodes on a single 386 and a ton of ram, 8 Megabytes to be exact.

Other OSes came and I tried them as well Even running OS/2 for a while. It was DOS compatibility and multi-instance that I was after, though you could run Windows 3.x apps in it, why bother.

I just didn’t see where Windows was anything near as powerful as my good old DOS prompt. I had used GUI’s before and knew that some day it would be the way things went. To put it bluntly though, I hated Windows. I my eyes at the time, it did nothing well. It made my sleek powerful machine run like a pig. It required me to learn how to do things the Windows way, which slowed me down. I even went so far as to actively refuse to own or install a mouse I so loathed Windows.

In many aspects my opinion hasn’t changed much. To be honest I blame the “over promise, under deliver” method of development that Microsoft seems to employ with Windows OS development.

Windows 3.11 for Workgroups was modestly noteworthy in my view because it help bring the internet into homes for the first time. I also knew the internet was awesome and powerful but I didn’t grasp the whole World Wide Web thing immediately ether. Not being a graphical guy I didn’t see what it bought me over any other tools that ran on the internet, until I really saw it running on Windows.

It still wasn’t enough to completely win me over. I was already working with GNU/Linux going back to DOS/Windows mostly to play games or develop on as a platform since that paid the bills. I had been using NT for quite a while as a systems/network/database administrator but still ran Linux at home and for other projects when I could. That changed a bit with the release of Windows 2000. To me it was Windows all grown up. 32 bits, nice GUI, fairly stable it had a lot going for it. Plus, Windows Me was such a miserable experience it was an easy choice to go with 2000 Workstation and pretend that particular nastiness just didn’t exist. Though it wasn’t until XP hit that I switched full time for my day to day desktop to Windows, from dual booting just XP all the way.

That lasted for quite a while…. Until Vista. Vista didn’t have a marketing problem, it didn’t suffer from bad press. It was just fundamentally broken. I don’t care how many Mojave commercials you run, live with it for a while and you will be just as unhappy with it if it was named Santa Clause.
I do thank MS for releasing Vista though, it turned me back on to Linux and specifically Ubuntu which I have been using now for the last couple of years. If anyone can close on Windows I think Ubuntu and Mark Shuttleworth have the best chance, unless Apple looses its mind and releases OSX for white boxes.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will always give Windows its due when it comes to ease of configurations and common usage. If it wasn’t for Windows my mom would still be putting stamps on her mail to me.

With that little history lesson, and my obvious bias against Windows I still always try the latest and greatest for MS. It is in my best interest to do so. I don’t want to ever be too far behind the curve, or have a lack of something to complain about.

So, with all my gripes and soap-boxing, here I sit typing away on a x86 machine with Windows 7 loaded on it, and I’m happy with it. So happy I’m not dual booting into anything at the moment and my laptop has it loaded as well.

Why, you may ask, am I back on the bandwagon? Here is the short list.

 

Performance.

That’s right, as bad as Vista was, 7 doesn’t show any signs of the past sins. My first big ugh moment with Vista was trying to copy files on the network. It just wouldn’t start, or if it did it took forever to finish. I know it was addressed in a patch and later by SP1 but it was a band-aid on a sucking chest wound. Rarely would I come close to gigabit speeds even though I’m on a managed switch and both ends can easily handle the load. XP came much closer, and if I wasn’t using Samba, Ubuntu just flew over the wire. Windows 7 brought that back in line. When I got near wire speed on my first test run I just assumed it was wrong. I still doesn’t handle lots of small files as well as my Ubuntu setup but its not enough to quibble about.

Visuals.

Vista had them but at the cost of making your state of the art machine run like last years eMachine you bought for your mom for 300 bucks. On the other hand Ubuntu with Compbiz was just stunning and ran on my older Pentium M laptop with a radeon x200 mobile GPU in it. Again, 7 addresses this it keeps the visuals from Vista and improves on them, I got to say the rotating wallpapers is my current favorite feature at the moment. It is still a generation behind Compbiz as far as raw visual stunning effects.
I’ll never forget when a friend of mine was going on about Aero glass and transparencies in Vista all I did was break out my laptop and tab through the running apps. Once he picked his jaw up he asked how I had gotten Vista to do that….. After he got over the second shock, that it was Linux, I had him trying Ubuntu for himself.
I’ve also attempted to use Stardock to get as close to the same effects on windows and just had to give up. There was enough annoying crashes and blips to make it not worth my time.

Organization.

I wasn’t sure I was going to like the new fat bar but it has quickly grown on me. I hate having a million icons on my desktop but I want things to be accessible that I use day in and day out. With Windows 7 replacing the quick launch with the ability to pin an application to the bottom bar, or in the start menu, you get the best of both worlds you task bar shows you what is running it also acts as your quick launch and it is remarkably uncluttered.
I am also a fan of the mouse over preview that shows you how many things you have open per group and what is in them i.e. having multiple browsers open or multiple management studio sessions. With the quick preview I can just peek and pick the one I need to work with now without having to alt-tab through everything.
The focus and fade effect you get when you mouse over then up onto the preview showing you only that window on the screen is also a nice touch. I use to always use the minimize all windows using the shortcut on the quick launch bar, then alt-tab through the list of running programs to find the one I was after it sucked but it was fast enough.

Compatibility.

Out of the box I had very few driver issues with 7. It even installed without my help on my Nvidia raid array. There are a couple of drivers missing for my laptop but no real show stoppers. Since Vista took the brunt of that attack I’ll chalk it up as a win in that column for Vista.

Security.

Don’t laugh I mean it. 7, even as a beta and now RC has a better, more polished security model. Not the open range XP was and not the heavy handed style of Vista.
Just to make other Ubuntu/Linux junkies upset I don’t think it is any more disrupted as having to execute under sudo to install components or do administrative actions.
I do wish there was a bigger push to move stuff out of the kernel space and into user land for security and stability but I think time will fix these issues as well.

Stability.

I still hear you snickering from the above topic but I must push on. Other than the 1.5 BILLION reboots to install software or update drivers I haven’t had any real issues with crashing.
The compatibly run as model actually worked for me on a couple of apps that didn’t play well under 7, but did just fine on Vista. Also, the fact you can install an application in this mode made life easier to the legacy stuff I have to have. 
Another thing that will make the OSX guys upset is I haven’t rebooted my laptop since the install was completed. Hibernate actually works and that is the mode I leave it in. On my new laptop with 4GB of ram and a decent SSD drive it comes back from hibernate in a flash(no pun intended, oh hell who am I kidding of course it was intended). I was pretty much guaranteed that If I put Vista into hibernate it was about a 1 in 3 chance that I’d have to ditch the saved image and reboot clean.

This all adds up to a better user experience and enhanced productivity without a steep learning curve. I don’t feel like this was rushed out the door and then crammed down our collective throats as the pentacle of operating systems.

If you haven’t tried it, do so. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Comments

Posted by Steve Jones on 17 June 2009

Very nice writeup and if I ever find the time to switch desktops, I think I'm going with Win7 there and the laptop

Posted by Erdogan Kurtur on 19 June 2009

it is nice to know there still are console guys like me :)

using w7-rc for a while now on an xps m1730. it works like charm. can complain only on wm player.

but still using Far to copy files (with internal method).

Posted by blandry on 19 June 2009

Shame on you for not giving CP/M at least an honorable mention!  That was a great OS too!

I too have been playing with Windows 7 and I am impressed, but throughout my career I have had one rule when dealing with Microsoft - run nothing for at least one year.  I think if you go back through MS's work, most of their OS's didnt get 'good' at least until SP1 or beyond.  (Anyone remember Windows ME?)  I have broken this rule only once...

...that was with Vista that came pre-packaged on my super duper home office system.  I know Vista is a flop, but after two years running it, I cant say that I have that many complaints.  On systems without high end hardware, yes, it was a dog - but on beefy systems, its not been as bad as some make it out to be.

The only thing I hope to see changed is Vista's approach to security.  Its terrible.  Asking the user "Are you sure you want to do this?" every time any icon is clicked is not my idea of better security.

Vista is a flop, yes, and Windows 7 holds some promise but I dont think we should all be dancing in the streets over Windows 7 - after all, the MS track record is pretty well laden with flops.  I know, because I was drinking the koolaid through all of them.

Posted by jakermanis on 19 June 2009

I've been running Win7 since the intial beta on my XPS M1730 and I must say, I did so out of desperation of wanting to smash my laptop all due to Vista being such a pile of .... well you know what I mean.

Win7 has been great, still a few glitches in it, but that is expected in the beta version and considering the debug code is still there, Win7 is certainly fast and stable. Microsoft is finally delievring what Vista should have been, but never was. Was Vista just all a bad dream and I am only waking up to the next OS after WinXP?

I'm really looking forward to the RTM, Win7 holds great promise as long as what I see in the RC doesn't get screwed up by time we reach the RTM.

Posted by jeff.hadden on 19 June 2009

My experience with Vista running on an HP laptop has been a horror show.  Many compatibility issues.  While trying to get things done, it will just lock up for a minute or two.  Reboots are on the order of 5 minutes.  SP1 failed to install for months on a daily basis, until I actually went to check on Windows Update.  No notice was ever given of the failure.  I finally had to install it myself manually.  Any install seems to require a call to the appropriate tech support line.  And Vista is slow.  How slow is it?  In the time I get the screen I asked for, I could have driven to the apple store and purchased a proper replacement.  Hay-o!  Why is it while machines and networks have become orders of magnitude faster in the last decade, are we still dealing with lag time on the order of Windows 3.1.  I've never looked forward to an operating system more than Windows 7.  Let's hope it lives up to the hype better than Vista did.

Posted by Wesley Brown on 19 June 2009

Lol, I wasn't a CP/M guy for very long. when CP/M was popular I was on Motorola 6502 and then 68k machines mostly.

Yeah most of the bulk copy I do I use ether robo or Teracopy.

Posted by jakermanis on 19 June 2009

Jeff, funny you mentioned Vista and SP1 ... in my case it installed OK and certainly made Vista faster, but the lockups, frequent reboots never changed.

I did try the beta of SP2 before turfing Vista for Win7 beta. SP2 did nothing, changed nothing, and still had lockups and frequent reboots.

I also found in Vista, you could never kill a process easily, they just refused to die. Wish it had the LinuX equivalent of kill to really kill off a process.

CP/M ... boy that brings back 5 minutes of memories and how things have changed since then ... tired just thinking about it.

Posted by Melanie Peterson on 19 June 2009

blandry's comment made me smile.  For years, my rule with any Microsoft product has been, "Wait for SP2."  I figure SP1 is rushed out as an emergency fix for all the drop-dead, blue-screen issues they should've identified in beta.  SP2 is usually where they dot their i's and cross their t's and wrap everything up nicely into a truly functional product (also something that should've been done in beta, but this is Microsoft, so how much can you really hope for?)

Posted by rja.carnegie on 19 June 2009

Even MS-DOS 3.0 had big problems...  I got a second-hand  trial Vista system and haven't even gotten around to virus scanning it.  What I wanted to do with it is try speech recognition, which I hear they improved greatly over the XP Tablet E¢ition.  I can't type due to RSI, I use a stylus key-picker called "Fitaly", which is damn good stuff; my day-to-day system is a Samsung tablet, but their later "Ultra Premium" model apparently isn't available in my market (United Kingdom), and what I have (the "Q1 Nothing-Else") is firmly underpowered both for speech (that's power-hungry, just becoming useful on present-day systems) and visuals (at least when I use it sideways).  AND memory, but that's probably my fault (0.5 gigabytes?  why?)

I'm allergic to visuals like you were allergic to Windows before colour monitors, because visual gimmicks aren't very cute when the machine pauses ten seconds before completing the gimmick.  But maybe the time has come at last.

Incidentally, Linux isn't rushing to meet my particular needs.

I suppose that buying the Windows 7 personal OS upgrade will make as little sense as usual compared to the cost added to new hardware.  Like, you can buy a new PC with Vista for less than the box price of Vista.  (I expect.)  Is anyone seeking a second-hand Vista laptop, I have one... I don't mean the tablet...

Posted by fnoell on 19 June 2009

WOW!  You convinced me.  Now I can't wait to try Ubumtu!

Posted by bradyoung on 19 June 2009

I just don't give O/S's much thought at all, I was happy with 2000, happy with XP and after I turned off the prompts in Vista I was happy with it. I think people way over assess operating systems, they have to build them to suit everybody, not just a few hard core techie developers so they'll never make everyone happy. DOS, Linux, no thanks, it is 2009, not 1979. They have there place in the industry, but not on my computers.

Looking forward to 7, only because it's nice to have something new to play with.

Posted by Steve Jones on 19 June 2009

I just build my new desktop on Win7. Maybe I'm gambling, but it seems more stable than most of the OS. I thought W2K was very stable when it came out, although a slow install. SQL 7 was very stable when it was released as well.

Not that there weren't any issues, but less than I expected. I am tempted by Ubuntu, between Wes and Joe Webb, but the multiple monitor thing worries me.

Posted by Wesley Brown on 19 June 2009

If you are not willing to have some pain then just run with Windows 7 Steve. If you are running more than 2 monitors Ubuntu, or any distribution that I've looked at, will require some tweaking of the X config files to get to run.

Load it in a VM first see if you can deal with the changes in how you do things then decide if you want to jump off and look at a multi-monitor setup.

fnoell said:

WOW!  You convinced me.  Now I can't wait to try Ubumtu!

That's great! I think everyone should try something new every once and a while. I'd love to hear how it goes and if you have any problems.

Posted by Dan Guzman on 19 June 2009

I got Vista post SP1 on my HP laptop  Haven't had any problems with Vista.  The hardware on the other hand has been an issue.

I'm currently dual booting to Win7 as primary (just in case) and I like what I see.  I did have driver issues here, and there are some programs that won't play because they don't recognize the windows version (McAfee anyone?) and I think I should keep the layers of betas to a minimum on my primary home computer.  I can't wait for RTM or SP1 for that matter, just to boost my confidence really

Posted by Dan Guzman on 19 June 2009

Lexmark and Wireless printing are my barriers to Ubuntu, I was 95% on my way to tossing Microsoft altogether.

Posted by rja.carnegie on 19 June 2009

fnoell: that's "Ubuntu", not "Ubumtu".  I hope that doesn't blunt your enthusiasm  :-)

Like when Star Trek characters are named Uhura and Mister Spock, but people who aren't special fans know them as Uhuru and Doctor Spock.  "Uhura" seems to be a random decision by producer Gene Roddenberry, anyway, from the well known book title and actual Swahili word.  Citing the actress's autobiography, Wikipedia says she was originally going to be called Lieutenant Sulu, but that would be like calling Spock Mister Vulcan.  And that anyway she's Bantu, but the twenty-third century United States of Africa is a melting pot... am I off the point here?  :-)

And I'm (when necessary) a Knoppix kind of guy... do they both have "live" CD or DVD?  Like, you boot your PC with the Linux live disk in the drive, and para bailar la bamba your PC is suddenly (temporarily) running Linux? (Like, after a minute or so.)  Researches...  Hmm.  Maybe you have to assemble your own.  After all, it's the Linux way.  Or, you may be able to buy a bootable USB stick with the hard work done.

Posted by mardukes on 19 June 2009

Gee, Wesley.  It's also important to have spell and grammar helpers.  They must be lacking in the environment where this document was created.

At least it wasn't "texting".

Posted by Wesley Brown on 19 June 2009

mdonnelly said:

Gee, Wesley.  It's also important to have spell and grammar helpers.  They must be lacking in the environment where this document was created.

I am truly sorry that my spelling and grammar aren't up to the standards they need to be.

Can you please point me to some tools or books I can use to grow as a writer?

Or, can you revise this blog posting so it does conform to the proper grammar and spelling standards?

I am trying very hard to become a better writer and need all the feedback and help from people just like you have provided.

Posted by jakermanis on 19 June 2009

I think that for some, Vista was OK and operated just fine. But as a developer and a user of many tools, you soon find Vista was just too unstable to use for that purpose.

I know a handful of people who run Vista, but their apps are limited to office, surfing the web and games. Most have no issues at all. In an office environment where it's just Vista, office and couple other apps, they are likely OK as well. But in an office environment where there are many apps, that seems to be the Vista killer.

I think peoples perception of Vista's stability comes from how and what they use it for.

For me, Vista was the biggest piece of junk ever to come out of Microsoft. WinXP was OK. Win7 just shines!

Posted by samiam914 on 19 June 2009

No UBUNTU for me.

Linux too many versions, life should be simple for happiness not complex.

Apple nice, but not really for main core business.

Windows 7 Yes.

Posted by armenefee on 19 June 2009

Does anyone but me remember Televideo MMMOS 64k and ran up to 4 dumb terminals.

Posted by Charles Kincaid on 19 June 2009

Gee Wes you don't look that old.  I ran CP/M for a while.  Then a lot of L-DOS on TRS-80 mod 4's.  Ouch!  Every version of DOS from 3.0 onwards. Win 3, a lot of WFW.  95.  98 and 98 SE.  ME?  Not me!  NT 3.5.  Was on the 4.0 Beta teem.  Win 2000.  That was nice.  XP-Pro.  XP-Home at home.

Stuck with Vista at work.  Now, thanks to you, I'm looking forward to 7.  Bummer, I just found out some neat tricks using the Quick Launch.  Count your icons.  Hold the Windows key and hit 4, it launches the 4th icon.  Zero is the tenth.  My "top 10 list" is 2 keystrokes.

Posted by jblevins on 22 June 2009

I haven't played with Windows 7 yet, but really want to. Much has been said about how Microsoft "copies" Apple. Maybe they do, maybe they don't. One thing I wish they would copy from Apple is the following:

For the last two years there has been a feature freeze on OSX. During this time, Apple has created an easy interface for developers so they can offload certain operations to the GPU for increased performance. They also have made multi-core programming trivial. All process will now be 64-bit. The end result is that Snow Leopard will double the speed of your Mac and remove 6 GB or so of OS files. Cost of the upgrade? $29.

Just imagine how much better Windows would be if Microsoft would just do something like that instead of charging out the nose for an OS that requires more hardware to run slower than XP.

Posted by Bruce W Cassidy on 28 June 2009

Hmm.

I'm not sure I agree with your premise.

Firstly, Windows 3.11 ("Windows for Workrgoups") was home/office networking for the masses, not the internet.  For the internet, you want Windows 95.

Secondly, everyone raves at how terrible Vista was, but I seem to remember that Windows XP was just as bad, and took two service packs to come right.  Now Windows XP is stable and mature.  I've been running Vista for ages, and the issues I've had with it have all been related to the stuff that Hewlett Packard did to the install, and not to Vista itself.  And since Service Pack 1, Vista has been stable and performs reasonably well.

That's not to say I don't have issues with XP.  But then I have had issues with every version of Windows.  I'm running the RTM of Windows 7 now, and it's certainly an improvement over Vista.  But I still have issues with it.

On the other hand, I have issues with every operating system.  I've used Macs and Unix systems since well before Windows even existed, I can remember using Open Windows on SunOs and NextStep (the precursor to MacOS X), and playing with MacOS X.  They all had features I liked, but they all had things that irked me as well.  Perhaps the real issue here is me?

It's easy to slam stuff, it's harder to keep in mind that Microsoft are the only company in the world that have successfully produced a mass-marketable operating system over mix-n-match hardware.  Linux comes closest to rivalling that, but doesn't quite measure up.  MacOS X owes a lot of its capability to only running on a tightly controlled hardware mix.  Windows doesn't have that luxury.

So all credit where it's due.  Yes, Vista has had its issues.  But so did XP.  So, I suspect, will Windows 7.  And yet, fundamentally, Windows in all its variants thereof does actually work.  (Well, okay, let's exclude versions prior to 3.0 from that statement.)

To me, the real issue is with marketing and word of mouth hype.  Nothing lives up to the promises (Microsoft isn't the only one guilty of this.)  So articles like this are just promulgating that...  "Vista sucks, Windows 7 will be wonderful!"  Right.

Posted by Wesley Brown on 28 June 2009

Bruce,

Thanks for your feedback.

You don't have to agree with my premise, it is an opinion piece and therefore worth what you paid for it.

RTM of Windows 7? Do you work for MS?

I wasn't aware it had been locked in for sure, what is the final build number? Rumor mill has it 7263.

Promulgating? English major I'm assuming. :)

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