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The Voice of the DBA

Steve Jones is the editor of SQLServerCentral.com and visits a wide variety of data related topics in his daily editorial. Steve has spent years working as a DBA and general purpose Windows administrator, primarily working with SQL Server since it was ported from Sybase in 1990. You can follow Steve on Twitter at twitter.com/way0utwest

Looking to Windows 9

I haven’t played with Windows 8 yet, and only a little with Windows Phone 7, but I am a little concerned. This set of videos that show an older man, a CPA, a lifelong Windows user messing with Windows 8 and OSX are a bit telling to me.

The whole start menu/tile thing is a problem to me. It’s no that big a deal in that once you learn it, you understand how it works, but it does seem to be an issue of design. The more I look at the tile/menu design, the more I’m bothered. It’s not a question of ergonomic design. The whole iOS design is something that just works. It was new, different, and it changed the way so many people view computers. For the first time, the majority of stuff you wanted to do just made sense. Not necessarily for us techies/power users, but for most of the world.

I read through a dozen or so of the design considerations from Microsoft, and I appreciate it’s an impossible task. Or at least a Herculean task. However what it seems like it happening is that they’re still bound by viewing the world the old way. As much as they worry about moving the tile/start menu around to be more intuitive, they’re still stuck with stuff in the corners. If they want to be revolutionary, then think about the fact that our mice are often in the screen, somewhere near the application (a cell in Excel, a portion of a Word doc, or a scrollbar). Make the menu work from that point in time, or without the idea that I’m starting from the lower left.

I watched this video from cNet with a hands on, and it definitely feels a little cherry-picking on features and ergonomics was shown, but I am looking forward to messing with it at some point. There are things I like about the direction they’re going, though I’m not sure they are going to work in the 1.0 implementation. However I thought I’d look forward to Windows 9 and talk about what I’d like to see.

For the record. I use a Windows 7 desktop, with 3 monitors, but I travel with a Macbook Air that I love. It’s much better than the last 4 laptops I’ve had, smaller, and OSX Lion is a dream for me. I have an iPhone, which I use constantly. I also have an iPad that I use regularly, but not as much as my kids. I’ve been a Windows user primarily for two decades at work, and I don’t want to see Windows disappear. However I do think there are things Microsoft could do better.

One Device

More and more convergence seems to be on the mind of people. When PDAs first came out, I thought we might get there, but a decade of crappy devices that worked in a half-assed way, from the Palm to PocketPCs to Windows 6 smarthphones had me rethinking that. However with my Android G-1 and then my iPhone, I think to a large extent, I can converge. Not to one device, but two.

I saw this device recently, the ASUS PadPhone, and thought it was pretty cool. It’s a phone, that slides into a tablet, which can attach a keyboard. The idea of getting my phone screen larger at times, would be very handy. Adding a keyboard is a natural step, since the virtual keyboards work OK, but aren’t always great.

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The iPad changed the world and made us think of tablets. I think my iPad is very handy, but it’s not convenient. It doesn’t allow me to do technical work for presentations, which is an issue. It just lacks horsepower. I know for more people that’s potentially not an issue (my Mom loves hers), but it is for some of us. The iPad isn’t what I want.

For most of us, however, the idea of a phone/tablet makes some sense. We want to use the form factors differently, and much of what I’ve seen in Windows 8 makes sense there, but I’m not sure about the desktop.

Hot Hardware

To me, the biggest thing that Windows 9 should have is hot hardware. Not cool, not flashy, but the core hardware ought to change without the OS freaking out.

Ideally what I’d like is a core OS running on my phone, that I can then plug into another device (docking station, tablet, whatever) and have that docking station add CPUs, Memory, displays, etc. without the OS missing a beat. It might take a minute to sync up, but if I have a dual socket quad core CPUs on my desk, I’d like my OS session to take advantage of them. I want things to speed up. If I have 128GB of RAM on my desk, pick that up and start using it for Powerpivot, editing movies, or anything else.

Undocking is definitely the harder part. When I lose RAM, what happens? Well, I’d expect that applications using that memory would have to suspect themselves, perhaps even in the other hardware. Or maybe they’d suspend, rebuild their state, and have to reload things from disk (on the phone). Threads on CPUs would be tricky, but there are a few scenarios on how to recover applications, including letting them die, but it could work.

Potentially we’d start most CPU work as transactional as we do in databases, and only commit the state at known points, so that a drop in hardware would result in a “rollback”. I suppose we could also do something like spawn off threads that are either always on the phone/small device or always on the remote hardware, but there are some smart people in the world that I suspect could come up with a solution.

I’d expect things might freeze state when I dock/undock, but I’d want them to keep working at some point, even if they went into some background/sleeping state.

Virtualization

I’d like to see more virtualization, but at a core application level. Let me essentially sandbox an application into a VM, which thinks it’s on it’s own OS installation, but limit it to very basic interactions, like the clipboard. Can you imagine if Windows did this, and opened up a few VMs from Linux, or even allowed people to get a $29 OSX install running for a few pieces of software? I don’t know the legalities, but it would be a game changer in many ways.

Think Different

The best thing Microsoft could do is really think different. Don’t evolve Windows, but really grow it into something that is handy, ergonomic, efficient, and effective. Don’t worry about matching up with older software. iOS showed many people will port their stuff over if you make it popular, so give up on making things backward compatible.

Break things if you must, but just make it better.


Filed under: Blog Tagged: syndicated, windows

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