Defending an operating system

I recently spent hours setting up a new Windows 7 laptop computer;  removing pre-installed software, installing new software (IrfanView, Chrome, 7-Zip, etc.), tweaking, configuring, yada yada yada. A good few days from start to finish.

Then I made an image backup and gave it to a client all squeaky clean.

The first thing he did was install a software application he needs for his business. And it brought Windows to its knees.

After the application was installed, the system would boot to the screen offering two userids, but as soon as either user logged on, Windows Explorer (Explorer.exe) would crash with a 0xC0000005 error in a DLL belonging to the new application. The crash in Explorer hung the system; the only option was shutting it down with a long press of the power button.

This made me think of my first generation iPad still running iOS version 4. Apps crash on it all the time. Almost daily. But the system shrugs off the crashes. It is inconceivable for an iPad application to crash the entire system.

Put another way, iOS defends itself better than Windows 7.

That Windows can be crippled by installing a legitimate commercial application (no malware here) makes me feel like Fred Flintstone. No doubt, years from now, techies will look back at this era and marvel that so many people used such a flawed and fragile system.

I haven't paid much attention to Windows 8, but just by glancing at headlines I've learned that it features an all new user interface. To a Defensive Computing oriented person, this is mere eye candy. Any system that can be brought to its knees by installing an application needs a major revamp internally, not externally.

iOS and Android have raised the bar in terms of the operating system defending itself from applications. Unless Windows does so too, it will be viewed as a stick shift car by a world migrating to automatic transmissions.

And that's being kind. You can't put a price on the resentment generated by system failures like this.

Hours wasted on the phone with tech support getting nowhere (software companies blame the hardware and hardware companies blame the software) are not soon forgotten. Neither is the aggravation of  shelling out for a new computer that is unable to do the most important thing it was purchased to do, run a particular application.  

Microsoft marketing, no doubt, thought that naming their latest smartphone operating system, "Windows" was a good idea. I'm not so sure. To many people, Windows is associated with trouble, problems, aggravation and grief. Android and iOS, not so much.

Non-techies need an operating system to be reliable and get out of their way. And in that respect, the newer operating systems put Windows 7 to shame.

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