Opinion: The 7 deadly sins of Windows 7

The seven deadly sins -- for centuries, they've shaped the imaginations of poets, priests, and politicians, while giving the great unwashed a frame of reference: Do these things and you'll burn for sure!

When it comes to software, few products have inspired as much debauchery as Windows. From lust to sloth to envy, Microsoft's flagship OS platform has proven to be a source of manifold transgression. Zealots have praised it, and pundits have cursed it, while those of us in the IT trenches are forced to actually live with it.

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So with Windows 7 just around the corner, it makes sense to examine the product through the prism of these 7 deadly sins. Just how does Microsoft's new OS drive users to acts of iniquity? And what, if anything, can you, the IT administrator, do to manage the carnal impulses and aberrant behaviors this interloping force of nature engenders?

Lust: Beware Windows 7's faux-Mac experience, which may drive users to the real thing

Windows 7 inspires lust. Specifically, it arouses an unhealthy yearning for a better computing experience. If you're an IT administrator, you can see the signs easily: a lingering glance at a contractor's MacBook Pro, an iPhone in use instead of the standard-issue BlackBerry, browser histories filled with links to macworld.com articles, telltale "my other PC is a Mac" bumper stickers adorning their cubicles.

Left unchecked, these primitive impulses can destroy office morale. Frustrated by the restrictions imposed on them by a rigid Windows-only regime, some employees may even resort to illicit workplace trysts. Many a naïve sys admin has made the unfortunate mistake of ignoring the signs only to later stumble upon a wayward user secretly caressing the object of his or her desire -- a smuggled MacBook Air -- in the back of a secluded wiring closet.

If your job description includes enforcing a Windows-only computing policy, keep close tabs on your charges during the Windows 7 transition. The faux-Mac experience of the Aero UI will no doubt serve to exacerbate their frustration and perhaps even inspire an increase in overt acts of salaciousness as users realize they've been duped by a poor imitation of their true Mac love. So stay alert. Be vigilant. And keep a hammer close by (for cracking Apples, not heads).

Gluttony: Windows 7's piggy requirements require a lot of hardware "food"

Windows 7 continues Vista's piggish ways with regard to RAM consumption and CPU utilization. Like its notorious predecessor Vista, Windows 7 consumes significantly more RAM than Windows XP, ostensibly to support its vastly expanded set of default services. As InfoWorld's tests have shown, this latest version of Windows begins to perform adequately only when deployed on multicore hardware, and some of its "cool" features such as the Aero UI require new graphics hardware and/or updated drivers.

As OS debauchery goes, Windows 7 truly is the height of gluttony. It's bloated and top-heavy, with an insatiable appetite for state-of-the-art hardware. Basically, it chews up CPU and memory capacity like it's going out of style. But to what end? What is it, exactly, that Windows 7 does so much better than its leaner, meaner, pre-Vista ancestors?

These are the questions that will likely be directed your way as you begin the slow, painful process of squeezing another oversized Windows release onto your already taxed PC hardware. When confronted about this latest "upgrade," deflect the inevitable criticisms by emphasizing how much more manageable all those RAM-hungry services will make your environment.

And if all else fails, play the security card: A slow PC is a small price to pay for peace of mind, whether that peace is real or (in the case of Windows 7) imagined.

Greed: Windows 7 will cost you, over and over again

Microsoft is a greedy company. Its obsession with preserving profit by stamping out software piracy has led to ever more onerous "Windows Genuine Advantage" (that is, copy protection) mechanisms, culminating with the albatross of a solution that plagues Vista and, to a lesser degree, Windows 7. Meanwhile, Microsoft's determination to even out its revenue stream has led to the company denying critical management technologies, like the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) and Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V), to customers who refuse to bite the Software Assurance bullet, Microsoft's expensive insurance plan that extracts an annual fee for every PC you have for the privilege of running the current Windows.

Another pickpocket tactic: Tying Windows 7's few, tangible, IT-oriented benefits to the company's server platform. Want to leverage technologies like Branch Cache or Windows Direct Access? Then pony up for some upgrade CALs (client access licenses) because the Windows Server 2008 R2 show is coming to town. Given how badly Microsoft dropped the ball with the nonexistent Vista/Server 2008 integration message, forcing IT shops that swallowed that bitter pill to now shell out for yet another upgrade cycle is simply unforgiveable.

Considering the company's position as a monopoly, such behavior is all the more reprehensible. For good or bad, Microsoft's responsibilities now extend beyond pleasing its shareholders to include providing leadership and direction for the industry as a whole. If the company foists a buggy, unmanageable platform upon what is effectively a captive audience, it is then duty-bound to provide affordable solutions for addressing the glaring deficiencies in that platform.

This is the mantle that a true market leader must assume -- and as a veteran IT professional, you already know full well that Microsoft falls short of this ideal at nearly every opportunity. Your job, then, is to mask this moral weakness by emphasizing the various bogus "value" propositions Microsoft uses to pitch Software Assurance and Windows Server 2008 R2. After all, without SA you're screwed, and without Windows Server 2008 R2, you get little more than a prettied-up Vista. So pony up and shut up. Or go Linux and spend the rest of your life debugging some pimple-faced teenager's idea of a device driver stack. It's your call.

Anger: Windows 7 penalizes those who didn't pay for the mess that was Vista

Windows 7 is the focal point for much Microsoft customer anger. From the disappointment of not having a direct upgrade path for XP users to the frustration of having to pay for what is essentially a glorified Vista Service Pack, corporate bean counters are furious with Microsoft over the company's mishandling of the Windows 7 transition. It's not enough to have ignored their concerns with the buggy, consumer-oriented Vista. Microsoft felt the need to rub salt in the wound by effectively punishing them for having the gall to try to save XP.

This is customer abuse of the worst kind, and you may find yourself tempted to hop on the Redmond-bashing bandwagon. But just remember: Microsoft is not a forgiving company. Those who refuse to embrace its long-term strategy often pay dearly as they scramble to catch up to the rest of the Windows parade. Just ask those poor souls who decided to skip Vista. Pay now, or pay through the nose later. That's the Microsoft way.

Envy: Windows 7's old and new flaws make users covet Mac OS X or even Linux

Windows 7 inspires envy. Specifically, it arouses a kind of covetousness toward products, like the Mac, that truly work out of the box. As I noted in my comments on Windows 7's lust-making, Microsoft has promised a similar "it all works" experience with Windows 7. But the reality still falls far short of the Apple ideal, and thus envy is born.

It begins with the discovery, by novice users, that the process of installing and maintaining software hasn't evolved much in the past decade. It's still a confusing, hit-or-miss proposition, with issues like registry corruption/bloat and DLL hell still plaguing Windows 7. These users then see how easy it is to install applications under a platform like Mac OS X, and they can't help but feel a bit envious of their Apple-hugging contemporaries.

Likewise, power users soon learn that their ability to hack Windows 7 to make it work the way they want is often limited by the closed, black-box nature of its proprietary code base. These users see how easy it is to custom-tailor Linux and even Mac OS X, and they feel that twinge of jealously. They want what these other platforms provide, and soon they find themselves coveting their neighbor's OS.

As with the lustful, keep close tabs on those in your charge who show signs of covetousness. If necessary, take steps to satiate their unhealthy yearnings through redirection. For novice users, try locking down even more of their desktops via group policy. And for power users, ply them with new utilities, like PowerShell, and promises of administrator-level access -- if they demonstrate an ability to control their urges. As always, make sure there's a carrot at the end of every stick.

Pride: Windows 7's fan boys can help drive adoption -- or drive everyone away

Windows 7 is a zealot's wet dream. Chock-full of new widgets and gizmos, it gives the crazies a quiver full of new arrows to lob at the enemy: anyone who has ever used a Mac. Never mind that the arrows are all bent and rarely hit their intended target. These fan boys (and girls) are convinced that version 7 is the second coming of Windows 95, and that all the world will soon understand why they beam with pride whenever someone mentions the OS that they so lovingly adore.

For the harried IT administrator trying to sell an organization on Windows 7, such enthusiasts can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, they help to increase the profile of the new OS through their endless proselytizing and advocacy. However, they can also scare away potential converts with their over-the-top bashing of everything not Microsoft.

Your best bet is to channel their pride and energy into helping with the Windows 7 transition. Try "deputizing" the more aggressive types and having them act as resident experts within their respective working groups. In this way, they become like the "useful idiots" of the Bolshevik revolutions. After all, if it was good enough for Stalin, it's good enough for you.

Sloth: Windows 7's slob nature means a lot of unpleasant time spent as an IT janitor

Windows 7 is a disorganized mess. Like its predecessors, it inherits a hodgepodge of configuration and management technologies that rarely work well together and that leave bits and pieces of their respective detritus scattered throughout the OS. It's like the unruly teenagers who can't be bothered to put the milk back in the fridge or to sweep up the crumbs from the two dozen Oreos they consumed after soccer practice.

By far the worst offender is the Windows registry. This antiquated construct has been the source of more troubleshooting headaches than any other aspect of the Windows platform. Orphaned keys, conflicting/out-of-date values, hive file fragmentation -- these are just some of the issues that drive IT help desk staffers crazy. The situation is so bad that even Microsoft is abandoning the registry approach (though not in Windows 7). Many of the company's newer projects use simple XML configuration files in lieu of the complexity of managing large numbers of registry key/value pairs.

Nobody wants to live with a slob, so your job is to do what you can to keep Windows 7's untidiness in check. System clean-up tools, like the whimsically named Crap Cleaner, can help, as can strict policies about installing and uninstalling software (a big source of Windows gunk). And when all else fails, don't be afraid to reach for the nuclear option: A clean install has a way of restoring that new-car smell to a Windows 7 system.

Surviving the 7 deadly sins

Don't lose hope! Lust and envy can be mitigated. Anger can be channeled, as can pride. Sloth and gluttony can be contained, while greed -- well, that's just a fact of life.

The key is to keep your wits, to manage your resources carefully and to turn all that negative energy to your advantage. Do this and you, too, can survive the seven deadly sins of Windows 7.

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This story, "The 7 deadly sins of Windows 7," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in Windows 7 and in Windows in general at InfoWorld.com.

This story, "Opinion: The 7 deadly sins of Windows 7" was originally published by InfoWorld.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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