Why is there no all-encompassing superset version of Windows?


Sometimes, I am asked why there is no single version of Windows that contains everything. Instead, as you move up the ladder, say, from Windows XP Professional to Windows Server 2003, you gain server features and lose workstation features. Why lose features when you add others?

Because it turns out no actual customer wants to keep the workstation features on their servers. Only developers want to have this “all-encompassing” version of Windows, and making it available to them would result in developers testing their programs on a version of Windows no actual customer owns.

I think one of my colleagues who works in security support explained it best:

When customers ask why their server has Internet Explorer, NetMeeting, Media Player, Games, Instant Messenger, etc., installed by default, it’s hard for the support folks to come up with a good answer. Many customers view each additional installed component as additional risk, and want their servers to have the least possible amount of stuff installed.

If you’re the CIO of a bank, the thought that your servers are capable of playing Quake must give you the heebie-jeebies.

[Raymond is currently away; this message was pre-recorded.]

Comments (55)
  1. licensing ... says:

    Of course it’s mostly about licensing, however.

    Why shouldn’t I, as a developer, be allowed to run a Database Server AND a Web Server on a single 2003? Your answer isn’t appropriate in this situation and I’d suggest this type of scenario would be more common then the one you’re describing.

  2. kmgardner says:

    "When customers ask why their server has Internet Explorer, NetMeeting, Media Player, Games, Instant Messenger, etc., installed by default, it’s hard for the support folks to come up with a good answer."

    That’s an easy one. You just tell them its all built into the OS, and that removing it would make it unusable.

  3. Mike Weiss says:

    What about the "Ultimate" Windows Vista version I just read about?

  4. Richard says:

    Off by default (and difficult/discouraged to access/enable) != not available at all

    You should be ashamed of yourself for spreading such FUD.

    The answer is that you want to sell more, pure and simple.

  5. AC says:

    >When customers ask why their server has Internet Explorer, NetMeeting, Media Player, Games, Instant Messenger, etc., installed by default, it’s hard for the support folks to come up with a good answer.

    How about:

    - Mr. Customer, yes we know that it would cost you insane amounts of money to run our server version on each desktop, but we in Microsoft can do this, for us it’s free and we actually do this, so it was convenient for us to pack it that way. And anyway until recently most of you didn’t insist on security anyway, only on more features.

    To DrPizza: Hey, nobody wants to steal the apps from you but it’s fantastically good thing to minimize an attack area by default. And it took so much time to get this to Microsoft exactly because a lot of people react just like you. I simply can’t believe that you really need Media player on the server.

  6. While we’re on the subject of Windows versions, I would love (absolutely LOVE) it if Microsoft released a Windows Light. Remove IE, NetMeeting, Windows Media, Outlook, everything. And when I say remove, I don’t just mean hide the icon, remove the binaries and registry entries. I realize of course this is a dream that will never come true.

  7. strik says:

    Why do you at Microsoft decide what the user wants? Let the user decide himself.

    Just because you have a Windows version where there is anything in it does not necessarily mean that everything must be installed automatically.

    I like the way other OS (Linux variants, xBSD, …) allow YOU as a user to decide what you want. Why can’t Windows do the same?

  8. Guido says:

    Uhm, … uhm …

    http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20050910-5298.html

    I only say "Windows Vista Ultimate Edition"…

    And I agree with the comments who say "let the user decide". Why not make a default server config and a default workstation config in the install procedure? Just because a server can play Quake, it’s not like any admin is ever gonna do that and actually install a Quake on it…

    Give the user control! That’s what Open Source does, and what Microsoft so far to a large extent miserably fails to do.

  9. DrPizza says:

    "To DrPizza: Hey, nobody wants to steal the apps from you but it’s fantastically good thing to minimize an attack area by default. And it took so much time to get this to Microsoft exactly because a lot of people react just like you. I simply can’t believe that you really need Media player on the server. "

    How else should my TS users watch Windows Media?

  10. DrPizza says:

    "Why can’t Windows do the same? "

    Recouping the consumer surplus through artificial product line differentiation.

  11. Pazu says:

    Small question: why there is installed Outlook Express and you cannot efectively get rid of it ?

  12. oldnewthing says:

    Because some apps stop working when Outlook Express isn’t installed.

  13. Feroze Daud says:

    Absolutely it is about product differentiation. I would point you to the excellent blog entry joel (joelonsoftware.com) wrote on software pricing.

    While I agree that it would be good to not install all these components by default (but dont prevent users from installing if they want to), it creates a support & quality assurance nightmare for Microsoft. The number of platforms you need to test on multiplies. And remember, as raymond said, not many people are asking for such a "superset".

  14. James Risto says:

    For once it would be nice if some MS info could be shared without folks crabbing about licensing, open source, price, MS evil, etc. Wisen up folks – you obviously have not seen enterprise-level pricing of other vendors, either. As you can see, MS is flamed no matter which way they go. Why not just learn from what they say, and work with it? Believe me, it is way less stress, and believe me, the work gets done. Maybe they are trying to tell you a good thing … servers are servers, and desktops are desktops.

  15. oldnewthing:

    "Because some apps stop working when Outlook Express isn’t installed."

    That’s a weak excuse. What apps, NetMeeting, IE, etc.? In other words, the other apps I never use and want to remove as well. If I install an app (whether it be Microsoft or 3rd party) that requires Outlook Express which is not installed, then and only then should it install OE. But installing it just because there is another app that uses it is not a good reason.

    And please don’t think this is a complaint aimed at you, I realize that you had nothing to do with this.

  16. kbiel says:

    "… servers are servers, and desktops are desktops."

    Except, of course, when Terminal Server can only be installed on the server variant of Windows, then the server becomes a desktop.

  17. Ray Trent says:

    Brian Friesen: "While we’re on the subject of Windows versions, I would love (absolutely LOVE) it if Microsoft released a Windows Light. Remove IE, NetMeeting, Windows Media, Outlook, everything. And when I say remove, I don’t just mean hide the icon, remove the binaries and registry entries. I realize of course this is a dream that will never come true."

    The answer is that you could get what you want and still not be happy.

    IE is practically nothing but a dialog box wrapped around the HTML engine that Windows uses for numerous legitimate OS things, including the entire help system, rich-content directories, the desktop, etc., etc. You could remove it, but why bother… it’s just a wart anyway.

    Media Player is very little more than a wrapper around DirectShow with some skinning and visualization support added (oh, and the aforementioned HTML engine). I could remotely understand wanting to ditch all of DirectX, but that’s not one of the things you asked for. And, err, it would be a big job.

    Outlook Express is mostly there as a default functional MAPI client. It’s not strictly needed, but lots of other things depend on having such a beast present, so you’d just have to find another equivilent… of which there really aren’t any fully functional ones.

    NetMeeting is, or at least it could be, a relatively small wrapper around Terminal Services. While you might not have any immediate use for TS per se, you’d also be ditching Fast User Switching, and probably big parts of the virtual machine system. Not to mention that the rest of the OS depends on it being there nowadays.

    In short, the answer is that Windows is no longer an operating system, it’s a living creature with numerous vital organs and even more spleen-like structures that you could do with out, but probably would rather not.

    And it’s really hard for an outsider to figure out which are which. There’s a part of me that wants to say that almost everything is a vital organ in Windows, but I can’t think of a good argument for Solitaire right now…

  18. Puckdropper says:

    Quote:

    And it’s really hard for an outsider to figure out which are which. There’s a part of me that wants to say that almost everything is a vital organ in Windows, but I can’t think of a good argument for Solitaire right now…

    End Quote;

    Solitaire was often used as a dignostic tool back in the ’95 days. For some reason (it may have been explained previously) solitaire would crash if something (memory wise, I think?) was wrong.

    IE is needed in server versions because you have to have SOME webbrowser somewhere to do things such as get updates. Windows Update doesn’t always fix your problem.

    As for Windows Messenger, I don’t think that has any place being installed by default on any system. Instant messaging is not an essential task on any PC.

  19. Ulric says:

    Open source isn’t that great at that, many Linuces installs I’ve come across install wayyy to many things by default. It would be more obvious if the GUI had icons for everything that’s actually installed.

    Definitely, it’s best to explicitly have to install things, it make sense because as we know we will download something off the web because we don’t know they already have something that does the same thing already. it easier to find things on the web than on your local machine!

    I am pretty sure this goes in the same direction that Raymond is saying..

    good default for classes of users to accommodate 95% of people.

    On a side note, the experience on the Mac with those little temporary mounted drives and no install procedure really help the experience of installing packages on a need-to basis.

  20. J says:

    Brian Friesen:

    My company has a fairly good product-validation departement that tests things such as what happens when you try to use MAPI without any MAPI clients installed. We’re lucky, because the developer who wrote the MAPI code made some assumptions he shouldn’t have and we fixed that bug. However, I can easily see how other companies might miss this test case.

    You can "uninstall" your MAPI clients by deleting the appropriate registry keys in HKLM

    and HKCU.. ‘HKEY…SOFTWAREClientsMail’ I believe. Hey, if nothing breaks on your machine when you do it, then congratulations. However, something tells me that Microsoft has a larger test coverage than you, and from this blog we know that Microsoft takes great pains to support broken applications.

    (and let’s just take MS’s approach to broken apps as a simple fact–the morality of it has already been discussed ad nauseam on this blog before)

  21. TimK says:

    "Just because a server can play Quake, it’s not like any admin is ever gonna do that and actually install a Quake on it… "

    Maybe that should say "any good admin".

    I’ve actually seen this once. A production web server that I had access to (located at a customer location, not at my employer) had Quake installed on it. Most likely the server was initially used as a dev box, and then re-assigned to its new role. Apparently they didn’t care enough to remove the game.

  22. Klaus says:

    @licensing –

    You are allowed to run whatever you want on Windows. You just won’t get everything for free from Microsoft (actually you do get a web server, application server, queuing middleware, clustering, DNS, basic portal functionality etc., but still).

    Windows is (thankfully) not Linux. it doesn’t come with 20 editors, six databases and three web servers. It’s a consumer OS, not a developers’ toy. You can run whatever you want on it. Just not for free (as in beer or whatever).

  23. el herdo says:

    I still dream of a gui-less version of Windows for my servers that runs only noninteractive services and console apps, comes with nothing but SSH and then I wake up to find myself knee-deep in Linux. Cold sweated.

  24. After all these years, I find myself standing in line behind DrPizza.

    Why would you want media player on your server? To test your streaming server from the server. It’s that simple. There is no counter-argument because there is no argument to be had.

    When you find that the server is the only working computer at your location, your laptop having died, do you want to have to run VMWare or remote desktop to another computer just to make use of what you’ve done locally?

  25. DrPizza says:

    "Because it turns out no actual customer wants to keep the workstation features on their servers"

    Rubbish. For example, the "workstation" feature of UPnP would be extremely useful on servers. XP has UPnP. 2003 doesn’t. SBS acknowledges that UPnP is useful for servers, as it has (extremely limited) UPnP support for IGDs (Internet Gateway Devices). But the uses are broader than that. For example, it would be useful in many scenarios for RRAS (not to mention ISA Server) to (optionally) represent itself as an IGD. Or a print server as a UPnP printer. Or a file server as a Media Library.

    Similar situations are found elsewhere. 2003 fortunately contains all of DirectX. "But you don’t want that on a server!" But you may do. DirectX (DirectShow, specifically, and potentially Direct[Draw|3D]/DirectSound for previewing) is useful for streaming media servers. Windows Media Player likewise (a desire to connect to the local streaming server as a preliminary test to check it works properly seems a perfectly normal thing to want to do–yet still 2003 had to wait for SP1 before it got WMP10).

    And finally, there’s the very basic issue that there is no true "Server" and "Workstation" dichotomy (except for the 2003 Web Server edition). The reason for this is obvious–Terminal Services Application Mode. Using a server as a workstation is normal and encouraged and something that MS have invested considerable time and effort implementing. That means IE, WMP, Windows/MSN Messenger, etc., are all *perfectly legitimate* applications. Even the games are fine.

    So please. Don’t pretend that stripping out workstation features is a Good Thing. Don’t pretend it makes sense for a server to not have these things. Because it doesn’t. It’s a dumb idea. Make them optional components and/or disabled by default if you want. But don’t just *not ship them* and claim that they’re not in some way "appropriate" for a server. Because the number in XP that didn’t make it to 2003 that genuinely don’t belong in 2003 *in any of its server roles* is vanishingly small.

    That it would make developers’ lives considerably easier is just an added bonus.

  26. Rick C says:

    "… servers are servers, and desktops are desktops."

    And so you think that independent developers, for example, should be forced to buy a second computer just to run a DB server?

  27. James Risto says:

    Well, TS comes with XP, granted not Win2K. However I know, its 1 user only. So, you need server for >1 user. Then, you want desktop stuff on there for a TS farm. So can’t you install desktop apps on there? As for DB, well, MSDE is an option, or SQL Desktop edition, correct? As for Media streaming, ok it would be NICE to have Media Player there, but you quickly want to try from another machine anyway? Perhaps this is not the forum for requesting enhancements; its info exchange that you don’t get elsewhere.

  28. licensing ... says:

    @klaus

    You don’t get that stuff for free; you pay for it when you buy Windows. And No, you actually cant install MS SQL on Windows 2003 DB Edition.

    Let’s not even talk about trying to install a "client" anti-virus program. I realise this is an issue of the anti-virus vendors, but it’s infuriating.

    The person who talked about Visual Stupido is right; there is no good reason to permanently remove features like that unless it’s to make more money selling different types …

  29. Norman Diamond says:

    I thought Internet Explorer was needed in order for Windows Update to work, even on a server.

    Granted my recent effort wasn’t on a server, I’m still trying to figure it out. Internet Explorer sent a bunch of crash dumps to Microsoft because it crashed every time I tried to run Windows Update. 100%. Suppose Microsoft figures out how to fix the version of Internet Explorer that’s included in Windows XP SP2 Checked Build, and suppose they release a fix. Windows Update won’t be able to download the fix because Internet Explorer will crash before reaching that stage. If Internet Explorer stays up long enough to download Firefox (I didn’t try yet so that’s an "if") then will Windows Update run on Firefox? Somehow I doubt it.

    I can’t help wondering which apps depend on Outlook Express though. Sometimes Outlook Express is a critical integrated component of Internet Explorer just like Internet Explorer is to Windows, but sometimes I’ve seen menu entries indicating that it isn’t. I didn’t actually try to uninstall Outlook Express but it looked like it was possible.

  30. Bob K says:

    I can certainly see a reason to differentiate between a "user" version and a "server" version — a server is not supposed to be a workstation and doesn’t need the overhead of eye candy support.

    HowEVER: there is no need for three or four user-oriented versions of Windows… Mac OS X demonstrates that handily. Just make a friendly system capable of doing "pro" networking and be done with it.

  31. Not to beat a dead horse, but there is an enormous difference between a version of Windows that comes with everything pre-installed and say, an OS CD and App CD. The core OS should be the same and the only difference should be in what applications you install over top of it. Again, as previously mentioned, this is not a technical issue, it’s a product marketing one. It’s the same damn thing with Visual Studio. Why can’t you have one SKU with everything? Why isn’t there a one-man-who-does-it-all-enterprise-god version? Why does the architect sku not have *all* the tester features? I’ll tell you: because some bonehead thought they could get more money out of us that way.

  32. Klaus says:

    Oh, I forgot my original point: Microsoft needs to do something about IE on their server products. It’s supremely dumb to have to reboot a server because I patched the web browser. If it wasn’t for that, Windows 2000 and 2003 would have much longer uptimes. I’m not a big fan of server uptime (as opposed to *application* uptime, which can easily always be 100%) but it’s definitely counterintuitive (to say the least) that patching an application should require a cold reboot.

  33. No actual customers? Who are you to speak for ‘all customers’? I know of 2 Network Admin’s with nearly 100,000 desktops, that wholly disagree. So they don’t count then? They aren’t ‘actual’? And pitting Developers against IT Pros, what value is that? And Server Admin’s can be developers too. Plus tons of scenarios that totally contradict your logic. Just be honest, it’s a revenue issue, extracting blood from a stone.

    I love it when massive ‘customer feedback’ is against something, of which Microsoft then uses past ‘customer data’ (usually when people have no choice) to justify that ‘customers really mean this’. An example…nearly 99% of Windows Mobile customers want the X button to be a real X button, but it stays ‘Smart Minimize’ as that’s what ‘actual customers’ want. Using customers against customers, classic Microsoft logic, it never fails to amuse.

    You want the Server to be differing sure, low eye-candy, all ports off by default, iron-tight security, manageable, deployable toolsets, and low-memory-processing, but that doesn’t mean you want parts missing, if anything you want it all. But at least they molded Media Center and Tablet PC in, as you could of had 4 additional OS’es.

    Bottom line: it creates confusion, problems and licensing complications and Software Assurance headaches, just when they are trying to ease deployment. I understand the rationale, but it doesn’t ‘play in Peoria’, but then they never have to worry about that. Force it down, the way it will be.

  34. I must not be an ‘actual customer’ either.

    I am a lowly home user. However, I am, like many other enthusiast users, a bit of a tinkerer when it comes to my computer.

    That means I need my OS to do a multitude of operations. It needs to be able to play games, to compile applications, run an SQL server, a webserver, numerous IM apps, handle printer server operations for my small home network (of 3 to 4 computers, depending on the day). To do this, I throw lots of hardware at it (Athlon64 3500+ with 2gb ram and 400gig hard drive). Then I drop down XP Pro on it.

    Now I’m told that in the future, what I really want is a GAMING OS, which is missing server features, or a SERVER OS, which is missing gaming features.

    MS is really trying to move us away from all-in-one machines. However, that’s not the way ‘actual users’ work. I have a couple of linux boxen on the network that I ‘play on’. But the real work, for me, gets done on Big Bubba, then Athlon64 running Windows XP.

    I guess MS would prefer that in the future, I move all the server stuff off to a Linux box.

  35. foxyshadis says:

    It’s easy to uninstall outlook express. There’s a hidden setting to do it from add/remove programs. You can find it on Google if you want.

    Video-on-TS is the worst argument for WMP on 2003; pictures are already somewhat choppy and slow down the session, video turns it into a 3 fps rabid weasel in its death throes.

  36. oldnewthing says:

    Christopher Coulter: None of the system administrators we surveyed wanted an "all-encompassing" version of Windows, which put the number at zero to within sample error. I guess your two friends weren’t included in the survey.

    Even if you could turn on all these features, no sane production machine would have them all on anyway.

  37. Rob Stevens says:

    Quoting my comment response …

    "The way Robert phrased the post made it seem like a rebuttal to the Windows Vista SKUs (as did many of the replies your own blog generated). Considering that’s one of the hot topics right now, your post came at a very odd time.

    My apologies for further confusing the issue, Raymond!"

  38. DrPizza says:

    "Outlook Express is mostly there as a default functional MAPI client. It’s not strictly needed, but lots of other things depend on having such a beast present, so you’d just have to find another equivilent… of which there really aren’t any fully functional ones. "

    Outlook Express is particularly useful for when testing/setting up things like SQL Mail, which needs a valid MAPI profile. It may not be something you want to run all the time, but as an optional component, it’s useful.

    The same is true of probably every component that MS claim admins want/need to have stripped from Windows.

  39. Centaur says:

    Media Player is very little more than a wrapper

    > around DirectShow with some skinning and

    > visualization support added (oh, and the

    > aforementioned HTML engine).

    Yes, and that’s what makes me want to remove it. From my point of view, it puts the focus on the wrong things. If it wants to be a simple wrapper, let it be a simple wrapper, standard Windows interface, no skinning, no visualization, no HTML. If it wants to be a fancy skinned colorful nonrectangular player for three-year-olds, let it be but I don’t want it on my machine, thanks. And what’s that with automatically downloading and installing executable code (I mean codecs) without my consent? Shouldn’t it be just plain impossible for an ordinary user, with all the “running with least privilege” hype?

  40. GAThrawn says:

    Puckdropper wrote:

    "As for Windows Messenger, I don’t think that has any place being installed by default on any system. Instant messaging is not an essential task on any PC."

    And you can explain to our two hard of hearing developers why they aren’t allowed to talk through problems with their team members in an easy to use and comfortable way any more.

  41. Dabadan says:

    > If you’re the CIO of a bank, the thought that your servers are capable of playing Quake must give you the heebie-jeebies

    And if you are a CTO of a company trying to create a multimedia server able to accept commands via HTTP to show graphics and sound on HDTV screens, you’ll be damning XP refusing network connections after some use.

  42. Edge says:

    I will join the chorus stating "let the user decide".

  43. Bobo says:

    I for one miss the ability to create a mirrored disk under windows XP. This would be hugely useful for me. Instead I need to rely on various broken "IDE RAIDs" and their broken drivers :(

  44. DrPizza says:

    "Christopher Coulter: None of the system administrators we surveyed wanted an "all-encompassing" version of Windows, which put the number at zero to within sample error. I guess your two friends weren’t included in the survey. "

    (a) how many of them run terminal servers? what is the terminal server admins’ opinion of installing "client" apps onto their servers–how come they don’t mind doing so?

    (b) how come linux admins don’t mind the *option* to install "client" software on servers?

    (c) how was the question posed? Was it posed dishonestly (such that the implication would be that this "all-encompassing" version of Windows would come with everything installed), or was it posed honestly ("would you mind if XP-only features such as UPnP were an optional component of the server OS")? And did you simply leave the question as some vague "all-encompassing" claim, or did you actually enumerate XP features that aren’t in 2K3 so that people could make a more informed decision (I mean, I’d be genuinely surprised if System Restore, for example, were as unpopular as you make out, equally for things like UPnP; the desirability of SIP-enablement of RRAS and ISA server seems to me to be a no-brainer, and I’d be astonished if no Windows admin had ever run into these issues–of course, they may not realize that UPnP is the key to them, which again reinforces how much the questions matter).

  45. JD on MX says:

    Why 7 Vistas? I got the link from Robert Scoble, who is highlighting many of the online resources accompanying the Microsoft PDC conference. Raymond Chen describes why there are currently seven different packagings of the next Microsoft operating system –…

  46. Brooks Moses says:

    Just to add a datapoint to all this: I’m a grad student, and our university has volume purchase agreements with Microsoft, which means that the cost for a Windows Server is a pretty trivial addition to the cost of a desktop machine.

    So I run Windows 2003 Server on my desktop box.

    On a technical level, it’s useful. I get disk mirroring, volume shadow copies, and that sort of thing; I don’t have to worry about a disk failure taking out my data.

    But that’s not my biggest reason for using it. My reasons for using it are the fact that it’s not just WinXP with features added, but it does have a lot of stuff removed (or simply not present in the same way). In general, I’ve found that both Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 simply make intuitive sense to me when I’m trying to set something up or make something work, and they usually do things the way I want the first time. With Windows XP, I get very soon frustrated. I don’t want the flashy icon-based login; I want to type a name. I don’t want XP to set up the network rules in its default way that does strange things on my home network; I want to fill out the form and have it ask me all the questions and then do as I say. And so forth and so on. All the stuff that’s been removed in making a Server OS is almost exactly the stuff that I don’t want on my desktop.

    The other interesting thing is that Windows 2003 Server is a much better operating system for "small" machines than Windows XP — compare the box specs; you’ll see that XP needs a notably faster processor, and I think it needs more memory too. All those extra "workstation" features seem to come with a hefty processor load….

    So, personally, I’m glad Server is missing some of the Workstation features — but for almost the exact opposite reason than why Microsoft removes them!

  47. Ross Bemrose says:

    > Windows is (thankfully) not Linux. it doesn’t come with 20 editors, six databases and three web servers. It’s a consumer OS, not a developers’ toy. You can run whatever you want on it. Just not for free (as in beer or whatever).

    There’s quite a difference between what ships on a CD and what’s actually installed. Doing a server install usually ends up with 3* text editors (pico/nano, vi/vim, and emacs), 1 (apache), and 0 () respectively.

    Installing some hosting manager like Ensim, CPanel, or Plesk will also force you to install the database server that they use. Other than that, you have a choice to install whichever database server you choose, with MySQL and PostgreSQL being the most popular choices.

    * sed is missing from that list, because it programmatically searches and replace text.

  48. David Walker says:

    Christopher Coulter talks about pitting Developers against IT Pros. I still don’t know which one I am — I add disk drives to servers, and I write software used by others in my company, and I evaluate new versions of SQL.

    Why is half the technical info (and traveling roadshows) at Microsoft under the MSDN side, and half of it at TechNet? What’s the difference?

  49. David Walker says:

    DrPizza says "2003 fortunately contains all of DirectX".

    DirectX is not just a game technology, apparently.

    I just installed a second graphics card (and a second monitor) on my Mom’s XP Home machine, and window redrawing speed while dragging was VERRRY slooooow for all windows *on the second monitor*. Any window could be dragged around smoothly on the first monitor, and jerkily on the second monitor. (Dragging any window from the left monitor *to* the right monitor was strange, since the part on the right monitor was redrawn jerkily.)

    Downloading the newest DirectX fixed the problem completely! (All the graphics drivers were up to date, and the monitor INF files were all there.)

    Maybe it’s relevant that the second montor was an LCD, or maybe it was related to the second graphics card (ATI), but this was a horrible usability problem that went away with the newest DirectX.

    So any server installation would obviously want the newest DirectX code, and it should be shipped that way, which it apparently is, and I hope it stays that way.

  50. David Walker says:

    Small rant, triggered by someone saying that there are things that break if Outlook Express is not installed:

    Open Start, All Programs, navigate to a program’s icon, right-click and I get a Send To/Desktop (Create Shortcut) item. This fails if there’s no MAPI provider configured, IIRC. Even if OE *is* installed. This is stupid.

    It might be the case that the Send To/Desktop (Create Shortcut) thing may have come from TweakUI, or maybe not. Anyway, it has an envelope icon, oddly enough.

  51. Nektar says:

    With its Windows editions and licensing Microsoft has unfortunately forgotten a segment of users. A segment which might not be large but is nevertheless very influencial. This group is the researchers. People like university and college professors, whose living is based on the ability to customize software, adding and removing different parts at will. This is the reason why amongst university and research circles Linux is very popular. How can a professor test his/her new idea about process scheduling? How can he/she implement his/her new processor architecture, his/her new instruction set additions, his/her new virtual machines or his/her new compiler optimizations? Without access to a highly customizable os at minimum or to source code, he will not be able to complete some of his most ambicious projects. There is a reason why most professors prefer to use gcc as a compiler. There is a reason why most professors play around with the Linux kernel. There is a reason why most professors talk about the upcoming Play Station and its Linux support. Research to them is key. And for them a Play Station on which they can play not games but their research applications is key.

    Unfortunately Microsoft could have created a more customizable Windows edition very simply. XP Embeded is already there. And for some, it even provides better tools for customization than Linux solutions. The issue therefore, revolves only around licensing. Nothing else. Similarly, I am sure that Microsoft could make a componentised version of Windows Server for security reasons, whilst pleasing the researchers and professors in the meantime.

    "On Windows you can’t really do things," said one professor I remember. "I would have prefered to have done my whole project on Linux," he continued. I am sure that he was not the only one who shared that opinion.

    That is why, in academic circles, Windows is not highly regarded.

  52. DrPizza says:

    "All those extra "workstation" features seem to come with a hefty processor load…. "

    Er, the only "workstation" feature that XP has that has any discernible load at all is the theming support, and 2003 has that too (just disabled by default). Even then, the hit of theming is remarkably low.

    The reason XP has a higher default configuration is probably more a reflection of its greater interactive use (and hence a greater need to be "snappy") than any genuine requirement.

  53. Lee Hart says:

    There are a few server things I want on my desktop machines. Redundant drives using teh consistent Windows UI (not some custom UI cobbled by an OEM). Hard drives are cheap and fail too often; it takes me a lot longer to rebuild a machine than a decent-sized drive costs, using my time value of money). Terminal services is another big one (so I can have a beefy desktop machine where the apps actually run, and thin/light clients around the house to display the apps. When I use a server OS for my desktop, I lose the plus packs (which I do use) and many applications won’t install on a server OS. Much of this can be hacked, but it’s unsupported and updates often fail.

    I agree the client things should be disabled by default, but the customer should be given a choice.

  54. Brooks Moses says:

    DrPizza: Yeah, the theory would seem to contradict my claim, now that I look at it a bit more closely — though my experiences do seem to support it in practice. I’ll admit to not having installed Win2k3 on anything without a GHz to spare, so it’s not necessarily the most accurate comparison, but I do have some data that I think is relevant….

    I used to run Windows 2000 Pro on a 200MHz Pentium Pro with 96MB of RAM, and it was quite snappy in interactive use, except for things like Adobe Acrobat which do a lot of rendering. Meanwhile, in my experience, an XP installation on a 500MHz machine with 128MB of RAM is painfully un-snappy, and increasing the RAM only at best gets it to a point nearly comparable to my 200MHz Win2k machine.

    There is the valid point that it may well be a memory load more than a processor load. And it may also be that 2003 is closer to XP than 2000 in this regard (meaning that this is a "2000 vs. XP" issue rather than a "workstation vs server" issue), even though 2003 "looks like" 2000 so I expect it to act like it. Maybe I should try 2003 on the old Pentium Pro machine (if I have a spare disk to install it on), and see if it’s usable and how fast it is.

  55. Cyberdude Murli, TZ says:

    Is the version difference by any chance reflecting that Microsoft has evolved it’s desktop operating systems and server operating systems seperately. It seems it’s about time a consolidation happens and rest of unnecessary code is thrashed out.

    I believe cost of individual applications that comes part of different versions is also seperate, but that could be nicely marketted as seperate bundles with appropriate applications. This would answer the arguement of home user paying more for devel apps or server apps.

    e.g.

    Windows + home apps

    Windows + home apps + games

    Windows + devel apps

    It follows the modularization concepts of software as well as keeps maintenance of individual apps seperate.

    Ofcourse it demands all apps to talk to bare windows edition

    .02

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