Windows XP End of Support

Yesterday was crunch day for many people out there still running Windows XP as Microsoft support for the aged operating system ended. Yesterday was significant being Patch Tuesday, the usual monthly release cycle of Windows Updates across the Microsoft operating system and product lines but for Windows XP, this is supposedly the last.

Some customers have already paid up multi-million pound deals to continue getting support for Windows XP beyond this date such as the UK government which agreed a £5.5 million deal with Microsoft to continue to receive support (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/microsoft/10741243/Government-pays-Microsoft-5.5m-to-extend-Windows-XP-support.html) but this only gives them an extra 12 months before the support ends once more. I think that people have left the Windows XP support issue to so late in the day to even give thought to that it’s costing them sums of money like this is a huge shame and a missed opportunity.

I work in IT and I’m a big evangelist for the latest and greatest from Microsoft so I’ve got a hugely biased view on the Windows XP support issue but this isn’t something that Microsoft have pulled out of the bag without notice. Microsoft have been warning people for quite some time that XP support would end and for an operating system first released in 2001, it’s had a fantastic run of 13 years but times have to move on as holding onto the past only hinders you long term.

You can see for yourself when Microsoft will be retiring support for applications and operating systems and the transition between phases of the support lifecycle at the Microsoft Support Lifecycle Index at http://support.microsoft.com/gp/lifeselectindex.

Windows 7

Windows 7 is a great mainstay operating system and for 99% of applications currently running on Windows XP, you won’t have an issue so moving to Windows 7 not only keeps you in support but it will improve the effectiveness of your employees due to improvements and usability gains in Windows 7 over XP, not to mention the ability to support a fuller and richer set of hardware features and capabilities: 64-bit anyone? Windows 7 has extended support available until January 2020 which gives you another 6 years before you need to worry about the problem. Windows 7 has a pretty similar look and feel to Windows XP which means the operating system isn’t a culture shock to them.

Windows 8

Windows 8 has improved a lot since it’s initial release with Windows 8.1 and most recently with the Windows 8.1 Update 1, not that I personally had a problem with it prior to these update releases but we know that others did for certain. Sure, there are going to be application compatibility issues with applications coming forwards from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 but that’s to be expected really when you try and make a 13 year technology jump in one hit but unless applications are making specific calls into hooks in the operating system there still shouldn’t be any major issues aside from perhaps browser?

The user interface and experience is going to be daunting for some people sure but Microsoft are aiming to quash this with more and more updates to Windows 8.1 to improve keyboard and mouse control for classical desktop users and actually, the majority of people will love it once they become accustomed to it.

I moved by mum over to Windows 8 and later Windows 8.1 sometime last year. She works for a government sector group in the UK and is one of these stuck on Windows XP and Office 2003 people by day. She took to Windows 8.1 like a duck to water and loves it and that’s on a conventional laptop, not even a touch screen device to really get the most out of it.

Internet Explorer

One of the biggest hang ups for Windows XP that I see is Internet Explorer. As sad as I find it both as an IT Pro and someone who tries to write code for websites, people still use Internet Explorer 6, 7 or 8 because some enterprise applications were designed for the ways that they uniquely rendered pages and moving upwards to Internet Explorer 11 seems like an unsurpassable mountain.  Old versions of Internet Explorer not only potentially harm the user experience because of limited or no support for modern Internet standards but also for security because the older browsers can be more susceptible to attacks through exploits which are often protected against either in more modern software or even at a hardware level thanks to improvements in technologies like Intel Data Execution Protection (DEP).

I’m aware of one organisation who is deploying Google Chrome to allow them to use a new HTML5 web application instead of upgrading from Internet Explorer 8.

Enterprise Mode in Internet Explorer 11 with the Windows 8.1 Update 1 release is designed to try and deal with this by allowing Internet Explorer to render pages in a manner consistent with older versions of Internet Explorer and we can control all of these settings as an administrator with Group Policy.

Group Policy Enterprise Mode

Office 2003

Yes, some people do still use. There are so many features, improvements and optimizations in every version of Office since 2003 that people working with Office 2003 must feel like they are being left out to pasture. I think if I had to go back to working with Windows XP and Office 2003 that a part of me would actually die. It’s even just the little things that make all the difference like Flash Fill in Excel 2013, one of my personal favourites.

If anyone has ever send you an Office 2003 format document such as a .doc and you are using Office 2010 for example, open that file, and save a copy of it as a .docx and check the file size difference. The XML file formats are so much smaller that if you were to convert all of a businesses existing documents to the XML formats, I’m pretty confident that you could reduce your storage growth expenditure for the forthcoming financial year paying for a large part of your Windows operating system upgrade project.

Upgrade Easily

Moving to later versions of Windows need not be as hard as some people fear either. System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) for example can be used with User State Migration Toolkit (USMT) to migrate a machine, applications and all of the users data and settings from a Windows XP machine to a Windows 7 machine using an automated task sequence process requiring no user input. You could even deliver it as a self-service offering for end-users to upgrade when its convenient to them.

Moving off Windows XP could even be the driver you need to review your technology approach and spur you to start looking at other options like VDI or tablet devices?

Try It You Might Like It

I guess what I’m getting at is that I work in IT, I deal with enterprises all day long and I understand the challenge but I still don’t quite understand how some people have managed to hang on to Windows XP for quite so long especially with the rise of the millennial in the workplace. These new workers are becoming more demanding of enterprise IT to provide technology experiences not only with more synergy to experiences they are used to in the home but also with the adoption of BYOD. Yes, BYOD adoption rates are questionable in both volumes according to who your source is and what exactly do you define as BYOD but there is no denying it is happens to varying extents.

I believe that there are a lot of organisations out there who have a perceived Windows XP problem because that’s what they think is the case through fear and uncertainty (FUD) spread through the media about new versions of Windows but I ask have you actually tried Windows 7 or Windows 8.1? Have you actually built out a device with the operating system and tested all of your applications? What is the cost to replace one or two applications that don’t upgrade quite right or the cost to revamp a web interface with a web developer for a couple of weeks verses paying large sums of money for special support arrangements for Windows XP with Microsoft, something which doesn’t actually help you solve the problem but only prolongs it’s effects upon you?

What Does the Windows Live SkyDrive App Do For You?

Personally, not a lot in a nutshell.

This post comes off the back of the announcement today from Microsoft of the release of a Windows Live SkyDrive app for Windows Phone 7 and Apple iOS devices. You can read the post for yourself in full from http://windowsteamblog.com/windows_live/b/windowslive/archive/2011/12/13/introducing-skydrive-for-iphone-and-windows-phone.aspx.

For Windows Phone 7, I don’t see the application providing a whole lot that isn’t already available through the Pictures and Office Hubs integrated into Windows Phone. Sure, it does have a few new features that aren’t previously available like the ability to share links to your documents or pictures and gives you the ability to create new folders within your SkyDrive account, but that’s it for the new stuff.

iOS device users get more because they currently have zero SkyDrive integration, but that still doesn’t give you integration, just functionality. For iOS device users, you could say that it does actually give them a lot more than a nothing nutshell, but obviously what I write is focused on Microsoft technologies (in case you didn’t guess from all my previous posts).

For me what would be a serious leap in the usability and resourcefulness of Windows Live SkyDrive would be the consolidation of Windows Live Mesh (previously Windows Live Sync and Microsoft Live Mesh as two separate projects) and SkyDrive, or the release of a SkyDrive desktop client. DropBox and many other online file repository sites have desktop clients allowing you download, upload, sync and use all of your content across your desktops, laptops and mobile devices, however SkyDrive and Mesh are currently flawed.

Windows Live Mesh allows you to sync files to your desktop with a desktop client, and allows you to sync that content across multiple devices including the ability to sync between Windows PC and Mac, however it is limited to 5GB and although the application and the Windows Live Mesh web interface state that the storage is based on Windows Live SkyDrive, the folders and content are isolated and not interoperable.

Consolidating the storage pools in Windows Live Mesh and Windows Live SkyDrive would allow you to sync content between iOS devices, Mac, Windows PC and Windows Phone which would be utterly living the dream. All of this of course is overlooking the additional features of Windows Live Mesh already available today including the ability to sync Internet Explorer favourites and Office Outlook signatures, Office styles and templates and custom dictionaries.

Just imagine for one moment: The ability to sync all of your documents and pictures to all of your devices both desktop, portable and pocket, and have changes to those documents automatically replicated to all your other devices, have your standard email signature available on all your devices to provide you with a truly unified front when sending and responding to email communiqué, all whilst having your own shorthand, TLAs and words available in the dictionary saving you countless autocorrect issues on your mobile device?

Windows Phone 7 Series

Mobile World Congress this week in Barcelona saw the unveiling of Windows Phone 7 Series, or Windows Mobile 7 as a lot of people with undoubtedly refer to it as, Microsoft’s latest browser OS.

This is something that the blogosphere and tech communities have both been waiting for, for a long time, hearing about for a long time, rumouring about for a long time and holding breath for too.

windowsphone-everything-top-1[1]

Windows Mobile 6.x was always about business productivity. Windows Mobile 6.5.x tried to bring Windows Mobile to the consumer and user centric markets, however was met with a lot of critique (not from me by any means).

Looking to capitalize on the success of Windows 7 and hoping 7 was their lucky number, Microsoft have announced Windows Phone 7 Series, which looks set to change all of that with a totally re-written from nothing to something (awesome) mobile operating system and not just a refresh like previous versions.

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Windows Phone (Windows Mobile 6.5)

Windows Mobile 6.5, now called Windows Phone is the latest mobile OS revision from Microsoft, and it’s a vast improvement from 6.1

I’ve been using it in Beta form on my Touch HD for about six months courtesy of the folks on XDA-Developers and Miri’s WM6.5 ROM for the Touch HD.

The first thing you notice is the Today screen, now referred to as Titanium. This has been inspired by the Zune interface. The whole thing has designed to be finger friendly and require a stylus as little as possible.

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Long Time No Post, but PDC Rocks

So it’s been a while since I wrote anything on here since my latest outbursts against Virgin Media due to their inability to provide us with broadband, and low and behold we still don’t have our super fast 20MB internet.

Virgin rescheduled us for late October and the day before the appointment called to cancel because there is no T-Piece outside our property and they need to get council planning permission to install the piece so we are now going to be waiting until November 14th.

Why on earth they couldn’t have just seen in advance that they needed this piece and that they could have done the work in the three weeks between our first and most recent appointments I don’t know! Bless their little cotton socks.

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Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 Review

A few days ago I saw that Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 was being made publicly available so I thoguht I would give it a stab and see if Microsoft had done any good with this, because I personally feel that IE7 wasn’t released all that long ago and there wasn’t really much need for a new browser jsut yet.

After getting it installed which was a bit of a polava due to needing to install a patch for Windows XP which didn’t want to install straight up, I couldn’t see too much difference, except for the fact that half of the internet doesn’t work properly.

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