25 October 2005

Comments Clean-up

My bad; I didn't set text verification in this blog's Settings, Comments. So after a while, I started getting a lot of attention from the wrong side of the Turing Test; bots, or humans that are bot-like enough for me to feel no guilt in deleting thier contributions.

I do suggest that setting should be on by default, in keeping with the "Safe by Default" concept!

14 October 2005

What I Did In My Holidays

Once again, long time no blog, so perhaps I should explain what I've been up to.

I'm an MVP for "Windows Client", i.e. the non-server Windows most of us use on a regular basis, and my usual turf are various public Microsoft and usenet newsgroups that cover versions of Windows from Windows 95 through to XP. And I've been pretty scarce there for a while too, and there are two reasons for this.

Firstly, these "main" forums have grown too large to keep up with, especially Windows XP General. It takes so long to process a gulp of posts that by the time I am done, and pull down the next gulp, large chunks of posts have aged off the news server and continuity is lost. I find that newsgroups don't scale well beyond around 500 posts a day; the global village becomes a city, with inner-city decay. So the future may lie in smaller forums such as those at www.aumha.org - the web interface scales even more poorly than newsgroups, but is fine for up to 50 posts a day per group.

Secondly, it was really getting quite depressing, having to tell posters again and again: "You need to do X, but you can't, because to do that you need Y, and you can't get Y because Z". My mindset was getting quite negative, and eventually I thought; "instead of telling these poor folks why they are screwed, why not devote some energy into changing Z and Y so that they will be less screwed in the future?" - and so that is what I did.

The Bart Project

The main values for Y has been a maintenance OS (mOS) for XP, and the Z has been Microsoft's failure to provide this. So I flighted the idea for a mOS elist among my MVP colleagues, and the next thing I knew, Susan Bradley had it up and running, along with a private Wiki!

My initial goal was to interact with Microsoft folks with an eye to freeing up access to MS Windows PE, which is currently moribund due to licensing constraints (with hardly anyone able to use it, who is going to develop for it?). What I discovered is that Bart PE has such a head start, fuelled by a strong groundswell of support that extends right up to software vendors, that the "real" Windows PE has become almost irrelevant as a maintenance OS.

So instead, I started pulling together what was available out there to create a useful mOS toolset. There are plenty of folks doing this already, as a Google(Bart PE) will tell you; my objectives were close but different enough to be worth the effort of starting from scratch.

The MVP Summit

I've been away for a while, attending the annual Global MVP Summit in Seattle. This was my first visit to the American continents, and it was great to finally meet so many folks that I'd been corresponding with for so many years! It was also interesting to see the Redmond campus and meet the folks who actually "make Windows", and have an opportunity to bend their ear a bit on various things I see as problems that need to be addressed.

I saw enough to be impressed with Microsoft's strengths, such as the ability to invest in the "long view" that creates an effective development environment (comfortable buildings surrounded by tranquil forest, great on-site catering... why would one ever want to go home?) as well as spot weaknesses that answer questions like "how can folks this smart make these stupid mistakes?". My first task on returning home, is to follow up with feedback on such issues, as well as continuing discussions started during live sessions during the event.

So I'll take a bit of a break from the Bart project, and perhaps stay out of circulation in the newsgroups for a while, until I've finished the post-Summit follow-ups. I'll probably blog here from time to time as I go along :-)