Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Fall of XP: Windows Live, Onfolio, WDS and emergence at work

I have not been happy with Apple lately. It is just as well, then, that Microsoft has chosen this time to remind me of that the "Dark Side" really means, as well as providing an interesting example of emergence at work.

I've written recently of how my work XP box has been experiencing accelerated entropic collapse. I've made progress on addressing many of the contributing factors, including realizing that Microsoft has two currently marketed products called "windows desktop search" with superficially identical interfaces but different functionality, bugs, and update schedules.

A problem remained however. Outlook was periodically crashing with varying error messages. Some of them, however, implicated Onfolio, my favorite Windows Feed Reader*. I couldn't figure out the problem, so I tried reinstalling. I downloaded the installer from the Windows Live Collection, but it quit with a meaningless "network error" (clearly a red herring). So I tried uninstalling, but the uninstall would hang shortly after asking me if I wanted to remove my feed list.

It took me a while to uninstall the damned thing. I had to restart a few times, then, when it hang, I went through every XP service running and, one at a time, I turned them off. After I was done with that it completed. I don't know if disabling all the services did the trick or if it simply timed out on the hung process and killed it, moving on.

I then reinstalled successfully from the Windows Live Toolbar "Gallery", searching for Onfolio and choosing "run" rather than download. We'll see if that works.

I simplified Onfolio's behavior as much as possible. In particular there's a "Windows Desktop Search" integration feature in Onfolio that allows WDS to search Onfolio Collections. Since I believe WDS, Onfolio and the Windows Live toolbar are all somewhat buggy, that kind of integration is just asking for trouble. I disabled it, I haven't done much with Collections anyway. I'll stop using them. Onfolio also installs an Outlook add-in I could remove, but I'm not sure if that won't cause more trouble.

Which brings me to emergence and the Fall of XP. Microsoft's Vista has not been well received. I'm sure SP1 will help a great deal, but it will still remain slow on older hardware. Microsoft really wants to migrate people off their old hardware onto new hardware and Vista. The problem is XP has been too good -- even though it's a crummy user experience compared to OS X.

The answer, of course, is to make XP unstable.

Is this a deliberate Microsoft strategy? I doubt it. It doesn't have to be deliberate. Microsoft has only to cut back on QA testing, increase the pace of software delivery (Windows LIVE), increase the rate of security patch delivery  and let nature take its entropic course. This is an emergent strategy, but it works just as well as a Machiavellian scheme.

XP will die faster than most people expect.

* OS X has great thick client feed (Atom/RSS) readers and lousy publishing tools. Windows has the world's greatest blog authoring tool and lousy feed readers. Shame.


Joe Cheng said...

Don't know if you already knew this, but the reason Onfolio is so buggy is the reason Windows Live Writer is so good. The (former) Onfolio team stopped working on Onfolio to focus on Windows Live Writer.

I'm probably not supposed to say this, but if you like Onfolio's feed reader you may also like Google Reader. They have a very similar newspaper experience (we did a slightly better job with the keyboard, but they do a much better job with the mouse).

JGF said...

The talent / teamwork combination is rare in software, but common in excellent software.

Of course excellent software is exquisitely rare.

Onfolio and WLW are two superb Windows applications. I had no idea the same team worked on both, but in retrospect I should have guessed.

I like the way Bloglines lets me publish my feeds, Google Reader doesn't do that. I also have quite a bit of Bloglines inertia. I have tried GR though and it's excellent.