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February 29, 2004

Microsoft and Intel's collusion to print money

Have you ever wondered why that same computer that you bought a year ago is working at a snail's pace today? If you had seen it working this slow at the computer store, you never would have bought it in the first place. Well, many of the technical folks blame it on the continual upgrade of Microsoft Windows. They would say to you to buy a new computer. As Windows continue to upgrade, it is more and more money going into Intel's pockets just to run a word processor to write an article. Windows 98 is more than Windows 3.1, Windows NT is more than Windows 98, Windows 2000 is more than Windows NT, and Windows XP is more than any of them. Damn, it's exhausting to even say it.


Microsoft stuffs more and more software into its Windows. Users are chained by the upgrade cycle. And Intel hurrahs it all the way to the bank. I am generalizing this observation, but it is the old hustler game. Mister "M" holds our computers hostage while mister "I" says: If you want your performance, you only need to open your pocketbook. Have you ever wondered whether much of the software Microsoft puts into your system is indeed what you needed or wanted? If you haven't, you would be surprised to realize that the answer is no.

In an attempt to regain some of my computer performance, I have been looking to stop some Services in Windows XP that I don't need. Taking a look under the hood, I find more than 30 services running. Urghh.... this is not counting the number of applications that I have running. Gee it is so obvious why the computer is so slow now. Looking more carefully, there are Services that I've never heard of or have no intention of touching. Yet they are running by default. Some of these are: "Distributed Transaction Coordinator", "Protected Storage", "Remote Procedure Call", etc.

I am sure those services were crucial for someone else but for me as a home user, I didn't need or even gave permission for them to eat up CPU cycles. Did Microsoft think that the computers they sell their software to has Infinite computing power? Apparently they do.

And Intel silently smiles each time an upgrade is announced.

If you are interested in reclaiming some of your CPU cycles, you can use sc.exe (as mentioned here), to do so. Be careful and make sure you don't need the service before doing so.

February 14, 2004

Being Neutral

Sometimes being neutral regarding a hotly debated issue is a good position to hold. This can be especially advantageous when it comes to technological choices. When I had worked at the Hewlett Packard NetServer Division, the server group supported multiple Operating Systems. At the time (which was 1996-1998), the distribution usage was roughly:

- Novel 65%
- Linux 15%
- Windows NT (3.5 - 4.0) 15%
- SCO unix 5%

The support for multiple OS'es caused us so many problems especially when HP had several platforms. On top of that, there was also an emerging architecture of multiple CPUs. With so many hardware and software platforms, it is a wonder that the right match of driver to hardware was possible. Yet the group prevailled and as a result, lots of servers were shipped with whichever OS the customer wanted.

At the time, I didn't understand why we just didn't drop support for some of the lesser known OSes and save ourselves some headache. Afterall, shouldn't we just forget about that 5% and concentrate on the 65%? It makes wonderful technical sense but extremely bad business sense. HP's position was to be technologically neutral. This means that they will bend to whatever way the market will take it. The market currently entertains all 4 OSes.... so must HP. Tell this to a techno-weenie and it will make no sense to him whatsoever. I was that naive person and did not understand.

However, as I look back in time to other examples, the position of being neutral makes perfect sense. In the late 80s, there was a hotly brewing war between X11, OpenView, and a couple of other GUI frameworks. In the early 90s, it was different versions of Unix (AT&T, SunOS, SCO, and a couple of others.... with Linux not even in sight). In the mid 90s, it was Netscape versus Internet Explorer. Today, we have Linux vs NT Server as well as Apache vs IIS. What about the one between Apple and IBM platforms? The endless battles for technical preference will go on indefinitely into the future.

For each of the battles, lifetimes of effort were spent. Lots of hot emotions come into play in defending as well as promoting our favorite positions. In the end though, does it make a difference for the long term? If each technology provides a solution to a problem, does it matter very much which way is chosen? Is the WindowsXP user interface very different than Linux now? How many different ways can you render a web-page? Certainly there are specific difference, but is worth going to war over? Doesn't being neutral about this sort of thing make better sense?

Posted by Hoang at 09:09 AM | 5 Comments | TrackBack | Technology

February 11, 2004

Start/Stop IIS from the command-line

I use my laptop quite often and occasionally have the need to access IIS (Microsoft's Internet Information Server). IIS is a server process and a resource hog as anyone who is familiar with it knows. Not having the computing horse power to keep IIS running, I have done without it for the past several years. However, I now realize that I should just start/stop the process at will. When it is needed, spend the smallest amount of time to get it up and running from the command line. After using it, stop the services associated with its functionality to regain as much of resources back from Windows as it is possible. Here are some server commands to deal with IIS:

iisreset.exe /stop
iisreset.exe /start

The functionalities of these should be quite evident. Additionally you will need to use the following to control some windows services:

sc.exe [start/stop/query] [Service]
services dealing with IIS = Iisadmin Msftpsvc Nntpsvc Smtpsvc W3svc

This Link should give additional details to accomplishing the task.

February 03, 2004

Using SciTe as an outline editor

For some time now I have been wanting to use a simple editor to write emails and articles. The tool doesn't have to be complex but the main point is that it should allow me to organize my thoughts while composing. Ideally, the outline feature that Microsoft Word provides is what was needed. However, Word (like the other applications in the Office Suite) is very bulky when compared to the other extreme (notepad). On a moderate machine, Word can take upwards of 20 seconds to load. This takes a toll on a person's patience and the usability factor is greatly diminished. So, for some time after not finding a usable tool, I dismissed that desire.

For the past year, I have become quite enamoured with a programmer's editor feature: code-folding. In many sense, it fits in well with the Object Oriented way of thinking. What I mean is that the object should hide the details and only expose enough information to allow the designer to work at a higher abstraction level. This is absolutely the exact concept of an outliner. The new editors have the feature to hide code with are "between the curly braces". This is great, and for coding, it can't be beat. However, outlining ideas "between the curly braces" is something a writer would not willingly embrace.

Enter Python. Python uses white spaces instead of the C/C++ favorite "curly braces". A writer can just use the editor and separate sub-topics with a blank space. Additionally SciTe (a popular free code editor) already has Python recognition built-in. SciTe is small, fast, and simple to use. Voila, an outline editor within code-folding.

January 20, 2004

Reflecting on our use of Email

It would seem that the Internet's greatest asset for people is their ability to use email. Compared to many other activities: WWW browsing, file-transfer, performing purchases, instant-messaging, as well as many other.... Email seem to dominate our usage of the web. Email is highly personal and provides the instant gratification that we all crave. I refer to the example: "You've Got Mail". Those three words cause our hearts to tinge with excitement no matter how often we hear it.

Even with its obvious importance, I find that software to deal with Email remain extremely rudimentary. For most software, the basic functions are to receive and read as well as to send to a specific email address. Rich client programs like Eudora or Outlook (the types that run directly on your computer) provide for pretty good management of your received mail. You can do Search and hand-organization of your mails into specific folders. If you use the web interface emails (like Yahoo or Hotmail), the management functions are quite limitted. However, that's basically where all the software functionalities stop. There just seem that we could do so much more with the most important of our resources (mail conversations).

** here is another tidbit written earlier about email.

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