NetKernel News Volume 3 Issue 44

November 2nd 2012

What's new this week?

Catch up on last week's news here

Repository Updates

The following update is available in the NKEE and NKSE repository...

  • http-server 2.20.1
    • Change to ensure timestamp on Date and other time-related headers are aligned and consistent for external HTTP caches. Thanks to John Tinetti for reporting this. Note: its generally a good idea to do a full reboot when swapping the HTTP transport - just to give Jetty a fair chance.
    • RESTOverlay auto-generated endpoint id's now escape "/" (backslash) to "_" (underscore) to ensure correct metadata resolution of META (meta:) requests.

The following updates are available in the NKEE repository...

  • nkee-encrypted-module-factory 1.13.1
    • Updated to support secondary validation of licenses after initial boot for mclient update (below)
  • nkee-mclient 1.5.1
    • Enhancement to permit expiration of a cached license and the fetch of a new license in the event that the system configuration is modified during the life of a license lease.

Tom Does Connect Four

This week I get to put my feet up and don't have to write an in-depth article. Tom has produced a very nice follow-up to the TicTacToe series by taking seriously my speculation about evolving TTT to do Connect-Four (Four-in-row)...

Windows 8 - First Impressions

I thought I'd take advantage of Microsoft's ultra-cheap discount offer for an upgrade to Windows 8. I don't actually use Windows but its useful to have a copy for testing, and for the last umpteen years I've run a WinXP image under Linux's QEMU/kvm virtualisation.

Updating would also provide useful background research on the state of play in the OS world.

So with nothing much to lose - and having cloned my existing WinXP image first, I set about doing the update.

The MS upgrade advisor scanned my system and reported seven items I should be aware of. In a rush I didn't really read the details - but assumed that if anything bad could happen it would not let me proceed. It let me proceed so I paid the modest toll and downloaded the 2GB update/installer application.

When I ran the installer, I managed to get through about 3 screens of encouraging signs, only to stall with a message:

"The following device is not compatible in Windows 8".

No sweat you might think, I can live without a device or two.

Then you look at the details...

"Standard PC"

First its a bit of surprise that the entire PC is considered a device. And second what the heck can be wrong with a "Standard PC".

You don't want to know the ways I tried to figure this out - first off assuming it was my virtualized kvm client and trying every combination of emulated PC and processor to no avail. But basically I gave up - nothing I did would persuade it to install.

Several days later, I got a break. Tony recently set up a new Macbook and needed to install a WinXP virtualised machine under Parallels. One of the legacy apps he needs required multi-core and his old WinXP image didn't support this - he needed to do a clean install. Well it turns out that a "Standard PC" is what MS reports when you only have a single core HAL. Clean install shows multicore HAL.

So I thought: I bet if I change the HAL the Windows 8 installer might work. How hard can it be? Oh you have no idea...

I won't bore you, the solution, should you ever need to know is to get out the WinXP installation CD-Rom - boot it up, and select "Repair Install". Which re-installs the HAL (and every damned thing else) but at least it keeps the user settings and my paid for copy of the Windows 8 installer application.

After letting it chug away for a couple of hours I rebooted and tried the Win 8 installer. Success! I had hacked my way to victory... After 20 minutes I booted my virtual machine into Windows 8 and could start to kick the tyres...

Windows 8 - Business Impressions

Microsoft are trapped by the innovators dilemma. They can't throw away the kitchen sink and start fresh - but they have to react to an operating system market that is now thriving due to competitive innovation.

I have to say, for the period of 15 years when MS stifled competition in the most ruthless way, I despised Windows. It was the fat slow and lazy technology of an incumbent with no incentive to innovate and a cash cow business that allowed ground rent to be extracted from every PC sale.

If you've ever been to an eastern European communist country and stayed in a hotel, then Windows used to feel just the same. Why pay attention to the room decor when you're the only hotel in town and everyone has to stay here every couple of years?

Well, competition has finally kicked the MS butt and to give them credit they have bitten the bullet. Windows 8 is not the final answer - but its a step in the right direction of refurbishing the hotel.

First off - it is noticeably snappier. This is most noticeable under emulation - my WinXP image is slower than my Win8 image.

MS have made the most of the necessary evil of having a split personality GUI. The tablet side is passable - but not entirely friendly to mouse based use (probably fine with touch). The existing windows 7 classic desktop is just a thin step away. In fact it becomes very apparent that Windows 7 is pretty much entirely there below the surface. So in fact the innovators dilemma challenge has been met - its the same but if you want to think of it as different you can.

Alright, putting aside that Redmond never had an abundance of taste, we can't expect miracles, but all-in-all its OK. Which, for a post-communist hotel business is saying something.

So now lets look at the business model...

Microsoft have made a huge gamble. They are betting the house that ground-rent is no longer gonna do. They desperately hope that its all about the apps.

Why else have they stopped the arbitrary stratification of differentiated versions? No longer are there crippled Home versions and super expensive corporate versions that are allowed to have full and proper network access etc.

Why else are they getting people to switch to Windows 8 Pro (the full top of the range model) for peanuts? Isn't this the cheapest upgrade for a version of Windows ever?

Here's why. With their historical hotel business - they probably expected to get about $50 per person every 3 years. They ran Hilbert's hotel - so they just needed more people to visit town and they would make more and more money with no additional cost. All the services at the hotel were outsourced - ie you bought and installed all your own applications and Microsoft didn't know or care what you did in your room.

Today, Windows 8 really really wants to know what you do in your room. (In fact that's what every one of the new crop of operating systems is doing - Android, OSX, Windows8, Facebook, Twitter... want to know what you do, who you do it with, how long you take and which brand of underpants you wear).

Windows 8 wants to take a cut out of every form of activity you might do in the room. Just like Android's and Apple's Play/App stores do.

Here's what MS are betting... They figure that most people have become accustomed to small but frequent payments for apps. They figure that people will install more stuff more often if its available and slippery easy to do. $50 every 3 years is just less than $17 a year per person, my bet is with the new model MS has got its eye on $17 per quarter per person - big difference...

They are probably right - and they are making it easier than ever before to quickly get and use new stuff in your Windows hotel room.

The big question is - you now have more choice than ever. Do you really want to stay at their hotel or not?

Especially if the same services are offered by every other hotel.

Because the truth is this: Apps are, relatively speaking, just a tiny footprint and are only the gateway to the universal REST-based backend services which are doing the real work and which really hold the data and the value...

Oh brave new world...

[and if you can see behind the curtain and understand that the action is with the scalable universal services that make the money - then I know of a really cool, truly innovative technology... when you're ready, lets talk...]

Have a great weekend.


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