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Dell Documents Reveal Microsoft's Pre-launch Vista Errors 220

twitter writes "The New York Times has a piercing analysis of documents from the Vista capable lawsuit. The documents show that Microsoft seems to have put a wrench in Vista's driver situation only at the last minute. 'Late OS code changes broke drivers and applications, forcing key commodities to miss launch or limp out with issues,' said one slide in a Dell presentation dated March 25, 2007, about two months after Vista's launch at retail and availability on new PCs.' We have all heard the lazy vendors don't believe Vista will launch excuses but few of us have heard Steven Sinofsky, chief of Windows development, second and third opinions. 'Massive changes in the underpinnings for video and audio really led to a poor experience at RTM,' he said. 'This change led to incompatibilities. For example, you don't get Aero with an XP driver, but your card might not (ever) have a Vista driver.' Finally, said Sinofsky, other changes in Vista blocked Windows XP drivers altogether. 'This is across the board for printers, scanners, WAN, accessories and so on. Many of the associated applets don't run within the constraints of the security model or the new video/audio driver models.'
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Dell Documents Reveal Microsoft's Pre-launch Vista Errors

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  • But why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by microbee ( 682094 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @05:39PM (#22628244)
    I am wondering what went wrong to force Microsoft to change kernel and break drivers at the last minute. Because of a design flaw that compromised security? Or DRM?
  • Security (Score:5, Interesting)

    by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @05:41PM (#22628264) Homepage Journal
    Many of the associated applets don't run within the constraints of the security model or the new video/audio driver models.

    When rebuilding a system from the ground up for security, these issues need to be hashed out first. The fact that the security and driver models were changing significantly shortly before launch is a sign of bad design. Or at the very least horrible project management. If Vista was in the works for over 5 years, and it was designed properly from the start, 3rd parties should have had plenty of time (years) to conform to new models.
  • Re:But why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Monday March 03, 2008 @05:41PM (#22628276) Homepage Journal
    I wouldn't be surprised if holes were found in the DRM and had to be patched up at the last minute.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 03, 2008 @05:44PM (#22628304)
    The driver models for audio and video in Vista are drastically different than they were in XP. Microsoft is trying to push towards a more microkernel-ish model where these drivers are intended to exist in user-mode. The entire Vista audio stack is user-mode and the video stack is divided into two portions where a good 90% exists in user mode and the rest remains in kernel mode for performance reasons. Microsoft is also trying to force hardware scheduling to prevent a single accelerated application from hosing an accelerated desktop, which is currently a problem in all accelerated desktops, Compiz and OSX included.

    The driver situation wasn't any better when XP was launched. If anything it was much worse because all of a sudden consumer-grade hardware vendors had to jump to supporting the NT kernel rather than the 9x kernel, which finally locked down the memory isolation so that a user-mode app could not access kernel resources. It took years for the big companies like Creative Labs, nVidia or ATI to get half-decent drivers out for XP. The situation for Vista is already much better than it was for XP.
  • Or... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Squarewav ( 241189 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @05:59PM (#22628468)
    Dell and the like could just keep shipping systems that they know can't run aero with windows XP and don't use the Vista capable stickers on them?

    This is the part that bugs me about this. It might be true that MS considers vista without aero to be fine when they shouldn't. However no one is forcing dell to use the stickers, Dell and the like used them on computers they knew couldn't run vista fully. They do it because they knew people would buy the computer thinking it would run vista.

    When it turned out vista was crippled on the machine insted of Dell going "Ooops sorry, heres some store credit" (or whatever) they went "Don't look at us, MS made us do it! blame them!" As if MS was the one who built the computer.
  • by jellie ( 949898 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:12PM (#22628634)

    Dell's postmortem...

    Company managers and executives also did their own postmortems on Vista...
    Maybe I watch too many crime dramas, but I originally thought the article was writing off Vista as being as good as dead, since they're already talking about Windows 7. Though I can't say I disagree.

    FYI: Postmortem also has an informal definition meaning "an analysis or review of a finished event".
  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:16PM (#22628688) Journal
    It's pretty fucking sad that barely a year into Vista, and Microsoft is already demurring to Windows 7. It's a tacit admission so far as I can tell that Vista has been an absolute disaster.

    Sure it'll sell just like Windows ME did, purely because of OEM licenses. They'll use that to inflate sales figures, even where people are downgrading back to XP, but we now know just how fucked up things were in 2006.
  • Re:But why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ivan256 ( 17499 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:26PM (#22628808)

    The support for existing DRM-protected media is the same if not better; that does NOT force DRM on you, just allows you to use media that some video bigwig thought needs the protection - if it weren't supported at all because MS tried to take a stance against it, then we'd just be complaining about the lack of support. DRM is not magically added to your existing media, though I expect the stupid default behavior dating back to WMP9 if not earlier to add copy protection to ripped CDs remains (as I use neither XP nor Vista, I can't comment for sure).

    What is the point of this statement? It is completely unrelated to this discussion. A strawman.

    The assertion here is that backwards compatibility support for XP drivers was broken in order to eliminate a DRM exploit. In other words, they're not saying that DRM is forced on you, or unsupported. They're saying *drivers* are unsupported in order to have better DRM support. They may have preferentially chosen to break support for their customer's hardware to pander to the media distribution industry.
  • Re:But why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Firehed ( 942385 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:27PM (#22628826) Homepage
    We've seen numerous problems with file handling in Vista, and nothing to suggest they were DRM-related. Very large files and large quantities have both proven problematic. I'll go out on a limb here and suggest it's related to the intended use and then removal of WinFS, but I don't have anything to back that.

    Anyways, signatures don't give you permission to deal with files, they just state their origins. No different than in real life - stuff with my signature on it passed by me. Embedded metadata, of sorts. With DRM, you've got an encrypted version of the file wrapped with a few bytes that provide enough information to decrypt the data with the right credentials. A lock and locker, basically (except the locker is made of hardened semen from Zeus and the lock is a hundred-rotation, thousand number jobbie so brute forcing it would take an unfathomably long time).

    So again, let's not attempt to blame everything on DRM. Most of Vista's faults result from standard Redmond incompetence.
  • by spisska ( 796395 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:27PM (#22628830)

    Yes, ndiswrapper exists. However, if it's so reasonable to expect MS to provide a compatibility layer, where are the wrappers for other kinds of drivers? Where's the wrapper that lets me run my TV Tuner card in Linux?

    Chances are there is no wrapper because the tuner is already supported natively by ivtv (for hardware-encoding MPEG-2 cards) or v4l (for framegrabber cards).

    If your card isn't supported, blame the manufacturer and get a supported card instead. I recommend the Hauppage PVR-x50/500 series for SD and the HDHomerun [] for HD -- QAM or ATSC.

  • Re:But why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mickwd ( 196449 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:30PM (#22628858)
    "So, why then is Vista so much slower then XP even with all the extra eye-candy and features turned off?"

    Not sure, but I found the following, from Microsoft themselves, astounding:

    From the Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1 Release Notes []:

    Installation Issues - Windows Vista

    Setup dialog box fails to appear:
    The verification that occurs under User Account Control (UAC) with all installations delays the appearance of the initial setup dialog box. Delays of more than one hour have been reported.
  • Re:Security (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wampus ( 1932 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:39PM (#22628976)
    I've tried pretty hard to bluescreen my own box, all I ever get out of it is a little text bubble by the clock telling me my video driver crashed and reloaded. My own experience indicates that Vista works at least as well as XP in this regard.
  • Re:But why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Firehed ( 942385 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:40PM (#22628990) Homepage

    As for lack of support, where else are the media companies going to go if MS says no to DRM? People aren't going to take "No support for PCs" as an answer with Blu-Ray boasting a 50 gig capacity for storage.

    That's my whole point. If MS blocked all DRM from existing in Vista, they would only be harming themselves. Media companies would take the "fuck you, we still have standalone players" (and lots of them) approach, and would-be customers would whine continually that they can't play back tons of media. As it was, the media companies made certain demands, and you can't reasonably blame MS for not wanting to kill off their entire media center thing, especially with the install base of the 360 and its functionality as a media center extender. Take your pick. Everyone at Slashdot is all too busy compiling the latest Linux kernel to be bothered with MS software anyways, and is only posting to kill some time :)

    The storage aspect is irrelevant. DRM is on movies, not the discs themselves. It's not like I'm adding CSS protection to my DVD backups. Why on earth would Blu-Ray change that?
  • Re:But why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by man_of_mr_e ( 217855 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:45PM (#22629050)
    There's actually a pretty good reason for that. The sevice pack is not a typical service pack. It's a patch. It patches existing files, rather than replacing them. It can take upwards of an hour because it has to verify that all files are patchable before it begins the process, then it backs up your files, does transactioning so that if something goes wrong it can rollback and not leave a semi-functioning installation.. all that is very intensive, particularly because VS2005 is several Gigabytes in size for everything.

    They could have made it a lot faster, but it wouldn't have been as robust in failure conditions.
  • by realmolo ( 574068 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:59PM (#22629226)
    I wouldn't say Vista is a *disaster*, but it's obviously a work in progress. There are so many obvious improvements to be made, and so many little bugs to be fixed.

    Much like Windows 2000 was what NT4 should've been, I expect "Windows 7" to be what Vista should've been. Of course, an argument could be made that even what Vista "should've been" isn't what we actually WANT. Personally, I think MS should bite-the-bullet and just abandon backwards compatibility as part of the "base" operating system. Just run everything in a VM, much like Apple did with the Classic MacOS.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 03, 2008 @07:28PM (#22629510)
    This comment is -1 Overrated?? It's a direct, ontopic factual response to a wrong claim. At least the mods could man up and give it a real rating, instead of the hidden overrated.

    Slashdot is rapidly swirling around the bowl these days. Vista bashing is the only way they seem to be able to drum up pagehits and generate flamewars.
  • by NSIM ( 953498 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @07:39PM (#22629628)
    I've been running Vista since the early beta days and it's my main desktop system and also powers my mediacenter. The only XP drivers that definitely wont work are video drivers, drivers for things like NIC, disk controllers etc all work fine. On my main system, Only HP and Microtek (prinet and scanner respectively) have yet to provide fulle Vista drivers for my system, and the XP drivers work just fine.
  • by Wolfier ( 94144 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @07:53PM (#22629780)
    Has it occured to you that probably the ultimate motive of moving drivers from kernel space to user space is STILL DRM?

    Namely, to prevents developers from creating unauthorized audio/video drivers that can create analog outputs to all media.
  • Re:But why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by log0n ( 18224 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @09:37PM (#22630750)
    Vista applies DRM to .mov/Quicktime files. I don't know exactly what happens, but saving or writing (copying) Quicktime files wraps them in a 'secure' layer (filename changes to green - it's now 'secure'). Once this happens, a lot of restrictions are placed on how the file can then be moved, copied, deleted, etc.

    I don't use Vista for anything media production related so I haven't delved into this.. but it caught my eye a few weeks ago.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 03, 2008 @11:01PM (#22631328)
    The better behaved drivers, like mass storage and network interface drivers can be loaded in Vista just fine. Many drivers of those types that were built for Windows 2000 will run in Vista without a hitch, and can now be loaded without a reboot and a floppy diskette!

    XP video drivers can load, but you lose support for desktop composition (which is what this article is about - a last minute stupid decision my Microsoft to push DirectX 10).

    Sound drivers are a little hit and miss - the better written ones may work, but you're best off getting updated versions. Most of the older cards have built in drivers anyways. For the newer cards, Microsoft has started a good initative that will allow generic drivers (included with Vista, of course) to push any new sound card with basic audio, while allowing a fancy driver pack to add on special features (much like video cards, today). Linux will be able to take advantage of this as well. :-)

    Printers are a shot in the dark, and historically have been the among the most poorly written drivers for Windows (how many times have I found spoolsv.exe grinding the CPU for no damn reason?). Many still run in Vista, but if you can find new drivers, it's by far worth it.

    All that remains are drivers that are highly integrated with the kernel like chipset drivers and security packages (for which abandoning backwards compatiblity is a no-brainer), and specialist devices like USB all-in-one machines and cryptographic software protection dongles that typically barely function in the environment they were built for. The situation doesn't exactly represent the destructive vampiric murderous monopoly you describe, but hey - what would Slashdot be without hyperbole? ;-)
  • Re:Give it up, dude (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 03, 2008 @11:06PM (#22631364)

    What orthodoxy?

    The one where somebody can be labeled a "Microsoft shill" for criticizing Slashdot. Not supporting Microsoft, not bashing Linux, just criticizing the conduct of Slashdot's editors and top contributors. Or have you declared Slashdot perfect, complete, and incorruptible?

  • by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @12:04AM (#22631756)
    I'll tell you the logic behind what Redmond does. Used to be this dude named Bill Gates ran things. Yeah, say what you will about every OS from DOS up to Windows XP, but at least the technical decisions made sense (not to mention the business decisions made a LOT of cents, and dollars too). They maintained backwards compatibility, which means that most DOS programs from 1980 can still run in a DOS box in every Win9x-based system, and heck, I think even in the NT-based OSes up to XP, for many DOS programs. Things didn't normally break THIS badly from one OS to the next, and even with all the cruft and unnecessary junk cluttering up these OSes, at least this stuff was coherent and made sense. Then Bill Gates goes on to do other things, and it seems that everything in Redmond is slowly falling apart, and the big whack was this Vista disaster. It's like a free advertisement for Apple. People are cramming into Apple stores like there's no tomorrow because they have to upgrade from XP and the upgrade path is to get a Mac! A huge company like Microsoft can absorb this kind of fsck-up for a while, maybe even a long while, but unless something changes and some better technical decisions are made SOON, they're not going to be in the OS business for long. The solution to the immediate problem lies in doing just what a bunch of people here are saying, make up a sandbox environment that can run drivers and programs from XP as if they're actually running in XP. And to do another thing that people here aren't saying: Merge all the 6 different versions of Vista into 2 different versions: Standard and Enterprise, just like XP. Standard would basically be Vista Ultimate and Enterprise would be, well, Vista Enterprise. Get rid of the confusion. And lower the price. $99 for Vista Standard, $69 for Vista Standard Upgrade, and a sky-high price for Vista Enterprise. And, dare I say, make it easy, with one click let's say, to revert to the classic Windows 95 theme without all the graphical junk that bogs everything down. Do all this stuff, sell it for the next five years with occasional updates and patches, and use that time to solve the deeper problems that are sending so many users away at warp speed.
  • by Myria ( 562655 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @02:29AM (#22632606)
    Microsoft actually remade a critical system call, NtCreateProcess(), explicitly because of DRM. Translated to the UNIX world, this would be like redesigning fork() from scratch just to protect VLC from being debugged.

    Prior to Vista, NT had a "create process" mechanism differing in design from most other operating systems. NtCreateProcess() creates an empty process with nothing in it other than the new .exe file and ntdll.dll. No initial stack, no main thread. The parent process actually uses the debugging API to inject them into the new process. Even the the environment and current directory are injected this way.

    This worked well until Vista. In Vista, their DRM system had a problem: they didn't want anyone to be able to debug audiodg.exe, but the parent process had to be able to debug it in order to start it. The solution? Redesign the entire process creation system such that the kernel does all the initial process creation procedures so that the parent does not have control over the child if it is a "protected process". Hence, NtCreateUserProcess() was born.

    For those that don't believe that this change was for DRM, I offer proof [] in the form of a Microsoft kernel developer on video explaining it.

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