The case against Windows 10

I was reading about some of the difficulties in the Windows 10 launch, so I got on my thinking cap about Windows.  There are times when I have had some pretty deep thoughts for quite some time.  I do not like the direction that Microsoft has taken with Windows 10.

Thinking cap

Thinking cap

 

Recently, Microsoft has had to pull updates due to problems with the 1511  version of Windows due to a bug with the privacy settings getting reset to their default values.  It was later returned, but the nature of this incident has me worried.  This seems like an incident that would have been checked with simple bug testing.

 

It has been suggested that this could be indicative of larger problems at Microsoft. This may be results of disproportionate amounts of testers being laid off.  I’m not a computer programmer, but I do have extensive experiences working with software engineers, and, if an organization does not have dedicated testers, then the level of testing is simply not going to be adequate. People simply don’t like to test their own code and are not likely to do so from an objective perspective. It is very likely that they will not do a good job of it.

 

From my experiences, the testers (and the Quality Assurance as a whole) are often the first to be shown the door when something happens. That “something” could be a tough quarter, a loss of a major contractor, or simply an organizational change. There does seem to be a corporate culture in many places that you can get rid of testers and not have any consequences. That is not the case at all – testers do a very important job and developers can seldom perform the task of testing their own code proficiently without someone else testing it. Ironically, getting rid of testers could hurt reputation and end up costing the company more in the long run than had the company kept a solid QA team.

 

For Microsoft in particular, this is a huge problem because they have advertised Windows 10 as being more reliable, security, and the way of the future. We have seen everything from privacy concerns to Windows uninstalling user applications without asking their permission to this latest incident which involves stability concerns.  As the lead commentator in the last article notes, , it is unlikely that Microsoft will do anything for the end user until there is outcry from the enterprise customers.

 

This does not bode well. Let’s consider what this could mean though:

  • If there is inadequate testing here, what implications will this have for major security bugs? I think that in the coming years, we are likely to see more and more sophisticated attacks on Windows. Although it is true that Microsoft has in the past aggressively patched up Windows as security vulnerabilities emerged, if it is true that they have gutted their QA, what will this mean for security fixes? They could very well leave gaping holes in their OS that better testing could have allowed.
  • I do not expect that this will be the only such error that we see from Microsoft on WIndows 10. We will likely see other stability problems that testing could have resolved.  Unless there is a fundamental cultural change, I suspect this is going to continue.  There has been some sort of organizational shift within the company that is causing this.
  • The way these updates were pushed out too makes me concerned.  We do not even know about the nature of the patches. Microsoft has decided to hide them. As an end-user or if I were to work in an IT department, how would I know what patches are responsible for problems when they inevitably (and from experience they will) occur?  These patches were pushed out, then pulled, then re-introduced, and only then with an explanation.

 

Naturally, this will not just affect Windows 10, but security fixes for previous operating systems as well. However Windows 10 being younger I suspect will be harmed disproportionately.  The other reason is because it is a rolling release, rather than the more traditional structure that Microsoft has held. Frankly, I think that Microsoft has made a fundamental mistake by going the route of a rolling release. Worse, they have apparently laid off large numbers of their QA department when they need them the most. It may very well prove that the many configurations of hardware, software, networks, and other ways one can run Windows make a rolling release simply an impossible task to maintain. It is too soon to tell, but I suspect that this could prove to be the case.

 

I think that Microsoft needs to go back to the drawing board and take a good look at what users really need. We need an operating system that is stable, that is secure, that has any security risks quickly addressed, and that has backwards compatibility. This is especially important as Windows 10 is being pushed as a safer, more stable, and lower footprint operating system compared to previous versions of Windows.

 

Although so far, we have not yet had a major security risk that has affected huge numbers of end users or a bug that has damaged large numbers of computers, it is only a matter of time. Outside of that, I have barely even begun to note the privacy issues with Windows 10. I just hope that Microsoft changes before we learn the hard way.

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