Microsoft admits Win2000 failures

Microsoft admits Win2000 failures

Windows 2000 won't have all the bugs stamped out of it when it ships, confesses the man at the centre of the effort to deliver Microsoft's long-overdue new operating system.

In a tell-it-like-it-is speech at Microsoft's Australian TechEd99 conference last week, Windows 2000 project manager Iain McDonald wouldn't even commit himself to a specific completion date.

But he did promise his team will ship Windows 2000, formerly known as NT 5, with only minor bugs left unsquashed in its 27 million lines of code (compared with 16 million lines in predecessor NT 4).

Among other things, McDonald's Windows 2000 team has dedicated itself to getting rid of NT's dreaded "Blue Screen of Death".

"I won't say it is entirely gone but we did a lot of work on why it came up," McDonald said. It was discovered that flaky device drivers running in protected parts of the operating system "formed a very large percentage of the things that were hosing us down", he said.

To remove that threat in Windows 2000, device drivers are subjected to much more stringent testing before they are allowed into the operating system kernel.

As a result, "in the past eight months, I would have seen one or at most two blue screens compared with one a week at a comparable stage in NT 4", McDonald said. That suggests Windows 2000 users can look forward to seeing the blue screen of a system crash up to 30 times less frequently than they do with NT.

McDonald's team has also sliced out more than three-quarters of NT reboot scenarios, such as system reconfigurations, and moved against DLL Hell (in which applications cause mayhem by stepping on one another).

Compared with NT 4, where about 92 situations demand a reboot, in Windows 2000 the number is under 20.

Reliability and ease of management topped the list of user demands and McDonald said the new operating system outperforms all previous releases by a wide margin in both areas.

He nominated Windows 2000's most significant improvements as Active Directory's advanced user and device management features, the arrival of "self-healing" programs and the new operating system's remote install and management features.

Although Windows 2000's delivery schedule has slipped by nearly two years, McDonald is unrepentant. He has a track record for postponing releases until quality considerations are met.

So while most pundits believe Win 2000 will ship in early October, the most McDonald will say is that it will be out "before the end of the year".

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