Microsoft hops through the loophole, making a joke of OS stability

So here's a little plain gruel on the subject of Windows NT. After soliciting comment a while back, the informal Cringe poll is in. The ratio of replies breaks down to about three-quarters negative (NT sucks), and one-quarter positive (NT rules). There was more negative comment from people familiar with other OSs, and lots of unflattering comparisons with Unix and NetWare. The toughest comments were on general resilience, the directory issue, and performance on high-end applications -- pretty much the usual suspects.

On general resilience, many users seemed disgusted at the number of times the OS needed rebooting, and compared this to other tried-and-true servers that hum away without incident for years -- especially NetWare servers. A polite comment was: "NT really needs some work in terms of reliability."

In fairness, many users pointed out that the worst headaches happened during initial configuration, and after the initial pain, NT's stability was comparable to other servers you've known. Users with directory issues were pretty blunt and obviously unhappy with a system based on multiple trusted domains. I particularly liked one pithy comment: "NT = Lantastic 10.0."

In the middle camp, I heard such comments as: "I love NT. NT on good hardware is a stable Windows platform . . . but it is not a real NOS." The NT fans either like what they see and say they've had no big problems, or they feel more comfortable placing a bet on a product with momentum, despite its shortcomings. One wrote: "I thought about being driven to Unix with arguments that I didn't buy, and thought about having to do the whole thing over again in five years when NT took over the bulk of the server market. I decided to get ahead of the curve for a change. I haven't regretted the decision for a minute."

My conclusion? As with any major infrastructure decision: be very, very careful. Lots of smart ARN readers have had serious issues with NT. ISPs have complained of serious problems scaling to meet very large transaction loads. I look forward to the nice Microsoft PR people explaining how many of these issues will be addressed in Windows NT 5.0. But many present NT users seemed a tad sceptical about this great leap forward, saying the kids in Redmond have promised them the moon before.

In the meantime, I'm sharply reminded that people should buy complex technology products based on proven technical performance rather than market hoopla.

RTA trip sends intrepid scribe into a technological tailspinI've finally gotten around to registering my car, and I no longer have faith in anything. The Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) has convinced me that modern life -- and technology -- are rubbish. I was in the grip of a nameless, corporate bureaucratic sludge, and it won.

The RTA itself is no stranger to technological chaos. If you read the marketing literature and listen to the professional confidence men of the high-tech world, you'd believe serious institutions such as the RTA have no problem making things work. But in the humble life I lead, things don't work and, more often than not, chaos rules.

Consider the folks who tried out one bank's invitation to enjoy the pleasures of online banking. A number of customers were asked to complete surveys about their online banking "needs".

But unfortunately, they seem to have contracted out this survey to a third-party company that "administered" the list server. More than 100 innocent customers received hundreds of duplicate-mail spams over the course of three days. This had the added benefit of allowing the bank's customers to exchange views on their provider's mistake.

And chaos reigns. When Netscape bought Kiva and its Web application server technology, it acquired the services of a lead developer who had previously worked on the Approach database at Lotus. In fact, this person decided to join Kiva because Lotus had let Approach wither on the vine. Now Lotus and IBM are in the midst of trying to beef up an overpriced Web application server with limited functionality, and could have done with some Kiva smarts.

Is there a reason for all this? When I heard that a Microsoft employee had been arrested by Thai police after climbing to the top of Bangkok's Wat Arun temple and sitting there for 10 hours claiming to be God, I knew it was time to move.