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Windows 8 Goals: A Few Modest Suggestions

With Windows 7 barely out the door, Microsoft has started making us aware that they are already busily working at Windows 8. With that in mind, let me humbly offer a few suggestions for our next Windows.

Fix stray bugs. Fix all the little-but-annoying bugs that were left over from Windows Server 2008 that no one would fix in Server 2008 R2. I don't know why, but there are a few irritations from 2008 that, when I brought them up late last February with an eye to getting them fixed, I was told, "Sorry, the process is too far along to fix a bug." (This from an OS slated for release to manufacturing in August.) The two silliest are: one, a DNS server error--if you install the DNS role and try to create a dynamic primary zone without first stopping and starting the DNS service, then the DNS server won't accept any dynamic registrations. And two, a DHCP server error--if you install the DHCP role, the service gets installed with a "disabled" startup mode. I'm sure there are lots of others, but given that "bugs" that are acknowledged and yet not fixed for three OS versions in a row seem to become "features," it'd be nice to see them gone. Then it'd be great to get rid of that confusing DCPROMO page about creating an unnecessary DNS delegation (but I don't want to ask too much).

Remedy IE reboot pains. Re-engineer Explorer and Internet Explorer so that they can be stopped and started without a reboot. When IE first appeared, it seemed to me to be an application that could, like Word, be started and stopped without rebooting the OS. Anyone running a Windows Server 2008 R2, 2008, or 2003 system can attest, however, that such is not the case. No one likes having to reboot a server over a patch, and yet I've seen IE patches over the years--including one in the past few months--that clearly states that it requires a reboot. (No, I can't run Server Core--which can avoid all IE-related problems--because the system is an email server as well.) Microsoft guys, you've got to understand: back in the mid-90s, you sold me (and a lot of other folks) on building a web infrastructure based on Windows because it was so reliable and by golly, it generally works really well, but now that I've got visitors from all around the globe, there just isn't a good time of day to reboot anymore--so if I must reboot, can it please not be at the behest of some user mode tool like IE (or, for that matter, Explorer)?

Expand reboot options. Let me tell my system what to reboot to. Many's the time that I've wanted to reboot my system to something other than the standard Windows build, for reasons that vary wildly. For example, suppose I want to boot from whatever media is in my CD or DVD drive. I shut down my computer, and then system administration takes on an unpleasantly video gameā€“like quality. First, I've got to wait for my computer to reboot, which can take quite a few minutes on some servers. Then, I've got wait for it to sort of "wake up" just enough for me to quickly--just at the right moment!--press F1, F8, F10, ctrl-alt-umlaut or whatever's necessary to bring up the boot device chooser screen on my system. Yes, I know that the BIOS controls that, but isn't it time to let the OS and the BIOS communicate a bit better? It'd be great to just tell Windows, "reboot from optical disk," walk away for a few minutes, and find that I'm ready to go--the computer's working for me rather than the other way around.

While that would require some sort of innovation in BIOS design (although not a very large one), the same thing applies to the "F8" boot options and would be easier to implement. So, for example, if I wanted to reboot my Windows 7 system to enable self-signed device drivers, then I'd have to reboot the system and watch the various flickers and BIOS messages to divine the exact moment when pressing F8 would let me choose my boot options and, as anyone who's done it recently knows, it is by no means a deterministic thing. (Yes, I could create a second pointless boot option so that I would have 30 seconds of time to press F8, but I only need to do that occasionally, and can't see why I'd want to slow Windows boots down the other 99.9 percent of the time.) Imagine if I could just shut down Windows by choosing "reboot with modified boot options," at which time Windows would show me the various boot options. Then, once I'd chosen the ones I wanted, Windows would reboot without requiring the F8 babysitting--quite useful to many, I'd think.

I've got more, but you folks must have ideas of your own; I'd love to hear them!

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