What if Microsoft got a clue?

Short URL: http://fsmsh.com/1994


While amidst yet another frustrating exercise in Windows XP I thought; What if Microsoft got a clue? I was trying to do what should have been a fairly simple task, scheduling the system to reboot once a week. Never mind that I really shouldn't have to do this, the system is a simple security camera server. The system is also doing just this single task, and it meets all the requirements of the software. Yet here I am trying to get the Task Scheduler to reboot the system once a week. This isn't an isolated incident either, both a colleague and my brother, both system administrators, need to do the same thing and we are all running different single task applications. The common thread is that each of the machines, because of the operating system, need to be regularly rebooted.

After doing the search engine tango and the knowledge base salsa, I finally reverted to making Windows XP more like GNU/Linux. I installed Cygwin and cron to schedule a weekly reboot, which worked fine. I wrote my little Bash script, which also wrote to a simple log file, and I had more control over the whole process. When I ran into a small problem, unbelievable as it may seem I actually made an error in my script, I was able to redirect output to see the error of my ways. While trying to troubleshoot my batch script earlier, I had to go through the pain of the Event Log and all other means of narrowing down the Windows XP problem. Since there isn't a single mechanism to look for the problem, it took much more time to troubleshoot.

Why should I have to go through all of this for a solution to a simple problem? What if Microsoft decided against giving us the bells and whistles of Aero and decided to make a better scripting language in Vista instead? Oh wait, they were going to do that, but it's not included in Vista. The new PowerShell, aka Monad, is a separate download. I am actually not going to try VBScript or PowerShell, when Bash and cron will do just fine, thank you very much. I really should get into more powerful scripting, but when I do it will either be in Perl or Python. No need to lock myself into a single language for a single operating system, nice try.

I digress. What if Microsoft decided against paying for studies to prove how much better Windows is than Unix or GNU/Linux? What if they got away from all of the FUD and misinformation about GNU/Linux? What if they decided they would make an operating system that was not vulnerable to viruses, trojan horses and all other internet unpleasantries? The infamous Blue Screen of Death is almost commonplace; almost everyone is familiar with it. This is the legacy that Windows has bestowed on us, crashes and frustration.

Surely Microsoft has the resources to build a much better OS that doesn't suffer the frailties of Windows. Now the question is why they don't. Unfortunately it is difficult to determine why they continue with promises of better security and stability. It could be that they are so tied in to backwards compatibility that they cannot make a change. They may not want to because of internal politics. It may cost them and customers great pain to make such a major shift. However, it shouldn't be any more pain than moving from Windows to GNU/Linux; which is a chance they run if things don't improve. Microsoft is getting a reputation of saying the latest version of Windows is more secure, stable, etc. than the last version. We've been hearing this since the release of Windows 95 and all subsequent releases; it has become a running joke.

So while we are tied to some applications that require Windows, as in the case of my security cameras and server, we can start moving the applications and services that we can to improved operating systems. Doing administration tasks on GNU/Linux has been much easier to troubleshoot and more reliable than on Windows desktops and servers. Any services or similar applications that I can move to GNU/Linux has been my experience and I suspect for a lot of others too. What if Microsoft got a clue? If they decided to fix the problems they have continuously reported to have solved, GNU/Linux may have never been as widely accepted. As long as this trend continues Linux keeps on marching along. I seriously doubt that any changes will happen in the next few versions of their OS's. I happened to install Vista on one of our newest most powerful machines, the screensaver crashed. I'm not even going to bother, a new OS is destined for that box. In the mean time, I will try and make my frustrations limited to as few instances as I can.



Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

The main reason why it's vulnerable to viruses is because it's the #1 O/S. The majority of people use it so viruses have the most impact on it.

I dare-say if Linux was the most used system in the world the story might be a little different. Just a thought.

Wouter Verhelst's picture

There are many people who claim this, but I don't buy it.

There is only one system where the default installation also gives the user who's created during this installation full administration rights, and that's Windows; no wonder viruses can wreak havoc there. MacOS does give you administration rights, but only after you enter a password. Most GNU/Linux distributions act similar.

Additionally, techniques such as NSA's SE Linux can help enourmously in fighting viruses, if enabled and used properly.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I do. Not because I have an anti-Linux agenda, just because I am a bit realistic.
1- Some Linux distros include Anti-virus software, so maintainers do allow such a possibility.
2- As Linux desktop becomes more popular, more people try it (including newbs like myself) who don't know much about it. More 3rd party applications would be available as separate downloads. At this point Linux Desktop can become a more attractive target.
3- I did install several RPM packages that did not come with the distro. The instruction was to launch Root Shell, install... Then there is instruction how to run the program from command line. If I did not verify integrity of the package, did not logged off root shell. and started that program -> there is a chance of some harm...

#2 is the one to watch, as Linux becoming easier to install...
I am not saying it would happened all the time and not claiming that harm would be as destructive as it can be in Windows....

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

One of the uses that I am aware of of a GNU/Linux virus scanner is for a server (for example, a mail server) that serves Windows clients. So, these virus scanners detect Windows viruses, not GNU/Linux viruses.

(I don't know whether a virus scanner exists that detects GNU/Linux viruses only, and if one exists, how many viruses are in its database...)

Apart from that, it might be easier to keep GNU/Linux safe (which I think it is today, whatever the reason) than to make Windows safe. It seems, even GNU/Linux "newbs" are aware of the implications of being "root" during an RPM install. Many Windows users don't know what "Administrator" is.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

The only problem with this argument is that Linux and open source software are already over 40%, which is higher than MS software (in other words, more servers on the Internet run Linux than MS software and the number is higher if you include Unix/Unix variants).

How come MS software/servers are the only ones with this problem if Linux (and Unix) servers are already the most popular software/OS combination in the world of running the Internet?

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Maybe Microsoft is trying to keep Windows unstable, so customers have reason to upgrade to the next one in hope of slight improvement... ($$$) - just a thougt.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Wait a minute! This is a very serious thing you say.

I mean, it's Microsoft we're talking about. They wouldn't do something that mean, would they?


uslacker's picture
Submitted by uslacker on

Curious as to why you find the problem is with MS and not with the security camera s/w vendor? Cannot a bad driver or bad applicaiton make the system unusable regardless of thw OS? Have you tried just killing the app or process associated with the app?

As for scheduling the reboot itself, surely the Scheduled task tools is easier to use than cron. Please - unless you use cron every month, you have to hit the man page to figure out that arcane syntax.

And as for Monad - does every tool you use on Linux come with the distro - or did you have to install them yourself? How many did you actually have to compile?

My friend - Linux will move forward when its evangelists start discussing its' virtues for their own merit - not for how it is better than Windows or worse yet - why MS sucks.


Ken Leyba's picture
Submitted by Ken Leyba on

As noted in the post three different applications, all on Windows, have a similar issue. One is security camera software, second is user login statistics package and the last is Intrusion Detection. The common thread, Windows. Could all three be badly programmed applications? Sure, but MS can't always rely on this answer like they similarly did with Anti-virus vendors.

Scheduled Task was easy to setup, it just didn't work. The only solution that we could come up with is to join the machine to a domain, which we were able to make work. It seemed silly to join a domain on a standalone machine, and shouldn't be required.

Bash and cron are standard on most if not all Linux distributions. This is similar to Task Scheduler and the Windows XP command language. This also goes along with Perl and Python, distrubutions commonly use these programming languages in their distributions tools.

I am not an Linux evangelist, as I support both Windows servers and desktops, as well as Linux servers and desktops. Becasue of Linux's "own merit" is why I am migrating as many services as I can to Linux.

Thanks for reading and the comments.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Since i know one or the other Windows Hack (out of Necessity) i could have told you how to do it:

Write a batch script named "restart.bat"

which has only this one line:

shutdown -r

Then you can use the Task planner to schedule this script to be executed weekly.

It should have worked your way too, i admit that. But there IS a possibility for elegant solutions on Windows. Now and then.

Author information

Ken Leyba's picture


Ken has been working in the IT field since the early 80's, first as a hardware tech whose oscilloscope was always by his side, and currently as a system administrator. Supporting both Windows and Linux, Windows keeps him consistently busy while Linux keeps his job fun.