Oct 12

Windows Store: Show me the numbers.

If you haven’t yet read my post from yesterday, please do. It’s very relevant to this conversation. As I stated – The Windows Store doesn’t need a large number of apps to be successful. It needs a number of great apps that drive people to the platform.

Sermon aside, I know many people are visiting this site to find out where the store is at, and where it may be by 10/26. So let’s have a look.

As of today, the Windows Store has 3,610 Windows Store apps available for purchase or free download. This is a non-trivial increase, and I’ve been seeing an average of 118 apps per day, but it ebbs and flows. Nothing so far matches the huge increase seen on 9/13, but during three days of the last week, over 240 apps hit the store each day. Charted with the earlier data, here is the result:

Pretty strong growth. If you trend that out, the Windows Store will indeed be at over 5,000 apps by launch day.

There was a rush of paid apps that became available, but generally a much higher percentage of apps coming in the store have been free. As of today, 88% of the store’s global inventory consists of free apps. Here’s how that has been trending:

There are a total of 1,837 developers (both individuals and organizations) represented in the store, with the majority having one application available each, though a large number have submitted 2 or more up to about 5. Above that, the spread gets thinner, with the top 10 developers all having 20 or more applications in the store. The top development organization has 96 applications, and the second most is the individual who previously had the most – who now has 51 applications available. There are quite a few larger organizations represented in the Windows Store, such as Asus, AT&T, Amazon (of course),  BMW, eBay, NBCUniversal, Toshiba, and Viacom among others – but I’m also seeing a lot of apps written by individual developers, and a fair amount from Microsoft IT consulting organizations as well.

Many apps on the store are smaller, unitasking apps – the kind I’d frankly like to see less of, since it makes the store harder to navigate. In some ways, these small tchotchke apps are like the Windows command-line tools of yore – power toys for power users. Nice to have, but I’m hoping we start to see some truly unique, well-designed apps that reflect the tenets I mentioned yesterday.

From here on out, all stats are for the US English store (which still has the largest app inventory, at 2,420 apps).

Here’s how the categories break down:

The top two categories are the same, but games have declined 2% in the overall inventory (down from 20%), Entertainment is up 1%, and Tools is up dramatically, from 5% to 10%. Education is up dramatically, from 4% previously. Unfortunately, all of this took a toll on productivity, which is down 2% to 6% of overall inventory today. The Music and Video and Lifestyle categories were unchanged.

94% of the titles that are on x86 or x64 are available on ARM at the current time – though it remains to be seen if that changes after developers can obtain Windows RT systems to test their applications on.

Microsoft’s Mail, Calendar, and Contacts suite of applications has the largest number of ratings submissions by users, at 1,511 – with a rating of 3.2. A rating I expect to improve over time as Microsoft enhances and improves the somewhat constrained applications. The app with the second most ratings is Fruit Ninja, with a rating of 4.0. Aside from that, the apps with the most ratings so far are generally those from Microsoft, landing most in high 3 to 4.x territory.


Sep 12

Introducing! The new iPhone Disappointment!

No. This isn’t going to be one of those posts. It’s not going to be derisive about Apple at all. So if you came here for a good old fashioned “Steve Jobs wouldn’t have done that” beating, you might want to just click back or close this tab.

Even at the age of 39, I still enjoy visiting Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Why? Because, if you let your mind go, and your imagination wander, they’re amazing places. For a lot of grownups, if you look around either Disney park, you’ll see a bunch of concrete buildings, fake plants and lakes, and a shipload of stores. As Tim Berners-Lee used to tell his children, “Everything you don’t understand is magic.”

If you’re a magician and you hang around other magicians, I can only imagine magic could, well… lose it’s magic.

Among the technophiles I follow on Twitter, most were either in the “this is a disappointment” (net negative) or “I expected more” (net neutral) camp, though a fair amount were still positive about the changes. A little over a year ago, I wrote about my philosophy on the evolutionary/revolutionary cycles that the iPhone generally goes through. To that end, this year should have been a revolutionary cycle. And honestly it was. Stay with me for a second.

In the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi“, there is a brilliant dialog from, I believe, one of Jiro’s former apprentices. In his segment, he discusses how Jiro’s eldest son must not just meet Jiro’s standards when Jiro passes away or stops working there, but instead his son must work twice as hard or risk losing customers simply due to perception. That is possibly the case. But the core of the matter is, only Jiro’s most steadfast critics wouldn’t go there simply because Jiro is gone. But imagine Jiro’s son had started the restaurant, and Jiro had never been there? All of a sudden, the units of measure change.

Most consumers don’t intimately track iPhone evolution. Most consumers don’t intimately track phones. Most consumers don’t have the time or wherewithall to keep track of the megafoo and Near-Field bar. The reality is that this SNL Verizon video wasn’t comedy to any consumer that watched it. It was documentary.

Consumers don’t buy iPhones because they want the latest foo or bar. They buy iPhones because the device – the Apple ecosystem – is a known quantity that works for them. Apple has turned electronics into appliances. Rather foolproof appliances. Most consumers love that idea.

So while the geeks look at today’s iPhone and laugh at how technologically inadequate the iPhone 5 is, how Apple “dropped the ball” (again!), and how “Steve Jobs would never have released this!”, the reality is this “disappointing” device will sell in volumes and at price points that will school effectively every other phone produced this year. Because it just works. That it is thinner, lighter, faster, has better battery life, and a larger screen? Handy. Doesn’t matter. It’s the new iPhone. It will continue to keep the wind in Apple’s sales.

Sep 12

How not to announce a consumer electronics device in 2012 – a lesson from Nokia

When you get a piece of spam, there are a couple of key components to it.

  1. There’s a subject line – intended to make the reader excited to “make money fast” or “make cheap international phone calls”.
  2. There’s an assortment of flattering text, sometimes pictures, and other components to the message, designed to both delude and confuse the reader into thinking this is a legitimate offer.
  3. Finally, there’s a call to action. A hook. In most spam, this is a hyperlink to a churn and burn URL, but in some it’s an email address, a phone number, or dumbest of all, a stock symbol that the reader is expected to go buy.

Without the hook – the call to action, spam has no point. Neither does marketing as a whole. If I tell you about my awesome new “Foo 2.0”, but don’t provide you with any call to action for it, you’ve got to be pretty darn smitten with it to keep it front of mind until you find out actionable information.

Nokia did this just this week. Video gaffe aside – Nokia likely spent a considerable sum to announce two phones – all things considered, two interesting phones, with good industrial design and some very interesting camera technology. But they announced them the same week that several other phones, and an entirely new lineup of Amazon Kindle devices were also announced. Most of these other devices were either immediately able to be ordered or had an availability date.

Worse, though, is the upcoming week’s news. Once a year, Apple sucks the wind out of everyone else’s mobile phone sails – even if only temporarily – by announcing the new model of iPhone for the year. Love it or hate it, no other phone, yet, can create that sort of resonance.

Let’s assume, for a second, the Nokia phones last week captured your interest. It could be the fact that they’re the first Windows Phone 8 phones, perhaps it’s the amazing cameras they offer, or the design aesthetics of the phones – or some combination of all three. If the Nokia interests you at all, you’ll have to wait to make your decision. You don’t know how much it will cost, whether it will be on the carrier you currently use (or have to stay with, perhaps because of family members who are mid-contract), or even when it will be available.

Now let’s assume you’re just thinking about getting a new smart phone. Next week when Apple announces the new iPhone (likely called, creatively, “The New iPhone”), you’ve got an immediate call to action (it can likely be pre-ordered online immediately), you’ll know whether the iPhone will be available on your carrier (if you’re a US customer, unless it’s T-Mobile, it will be), and you’ll know the price (most likely the same price structure as the 4S was last year).

It’s highly likely that Microsoft or Nokia had reasons for Nokia’s announcement last week not containing an availability date, price, or carrier information. But I believe in omitting them, Nokia missed the opportunity to motivate potential buyers to the point of (pre)sale. More importantly, by not closing the deal last week with potential buyers interested in both Nokia’s news and the new iPhone, any momentum Nokia had out of last week’s press event will be lost to next week’s Apple news, and some number of sales lost to iPhone purchases instead. Given no call to action last week, I believe that Nokia should have held back on their news until they were prepared with a true launch event and device availability.

Aug 12

Exchange ActiveSync – it’s the new domain join

If you have been following the development of Windows 8 – in particular as Windows RT – the variant of Windows destined for ARM-based processors, there’s a good chance you heard the collective weeping earlier this year about Windows RT, and what it meant to the manageability (or unmanageability, as the case may be) of Windows RT devices. The fact that Windows RT devices cannot be joined to a Windows Active Directory domain may at first glance seem like a horrible decision, and one that could cost the platform. But that isn’t the case, and in fact Microsoft made a wise decision to go the route they did with Windows RT. Follow along with me, and I’ll show you why.

When Windows NT was young, both before and after the arrival of Active Directory, most client computers were desktops, not laptops or any other sort of mobile device. A computer was practically a fixture in each office, whether shared between users or one per user. But the main thing is – the computer didn’t move that much, and for the longest time, before the Windows ZAK and ZAW tools/philosophies back in the 1990’s, Microsoft’s client management was relatively passive.

As Windows NT blossomed into Windows 2000, Active Directory and the Intellimirror client management technologies came along and assisted in the management of client device applications, user data and settings, and deeper into the management of the operating system itself. Myself, as Windows Whistler turned into Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, I owned Remote Installation Services (RIS), a cobbled-together piece of technology that enabled a naked PC to boot to the network and install an OS and applications. As a result, my focus was often around the client, the client, the client… But you know what? I realized a bit after we shipped XP that the client doesn’t matter. The most important thing was, and is, the user. Can the user get to the resources they need, whenever they need them? Can the user get the applications they need? Can they get up and running quickly if their device goes down? Active Directory became the central hub, machines were joined to the domain in order to enable single sign-on to Exchange, Windows File Servers, SQL Servers (even RIS) and the like.

While laptops were still good candidates to be joined to Active Directory, since they would connect to corporate networks more often, handheld devices (and eventually smartphones) were poor candidates because they were often not connected to the corporate network – but what they were connected to religiously was Exchange. While your phone may not need files from corporate shares, it did need email and calendar data – and it needed it often. When ActiveSync added the ability to wipe devices if lost, a new role for Exchange – a confusing one, some might say – was born. Exchange became the device management framework for non-Windows devices. With Windows RT, it became the management framework for a class of Windows devices, too.

Earlier today, I had to add my company email account on a new Samsung Slate running Windows 8. During the process, I was told to do that, certain policies would have to be enforced on the device. Much like Group Policy of old, I wasn’t told what these policies would be, just that I needed to let them be applied. Given that my data can be synchronized to SharePoint (through SkyDrive Pro), SkyDrive, and iCloud, and key security policies can be enforced through ActiveSync, we are gradually moving away from a world of “Active Directory Users and Computers” where all devices belong to Active Directory. We are also moving to a world where Exchange is increasingly hosted, and SharePoint and Lync are gradually as well, and where single sign-on means Active Directory on premises synchronized to the cloud, Microsoft Accounts used for local authentication and synchronization, and ActiveSync (plus Configuration Manager or Windows Intune) to perform broader management.

While Windows RT devices not joining Active Directory surely came as a shock to Windows administrators, and it will require some retraining, the reality is that Windows RT devices are now set up to compete more equitably against the iPad, as a sealed, secure device with fixed management functionality provided through the mobile management framework Windows administrators have become accustomed to over the last 10 years.

Aug 12

The odd couple…

Just over two weeks ago, my ThinkPad did the unthinkable. It died.

Technically, the hard drive died. All that really matters is that 1)I lost a ton of data I hadn’t backed up (BAD GEEK!), and 2)I didn’t have a computer for almost 3 days.

What I did have was a Samsung Series 7 slate. A colleague had gone to the Office 2013 launch and was given a loaner device that he had lent to me for a while. Equipped with the Windows Release Preview and Office 2013 beta, I had already set up both my work and home email accounts on it. Work on Windows Mail (because Outlook 2013 wouldn’t connect to our Exchange 2007 hosted server) and home on Outlook 2013 (because Windows mail didn’t support IMAP or POP3 in the release preview).

I’m looking forward to really giving Windows 8 (or Windows RT!) a try on a device such as a Surface system, rather than the Samsung. The Series 7 device was designed for Windows 7, not Windows 8, and you can feel it. It’s thick, heavy, klunky, hot, the battery doesn’t last that well, and it takes a very long time to resume (compared to my iPad 2).

But that’s the device. Let’s put that out of sight for a second. We’re here to talk about Windows 8.

My only option, while I needed to get work done as I found a replacement for, and replaced, my ThinkPad’s hard disk, was the Windows 8 Samsung Slate.

I helped ship Windows XP – so understand that I have a weird sentimental attachment to it – “teletubbies theme” and all. It took me a long time to get used to Windows 7. While I do now love the “Search programs and files” feature in the Start Menu, I still use the Start Menu itself, as well as applications pinned to the taskbar. What I still don’t like is the Windows Control Panel in any version of Windows since XP. I haven’t since Windows 2000. It has become so cluttered and overloaded with “tasks” instead of applets, that the only way to find things is to search – and, to me, search is an atrocious discoverability method (in my non-clinical opinion).

With that in mind, it may be easier to understand why Windows 8 feels, as I mentioned on Twitter, like a friend who picked up an obnoxious habit I can’t stand. I’m still not used to the Metro Modern apps interface on Windows 8, and I think it does more to inhibit my productivity, not enhance it.

Windows 8 was evolving up until the last minute, and as some of my followers on both Twitter and this blog can attest to, I’ve many had qualms along the way. If you believe anything I state below to be incorrect, or you don’t agree, tell me in the comments or on Twitter. I’d like to present, in no particular order, my “Top 10 issues with Windows 8”.

  1. Still compromises mouse/keyboard to optimize for touch – My chief complaint when evaluating Windows 8 on a desktop or in a virtual machine was frustration with how optimized the operating system was for touch. Using a mouse means retraining yourself and pinning key apps to the Taskbar, or memorizing an insane amount of keyboard shortcuts. Who wants to do that just to run applications that worked fine with a previous version of Windows? This hasn’t changed. The tutorial is a nice consideration, but the reality is that Windows 8 is largely biased towards touch – which means it still gives mouse/keyboard users the finger. It is true, you can use Alt+Tab, Taskbar pinning, and innumerable other Windows desktop features while it is in desktop “mode”, but if you need to search for anything, or start an unpinned app, you’ve always got to go into the Start page and it is visually jarring to go back and forth, and to use Charms which are present on the desktop, but jam you over into Metro Modern land as soon as you actually try to use them. Office is, and will be, a continuously available driver of Windows sales for some time, and yet Charms are not intertwined into Office. Apps like OneNote, Word, and Outlook should be integrated tightly with the feature, yet aren’t (and can’t be).
  2. Omnipresent “Charms” often don’t do anything – I’m sure this will be better in time, but I’ve run into too many cases where the Charms bar, always there with a swipe in from the right or a quick Windows Key+C, doesn’t have much to do.  The fact that these charms are application contextual is actually somewhat frustrating to me. Search, Sharing, Devices, and Settings are often without a role in many apps – especially games. The Windows key on the charm bar is duplicitous to the physical hardware Windows button present on all devices (but is handy when that button ceases to work, as mine has several times). Sharing and Devices depend on contracts from other apps to be able to do anything, and these contracts are sparsely implemented today. Some apps, such as the built-in newsreader, you would expect to have sharing innately with – but I found that to often not be the case when I was testing. In addition, it isn’t always entirely clear when you share, what exactly you are sharing. Sometimes I found myself really missing the simplicity of Ctrl+C and the clipboard, and the complexity of contracts felt overwhelming and frustrating.
  3. Apps management is cumbersome, frustrating – I have had at least three devices associated with my Windows Live Microsoft Account. I’ve obtained applications (free or trial) with all three. I’m curious why, with so much built-in roaming/sync support, that Windows 8 doesn’t offer a “restore your purchases” option when I first log in to the device with my Microsoft Account. I also challenge any person from Microsoft who swipes at Apple with the “sea of icons” term they like using, to add about 20 apps to their Windows 8 slate, and really show me how usable it is. With only marginal support for grouping, strange settings for some apps to have smaller tiles by default and others to have larger ones, no ability to create strong groups that can be easily hidden or shown as iOS can do, a lot of apps on Windows 8’s Start page becomes just as difficult to use as Windows Phone 7’s lengthy list. Semantic zoom, often discussed as a way around this, confuses me entirely, and doesn’t, I don’t believe, aid the user at all in actually finding their applications.
  4. Settings – Consistently inconsistent – much like Charms as a whole, settings (configuration) across the OS is befuddling. Applications have their own settings that are configured through their Charm bar, Windows 8’s “Modern” UI also has it’s own settings through the Charm bar when it’s in focus, and then there is the Control Panel. I know, I’m a weird power user. But I found it frustrating how some settings are in in the Control panel (which is no easier to use than it has been in any recent release of Windows – it’s a jambalaya of options, and you have to pick through it to find the shrimp), and others are in the Charm bar. The whole thing feels oddly schizophrenic, as if someone ran out of time to refactor the whole thing into the “Modern” interface.
  5. Picture password – convenient, but a security nightmare – Almost 10 years ago, I had a Motion Computing M1200 Windows Tablet PC Edition slate device. I really wanted to like it. But in the end, there was little, besides OneNote, that I could do with it that I couldn’t do with a standard laptop. What do I recall most with that device? The sheer pain of trying to press Ctrl+Alt+Del, which required a keyboard lock contortion,  followed by entering in my Redmond credentials every time I wanted to log on to it. Talk about something that makes you decide to just keep your device in the bag. My Motion, as my Lenovo today, also supports fingerprint authentication. For some reason, that terrifies me, so I never use it. Windows 8 has, to ease this pain, offered a new mechanism called “Picture Password”, where much like a fingerprint, you replace your traditional password with a combination of three gestures (taps, slides, or circles) that are performed over a picture on your desktop. In general it works. But I’m concerned with how tolerant the system is, as well as how secure it is. I think it’s likely using the same storage mechanism as a fingerprint, so is relatively secure from that angle. But I’m concerned that gestures that are often made on a slate will tend to be visible on the (dirty) screen, so may compromise the system. It’s obvious why Picture Password was created, but my concern is that if used in an enterprise setting, it could be a suboptimal option to keep systems secure, but would be preferred because entering passwords ever time you resume – especially with Windows 8’s keyboard – is a royal pain.
  6. Keyboard layout, inconsistencies – I find the default keyboard layout – because I often use numbers in my password – incredibly annoying. I’ve changed it to the more traditional Windows keyboard layout which, frankly, wasn’t easy to do. More to the point, when I try and use the desktop side of Windows 8, such as IE or Office apps, the keyboard is inconsistent. It doesn’t appear when I try and tap inside of an IE address bar  and there is no keyboard attached, yet hides at a moment’s notice when trying to type in a password after I’ve just typed in a username (for, say, a Twitter authentication dialog). In many ways, the keyboard isn’t there when you need it, and is there when you don’t. Rather frustrating in daily use.
  7. TMI, ADHD triggers – I’ll admit it – I’m a fan of iOS primarily because it elects to simplify things down to the bare elements. Much as the Windows Mail app does in Windows 8 (a little too far, omitting things such as multi-select, easily navigable folders). But Windows 8 often puts too much in your face. I hadn’t ever been to New York City until this year, and Times Square at night is an incredibly sensory exploding experience. I have an insane amount of contacts in Windows 8, since it links together Facebook  friends (I have over 350) and Twitter connections (I follow 1000 people, and over 2200 people follow me). Throw this all together in the people app, and it’s an unnavigable mess. The calendar app is chock full of Facebook birthdays, most of which – not to belittle my Facebook connections – are not terribly interesting for me to have at a moment’s notice. Finally, the Live Tiles, featuring animations, are unbearable to me. On iOS, I’m completely obsessive compulsive about clearing out mail, Twitter, and Facebook notifications. But the constantly in motion Live Tiles, which don’t often have much to say, are like a 6 year old hopped up on Sprite – they never stop moving – and it’s almost unnerving to me. I’ve turned all of the default ones off, though I expect I will find some handy for things like Mail, Twitter, or the like (or a real Facebook app, should one arrive). I really wish that Windows 8 had simply mimicked iOS’ notifications, rather than going overboard with Live Tiles.
  8. Kind of a lonely place, and a little bit confusing – I know, I know. I’m playing with an OS that is 4 days old, and isn’t even in consumer’s hands. Many app vendors (hopefully) are likely standing down until the 10/26 GA and launch, and the arrival of devices specifically designed for Windows 8 and Windows RT. But for now, somewhere south of 400 apps, very few of them that bold, are in the Windows Store. Personally I’m not a fan of any of the Twitter clients in the Windows Store – they all, to me, mirror the most fragile contract of all with Windows 8, that of the designer. With their Metro Modern UI, Microsoft has made a bold bet that the designer, not the developer, is the crucial linchpin to a successful app in the Windows Store. I think many of the developers so far didn’t get the message. It is, again, like a trip back to Times Square. Too much information, no clarity, no flow. It’s hard to grasp the direction of the design of so many of the apps, as they just seem jammed in on the screen, and it is hard to tell how to progress on an app. Many UI metaphors that I now take for granted on iOS such as pull to refresh, or simple swipes, aren’t available. With some apps, swipes are required, but often take multiple swipes to get the app to register my action. I haven’t found rotation problems to exist yet, but I haven’t tried many Metro Modern apps to see how “rotationally aware” they are. Similarly, I need to try using Snap with a few more – but the few I tried weren’t very good examples – few apps snap down to a useful view when only 1/4 of the real estate is available.
  9. 16×9 landscape gets frustrating – an iPad features one button. A home button. No standard “Charms”. Navigating back to the Start page on the Samsung is a nuisance, physically. I’ll admit, I have small hands. But on an iPad, my hands can work the home button whatever direction my iPad is situated. I can also easily get back to the home screen with the iOS “pinch to close” gesture. The 16×9 landscape layout of the Samsung – in addition to being physically arduous due to the device’s size and weight (again, it’s a legacy device), is a royal pain. Getting back to the Start page with the button often involves re-situating both hands. Or it involves using the Start button on the Charm bar. Which then makes me ponder to myself, “if there’s both an omnipresent physical and digital button that do the same thing, one of them is either not very usable, or I’m missing something“. To me, the answer is that, especially on a 16×9 landscape layout, the physical home button suffers from usability issues.
  10. Discoverability/intuitiveness (gestures) – I’ve gotten into quite a few theological conversations on Twitter about this one. I personally find that the gestures necessary to move apps around the Start page are hard to learn, almost impossible to discover, and just plain frustrating to try and use. When trying to select an app, I’d accidentally move it. When trying to move it, I’d just select it. I’d move it to one location, and it would inexplicably cause the other tiles near it to explode in a seemingly random pattern. The description was provided at Build that Microsoft “didn’t want to have modes” such as those that are required on iOS. I’m not a huge fan of the way iOS does management or deletion on-screen, but it works. The inconsistency with which gestures are implemented in Metro Modern (pull to unsnap) and the desktop (touch and hold) is frustrating – as if two teams (that didn’t like each other) were responsible for gestures in their respective regions of Windows.

Yesterday, a neighbor was trying, diligently, to shake an opinion of Windows 8 out of me. I was being as diplomatically friendly as I could be, especially after she told me how frustrated her husband got when his computer at work was upgraded from Windows XP to Windows 7. I told her that I thought Windows 8 would provide the best experience when provided on new hardware, not when used with an existing desktop system. I also told her that I felt it was still rather frustrating to use with a mouse, and was very touch-centric. I believe very strongly that both of these are the case. Many have pointed to the Ribbon – an interface many Office users resisted as long as they could, but many/most have either become accustomed to (or at least become tolerant of) as an example that users will often resist but come to deal with change. The Ribbon, as huge as it was, is minor compared to the changes in Windows 8. Windows 8 quite literally changes everything about how Windows users interact with Windows and with applications on the device – whether they’re using it with touch (preferred) or keyboard and mouse.

I’m very eager to see how the market for Windows 8 evolves after it truly arrives in October. So much depends on the devices (and their prices) and the Metro Modern applications that arrive on the platform, and how consumers react to the changes in Windows. This is no longer your father’s Windows.

Jul 12

My social media rules of engagement

I’m tired of talking about vapor. I’m tired of beating back rumors and gossip. The rules that follow are for both my followers as well as myself. I’ve recently been realizing how much time I waste in what I am calling “vapor debates”. These are conversations where time is forever lost because I make the mistake of commenting on vapor news, or I stupidly respond after a follower on Twitter nicely asks me my thoughts on (INSERT VAPOR). I’m done. If a product is announced by Apple, Microsoft, or anybody else, it’s fair game. If they don’t announce pricing or availability, I’m going to treat the product as unannounced and not comment on it in social media channels, as there is no basis yet for how, or when, it will fit in the market.

At this point, if Digitimes or the Asian manufacturing channel leaked that Apple was making a “Flying digital donkey” (iDonkey), the press would jump on it, and Twitter would be alight with why Apple is making iDonkey, and why it is a (INSERT OPINION: brilliant | stupid) idea. Windows fans would come along and say Microsoft did that years ago, Open source/FSF fans would come along saying how closed minded and market constraining iDonkey would be, and Apple fans would either blindly espouse the brilliance of iDonkey, or deny it’s existence until it was announced at WWDC or another Apple launch event.

I’m also growing tired of defending my opinion on Windows 8. My discomfort with the single-minded focus on touch over mouse input, and the brute force de-emphasis of the desktop on Windows 8 are my opinion, I believe firmly in that opinion, and I’m entitled to it. Feel free to disagree – you can even tell me on Twitter you disagree, and you think Windows 8 will crush Apple and kill the iPad dead. But I’m done discussing it, so I won’t be responding to it. We’ll see how the market bears it out.

Therefore, my rules of engagement for social media – both Twitter and Facebook (though I do little tech conversation on Facebook) are as follows. I will no longer:

  1. Discuss products not formally announced yet – from any hardware or software vendor.
  2. Discuss products that have been formally announced but have no price AND release date announced yet – from any hardware or software vendor.
  3. Discuss functionality of any software or hardware where the actual facts and features are not available.
  4. Discuss Android vs. iOS market share (device volume vs. profit).
  5. Discuss “App market size” as discerned by sheer volume of apps for sale. It’s a stupid metric.
  6. Debate after I state my opinion. If you ask me my opinion about why an announced or unannounced tech may or may not make sense or why it may not work in reality,  I may tell you my opinion. If you disagree with my opinion, go ahead – it’s your opinion. But I’m no longer letting myself get sucked into debates.

This means I’m no longer talking about a swollen iPhone, shrunken iPad, or television built by Apple. Apple announces them? I discuss them. Until then, it’s talking about patenting rare earth minerals on Mars – theory and BS. This also means I’m no longer participating in any conversations around “PC forecasts” for Windows 8, conversations around “whatever comes after Windows 8”, Windows RT pricing, management, and value, or the next version of Office. Microsoft announces them? I discuss them. Until then, it’s grasping at straws.

I’m tired of vapor debates. I really like Twitter – I feel like it’s very useful to me. But what isn’t useful is the vapor and gossip, or wasting my time when someone doesn’t agree with my opinion as I’ve stated it.


Jun 12

The Windows Registry – It seemed like a good idea at the time

Before I begin, I will disclaim two things. First, I am not a developer. Second, I was not at Microsoft during the formative years of Windows, nor was I there for the creation of Windows 95 or NT 3.1 – I was there during the development of Windows XP and the first 2/3rds of Longhorn’s gestation into Vista.

Depending on who you ask, the Windows Registry is either a necessary evil, or just plain evil. The registry was never intended to hurt anyone or make life difficult – quite the contrary. The registry was intended to right many of the wrongs that the .ini file format used by Windows prior to 95/NT to some extent caused, and couldn’t be resolved without a redesigned approach.

My understanding is that the Windows Registry was originally intended to be a central repository of COM-related information. It grew and blossomed to the point Windows uses it pervasively (.ini files are largely relegated to “portable” applications or applications where the developer has gone out of their way to not use the registry. The registry today is used by Windows beginning at boot, through the entire boot process, and is constantly being queried or written to by applications (run Process Monitor and take a look – Windows apps never shut up when it comes to the registry). It is used for the storage of state information (configuration). User state, application state,  and operating system. Therein lies one of the biggest problems the registry has – it’s a dumping ground – but we’ll get back to that.

Depending on who you ask, .ini files can also have a pretty bad reputation. But they did their job pretty well. .ini files, like the registry, held configuration information. The file structure of .ini files was a section header followed by name/value pairs that could, but didn’t need, quotes.

action="jumps over the lazy dog"

Easy enough, right? Name/value pairs should get you all the configuration state you could want… Or not.

What was wrong with .ini files?

.ini files had several drawbacks. In particular they suffered in that there was:

  1. No uniform storage location.
  2. No central management.
  3. No centralized backup mechanism.
  4. No security infrastructure.
  5. No Unicode, no binary values, no strongly typed values, no arrays (all ASCII text-based).
  6. Little protection against corruption
  7. Slow performance
  8. No central editing capability
  9. No user-friendly tool to edit them
A Windows system with a few applications on it could have dozens of ini files. Securing, backing up, or managing these before NT (really before Windows 2000) was a challenge and realistically an intractable problem. Have to make a change to an application’s ini file? You needed to know where it was and fire up Notepad. Since these were text files on a FAT filesystem, corruption could occur due to a crash or bad shutdown, and you had to F3/scan to find the section you were looking for, and hope that you replaced, didn’t duplicate, the entry or section you were editing (different apps would either get confused, only read the first, or only read the second – either way, it wasn’t good). Finally, these were text files all over the disk, used by applications on a slow Windows system. Hardly a model for good performance.

What’s wrong with the Windows Registry?

Ideally, the solution to fixing the problems with ini files would address all of the weaknesses of .ini files. In fact, the registry did. NT 4 didn’t, but again looking forward to Windows 2000, XP, and current releases, new tools have been added for remote registry access, better management, etc. But the registry itself introduced a whole new set of problems. Many of these I faced the repercussions of when I worked on the Windows setup team at Microsoft. I owned a component called “Remote Installation Services”  (RIS, now called Windows Deployment Services or WDS). RIS was originally named “Remote Boot” as it had been intended to be used to remote boot Windows 2000, but the feature was dramatically cut back, as I understood it largely because of the complexity of booting multiple instances of Windows from one registry source. Where Windows setup used a special loader to boot a Windows kernel using a special, gigantic .ini file (txtsetup.sif), Windows itself used the registry for the same task. This forked behavior changed in Windows Vista, when “text-mode setup” died and Windows PE-based setup replaced it (also at the point when the work resulting from research around the often-misunderstood “MinWin” began being integrated into Windows).
So while the registry did solve those inherent .ini problems, it also brought with it:
  1. A monolithic infrastructure (though multiple files comprise it)
  2. No enforcement or hygiene for key storage (best practices, but no rules)
  3. Corruptible like a Chicago politician, before later updates of XP fixed it
  4. Complex navigation to find the right entries
  5. A need to serialize/deserialize in order to export/import (.ini files live on in the form of )
  6. Heinously complex application installation/uninstallation
  7. An inability to network execute applications.
  8. No hope for drag and drop application installation
  9. No network boot of the OS
  10. Loss of user roaming
  11. Loss of easy user or application migration between PCs
  12. Bad developer hygiene

The “single entry point” of the registry through either regedit.exe/regedt32.exe and .reg files used for import/export of information surely got rid of the problem: “I have no idea where the settings for this application live on the file system”. But instead they also introduced a new problem, “I have no idea where the settings for this application lives in the registry”. You also couldn’t ever be certain if changes you made would be fatal to the application or OS. The fact that Microsoft never provided a broad “undo” feature in the registry even in the event of failed boots really lent credence to their often heard “Abandon hope all ye who enter here” mantra first heard terrifying consumers during the beta of Windows 95 (nee Chicago).

To export and import registry files, the entries (which can be Unicode, and are binary) have to be serialized out. Amusingly if you ever look at a .reg file exported from the registry, entries that are just text are exported in a format effectively identical to .ini files. Data that can’t be represented in that manner (multi-string arrays, for example) get exported in a binary format within the .ini format – effectively a hybrid .ini file.

The Windows registry consists of multiple files stored under C:\Windows\System32\config, which each represent different hives of the registry. So rather than a bunch of files all over your system, a finite number of files store all of the settings used by almost all of Windows and all applications, but it is not mandated where these settings must live. Sure, there are best practices, but no steadfast rules as to where, or how, settings should be stored, and when they should be queried. As a result, we can see those applications polling the snot out of the registry… WHY?!?!?! Because the registry had no barrier between operating system state, application state, and user state, Windows lost, then slowly regained features such as network boot of the operating system (Hibernate Once, Read Many, or HORM, in Windows Embedded), network-based, one-click application deployment (App-V) which works using filesystem and registry tricks. In fact, if you look closely at a lot of the features in Windows 2000’s IntelliMirror featureset, the need for many of them can really be traced back directly to the registry. Even Windows Group Policy, which applies templates of settings against the registry, would arguably have been easier to implement with .ini files. Intriguingly, template files for Group Policy are now XML-based. Windows XP also began a herculean effort to separate Windows user interface strings (like “Control Panel”) from the registry that should have either been in a standalone configuration file or DLL to begin with. This wasn’t really completed until Longhorn. The “Multilingual User Interface” (MUI) packs in Windows XP will often expose this. For example, one area of the OS will say “Control Panel” and others will say “Panello di Controllo” when running Windows XP Italian MUI.

Had proper state separation between the OS/apps/user been maintained, and not in a monolithic per-system datastore, Windows might be significantly easier to deploy, manage, and secure today (though it would surely have other foibles as a result).

Microsoft has bought whole companies to try and undo some of the mayhem caused by the registry – but most of them are duct-tape bandaging over the problem, not fixing it (Softricity, Apptimum). Even many of the tools we made at Winternals were necessary to try and repair a system because of the registry.

Personally I’ve always been frustrated at how long Windows takes both to install the OS (something we tried to rectify with Longhorn by putting down an image of the OS instead of hand-stitching the registry at deployment time – one of the aspects of Windows setup that took the longest prior to Vista. But what about applications? Applications are simply a bundle of files and registry settings, and their installers exist solely to bind the collection of files to the operating system. So why did Windows installer ever become such a slow, cumbersome means of installing applications? Why couldn’t Windows applications, like many Mac applications, simply be click to install? The complexity introduced by the registry made the installation of the OS, and applications, take far longer than it ever should have. Simply recall running Office from a network share on Windows 3.1. It didn’t have to be this complicated.

I often felt that at Microsoft, sometimes the cool solution won out rather than the simple solution. Sure, the registry had some promise to fix problems inherent to the .ini file format. But I have to wonder if it didn’t create more problems than it solved, and if the creators (or Microsoft management) understood the problems created by it if they would have ever gone the registry route, or tried to advance the .ini file format.

What does everybody else do?

The configuration files used for Linux and for NeXTSTEP are/were also text-based. Prior to OS X 10.0 shipping, NeXT systems used a “pref” file format that looked, to me, similar in some ways to JSON data, but served the same purpose as a .ini file. Apple, for better or worse, drank the XML Kool-Aid and switched these over to XML – but not XML as you know it. It was an XML format that only a mother could love (see related reading at the end of this post).

Apple later switched to a binary pref file format. All three pref file formats can be found within OS X today. I don’t believe that there is a central editing facility for pref files across OS X, but there is a built-in editor that can be used by consumers, though I’d hardly call it user-friendly.

So why did OS X switch? The most likely culprit is performance, though there is some marginal claim that it was done for space reasons. I can tell you when we built the WIM imaging format for Windows Longhorn, we started with an XML file manifest of all the files we were storing (leading to haxors having a field day with the image we handed out at PDC 2003). When we switched not long after PDC to a binary format for the file manifest, it did indeed result in a significantly smaller file, but more importantly, it improved performance quite dramatically. The haxors who had earlier tinkered with the WIM format accused us of changing to binary to foil them. Couldn’t have been further from the truth.  So I think Apple likely changed primarily for performance, regardless of what was said.

So what would be better for Windows in the future?

Simply put? Binary .ini files. I don’t believe any version of Windows we’ll see for the foreseeable future will throw out the registry for any new format, so making wishes is likely a wasted exercise. Designing this new format with proper state separation between settings for the OS, applications, and the user are all separated would be key. Realistically, it should be a melding of .ini files and the registry – but in many ways would more likely be a cloning of the pref file infrastructure from OS X. Amusingly, as we look towards Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, the registry very much lives on, and is not dead – though a user’s day to day activities are less reliant upon it. Applications in the new WinRT realm may not know about it directly, but will wind up having some state stored there on their behalf by the operating system. Other application and user state for WinRT apps? Well, it’ll likely live in XML manifest and other configuration files stored with the application itself or in the user’s profile. The new old thing.

Related Reading

  1. A Forensic Analysis Of The Windows Registry
  2. Comparing the Mac OS X Property List to the Windows Registry
  3.  INI file (Wikipedia)
  4. Apple’s Property List XML Is Pointless


Jun 12

Stupid SkyDrive Tricks

The iPad is equipped with many things. One of those things is a double-edged sword that can reach out and cut you. The beauty of the iPad is it’s simplicity. However, when you live in a Windows world and use an iPad, you often run into places where Apple’s simplicity runs counter to getting things done.

Now, many of you will snicker at what follows. Some will shake your head, and say, “WTH?”. Still others will say, “Why doesn’t he just use SharePoint?”… I know, I know…

If you work in a Windows environment, you need to sometimes get files from an SMB server. No matter how hard Microsoft may evangelize SharePoint, there are still quite a few SMB servers in use around the world. Well, one of them is in our office. We exchange documents using a checkin/checkout process on our central SMB server. Great, but what about when you’re at home, or traveling, and a PC with a VPN isn’t handy and you just want to take a quick look at a document? Well, you’re SOL.

There is no SMB file browser on the iPad. There are a couple of third party apps that attempt to do this, but most I’ve seen were way more complicated than they needed to be, or added yet more infrastructure cost to the network (add a server, etc).

I had an idea for an approach to do this that is remarkably simple, but the more I thought about it, I kept thinking about the “Fetch” feature added to the latest version of SkyDrive. This feature lets you fetch (read-only, no write) files that are on your Windows system at work. If it’s on, you’re logged in, and SkyDrive is running, you can grab local files. So I thought to myself, if I’m that close… is there some way to get the files off of the UNC?

Ever since I was at Microsoft, I loved tinkering with junctions to do some stupid tricks with Windows (creating directories that don’t really exist, but point to an actual directory). For example, there was a trick in Windows Server 2003’s briefly included POP3 Server where you could create email aliases for a user just by making a junction to a user’s actual inbox. Not supported, but it worked.

In Windows before Vista, there was no way to link a remote UNC to a local path. That changed in Vista, when symbolic links arrived. So you can make a local directory mapped to a remote one by typing:

mklink /D c:\<localdirectoryalias> \\<server>\<share>\ (down to the subdirectory level)

So, I did this, to see what would happen when I browsed to SkyDrive. Sure enough, it showed up when I browsed from Windows or my Mac. Since I was already authenticated to the share on my desktop, I could browse anything. And from another Windows machine, Mac, etc, it worked fine.

Unfortunately, Microsoft elected to omit the “Fetch” functionality from the iPad app (probably for good security reason), so I couldn’t try it from there. They also do user agent sniffing when you browse to SkyDrive on an iPad and just say, “go get the SkyDrive app for iPad”. Disappointing. There is no way to manipulate the browser user agent in Safari, so I thought I was out of luck.

But I recalled that several iPad browsers do let you muck with the user agent. I tried Dolphin Browser HD first. Dolphin is actually a pretty great iOS browser, with some elegant touches like gestures. If I could make it the default browser, I probably would. Anyway, I switched Dolphin to “Desktop Mode”, and sure enough, I got in to the site, to see this (note the box on the left, indicating a computer where files are able to be fetched from):


When I tried browsing to it, I was prompted for a security code (each device/browser needs to be authenticated to connect to this remote machine). This required sending a text message to my default phone number. I entered that, and browsed in to my My Documents directory, where I had added the symlink (highlighted in red):

I got all the way into the directory, browsed around, and was able to open several image files, but it neither wanted to let me open the file in Word Web App, or let me download them. But what did work was selecting a file, selecting to copy it to my SkyDrive, and then opening or editing it from within the iPad SkyDrive app.

So, far from perfect, but I can now open a Word document for editing (not for saving) from an SMB server on the company network, using an iPad only connected to the network. Mission accomplished.

This of course does open up security questions. But realistically, if I am authenticated as me, and you let me install the SkyDrive app (which features fetch and, to my knowledge, fetch cannot be disabled through GPO), then have I compromised anything? Security along the way includes:

  1. I have to be logged on locally as me (need my domain password)
  2. I have to be connected to that network share as me (need my domain password)
  3. I have to log on to SkyDrive’s Web site (need my Microsoft password)
  4. I have to authenticate using SkyDrive’s SMS-based challenge/response (need my phone)

Should this terrify some companies? Sure. Should some people find it handy? I hope so.



May 12

Windows 8 – Who moved my desktop?

After I graduated from college, I briefly sold Volkswagens. As I’ve pondered the metamorphosis of Windows from a desktop-focused to a tablet-focused operating system, I keep reliving an experience with a specific customer during that time.

This customer came in, and when engaged, said – perhaps unsurprisingly, “I want to buy a car”. I asked him what kind of car he was looking for. He replied, “either a VW Cabrio or a Toyota pickup”.

I’d heard customers thinking of a Miata or a Cabrio (both being convertibles), or even comparing a Jetta and Passat, since they weren’t sure how much room they needed without trying the two differently sized sedans. But a convertible and a pickup truck?

Inquiring deeper, I was able to learn why he was contemplating them. He regularly needed to haul loads to a worksite, but really wanted a convertible. Really it was coming down to the vehicle he needed (the pickup) vs. the vehicle he wanted (the convertible). Eventually, we took a test drive, and while he enjoyed that, he gradually came to the realization that he needed the pickup, and for now, the Cabrio made no sense, and went on his way.

When I look at Windows 8 today, I see an operating system that is trying so hard to be a tablet operating system that, in some ways, it has compromised it’s integrity as a desktop operating system (whereas Windows 7 was a very good desktop operating system that offered very limited value for tablet-based computing).

I worry that in the melee of transforming Windows to be so tablet-centric OS, Microsoft may in fact convince people that an iPad is all that they need to get their job done. Confused? Follow this scenario:

  1. Consumer wants to get new computer, goes to store (physical or online).
  2. Consumer sees the spectrum of Windows tablets, and sees (I believe) a reduction in the selection of “desktop” PCs.
  3. Consumer takes heed of how tablet-focused the ecosystem is now, and decides, “well, if a Windows tablet would suffice for me, I’d bet an iPad will too”
  4. Consumer walks out of the store (or browses to Apple.com) and buys an iPad.
Very likely, that customer will face some modicum of regret, if they expected a 1:1 experience with any previous PC they’ve had, but for some consumers who predominantly use their Windows PC for Web access or e-mail, it is enough. But at the same time, if the iPad doesn’t suffice for them, I personally believe that the fact that OS X is, in many ways, an easier experience than Windows 8 when no direct touch is available (only a mouse or trackpad). So customers deterred from buying a Windows system due to Windows 8 not meshing with their expectations could in fact opt for an iPad, if not a Mac.

In essence, by going “whole tablet” with Windows 8, Microsoft is in some ways pointing out the iPad to consumers that might not have felt it viable before.  I’m concerned as well that in addition to the likely broad selection of devices, the range of prices, and the potential for confusion that Windows RT could inject into the consumer purchasing scenario vis-à-vis Windows 8  (“Vista Capable” ring any bells?), that consumers could well be accidentally swayed to opt instead for an iPad or a Mac in order to avoid trying to sort out which make, model, version, and specs are right for them.

May 12

Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 – The fork in the road

I’ve spent a fair amount of time recently trying to get to know PowerShell. I’ve never been a developer, but I did write a fair amount of Windows Script Host (WSH) both at Microsoft and since then – much to the chagrin of some of the developers I worked with. The more time I’ve spent with PowerShell, Windows Server 2012, and Windows 8, the more I’ve realized that we’re at the beginning of something pretty unusual – in a way, a bifurcation of the Windows server and consumer client conjoined twins that have existed since Windows XP.

Prior to Windows XP, the consumer versions of Windows were the “9x” variants (Windows 95-Windows Millennium) and earlier versions back to Windows 1.0 (which all in turn traced their roots back to DOS/QDOS. The enterprise variants of Windows began with Windows NT 3.1 – designed from the ground up. These two family trees merged after Windows 2000 and Windows Millennium, with the release of Windows XP .

If you stop for a second and think about it, Windows XP was pretty amazing (not just saying that because I was on the team). It was the first fully 32-bit, NT-based version of Windows that offered full plug and play, significant application and device compatibility, and a consumer-ready user interface. I still remember Windows 2000 – I loved it. The day it shipped, I installed it on my Toshiba laptop. I hibernated at the end of the day and undocked. When I went home, it immediately blue-screened. Hibernate in Windows 2000 was never designed or tested to support a “surprise undock” during hibernation. A great example of not quite being ready for consumers (or some of the enterprise).

A key goal in combining the Windows 9x and Windows NT codebases was engineering efficiency. It’s much better to have one team working on a project than have two teams working on two projects that are – at the user interface level, incredibly similar. Since Windows 95 and Windows NT 4, every version of Windows had featured a Start menu, whether it was 9x or NT-based. Windows internals aside, you could sit a typical Windows 9x-using home consumer down at Windows NT or Windows 2000 and expect them to be able to find their way around relatively easily.

During my time in Windows setup and deployment, I worked with a team in the Windows Server group. Somehow we had come up with the idea of making the server more immediately usable for server administrators. Given that Windows XP had “pinned” some things to the Start menu (IE and Outlook Express) by default, we thought, how can we do something similar for admins? I offered the suggestion of pinning cmd.exe (remember, no PowerShell yet!), Notepad, and Server Manager to the Start Menu – since the role of a server administrator is so different from the role of a home consumer. Little did I know what the next 10 years would bring.

As I look at Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8, I see a fork in the road. While Windows 8 largely eschews the legacy Win32 desktop in favor of the tablet and touch-centric Metro user interface, and Microsoft largely emphasizes that the WinRT API framework underneath Metro is their direction forward, Windows Server 2012 goes in a completely different direction. While Windows 8 (and perhaps Windows RT – we’ll see) include PowerShell support, it’s predominantly for their own management or for administrators wanting to remotely manage one or more other remote systems. If we were ranking their importance as user interfaces, WinRT would be number 1 on Windows 8/RT, then Win32, and following up far, far behind, is PowerShell. Windows 8, like previous Windows client versions, exposes no entrypoint into the command prompt – let alone the PowerShell command shell.

Yet, if you log on to Windows Server 2012, the new Start page is really the only user interface element shared with Windows 8. Windows Server 2012 does not include Metro or WinRT – just the Start page (which is an odd experience, frankly). While Windows Server 2012 still includes Win32 as well, the pinned PowerShell icon in the Taskbar is your first bold notification that things are quite different here. Windows Server 2012, in both full installation mode and the “Server Core”  installation mode feature PowerShell and .NET support, and PowerShell 3.0 now includes over 2,300 cmdlets in it. It’s really no longer a question of what tasks can be completed with PowerShell, but what tasks cannot. Not much, I’d bet.  For an administrator of a handful of servers, Server Manager (which uses PowerShell underneath) will suffice. Bit as Windows Server 2012 focuses on deployment and manageability en masse as a core tenet, PowerShell is key. For a typical administrator of Windows Server from now forward, you probably want to get familiar with PowerShell if you haven’t – it’s the path forward.

So as Windows 8 focuses more on it’s new role of touch-and-tablet savvy, delivering a consumer-ready experience that Microsoft hopes will push the iPad aside, Windows Server 2012 focuses more on manageability across numbers of servers – the products are evolving to suit the needs of the customer bases that Microsoft wants them to appeal to. Client focusing on the user scenarios, while server focuses on the enterprise scenarios. I don’t think this is a bad thing. But as I looked back at Windows 2003, I found it an interesting transition.

This doesn’t mean – and shouldn’t mean – that the kernels will fork – that would be rather illogical and inefficient. But in particular, the user interfaces will likely continue to fork, and we could in the future again see split shipping times. Windows consumer operating systems generally have historically been RTM’d in time to hit the back to school market (August) or holiday market (Black Friday, in November). Server releases generally have no dependency date like this – and as a result have shipped later than the client to focus on more intense quality or to add features necessary just for them. It’s an interesting time in the evolution of Windows, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens down the road.

Update: One other thing I recalled as I drove in to work… When we consider how Terminal Services (now always called Remote Desktop Services) began, by remoting the Win32 user logon so more than one user could have an interactive logon, my point becomes even more clear. PowerShell 2.0 added remoting, so an administrator could connect from one server to any other. With PowerShell 3.0, the robust session behavior and the addition of PowerShell Web Access provide an administrative equivalent to SSH, whereby an administrator can connect from one server to any other from the command-line, perform any management task as if they were there, and log off – without ever launching Remote Desktop. This is a further branching of the behavior between the two operating systems – where Remote Desktop on server will be largely relegated to providing actual Remote Desktop services functionality to desktop users, and administrators who are either new, or more comfortable with a GUI than a CLI – and a growing percentage of server administration will likely be done directly through PowerShell, not through a GUI.