LEMMINGS 95?

by Wayne M. Krakau - Chicago Computer Guide, July 1995

Lemmings - "Small animals of northern latitudes . . . noted for occasional migrations . . . many thousands of animals . . . always pushing on until they enter the sea and are drowned." (From The Little & Ives Complete Book of Science.)

Lemmings 95 - Large animals (two-legged) of multiple latitudes . . . noted for occasional mass operating system purchases . . . many thousands of animals . . . always buying until their systems crash. (From Chairman Wayne’s Little Red Book of Semi-Coherent Rave-Outs - yeah, right.)

You don’t have to read Nostradamus to predict this upcoming disaster. Millions of users purchasing a new operating system and blindly running the install program. Windows 95 has been the subject of what will probably become known as the greatest marketing campaign in history. It’s the Hype-Monster that ate New Jersey! The people at that marketing juggernaut Procter & Gamble are probably weeping in envy.

Has everyone forgotten the old (in computer industry terms) adage about not buying version 1.0 (even if they name it 4.0, since it is a descendent of Windows 3.11) of any software - especially operating system software? Have they forgotten the history of the original versions of DOS, OS/2, and Windows NT? Lest you think that I am anti-Microsoft (or worse yet, a Luddite infiltrator within the computer industry), let me place NetWare 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0 into evidence. (Hmm - perchance just a bit too much O.J. trial viewing?)

Remember, that this use of initial NetWare versions as bad examples is from a person known for being an enthusiastic (some would say rabid) supporter of Novell. As a matter of corporate survival, Novell was forced to publish NetWare 4.0 in spite of bugs, incompatibilities, and the last-minute removal of advertised features. NetWare 4.01 and 4.02 consisted mainly of patches and bug fixes. It wasn’t until the issuance of NetWare 4.1 that a stable, full-featured version was available. (This brings back memories of the NetWare 2.0 to 2.0a and NetWare 3.0 to 3.11 transitions.) On ethical grounds, I discouraged clients from jumping on the NetWare 4.0 bandwagon without giving serious consideration to its aforementioned (Oops, another O.J.-ism.) limitations. NetWare 4.1 is, of course, another story. I have become an ardent proponent of that network operating system.

In Microsoft’s case, the company’s reputation and future enhanced profitability, rather than its survival, are at stake. (I am convinced that Microsoft will go out in a blaze of glory when Bill Gates buys several of the former U.S.S.R. republics, uses their remaining missiles to launch a nuclear first-strike against Orem and Provo, Utah [Novell’s headquarters] and Armonk, New York [IBM’s headquarters], and is killed by an accidental retaliatory strike from U.S. forces after a Washington bureaucrat misfiles a newly passed [strictly along party lines, of course] bill exempting nuclear warfare from antitrust prosecution - and retaliation.)

Along with the obvious, absolutely gushing, free publicity that Windows 95 is getting, much of the hype is driven by myths. The first myth is that good ol’ Windows 3.1x is inherently unstable and Windows 95 is rock-solid stable. While I will admit that it is easier to crash 3.1x than 95, the only unstable Windows 3.1x systems that I encounter are due to the improper configuration of DOS, memory managers, add-in cards, or Windows itself. No operating system (or for that matter application or utility software) will run optimally by just executing the install program. It’s even worse for hardware. If you want "civilians" or computer professionals from other arenas to install and maintain their own systems, you just have to accept the risk that they won’t do it right. It’s not their fault - they just don’t have the appropriate level of systems integration knowledge.

As to the alleged stability of Windows 95, that is based on the belief that Windows 95 is a 100% 32-bit fully protected operating system. Sorry, folks - it’s not. The only way Windows 95 could provide a relatively high level of compatibility (though not complete) with old applications was to keep portions of our old 16-bit friend, MS-DOS. This has been repeatedly documented in the national press (despite denials by Microsoft), so I won’t get into the technical details. Many specific methods of crashing Windows 95 have also been published, providing practical examples of this theoretical weakness. Please do note that even a real full 32-bit "protected" operating system can crash, anyway! There is no magic involved. If you live by the bug you die by the bug. (Alright, stop groaning!)

Now, for the tricky questions. Do I believe that Windows 95 will bulldoze the competition into the ground? Yes. Do I believe that it is the proper successor of Windows 3.1x? Yes. Do I believe Windows 95 has valuable new features heretofore (O.J.!) unavailable to Windows 3.1x users. Yes.

Will I sell Windows 95 to my clients? Whoa - that’s a tough one. I would be happy to sell it to corporate types in a position that requires them to research such products for possible future use in a production environment. I would also be happy to sell it to developers who need to get a head start on the upcoming market for Windows 95 applications. For everybody else, I will recommend that they wait for a "mature" version, such as 1.1 (or at least 1.01) before putting Windows 95 on production computers. This way, they can stand by and watch the lemmings flounder in the sea while waiting for all of the bug fixes, hints, tips, and tricks to be published. I will also recommend that they use latex rather than leather gloves and then remember to dispose of them discreetly.

1995, Wayne M. Krakau