Windows Tools aren’t worth selling.

I was working with a PR person who asked me about some software tools. They wanted to know why I didn’t consider these tools anymore.

I wrote:

The biggest problem I have with these tools, is that they are all Windows. Most senior/high level Network Nerds aren’t using Windows anymore because it’s not reliable enough and basically insecure. That is, when I take a Windows laptop on site, I’m not permitted to connect it to the network. However,because I use a Mac, I am able to connect in most circumstances when working on customer sites.

What struck me as I wrote this, is that I didn’t even realise how true this was. The fact that I prefer using a Mac because it:

  1. doesn’t crash every day (it does crash occasionally)
  2. automatically back up the entire computer without special software (Time Machine).
  3. it’s the Craftman’s Tool for getting work done.

It’s kind of sad to think that after twenty years, billions of dollars, hundreds and hundreds of patches, that the only thing I know for sure about Microsoft products is that they are insecure and unreliable.

The simple fact is that field engineers laptops can’t bring Windows laptops to customer sites and connect them to network (note: Wireless Networking has different requirements here)

Even sadder, that most companies knowingly continue to use these defective Microsoft products for fear of changing to the unknown, and fear of cost. Even though we know that it would improve our business productivity and profitability.

  • Rob Michel

    Agreed more with the anti-windows than Pro-MAC. My Company issues a windows laptop, regardless of whether I like it or not. However I don’t like or trust most windows tools, and it s pain to bring up. I’m also too cheap to go buy a personal MAC for work so my solution is to just backtrack on USB. Most any too I need it already preloaded, I get the same environment every time I boot up, and since my USB is partitioned, I can save any data to the RW partition.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the MAC at all, and would gladly use one if provided with it. But I’m definitely with you on the not liking windows network tools.

  • Jennifer Huber

    The reason I’m on a Windows laptop is because the application I use to do my flavor of engineering was not fully tested as working within a VM on a Mac. Naturally, once I had my employer put through the PO for the laptop, the application I use has now been validated as working properly on a Mac. I can’t exactly ask to swap out the laptop I’ve got ‘just because’. The install of Win 7 I’ve got on my Lenovo x201 is pretty stable and doesn’t crash often. The last weird blue screen I had was from a USB to Serial converter, but that was months ago.

    • Greg Ferro

      You can always ask. Sometimes they will say yes ?

  • pello

    So true.
    I had the same experience at a customer site.
    First visit: “you have Linux you can plug on our network”.
    Second visit: “you have Windows 7 you can’t plug on our network”.

    Linux for the win! Even worst, in the next months our IT would like to deploy Microsoft VDI! Diiiiiie 😉

    Let’s switch under Linux :>

  • Scott McDermott

    I will not argue that the Mac is not fantastic, but I will argue with this general sentiment that everything Microsoft/Windows is rubbish. I won’t bother arguing the quality of previous versions of the software, but Windows 7 is stable and fast. While Windows may lack some of the elegance of MacOS X, the security and stability of these two modern operating systems is comparable. In 2 years I have had 2 crashes across 4 Win7 machines. None have had the need to be reinstalled (such as seemed necessary every 6 months with XP). Both crashes were related to bad drivers, which is the source of most problems on Windows boxes.

    Windows 7 does not crash every day. It very rarely crashes. This seems similar to MacOS.

    Windows 7 also has a quite good backup mechanism built in. Totally different than the garbage in earlier versions.

    Win7 certain does have the limit of not having the full suite of extremely useful UNIX tools and a POSIX environment. I spend a lot of time in a terminal window connected to a Linux box or on a Linux VM. I find this preferably to having to run most of my tools in a VM (since most of my tools are written for Windows) as I would have to on a Mac. This, of course, depends on personal taste and how your apps run in a VM as well as how many apps you would need in a VM. Having to run Windows in a VM is going to cost you a lot more RAM than running a Linux box in a VM.

    The hardware to run Windows is cheaper than equivalent Mac hardware. On the other hand, the quality of the Windows hardware is not as good and you will occasionally run into issues with drivers. MacOS should not have that problem.

    Use the tool that works best for your needs. Weigh your options and needs, and choose the tool that works best for you. Fear of changing to the unknown is a lousy reason to stick with Windows. If the tool isn’t working for you, try a different tool. Anti-Microsoft/Windows FUD is an equally lousy reason to switch to Mac. Curiosity is a perfectly good reason and I’d encourage that, but expect a learning curve and frustration with the Mac Way.

    That statement regarding companies sticking with known defective products for fear of the unknown and fear of cost when things could be improved by switching to Mac is FUD. That will totally depend on the organization and is hardly a valid generalization. I’ve seen admins trying to manage thousands of Macs. It’s no easier or cheaper than managing Windows boxes. You often end up having to deploy VMs to support Windows applications. You have a training nightmare because at this point most people know Windows, but a small minority knows the Mac. I can see the potential for a small or highly technical organization to save money in the long run with Apple, but I think that’s the exception.

    I’m not a consultant or field engineer, so I can’t speak to the policies regarding connecting laptops to other networks, but I would say that falls under use the right tool for the job.

    • Greg Ferro

      Actually, I argued that Microsoft software is untrustworthy. I don’t specifically argue that the Mac is better, just trustable.

      There is cheaper hardware that runs Windows, however if you take the time to compare equivalent hardware configurations ( and I mean lots of research), you will find that Apple hardware isn’t overpriced. It IS overspecified – which I think provides a better customers experience since my Apple kit still has enough horsepower for a three year ownership cycle.

      Whereas on Windows, I bought cheaper hardware that needed to be replaced every nine months (which meant more MS licenses were purchased).

      • Tyler

        Mac is more “trustable”? Better check the latest PWN2OWN results. The days of the Mac being immune to viruses are over. So are the days of the buggy Windows OS/browser.

        • Greg Ferro

          By the time someone is sitting at my keyboard running software, the game is all over regardless. Secondly, the PWN2OWN vulns are due to Safari, and mostly I’m using Chrome these days for exactly this reason.

          On balance, I’m more concerned about Windows vulns that I am Mac vulns as they are far more common in the wild. I have no illusions about Mac security, but it still _safer_ but not _safe_.


  • Bob Plankers

    In the hands of the clueless all OSes can be made to suck, and in many cases it’s more about the additional software you install (e.g. anything from Adobe). Mac OS is nice in that it includes a lot of basic functionality, like PDF capabilities, backups, etc. I do seem to see the spinning beach ball of death a lot on my Mac, but I’m sort of biased towards the PC side of things on the desktop (and Linux on servers). My PCs are stable, though (I don’t have the crashing problems you mention, perhaps it’s the quality of hardware underneath).

    I also think it’s ridiculous that an organization would allow you to attach a Linux or Mac OS host to their network but not a Windows host. All of them have security vulnerabilities. To me that speaks more of cluelessness than anything, and if Mac OS or Linux is the way around their moronic policies I’m all for it.

    I do wish more enterprises deployed Mac OS X — there seems to be this common misconception that Mac OS X isn’t able to be managed in a central manner, which is patently false.

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  • Harry Falkenmire

    This was an entirely predictable post following the slew of pro MBP posts. OSX and Linux users demonise Windows as if Vista is the state of the union. XP was a pretty great OS for 2003. Windows 7 is a pretty fantastic OS in 2011.

    My well specced HP laptop runs OSX 10.6.6, Windows 7 Enterprise x64 and Ubuntu 9.something (mostly for weird on the fly go live monitoring – NAGIOS CACTI etc, although PRTG on Windows is becoming the preference) in a triple boot configuration and I spend 95% of my time on Windows. It doesn’t crash, ever. I think I got a BSOD once during RC. Thats two years of daily power user usage and no downtime. Windows Server 2008 R2 is the same. Network engineers that demonise Windows/IIS/etc as a terrible internet facing host need a wake up call (and/or mandatory Wintel workshops)!

    As far as connectivity at client sites, id wager big on the notion that anyone who says “Windows is insecure but you can connect a Unix based operating system at will” uses a Unix based operating system and thus “falls on that side of the fence”.

    I’ve worked in an enterprise IT department where most if not all of the heavy hitting technical team members used Linux at work and pushed for MBP’s from their employer while despising Windows. In that scenario, I pin the blame on the failures of the desktop delivery team for poisoning the Windows UX perception. It wouldn’t surprise me if a similar situation is seen elsewhere. End users might “hate” Windows and “love” OSX because on Windows, your IT department usually lock down your workspace and sideload management/anti malware agents to cut admin overhead – resulting in something thats barely usable to the end user (ironically it’s this level of central control thats often touted as a benefit of Windows in the enterprise). On OSX, most are left to fend for themselves (this same desktop team never touched creative’s Mac’s). End users obviously prefer the latter, but traditional logic says this doesn’t scale (a non issue for the end user).

    Citrix style BYOC implementations (remotely present corporate apps to any platform), buy your own device (iPad, Xoom, MBP, HP, Toshiba, whatever) with corporate stipend and take ownership for its upkeep – a broken laptop and your resulting drop in usefulness is your responsibility, not the companies) might be the right answer to everyones issues/needs.

    • Greg Ferro

      As always, the answer for IT problems is “it depends”. You make very good points about corporate IT crippling MS Windows with malware/virus protection, configuration management, group policies. However the very reason for this is because of Microsoft’s lack of security and the lack of trust it has earned. Win7 has several significant zero day attacks, it remains vulnerable to poor drivers because Microsoft won’t develop proper APIs that prevent bad driver. The list goes on.

      Microsoft deserves it’s poor reputation for security, and while reports that Win7 is improved, still doesn’t go far enough. Personally, I haven’t had much luck with Win7 working well. But, I shouldn’t need luck, it really should work. Having tried Linux, I didn’t have the time to continue to maintain it. That’s when I switched to OSX, which has worked reliably and predictably since day one. Compared to MS Windows, that’s a real experience. Which is sad, Microsoft should have done much better by now.

      I checked your site. Good work in sledging the iPad and claiming that Android is the cure for all known ills. I hope it works out for you.

      • Harry Falkenmire

        Greg, every time i see someone online use the phrase “it just works” or something similar, i know they either are or will soon be an Apple fan. I cannot fault Jobs’ ability to deliver technology in a locked down, elegant and functional manner. The iPad (a rehash on an MSFT concept from ages ago done 10x better) and AirPlay (ditto for DLNA) are classic examples.

        Some of us enjoy having total control of our technology and the inherent flexibility/ability to create something uniquely individual that provides. Some people just want instant-on-always-works out of the box. The former prefer Android, the latter prefer iOS.

        I’d say in the platform wars on which we Technorati have fought over the last half decade, “it depends” most certainly applies to the psyche of the end user and very little else.

  • U.P.B. Michael

    All OS consist of some features, specialty and drawbacks as well as security vulnerabilities. That who doesnít allow connecting Windows to network is just stupidity. I found people with little knowledge about OS, suggesting me to configure their servers in Linux even though vulnerabilities are acknowledged in Linux Kernel quite regularly. In my experience I found RHEL to cause many problems (mostly due to hardware) and in the books published by Red Hat doesnít guarantee that RHEL is most secure than any other OS. It completely depends on what software you use and how do you configure a particular service fulfilling the need of organization. For example, ìsendmailî is insecure comparing to Exchange server, POSTFIX, QMAIL. So, where the trust boundary is!
    From the debate of OS, let me to switch to another most important part of an organization that is database.
    Like me, many people will suggest ORACLE at first place as secure database solution than SQL SERVER, why donít you suggest global database leader?
    But just a couple of months ago, I came to know that SQL SERVER is most secure database comparing with ORACLE & MYSQL since 2002 as far National Institute of Standards & technology .
    ìSQL Server has recorded the fewest number of reported vulnerabilities ó just 49 from 2002 through June 2010 ó of any database. MySQL (which was owned by Sun Microsystems until its January 2010 acquisition by Oracle) recorded 98 security flaws or twice as many as SQL Server. During the same eight-and-a-half year period spanning 2002 through June 2010, the NIST CVE recorded 321 security vulnerabilities associated with the Oracle database platform, the highest total of any major vendor. Oracle had more than six times as many reported security flaws as SQL Server during the same time span. NIST CVE statistics recorded 121 security-related issues for the IBM DB2 platform during the past eight-and-a-half years.î
    For more please visit:

    To conclude, for Windows perhaps itís not logical to say ardently that MS Products are insecure or untrustworthy.
    Finally, Iíd like to thank you for your article (though not for this one but I regularly read your informative articles.)

  • Raphael

    I use OS X at home and now at work, but two things I miss in Windows are:

    – Visio
    – Wireshark is easier to install, esp when client is running Windows and you can’t bring your own machine.

    But those two are just little things…

    • Greg Ferro

      Good points. Visio is truly a pain, but Parallel Desktop in Coherence mode is a big help.

    • James Doran

      Check out OmniGraffle as a Visio replacement and Wireshark works just fine on a Mac – granted its not as pretty as native OSX apps, but I kind of like the fact that it looks fairly industrial. Its not quite a next/next/next install, but I guess if you cant figure out how to install it, you probably shouldnt be using it :-)

      I work for a fairly well known networking company and pretty much every engineer in my team runs a Mac now. If only VMware would release the VI Client for OSX, I’d never have to spin up a VM. Because I only start up my Win7 VM once a month or so, I always have to go through the whole Windows update, restart and full disk virus scan.

      Agree that Windows 7 is a HUGE improvement in terms of stability, performance and looks (which is important if you have to look at it for eight hours a day), but as a network engineer I’ll take my Unix workstation any day.

  • JL

    Omnigraffle, so you actually prefer replacing one broken OS for the other ?

  • Gavin Owen

    I can understand the mentality of not wanting a Windows laptop to be plugged into the network. A phone contractor I dealt with late last year didn’t exactly patch into the network, but he plugged a USB key into his infected XP laptop, and then put that USB key into the Windows Server 2008 (to install softphone software), and ended up infecting the server and half the client PCs!

    I had a flashback to that ordeal earlier this year, when the company I work for had the blood-bank visit and collect volunteer blood donations. I was surprised to learn that the blood bank do not accept donations from homosexuals. This is because as a generalization, homosexuals are more likely to engage in risky sexual practices, and end up with blood-borne infections. This is not homophobia, but the stark reality the collection agency faces. Heterosexuals are asked to self-screen.

    So you can see the parallels I’m drawing here – Windows users are essentially the “blood-donating homosexuals” of the PC world. (I can just see MAC-fans interpreting this as “Windows users are gay!”… I’m sure most gay guys have better taste than that 😉

  • mokum von Amsterdam

    Disclaimer: I am currently a 80% OSX user & owner, 20% Windows.

    Unknown makes unloved.
    Ten years ago, the ‘tools’ for Win32 where indeed miles behind the tools avaible for the OSS OS’es outthere. That has seriously changed over time. Some of my fav tools have even begun adding new features to Win32 first. But even ‘core’ features like IPv6 have been implemented much beter in Windows then in OSX for instance.
    Same goes for the security debate between the different OS’es. Windows [=>XP] actually offers some pretty advanced and cool stuff, if you would like to know a little more I’d advice to follow one of the excellent SANS courses on the subject.