Tag Archives: microsoft

Miserable user experience continues with Windows 7

I’ve just spent some time with a non-technical person who has just signed up for a £30 per month Vodafone internet dongle, which came with a “free” Samsung netbook running Windows 7 Starter Edition.

The user is returning it under the terms of the 14-day trial offer.

Why? Well, the requirement was for a small computer that would be connected to the Internet everywhere, within reason. The user also purchased Microsoft Office along with (for some reason I could not discern) Norton Internet Security.

The good news: the internet connection was fine when connected, something like 2.5Mb download speed on a brief test.

The bad news:

1. The little netbook was badly infested with trialware. Browsing the web was difficult because the already-small screen area was further filled by two additional toolbars, one from Google and the other from MacAfee, leaving barely half the screen for actual web pages. Google kept on prompting for permission to grab user data about location and who knows what else.

2. MacAfee was pre-installed and the task of removing it and replacing it with Norton was tricky, bearing in mind that Norton was delivered on a CD and there was no CD drive. MacAfee was constantly warning that the user was at risk.

3. Two Samsung dialogs popped up on each boot asking the user to do a backup to external storage.

4. The Vodafone connect software was bewildering. In part this was thanks to a complex UI. There also seemed to be bugs. The “usage limit” was preset at 50MB separately for 3G and GPRS; the deal allowed 3GB overall. Changing the usage limit seemed to work, but it reverted at next boot. Then it showed usage limit warnings, as 50MB had already been transferred. Once while I was there the Vodafone utility crashed completely.

5. The Vodafone dongle wobbled in the USB slot. Whenever it was attached it would come up with a dialog asking to run setup, because it included a storage area containing the utility software, even though the utility was already installed.

6. The Vodafone connection is managed through an icon in the notification area that you right-click to connect or disconnect. Windows 7 had hidden this thanks to the new default behaviour of the notification area, which is a usability disaster.

7. The Vodafone connection was set to prompt for a connection. It did sometimes display a prompt, but apparently on some kind of timeout, since it quickly closed without actually connecting. The prompt then did not reappear during that session.

The user concluded that it was too complicated to use, hence the return.

Now, for most readers of this blog I am sure none of the above would matter. We would uninstall MacAfee and Google toolbar, not buy Norton but simply install Microsoft Security Essentials, maybe use Google Chrome for a leaner browsing experience, remove any other software that was not essential (and there was other trialware that I did not have time to investigate), unset the silly option to hide notification icons, find a way of taming or replacing Vodafone’s connection utility, and all would be fine.

I am not sure of the value of the Vodafone contract; the deal is not too bad if you need to connect while out and about, though there is a heavy penalty charge of £15.00 per GB if you exceed 3GB in a month, and it is quite unsuitable if, as in this case, it is your only Internet connection and you plan to use it for things like BBC iPlayer.

That’s an aside. What I find depressing is that despite Microsoft’s efforts to improve Windows usability in 7, the real-world result can still be so poor.

In this case, most of the blame is with Vodafone for poor software, and Samsung for taking all those trialware fees. I guess it is not that bad a deal, since there is almost always someone around who is willing or enjoys solving these puzzles and getting everything working.

Still, here is a customer who wanted and was willing to pay for a no-frills, always-connected internet device, and was let down.

Here also is the market that Apple aims to satisfy with iPad, and Google with devices running Chrome OS.

I wish them every success, since it seems that the Microsoft + OEM Windows culture cannot easily meet this need.

Should IT administration be less annoying?

I am more a developer than an IT administrator but sometimes find myself doing (and writing about) admin-type tasks. I am usually under time pressure and I find myself increasingly irritated by annoyances that take up precious time.

It seems to me that there is a hidden assumption in IT, that usability is all-important when it comes to end users, but that the admin can tolerate any amount of complexity and obscurity, provided that the end result is happy users with applications that work. The analogy I suppose is something like that of a motor car with an engineer who gets hands grubby under the bonnet, and a driver who settles back in a comfortable seat and uses only clean, smooth and simple controls to operate the vehicle.

That said, any engineer will tell you that some vehicles are easier to work on than others, and some documentation (whether paper or electronic) more precise and helpful than others. No engineer minds getting oil on their hands, but wasting time because the service manual did not mention that you have to loosen the widget before you can remove the doodah is guaranteed to annoy.

A little detail that I’ve been pondering is the Internet Explorer Enhanced Security Configuration found in server versions of the Windows operating system. This is a specially locked-down configuration of IE that is designed to save you from getting malware onto your server.

That’s a worthy goal; and another good principle is not to browse the web at all on a server. Still, as we all know the first thing you have to do on a Windows server is to install patches and drivers, some of which are not available on Windows Update. In addition, not all servers are mission-critical; I find myself setting them up and tearing them down on a regular basis for trying out new software. It may therefore happen that you open up IE to grab a patch from somewhere; and it is a frustrating experience. Javascript does not work; files do not download. The usual solution is to add the target site to Trusted Sites – thereby giving the site more trust than it really needs. The sequence goes something like this:

1. Browse to vendor’s site to find driver.

2. Notice nothing works, click Tools – Internet Options – Security, Trusted Sites, Sites button, Add.

3. Click Add, forgetting to uncheck the box that says “Require server verification (https:)”.

4. Get this dialog:

image

5. Wonder briefly why IE did not spot that you are adding a site with an http: prefix before rather than after you clicked Add.

6. Uncheck the box, repeat the Add, go back to IE, refresh page to make scripts etc run and likely lose your progress through the site.

7. Find that the site now redirects to ftp://vendorsite.com and you have to repeat the process.

A minor issue of course; but if this is a sequence you have gone through a few times you will agree that it is annoying and not really thought through. Perhaps it is to do with Windows server having a GUI that it does not really need; on Linux or even Server Core you would use the fine wget utility having found the url of the file you need using the browser that you have running alongside your terminal window.

I also realise there are may ways round it, ranging from something to do with laptops and USB pen drives, to installing Google Chrome which only takes a few clicks, does not require admin rights, and happily downloads anything.

What prompts this little rant is not actually IE Enhanced Security Configuration, which is a familiar enemy, but a day figuring out the subtleties of Microsoft’s App-V, brilliant in concept but not the easiest thing to set up, thanks to verbose but unhelpful documentation, dependency on SQL Server set up in the right way that is not clearly spelt out, lack of support for Windows x64 clients except in the beta of App-V 4.6 which is available from a Microsoft Connect URL that in fact reports non-availability; you know the kind of thing:

image

At times like this, the system seems downright hostile. Of course this does not matter, because administrators are trained to do this, and don’t mind provided that the users are happy in the end.

But I don’t actually believe that. In Windows 7 Microsoft deliberately targeted  the things that annoy users because, under pressure from Apple, it figured out that this was necessary in order to compete. The result is an OS that users generally like much better. The things that annoy admins are different, but equally affect how much they enjoy their work; and effort in this area is equally worthwhile though less visible to end-users.

In fairness, initiatives like the web platform installer show that in some areas at least, Microsoft has learned this lesson. There is, however, plenty still to do, especially in these somewhat neglected areas like App-V.

My final reflection: when Microsoft came out with Windows NT Server back in 1993 I expect that being easier to use than Unix was one of the goals. Perhaps it was, then; but Windows soon developed its own foibles that were as bad or worse.

Visual Studio 2010 RC arrives with go-live license

Microsoft has made the Release Candidate of Visual Studio 2010 available for download to MSDN subscribers. From tomorrow (10th February) the same release will be available to everyone. There is a go-live license so you can use this in production if you wish, though if the full release comes in April as planned, it hardly seems worth it in most scenarios.

What’s new since the beta? Jason Zander says mainly performance. Note that the Chief Architect of Visual Studio is Rico Mariani, formerly Microsoft’s .NET performance guru, which is encouraging in this respect.

The blow-by-blow account of issues with the RC is here.

Whatever your views on the direction and future of Microsoft’s platform, there’s no doubting the huge scope of this release, though in my view the company has not communicated this particularly well, saying too much about things like SharePoint development, top of its list of walkthroughs but still an ugly business, and not enough about features such as IntelliTrace debugging, or the new ability to float windows out of the IDE and onto a second display, which will have a more immediate impact on developers. Note that the Visual Studio IDE has been re-built using WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation), and that it comes with a the first completely new version of the .NET Framework since 2005.

Silverlight 4.0 is another area of interest, though I understand that it will not be complete in time for this release. Visual Studio 2010 will have Silverlight 3.0 out of the box, with the ability to install the 4.0 preview release and eventually the final release as an add-on. I’ve also heard that Silverlight 4.0 is not yet supported at all in the RC, so be cautious if this is your area of work – you may need to stick with the last beta for the moment.

New is not always better, of course. I’m interested in hearing from developers working with Visual Studio 2010 – whether performance and stability issues have been overcome, and what you think of it overall.

Will your laptop run Windows 7?

I’ve recently upgraded two HP laptops to 32-bit Windows 7. In both cases I did a wipe and clean install. The laptops were of similar vintage, around two years old, a Compaq 6710b and a Compaq 6720s. However, if you search for drivers on HP’s site, you will find a full set of Windows 7 drivers for the 6710b, and none at all for the 6720s. That seems a bad omen for the 6720s; but after backing up the existing Vista install I thought I would give it a go anyway.

I was pleased to find that Windows 7, with the assistance of the Windows Update site, had no problem finding drivers for all the devices in 6720s. I suppose some intractable problem might show up later; but it seems to be an entirely successful upgrade.

image

Windows 7 worked fine on the 6710b as well.

It was worth it too. The combination of the faster, slicker Windows 7 with the usual benefits of a clean install is a big improvement in perceived performance and usability.

So how can you tell if your laptop will run Windows 7? It seems there is hope even if the vendor’s site suggests otherwise. The only sure way to find out is to try it, or to find someone else who has.

Google storage 10 times cheaper than Azure – but not as cheap as Skydrive

According to Jerry Huang of Gladinet, whose Cloud Desktop exposes a variety of cloud storage services as mapped drives in Windows Explorer, Google storage is “about 10 times cheaper” than Windows Azure. Since Amazon S3 has similar prices to Azure, I imagine Google undercuts that by some margin as well.

Gladinet compares Google and Azure using some other criteria as well. On speed, it gave the edge to Azure but observed that it might just depend which data center was nearest. On SLA, the two seem similar.  On API, it says Azure is easier if you use Visual Studio, but not if you work with “PHP, Ruby or anything other than .NET”.

In another post, Huang has a nice summary of accessing Azure storage from C#.

It’s worth noting that Microsoft Skydrive offers a relatively generous 25GB of storage for free, but there is no way to extend this limit.  There is also no official Skydrive API, though one has been hacked unofficially. Gladinet supports Skydrive too, using either this or the unofficial WebDAV support.

I am a fan of Gladinet. There is a free starter edition, or paid-for with extra features.

image

Explorer integration is a big deal, since it means any application with a standard open or save dialog can access the files. Imagine for example that you need to upload a document from cloud storage to a web site. Without Explorer integration, you have to extract the file from cloud storage to your local drive, then upload it from there. The same is true of SharePoint, which is why it is unfortunate that Explorer integration is so difficult to get working.

What’s new in Visual Studio 2010 – more than you may realise

I’m beginning to think Microsoft has under-sold Visual Studio 2010. Of course it is a huge product, as I observed back in October, especially since it includes a major new release of the .NET Framework as well as updated tools, but I thought I had discovered most of the significant new features. Still, when I sat down recently to write up an extended review, I found a lot that I had missed.

One of my reflections on this is that Microsoft has done of poor job of communicating what is new. I attended the Professional Developer’s Conference in 2008 and 2009. The developer-focused keynote on the second day last November should have hyped the best of what is new; but instead we got Steven Sinofsky on Windows 7 quality control – hardly the most exciting of topics – a sneak preview of IE 9, an unconvincing tour of Sharepoint and Office 2010, and Scott Guthrie on Silverlight 4. Guthrie was fantastic, leading us blow by blow through Silverlight’s new capabilities, but much else was neglected.

It doesn’t help that Microsoft’s home page for Visual Studio 2010 has meaningless headlines. “Set your ideas free”, “Simplicity through integration”, “Quality tools help ensure quality results.” Pure fluff, which saps your will to read further.

Here are a few things that I found interesting – nothing like comprehensive, just features that perhaps have not had the attention they deserve.

Microsoft F# – a new language from Microsoft Research, integrated into Visual Studio with remarkable speed. The people I’ve spoken to who have taken the time to discover what it does are truly enthusiastic. Some of its strengths are parallelism, asynchronous programming, graphics manipulations, and maths. You probably won’t write a complete application in F#, but it will be great for assembling libraries.

Windows Workflow Foundation 4.0 – potentially a new and effective approach to visual programming and long-running state management. Flow charts are often used to teach programming, since they express common concepts like if conditions visually. WF lets you draw a process as a flow chart – or there are other types of chart – using the nice new WPF design tools, and then execute it in the runtime, which is part of the “Dublin” extensions to IIS, now known as Windows Server AppFabric (I have no clue why this confusing name was chosen). To get the idea, I suggest reading David Chappell’s Workflow Way. For applications that fit this kind of model, it is a compelling approach, and integrates well with Windows Communication Foundation for messaging.

Dotfuscator – I know this is a third-party thing, but this is no longer just a tool for obscuring your .NET assemblies in the hope of preventing decompilation. The new Dotfuscator does runtime analytics, and can report back to a portal when your application runs, what features you use, what operating system it is on, whether it crashed, and so on. It also supports application expiry, known as “shelf life”, and can detect if assemblies have been tampered with. Some of this sails close to the spyware wind, but this is a matter of getting informed user consent. These are interesting features for Windows desktop developers, if there are any left, and even the free edition is quite capable.

Test and Lab management – a challenge to set up and configure, but when it works, amazing. Lab Management uses Visual Studio, Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Machine Manager to automate deploying an application over one or more VMs, so you can run tests against it. This hooks into Team System so you can file a bug report with a link that actually shows the bug happening at runtime, with a snapshot of the virtual environment.

Step backwards through code – IntelliTrace is a new feature of the Visual Studio debugger. Configure it to collect IntelliTrace events and call information, and you can then step backwards as well as forwards from a breakpoint, examining variable values as they change.

Team Foundation Server Basic – what this means is that even a solo Visual Studio developer can have TFS running locally or on a networked machine for source code management, issue tracking and so on. It’s worth considering because of the way it integrates with the IDE. I admit, I still like Subversion which I have on a remotely hosted server, since it acts as an effective off-site backup, but I’d much rather use TFS Basic than nothing.

UML – Microsoft has finally done what it should have done years ago, and implemented a wide range of up-to-date UML diagram tools. Nothing revolutionary, just useful.

Not everything is wonderful in the new Visual Studio. Deploying to Azure remains clunky in Beta 2 – when is this going to get better? SharePoint is another one; I appreciate the value of F5 debugging, but you still need SharePoint installed locally, with great potential for mucking up IIS, and the whole thing feels unwieldy.

Adobe Flash vs Apple iPad: RIA in the balance

Adobe evangelist Lee Brimelow has posted some images of well-known sites that break if Adobe Flash is not enabled. His point: if Apple’s iPad does not support Flash, none of these sites will work correctly.

While true in the short term, I do not think this is an effective line of argument. 

Let’s presume that you run one of these Flash-dependent sites. Now along comes a popular computing device that no longer displays Flash content. It’s already happened with the iPhone; but iPad is more serious because it has a full-size web browser, and many of us tolerate strange behaviour in a mobile web browser because we are used to it. Further, I’m guessing that some of these sites already adapt their content for iPhone.

What happens now? One of two things. Either Apple is persuaded to add support for the plugin; or the site owners fix their sites, detecting iPad/iPhone and substituting Quicktime or HTML5 content in place of Flash. In the case of the major sites such as those Brimelow lists, I doubt that second process would take long.

Result: people complain less, the pressure is off Apple and on Adobe.

I do not take the success of iPad for granted; but it is plausible; and if the device does become popular it is going to make Flash-centric web developers re-think their strategy. Further, if it fails, I doubt it will be for lack of Flash. Users do not care about Flash, they care about content, and the iPad will provide plenty of that.

The problem for Adobe is that much of its strategy is now built on the Flash runtime and its presumed ubiquity. If you compare Creative Suite 4 to Creative Suite 3 you can see how Flash is more pervasive, in several different roles ranging from rendering capabilities to code execution. It will be even more so in Creative Suite 5.

Applications built with Flex are equally affected. And note: if Flash is struggling to get over the wall into Apple’s orchard, Oracle Java will struggle more, and Microsoft Silverlight more still. It is not just Flash, but much of what we think of as RIA (Rich Internet Applications) that is at stake.

It is not over yet. If Apple is primarily concerned about browser stability, rather than controlling the platform, then Adobe may yet satisfy its requirements. Second, the iPad might fail – not completely, but enough to make it an unimportant niche. iPad is expensive and most users don’t get the tablet concept; it is not a sure-fire winner.

If neither get-out comes to pass, what can Adobe do? There are a couple of mitigating factors. One is that Adobe has already been thinking about how to deal with Apple devices. At the Adobe Max conference last year we saw its Flash to native code compiler, which will be in Creative Suite 5. It only targets iPhone; but no doubt iPad can be added. It raises the possibility of more Flash applets becoming native applications in the App Store. Money and control for Apple; but at least your code will run.

We also saw, in the Max sneak peeks, how Flash can be rendered server-side, and served to the browser as video. It’s an interesting thought if you simply must get your Flash content working on the iPad.

Another point is that Adobe is at a design tools company, and it can adapt its tools to be less focused on Flash. Another feature we saw at Max was an Illustrator to SVG converter. It is now in Adobe’s interests to work more intensely to advance HTML standards, to make them better clients for rich content.

Still, Apple has come up with what may be a significant roadblock to Adobe’s ambitions for what it calls the Flash Platform.

Web standards people may cheer this, on the grounds that a Flash-free web is less broken. I am not cheering though. Vendors locking down their devices is not a healthy way to advance web standards. Further, Flash is an amazing runtime. Flash enabled YouTube to succeed. The BBC iPlayer project did not deliver on its promise until it converted to Flash. Flash provides web developers with a consistent runtime that has value in entertainment, in education, and in general applications. One of the first things I install on Windows, Mac or Linux is Adobe AIR, which lets me run a desktop Twitter client.

Here’s my vote for Flash on iPad – and Silverlight and Java too, if the user wants their capabilities.

Windows 7 booms for Microsoft, everything else is flat

Microsoft has had a bumper quarter driven by Windows 7, as expected. I’ve put this into a table as I have before.

Quarter ending December 31st 2009 vs quarter ending December 31st 2008, $millions

Segment Revenue % change Profit % change
Client (Windows + Live) 6904 69.9 5394 98.9
Server and Tools 3844 0.24 1491 8.4
Online 581 4.60 -466 -49.5
Business (Office) 4745 -2.78 3010 -0.36
Entertainment and devices 2902 -10.87 375 288.5

The poor performance of Vista meant latent demand for Windows 7, as both individuals and organisations deferred upgrades, which was unleashed in this quarter. Microsoft said it was a “record quarter for Windows units” and “the fastest selling operating system in history”. Windows 7 is also a strong product in its own right.

There isn’t much else to cheer about, though given the general weakness of the server market the sliver of growth there is impressive. There is still no sign of a profitable online business, which is of major concern as interest in cloud computing accelerates.

Entertainment (Xbox) is now a steady business; I’m guessing that the huge growth in profits reflects lower investment and a reduction in cost of fixing endless red rings of death thanks to better quality hardware. Revenue on the other hand is somewhat down.

Windows 7 will continue to do well, though once the upgrade bump is passed the results will be less spectacular. Windows 8 will not get the same easy ride, unless Microsoft delivers something that surprises us all with its excellence.

The positive spin on these figures is that the company still has an opportunity to reinvent itself, financed by Windows profits. It needs its own iPod equivalent to show that it can escape its Windows and Office legacy. Windows Mobile 7? Laugh if you like; but the two things with obvious growth potential in the market generally are mobile devices, and cloud computing – the two go together, of course. That said, there is no evidence yet that Microsoft has the energy and agility to reverse its poor performance to date in both areas.

Who knows, perhaps after a couple of months of mobile focus, with details to be revealed shortly at Mobile World Congress and Mix10, the picture will look more promising?

Apple iPad vs Windows Tablet vs Google Chrome OS

Apple has announced the iPad – essentially a large-size (242.8 x 189.7mm) iTouch. Large multi-touch screen, claimed 10 hour battery life, flash drive of 16GB up to 32GB, browse the web, play music and video, read eBooks. Keyboard dock for the desk, virtual keyboard for when you are out and about. App Store support and runs iPhone apps.

image

Here’s my instant reaction with a few pros and cons.

The design looks great, as you’d expect from Apple, and I’m a fan of the tablet concept. I wrote a piece on the subject back in 2003 when it still looked possible that the Windows tablet would take off. I think laptops are too big and bulky, and that the clamshell keyboard idea is desperately awkward when you are travelling. Ever tried to use a laptop while eating a meal, flying economy, for example? Or quickly fire up your laptop to get an address from an email, while walking down the street? It’s a horrible experience and the tablet concept is much better in these scenarios.

I also think that Microsoft’s big mistake with Tablet PC was requiring a stylus. Styluses are horrible, expensive, easily lost, and destroy much of the advantage of having a tablet. They are fine of course as an optional input mechanism, for writing or drawing, but not as a required item. Our fingers are capable of fine control on their own.

Apple’s device wins here; plus it has a UI designed for multi-touch, rather than a desktop UI with pen input bolted on top. The same will be true of the apps.

All good reasons then why iPad will succeed. And it will.

Still, I have reservations. When I travel, I need a mobile phone, for voice and all the other things smartphones are good at; and I need a laptop for all the things laptops are good at: email, word processing, spreadsheets, web browsing, custom apps and so on.

However, I will be reluctant to carry three devices with overlapping features, so for the iPad to work for me, I will need to ditch the laptop. Otherwise I’ll leave it behind, use it a little round the house, but eventually wonder why I bought it in the first place.

Thus, the critical question for iPad is this: to what extent can it enable me to leave the laptop behind? A lot will depend on the usability of iWork, the virtual keyboard and so on.

A related issue is the extent to which the device is locked down. I’m not 100% clear about this, but my impression is that the only way to get apps onto the iPad is via App Store. You can get music on via iTunes, and pictures via a USB adapter designed for cameras, and there must be a way to transfer documents via iTunes, but I’m guessing these go into some secure area which cannot execute applications – though no doubt there will be hacks to get round this. In this respect the model seems to be the same as iPhone and iTouch, and different from the Mac. Another factor is the relatively limited storage space.

This aspect is an annoyance – unless you change gear and think of it as a web client. Let’s say I wanted to get my custom database app onto the iPad. Maybe I could do that with the SDK; but better still, why not write it as a web app? Add a bit of offline capability and it could be just about perfect.

In other words, if I can truly get the web habit, so that all the stuff that matters to me is available online, then I can leave the laptop at home and just take out an iPad.

Or indeed Google Chrome OS. From what we’ve heard so far, Google’s devices will also be locked down, and unlike the iPad you will not even be able to install apps from an app store or save music and video locally – though who knows, maybe that could change, when people complain about how useless it is on a train or aeroplane. And like Gizmodo I reckon Google should make a Chrome OS tablet.

I’m beginning to think that Apple could have the high-end tablet market, and Google the low-end, because it’s safe to say that a Chrome OS device will be cheaper.

Microsoft will do its own iPad-like multi-touch device in around 2013, judging by how long it has taken to do Windows Mobile 7 following the launch of iPhone in 2007.

See also: Battle of the portables: Netbook vs Apple iPad 2.

Picture courtesy of Apple.

The mystery of the slow Exchange 2007: when hard-coded values come back to haunt you

Following a migration from Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 to SBS 2008 users were complaining that Exchange was slower than before in some scenarios. How could this be? The new machine had 64-bit goodness and far more RAM than before.

I checked out the machine’s performance and noticed something odd. Store.exe, the Exchange database, usually grabs vast amounts of RAM, but in this case it was using surprisingly little, around 640MB. Could this be related to the performance issue?

I speculated that Exchange memory usage was limited in some way, so looked up where such a limit is set. I found this article. Ran ADSI Edit and there it was, a 640MB limit (or thereabouts), set in msExchESEParamCacheSizeMax.

I removed the limit, restarted Exchange 2007, and it immediately said “thank you very much” and grabbed 8GB instead.

Why did this setting exist? No doubt because back in the days of SBS 2003 and a much less powerful 32-bit machine, someone set it in order to prevent store.exe from crippling the box. It is another example of why Small Business Server is harder to manage than full server setups when Exchange invariably has a dedicated server (or several).

SBS 2008 cannot be installed as an in-place upgrade; but the official migration process does preserve Active Directory; and since that is where this value lives, and since it is not specific to any version of Exchange, it was dutifully transferred.

Why wasn’t the setting discovered and changed before? Well, you will observe that it is somewhat hidden. The main chances of finding it would be either if you were deeply schooled in the ways of Exchange, or if one of the Best Practices Analyzer (BPA) tools picked it up, or if the users screamed that Exchange was slow (which is what happened) and you figured out what was wrong.

The SBS BPA did not notice it. The Exchange BPA did, kind-of. It was not shown as a critical problem, but listed for information under “Non-Default Settings”, ironically with a tick beside it, as “Maximum ESE cache size changed”. Summoning help on this setting leads to this article which refers to Exchange 2000.

An admin failure, yes, but arguably also a defect in Exchange and SBS. Typical Microsoft: critical setting, hard-coded when it would make more sense to use a percentage value, not checked by setup and persistent across major upgrades of Exchange, deeply buried in Active Directory.

Mentioned here just in case it saves someone time when trying to figure out why their shiny 64-bit Exchange 2007 is running worse than 32-bit Exchange 2003 ever did.