Packet Rat: Rat rounds up a copy of Longhorn, but where's the beef?

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

'Promises, promises,' the Rat sighed as he watched his covert video stream from Microsoft's WinHEC hardware developers' conference last week. 'Bill Gates keeps talking about Longhorn. Jim Allchin keeps talking about Longhorn. But where's the beef?'

The Rat and his cadre were taking a brief break between patch deployments and online Halo battles (putting to good use some of the hardware he had liberated with a recent server consolidation) to watch the live feed from the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle provided by one of the whiskered one's intelligence agents.

Meanwhile, they were tinkering with a copy of Longhorn build 5,048'which Microsoft gave a copy of to WinHEC attendees'that one of the wirebiter's more enterprising underlings had grabbed from a BitTorrent before the keynote began.

'Take a look at the future of computing,' the staff Microphile bragged as he booted up his beta box.

'Apparently, in the future, everything's shinier,' the Rat sneered as he looked at the latest version of the Longhorn desktop. 'At least in the future I can still run VisiCalc.'

Many of the elements of the interface have a brushed-metal sort of look to them'suspiciously similar to elements of another operating system that shipped in April.

'Wow, did they have to be so obvious about cribbing Mac OS X Tiger?' asked the Rat rhetorically.

Just like Apple's Tiger, the Longhorn preview is chock full of search, with search-based folders and all sorts of ways to find things faster. 'But the real question is, can it tell me where I put my car keys?' the Rat queried.

Longhorn has apparently been suffering from what a certain rodent likes to refer to as 'over-steer-ing.' It's been trimmed of many of its originally promised features, just as its launch date has crept further and further into the future. The new WinFS file system, for example'which was supposed to turn Windows' file system into a database'has been deferred until some future release.

Other components, including the new graphics system, 'Avalon,' and Web services architecture, 'Indigo,' are now rolling along on their own trails toward launch'and are getting tagged onto the current versions of Windows as well. Longhorn currently is promised by late 2006.

'Hopefully, they've also reduced the number of patches they're going to ship,' the Rat snorted.

There were lots of other things to ooh and aah about in Seattle. For one thing, Gates announced the availability of Windows XP Pro 64, a 64-bit desktop version of Windows. Also on the bill were three 64-bit server version of Windows, finally catching Microsoft up with the rest of the OS universe.

But the cyberrodent was especially keen on getting his digital eye on the scene to send back pictures of the promised parade of Tablet PCs'including one prototype for a 9-inch tablet no thicker than 10 sheets of paper that can respond to voice commands.

Another prototype, a laptop, has an auxiliary display on its lid so that its lucky user could check his calendar without having to turn the system on. 'Real Buck Rogers stuff,' the Rat remarked. 'Of course, I can do that with my iPod.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].

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