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Microsoft – Time to rethink Windows testing and delivery systems?


I could not say it better myself, so I’ll start by quoting what a fellow senior Ten Forums member posted yesterday: “Just catching up with this latest fiasco… seems each MS “roll-out” ends up as “roll-eyes”… not funny for many, I know, but just trying to find some humour in it…”.

The fact is, as the latest development shows, that Microsoft and its Windows Insider team have totally failed in delivering semi-annual feature upgrades in a reliable way. Just an hour ago, my friend who has three shops around here for his stonemason art and business called me telling that as he wanted to upgrade his computers as soon as possible, he had left all computers to upgrade to version 1809 on Friday when closing the shops, and now today when booting the machines up, all bills, customer databases, pictures of his work and such are gone.

Following Windows development closely as I do, it is quite clear that there are three major factors which have caused almost all recent issues with Windows digital delivery and Windows development. The first one is of course the fact that Microsoft chose to abandon its decades-old beta test program with dedicated beta testers and instead have volunteers do the testing, via the Windows Insider program. They might have not thought this through before starting out, because the Windows Insider program grew much faster and became much bigger than they had thought it would. The Feedback Hub, the tool Windows Insiders use to leave their feedback and bug reports simply is not capable of handling current feedback volume. For several months now, feedback has been filed about Insider Preview builds of this now-paused version (1809) causing user files to be deleted. It seems that no one at the Insider team paid attention to that feedback. It’s a sad fact that your feedback has far more chance to be noticed if it is a general “Oh this is nice, thank you!” statement, rather than a factual bug report.

The second factor is the Windows Insider team itself. I am not sure who was the father / mother of the idea to put Dona Sarkar in Gabe Aul’s place. The transition was done clearly thinking something like “let’s put a bunch of teenagers, or adults pretending to be teenagers in charge!” The Insider program’s roots, and the reason to start it in the first place, were clearly and completely forgotten. Instead of giving IT pros and tech enthusiasts preview versions to test, we got joking and a team which is more interested in creating nice emojis for Windows than they are in Windows itself.

I want to remind you how the Windows Insider program was announced (this quote is from the Insider Blog, in its first post ever on September 30, 2014 from Terry Myerson):

Tomorrow, we are excited to announce the Windows Insider Program, where PC experts and IT Pros can get access to a technical preview of Windows 10 for desktops and laptops. Soon after, we’ll also be releasing technical previews of Windows Server and our management tools.

With the Insider program, we’re inviting our most enthusiastic Windows customers to shape Windows 10 with us. We know they’re a vocal bunch – and we’re looking forward to hearing from them.

The Windows Insider Program is intended for PC experts and IT pros who are comfortable using pre-release software with variable quality. Insiders will receive a steady stream of early builds from us with the latest features we’re experimenting with.

Third and last is the UUP delivery system adopted in December 2016. It simply does not work as intended. Since beginning of UUP delivery, each feature and Insider upgrade has had issues. Yes, for most users it works, but you only need to check the online forums after each upgrade to see how many users hit snags. One thing is the time required; I have an Asus laptop that took about 75 minutes for each Insider upgrade under the “good old” ESD-based upgrade system. Since the start of the UUP era in December 2016, the fastest upgrade on that laptop took just over three and a half hours, and the longest one earlier this year took almost 7 hours. It is quite normal to see the upgrade initializing and downloading the full upgrade a few times. “Getting things ready, downloading, installing, getting things ready, downloading, installing…”.

The time required is just a tip of the iceberg. Networking may no longer work after an upgrade, services and trusted hosts list may be reset, files deleted, and so on. The list of issues is long and daunting.

Now in their unmatched wisdom, Microsoft and especially its Insider team decided “We do not need a Release Preview. Let’s release the GA version straight away!” What happened, we already know. People have lost precious photos, personal documents and such. The biggest surprise was to see that even the Windows Server team adopted the same “Release Preview is BS” policy. In their own words, Microsoft’s core OS team said this when Windows Server 2019 was released last week: “Skipping the RTM phase, validating hardware systems and certifying systems and components was not completed prior to this release. All that work starts now.”

I would like to see Windows and the Windows Insider teams forget all about ninja cats and taco hats until they get their act together, and concentrate on the essentials. As at the beginning of this post, here’s something I could never say any better myself. This is what Mehedi Hassan posted on Thurrot.com on Saturday:

Microsoft’s Windows Insider team will probably find a way to explain itself here, but it’s more than apparent: the Feedback Hub simply isn’t capable of dealing with issues from millions of users, especially when the app is mostly used by fans to provide feedback — mainly fueled by their love for the OS. Critical issues are not only buried under borderline-fictional things like users asking for Acrylic on File Explorer, but they are also often buried so deep down that Microsoft’s systems never even pick them up, leading to disasters like this.

One thing is sure: Microsoft, Windows and Windows Insider teams will never apologize that so many users lost their data!

About this topic earlier on Win10.guru:

 

Kari

Author: Kari Finn

A Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.

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