Feeds

Microsoft reanimates Bob to cover missing Windows features

Faux paw

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

New hybrid storage solutions

Surely, the twisted World of Windows can't get much stranger than this. Microsoft has revived Bob to camouflage the non-appearance of one its most-hyped OS features.

Can you lick your own butt?

Two years ago, Redmond flew journalists in from around the world to showcase Windows 2000. And the show-stopper, even for cynics, turned out to be the improvements to the Windows file system NTFS.

At long last Microsoft had completed one of its own technical odysseys by adding attribute-based searching to Windows. This arcane sounding feature is not only cute, but mighty useful, too, so bear with us.

When combined with the structured storage work Microsoft completed in the mid-90s, this allows the average Joe to escape the routine of naming a file, saving it in a folder, and then trying to remember where it was again. Having this metadata allows you to pretty much forget where you left a file, knowing that you'll be able to retrieve it, or view it, as part of a collection of your own choosing. Even if the relevant bit lies buried in some other file.

So, for example, if you were thinking of asking for a pay-rise, a search would retrieve all those nagging letters to the boss, or from the bank, together with your personal budget spreadsheets, each of which you'd give tagged with the word 'Money'. The concept is kinda old, and has been commercially deployed to varying extents over the years in OS/2 and in Be's BFS journaled file system, which by indexing the attributes in real time gives you almost instantaneous access to this meta data - as anyone who's used its built-in mail engine can attest.

But to its great credit, Microsoft had over the years woven together a most ambitious attempt to rid users of antique file system conventions (check those tags in the Custom tab in the Properties box of any Word or Excel file). It completed another of Chairman Bill's most enduring passions - that the PC should be one big Windows database - and it was about to be unleashed on the world in Windows 2000.

Only ... it never quite happened. Windows 2000 omitted one vital feature - the ability to search for the meta data. You could add as many custom tags as you liked, but without the search feature, you couldn't organise your work with them. So your tags today remain a fairly useless embroidery.

Roll on two years, and we're curious to see how this omission has been rectified. It hasn't. Alas, not only does Windows XP's new Search box contain the same dismal options as before, but the bug has been replaced by a cartoon apology yanked from one of Microsoft's most notorious clunkers.

Burying a Bone



Yes, meet Rover, who in a previous incarnation was the default host of Microsoft Bob, the revolutionary cartoon UI Redmond developed, then let quietly die under a pile of tomatoes. (For an entertaining demo of this relic in action, check out this splendid video clip at TechTV.)

Now Rover is no mean feat of animation. It can scratch itself, perform tricks on command, and for all we know, lick its butt and drink from the toilet bowl when you're not looking, too. But it most certainly isn't the gateway onto a new world shown to us by marketing flaks so recently, that's for sure. Weirdly enough, Microsoft only needed to extend the Search box with a couple of new fields to tap into attribute-baed, meta data searching, as all the hard work has already been done with the Office file formats and the revamped NTFS file system. So Windows users will continue to lose out on one of its great resources for the foreseeable future.

How this came about, we can only guess at. But we suspect the scenario goes something like this. A fresh-faced new project manager is assigned to the Search box of Windows XP, and is puzzled to find he has vast resources at his disposal. The bit of the job spec entitled "Fix Meta-Data Searches" has scrolled off of the screen. "Can't see what needs to be done here," he thinks to himself, "it works just great as it is!"

And so instead, he assigns his vast team of programmers to produce the most Incredible Cartoon Dog the world has ever seen.

If there's a better explanation for this monumental faux-paw, then let us know. Woof. &reg.

Related Story

New WinXP file system breaks disk utilities. Again. Oops.

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Not appy with your Chromebook? Well now it can run Android apps
Google offers beta of tricky OS-inside-OS tech
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
NHS grows a NoSQL backbone and rips out its Oracle Spine
Open source? In the government? Ha ha! What, wait ...?
Google extends app refund window to two hours
You now have 120 minutes to finish that game instead of 15
Intel: Hey, enterprises, drop everything and DO HADOOP
Big Data analytics projected to run on more servers than any other app
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.