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Confessions of an Old Fogey
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Windows 7 Reflections…

Windows 7 Reflections…

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Today[1] Microsoft formally launched Windows 7.  I can’t say how proud I am of the work we did in Windows 7 – it’s been an amazing journey.  This is the 4th version of Windows I’ve worked on and I have never felt this way about a release of Windows.  I have to admit that I get a bit weepy with pride whenever I see a Win7 commercial (Kylie is simply too cute :)). 

I thought I’d write a bit about the WIn7 experience from my point of view.  I’ve written a bit of this stuff in my post on the Engineering 7 blog but that was more about the changes in engineering processes as opposed to my personal experiences in the process.

For me, the Windows 7 work basically started just after we shipped Vista.  While the PMs and leads on the sound team were busy working on planning for Win7, I spent most of the time between Vista RTM and the start of the Win7 feature design cleaning up some of the Vista code I was responsible for.  During the final Vista testing, I realized that there were some architectural deficiencies in some of the sound code that caused some really subtle bugs (that I don’t believe anyone outside of the sound team has ever found) so I took the opportunity to clean up those deficiencies. 

I also fixed an issue that occurred when someone called the wave APIs from their DLL entry point.  Yes I know that apps aren’t supposed to call any APIs from DllMain but anyone who’s read either my blog or Raymond Chen’s blog will realize that a lot of apps do stuff like that and get away with it.  This fix was actually first deployed in Vista SP1 – we had identified the DllMain problem before we shipped Vista and included a workaround for the problem but we also added some telemetry so we could determine the number of customers that were affected by the bug.  Based on that telemetry we decided that we had to include the fix in Vista SP1 of the number of users affected by the issue.  This is a perfect example of some of the ways that the customer experience improvement program directly leads to product improvements.  Before we had the CEIP, we would have had no way of knowing how much impact the bug had on customers, the CEIP gave us visibility into the severity of the problem that we wouldn’t have had before.

During this interim time, I also worked on a number of prototype projects and helped the SDL tools team work on the current version of the threat modeling tool.  played around with some new (to me) development strategies – RAII and exception based programming and test driven development. 

In June of 2007, we started working on actual feature planning – the planning team had come up with a set of tentative features for Win7 and we started the actual design for the features – figuring out the user experience for the features, the internal implementation details, etc.   During the first milestone, I worked on the capture monitor feature – I ended up writing the feature from start to finish.  This was my first time writing features using RAII and using TDD.  I’ve got to say that I like it – as I remember, there were only 2 or 3 bugs found in the capture monitor that weren’t found by my unit tests and I’m not aware of any bugs that were found outside the team (which might just be an indication of how little the feature is used :)).

After the capture monitor work, I spent the next milestone working on UI features – I was on a feature crew of 2 developers working on enhancing sndvol to make it work better with multiple devices and to fix a number of accessibility issues with the UI.  This was the first time in my almost 25 years at Microsoft where I had an opportunity to do “real” UI development.  I know that there’s a lot of controversy about the UI choices we made but I’m pretty happy with the UI changes.  

The third milestone for Win7 I worked on the “Ducking” feature.  Of all the features I worked on for WIn7, the ducking feature is the closest to a “DWIM” feature in Windows – the system automatically decreases the volume for applications when you start a communicating with other people (this feature requires some application changes to work correctly though which is why you don’t see it in use right now (although it has shown up in at least one application by accident)).


The remarkable thing about Win7 development was that it was almost friction free.  During the Vista development process (and in every other product I’ve worked on) development was marked by a constant stream of new issues which were a constant drain on time an energy.  It felt like we moved from one crisis to another crisis.  For Win7 it was different.  I think it was some time during the second milestone that I realized that Win7 was “special”.  The newer development process that was deployed for Win7 was clearly paying off and my life was far less stressed.  In fact I don’t think I worked late or came in on weekends once during the entire 3 years that Win7 was under development – this was a HUGE change.  Every other product I’ve ever worked on has required late nights and weekends (sometime it required all-nighters).  But for Win7 it just didn’t happen.  Instead we set a set of goals that were reasonable with achievable schedules and we executed on those goals and delivered the features we promised.


I’m so happy that customers are now going to be able to play with the stuff we’ve all worked so hard to deliver to you.  Enjoy :).


[1] I started writing this on the 22nd but didn’t finish it until today.

  • Congratulations to the Company and Win7 seems all the hard work in SDL and all other organisational, development processes have come together well with Windows 7 (which bodes well for future products and communications from Microsoft).

    It's been a wild ride so far, and the future looks exceedingly bright (especially with some great/stable competitors to keep the paranoia alive.)

    Always love to hear/read your view of how things are happening in your corner of the Borg.

    Sam T.

  • Hi Larry,

    I always enjoy your blog, and I wanted to let you know that the excellent support & UI for multiple audio devices is a huge improvement in Win7's mixer.  

    I have 3 soundcards I use for different scenarios and switching between them on the fly is a dream.



  • Larry I have beta tested windows for 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008, Windows 7, and 2008 R2 and I can say that from the first beta I was able to work with of 7 I have loved it and felt that it was as good or better than the others were even after RTM and service packs.

    All I have to say is thank you and Microsoft for an OS that I am proud to show off to all my friends and I have a lot that use MACs and linux and they are all say wow about 7.

    Again Thank you and MS

  • Congrats Larry,

    Vista was good...and subtle changes, cleaning up few codes ;) made Windows 7 to perform the best!...

  • Congrats! I read your post earlier this year about the Vista development and how W7 was radically different. It's very apparent much of the trainwreck of Vista can be attributed to the poor development environment.

    The much more controlled development of W7 is VERY apparent, and is the best and most stable OS ever. I hope whoever oversaw the Vista development was fired and the W7 lead get a big fat bonus.

    Way to go Windows 7 team, you rock! Microsoft can do a great job, given the right leadership. I hope Windows 8 can be even better!

  • Derek: I totally disagree.  The "trainwreck" of Vista used the same development model / development environment that had been used quite successfully for every version of Windows from Windows 1.0 onwards, and almost every release of Windows built with that model was VERY successful.

    IMHO there were two causes that caused most of Vista's issues.  

    The first was the fact that we didn't work closely enough wth our OEM and IHV partners and thus they weren't ready at launch time.  

    The second was that we hadn't yet learned (or had forgotten) what should have been our highest priority:  A computer needs to be fast.  Customers always will choose performance over than new features.  Many teams in Vista forgot that lesson and chose new features over performance.

  • Thank you for interesting post, Larry. But i can believe you haven't used RAII before. Am i right? RAII is the next code:

    class A




     p = new BYTE[10];




    delete[] p;


    BYTE* p;


    // and then

    A a;

    If you haven't used RAII - then you haven't used C++ at all :-) Is it true and you've been using only pure C?

  • Tony: Actually I haven't.  And I've been using C++ for a very long time.  

    RAII is actually things like CComPtr, tr1::shared_ptr, std::auto_ptr etc - it's not just classes which destroy their state on destruction but templates which ensure that arbitrary objects get destroyed when they're no longer in use.

  • Could the sound bugs be the reason why short wma soundbytes were clipped at the end when played in Windows Media player in Vista? The same wma soundbytes are not clipped in Windows XP or Windows 7.

  • Larry -

    You wrote:

    "The second was that we hadn't yet learned (or had forgotten) what should have been our highest priority:  A computer needs to be fast.  Customers always will choose performance over than new features.  Many teams in Vista forgot that lesson and chose new features over performance."

    This is the best summary of my experience with Vista that I've seen.  18 months of clicking and waiting ... clicking and waiting..., made me think back to the days of NT 3.51 on underpowered hardware.  Sure, it worked, but it was far more painful to use than the snappy Windows 95 of the day.

    An hour after upgrading Vista to Windows 7 on my 4 year old laptop, I realized that you and the rest of the team had nailed it.  The operation was crisp - a click got an immediate response, things happened WHEN I asked them to rather than some random amount of time later.  

    I don't care if it takes an extra 10 seconds to rip a DVD, or if I lose 1 fps on the latest FPS.  These numbers are easily measured, and so reported heavily on the benchmarking sites, but they don't measure user experience.  

    I still dislike a number of changes made (where is my classic start menu? What the hell do you mean "Access Denied", it's my damned computer!), but I can live with those.

    Congratulations for shipping an excellent product.

  • Win 7 = great.  

  • The "don't check in until it's done" approach certainly explains why I felt that even the beta was just so rock solid and ready for real-world use.  It's truly a beautiful OS, and a success worth celebrating.  Congrats on shipping!

  • >In fact I don’t think I worked late or came in on weekends once during the entire 3 years that Win7 was under development – this was a HUGE change.  Every other product I’ve ever worked on has required late nights and weekends (sometime it required all-nighters).

    I wonder how much of Windows 7's quality is directly related to you guys not feeling "required" to put in excessive numbers of extra hours.  Not only would you be thinking more clearly because you're not sleep deprived, but you also feel like you have the time to make sure you're doing things correctly.

  • One detail I've been observing in the commercial battles between Apple and Microsoft. The only thing I can remember about the apple commercials is the dorky vs. the cool slacky guy. In contrast, the only thing I remember about Windows commercials is someone telling about one feature that changed in windows 7 and really made a difference for them. In fact, I don't believe I've ever saw a tv ad from microsoft with any direct reference to apple or mac/os, but I might be wrong.

    Just like in politics, at least for me, bashing your adversary just makes you look bad. It's like a statement "I'm not as good as the other guy and he's a bad guy because of that".

    I'm not defending windows, I develop for both platforms and I think both have it's individual strong and weak points, but I seriously think apply should re-think its advertising campaign.

  • Padu: dising your competitors is something you do when you have lower market share than them.  Otherwise it makes you look like a bully.

    My personal favorite part of the Apple ads is that they keep on talking about people moving their stuff from Windows to the Mac.  But they don't ever talk about HOW they're going to move their stuff from Windows to the Mac.  At least when moving from XP to Win7 we have the migration wizard which lets you save your stuff and restore it on the new OS.  OSX doesn't have anything like that so if you're going to move from XP to OSX you're on your own.

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