Vista and large networks

Yesterday I had the laughs of all laughs. As anyone who knows me personally will know, I’ve recently been “trying out” Microsoft Windows Vista (yes, that you did read that correctly.) I’d rather be openminded than closed, primarily because I hate it when people tell me how rubbish non-Microsoft software is when they’ve never even given the alternative a serious try. Also partly because I’m a geek.

Anyway, Suzanne’s got Vista on her shiny new Dell laptop (4h+ of battery life ftw!), and so far it’s been working moderately well. It crashed at the very end of the setup when we first booted it, the print system has a SERIOUS bug that prevents further printing if you delete a spooled document, forcing regular reboots and it recently acquired a really interesting one about IP availability on the University network. This one ladies and gentlemen, is a computing classic.

When Suzanne first told me “oh by the way, my laptop keeps telling me there’s another computer using my IP address, what have I done wrong?” my immediate thinking was “great some fresher who doesn’t know a thing about DHCP settings in Windows has gone and statically assigned themselves Suzanne’s IP”, then I thought “well I guess it could be someone being naughty on the network” and finally “oh it must just be the University’s DHCP pool’s got a bug / misconfiguration.”.

So she E-Mails the help desk, and as I predicted, they asked for her laptop to be brought in, they prod and poke it, point out that it’s running “Vista” and that “you’ve got it all set up correctly as far as I can see” (typically unhelpful as always), but then things went in a direction I hadn’t anticipated. The guy behind the desk says “I’ll go ask our network guy”. Genius! Get a geek onto it! That’s the way. So off he goes, natters away, comes back and goes “oh it’s running Vista. That’s the problem.”

Apparently (and I have no idea if this is true, I assume it is) that Vista has a hefty bug in that it “forgets” (as the guy described it) what IP address it had when it hibernates. Upon resuming, it will look at a “list of computers on the network” and kick and scream because it thinks the IP address it was using is already in use. I guess in more technical terms Vista has a bug that means it gets really REALLY badly confused when it resumes from hibernation, looking up either a random IP or seeing itself or whatever in the list of NetBIOS to IP table and thus sees a non-existent IP conflict. Rather than thinking “oh maybe I should refresh my NetBIOS, DNS and IP address from the local WINS and DHCP server like all those really hard to use free operating systems like Linux and BSD I’ll just blow up in the user’s face.”

Mmmm… congratulations Microsoft.

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