Microsoft has today announced the availability of an updated build of Windows Home Server Vail that delivers several changes and bug fixes from the first beta we saw back in April. For an in-depth look at what Vail is all about, see our Overview and Review of the original Beta, and for coverage of what is new in this latest release see our writeup here. At the time of the original Beta release I and others questioned whether Vail was in a state ready to be presented to the general public, given the large number of significant known issues that were documented in that release.
The troubling part of today’s release is that Microsoft has had the audacity to label this new build as “RC0″ or Release Candidate, while the release documentation includes 10 pages of known issues, including 2 issues that can lead to data corruption and should be show-stoppers. They are also choosing to release a QFE update file at the same time as the RC0 release in order to patch a significant issue rather than fixing the problem and releasing an updated build.
The two documented items that I consider to be show-stopper issues are:
Do not use Storage Check and Repair.
Under certain conditions, running Storage Check and Repair may lead to data loss.
No workaround is available.
Removing a missing hard drive from a storage pool may delete the wrong files.
If a hard drive is missing, and you remove the missing hard drive from the storage pool, the wizard may incorrectly identify the files damaged because of the missing disk and may delete files that still exist on hard drives that are not missing.
Before removing the missing hard drive from the storage pool, copy all the files from server folders to a client machine or to an external hard drive, remove the missing hard drive from the storage pool, and then copy back the files.
Apparently Microsoft wants you, the general public user, testing this release but make sure your drives don’t fail and don’t use all the included features.
For those that aren’t familiar with the software release lifecycle, I’ll refer you to this Wikipedia article that captures my understanding of what a Release Candidate of a software product should be.
The term release candidate (RC) refers to a version with potential to be a final product, ready to release unless fatal bugs emerge.
I’ve been a software tester for 10 years, and I would never consider the current state of Windows Home Server Vail to be a Release Candidate. In situations such as this, my most likely theory is that somewhere at Microsoft there is a schedule published to management, marketing, and OEM partners that lists today’s date as when a Release Candidate build is due from the product development team.
I have to wonder what Microsoft is trying to accomplish by choosing to tempt the court of public opinion by releasing more Data Corruption issues when people are still regaining trust from the original data corruption issue of late 2007.
Apparently this type of behavior isn’t uncommon at Microsoft, as we saw the same situation occur in 2006 when two industry analysts “accused Microsoft of changing the meaning of ‘release candidate’ by pushing out a version of Windows Vista that still needs major work”.
Nor is Microsoft fooling anyone by applying ‘release candidate’ to this build of Vista. “Watch the source here, who’s calling this ‘release candidate,” Cherry said. “It’s Microsoft. They’re going to be overly optimistic to make it appear they’ll make their dates.”
When the Beta released in April, I expressed some concerns that the build wasn’t ready for public consumption. With today’s Release Candidate release I’ll flatly state that Microsoft shouldn’t have released this to the public in it’s current form, particularly with a Release Candidate designation. Microsoft, if you want me as your general public user to test a Vail Release Candidate thoroughly, give me a build that doesn’t include known data corruption issues, doesn’t require the addition of extra patch files out of the box, and arrives without a mile-long list of known issues and incomplete features. It appears that Microsoft has forgotten that Windows Home Server is a consumer product.