Sunday, March 26, 2006

Nix the Mix06! Back to Accountability and Pondering Attention to Bad News about Microsoft.

Well, hasn't this been a hum-dinger-ringer of a past week? That Vista 2007 post is up above 430 comments so far.

(This is one of those navel-gazing posts, so be forewarned - after a fire-burner of a week, I'm trying to bore things down here.)

Last week started with me beginning to collect positive buzz around Microsoft via the Mix06 conference (and write notes about dev vs. pm vs. test). It's all lost now, but I remember seeing appreciative quotes like "...this seems like a very different Microsoft," and how people were beginning to get that the next generation of Microsofties were busy turning Microsoft into a positive, transparent, honest we're working with you company. We have lots of sins to amend for and lots of contrition to work through before we can be back in balance. Mix06 seemed to be a nice, delightful skip along that path. We are working on it.

Then, as if to torpedo ourselves, the bad news and reorganization erupts and the Mix06 attention meter drops to nil. As if scanning the sky amidst the destruction of their city, Microsoft watchers fretted, "Where's Scoble?"

Could we have at least waited a week to break the news and built up a wee-bit of positive goodness from Mix06 and the Office developer's conference?

Truth be told, at this date I'd much rather start writing about how Microsoft is turning itself around versus pounding out diatribes raging against the machine regarding how we need to start obvious enforcement of accountability. This accountability thing is a core value to me that translates into a better company. A number of commenters have pointed out that slipping Vista due to the non-business components not being ready was the right thing to do: shipping something shoddy early is an awful sin compared to shipping later and high quality. Yeah, okay, "duhs" all around there, but that's a small insight at the end of a long running slo-mo train-wreck.

One small reflection on accountability in this comment, in the midst of fixing automation-generated issues:

[...] I’m willing to be accountable for my mistakes, but first I want to see some GMs held accountable for theirs. I’ve made lots of mistakes in my career, and I’ve been accountable by making up for them with even more successes. But now every good thing I do is craptulized by someone farther up the management chain. We are working hard, but can’t make a difference because we don’t have any coordination or direction. The managers who should provide that are MIA. Off buying villas in Italy, I guess. So Mr. Just-Suck-It-Up, what do you propose I do? Stage a dev coup and tell my PM team that I’m calling the shots now, so they can forget about those last few DCRs? That should look good on my September review, considering my boss the GM used to be the GPM. Or maybe I should march into Amitabh’s office and tell him I’m firing all his flying-monkeys and bulk resolving their PREFIX bugs. Should I go over to building 9 and tell the Shell team to dump Glass and just go back to the XP shell in the name of shipping?

Adds Cheops:

[...] Second of all it's contrary to reality. While I was working on Vista - and I don't think you ever have - there was no shortage of dedication on the part of anyone I knew of, at least those at the bottom of the org chart. Devs, testers, maybe even PMs, putting in the grueling hours and present on weekends and not just at crunch time.

The real problem comes from those higher up the chart, the ones who keep tossing obstacles into our paths. The ones who release LH versions that wouldn't even complete installation, the ones who turned the checkin process into a nightmare of needless steps each exhibiting random failures, the ones who insisted that their favorite hobbyhorse had to be part of the process.

Regarding accountability: SPSA. What's that? Well, first there's this:

All us partners were awarded our humungous SPSA grants 8/2003. They vest this August. For some reason I thought they were going to vest a little later, closer to the november original date.

For me, I collect 68,000 shares on 8/29 so I hope the slip hype blows over quickly. I'll take my $1.8m this August, then get pumped and help push this bad boy out the door!

November would have been pushing it for me anyway cause my house in tuscany is supposed to be done late october and we were planning on spending a month there once its ready.

-a distinguished partner

p.s. - go ask your vp if you think I am being a bs/troll. this is real. the spsa program is huge awards tied to company performance, BUT does anyone honestly think that bill/steve have the balls to say that since our performance has been shit that the multiplier is 0? See ya in tuscany!

Now that's just a nipple twister for my soul. A follow-up that doesn't twist so much:

The 68k spsa number is a reasonable number, and the vesting date of 8/29 is accurate. Trust me, I am a senior partner (L80). The numbers are in line with reality and the award amount is based on company performance metric goals established 3 years ago. I also agree with the poster that its unlikely that the award multiplier will be 0, BUT I also don't expect it to be 150% (the allowable max).

The sad truth is that comp plans like spsa are designed for the long term and are designed to reward people at the time they are granted. Its hard to look forward and its impossible to recall a previously granted award.

If LisaB wants to rebuild trust between the front-line team members and our executive leadership, how about making everyone's rewards transparent. As I dole out a couple of percent raises here and a few hundred stock awards there, it becomes impossibly difficult to explain the money-grab happening at the top of our corporation when results do not match the awards. Profit sharing should benefit every full-time employee.

Going back to getting Vista out, one good comment (well, good other than the M. Anti-Mini start) has the following observations:

[...] I am one of the several components owners who consulted with Brian on this latest Vista stuff. And to be honest, Vista is nothing so different from the complex beasts that Brian has nutured to fruition in the past. Of course if you have been here for only five or so years you'd think Vista is the only challenge MS has ever faced. But I digress..

Yes the original plan was to get this puppy out August ending to ensure the two classes of OEMs (Direct and Indirect, e.g. Dell and Circuit City) had a level playing field for the year end Vista fueled hardware & software sales. Vista is being delivered with a bottoms up project management method where each component's (and there are hundreds) schedule make up the master. So the Brian review showed a few components (I can count with the fingers on one hand) needing a few more weeks to wrap. Because of the nature of these components (input vs output) there is no other alternative other than adding these extra weeks (half in Beta 2, 0.25% in RC1 etc).

Now Brian has humongous titanium balls - Go check his history from Exchange 5.5 to Win2K etc. He has his rules that cannot be overriden and some of these are:

1) If it ain't done, I a'int serving it. Period.

2) A customer will soon forgive you for shipping good stuff later than you promised but will never forgive you for shipping bad stuff on time.

The added time was not even much, prolly 6weeks (or 8 worst case) and will serve mainly those few components. Over 90% of the Windows components will be Vista complete in June and then cruise along the project ending dance to August as originally planned. However the added time pushed overall RTM to mid-October.

Regarding that, a number of people followed up saying, "Wow, that's exactly the kind of perspective I wanted to hear from our leadership." Exactly. Not that bungled spin put out by Allchin. And where is Ballmer? Where is Gates?

(Crickets.)

Regarding Mr. Sinofsky, this comment shines forth with silver lining for those folks looking forward to working on Vienna:

If you take a look through the Office org (including Client, Server, Shared), count how many PUMs, Directors, or GMs there are. You can probably do it on one hand (maybe two). That's not an accident. Sinofsky is not a big fan of the PUM model because it can lead to fiefdoms (see: Windows org). He's more about letting smaller, flatter product teams of Dev/PM/Test do the right thing and be hard core about carving out a vision and sticking to it. And that means not doing every feature you want in a single release and adding 1000 DCRs after you're code complete.

And with some fiefdom busting, you can easily rebalance people around according to needs versus spending time breaking through empire building and useless features.

(And if you want to piss off someone from Office, here's something I witnessed: poke them about how Office 2007 is slipping just as much as Vista. Expect to be told how they are just fine, thank you, and on target to be completely done way before the end of the year. It seems the people ready focus around shipping Office is our OEM customer-people and making their pre-install lives easier to deal with two major releases at the same time vs. back to back.)

And what have I learned?

I'm encouraged by the mention of agility in Kevin Johnson's memo:

3. Agility: Lay the foundation for accelerating our pace of innovation, including focusing on ways to improve clarity of decision making, drive greater accountability, and reduce layers in the organization so we can move faster. It also means utilizing existing expertise within the division to embrace services -- and rapid release cycles that services can enable -- to all aspects of our business. Our software + service approach and the expertise we have built in MSN can support innovation agility as we enable the Live era.

Reducing layers, accountability, moving faster, and agility are all pretty much one of the Pillars of Mini. I know we can do it, it just has to be something that's both valued and something that the leadership, from top to the very front-line, are all compensated for succeeding at as part of their commitments. Otherwise, it's just lip service and a nice slide to pontificate in-front of a crowd of rolling eyeballs.

I've discovered that if you link to relevant topics currently on-top of tech.memeorandum you can achieve perhaps more attention than you really want... even being the top story for a small bit. From a technical + sociological + news gathering + attention economy point of view, it's fascinating. It's like letting a steely ball loose inside of a complex pinball machine. Sometimes it's one boink! and the ball goes straight down between your flippers. Other times, it bouncing around and careening through the bumpers and traps all on it's own, even bouncing into the land of Slashdot.

Speaking of Slashdot: I've once again had to flip comment moderation on. I let a lot of the anti-Microsoft comments pile up for a while, but then it just got offensively silly. You know, recently I was talking with a medical doctor. He said how much he was impressed by Microsoft Corporation and what high esteem he held for the company, along with the community values that lead to lots of charitable giving by the employees and the company. He was bemused and confused to have discovered recently that there was this "Evil Empire" point of view by some people. Most people in the world view Microsoft with polite indifference. The incoming comments by the Any But Microsoft crowd certainly serve as a small reminder of the lightening rod of hatred we still are for a techy subculture. The one thing it makes me ponder is, "Where are the Microsoft zealots? The ones who only want to run Microsoft technology and wouldn't dare suffer a Mac or Linux?"

What's your reaction to that question?

I look forward to flipping the moderation off again. Perhaps this post will be boring enough to warrant that. Plus, I'm going to have to take a break because I need to read some books and enjoy the sun and the wind against my face (and mended knee) vs. lurking in the dark with my laptop and 92 new morning comments to scan through (I know, rub your fingers together to play me a nice, mournful violin tune, but how about you imagining what moderating Slashdot-based comments must be like. Take a moment. Okay, now go to your happy place.).

Oh, and that 60% rewrite brouhaha? On the face of such a comment: what?!? No one would ever believe that!

Then it shot off like wildfire on a dry West Texas plain. Maybe they meant one particular small component of Vista was requiring a 60% rewrite, but the whole OS? There's a lesson here, though: technical people are going to pick up on wild stuff like this and start propagating it and turning it into real news quickly, where it dries and becomes fact. There are going to be plenty more examples of this in the future, especially around releases of Vista and Office 2007. Microsoft (and other companies worried about misinformation) needs to have an fire-brigade that can disperse in minutes blog postings regarding the facts, linking to the offending posts, to stop the propagation as soon as possible. Don't rely on one guy. Blogging is not his day job.

Updated: fixed two small typos that irked me.


68 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Mini read this from Seattle times
Cusumano thinks Microsoft should heavily prune the Windows group and the Windows product, because both have become too big and complex.

Problems getting Vista done have already forced Microsoft to change its development process and cut major features after a 2004 reassessment.

"Three years from now or two years from now, there's still going to be the same mess. It's still too big, too complicated, too many people," Cusumano said. "Until they solve that fundamental problem, the best managers in the world are still not going to get Windows to ship on time."


Sounds like Cusumano may be your soul mate

Anonymous said...

Well, the one partner who got the huge stock -- I am a partner and I didn't get that kind of stock. I guess you're special.

Anonymous said...

To answer your question: Where are the Microsoft zealots?

Well...thats a multi-leveled issue. A over-simplified version would be that everyone hates the 'king of the hill'. But a truer explanation is that MS has created the zealots.

You created them by arrogance.

Flashback. Its 1993 - I'm in my universities computer lab. We use a mix of unix and NeXT workstations. NeXT is far far far ahead of its time. Fully graphical OS, sending emails with pictures attached, browsing the internet...graphically!. Multi-user, multi-tasking OS...blah blah blah.

Mind you at this point most MS users are still dorking around with their config.sys files in hopes that they can get DOS to play a sound file.

Over the course of the next 10 years MS makes incredible gains - comes to occupy +95% of the IT infrastructure.

However, to anyone that had been around, most of that stuff was kinda a joke. SQL 6.5....Exchange 5...Access 2.0....Windows 95....very weak products to anyone that was familar with DB2, Sendmail, NeXT, Solaris, et al.

Now, everyone understands that Microsoft was a young company and had to start somewhere. I don't think that anyone faults Microsoft for their "version 1 products" so much as faults them for the arrogance you've displayed.

Your marketing department was outstanding. They marketed these "version 1" attempts as being able to go against Sun, IBM, etc. So often those of us in the trenches had to deploy a "version 1" MS solution because the bigwig saw your adverts stating such drivel on the in-flight magazine.

You *always* position yourself not as a part of the community, but as the one to dominate it. There is nothing wrong with that -- its a valid business approach, but don't cry when people laugh when you fall on your ass. You've created your own bed on this.....

Fazal Majid said...

The net result of the 60% fiasco may be that business users will be extra wary of Vista, and slower to upgrade from 2000/XP than otherwise.

As for the Microsoft fanatics, believe it or not, they exist. They are just too busy trolling at Mac sites...

Anonymous said...

"Don't rely on one guy"

Particularly when the guy is Scoble. It's not clear that he has any real contacts except in Waggener Edstrom and while he seems to be cute and fluffy, he trails illogic like a garbage truck trails litter. And relying on Dave Winer's rationality distortion field doesn't exactly make his case.

The question isn't whether Vista could be 60% rewritten in 9 months, it's whether Vista needs up to 60% rework and won't be showing up in 9 months. That's what has Microsoft partners (not the internal ones) in a panic.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm a little bit confused about the levels and the compensation bands. Yes, I did read about those internal documents being leaked and was shocked to see how low I'm paid for my level (I'm SDET btw).

All I know is that SDET is L59, and an IC Lead is L62 with the partner level beginning at L68. What about Gates, Ballmer, Raikes, Johnson and the other SVPs and CVPs? At what level do they begin on?

And how about the Directors, Sr. Directors, and GMs?

Anonymous said...

(I know, rub your fingers together to play me a nice, mournful violin tune, but how about you imagining what moderating Slashdot-based comments must be like. Take a moment. Okay, now go to your happy place.).

It's not pretty, but there's a certain feeling you get from doling out five -1s in a row.

Anonymous said...

I was going to ask this question a while back but got lost in that slashdot deluge. There was some mention that Microsoft needs someone to come in and clean house, drawing parallels to Amelio-era Apple. (I still have CDs touting Copland, an Opendoc devkit, and pamphlet for e*world, so I recall vividly how bad it was). So I have a question: Who is your dream team?

Sinofsky appears to be possibly part of that team, (I won't fein to know what I don't), but the turnaround can't be done by just one man. So whom do you see as the ones with the will, the ability, and the balls to restore accountability, get results instead of red tape, and euthanize the failing product lines? And beyond just the leadership, which rising stars are likely to not only fix what is wrong, but create what is right?

Robert Scoble said...

>It's not clear that he has any real contacts except in Waggener Edstrom.

Heheh. You make me laugh. Check out http://channel9.msdn.com -- I've interviewed more than 600 Microsoft employees from all across the company. Not one Wagged person.

But, when a nasty story is breaking I find Frank Shaw knows more about it than anyone.

--Robert Scoble

Flackrum said...

Mini:
> "Where are the Microsoft zealots? The ones who only want to run Microsoft technology and wouldn't dare suffer a Mac or Linux?"

> What's your reaction to that question?

Ok, I'll bite.

Microsoft has, for a while, produced the standards by which the home user-base have measured OS and software alternatives against. Somewhere along the line competitive alternatives introduced the above-average user to open source and third party software that partly changed some of the MS-driven "standards" to "base-line expectations".

Everyone gets WinXP and its package with their PC, it's a fact of life for most people. No need to be a zealot of oxygen.

But there's more to it:

1) Home user annoyances are blamed on MS, whether consciously or not (whether founded or not)

(adware, spyware, virii, open ports, security holes, pagefile fragmentation, irritating startup programs, memory leaks)

2) Maintenance of OS or required periodic re-installs become common chores, particularly for gamers, resulting in annoyance and frustration

(system optimization, cache/log/dead file scrubbing, 'tweaking' apps and dizzying registry and service changes, extra feature disabling)

3) Common (home user) MS 'necessity apps' are either more expensive than the functional alternatives, or are blown away by the competition.

(Internet Explorer/Firefox,
Outlook Express/Thunderbird,
Microsoft Office/Open Office)

4) Tech-geeks using these issues as platforms for pushing various alternatives to deal with the issues above add to the negative perception.

(slashdotters, Mac users, Linux enthusiasts, open source advocates)

5) Mainstream News further spreads discontent: Monopoly, DRM, proprietary standards, even governments asking MS for backdoors to the OS add more negativity to the perception of MS

There's a lot to combat there.

Anyway, that's how I see the perception problem.

Again, the caveat: The above isn't a collection of my personal rants or blind beliefs, merely what I see affecting the perception, and why there aren't a lot of home-user MS zealots.

I'm an above-average computer user/gamer who refuses to switch to Mac and doesn't want to risk suicide using Linux in the near-term.

Anonymous said...

here is the NY Times take on why Vista was delayed

www.nytimes.com/2006/03/27/technology/27soft.html?hp&ex=1143435600&en=482f269e6e35b1c3&ei=5094&partner=homepage

TheKhalif said...

I think people are taking this ewrite in the wrong way. The problem isn't the code the problem is that COSD doesn't have a separate team testing "Home versions." This has been true since XP first separated into Home and Pro.

It's time to admit that times were better when OTHER COMPANIES did the add-ons for Windows. Vista should be the ULTIMATE THIN CLIENT, with Managed Front Ends and flexibilty to run the way different business segments run.

This usually mirrors home use patterns since the first to get home computers are the people in positions where they use them at work.

COSD needs to go back to being just that. The CORE functionality of creating threads, controlling memory and defining how windows are created.

Anonymous said...

I'm a lvl 61 SDET in Windows. I think productivity in Windows is positively horrible, and I blame the situation on a few high-level problems:

1. Poor communication. People aren't aware of things they should know, leading to wasted effort and time. Our internal infrastructure doesn't facilitate information flow at all.

2. Culture which frowns upon attention to detail. This is a huge topic which some might debate, but the fact of the matter is, many people declare things "done" prematurely. Is that bug *really* fixed? Or are you just resolving it because your manager is upset about your bug count? In meetings, detailed questions are similarly frowned upon, told to be "taken offline". Why? Details are important, and can bite you tomorrow if you don't account for them today.

3. Fragile infrastructure. This leads to endless frustration. Whether it's our horribly complex and non-deterministic build process (does anyone understand the postbuild?), or our not-ready-for-prime-time test automation (WTT anyone?), our infrastructure breaks so frequently that proper operation is the exception rather than the rule. This state can eventually lead to a "numbness" where people just work around problems without fixing them or reporting them. And this, of course, lets issues pile up and creates a vicious cycle.

Our infrastructure tools are mission-critical. They need to be robust, well-engineered, and *proven* before we allow them to waste our precious time.

Anonymous said...

Where are the Screwdriver zealots? The ones who only want to run Screwdriver technology and wouldn't dare suffer a Pair of Pliers or A Socket Set?

Anonymous said...

>> Reduce layers

This one will be interesting to watch. I doubt they have the balls to fire or demote anyone in those "layers". So the question is, how do you "reduce layers" without firing middle- and upper management?

Anonymous said...

The point that StevenSi is a firm believer in the dev/test/pm model is telling of his future actions.

He'll have the short run task of getting the Windows org to ship Vista...but for the next rev, he'll definitely go with his proven triad model.

In meetings with Ballmer, Gates, et al, Steven has explained the benefits of it. He'll pull Windows through that knot hole as fast as Vista will allow...alot of extra 'branches' will get ripped off.

Behooves all to figure out how they fit the triad...or make alternative plans.

Anonymous said...

MIX06 was much ado about nothing anyway. A chance for the chairman to wax wise in classic 'The Road Ahead' style in a venue (Las Vegas Hotel) mainly amenable to enterprise coders, HQ marketervangelists and anyone else with an expense account. Vista bad news didn't put a dent in MIX06 at all. It was a blast.

Anonymous said...

amen flack.

Anonymous said...

Where are the Screwdriver zealots? The ones who only want to run Screwdriver technology and wouldn't dare suffer a Pair of Pliers or A Socket Set?

Bad analogy. The comparison wasn't been an operating system and a graphics card, it was between operating systems. A better analogy would be "Where are the screwdriver zealots? the ones who only will use Mac tools, but not Snap-On or Craftsman."

Anonymous said...

Why do people think Microsoft is evil?

"... Microsoft has used its monopoly power to induce PC manufacturers to
enter into anticompetitive, long-term licenses under which they must pay Microsoft not only when
they sell PCs containing Microsoft's operating systems, but also when they sell PCs containing
non-Microsoft operating systems."

From:
http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/cases/f0000/0045.htm

Anonymous said...

Oh for the good ol' days maybe we should try and get some of the old hands back that really knew how to code/ship/nuture ... philba, nigelt, peetm, ...

Does anyone remember these guys and their like - or have they too also long gone?

karan said...

where are the Microsoft Zealots?

At my university (Monash - Australia), the IT department essentially had two streams - CS/Software Engineering, and Business Information Systems. CS/SE was your typical slashdotties - *nix, Mac, anything-but-microsoft where possible. And on the other hand there was the Business IS people - working with .NET and within Windows - they wouldn't touch Linux with a 10 foot barge pole.

Business Info Systems was more popular than CS/SE.

I think the difference lies in the fact that the CS/SE people were more proud of their reputation as techies and more vocal about their opposition to Microsoft products. Whereas the Business Info Systems people.. just got on with the job. So they're not loud zealots, but in the end they're less abrasive and more influential in decision making. Microsoft Zealots work silently.

Comic Strip Blogger said...

the REAL reason behind delay of Windows Vista revealed:

http://comicstripblog.com/?p=212.

Anonymous said...

The one thing it makes me ponder is, "Where are the Microsoft zealots? The ones who only want to run Microsoft technology and wouldn't dare suffer a Mac or Linux?"

I met them in many forums as well as I know some IRL.
Most of them are users which like MS products and cannot understand the reasons of FLOSS supporters and/or MS haters. As FLOSS reasons are akind to left political ideologies, many on the right side support MS. Anyway most MS zealots show little tecnical culture and sound simply biased.

I'm not a MS hater, but I think that the best products are those that win for their quality and not because of a monopoly or anticompetitive strategies. I quite like my XP but I don't want to be forced to get Vista or Office 2007 without a VERY GOOD reason.

Ben Fulton said...

There are a large, silent majority of developers who have only one goal in mind: hammering out code and getting paid for it. They are not Microsoft zealots; they are simply professionals who use the best tools they can to accomplish the goal. If something came along that was a better IDE for Windows development than Visual Studio, for example, they would go to it in a heartbeat. They don't care about the Linux or Mac folks because they don't pay the bills, and they don't spend time posting about the relative advantages of the tools they use because they're too busy. All they do is use Microsoft software. Why? Because it is the best available.

Anonymous said...

Where are the Microsoft zealots? In my case, gone - and after lst week never coming back.

I was a Win95 beta tester and an MCSD. I thought VB/COM was the best platform for RAD. While I was uncomfortable with the DOJ proceedings, it didn't change my tune about Microsoft in any way. From 1996-2003 I always had between 2-4 PCs at home, not counting the 1-3 PCs I used at work.

Today? My only PC at home has been gathering dust in a closet for close to 2 years now, while I use 3 Macs for personal use. My only PC at work is used for SAP development. My MCSD lapsed years ago.

Let me lay it out chronologically:

(1) .NET

While I think the Framework is an amazing achievement and love C#, I think the decision to change VB was a disaster. I started using VB.NET but then realized how that would hamper me when updating VB6 code. Drastically different syntax makes for headaches.

(2) XP Activation

Let's look at OS X. Open source? Hardly. Free? Nope. Yet, Apple sees no need to force activation on a user. They _trust_ me. Microsoft? I better be careful about my hardware configuration and flattening my harddrive or else I'll have to place a call to Redmond.

(3) MSIE

Next came this. Too many CSS hacks, too many security holes. Too few updates, too few tabs. While Microsoft decided it was wise to announce there would be no MSIE 7, Firefox showed what a joy using a more compliant, tabbed browser is.

(4) Target customers

It was about this point that I realized that the "home user" - me - was no longer on your radar. Neither was the small software developer. There's no more profit to be made I guess.

Instead, VS.NET would cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. MSDN got revamped too. Like the announcement last week, MS thought they could convince me that my MSDN would be less expensive. Instead, I got less value for less expense. Equal value meant spend thousands more.

CONCLUSION:

Where are the Microsoft zealots? If you are looking for individuals, my guess is you won't find many. They left for more interesting and productive areas a long time ago.

Cheopys said...

1. Poor communication. People aren't aware of things they should know, leading to wasted effort and time. Our internal infrastructure doesn't facilitate information flow at all.

[...]

3. Fragile infrastructure. This leads to endless frustration. Whether it's our horribly complex and non-deterministic build process (does anyone understand the postbuild?), or our not-ready-for-prime-time test automation (WTT anyone?), our infrastructure breaks so frequently that proper operation is the exception rather than the rule


This was exactly my experience. And if I may expound on your (1) item above, poor communication.

We developers had to run BVTs locally using TGT at the time and we had a given expectation that so long as we were using exactly the right OS build and exactly the right TGT bits that we would get results from our local runs that mirrored the BVT runs (autosmoke) executed as part of the checkin. This expectation was rarely met; autosmoke would fail in checkin, requiring manual resubmission, costing time, requiring attention from people who by all rights should have been home in bed hours before.

And that's just one part of the process that could go wrong. Checkins could fail on prefast hinks that didn't show up in three flavors of local build (x86chk, x86fre, amd64fre). Or because AppVerifier was supposed to be run. Or because there was a network trust problem causing autosmoke tests to fail.

The end result was that large numbers of checkins that should go through...didn't.

Now, given all these details that a developer has to stay on top of to get work done, one would think that there would be a way to get the information from a rigorously up-to-date source, a single location where one could get the current state of things, what to expect, what versions to run, and ETAs on known issues like every single checkin being rejected on the same three autosmoke failures.

I guess I don't need to tell you that no such information was ever collated, it was up to each solitary soul to gather it in his own way by himself. Ten devs would have ten different ways of doing that and most of them would have some misconception about which versions to run and why.

Not only was the state-of-things-at-the-moment information hard to come by, but even the foundation procedures, what everyone needed to know, were a matter of word-of-mouth. There was no introductory presentation nor document illuminating the idiom of what it took to do reliable testing. For the current state-of-things one had to walk across the building and ask someone on the build team, who assuming he was at his desk wouldn't yet know that autosmoke had been kicking out every checkin for three hours. For recommended procedures you were entirely on your own.

Moreoever, I saw a definite resistance to getting out this information. Such talk led perforce to silkily sinister references to "performance expectations."

I think the Vista slip is just the large-type edition of time wasted in process, and it's most broken in the area of internal communication. Every dev should have an IE home page with a Refresh tag that shows the state of the checkin system at the moment with everything anyone needs to know to get work done. This information should be delivered to us, we shouldn't have to figure out where to get it.

I can't emphasize enough how broken this is, how frustration trying to manage so many layers of unreliable complexity at the expense of attention paid to writing the code and fixing the bugs.

Anonymous said...

Last week started with me beginning to collect positive buzz around Microsoft via the Mix06 conference (and write notes about dev vs. pm vs. test). It's all lost now, but I remember seeing appreciative quotes like "...this seems like a very different Microsoft," and how people were beginning to get that the next generation of Microsofties were busy turning Microsoft into a positive, transparent, honest we're working with you company. We have lots of sins to amend for and lots of contrition to work through before we can be back in balance. Mix06 seemed to be a nice, delightful skip along that path. We are working on it.

Then, as if to torpedo ourselves, the bad news and reorganization erupts and the Mix06 attention meter drops to nil. As if scanning the sky amidst the destruction of their city, Microsoft watchers fretted, "Where's Scoble?"

Could we have at least waited a week to break the news and built up a wee-bit of positive goodness from Mix06 and the Office developer's conference?


You don't get it, Mini. Either you're going to be transparent, or you're not. "Transparent" and games like "hide the bad news for a week so we can get a boost from the good news" just don't mix with each other.

Biting the bullet to get the product right, and telling us the bad news as soon as you know it - I can respect that. I may not like the news, but I respect Microsoft more for telling the truth than for playing games trying to make themselves look better.

MSS

Anonymous said...

Yo, Mini! Awesome post, as always. Keep it up and soon Kevin, Brian, Steves and Bill will be quoting you!

Onto the "Where are Microsoft Zealots" theme of the day:

The answer is very easy - they're busy running the business, providing services and simply using the software as it was intended to be used. I am in Microsoft Services - and I only wish you could hear my customer cheering for Microsoft every time something happens. The joy on their faces when Tivoli was thrown out of the door (and replaced with a very good product of ours that has Operations and Manager in its name) - simply priceless. They're busy trying to deploy Vista to the field. Windows 2003 on their servers. Live Communication Server 2005 - anything that can improve their ROI. They live and breathe Microsoft - not because they were forced to but because they chose to.

They are running huge business on Microsoft technologies and could not be happier.

Quoting Andrew Shepherd (American President movie):

We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them.

http://www.americanrhetoric.com/MovieSpeeches/moviespeechtheamericanpresident.html

Anonymous said...

"XP withouth back-compatibility" idea:

As a game developper, I guest maybe can be a good idea to remove the legacy code, and turn on some optimizations.
You can get XP, remove the ass back-compatibility code. Start a new "brand" for a OS, then try to move everybody to this new platform.

Then update this new platform to 64 bits, and add good layers like .NET, XUL alike stuff, etc.

About the console. Please, please.. use moneo, bash or whatever.. but forget the ms-dos thing. Its crap!

Anonymous said...

You don't see as many supporters because it is obvious to those developers who supported Microsoft in the past that they are not as good of a value.

When they were fighting IBM and OS/2 they offered incredible values to developers who wanted to program Microsoft project. I was able to obtain legal copies of everything Microsoft had to offer (except for server products) in the early 90s on a personal salary of $30,000 a year

Then prices started rising and soon I was hard pressed by 2001 to maintain an advanced set of tools for Visual Basic.

But in their defense it is starting to turn around for developers with the latest versions of Visual Studio.

But that may be too little too late with the VB6 debacle and issues with the .NET framework/runtime. The biggie of which is that your code is exposed for the world to see.

Anonymous said...

where are the Microsoft Zealots?

Step into any IS/IT/whatever department in any business, government, school, etc. in the developed world. It's a job requirement.

"MS way or the highway" is there literally on a lot of walls, invisible but quite clear on almost all of the rest. "Mike Cox's" policy of immediate termination for even thinking about non-MS software is like Scott Adams' Dilbert: it wouldn't be funny if it weren't based in reality.

Mike Griffiths said...

Just a thought but...

It is possible that hardly anyone outside of Microsoft cares if Vista ships on time (or ever).

XP with Server 2003 is sort of Ok for most businesses - it works and seems reasonably secure.

Arguably the "next" OS from home use is a much simpler beast. Games are best run on an XBox, Movies on a dedicated (not general purpose) machine. To write my emails and some simple documents all I need is a box with something like an Internet Server running on it to manage access from an Internet Browser.

So relax - the world goes on - but cash in your share options as quickly as you can.

Anonymous said...

>It's not clear that he has any real contacts except in Waggener Edstrom.

Scoble plays an important role at the company, albeit an odd one. He's an internal reporter, someone to show transparency into the organization... to a point. To be very clear, he does a good job in bringing "stories" to the forefront of Channel9, but if you step back and think about it, the notion that the company is so difficult to navigate that we have to hire an outsider guy to come in and file reports is a bit sad.

I have no problem with Scoble, or his opinions... i just wish he was making them based on being around Microsoft for a long period of time (I have - 14 years plus) and he had run some portion of the business or at least launched a product or two here.

If the company hadn't spent so many years trying to build our own community instead of integrating into the "real" community out there, perhaps there wouldn't be a need for a scoble in the first place...

Sean Hederman said...

You want to know where the Microsoft zealots are? I'll bite too. Not that I'm a blinded cultist or anything, but I've used the alternatives, and always stuck with MS.

Come to think of it, my last 3 projects have been very successful ground-level rewrites of FLOSS disasters. As karan says, we don't make a big issue about supporting MS, we just quietly beaver away and get the job done.

Oh, and BTW, Anonymous, I am most definately on the lefty side of the spectrum. I simply don't CARE about the religious crusade many FLOSS supporters are on. Why? Because my customers run Windows, and the apps I write for them in Windows work fine.

The Nog said...

He was bemused and confused to have discovered recently that there was this "Evil Empire" point of view by some people.

Well, there was an entire decade when Microsoft behaved like one. A lot of people still remember all the things that happened. Thanks to history, you're never going to shake off the image of the inferior solution that "cheated" or "lucked out" to achieve its #1 status at the expense of holding back general computing.

The original Longhorn vision would have been the revolution that showed Microsoft competing on its technical merits, but the project eventually became another illustration against bungling monopolies for the anti-Microsoft people. The delay to 2007 seems to have really set people off. The amount of press is unbelievable. Frankly, I don't blame them. One good thing about the backlash is that it will increase awareness of the fact that it's not the result of faulty engineers but their faulty managers.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Microsoft Zealot, I don't see any point in using that other crap.

However, I was also a Microsoftie until a month ago, and in my new job I have bought MS Licenses, but that frankly pissed me off! Not only are the licenses extremely expensive, the entire licensing system is so huge and complicated that it took an account manager 3 weeks to give me a simple price for VS Team System. WTF?

I have no longer any wonder why MS is considered a moneyhungry, monopolistic, evil empire, but I still think it's the best products...

Anonymous said...

"Where are the Microsoft zealots? The ones who only want to run Microsoft technology and wouldn't dare suffer a Mac or Linux?"

Microsoft zealots ar normally refered by another name: BOSS

They are the same people who still stick to WinNT as long as possible, because the 16 Bit Applications on which they have wasted lots of money won't run on WinXP.

Anonymous said...

"As FLOSS reasons are akind to left political ideologies, many on the right side support MS. "

Beeeeeeeeep! Wrong! Not all FLOSS or open source supporters are leftie, pinko, socialist wingnuts. I am most definitely a right-wing, small fed gov, states' rights, fiscal conservative, Christian conservative and capitalist. I use open source as much as possible. Why? Because free to me lowers my TCO, I have more choices for software development, tools and technologies not just .Not.

Frankly the capabilities of open source software are just fine, the learning curve is about the same as any commercial software I have used or even easier.

I do pay for what is important. For example, I use Macs which are more expensive than Dull's or ThickPads...but the value to me is there. I will even pay the $20 - $100 for an open source integrator package that saves me time.

This is pure capitalism: if I lower my costs, I improve my profit margins. Plain and Simple as that.

Anonymous said...

Hey, sort of a light hearted diversion, but as I was sitting in our group all hands today and reflecting a bit, I was reminded of this kick ass site that a friend forwarded to me. We should get this guy up to campus for a breakfast series talk or something.

A Ditty 4 You

Anonymous said...

"Where are the Microsoft zealots? The ones who only want to run Microsoft technology and wouldn't dare suffer a Mac or Linux?"

What's your reaction to that question?


I'll bite too. Just to provide a bit of background, I teach in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Dept of a small University. I started programming on punch cards. We have a mix of Win, Mac and Solaris users on faculty in Engineering. Personally I switched from Windows to Mac a little over a decade ago. There have been 5 people out of 22 in the department who have switched in the last couple of years. They have all bought new Macs. No movement the other way. All Solaris users are still on Solaris.

To be honest, I know only a handful of people who could be described as Microsoft zealots, and they are people who have little experience of anything else. And their zeal is emotional. Never connected to anything substantial that they can point to when boosting MS.

Most people I know who use Windows do so because it's the dominant platform out there for the great unwashed (unwashed are those who would generally tremble if faced with a UNIX command line). Most of them have never used anything else.

Among the students the real tech heads are often running some distro of Linux. Some run BSD UNIX. Some have Macs. But I never hear any students rave that they love Microsoft; either the company or the products. There's not a lot of active love out there. At least not in this school. I'd say a grudging tolerance would describe it. Most say that 2000 was an improvement, and XP another improvement (fewer BSOD episodes), but there are still lots of problems because the level 1 support is run ragged.

Personally, I dislike MS because of the harm they have done to the computing space with their monopoly business practices. Over the years MS have bought up and strangled in the cradle startup companies that were bringing new technology to market. Or they have announced vapourware to kill the investment in small innovative companies.

We need platform balance where there's a chance for all to compete on quality and innovation. I wouldn't want to see Apple at 95% either - Steve Jobs is too much of a hothead (though the recent health issues seem to have mellowed his ascerbic propensities). All of those guys: Gates, Ballmer, Jobs, McNeilly, Ellison; they're all kind of whacko in some way that makes it dangerous to have any one of them heading a huge monopoly. We need a mix of platforms, using the open standards available, and let the quality determine who wins the sale, not the abusive practices of a monopolist.

As a case in point, here's one where Apple is losing ground in the quality battle because of the influence of giants. Now, instead of having 800 MB IEEE1394 on Macs we have the older 400 and USB 2. So it seems that the deployment of faster 1394 is going to die due to industry pressure. But I can't boot from a USB 2 connected volume. I can clone a system on a 1394 connected volume and boot from it if need be. This is profoundly important. I had a HD die over the Buck$ma$ holdiay last year and I was up and running in 5 minutes from a cloned system on an external drive. I got to continue preparation of my term work while waiting for the new drive to come in. I can't do that on USB. To me, the 1394 bus is superior. But it will lose out in the long run, I fear, because it's not Intel and not MS. And for computer users, that sucks.

Apple doesn't get it all right either. Spotblight is a good idea, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

In the end I think MS has done as much to hold back the advance of computing technology as they have to promote it, or develop it. An earlier poster mentioned NeXT. I remember how good the Amiga was. Way ahead of Windows in its day. And the BeOS was nice in many ways. It would be nice to have a choice from among all of them. I'd probably have one of each, if they were around.

If any of you younger folk want to know some of the historical reasons for disliking MS (and this is only from one dimension of the hatred matrix), read Wendy Goldman Rohm's book The Microsoft File. It's one of several that would give you pause. Keep in mind that just because it's legal doesn't mean it's either ethical or good for computing.

And if you want to know why people detest Word (lots do), then read this little rant some abused user wrote one day.
http://www.weird.com/~woods/ms-word.sucks.html
I meet lots of engineers who feel that way, then I introduce them to FrameMaker and they get a new lease on life.

Microsoft's biggest problem is the desire to control it all. Unrestrained, probably paranoid, probably greedy, desire to control all of computing. The day they do will be a sad day for us all. The day MS reaches a steady 60% penetration will be an indication that the computing space is in better health.

Apple is not likely to bring this about, though OS X is a really nice system. Me, I'm hoping that Google will do something that knocks the situation into a new era so MS has to get by on quality instead of ownership of the space.

Chris said...

- Where are the Microsoft Zealots?

It seems to me that zealots need something to oppose, and happy MS users/supporters like myself have nothing to oppose because the dominant system does everything I could want it to.

I'm also a University student in the CS/E program of my school and absolutely consider myself a power-user. While I admire and greatly take advantage of open source software, it just doesn't meet enough of my needs to justify me moving to Linux/BSD or Mac for a few reasons:

1. I can run almost any software on Windows but only a limited subset on a *nix system.

2. It's easier for me and anyone else to develop software on Windows using MS tools.

3. Almost all hardware just works for Windows or is extremely easy to set up.

4. The support for MS software is much better due to substantial industry backing (MS and 3rd parties).

5. Windows, unlike FLOSS systems, is consistent and much more predictable (and IMHO more maintainable).

I'm passionate about Microsoft technology, but there's no reason for me to run around screaming about it - it's just the standard.

Note: To be fair, I really wish I could find some good system and scripting tools for Windows that are available on the *nix systems (tcpdump, for example).

Doug Mahugh said...

Yeah, it's a shame this whole Vista delay story killed the buzz about Mix and ODC.

Mix was an unprecedented event for Microsoft, and at Office Devcon we had lots of excitement from third-party ISVs at a sold-out event. And it wasn't all routine: there were some pleasant surprises for ISVs last week, such as the March CTP of VSTO, or the new licensing for the Office binary formats. I wasn't at Mix, but I've heard there were some pretty satisfied attendees there, too.

But can you find any of that good news in the media? Of course not. Whether it's mainstream media, bloggers, or drunks at the bar (and I've infiltrated all three camps when my job has required it), bad news drowns out good news every time.

I'm not saying everything's fine in Redmond, but I honestly expected a bit of a positive PR bump from last week. How naive of me.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and BTW, Anonymous, I am most definately on the lefty side of the spectrum. I simply don't CARE about the religious crusade many FLOSS supporters are on. Why? Because my customers run Windows, and the apps I write for them in Windows work fine.

I don't care of FLOSS religious/philosophic crusades too, but I fear big monopolist that can crush any opponent and stifle innovation. So I just don't like the excessive dominant position of MS and I believe that more competition and openness in the SW market is needed.

Anonymous said...

Beeeeeeeeep! Wrong! Not all FLOSS or open source supporters are leftie, pinko, socialist wingnuts. I am most definitely a right-wing, small fed gov, states' rights, fiscal conservative, Christian conservative and capitalist. I use open source as much as possible. Why? Because free to me lowers my TCO, I have more choices for software development, tools and technologies not just .Not.

That's because you're talking from a technical/economical perspective. I was talking mostly about people which reply mostly for emotional reasons, fighting back the "subversive enemies of the empire" ;-) just for being conservative, and/or because they find easier to ally with the stronger...

Lou Giliberto said...

A few opinions from me:

Where are the MS zealots?

Well, it's hard to be zealous for something that's everywhere you look. MSFT makes software, not a cult following. I mean, I don't really get aroused over a Craftsman wrench (but if you do, hey, whatever turns your crank). I am zealous in my own way. I can build my own PC, run almost any software I want, etc., all because of MSFT OSes. You can't do that with Mac, and you really can't do that with Linux, although Linux has gotten better over the years.

Even though we're geeks, most people see their computer as a combo souped-up typewriter, webbrowser, and Atari 2600. It's just a thing they use like their car or anything else.

But that's part of our success, too.

We're the common man's computer. We don't attract the artsy Mac crowd and we don't attract the ubergeek Linux crowd (I was a FreeBSD'er myself back in the day). If someone invests $500+ in a computer, they want to be able to play games, balance their checkbook, and go into any store, buy a piece of software, and just use it. The zealots are only 5% of the world. 95% of the world goes into BestBuy or online to Dell and says "I want a computer."

Why enterprise buys MSFT...

You know, there are all kinds of conspiracy stories and stuff, but here's the real secret sauce: We support hardware and software that no one else would try to support, and for many years after the technology is deprecated.

Sun ran for years on its own hardware. Apple the same, and add IBM with AIX and HP with HP-UX for good measure. When you control the hardware, writing software is a lot easier. But from day one, MSFT never did that. It released MS-DOS to run on clones not too long after it licensed PC-DOS to IBM. The first OS to come close has been Linux, and even there some things just don't work on it or with it. But I'm sure the Linux kernel coders would be happy to trade hardware war stories over beers with us because I'm sure they share the same pain as us wrt the x86 platform.

I can tell you from writing drivers for 8 years that we have a mandate to support as much hardware and software as possible. There are innumerable workarounds and taking-the-long way to get all that stuff you buy off the shelf working.

And that's why you see MSFT in enterprise.

When there's 30 ethernet cards to choose from, the hardware cost is lower. When one PC from Dell can be replaced by another PC from HP, enterprises have some leverage. When MSFT supports W2K six years later, still releasing patches for it, you're making an investment that will last a while. When you can buy 5000 copies of a piece of software and it will run on a hodge-podge of machines you got from lowest bidders then it looks pretty clear which way you want to go.

If I'm investing $5 mil in infrastructure, consulting, and gold-tier support, I don't want to hear that I need to replace all of that every 3 years to run the new version of SomeFunkyApp. Heck, we still support 16-bit apps. Why? Because there are thousands of people still using them in corporate environments.

You can't tell a bank: Hey, we're coming out with a new OS and dropping support for the old one. BTW, you need to buy all new machines. And software.

The IT departments have their own headaches even though we support all kinds of crufty stuff. They have to roll out on thousands of machines and make sure stuff still works the same way. I wouldn't want to be the guy who rolled out a new OS only to find out that my company couldn't take transactions anymore...

Compatibility and supporting previous versions has always been a mandate. And it's an expensive proposition. Every change has to be tested to ensure compatibility, etc. This requires a lot of dev time and even more test time.

And that's why there are hundreds of manufacturers of PC hardware instead of one like Apple has. Because we make an investment in running on their stuff, and they make an investment in developing their hardware to run with MSFT software.

No secret incantations behind any of this. It's just hard work and investment on both MSFT and the OEM/IHV's parts.

Vista delay...

I don't know where these conspiracy theories about the EU settlement or this that and the other come from about the delay in Vista.

Vista is delayed because it ain't ready. Period. Management knows it ain't ready, and more importantly everyone working on it knows it ain't ready. If you want to get 20%+ of MSFT employees to quit, ask them to sign off on something that isn't ready.

The 400 comments on the slip are nothing compared to the venom that would be unleashed by MSFTies if we were told to kick something out the door that we wouldn't use ourselves. For all the corporate garbage that goes on internally, that's one line that hasn't ever been crossed since I've been there. I've been in triage meetings with developers and testers screaming at managers because they wouldn't take a bug the dev and / or test team wanted to fix; and we usually win because we throw frickin' awesome tantrums: we throw tables instead of chairs ;-)

In fairness to managers, it's their job to stop us from picking every nit because otherwise we would never ship. The good ones know which nits to pick, the bad ones just look at their bugcounts and see a way to get themselves off the radar by dropping things. But that's a whole other rant...

Oh, and you Linux guys, I'm an old *NIX guy. I ran everything from: Minix, Linux, FreeBSD, SysVr4 (Dell used to ship their own release!), HP-UX, AIX, Coherent (I worked on this one), SCO, etc. I probably ran OSes most people never heard of (like Oberon for example). My fave, though, was FreeBSD. It's not like we're a cult here and can't see value in other OSes. So take it down a notch.

Anyhow, I just get kind of irritated at the conspiracy fluff sometimes. Unfortunately, those "reasons" may be more exciting than the real ones, so that's what gets passed around.

Anonymous said...

Sinofsky needs to go clean up a few sesspools in the org other than just security.

I would say networking but i think that has been said enough and will trigger the people who are disowning any posts relative to that topic.

Shell is a good candidate as is ehome and dmd ... it is their fault for the delays.

Anonymous said...

Where are the King Herod zealots?

Anonymous said...

The first comment had it right - you made these people. What bemuses me is why you are surprised by it.

I used to be quite passionately anti-Microsoft but the greater transparency that has been shown over the past few years, with internal bloggers like Raymond Chen setting the record straight about many things, has drained a lot of that old passion. But the views haven't changed.

If I had to identify one reason why I dislike the company, it would be Internet Explorer. Not the product, poor though it is - at the time NS Communicator was poor too. It's the philosophy it showed.

IE was developed entirely to protect the Windows monopoly, that was well established by the court case, and once its job was done you left it to rot - and the web along with it.

Microsoft has done many bad things in its past, but IE is the one I find unforgivable. The web is one of the greatest inventions of the past 20 years, it's a hugely important resource to our culture, society and economy. And you people are single-handedly responsible for freezing its progress, even letting it slide backwards into a criminal backwater.

I'm not the type to make these sorts of comments any more - these days I understand why Windows and Microsoft is the way it is much better than I once did. But nonetheless, you should understand the history of why the people most familiar with your companies actions (ie not your local doctor/dentist/florist/whatever but the techies who deal with computers every day) dislike the company. The reasons are real.

Anonymous said...

Note: To be fair, I really wish I could find some good system and scripting tools for Windows that are available on the *nix systems (tcpdump, for example).

"WinDump is the Windows version of tcpdump, the command line network analyzer for UNIX."

http://www.winpcap.org/windump/

Anonymous said...

>We need platform balance where there's a chance for all to compete on quality and innovation. ... In the end I think MS has done as much to hold back the advance of computing technology as they have to promote it, or develop it.

I disagree. Whatever Microsoft's sins may be, it has inarguably propelled the computer industry forward by providing a *standard*. Like VHS, NTSC, or McDonalds, the standard is not necessarily the best, but it is everywhere and operates in a consistent way. (Try that with the mishmash of free Unix distributions or the miscellaneous proprietary Unixes of old.) This has provided a stable platform on which others can build their business software as well as the advances in computing technology you mention.

The platform balance you ask for is absurd and would inevitably give way to some other de-facto standard.

OS Atheist said...

Interesting data point here, responding to Cheopys and others who say Linux is desktop-ready.

I gave an old PC to a friend last night, a guy who doesn't have one of his own and has only a little experience using one. The box had CentOS on it (a very good RedHat clone), and I told him it would take a while to get a copy of Windows and replace it. He didn't want to wait so I showed him around. He had no trouble using it at all, changed the desktop background and set a home page, was able to get around. A complete newbie.

fCh said...

Lou Giliberto, I appreciate the tone and balanced approaches of your virtual persona. I have a question though after reading your most recent comment here. Do you assume that all the things MSFT is doing, in your enumeration at least, are for the right reason? And if so, are we are to infer, we (employees/customers) ought to stoically bear the costs?

In this comment you wrote We support hardware and software that no one else would try to support, and for many years after the technology is deprecated. First, things should come in the right measure. Second, does you statement have the value of an axiom? If not, what measures you would come up with in order to balance the backward support vs. pain? Third, how would you answer to a student of computing history who might react to your statement with: Yeah, See Novell's NetWare!

Cheers, fCh.

Anonymous said...

"As FLOSS reasons are akind to left political ideologies, many on the right side support MS. "

Actually, OSS fans tend to be libertarians. Take Eric S. Raymond, for example.

"Sun ran for years on its own hardware. Apple the same, and add IBM with AIX and HP with HP-UX for good measure. When you control the hardware, writing software is a lot easier. But from day one, MSFT never did that. It released MS-DOS to run on clones not too long after it licensed PC-DOS to IBM. The first OS to come close has been Linux, and even there some things just don't work on it or with it."

My oh my, aren't you misinformed. MS-DOS was a second-rate clone of CPM, which ran on dozens of platforms. And BSD runs on practically everything.

Anonymous said...

Where are the zealots?
We have all had our headaches with windows and MS wacky behavior.

Example one: SQL sockets like to randomly reset. Why? Nobody at the Technet I recently attended knew and they experienced the same behavior. The end user has no clue and it doesn’t help when the IT guys shrug and go “Its windows, who knows why?”

Example two: I replaced my motherboard at home and went from an Nvidia chipset with an AthlonXP to Via and an Athlon 64. Just for fun I thought I would try to boot without a reinstall. To my utter amazement it not only booted it loaded bunches of drivers and was happy. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself.

Example three: I developed a web page here at work with PHP and WAMP. I signed up for the PHP and ASP series of web meetings. As an added bonus I was to get a free copy of VS standard if I watched three of them. The presentations were really good and I was shocked how open MS was to using PHP on IIS and the possibility of a better bridge to AD and even a port to use VS to do PHP. I was floored that MS would be so open to something like this. Now I get an email saying I will get the “ASP Exploration Pack” and I am encouraged to download the free VS Express. Great so now I am supposed to learn a tool that has license expiration in Nov. Why bother? I suddenly felt all my happy happy feelings replaced by frustration and anger.

Where are the zealots? You are like an older brother that likes to tease you. Most of the time they are OK and soemtimes even fun but then they like to be jerk for no reason. Eventually you decided that you will live with them but not be excited to be around them.

Anonymous said...

"Where are the Microsoft zealots? The ones who only want to run Microsoft technology and wouldn't dare suffer a Mac or Linux?"

I actually know quite a few. To take one example, my mom falls into this category. I regularly have to come over to get things working, but she swears by Microsoft. Absolutely won't touch anything else (hates Macs and thinks Linux is for hippies). She always talks about what a great company Microsoft is (and alternates between encouraging me to start something like it or go work there).

This is basically the profile of all Microsoft zealots I know. Most of the least technical people in my circle are extremely loyal to Microsoft while the more technically skilled are either on other platforms (I develop primarily on Linux and boot Windows for testing) or tied to Microsoft for very specific pieces of software.

There is both hope and warning here. You should not take the online boards as at all representative. There are legions of loyal Microsoft fans out there. The fact that these fans tend towards the least technical segment of the population should be a little worrisome from a pr point. But as long as Microsoft keeps innovating, I think that the disatisfaction will remain at the level of annoyance at the total dominance of one company. Keep making good products and none of this elite sentiment will amount to anything. We'll keep using MS products (even if only part time). But it does mean that you can't keep slipping up forever because there's a built-in community ready to push to a switch to anything that's moderately competitive.

This divide affects marketing, but as long as you keep up with the market and actually ship, it shouldn't affect anything more than that.

Anonymous said...

My take on the zealotry issue is that the core issue is of design. Consider some things that often inspire zealotry - the Mac, Lisp, Unix, iPod, Google. Are all coming, one way or another, from a consistent and singular design. I've always found less consistency in that sense with Windows (and Microsoft software in general). It has always felt more like an accretion of disparate parts to me, and now that I'm here (at Microsoft) I'm starting to see reasons why. It seems like everyone has their one little area, and doesn't ever think about what is beyond that, how everything in the system can work together into a beautiful whole. I haven't been here long and I don't know if this is true everywhere, but at least in my little niche, that attitude seems to rule the day.

Compare:

iPod nano vs Dell DJ
Lisp vs Java
Unix vs Windows
emacs/vi vs Eclipse/Visual Studio
TeX vs Word
Gmail vs Hotmail

Most people don't care. They just want something that works, that does what they need it to do, and any of the above might well do that for them. Some people (myself included) want to use things that they (subjectively) feel are elegant and beautiful. I (subjectively) feel like those on the left hand side of my above comparisons are much more elegant than the ones on the right, which is why I prefer them (and I'll bet you most zealots will be the same).

Not expecting to convince anyone of anything here, but hopefully this will at least give some insight into why some people seem to get all up in arms about this stuff, and perhaps why there are so few Microsoft zealots.

Anonymous said...

For me, it was mostly the bugs that inclined me against.

I tried MS seriously back in '97, and decided that it was the buggiest platform I'd ever seen. The worst of those bugs were by deliberate design (ActiveX). The bugs have gotten better, but instead it invades my privacy more. Those products inclined me to think MS top mgt has no interest in improving customer experience at all. I understand that you guys, individually, mostly do. But you don't set the testing / debugging budgets and schedules.

What has inclined me to zealotry is the fact that these buggy products are effectively forced on the public. I (Ph.D, CS) don't dare solve my friends' computer problems casually because it'll take 4-8h/problem. Now, since the onset of Open Source OS', I don't believe that MS is holding back CS progress anymore, just in how it reaches the public.

My boss is a good example of a thoughtful MS zealot. For him, the GUI interaction, especially Visual *, is worth the effort of doing what it takes to run a stable MS system. And it definitely is possible to do that, but not by the general public to which it's sold.

If free choice were allowed, I think MS would still be ahead, because it is a business innovator. There'd be more Linux/Gnome and some platforms that never got anywhere. If free choice were allowed, I think MS engineers would be more prosperous, because management would almost have to give more emphasis to engineers. With the monopoly, they can underpay and play games and still prosper.

Lou Giliberto said...

Hi fCh,

Well, nothing virtual about my persona - this is who I am :-)

Those are a couple of interesting thoughts you pose.

Do you assume that all the things MSFT is doing, in your enumeration at least, are for the right reason?

Well, MSFT is a business, so it does things to make money. To make money, you have to give the customer what they want unless you can 1) offer them something better, and, 2) prove to them that's it's better.

Even if that thing is a new OS like Win2K or Vista.

When Win2K came out, there were people who would not give up their 98SE (I won't talk about ME because that's something I don't think we did particularly right). But once they tried Win2K and found most of their apps and hardware (esp. games for home users) they were hooked.

XP had more compatibility and fluff, but a lot of thet fluff was useful. Like network setup was still pretty brutal under Win2K, but under XP it's pretty darn easy to connect to a wireless hotspot. Mobile business and home users would like XP for that reason alone.

For hardware, you can look at ISA. It took the combination of USB and PCI to replace that nightmare. ISA was great for its time, but who wants to open the case and set jumpers to run a bus mouse (I still have scars from cutting myself up on the AT cases)? Yet people were reluctant to give it up until they could get the same and better hardware on USB and PCI.

We published a Legacy-Free PC spec. No RS-232 ports. Tons of machines stil ship with RS-232. Why? Because the OEM and IHV's customers demand it. So we still ship serial.sys (a driver I used to own, BTW, and having owned it, no one would like to see that technology disappear from a PC more than I do; but it won't happen for a while yet).

Parallel ports are kind of the same. Most people print over the LAN at work or USB at home with newer printers.

Looking at today, VGA connectors are on their way out with LCDs and HDTV popping up everywhere. No more CRTs means no more real need for VGA.

So, in that sense, we do those things for the right reasons. To make our customers happy, we need a balance of pushing the new (because they may not understand the value yet) and supporting what they already have. That's part of why we have a bazillion lines of code in the OS.

I think Vista will sell itself once people try it just like Win2K and XP did. I really wish some of the features didn't get cut, but there are still a bunch of things in there that make it infinitely more usable than XP in some ways. Same with the new version of Office.

A lot of times people upgrade for one must-have feature in a new version of software (if their IT depts allow them). Win2K/XP with power management was enough of a reason for laptop owners to upgrade. Having a pentium with a battery life of more than 30 minutes is probably worth the cost of upgrade just to remove the annoyance of being tethered. I also like offline files - I use that a lot personally.

And if so, are we are to infer, we (employees/customers) ought to stoically bear the costs?

Actually, yeah. I mean, I throw hissy fits about how we should just rip stuff out because it's technologically impure and dated, or not put a workaround in for hardware because the hardware has a faulty design, then a PM with a customer usually brings me back down to earth.

The customers pay our checks, and also they are what generate money for shareholders. So, we need to give them what they need and want even if we have to hold our collective noses while doing so.

When I'm sick of looking at bugs, I think about myself as a customer. One bugcheck may the straw that breaks the customer's back. If I look at OCA (those are the crashes you send to MSFT over the internet - we do definitely look at them) buckets and see 10, 100, 1000, whatever people are crashing from the same thing, I realize that's 10, 100, 1000, etc. disappointed customers who just threw a coffee mug through their monitor because they lost their term paper, earnings report, etc.

I don't know about anyone else, but when I buy a car that's a lemon, I don't buy that brand of car anymore. I would expect MSFT customers to have the same attitude, and I don't blame them. That's why I cry in my root beer about what a pain this is and spend (well when I was in Windows) the two weeks tracking down a single bug that most people won't see, but one corporate customer is depending on us fixing. I would do the same for non-corporate customers, too. I don't like losing term papers and stuff either.

We work for a company that generates product. That's a lot different atmosphere than working in a research group or academia or even hacking Linux/FreeBSD/etc. at night. Part of the challenge is biting the bullet on certain things, and trying to figure out the right thing to do for the technology, the company, and the customer all at once. And sometimes that means we still support RS-232!

But is it an axiom? No, but I think I did state an axiom this time:

[To make money] you have to give the customer what they want unless you can 1) offer them something better, and, 2) prove to them that's it's better.

Here's an example:

No one really knew what an MP3 player was. They all wanted slim CD players until Jobs brought out the iPod. Aha! That's what MP3 (er, AAC) is! I can carry around all my tunes, never swap disks, etc.

Customers didn't know they wanted it, but Jobs gave it to them, and it was successful because he proved it was better for many uses than a slim CD player or a DAT walkman or a minidisc.

Then customers asked for things like video, and Apple added that as well.

His hypnotic aura and superpowers of reality distortion didn't hurt either :-) But in my mind that's because he has an awesome imagination and great vision about what's cool and fun.

So you know I'm not all rah-rah, here are some things I think we as a company bungled product-wise:

1) Vista ship (obviously)

2) IE and OutlookExpress. Those should have been treated as full parts of the OS and improved instead of allowing them to decay like that - I think we took a big risk by not improving them over the years. Maybe with WindowsLive we'll be better and more agile at doing things in this area.

3) Our shell needs faster innovation and more user freedom. Three-six years between shells is too long to stay fresh. I know we want a consistent interface for corporate, but we need fun sexy stuff like Apple has in their GUI, too. I run ObjectDesktop on my XP machines because I get sick of staring at the same thing all the time. Computers should be fun to use. Sometimes I think we forget that, or, worse, our idea of whimsical is "clippy"

4) Chasing Google. Google does some stuff great, but instead of coming up from behind, I think we need to target going past. Equivalent functionality isn't all too impressive. MSN search wasn't that exciting to me, but the new Live search interface is kind of neat. I hope we go more in that direction. Also with toolbar, desktop search (where I work now), and messenger. I think those live offerings are pretty cool and useful.

5) The early days of MSN. I was always a Yahoo fan, and in the early days of MSN I couldn't stand our stuff. Maybe this was a symptom of chasing AOL. But MSN as a whole has come a long way in especially the last year. I hated spaces at first, but now I like it and my blog is there, and I see them adding all kinds of neat stuff.

So, in spite of all the internal crap, we still do some pretty neat things, and we are headed for doing some pretty neat things. We also do some bonehead things, too, like not keeping IE in shape. Sorry to whomever that pisses off, but not really, because it was boneheaded. The browser is the gateway to the internet (i.e., the cash machine in Google/Yahoo/MSN business parlance), and we let it wither. I sure hope we don't do that with IE7 and after.

As regards Novell, we support NetBUI still I think...lol But the difference is we also support TCP/IP (though it took the success of Trumpet Winsock to kind of wake us up). We're going to support IPv6, etc.

So Novell is the other extreme. That's the risk when you only support legacy and the new stuff is thrown in kind of half-baked (this is my opinion of course). SCO is another example. If I were SCO, I'd ship SCO that could run Linux binaries about 10 years ago.

You can't fight progress - but you can make money off of it and do cool new things with it. You also can't turn your back on what came before. People want both, and I think part of our success is our ability to give them both.

But, I'm just an idiot with a keyboard, so other opinions are as good as mine (or better) :-)

Lou Giliberto said...

My oh my, aren't you misinformed. MS-DOS was a second-rate clone of CPM, which ran on dozens of platforms. And BSD runs on practically everything.

No, not really. Your point about CPM is noted, but is kind of incorrect. Same with BSD.

Here's an irrelevant trip down memory lane.

BSD originally ran on a PDP-11. Its next stop was VAX around 1980, and I think it kind of lingered there until the late 80's with something like 4.3BSD. MS-DOS came out 1982. So, it was "multi-platform" before BSD by like 5 or 7 years.

UNIX itself was a research OS until SysIII when AT&T started selling it around 1982. A year later, Coherent came out for the 8086. It was based on Version 7 like SysIII and BSD. It also originally ran on the PDP-11. I used to work for Mark Williams Company which wrote Coherent. They also wrote software for the AtariST and a bunch of other things like a C compiler.

CP/M is more relevant, but for whatever reason Digital Research didn't want to support one particular platform: the IBM PC. Which in retrospect was kind of, you know, a bad idea. Whether it had to do with NDAs, airplanes, or whatever myth you prefer, they thumbed their nose at IBM.

But that brings us back to the relevancy of my point which I actually find more interesting than the nit-picking trolling (smile). Microsoft from day one tried to support everything within reason. MS Basic ran on the TRS-80, the Altair, etc.

CP/M, in a sense, died because it had the attitude that they support what they want, when they're ready. MSFT tries to support what its customers want. Because, well, that's what pays the bills.

Note that I do acknowledge Linux is different. It is more like MSFT in its goal of trying to support whatever it can that is reasonable. That, too, is part of its success. The biggest difference there is MSFT has a cash incentive to please partners while the Linux incentive (from a hacker standpoint) is to get a piece of hardware working on my machine and then share out the code.

Achieving compatibility is expensive. Cash usually helps. The alternative is the IHV writing the drivers, HAL or kernel port, which some do. But for them, too, it's a business proposition.

Anyhow, like I said, I'm a fan of a lot of OSes. From the first time I used a computer (which was a TeleType paper terminal complete with paper tape reader), I wanted to know how they ran, etc. I've worked on OSes and embedded systems from the mid 1980's until a year ago when I left the Windows org. I still love OSes, I just couldn't take the nonsense there anymore.

Someday when my MSFT career is over (maybe after this post when the bosses read it - lol), you'll probably see me back on the FreeBSD or Linux groups hacking at something in the kernel somewhere. Ring 0 is an addiction.

OK, I've filled up enough of Mini's blog for now. Time to go back into lurk mode for a while. The last word is yours - have at it :-)

Anonymous said...

Sadly I am a Microsoft zealot. I have tried several linux distribution, several commercial or free alternatives to Microsoft products such a OpenOffice, Lotus Notes, Eclipse+GCC, and others.

The result is always the same, despite my excitement at the idea to replace Microsoft products, I have not found better in all the areas I need.

Linux is fine, but all the software I need runs on Windows, not on Mac nor Linux. So my only chance on the OS side is react os.

OpenOffice is good for a free application. But it is so slow compared to Office (processing calculation sheets for example, and others) that I had to give it up.

Compilers and Editors. There is no competition again. VC is the best available and Microsoft compiler rocks. I do not even dare to compare Sony's tool chain and XBox ones.

I could make a long list. But so far I am a forced Microsoft zealot. Simply because despite all the problems with Microsoft products, in my day to day usage, the alternatives are much worse.

Anonymous said...

"CP/M is more relevant, but for whatever reason Digital Research didn't want to support one particular platform: the IBM PC"

Huh? You never heard of CP/M-86?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CPM-86

The manual for the original IBM PC said you could use either CPM-86 or DOS.

You know, if IBM had learned on its own about QDOS, instead of asking Gates if he had an operating system (or if Gary Kildall had made a better deal, or if IBM had decided to follow its own standard procedures and write an OS), Microsoft today would be just another moderate-sized software company.

Doug Mahugh said...

Yeah, pointing at CP/M as an OS that ran on dozens of platforms sort of misses the point. DRI didn't deliver that compatibility, geeks like you and me did. If you ever spent a long weekend fighting with sysgen just to get CP/M to recognize something like a new 5MB hard drive, it's hard to point to those as the good old days.

And the stuff about Vista's complexity, come on ... the market demands that. Operating systems, like cars and everything else, get more complicated every year because that's what consumers want. Who still drives a simple stick-shift vehicle without power windows or power locks? I do, and a wealthy man in the used-car business once told me "people like you are bad for the economy." (He was a technophobe, so the feeling was mutual.)

Hey Mini, did you see that somebody sent a an internal email to a wide audience today likening your blog to sleeping with the enemy? I rushed home and resolved to post something, anything, just to get that cheap thrill of forbidden discourse.

Done, time for a cigarette ...

Anonymous said...

"Hey Mini, did you see that somebody sent a an internal email to a wide audience today likening your blog to sleeping with the enemy?"

As a long time lurker, I'll pipe up and say that's an interesting development. I'll also share I'm in Office and didn't see it there, so... I wonder where it might have been... hmm...

mthree said...

Hey, Mini - Details on the SPSA program can be found in the annual proxy at http://www.microsoft.com/msft/SEC/FY05/proxy2005.mspx. It's pretty transparent.
As for your blog, it's appreciated.

Vince P said...

About the zealot thing...

I suppose I'm a MS zealot. I dabbled in Unix-world once around 2000, I was completely unproductive. yes yes.. that's natural.. can't just switch to another system and automatically know everything you need to know.. it takes time , etc... but my work project that required Unix went away and I never had time to further look into it.

I only say that to state I have nominally attempted to use a non-MS platform... it didn't work for me for reasons that were in within and without my control.

Anyway... zealotry. To be honest, I think those of us who enjoy MS software and whatnot JUST DON'T CARE to engage in endless warfare and insults with people from Mac/Unix/Linux/FOSS/etc and will just keep our opinion to ourselves lest we become as what is commonly seen from M/U/L/F/e zealots as just a base nastiness, relentlessness and irrationality.

I remember engaging in Mac vs Win fights back in the mid-90s.. it gets old and in the end, what does it matter to the ordinary person/developer/end user?

Right now where I work we just hired a guy who was an unix-admin-on-the-side , and he makes some silly anti-MS comment AT EVERY OBSTACLE he faces every day. I'll say something like "If you're into CLI's, you might be interested in the Monad/PS shell MS is making", and then I get a long diatribe about how there are 400 CLIs for UNIX and how DOS is a toy etc.. it's like "sheesh, STFU, sorry I said anything".

Or I have to hear about MySql and how much better it is because it doesn't have a GUI to manage stored procedures. (like huh?)..

It comes to a point where these people are just intolerable and in the face of that, there is no sense saying anything because none of it makes a difference.

Jekke said...

A long time ago, I was a Microsoft zealot because I was afraid that, if the Mac and open source people got their way, all the tools my career was based on would go the way of the dodo.

Older and wiser, I now realize that the Mac will always be a niche system and the OSS guys aren't getting their way no matter how much they crow about their imminent victory over the Evil Empire.

The correct response to ineffectual zealotry is not zealotry in the opposite direction. It's polite indifference.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft zealots...

Haven't met one personally.

I use MS software for games. If I want to surf the web I use Firefox in Ubuntu or if I am feeling lazy and don't want to reboot, I will use Firefox in WinXP. I view Linux as a novelty at the moment. Sure it is nice, but it is far from ready for the casual desktop user. It is getting better, yes, but the learning curve is what I see as a major obstacle. CLIs? No ordinary user wants to deal with a CLI anymore (read ordinary user as Joe Sixpack or Middle Management Drone, meaning the vast majority of computer users). People like their eye-candy and the ease-of-use that GUIs provide for (Certain distros are getting this right, Ubuntu, Mepis, etc).

I can't say as I like where Windows is headed at the moment: Digital Restrictions Management, "Un-Trustworthy Computing", security through obscurity (those popup boxes are not the solution folks, people will just get trained to click through them without reading them), software as a service (people don't want to be nickel-and-dimed for software), Windows Genuine Advantage (completely broken btw - it reports valid VLKs AND single-seaters as invalid, but that is a whole other topic). Some of these things I mentioned are reasons why you see more and more people moving to alternative OS solutions.

Granted, I love WinXP, if you ask me, XP has been the best MS product to date, I just wish you guys had made it easier to customize themes without having to hack uxtheme.dll or rely on 3rd party applications that do what the OS should have allowed us to do in the first place - get rid of that fugly Luna for something nicer. And no, I am not referring to just allowing signed MS files, which is a ridiculous matter when it comes to themes.

To be honest, some of us want our computers to stay our computers, to run what we tell it to, when we tell it to. We don't want permission from the motherservers in Redmond to run X application or to treat us like criminals because Genuine Advantage is broken. We just want things to work :)

PS- People designing Windows should be forced to do so under Limited Accounts once and see why people hate it so much and just run their accounts as Admin. Take a cue from Linux - you can install and run programs all you want by just inputing the Root Password on run-time or running a simple command like sudo, WITHOUT compromising security by logging in as a Root User/Admin. The OS doesn't have a fit and BSODs or error messages left and right that you don't have permissions or some other part of the OS refuses to do whatever you just told it to do, it just works. For crying out loud, needing to be Admin to install a game or update a device driver in Windows is just the most backwards thing I have ever come across when using a computer.