Bill Gates on Technology and Strategy

Over the past few days, I had the great pleasure to savor a 1989 speech by Bill Gates to the Computer Science Club of the University of Waterloo. My previous exposure to Bill Gates’ thought had been rather disappointing — Business @ The Speed of Thought has to be one of the emptiest collections of cliches ever written — so I tuned in mainly for the nostalgia.

Little did I know that I was in for 93 minutes of brilliance.

Bill Gates speech in 1989 reveals two things: he is an expert at technology and an expert at strategy, both theoretical and applied. Except for the parts of his speech which deals with the specific environment of the late 1980s, most of Gates’ technological statements are timeless. Listening him to talk about his vision for programming I kept having to tell myself that .Net wouldn’t be released for another 14 years. Likewise, listening him to how he structures teams at Microsoft, and how he forms goals and sets release schedules, I kept being reminded of Chet Richards’ Certain to Win: The Strategy of John Boyd, Applied to Business.

The grand view of Gates’ ability is emphasized through his repitition of a near-disasterous decision. At the time, Microsoft and IBM were collaborating on a new operating system called (with typical IBM finesse) OS/2 (short of Operating System / 2). The relationship would collapse the very next year. IBM and Microsoft have very different operating philosophies, and Microsoft assisting in building and promoting IBM’s “successor” to Windows was in retrospect unimaginably dangerous. It was as if Queen Elizabeth I had supplied timber and workers to build the Spanish Armada.

Of course, like in that war, it didn’t matter.

IBM’s islamic, top-down, one-true-way philosophy was outclassed by Microsoft’s theory of embrace and extend. Just as the British defeated the Armada, not because of luck but because of the Spanish inability to change in respond to changing events, Microsoft defeated IBM because of International Business Machine’s inability to change in respond to changing event. On paper IBM had the advantages

    • Man power
    • Hordes of cash
    • Business Contacts
    • Experience (IBM had previously been outmaneuvred by Microsoft in the release of DOS)

But Microsoft had a unity of purpose, iterative design, and flexibility. IBM had none of these.

Within half a decade, the war was essentially over. IBM released the last commercial version of OS/2 in 1996. The overwhelming power & success of Microsoft Windows, by contrast, needs no elaboration.

A good but tiring day

Finished up some major work on a project that I will go into detail on later. Up to now most of the benefit of this project has been humor at a piece that requires this man

to be associated with this one

If you’re thinking “that’s not funny,” then you’re right. But that’s one long hours do to you.

Short Review of "300"

Catholicgauze, gnxp, The Metropolis Times, and ZenPundit have offered their views.

I could argue that it’s a near-perfect example of the Romantic genre, and that the screen play appears to have been written by Ayn Rand.

I could say that it’s brilliant embarrasses the emptiness of Hollywood, and it’s empty translations of Alexander and Troy.

I could say that the very best review I’ve read comes from, and that this film comes from the world of comics, says a lot about the greatness of a medium I have rarely directly enjoyed.

But instead, I will say this: If before the battle the Spartans had seen this movie, had known how their tale would be sung, they would be delighted.

Jesusism-Paulism, Part VI: Embrace and Extend

“Nobody ever got fired for buying Big Blue.”

For years IBM’s strength rested on vendor-lock in and vendor-compatibility. A company that wished to buy electronic computer equipment had one choice, Big Blue, which offered complete systems that were entirely under the control of IBM. IBM keyboards communicated in IBM EBCDIC to IBM terminals, connected through IBM wires to IBM mainframes, IBM harddrives, IBM tape backups, and IBM power supplies. The complete solution set took the world by storm, offering One Ruleset (Buy IBM) which entailed numerous sub-products. The system worked.

The Islam of the 1970s

In the same way, the One Ruleset of the Koran swept aside the old Roman world, tearing up the Orthodox and Arian peoples it subjugated, rolling back much of the Christian 4GW revolution. Islam did this almost as an afterthought, as it also spread into formerly Zoroastrian, Hindu, Buddhist, and Animist countries. No one ever got fired for buying Big Blue, and no one ever got beheaded for embracing Islam.

The IBM of the Dark Ages

But IBM met Microsoft.

The Microsoft of the Dark Ages

And Islam met Catholocism.

A famous example of Microsoft’s embrace and extend philosophy is the Redmond corporation’s response to SUN’s Java Programming Language. Java was one of a line of programming languages, beginning with C, whose goal was to make it easy to write a program one time and run it on many different computers. Java went even farther than its predecessors, however, in that the computer would translate the written Java code into a java file that could be read the same way under all programming languages.

The Islamic / IBM solution would have been to fight this, and wipe Java off of the map. This is exactly what Islam did when the Sharia legal code completely displaced ancient Arab laws, completely displaced ancient Roman law, and completely displace dancient Persian laws, in the lands it was implemented. Sharia covered the transition from boyhood to manhood, the transiion from bachelorhood to single life, who may be drafted and who may be head-taxed. The One True Way had an answer for everything.

International Business Machines similarly displaced everything that came before with the Operating System/360. MFT, MVT, BOS/360, TOS/360, and DOS/360 were all specific prescriptions of the OS/320 system, mere details of the IBM way. The conscious goal of IBM was to turn a corporate customer “all blue,” where custom-built IBM hardware ran everything.

Micrososoft’s response to Java was smarter. Instead of condemending Java, calling it a stupid language, and ignoring it, Microsoft opted to embrace and extend. Microsoft devised Visual J++, an implementation for Java that actually provided the best interface for developing Java applications yet. Microsoft perfected the nature of Java from a good idea that was hard to work with to a good idea that was easy to work with.

Microsoft also extended J++ by adding features that were unique to Microsoft’s Windows operating system. These extensions fixed Java’s biggest weakness, lack of speed, by allowing J++ programs to operate the same as programs written in other popular languages (C, C++, etc.) and even faster than Microsoft’s own Visual Basic language.

When SUN complained that Microsoft embrace of Java, when Microsoft’s love and generosity to a potentially dangerous rival, was unfair, Microsoft refused to look away. Microsoft continues development on Java-like languages. Today, if you want to use a Microsoft Java-like language that taps in to all the power of the Microsoft .Net programming environment, you can, for free: Visual J# 2005 Express. Even more lovlingly, Microsoft’ primary programming language, C#, is famous for being frighteningly similar to java. And just as the Jesusist-Paulists adviesd one to repair evil with kindness, Microsoft responded to SUN’s increasing hostility with more love: giving C# away for free.

If “Embrace & Extend” sound like a way of penetrating a market and separating the customers from the old market-leader, it is. Embrace & Extend are the first two pages of the PISRR stages of victory.

Penetrate, Isolate : Embrace, Extend

As embrace & extend leads to a form of subversive victory, the paranoid accusation that Microsoft secretly wished to “embrace, extend, and exterminate” simply makes no sense. Microsoft wishes to embrace, extend, and own.

Down the PISRR Way

Though, more charitably, “extinguish” can be seen as being the very final step, to a world where every individual mattered. As Microsoft’s early vision went, “A PC on every desk and in every home.”

Reharmonize and Win

One can view this as a variation of the original OODA/PISRR loop of victory.


However, under the Embrace & Extend system, whether implemented by Microsoft or by the Jeusist-Paulists, the circle is broken. Once the system is embraced and extended into pre-existing systems, and rival organizing principles are abolished, there is nothing more to do. The war would have been won.

The Microsoft Way… The Christian Way

The Jesusist-Paulists of the Catholic Church behaved the same way. They embraced the old cultures of Europe, refusing to look away when revulsion would have been easier than love. And they extended the old orders, giving new life to the status quo ante sancata romana ecclesia. For instance, in southern France where the old Senatorial families still held sway, the family names of the early bishops were the same as the family names of the last Senators. In Ireland, where an indigenous Church had grown after the abduction of the slave boy Patricius, Romanization was handled primarily through institutional fusion. And in the Viking North, the Church refused to look away from the bloody tribes — instead embracing them.

It would have been easier to have, and ignore. But the Christians loved, and embraced.

And, of course extended. Even through the crippling Islamic blockade of western Europe, the practice of slavery faded away. The locus of Jesusism-Paulism, the Bishopric fo Rome, continued intellectual engagement with the Byzantine Empire to the east, continued doctrinal promulgation throughout Europe, and in general did all that a conquering power could do.

Yet even as the Church loved and embraced and extended the cultures of Western Europe to serve Jesusism-Paulism, the counterrevolutions had begun. The old Maoism of Greek civilization was not dead, and for a thousand years it rolled back the success of the 4GWarriors.

What followed next may have been Christianity, but it was not Jesusism-Paulism.

But those are stories for other times.

Jesusism-Paulism, a tdaxp series in six parts
1. Love Your Enemy As You Would Have Him Love You
2. Caiaphas and Diocletian Did Know Better
3. Every Man a Panzer, Every Woman a Soldat
4. The Fall of Rome
5. The People of the Book
6. Embrace and Extend

Review of "iWoz" by Steve Wozniak and Gina Smith

iWoz is the sort of book I would have loved ten years ago, and indeed it’s the sort of material that makes for a great radio interview. If written in 1995, it would have been one of my favorite books of all time. As it is, Stephan Wozniak’s autobiography is a fine partial history of the era that saw the rise of the personal computer. It belongs in the same class as High Noon (about Sun Microsystems) and The Second Coming of Steve Jobs (about the Next-Apple transition). A step below true classics like Fire in the Valley, iWoz is quite good.

How He Founded Apple, Invented the Personal Computer, and Had Fun Doing it (, And Afterwards)

iWoz is broken into several large parts. The first section focuses mostly on Wozniak’s electric-logic experience, from earlier science fair experiments to an arpanet terminal that would eventually morph into the Apple I. These include early pranks and feature elements of obsession, sacrifices, humility, and geography that I would find as the basis of creativity in my series on Coming Anarchy. Woz’s systematic exploration of electronic circuitry would finally come together in the Apple II, a product he is quite proud of and truly one of the grandest achievements of the 1980s.

A second, gloomer half documents Steve’s inability to horizontally apply these skills to other aspects of his life. Two marriages fail and after the second he writes painfully of losing his house. Likewise, with grace and modesty Wozniak documents betrayals by Steve Jobs and poor treatment to the news media. Similarly, Wozniak documents the failures of his US Concerts to be either what he intended or profitable, and likewise his shortlived CL9 start-up firm.

In an earlier review of Robert Weisberg’s Creativity: Beyond the Myth of Genius, I criticized that author for his differentiating “horizontal” and “analogical” thinking. While Weisberg’s book retains many problems, this distinction is not one of them. While analogical thinking is the root of all creativity, horizontal thinking is worthless — expertise does not “translate” from one domain to another unless analogies help bridge those domains.

So all in all, iWoz is a very enjoyable book. It’s a fun guided tour of the early days of the Personal Computer, and has some valuable things to say along the way about the nature of creativity.

The National and Homeland Security Amendment

The class that abolished a parliamentary republic to embrace direct democracy still has that form of government. There’s a notable drop in participation, which is typical of classes that undergo such a constitutional shift. Students — and I think I can generalize this to most human beings — dislike participation and deliberation, and go out of their way to avoid it.

The Tyranny of the People?

Nonetheless, after my suggestion the now leaderless class agreed to discuss the following potential amendment to the US Constitution:

(i) No person who, through religions doctrine, belief, or sympathy owes loyalty, fealty, or obedience to any foreign state or foreign network or any sort, shall serve as an Officer or Representative of the United States or of any State.

(ii) The Congress of the United States, and the Legislatures of the several States, shall have the power to enforce this law.

By the end of the initial discussion, the class was largely split between people who opposed the amendment outright and others who opposed “loopholes in it” (such as the implied persecution of the Catholic Church).

I then altered the assignment, so that students were told that this amendment was guaranteed to pass, but they had the power to alter it to make it less offensive. While still vocally opposed by a healthy minority, the following revision removed most of the opposition

(i) No person who, through religious doctrine, belief, or sympathy may impede the national or homeland security of the United States shall serve as an Officer of the United States or of any State.

(ii) The Congress of the United States, and the Legislatures of the several States, shall have the power to enforce this law.

What changed? (Additions in italics, subtractions struck-through):

(i) No person who, through religions doctrine, belief, or sympathy owes loyalty, fealty, or obedience to any foreign state or foreign network or any sort, may impede the national or homeland security of the United States shall serve as an Officer or Representative of the United States or of any State.

(ii) The Congress of the United States, and the Legislatures of the several States, shall have the power to enforce this law.

While the changes “narrowed” the amendment by moving away from foreign-control to actualy theats, the alterations “expanded” the amendment by including threats to homeland security, and not just national security. Two religious groups were openly discussed by the class: the Roman Catholic Church and the Ku Klux Klan. The RCC is apparently disestablished by the original amendment, while the Klan is apparently persecuted by the revised one.

The End

I was the first one at my father’s burial.

I drove around the small town some. I stopped for gas, drove past the city hall where my grandfather once teased an imprisoned clown, past “Presbyterian Hill” where one of the first academy’s in the state was founded, and went back to the cemetery. I saw the funeral home’s tent and, next to my father’s grave, my grandfather’s temporary marker (misspelled) and my brother’s tombstone.

Eventually the rest of the family arrived. We waited until about the appropriate time and stepped outside.

We mingled some, and then the priest arrived (a fine Asian-Indian Father who, unlike his native born coreligionist at the funeral, kept to the liturgy). I was supposed to be a pallbearer (as at the funeral), but my uncles and a cousin relieved me of that duty.

Instead, I held my mom.

After, we gathered at my grandfather’s old house. My cousin has kept it up well — perfected it, really — and we told stories. Then, as conversations among family tend to do so, we turned to happier subjects. Lunch was tasty, and it was good to eat with so many loved ones.

I will continue to write of this as appropriate, but today is a real end. I went from worried concern, to hope, to despair, to my father’s death, to his funeral, and now his burial. I don’t know what else to say here. I suspect there is not much more. How many times can you say, “I love you, dad”?

So I expect tomorrow will see a resumption of normal blogging. A world has ended, but I am still here. So is my girlfriend, who my dad loved, in spite of being sucked under a semi. This life goes on.

A Weird Limbo

The funeral was Friday, but burial is tomorrow. This time feels weird. Sometimes I feel “normal,” sometimes I feel terrible. For the first times I am feeling guilty for not feeling sad (up until now the true feeling was pretty much continuous). It certainly don’t feel good.

Funeral Morning

Yesterday began with my brother and I shoveling out our driveway. I don’t mind this chore — it goes fast when you listen to podcasts, and it’s best to get it done early before the snow is compacted by anything driving over it.

Very kindly our neighbor came by, without being asked or even conversation, snowblowed the end of the driveway (where the plow had built up quite a drift), and then left. All without a word.

A friend of mine came by Dodge 4X4 to drive us the half-mile to the church for the funeral. The terrible snow prevented one of dad’s pall-bearers and his eldest brother from attending.

The first was — interesting. He’s a perfectly friendly guy, and fits where with my hometown’s trend of having every minister of every church being a “baptist” (my parents term for the somewhat-charismatic, somewhat-contemporary) service style. As a priest. however…

Even after agreeing, he pointed refused to include the line of scripture we had requested: 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Instead, he chose a passage of scripture that has an opposite connotation…

The liturgy was also off. Catholic worship, for those not aware, uses a calls-response methodology. It’s somewhat jarring, however, when politically correct additions (“brothers and sisters,” instead of “brethren”) or subtractions (“Christ” instead of “Christ, our Lord”) of the moment, as the case may be.

After the funeral mass, the present pallbearers, dad’s brother, his nephew, and myself carried the casket to the hearse. There was a lunch that my dad would have enjoyed in the abstract, as it included the “byzantine” aspects of my mom’s family that he found so fascinating.

After that I went home, shoveled some more, and slept.