Tag Archives: microsoft

Vista is a horrible piece of software

gmgDesign has an unusually weak post that criticizes technology users for disliking Microsoft Vista. Garrott mentions two valid complaints as valid — Vista’s poor performance and user-hostile interface — before dismissing them, and then says the real reason “geeks hate Vista” is

Because they’re supposed to. Because other Slashdot users loathe it. Because it’s Microsoft, and Microsoft is eeevil.

While “If everyone is doing something else, do the other” is valid in many parts of life, when applied to Vsita apologetics, it’s just embarrasing.

Here’s just five of the problems I’ve had with Vista:

1. The intergration of IE with Vista makes it impossible to downgrade the included Microsoft browser when it breaks
2. Many commonly-used elements, such as Add / Remove Programs and “Display Properties,” require the users to navigate different paths than in previous versions of Vista. This is worse than just throwing away years of experience: familiarity with Windows leads to negative transfer in Vista.
3. Vista’s display model breaks all previous VNC servers. If you don’t know what this is, or how it effectively forces the user to use a properitar, security-risky alternative like Mesh, you have no business defending Vista.
4. Vista’s multilanguage support is incoherently bad.
5. On a laptop, which came with Vista pre-installed, loading Control Panel is a task so processor intensive that it crashes before it renders.

It’s too clever by half to say that people dislike Vista because they dislike Microsoft. People dislike Vista because Vista is awful.

Further, I’ve been impressed after a watching a friend effortlessly install Windows 7 on a netbook, and the general excitement around Windows 7 shows a desire for a new, modern, and functional Operating System from Microsoft. Indeed, Windows XP and Windows 95 were welcomed by the community for just this reason.

But the ability to maek a good operating system (95, XP, etc) does not predict Microsoft from occasionally making clunkers (Me, Vista, etc.) Defending Vista shows not just an ignorance of operating system and user experience fundementals: it tricks both fellow users and even Microsoft employees into spending time and resources in wasteful and potentionally harmful ways, intsead of concentrating on how to use and build the Windows features that we all need.

ODF Defeats OOXML!

I became a fan of the OpenDocument Format when I was working on my Masters thesis in Computer Science, and needed to generate hundreds of report files in as Word and Powerpoint documents. Working on a combination of Linux and Windows machines, my best option was ODF… I could create OpenDocument files by outputting XML, graphics, and zipping them up, and then use OpenOffice to batch-convert them to Microsoft’s format. Since then I’ve followed the rise of ODF in some interested, and been curious about Microsoft’s uncharacteristic attempt to create a competitor format, OOXML.

Microsoft now seems to be conceeding that it backed the wrong horse. ODF support will be native in Microsoft Office from the next service pack on, while there’s no date for Office to support Microsoft’s own format:

Red Hat Summit panel: Who ‘won’ OOXML battle? | The Industry Standard
The Open Document Format (ODF) has benefited from the two-year battle over the ratification of Microsoft’s rival Open Office XML (OOXML) standard, which is native to its Office 2007 suite, Microsoft’s national technology officer said Thursday during a panel discussion at the Red Hat Summit in Boston.

ODF has clearly won,” said Stuart McKee, referring to Microsoft’s recent announcement that it would begin natively supporting ODF in Office next year and join the technical committee overseeing the next version of the format.

“We sell software for a living. The ability to implement ODF in the middle of our ship cycle was just not possible,” he said. “We couldn’t do that during the release of Office 2007. We’re looking forward and committed to doing more than [ODF-to-OOXML] translators.”

Panelist Douglas Johnson, an official involved with corporate standards at Sun Microsystems, said the attention caused by the debate has enabled other office-suite products to be competitive.

“The office-suite market has been ruled by one dominant player after another, but those markets were never governed by good open standards practices,” he said. “What has happened is that this dominant-player market has actually been upset and opened to competition that didn’t exist before.” Sun’s StarOffice product uses ODF.

The real winner is consumers. Once Microsoft Office natively supports ODF (meaning you can load OpenDocuments through File | Open, save them through File | Save, etc.), the same standard office format will be supported by OpenOffice, Microsoft Office, and Google Docs. This means that consumers will be able to use the productivity suite that meets there needs, and not be locked-in by a technical file format that is special to one company or the other.

Sony 1, Microsoft 0

The collapse of HD-DVD (and victory for Bluray disk) in the past week also scrambles the Microsoft XBOX 360 v. Sony PS3 race for second in the console wars. Microsoft has been benefiting from the next-gen video wars because, not only did XBOX 360 support HD-DVD through an add-on while the PS3 had integrated BluRay, XBOX 360 also supported on-demand video downloaded. Thus Microsoft benefit from a win or a draw, while Sony needed a knock-out. (Sony created the Bluray technology, int the same way that company created Betamax.)

Sony got its’ knock-out.

Up until now, PS3 sales have been depressed because of the BluRay add-on (who wants to gamble on the next-gen video tech when buying a game machine?), but now its benefits. The XBOX 360’s HD-DVD player is now worthless going forward, while the PS3 both will play next-gen movies. You’re now longer gambling when you buy a PS3. You’re buying a next-gen player that will play filsm that come out a decade or two from now.

Hard to believe this won’t increase PS3 sales, which will in turn lead to more game development, which would lead to more sales.

Sony gambled big by including a BluRay player on the PS3. Sony won.

Vista: What a joke

This morning, I have had four browser crashes in Microsoft Windows Vista, in both IE and Firefox.

Choosing Vista instead of XP on this laptop was a mistake.

Comparing the pain that Vista regularly causes with the “it just works” niceness of the OS X machine I use while editing vista is staggering.

What a joke.

Two eggs, one basket

Phil Jones doesn’t update it enough, but one of my favorite blogs is Platform Wars. Nowadays, two high profile platform wars are being fought in the living room:

  • Microsoft XBOX 360 v. Sony PlayStation 3
  • HD-DVD v. Sony BluRay

Sony’s PlayStation is behind the XBOX, partially because of the high price of inculding a BluRay disc palyer (the XBOX onl plays regular DVDs, though an HD-DVD add-in is available). However, the same thing that turns the PlayStation into an expensive game machine also means that, for those that buy it, it’s also a free BluRay machine: This has allowed Blu-Ray purchases double HD-DVD disc buys.

As The Economist says:

Why, then, have Blu-ray discs lately been outselling HD DVD versions by two to one? Because Sony cannily included a Blu-ray player in its latest video-game console, PlayStation 3. And while PS3 has not met expectations of selling 6m consoles in America, some 1.4m have nevertheless been snapped up since their launch last November. Market researchers reckon that most—90% by some reckoning—of Blu-ray discs are played on PS3 consoles.

If Sony’s big gamble pays off, including a BluRay player into the PlayStation will allow them to win the war against HD-DVD, and then (as all PlayStations will double as Blu-Ray players) allow them to seamlessly publish games in Blu-Ray format while Microsoft scrambles to think of something new. If it doesn’t work, however, Sony will be left with a uselessly expensive console on top of a re-run of the beta-max fiasco.

Interesting times!

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.