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Bill Gates: "Someone decided to trash the one part of Windows that was usable?" (seattlepi.com)
375 points by paolomaffei on Sept 3, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 212 comments

If Gates had maintained a dictatorial death grip on his company like Steve Jobs has, MS probably could have made some decent products.

It's one thing to yell at the people who made this system via email. It's quite another to never allow them to ship it in the first place.

Utterly unfair comparison. The Apple and Microsoft business models are so unlike each other it's almost inaccurate to say they're in the same business. Apple can get product quality to the point they do because they laser focus on a few profitable segments. Microsoft's business model --- not "what Steve Ballmer thinks they should be doing this month" but their underlying business model --- involves them serving 80+% of the market.

This is sort of like complaining that Safeway can't make ice cream as well as Ben and Jerry's.

Did you watch Futurama last night? I have trouble believing that two detracting comments about Safeway ice cream were spontaneously made a day apart.

"What do you say we go get some sewer coffee, sewer cake, and Safeway Ice Cream?" - Futurama

He is an avid Futurama fan.


Monkeys aren't donkeys! Stop messing with my head!

Nope. I hate the new Futurama episodes.

I assure you that more than one is made daily.

This is true, and I think it accounts for a lot of the difference in quality between their products. But in this case, it sounds like there just weren't clear, enforced rules about integration, interoperability, and usability. Not once in the email does Gates reference an existing, company-wide set of standards. Even a company like Microsoft is capable of having and enforcing such a thing, and it would actually boost productivity over the long run. If all the different teams are doing their own thing and subject to an off-the-cuff usability review only after they've shipped, they will ultimately spend more time making revisions than they would have spent targeting standards from the start.

I've no idea what Microsoft was like at the time, so maybe they did have such a thing, but if there was, I can't imagine it had much priority in the corporate culture.

> This is sort of like complaining that Safeway can't make ice cream as well as Ben and Jerry's.

And in fact, Safeway doesn't make ice cream as well as Ben and Jerry's. It's ice cream, not apples and oranges.

Apple is in a few markets where they serve a large majority of the market (music players being the obvious). There is probably room for Apple to improve on those products, but I suspect most rational people would not claim Apples products in those markets are as poorly made as most of Microsofts products. Effectively, it is not the unfair comparison you claim.

How do any differences in the business model cause or justify bad design/integration in either their web experience or software products? Duplicating popular software in higher volume isn't a burden on design, is it? I fail to see why popularity should be an excuse for mediocrity.

The distribution methods and relationships with customers differ a great deal, but both companies develop software, some of it very similar in purpose, and both also sell hardware. The problems outlined in the email were not related to problems integrating with others' hardware, so lack of ability to integrate with that isn't an excuse (this time).

I think it is the ice cream comparison that's the unfair one. Software sold in volume is a high margin business. With 80% market share there is neither the justification nor the excuse for the sort of blunders outlined in the email. Unlike ice cream, there are no physical ingredients to cut corners with. It's doubtful that things that compromised quality saved them any money at all. What resource did they lack?

It's not as if they were a hardware business operating on razor-thin margins to get market share and cutting corners to break even. They've got revenue, they've got cash, they've got many talented engineers. They spent about 9 times as much as Apple on R&D in 2007, about 7 times as much in 2009. Considering how often Apple has major OS updates, and introducing new/updated hardware designs, it seems like MS isn't producing as much fruit for the R&D money. Did I miss something?

R&D From the 10K filings with SEC

Microsoft USD 9 billion in 2009 https://investor.shareholder.com/msft/EdgarDetail.asp? CIK=789019&FID=1193125-09-158735&SID=09-00

Apple USD 1.3 billion in 2009 http://phx.corporate-ir.net/External.File? item=UGFyZW50SUQ9MTg1OTB8Q2hpbGRJRD0tMXxUeXBlPTM=&t=1

It seems like it is a fair comparison; why do consumers care what MS's target market is, except insofar as it affects a product they want to buy?

I suppose this is why many people prefer Ben and Jerry's ice cream to Safeway.

It wasn't a comparison of companies, it was a rebuke of Microsoft's leadership. The criticism is certainly valid, and all the more convincing because Microsoft HAS shipped high-quality products, so they are CAPABLE of doing great work, they just get LAZY.

What's the deal with Safeway Icecream? Never heard of it.

Microsoft has made a bunch of very good products:

- Windows 3.0 and 3.1 clearly hit exactly the sweet spot between DOS and OS/2

- Word and Excel were legitimately better than the competition (and still are, although there is not much competition left).

- Internet Explorer 4 was so much better than Netscape 3 and 4 that it wasn't even funny

- Windows 2000 and XP were very good operating systems

I agree, when you consider when products were released and compare it to similar offerings at those times, many Microsoft products are (or were) "decent". I would add these:

- Windows 95: Not perfectly stable or technically very groundbreaking, but a good enough combination of usability and features to be considered decent in my mind and millions of others at the time.

- IE6: great at the time. Some of the standards it doesn't support didn't exist when it came out. Also, IE5 introduced the Microsoft.XMLHTTP ActiveX control, which was the foundation for XMLHttpRequest. If that wasn’t created by Microsoft at the time, AJAX almost certainly wouldn’t be as ubiquitous as it is today.

- SQL Server 20xx: Perhaps RDMS's aren't your thing, but they're very much needed for now, and Microsoft's can certainly handle most relational db needs.

- .NET 3.5+ and C# 3+: If you want a statically typed language and platform, anything .NET 3.5 or greater are at least ok.

- ASP.NET MVC 2+: Not quit the same as a dynamically-based ROR or Django and they also don’t give you a default ORM; you pick it, but its solid and improving. Source code is available; contribs aren’t.

- Visual Studio 2008+: Again, not some crazy vim/emacs setup, although plugins can somewhat help simulate that, but these definitely don’t suck at all.

- IIS7+: Just because it’s not Apache doesn't mean it isn't decent. It is quite powerful and secure.

- Windows Server 2003+: Never had bad experiences with these.

- Microsoft Security Essentials: Very good and free antivirus.

I’m sure there’s more, but it is an exaggeration to say Microsoft hasn’t made any decent products. Certainly some of these don’t seem as good overall when accounting for the licensing costs and associated culture/stigma that comes with working in Microsoft shops, but many of products in and of themselves are decent.

I always bring up Flight Simulator whenever there's some MS bashing going on. I miss the Microsoft of my youth,

Sublogic made Flight Simulator. Microsoft later bought Sublogic.

I didn't know that. Still kudos to them for keeping the product going, and keeping it good.

MS Access 1.0 was fantastic when it came out. I can almost taste that box arriving in my office.

23 freakin' floppies though! Awesome piece of software.

I view all 32bit PM versions of non-NT windows (ie. 386, 3.1, 9x...) as amazing technical feat, because they do something that almost should not be possible. Like ability to transparently use realmode DOS drivers from windows programs and vice versa (althought at huge performance and stability penalty).

"decent" is the perfect name. Better than the crap the anterior version was is a better description. Perfect for milking the cash cow.

-Windows 95? Come on, your memory fails. It was utterly usable and crashed hard everyday. Any other OS of the time was better. It was so basic... paint? notepad? a big pile of shit. And they have been budling the same crap more than 10 years until Windows 7.

-IE6 was good at the time. It's sad it was so many time without new versions.

-The first usable SQLS was the 2000, and sincerely, until 2003 oracle ran circles around it.

-.NET and C# is OK, fine lenguage.

-ASP.NET I do not know.

-Visual Studio is OK, but almost because it has no competition.

-IIS7+: I do not remember the last version I touched, but I had to clean my hands with bleach after. Oh! and it came with W2000, and obligatory for some SQL Server stuff, for no aparent reason.

-Windows Server 2003, better than the 2000, yes. And grey.

-Microsoft Security Essentials: no please.

Microsoft Security Essentials: Not sure what you have against this. I happily suggest it for all my friends and family when they ask for anti virus. Its free, and effective, and doesn't cause headaches (ala Norton, etc).

I'm not sure what his beef is with Microsoft Security Essentials, but I just tell my friends and family to get a Mac.

It's too tiring keeping up with antivirus offerings, and constantly needing to clean up after their messes.

I'd recommend Linux, to be honest, because it's a cheaper alternative. But because there's still no good way of using it without needing to open Terminal at some point - the Mac is, I suppose, a good compromise.

You can use ubuntu without opening the terminal, and have been able to for a while, the problem with linux is not the terminal it is whether or not the hardware is supported and software people need is supported.

I recommend that you sit behind a non-technical relative or friend, and watch them use Ubuntu without offering them any help.

There are quite a number of things that they'd like to do that isn't clearly expressed - or even easily findable! - though Ubuntu's GUI. They will struggle with it for a bit.

Plus: even if we set that aside, there will be certain bits of hardware you'll want to use that would require opening the Terminal to configure/install.

Because my objective is to minimize my time spent on helping my friends/relatives with their computers, Ubuntu simply isn't a good enough alternative to Windows. You merely trade the time spent on making the computer virus-proof with time spent teaching them where to find things (which is funny, because most of the time I'm finding things for the first time myself, seeing as I prefer the Terminal).

As opposed to the Mac - I send them away to buy one, and they never come back to me for help.

PS: Why the downvotes? I expressed a justified assertion, backed up with some evidence, and people react to the fact that I'm dissing Linux? Tsk, HN, I expected more of you.

I recommend that you sit behind a non-technical relative or friend, and watch them use a Mac without offering them any help.

There are quite a number of things that they'd like to do that isn't clearly expressed - or even easily findable! - though OSX's GUI. They will struggle with it for a bit.


Really, it's just a learning curve and it's the same for any new OS.

Most non-technical people don't have the habit of figuring out what to do. They have the habit of doing what they're used to. For most, if you change even the smallest thing in their interface it can be catastrophic. (My mom often calls me for things like not being able to use internet at all anymore because the bookmarks bar is gone because someone accidentally hit ctrl+b or something).

I think the whole "Apple just works" thing is majorly overblown. Every time I have to use an OSX laptop I cringe because I have to look for stuff in the weirdest places and it takes me so long to figure out how to do things that I often just give up (if I'm using an OSX laptop it's usually because I don't have much time and just bummed the first laptop that was around). I can't imagine my mom magically finding everything intuitively if I can''t.

Also, you say you backed your assertion up with evidence. What evidence? I see none at all. The plural of anecdote is not data. (I'm not saying I'm providing evidence either, I'm simply providing a counter-example to your anecdote.)

Evidence != data. Evidence = data and/or examples and/or anecdotes. Evidence is also most effective when backed up with analysis/logic (otherwise you get ping-pong debating, where both sides toss counter-examples around, proving nothing)

Note too that I said some evidence.

>I think the whole "Apple just works" thing is majorly overblown.

I suppose the simplest way to prove this is to consider the alternative: of what other operating system, taking into account everything that a non-technical user needs, can this be said to be true? Perhaps it is not true of all our current operating systems, but if it is more preposterous to claim that Windows or Linux 'just works', then Apple takes the cake and my point is justified.

Whether it is overblown or not is not my concern - it is currently the best that we have, and I have to make do. Perhaps iPad-like devices would prove to be better, but that future is still two-three years away.

Anecdotal evidence seems to support this: I wince whenever I see the Macs my friends and family use - the desktop is cluttered beyond repair, the dock is stretched across the screen, and they don't know how to use various core features (expose, frontrow, etc). But they don't complain, and they don't ask me for as much help as they did before, and this is the only metric that matters to me.

I'm happy, they're happy. What's not to like?

"Plus: even if we set that aside, there will be certain bits of hardware you'll want to use that would require opening the Terminal to configure/install."

Change your mindset from hacker to 'non-technical relative or friend', and that problem goes away.

"There will be certain bits of hardware you'll want to use that will not work with you new system." is how they would phrase it, and oftentimes, it does not really bother them at all.

Even if it would bother them, getting a Mac likely would not help, as it would get them the same results for some of their old hardware.

I think you could say the same about any foreign operating system and any user, regardless of how technical. The more technical have better guesses at where to find things (e.g., Oh, it's not under 'System', maybe it's under 'Administration') based on familiarity with OS patterns, but if you sat me down in front of a Gentoo box running XFCE, I'd look just as much the fool as the next guy for the first 20 minutes or so (except I'd drop down to shell -- though the same applies for BSD even there.)

The best synopsis I heard (I can't remember who said it, nobody famous) was that "The hardest part about learning Linux is UNlearning whatever else you know first."

I think that correctly asserts that yeah, you won't find things in the "Control Panel", and you won't be able to "Win+R" for a run dialog, etc. Otherwise, I personally have had nothing but positive feedback from my less technical friends that I've turned on to Ubuntu, except for the usual complaints, or when they have to give up foo application because it doesn't exist (Photoshop, World of Warcraft, whatever.)

Hardware support on Linux is a red herring. There are some few devices that don't work all that great, like some horrible sound chipsets and softmodems, plus the very latest in WiFi used to have problems (I think that's less of an issue nowadays).

Some years ago there was a project set up to fix those Linux hardware issues, and they effectively didn't do any work, because they couldn't find reasonable hardware that wasn't supported by Linux.

I have a (crappy) scanner that has no working drivers for any Windows beyond 98 and Mac OS beyond version 9, but it works just fine under Ubuntu/Linux. I haven't seen any mainstream, reasonable hardware that doesn't work under Linux for a long time. Really, from my perspective, hardware support under Linux is significantly better than under any other operating system.

Where it indeed gets spotty is the software to use the features of the hardware. E.g. Xsane rhymes a lot with insane, the various photo organiser tools are of varying quality, to say the least, and so on. Ubuntu is making progress, but there still are a lot of use cases where the GNU/Linux/Ubuntu desktop doesn't provide good alternatives.

The most difficult thing with Ubuntu that I have noticed is properly configuring and using a scanner.

> Windows 2000 and XP were very good operating systems

I by no means am some Microsoft hater, but I'm amused about this tinted rose glass nostalgia for XP. It's easy to say XP is a good system now with the maturity of three service packs and the bad taste of Vista still in our mouths, but I remember all those years ago much dislike of XP around the internet. Among other things, it was a security nightmare that wasn't even fixed until SP2. You put release day XP on your machine and put it on the internet and you're machine will be probably hacked within the hour.

On the other hand not to many people stuck with Vista. A fully patched Vista installation works just fine nowadays. It still has higher system requirements, but those requirements are now 4 year old systems.

You are remembering it backwards. 2000, and XP (because it was the consumer version of 2000) were much better than Windows 98, Windows ME and NT. This is why the poster says they were good OS, they were so much more stable, you could actually leave your machine on for a while.

Vista is and always will be a dog.

who cares? you can say this about any major release number OS. go ahead and throw out netbsd stats all you want. no one tries to hack that b/c no one cares. stats are a funny game, my friend.

I remember really loving XP when it first came out. It was much better than 98 and Me and faster than 2000.

Win2k being released was a huge blow to Linux at the time. Redhat 9 was so awful in comparison. I remember how a lot of developers I knew who had been Linux users actually switched back.

IIRC, the Linux of the time had trouble with multiprocessors and ran on ext2. Nevertheless, I cannot imagine someone giving up a fully functional Unix environment to go back to a Windows box. Lots of mouse clicking for much less power.

Almost all releases of the NT line were good (including Win 7).

Was there any OS contemporary to NT 3.51 that was better than it at anything (beside win 95 when it comes to compatibility with more software & hardware)?

Solaris 2.5 was a very solid OS and better than NT 3.5 in most respects unless a defining criteria for "better" is "runs well on PCs", which it didn't.

OS/2 was also a good OS for x86 PCs. At least as good as NT, unless, again, you want it to run software designed for Windows.

I wasn't really into OS/2 but I concede that it was probably about as good as NT at the time.

I would, however, much rather use NT 3.51 as a desktop OS than Solaris 2.5 with CDE and its 80s-style command line utilities (luckily it seems they are using GNU stuff nowadays?).

You always could get the GNU stuff and compile it yourself. My own installs felt very GNU-ish at that time.

Perhaps; I thought it peaked in quality of releases after 3.51 SP1.

Better than SCO Unix of the period as a desktop.

I quite liked NT 3.5 as a development platform back then. I came from WfW 3.11 and used Borland C++ 4.5, and nasty programming bugs would hang 3.11, but not NT 3.5.

Not on the desktop, though when it comes to the server pretty much all of them beat and still beat NT on stability and filesystem support.


Windows 3.0 and 3.1 were pale imitations of the Mac OS of the time. 95 was the first "good enough", and it was still not the equal of System 7.

For commodity hardware, they might have been the best available, but that's an adequacy criterion, not a "very good" criterion.

Most of the others I have no disagreement with.

The /Mac/ was a pale imitation of itself, by those standards. Developing a Mac app was just as gnarly as developing a Windows 3.1 app, but by 1995 Microsoft had Visual Basic (to Apple's HyperCard, which was virtually moribund at that point) and MS took off and /owned/ the database client market.

Apple never really believed in its development tools group, and the market share they lost in the 90s shows that. They are still paying for lost opportunity.

I used System 7 (and OS 7.x & 8.x after that) as well as win 95, and IMO win 95 wasn't just equal but in fact better than system 7.

Add to the list SQL Server 2000 and above, and Visual Studio.

Nice list.

Continuing the "Microsoft and Apple are different" theme, the thing that's worth considering is that the "goodness" of these products is the goodness of well engineered compromises.

Current Word is actually a fusion of DOS word and the original Windows Word and while it has a huge feature set, this set is not terribly consistent. It's an achievement to make thing feel as good as it does. Similarly for the others and very different from producing a clean, "just works" app from the ground up (not necessarily a better or worse achievement imho).

Maybe a "Worse is better" achievement?

(Not meant derogatory. Just in the sense of http://www.dreamsongs.com/WorseIsBetter.html)

Mostly you're right, but I object to the claim about Excel being better.

While Word was better than anything else I had found to use at the time (Word Perfect was a buggy mess).

However, I claim that there were better spreadsheet products available. Certainly the one I used, Enable, was quite robust, and was more capable than Excel.

Office 95 bundled Excel along with Word, Access and Powerpoint.

When people make choices they also look at convenience and price ... having these products packaged and nicely integrated with each-other was genius.

There is a lesson here for language designers!

Excel for Windows was much better than Lotus 123 for Windows. Lotus basically took the DOS version of 123 and added some menus for it. It never did feel like a fist class GUI app.

Lotus took Microsoft's word seriously when Gates proclaimed OS/2 was the future and Windows was an interim step. Lotus invested a lot in 123 for OS/2 (123/G, IIRC) and, when the IBM/Microsoft divorce made evident they chose the wrong side, they had to port it to Windows all over again (with lots of different and conflicting APIs). Microsoft had no such problem.

Their Macintosh products tend to be really great. I really loved IE5 for Mac and was sorry when they discontinued it. MS Word on the Macintosh always seemed well designed too. I assumed this was because their Macintosh division was long established and very good at what they did, or designing for a platform they did not control brought Microsoft's true design talents.

Word? There are still things that were a piece of cake to accomplish in WordPerfect (5.1 for DOS; I never used WPWin) or AmiPro[1] (3+ for Windows) that are impossible, or extremely difficult, in Word.

[1] I say this despite having once written a piece (c. 1993) based on a Dr. Suess book that featured the lines "I could not merge 'grneggs' with 'ham'. I do not like you star dot sam."

And made so many other competitor products better too. We wouldn't be where we are now without them.

To be fair, Windows and the Windows ecosystem is so huge that it would be almost impossible for one guy to sit down and say, OK, this is how Movie Maker is going to get installed, and this is how it should function, and this is how Windows Update Q52324 will get installed, and blah blah.

My point is that it's easy to think Steve Jobs is in compete and total control of every pixel on an OSX screen and has intimate knowledge of the tiniest details about how every bundled app works, but the truth is probably closer to "Jobs hired a bunch of very smart people to do it for him, and managed them in a way that allowed them to function without the bureaucratic paralysis that plagues Microsoft." Which is a state very different from "dictatorial death grip."

(Though I won't argue that Jobs is indeed a benevolent dictator, and a damned good one).

A wise man once me taught me that this is the role of culture. You can't be there all the time, and don't want to be: Smart people need to be able to make their own decisions or they get bored and demotivated. A good culture helps them make the decision you would have made by propagating knowledge of which values are most important to the group.

You can still set rules. "All first-party Microsoft software will take 5 clicks to install. More than 5 and you need a sign-off from a VP." Palm had a rule that it should take 3 taps to get anywhere on the system. They had a guy whose full-time job was to count taps for various actions.

I agree, but I believe it helps for Apple's employees to know they won't get away with a user experience like that under Jobs. They've got smart people, the ability to get things done, and they know what specific areas cannot be compromised.

He can't be a benevolent dictator, and have a dictatorial death grip. Nobody rules with an iron fist, benevolently.

You're right and the anonymous commenter on their site said it well:

"The Steve Jobs version: "If the MovieMaker download site isn't working by tomorrow at 6 am I will come down there at 6:01 am an choke the living ___ out of all of you.""

Jobs may well provide more severe threats than Gates, but I still think there's an important distinction between firing/choking/maiming employees and refusing to ship (or canceling) a product.

That's right, and the difference between those kinds of threats is personal confrontation.

Some folks will rip apart shoddy work because they don't care if the creators get personally upset about it. They're not looking for a confrontation, but if there is one, they feel justified.

Other people are bothered that the creators are not personally upset about how shoddy the work is and make quite sure that they are. It's a subtle but important difference.

Other people are bothered that the creators are not personally upset about how shoddy the work is and make quite sure that they are.

There's also a subtle difference between the 1st part of this sentence alone and the entire sentence.

Well, I'm saying that's what motivates some directors to rip into work; I admit it's not a common attitude. But I have seen the "How can you think this is acceptable?" attitude and it is hard to take for a lot of people.

Methinks you missed my point. I am not upset, however.

Someone should tell the iTunes Connect team about it ... that web interface is really driving me crazy ;)

Yup, now they just need to actually do that with quite a few of their own products and we'd have two happy, completely different corporations that don't release sh*tty software from time to time.

I guess only a non programmer can say that (though Steve Jobs is a personal hero) ;)

Look at what Gates has done since he loosened his grip at MS. The Gates foundation's global health and global development programs have done tremendously important work to reduce human suffering in the 3rd world. Nothing Gates could do at MS would come even close to what he is doing now to make the world a better place.

Compare to Steve Jobs who knows how to make wonderful shiny devices that cost more than what many in the third world will make in a lifetime, but who has done very little when it comes to philanthropy.

I see people write this all the time, and it makes me sick.

Bill Gates decided he made enough money at Microsoft and wanted to pursue other things. That's fantastic, for him and millions of others. Steve Jobs has decided to do what he loves until he can't any more. That's also fantastic, for him and for millions of others. They're both making positive changes for lots and lots of people. Who are you, or anyone else, to criticize that?

I don't see why these two need to be directly compared this way, as if Gates is finally showing his soft side means Jobs should too.

Steve Jobs releasing some new shiny thing that makes the lives of some very affluent people (on the global scale for wealth) magrinally better, doesn't compare, is not even in the same ball park, as ensuring that hundreds of thousands of people don't go blind in central Africa. That is my belief, and of course I understand that not everyone else shares it.

I actually believe that the iPhone will have a _huge_ (indirect) impact on subsaharan Africa, in a manner similar to traditional cellular technology.

Principally, the iPhone seems to have hastened the development of low-cost hand-held medical diagnostic equipment, including digital stethoscopes, portable ultrasound, eye examination, remote disease diagnosis, etc

Sometimes it takes a revolutionary product targeting affluent individuals to help drive innovation for everyone else.

I can appreciate that point of view, though I don't totally agree.

The problem I have is that they're no longer doing the same thing - it's like comparing Bill Gates to Donald Trump. It might have made sense to compare Bill and Steve while they were working in the same field, but why bother any more?

> Steve Jobs releasing some new shiny thing that makes the lives of some very affluent people (on the global scale for wealth) magrinally better, doesn't compare [...]

Aren't all people equal?

My moral compass has always been tilted towards meeting the needs of people before their wants.

That said, I have read some awful things about the Bill Gates foundation so I'm a bit wary of taking his side.

Compare to Steve Jobs who knows how to make wonderful shiny devices that cost more than what many in the third world will make in a lifetime, but who has done very little when it comes to philanthropy.

I really hate this comparison for one reason: Gates has a lot more money than Jobs - IIRC the amount of Gates' wealth that he put toward the Gates Foundation is more than Jobs entire net worth.

There's also the matter of whether Jobs isn't pursuing philanthropy or if he's just not doing it publicly.

This point seems to come up every time Bill's name is mentioned these days. It is really funny how he has gone from Darth Vader to Mother Theresa in a few short years. I mean its nice that he is giving all his money away and making a difference, but everyone seems to skip over the fact that his money was made by running an evil empire and being one of the most reviled figures in the computer world.

everyone seems to skip over the fact that his money was made by running an evil empire and being one of the most reviled figures in the computer world

Just because you believe this does not mean everyone else does.

"Evil Empire" you are funny and misinformed.

Exactly. It's been a really effective PR-campaign though.

This isn't about which CEO is the better human being. It's about which management style is more effective.

I didn't claim that it was. I do think it is worth considering all the costs and benefits of Bill G staying at MS. The benefits might be a better Windows. The costs are all the work he wouldn't have time to do outside the technology sphere.

Ah. I don't believe mrshoe was talking about Bill Gates remaining CEO of MS. He was suggesting that Gates should have managed more like Jobs back when he was CEO.

I can't shake the feeling that I've always been somehow out of touch, because I'm not really a fan of most apple software. First thing I do with osx is the same thing I always used to do with windows. Get rid of all the distracting annoying stuff (dock, dash, iEverything) then happily get down to business. I never did use vista but with all other windows versions I would always just remove a dozen or so things and happily move along with my work never to be annoyed by them again.

The only thing that keeps me using my iPhone is safari and the screen. It's great. That's the killer feature to me. Yet it's annoying I can't turn images off without jailbreaking.

I don't really think apple delivers software products that are much better than MS products. Hardware yes although the xbox line is pretty sharp.

Or maybe I'm just getting old.

It's a lot easier to remove all the junk from OSX.

It sounds like you haven't seen a brand new Windows machine in awhile. They are cluttered beyond belief. The OSX clutter, in comparison, is unnoticeable.

The other nice thing about OSX though is that the migration tools have always been totally painless for me - when I get a new mac I DON'T have to go remove that stuff because it saves my settings automatically. I haven't had to remove the clutter since my first MacBook in like 2006 - the settings were carried over. In Windows this rarely works, and when it does it takes a lot of work and doesn't do a complete job.

To be fair, a clean retail Windows install is just as clean as OSX. The clutter comes from shitty bundleware.

This is, IMHO, one of MS's greatest struggles - it is not enough for Microsoft to develop a culture of top notch user experiences, but also all third party OEMs. This is a problem that Apple does not contend with.

We see this with Windows phone also - no amount of software and UI can save a device designed and manufactured with rock bottom quality.

The issue here though is that Bill was trying to download MovieMaker. I bet when Bill talked to the MovieMaker team he was given a demo of MovieMaker already installed on a computer.

With that said, at Apple the website feels like an extension of the company. WIth Microsoft the website seems like a standard site for a corporation.

"MS probably could have made some decent products."

Microsoft products are great, not all of them but most of their software products are, it is the reason they own the desktop market and have millions of users using many of their software products every day.

I like Apple's products as well... but it is the hardware that I like... not so impressed with Apple's software such as Mail or Xcode.

Both companies have their strong and weak points... including some in critical strategic areas. For instance, if Jobs wants to live up to his reputation as a dictatorial advocate for quality and engineering, why doesn't he force-choke the program manager for iTunes?

I suspect that the iTunes UI Manager's job strongly resembles an Admiral's position. On a regular basis, I can see minions dragging the latest victim out of Steve's office while he intones, "Apology Accepted."

Correction... Microsoft /has made/ some excellent products. Here are some more for the list:



Sql Server


Visual Studio

Expression Studio

Team Foundation

Team Viewer

Windows Server

Have you ever had to support sharepoint? I don't know if I'd consider it an excellent product.

I think "excellent" is nowhere close to any adjective I would use to describe it.

You may consider it good, as long as you have never, ever used anything more sophisticated than a network share to manage your documents.

Reminds me of the phrase "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." SharePoint works with so many MS products and there is such a huge eco system that goes with it. I think it's a safe bet for many companies that already rely on MS products. I would also give a lot of credit to the MS consulting/salesforce for many sales of that product.

It makes $1 billion per year

Lots of crappy products make $1 billion per year, especially enterprise products.

As bad as Sharepoint is, most of its competitors are much worse and also make huge piles of money.

Nothing can be much worse than Sharepoint.

edit: there are categories of software that have representatives that are more dysfunctional than Sharepoint. Still, Sharepoint is pretty much the worst document management/intranet package you can find.

Enterprise software can be surprisingly awful. blasdel's story is the best, but I remember being astonished that you could actually pay for version control software. The fact that said version control software didn't even have atomic commits but did, interestingly enough, run on its own proprietary file system was almost a Kafkaesque punchline.

Sounds like you've never been forced to use any of the Oracle Applications webapps!

They may be bad, but come on, much worse than Sharepoint?

Yes, worse than Lotus Notes or Sharepoint.

I've seen some gibberingly awful Oracle web interfaces for HR stuff like entering time cards, but the worst was a "Software Life Cycle Management" thing that a client was using — a bizarre issue tracker with piles of inane baked in process.

When you logged in it would open a sole chrome-less popup window. You weren't allowed to be logged in more than once per account: one computer, one browser session, one window, one tab, period. There were no hyperlinks and only one URL — all the buttons POSTed a form with tons of parameters back to the same URL, with lots of state both in the session on the server and independently in cookies. You couldn't link to anything, it had a ridiculous taxonomy system, and the search was actively antagonistic to you finding anything. Most of the actual data worth looking at was in unindexed Word documents attached to the issues.

Your words remind me of a software called ChangePoint. Nightmares about it still haunt me.

> SharePoint

You must be kidding...

God, that thing /sucks/.

Most of those are "mee too products". Not breaking new ground, and certainly not the best of options.

Xbox was revolutionary. Online multiplayer on a console had been tried many times before — as far back as the Sega Genesis and as recently as the Xbox's rival, Playstation 2 — and failed miserably every time. Microsoft was the first company to make it work, and their current implementation is still probably the best.

And I don't know any developer who would dismiss Visual Studio. In most regards, it's a best-of-breed IDE.

> And I don't know any developer who would dismiss Visual Studio.

You are new around here, right? Make yourself comfortable and you will know droves of them in no time. ;)

I would be fascinated to hear from them. I know lots of developers don't use Visual Studio for some reason or another (I'm one of them), but I've never heard anyone call Visual Studio a poor IDE.

I edit in Emacs, then build and debug in VS (when I can). It's a good combo and less clumsy than it sounds.

Java IDEs like Eclipse and IntelliJ made VS look like a toy until very recent editions. No built-in refactoring support, limited configurability for keyboard shortcuts, minimal integration with external build tools and SCM systems -- it was horrible going back to C# development from Java when I was doing both in 2005-2006.

Not sure where eclipse is at now but I have less than fond memories of that beast. I did most of my java coding in ultraedit so I could actually listen to mp3s at the same time back then.

Not that I had a lot of love for VS either, but I don't remember it ever running as heavy as eclipse.

I used VS for the better part of my 10-year stint at a BFE, and it served rather well. However, i would be reluctant to go back to it having spent serious quality time with emacs.

The plus about it is that it has all the stuff that you need to build the final payload/program/assembly/whatever. My discomfort with it these days would be that it requires too much mouse work.

(And best-of-breed sounds very BFE, or something that Gartner would say, hardly the people I would look to to know what is going on).

Heh, I don't know a better word for it. That's how people who are enthusiastic about IDEs tend to talk. I would hesitate to call it "awesome" or anything like that, but among IDEs, it's well thought-of.

Point of clarification -

They bought the source code for SQL Server from Sybase; the foundations of the product weren't created at Microsoft. The wire protocol is still heavily compliant with sybase.

Would also have a insignificant share of desktop and server market.

This made me think a bit about Bill Gates and Microsoft and Everything. People really hate on Bill Gates because of Microsoft and their products, but after seeing this email you get to see that he's as angry as any other user, and even more because he knows all of this will fall back to him. His email portrays not only anger, but some kind of impotence. It's impressive how big companies lose touch with what they're doing. Most software I use lately comes from small companies, they have this dedication and attention to detail that only comes from when you're directly involved with your product. Business is a weird world.

I've seen this before, but it's worth a read again. Gates said when this first came out that writing emails like this was pretty much his job. He's not the only one--from the stories you read, it sounds like half of Steve Jobs' job is to be a good critic. Of course, Apple doesn't release much until after Steve Jobs criticizes it.

The fact that Gates regularly attempted to eat Microsoft's dog food (alas he couldn't get the can open in this case) is encouraging; but ultimately it doesn't seem to have helped much.

If he did send out stuff like this often and nobody gave a damn then that's really discouraging. There go my "if I ran Microsoft" fantasies. /sigh

I've always imagined one of the reasons Apple products are so polished is because Steve rides people like this all day long until they stop sucking.

Too big + too many smart and creative people = impossible to manage without being a complete dictator

Google is running into this. Their track record of late is spotty at best, and it's because their culture is too wild-west and "throw on wall, see if stick" style.

As much as geniuses are really good at solving problems plaguing modern society, they are really bad at focussing. They need leaders that understand them, like John Lasseter at Pixar. Alternatively, they need equally-genius benevolent dictators like Linus Torvalds (Linux, Git) to keep them in check. Failing that, they need supremely smart, pile-driving, and obliquely techie-cum-marketing obsessed leaders like Jobs at Apple.

Gates + Ballmer = those things above, but you really need one voice, not two. I think Google is having the same trouble having Sergey and Larry's style squaring almost diametrically against Eric Schmidt's.

In my mind (if we are having fantasies/visions about what happens at these companies) Steve jobs wouldn't write an email, he would walk down to these guys or get someone else to get them, pull them into a conference room, yell at them, threaten to fire them and maybe break some shit.

riding people isn't the solution, the problem is usually structural. Take any product and there are 5 to 10 teams involved in it's development and they all push their own little pet ideas. Rarely is there ever a single leader with a single vision that is also involved in the day to day development and decision making. Instead the person that should do this does what you suggest, they swing in every once in a while, complain complain complain, then switch focus to some other project for a bit, while never taking to time to solve the real problem.

well, that's my sad experience from a couple of big companies.

That's true, not a lot of that is Movie Maker's fault, the website team (bad search, slow loads) and the windows update team (maybe, or maybe the teams submitting the updates) were 95% of the fault.

That and none of this involved 'big ticket' teams, movie maker makes $0, so they get squeezed out at meetings.

Well yes. Microsoft is often said to have problems with teams competing internally (pointlessly), or just not working together. However, that's a management choice that can come from the top. If there's one thing a "Chief Software Architect" should do, it's make sure all software teams are in the habit of communicating and collaborating whenever possible. It doesn't seam like that happened here.

I think the right thing to do is recognize the extremely high cost of communication and collaboration and weigh that against the benefit.

Almost every manager I've known assumes that the cost of communication or collaboration is near zero while the cost of development is extremely high. Often, the cost of duplication development effort is lower than the cost of adding another communication and collaboration channel.

When you make so much different dog food, there's only so much you can eat and complain about.

Mind, people seem to have better experiences with Windows now than they did in the 90s. (Remember WindowsME? Gah...) Maybe Gates' attention and hectoring did help.

Seriously though, is all of this fixed in Windows 7, or are people just hyping that up because it sucks alot less than any previous Windows iterations?

I don't think I've _ever_ seen a process that convoluted, and I've been using Linux OSes since _before_ the advent of dependency-resolvers like yum and apt (i.e, the bad old days of "RPM hell").

I'm a Windows person, but I've got Ubuntu on a netbook.

It took me a couple of hours to figure out how to get the repository for XBMC set up so that it would let me install the program.

Now I'd like to upgrade to Ubuntu 10.4, but I don't have quite enough space in the SSD to do it. I'd like to cut out some software that I don't really use on the netbook. But I can't figure out how to make it actually get rid of things that I uninstall. In particular, since installations are hierarchies of dependent packages, I can't see how to tell it "get rid of this and anything that it depends on, that isn't required by something else".

So for now, I can't upgrade my Ubuntu installation.

This sounds like your typical family member who can't get Windows to work right, doesn't it? I don't think that Linux has done anything better. They've done it different, and people who know the system can use it very effectively, but those of us who don't know the incantations are still out in the cold.

That's great. But, this was Bill Gates using the product from the company that he founded and ran. Familiarity should seriously not enter into it.

"They've done it different, and people who know the system can use it very effectively, but those of us who don't know the incantations are still out in the cold."

Agreed, but seriously, I've never had to go through such steps to do anything in Linux unless it was, for example, a brand new piece of hardware that didn't have kernel module. This was Microsoft Windows user trying to install Microsoft Moviemaker software by Microsoft. And, it took all that.

This is one of the advantages of using 'aptitude' to install software rather than 'apt-get'. Removal takes care of unused dependencies.

Beware, mixing 'apt-get' and 'aptitude' used to cause some issues, such as trying to remove software that wasn't installed with 'aptitude' (although it always asks first). I think this has been fixed in recent versions but I'm not sure.

Personally I don't like synaptic, but if you open up the ubuntu software centre and then click on 'installed software', you will see a list of every application that is installed on your system.

Dependencies are automatically installed for all applications and are automatically removed when there are no packages left that need them, so don't worry about those!

If you're more a command line guy, you can do the same using aptitude (aptitude remove package-name). Packages under aptitude will be listed as (a)utomatically installed if they were installed as a requirement for another package, so you shouldn't have to remove those by hand.

Also opening a console and using "popcon-largest-unused" should give you a list of the largest packages that you have not yet used the binaries from. Mine doesn't seem to update properly but this might be because I'm using Kubuntu.

On my slimmed down system I use "sudo aptitude" type "/appname[Enter]", where appname is from the list popcon gives, then "n" to find the package and then try "_" (Shift+-) which purges the packages. If something will break you get a warning "e" shows what the suggested action is "," and "." scroll through options and "!" applies. When you're happy "g" will list the actions to be taken and "g" again will confirm. "q" at any time quits or moves to the previous menu or list. HTH.

FYI, I think "apt-get autoremove" will do what you want -- list packages which were installed automatically as a dependency and are no longer necessary. (I'm not sure how or if you can do the same thing with the package management GUI.)

BTW ... both "autoremove" and "dist-upgrade" made my system unusable a couple of times.

There's no software repository as properly maintained as Debian's ... but normal users can totally trash their systems and that is not OK.

I always assumed that it tended to work out for "normal" users -- that sucks if it doesn't. I tend to be the sort of person who "[thinks that] development versions, experimental and unstable are for old ladies" (HT to xorg-edgers.) I'm pretty sure that condemns me to a life of resolving weird incompatibilities. I definitely don't personally trust autoremove as far as I can chuck it.

(edit: my experience is on Ubuntu, not Debian.)

I've never had a problem with aptitude's autoremoval on Debian, at least. It might be somewhat more conservative than apt-get's autoremove, though I'm not sure exactly how apt-get's version works. Aptitude sort of opts-in packages to autoremoval: when aptitude itself automatically installs a package to satisfy a dependency, it remembers that fact, and only considers those packages for auto-uninstallation. So the only possible way a package will get auto-removed is if it was a package that aptitude auto-installed to begin with, and none of the reasons for the auto-installation hold anymore. Any package that got on the system some other way, such as being part of the base install from an ISO, doesn't get considered, even if nothing depends on it.

> normal users can totally trash their systems and that is not OK.

That is one of it's greatest shortcomings. Then again, on the other hand, that is one of it's greatest strengths.

It's not a strength. Poorly-defined, fundamentally broken behavior is not a strength.

Sorry, I was referring more to Linux as a whole, and I guess you are talking more specifically about the package manager?

I can't upgrade Ubuntu without it reinstalling the things I removed, or updating the drivers I don't want updated.

The output of the `deborphan` command might be of interest.

Windows 7 is pretty good actually, on its own. It's especially good if you compare it to any previous version of Windows (though I confess to having had good luck out of Win2k Pro.)

I see a comment elsewhere stating that it's good if you let it pigeonhole you into using IE and Bing, but that's nonsense. I'm using Chrome and Duck Duck Go and all sorts of non-Microsoftian stuff, and everything works just fine on the rather non-standard setup that I have.

Our schools ran Windows 2000 Professional for years. Solid as a rock.

Upvoted -- I wanted to say something to that effect in my previous rant, except that I was a late adopter to Win2k, and all the pain I remember hearing about was pre-SP2 (which I didn't join until after).

Regardless, I fondly remember Windows 2000, though I also remember it as a MUCH more spartan system than 7 is, and 7 easily trounces it, in my humble opinion.

I still think fondly of Win2k, it was fast and stable, but it was also the source of most of the publicity about Microsoft's security practices. There were a slew of critical updates till around 2004 when things started to settle down. From what I can tell, 10 years on, Windows 7 is the first noteworthy improvement.

Here's Eric Raymond on Cups for a Unix perspective. http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cups-horror.html

I got to this bit:

> LaserJet 6MP attached to it via parallel port.

That got me looking for the date this was written.

Yes, cups and KDE came a long way, too.

Here's a reaction to it by Gruber: http://daringfireball.net/2004/04/spray_on_usability

Which is ironic as Mac OS X printing was terrible until they adopted CUPS and sprayed on some usability.

Amusingly, the obnoxiously long paths he calls out in passing (Documents and Settings etc.) were changed in Vista (to something shorter and more vaguely reminiscent of the Unix structure) ... which caused a lot of grumbling, since people didn't know where to find things. One man's long-overdue fix is another's gratuitous arbitrary change.

To be fair, there were some pointless changes. Add/remove programs was changed to Programs and Features. I suppose it was a nod to the fact that you can't actually add or remove some programs through this dialogue, but generally the change can't really be more intuitive for anyone as the place to go to uninstall things.

Microsoft has gone a long way to address their first party problems but as soon as you choose to install a third party Windows application all bets are off. Most Windows apps still lack a way to automatically update themselves. They still pollute the start menu and add/remove programs menu. Application installs still take too long.

Re: Shutting down Windows 7, the process is now: mouse to the bottom left hand corner of the screen; mouse down; move mouse over shut down button; mouse up. About as few clicks as possible (including a Fitzz corner!), bested only by pressing the power button on the front of your PC - which I have mine set up to initiate shutdown directly.

Or: Windows key, right arrow key, enter.

Yes it's all fixed in Win7 if you just want to roll over and let it force you to use IE and Bing and Hotmail for everything.

As soon as you try not to use IE suddenly you can't do anything

Only time I ever used IE was to download Firefox when I first installed windows 7. So, I have no idea what you are talking about. My experiences haS been great.

Only time I ever used IE was to download Firefox

Next time use ftp.

Uh, all right? How dickish of me to suggest a way to forego using an application he or she doesn't like for even the one time that person feels he or she must.

Try using Outlook web access, or windows genuine advantage or MSDN download in firefox

So your grouse is ActiveX doesn't work in Firefox?

Why not also complain that vendor specific -moz and -webkit prefixes don't work in IE?

FWIW, Outlook Web Access works perfectly well (in "light mode") in Chrome and Firefox, and I can download from MSDN just fine.

"Exchange 2010 adds some important changes for non-Internet Explorer browsers by officially and fully supporting both Firefox and Safari with its Premium version of the Outlook Web Access client."

OWA degrades to what I deem a much cleaner client than the version you get if you use IE. The OWA you get in IE7+ uses ActiveX or some sort of Windows-specific JavaScript trickery which is why they restrict it's access to a browser they know will be used on Windows.

I don't really know what WGA is but have seen logos for it in the computer info dialog. I regularly download things from MSDNAA in Chrome, haven't tried the full MSDN portal.

FWIW I downloaded an ISO from MSDN yesterday in Firefox and checked my Exchange email in Firefox with the IEtab add-on.

IEtab doesn't count. You're just framing the IE rendering engine in firefox chrome.

"So they told me that using the download page to download something was not something they anticipated."

Golden. As is this line

They told me to go to the main page search button and type movie maker (not moviemaker!).

It's funny how far we've come, with today's out of the box search tools this wouldnt be a problem

I tried to download it - their new simple solution is to include it as part of Windows Live.

So I want a simple movie editor to clip 5secs off the beginning of a home movie - BUT to do this I have to sign up for an MS specific hotmail account, create a windows passport (I thought they had abandoned that?) get Windows messenger, windows photo viewer and be included in a whole bunch of MS specific social websites.

So I found a torrent of Movie maker 2.6 for XP - it works perfectly on Win7.

You know, no one took away the check boxes that let you choose which Windows Live programs you want to install when you're trying to run the installer. The installer doesn't even download any of those apps if you leave them unchecked. If you don't want Messenger, Photo Gallery, or even to sign up for a Windows Live ID, you don't have to get/do those things.

Most people find that this is actually helpful, though, because signing up for (or using, since the vast majority of folks already have one) a Live ID enables a bunch of convenient features like easily uploading your photos and videos (either to Microsoft's services or to Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, etc.) And most users who use Movie Maker also want to, for instance, organize their photos. Let's not forget that iLife also comes as a suite for a reason.

On the other hand, signing up for a new throwaway account just to trash Microsoft... yeah, that's classy.

(Usual disclosure: I work at Microsoft.)

I'd suggest downloading the iWork demo and installing it. http://www.apple.com/iwork/download-trial/

It's a magnitude easier than installing anything on Windows: Click Link. DMG gets mounted on desktop. Click continue a couple times.

But really that's quaint, too. Install iMovie on the iPhone or iPad: Search App Store. Click Install. Enter Password.

Expecting users to do anything else at install time is expecting too much.

I wouldn't say installing anything on windows - somethings are nice. http://germanysfinest.posterous.com/hooray-software-policypa...

Also, no-install / portable apps are ever such a pleasant trend - just copy the files and run them.

The problem is that it doesn't tell me it's going to let me have that option.

Windows too often decides to do an update that will give me X extra stuff that I don't trust signing up for something like windows live just to get an included free movie player

Windows also lets you review whatever it is going to download in an update, so you can just disable the download of the X extra stuff that you don't trust signing up for.

How about you just click download?


I guess in the bubble over at microsoft they assume everyone that uses windows will defiantly want windows live anyway.

Ok take 5 minutes to learn the following, and you won't make the mistake again:

definitely. def-in-it-ely Always say it like this as you type.

I thought we were de-finite-ly geeks around here.

Perhaps a true windows believer would 'defiantly' want Windows Live ?

No, a true windows believer would defiantly sign up for GMail.

This is a great reminder (to me) that software UI should be designed around how many pieces of information it needs from the user, not how many things it needs to do.

I think by far the most telling part of this was this quote:

"Then it told me to reboot my machine. Why should I do that? I reboot every night -- why should I reboot at that time?"

No wonder he has no idea how horrible Windows is. He resets it every day.

Until sleep mode (and laptops) became the social custom, lots of people shut down at night and booted up in the morning.

I'm well aware of that. I'm just saying that most of us hard core folks did not, which is why we complain more about Windows.

Although amusing, this is an example of poor management IMO.

It comes across as the sort of email you would write while criticizing/mocking a competitors product that you were powerless to change.

There's no demand for improvement, or accountability for making that happen. No wondering if this small experience is indicative of other problems. He's just "disappointed".

For me it's more an example of poor management from the fact that he allowed development to become so fragmented that the end result was a convoluted mess.

I know if the the richest man in the world said he was disappointed with something I had, the implications of not fixing the problem would be very clear. :)

After recently working with Microsoft on a project for 8 months all I can say is the way their product team offices are set up is quite bad. The user experience designers and visual designers are sitting hallways down from the developers and program managers. This is not how it should be. All stakeholders in the application design process should be near each other. Open work spaces do wonders for communication and collaboration, which in turn affects product design.

Ok, this is kind of old shoe, but let's discuss the Windows usability a bit.

I have to endure some amount of XP and 7 on a regular basis, so I have some understanding on how to work with them (well, mostly how to set up or correct things).

Those that say that Windows 7 is so much better.. well, in some sense. I admittedly has better optics. And it crashes less.

Administrative tasks got more tiresome though, compared to XP you have to wade through more windows to get to a specific configuration point. That gets very irksome if you want to perform some configuration for a dozen PC's. (Enough to make it very repetitive, too little that automation would make much sense, especially considering the abysmal automation tools Windows comes with coughshellcough). Other critical points are software management systems (lack of) and general disability in the usability sector.

Granted, learning to cope with a Linux system is somewhat more challenging, but once you are into it, it's really much less bother to do things, no matter the scale.

Microsoft still has a long way to go just to reach the current status. Maybe they will manage, as they seem to be very apt at keeping the stranglehold on the market.

And I will keep avoiding them as much as I can.

Enough to make it very repetitive, too little that automation would make much sense, especially considering the abysmal automation tools Windows comes with cough shell cough

Hmm... I've been thinking about switching to Powershell. What do you find abysmal about it?

You are kidding, right? Powershell just does not conform to the original UNIX sh standards, which is why even console wizards will avoid it.

Same reason why tcsh and ksh didn't get traction, and they even have merit to them.

Who is the target audience? UNIX command line people certainly aren't. Then who, people that managed to learn VB Scripting host?

That's just not how things work.

> Same reason why tcsh and ksh didn't get traction, and they even have merit to them.

In the world of enterprise Unix, ksh is king. It is used even for "serious" applications, not only as the sysadmin's glue of choice (the company where I work at was using, in 2009, a HR payroll application written in ksh. Had they not outsourced accounting to a third party, they would probably still be using it today).

Granted, "legacy" Unices are being slowly obsoleted by Linux, but ksh lives on. It would be unthinkable for RHEL or SLES to deprecate ksh and leave it out of the distribution - enterprise customers would probably think this is some kind of a bad joke.

ksh is king (for writing portable shell scripts) because it has long had a reputation for being the one shell that was available everywhere, and worked the same everywhere.

You are kidding, right?


Who is the target audience?

People who want to utilize its access to hundreds of administration tasks across most (all?) of Microsoft's server products, to automate administration tasks.

EDIT to add:

Same reason why tcsh and ksh didn't get traction, and they even have merit to them.

I can't tell: is the implication here that Powershell doesn't have merit? I'm trying to understand.

I remember reading this when it first came out, at a time when I was still on Windows. I remember thinking, "Finally! Microsoft products are bound to improve after a letter like that from Gates."

Two years later, nothing about XP had changed, and I moved to OS X, just in time to avoid Vista...

So, while the letter is, itself, excellent, I'm not sure how much it did to help out Windows in the long run. (Maybe Windows 7 represents a change.)

My biggest takeway from this email is to write short paragraph s when writing a long email. Seems pretty simple but I had never thought about this. Write 2-3 lines per paragraph.

Guys, has uncle Bill mellowed with age! In the past meeting with him about MS products meant keeping a f* score:


Now, he's just "quite disappointed".

The first time I read it I was in disbelief. I actually checked if the mail was fake or true, turns out it's true.

The second time I read it I actually laughed.

The part about him filling in the form on microsoft.com and having it tell him that what he input was invalid is particularly hilarious.

My name is Bill and Windows was my idea.

My name is Steve and Windows was my idea.

My name is Douglas Engelbart and Windows was my idea before Alan Kay, Bill Gates _or_ Steve Jobs.

Not really. Englebart pioneered the mouse & a semi-GUI interface in NLS, but it didn't involve multiple windows.

"So they told me that using the download page to download something was not something they anticipated."


This e-mail has been going around for years now. It's old news.

So Windows 7 was his idea!

Mystery solved.

Most of the time you don't need some authority person's opinion to realize that something is a total mess. Your own experience is enough. That is what this email is all about - users will create their own opinion very quickly.

The another example is Java development. Everyone who run Maven2 build process (say to build clojure-contrib) will be amazed by a tons of a strange and useless messages, repeated downloads of what seems the same files (but, different minor version numbers) to unknown location. That process will took something like 10 minutes on 3G connection, while you have absolutely no idea what's going on (OK, I can figure out that it is a process of a recursive downloading and building dependencies, and because people don't care about migration to the latest stable versions, it will download half of internet.)

This alone tells me what is really happening in a Java world better than all Sun's brainwashing altogether. ^_^

btw, sudo apt-get install maven2 downloaded another 70Mb of shit (in case JDK is already installed). 70Mb for a apt+make replacement? Compressed Linux kernel sources are less in size.

throw windows out the window, use linux, problem solved..play guitar hero with all the spare time...

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