My tell-all Microsoft entry

or not

A few of my (very few) readers have connected me to Microsoft via my posts or my resume and wonder why I don’t dish more dirt like MiniMSFT or Joel On Software. It isn’t that I don’t have the dirt to dish. Believe me, I’ve got plenty. Also, after eight years there, I have some of my own strong opinions on where the company lost its way.

There is one main reason that I don’t talk more about Microsoft: I live in Seattle and I write software for a living. Although I’m not working there now, I can’t ever be sure if I won’t be knocking on the door again someday and the last thing I need is some nasty blog post I wrote about the place to be shown to me during an interview.

I’m really happy that MiniMSFT exists. He (she?) covers a lot of stuff I’d talk about and the comments from current and ex-softies are as informative as the original posts. I don’t get the sense that the author has been at Microsoft that long though. If they had, some of the trends would be a lot more obvious to them.

My hope as a shareholder and (not if I can avoid it) future employee is that Microsoft will wise up in regards to making their employees happy. You can’t expect people to put in 70-80 hour weeks for months at a time when they are making less than industry standard wages and the stock price hasn’t budged in years. A lot of the best people I’ve worked with at Microsoft are gone and many of the rest aren’t sticking around out of loyalty or joy in their work… There is a reason Google, Adobe, and Amazon are having no problems recruiting senior Microsoft engineers away. There are also reasons why the ex-Microsofties (including me) are much happier since they left… but as I said I wasn’t going to dish any dirt right now. 🙂

A classic example of crummy software testing

Microsoft unleashes a poorly tested version of windows media player on the macintosh audience

I have to put in a little disclaimer here. I worked on the Windows Media Team for (PC) version 7.

That said, tonight I tried to install the newest version for the macintosh, version 9 onto one of my macs. I installed it through a non-admin account (I didn’t want it in my account), it seemed to install ok, except that it didn’t give me an option of where to put it and it demanded the admin password. When I try to run it from this account, I get a “you do not have privileges to run this application” error. I switch to my admin. All the ownership and execute attributes on the application are fine. I can run it from my admin account just fine (remember that I didn’t even want to be accessible from any other account), but in this lower permission account I can’t run it. Even though that is the account I installed it from.

Now this is, of course, a bug. A bug I have caused myself in the recent past. It is also a very easy bug to fix and a very easy bug to find if you are testing your product. It is testing 101 and one of the first things a good tester will catch. An important note is that the WMP for mac wasn’t developed in the Mac BU during my time in Windows Media, it was part of the Windows Media Team. This might explain why the quality might not be up to the Mac Office standards. MSN suffers from this problem too, I’ve heard.

Bugs get through, it happens. There is no excuse for something this obvious to get through the cracks though. Especially in a politically sensitive area for Microsoft like this. Microsoft needs to improve their quality on non-windows platform for their media player if they expect it to be any sort of real web standards. Until their quality gets better, I’m going to bug the websites I view to embrace a real cross platform video format like Flash, or Quicktime.

Crow

Overpriced but ok

Crow is another new self-consciously hip establishment of the sort that has been popping up around Seattle like weeds. You know, the one word name, the dark decor, the northwest-fusion cuisine, the owner who used to be a banker or software engineer or whatever. Crow is on-par with the rest of these. The food is good, but not stunning. The atmosphere is good, the service was great, it would have been a great $50 meal for two, unfortunately it was an $80 meal for two. (salads, main course, 2 glasses of wine). The dark decor and hipness makes it an ok date place, but you won’t make it a habit of eating here…

The Apple Phobia

No, not the fear of Apple Computers, the fear that Steve is going to announce new ones

Any Apple customer knows the fear. You check the dates of Steve Job’s upcoming appearances, you time things around MacWorld or WWDC. Not because you can’t wait to hear what new thing is coming out. Because you are petrified about buying a mac or ipod the day before they slash the prices and make the computer you haven’t even received yet a dinosaur. I’m facing that fear right now as I ponder if I want to replace my powerbook before the intel switch.

Everyone knows that the channel is starting to fill with inventory and people are sitting on the fence waiting for those first intel-based macs to be announced. Everyone knows that they’ll be slashing the prices to clear out inventory and that they may announce one more power book revision before the big switch. So you wait. And Wait. Steve doesn’t have another keynote for a while, right? They never announce hardware at Siggraph, right? Maybe now is the time to buy… Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll wait just a bit longer…

Welcome to the fear, my friend.

sometimes Carbon makes me cry

the woes of cross-platform C++ development

Carbon is Apple’s APIs that were created for developers who had been writing for OS versions before OS X. Apple really wants developers writing in Cocoa (just as Microsoft wants to developers to write in .Net), and they couldn’t make it more clear to those of us who are using Carbon. While being fairly feature-rich, it is overly complicated and poorly documented. Every company I have ever done professional software development with (which includes several of the top companies in the world) does development in C++. Cocoa doesn’t work with C++. It uses ObjectiveC, which means (like .Net) that you can’t easily write portable code for Cocoa. Apple is going out of their way to make it hard to port apps to their platform and should wake up and support C++ for Cocoa.

Apple and Intel roundup

More on this massive announcement

So everyone is weighing in on this and I’ve been reading tons of commentaries. Here’s some of what I thought were the most insightful.

First of all, Apple has Steve Job’s keynote up so you can watch it for yourself. The one thing I got from that which I hadn’t seen covered yesterday was the fact that Apple has more PPC machines in the pipeline. What this means for those of us trying to decide if we want to get one of the last PPC powerbooks is that we might want to wait a bit longer to see if there will be one more performance boost before the Pentium-based machines show up. The other thing that was interesting was that the Pentium-based machine Steve was demoing on was using a “standard-issue” Pentium which might put to rest some of the speculation around a custom intel chip. Also, the responsiveness of Steve’s demo machine which was using a 3.6 GHz Pentium didn’t seem that much better than my 867 MHz PB.

eWeek’s article about how the transition will affect developers was interesting, but could have had more depth. Steve made it sound like most of the OS X developers had already made the switch to Cocoa and X-Code, but what he neglected to say was the majority of the developers using Metrowerks and Carbon are the oldest developers for Macintosh, with the largest codebases. Don’t expect too many new big features in your favorite mac apps releasing in 2006.

SiliconValley.com has a nice article on some of the other potential benefits for Apple by moving to a processor family with more vendors and options.

Dan Farber has his own summation of the techno-pundits on his blog.

David Berlind has got some great insights in his blog

Thomas Claburn of Information Week has confirmed that while Apple won’t let OS X run on non-Apple hardware, it won’t prevent other OSes from being loaded on Apple hardware. This is a pretty important detail. Imagine being able to dual-boot XP and OS X on sweet Apple hardware… I don’t think Apple should try and become an OS vendor since one of the reasons that OS X is so much more stable and secure is because of it’s limited hardware surface. Some insane percentage of crashes in XP systems is due to driver issues according to Microsoft. Apple has avoided this with their strategy and I think that is a major part of Apple’s appeal.

Peter N. Glaskowsky at eWeek presents a very interesting perspective on the whole deal.

Apple and Intel. Official.

The good and bad

I’ve never been a fan of Apple because of the processor, it is the OS that I like. This is going to be interesting.

the good:

  • Macs should get cheaper. Thanks to the economies of scale, Intel chips are cheaper than PPC chips because they make a lot more of them. This should make macs using Intel chips significantly less expensive than they are right now.
  • Macs should improve faster. Since Intel is developing chips for both PCs and Macs, Apple will get the benefit of the R&D that is done. Since the PPC chips were such a small part of IBM’s business, they weren’t as dedicated to improving them as Intel is.

the bad:

  • This transition will be full of FUD for both users and developers alike. As a OS X developer, I’m now forced to transition my projects to X-Code which I’ve been avoiding until now. X-Code is improving, but it has a long way to go to being a first-class IDE. Not that I’m a big supporter of Metrowerks either. I don’t link having choice be taken away. As a user, I was contemplating getting a new Mac PB this year. Do I wait for the new Intel-based machines next year, or do I get a new one now and hope that apps will still run on it once the transition to the Intel-based macs is complete? If I decide to get a PPC-based mac, do I wait for the inventory clearing sales? Are there going to be any more improvements to the G4 Powerbooks, or are they going to be frozen until the new Intel-based ones come out?
  • Is OS X going to be forced to take stuff that Microsoft is forcing into the hardware level? Microsoft has been trying to push more and more security features into the hardware in recent years to try and circumvent the virus writers and the music pirates. Is Apple going to be forced to support these things? I definitely hope not. Having OS X get dragged around by Windows is the last thing mac users and developers want.

The Rich get Richer

The New York Times ran the numbers and it doesn’t look good for those of us in the lower 99.9% income brackets.

This article is sobering, but is not unexpected. Its good to have some numbers to argue with those morons who insist that giving the rich more money will give everyone else more money too. Basically, the Bush Administration continuing the policies of the previous Bush and Reagan administrations has widened the gap between rich and poor to an extent never known in this country. They are corrupting the American dream and producing an American aristocracy. This is class warfare on a profound scale.