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two faces

November 15th, 2001

I’ve been thinking a bit lately of how my opinion of Microsoft has evolved. I’ve narrowed it down to faces.

To me, Microsoft used to have a human face, or rather consist of many human faces, the developers who put their heart and soul into making their products and processes the best they could make them. Some of the smartest computer people around. People at all levels like Charles Simonyi, Steve McConnell, Steve Maguire, Joel Spolsky. People who got some amazing stuff done and can be proud of their accomplishments. Many of these kinds of people are still there, doing some fantastic work, living for the andrenalin of being a part of something good and creative. People who believe in what they do.

Over the last few years, I’ve felt that Microsoft’s human face has been obscured by the face of an aggressive offensive corporation,
take-no-prisoners marketers, lawyers and weasels. Advances in technology have been replaced with or tied to the delivery of advances in licencing or contractual obligation. The focus is no longer on attracting people with product quality but on rounding up consumers and steering them into the corral by gradually removing all paths of escape.

I can no longer hear a pitch of a new MS technology without wondering where the catch is, what the hook is, when the trap is gonna spring.

It’s a big shame, really, because the human faces are still there. I see them in the newsgroups, on blogs, in conversations. They’re thoughful, helpful, concerned about quality.

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The shell game

November 12th, 2001

Dave Rothgery points out that MSDN has changed around its subscriptions quite a bit, inserting new levels and adjusting other ones. What used to be “Professional” is now “Operating Systems” and Professional now gets Visual Studio and Visual Foxpro (does anyone really use that?).

All well and good.

My renewal notice didn’t tell me that. Did I pitch out some marketing blather that came with my last MSDN shipment – I dunno, I’m no longer very discriminating about what I throw out before even looking at it since almost everything in my mailboxes, physical and virtual, is useless, absolutely insulting crap.

Take a look at my renewal notice – does it tell me what I need to know? Does it give me clear options other than those which extract more money out of me?

If you want my business, you gotta meet me more than halfway. Don’t accidentally forget to be clear that I have options that might suit me better and save me money.

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Driver, I think this is my stop

November 12th, 2001

First, go read Scoble. Then come back here and read this.

I got my MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) subscription renewal in the mail this week.

I subscribe to the Professional level of MSDN. Last year it cost me about $900CDN (600US) to renew. This year it’s over $1500CDN ($1033 US). That’s about a 70% increase in price. I can tell you that as an independent consultant in the internet industry, my revenue hasn’t increased by 70% in 2001.

What added value would I get this year over last? I don’t see any.

Last year I got either CD or DVD for the same price. This year it’s $120US more for the DVD version. Sure, they save on media and postage, but $120US? I don’t think so.

They recently sent me a notice saying Visual Interdev would now be “included” with the Professional subscription. I guess a 70% increase is what they mean by “included”.

Product releases. Well, I’ve already got a whole bunch of reasons for resisting the pull of XP. Here’s another one.

I’ve been seeing a lot about .NET development cross my bow. As a member of the ASP Aces group at ASPFriends.com, I’m constantly seeing how fantastic and useful ASP.NET is. I’ve got a number of great books about ASP.NET. I’m fascinated with all sorts of web-based RPC. You would think I was inhaling this stuff.

But I’m not.

The part of my time I allocate to personal development these days goes to familiarizing myself with alternatives to Microsoft’s technology. Linux, PHP, MySql, Apache, Tomcat, etc.

I remember when I was a civil servant in the late 90s. I could see the writing on the wall that most of the real hands-on technology work in the Ontario government was going to be outsourced within three years. I quit and became a consultant. When the time came, I didn’t want to be on the street with my union package looking for my first consulting gig, I wanted to be on the street with a solid three-year consulting resume. It worked out well for me.

When companies really see what licensing and product activation is coming to (and more to the point, license expiry and product deactivation) and the imminent ongoing costs that reliance on fee-per-use services portends, they will revolt against MS and stampede towards alternatives. When that day comes, I don’t want to be a one-trick pony locked in the wrong stable.

It’s not because MS has crappy technology. Ignoring their consumer products, I’m very happy with their NT/2000 technology and their .NET direction. I’m just not sure I wanna commit to it.

It’s because I believe MS is arrogant, conniving, monopolistic, an unfair player. I didn’t used to believe this. I was always one of their biggest proponents. I’ve been a huge promoter of their technologies and active in newsgroups and on BBSes since the mid-1980′s. I’ve been publicly ridiculed as an MS apologist by platform zealots. I’m actually nominated this year for their MVP program for my newsgroup support for Remote Scripting among other things.

Maybe I’m wrong – but it does it matter? – my perception of Microsoft is turning me right off them, so whether I’m right or not, they’re on the precipice of losing one of their most consistent cheerleaders.

I can certainly think of better places to spend my $1500 for now.

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Rollin, rollin, rollin

November 11th, 2001

Chris Ashley (no relation – perhaps we’re ‘blog brothers’) muses on the fleeting fame that washes over one when their blog is linked to by someone higher in the blog popularity tree, creating a temporary surge in their viewer base. Doc calls it blogrolling, a clever term directly derived from logrolling (political back-scratching).

It always settles back, but a little higher than the previous norm. I’ve seen this slingshot effect happen myself, when Dave linked to me when I was but a blogophyte. I’ve got many still-consistent visitors who initially came to me during that particular bulge in my logs.

This effect begets a sort of journeyman/apprentice mentoring scheme into which I’ve found myself naturally falling. Not only do I like getting linked to (although, as Tim pointed out last month, some humility and perspective is in order), I also derive a certain satisfaction from linking to others and helping to shine a light under their bushel. I’m looking forward to following Cam, for instance, who has just recently caught the bug.

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two paths to the same destination

November 8th, 2001

Tim gives his viewpoint on goodness and faith.

Okay, but really that’s not even the point. The point in accepting His grace and having a relationship with Him is to be cleansed of sin, so not to be cut off from God for eternity.

If I’m going to be around for eternity, and God is going to cut me off from him for 99.99999…% of eternity based on my entirely humane and thoughtful paltry few years on this planet simply because I failed to forge a relationship with him and be understanding of his needs when he would only ever communicate with me indirectly through prophets or symbolically through deeds, I would think he’s not a very forgiving or understanding type of guy, and further that he was somewhat spiteful. I myself have salvaged very good friendships out of worse beginnings.

So, I’m gonna carry on being a good guy as usual and when I’m gone, if there’s an afterlife, I’ll deal with it. If not, I won’t have to. If I have to suffer for eternity without appeal, review or parole, I’ll be pretty disappointed in the afterlife justice system.

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the sound of Windows breaking things.

November 7th, 2001

I’m starting to see the first wave of Remote Scripting queries from people who are finding that the lack of JVM is making their RS-enabled website problematic for XP users.

I preparation for increased interest, I’ve revamped my Remote Scripting Resources page.

All the CSS stuff was inspired by Eric Costello’s CSS Tutorials. Somebody should step right up and give that man a job before he gets snapped up. Pay him well, keep him happy. Such talent doesn’t grow on trees, you know.

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can’t think of a title today

November 6th, 2001

Interesting treatise on the relevance of religion. (via camworld) Don’t let the title scare you off, it’s much less hyperbolic in the text.

Two points in it resonate with me. One is that religious belief is not a prerequisite for goodness. (I say ‘religious belief’ to separate the deity and faith element from the moral and ethical teachings that come from religion)

Morality and ethics are separate from religion, and while they can take shelter under its umbrella, they are neither tethered by nor bound to it in any way.

Another is that it’s far too easy to abdicate accountability for difficult-to-face issues to the catch-all “God’s will” bin.

The time has come for humanity to be accountable only for itself for each of us to be fully present in this life and to never be so cruel as to pass off personal responsibility for our actions on an invisible God.

When I make a moral decision, it’s my decision. While I may take input from any number of sources, human or divine, I make the decision and only I am accountable for it. Right now, in this life.

If I determine that an issue is beyond my understanding, I feel no compulsion to define it as understood by a higher power. It’s just a null, to be filled in if the understanding comes along.

Of course, as always, your mileage may vary. Any viewpoint is the right one if it allows you to feel right about yourself while allowing others to approach it their own way.

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XPletive deleted

November 5th, 2001

XP. What’s in it for me? I can think of many reasons NOT to move to XP, but no reasons in favour.

pros:

  • groovy new skin

cons:

  • Passport Integration
    Really, can any one honestly tell me there is any reason I should even consider installing XP after reading about these Passport Exploits?
  • Messenger Integration
    don’t need it (I prefer to use Yahoo IM)
  • Forced Registration
    don’t want it
  • Licence Expiry / Lockout
    if I decide to stop paying, can I continue using it?
  • Increased Dependence on MS Web Services
    what happens when they start charging 25 cents for every .NET diary lookup call?