Off the Top: Microsoft Entries
Things here are a little quiet as I have been in writing mode as well as pitching new work. I have been blogging work related items over at Personal InfoCloud, but I am likely only going to be posting summaries of those pieces here from now on, rather than the full posts. I am doing this to concentrate work related posts, particularly on a platform that has commenting available. I am still running my own blogging tool here at vanderwal.net I wrote in 2001 and turned off the comments in 2006 after growing tired of dealing comment spam.
The following are recently posted over at Personal InfoCloud
SharePoint 2007: Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools
SharePoint 2007: Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools focusses on the myriad of discussions I have had with clients of mine, potential clients, and others from organizations sharing their views and frustrations with Microsoft SharePoint as a means to bring solid social software into the workplace. This post has been brewing for about two years and is now finally posted.
Optimizing Tagging UI for People & Search
Optimizing Tagging UI for People and Search focuses on the lessons learned and usability research myself and others have done on the various input interfaces for tagging, particularly tagging with using multi-term tags (tags with more than one word). The popular tools have inhibited adoption of tagging with poor tagging interaction design and poor patterns for humans entering tags that make sense to themselves as humans.
LinkedIn: Social Interaction Design Lessons Learned (not to follow)
I have a two part post on LinkedIn's social interaction design. LinkedIn: Social Interaction Design Lessons Learned (not to follow) - 1 of 2 looks at what LinkedIn has done well in the past and had built on top. Many people have expressed the new social interactions on LinkedIn have decreased the value of the service for them.
The second part, LinkedIn: Social Interaction Design Lessons Learned (not to follow) - 2 of 2 looks at the social interaction that has been added to LinkedIn in the last 18 months or so and what lessons have we as users of the service who pay attention to social interaction design have learned. This piece also list ways forward from what is in place currently.
The Wall Street Journal article about Yahoo! Rejecting Microsoft Bid (many more stories on TechMeme) was one that restored my faith in Yahoo! (not that it was really lost). I am proud of the Yahoo! board, but not for the reasons most are talking about. Since hearing about the Microsoft bid to take over Yahoo! I thought it was a really poor idea, well horrible idea. I really like Yahoo! and a lot of the things they are doing. I also really do like Microsoft (it is just some of their products that frustrate me to no end), in particular I think the MS Live group has come up with some great ideas out of research and that pleases e to know end. I am a giant fan of Ray Ozzie (oh, where have you gone Ray?).
Merger Would be a Giant Culture Clash
Yes, there are the technology concerns with some of the best open and shared technology development and augmentation coming out of Yahoo!, which is counter to the Microsoft focus on using their own tools (most of the web is built on open tools and Yahoo! helps make that a great platform to develop upon). This is not my big concern.
Where I see a giant problem is the management and employee culture. I know and have known a lot of employees and managers (mid-level and upper-level) at both organizations. Microsoft is a tough business culture with keeping the top percentage of employees and contributers on a project and moving others off to find a spot on other projects. In talking with many Microsoft employees (most were in the top performer group) this is often seen as horribly disruptive to the team when the changes occur. This management model also discourages sharing collectively and building collaboratively, which is also stated as a huge problem. These disruptions and metrics that are counter to strong development for the web and quick iterative cycles (not that Yahoo! seems to iterate quickly other than Flickr and a handful of other products) are quite counter to an open shared development process at Yahoo!. The clash of management cultures on this front, unless Microsoft did the unthinkable and adopted the Yahoo! approach, which could fix a lot of what has been holding Microsoft back (well, from current and former employees perspectives).
Related to the performance of employees the management teams go through similar reviews. But, many employees I have talked with (at conferences, networking events, airports and airplanes (there is always one within 10 seats of me it seams), and chat) have been really frustrated with management changes that can occur after 6 to 9 months. Having a new manager often changes focus and direction, which breaks momentum and continuity. Talking with great people Microsoft has lost over the past couple years, this management change was their biggest reason for leaving. The changes in management also often lead to conflicting measurement goals, which would make a great product or team look as if they were not working up to the standards. This is not management, but business process failure. This is not saying Microsoft has poor managers, quite the opposite in fact as many are some of the best I have run across in the business. But, the structure, processes, and measurement that the top management of Microsoft has established seems to be what has inhibited Microsoft from really top performance. What may work for some parts of Microsoft does not seem to work for other areas (actually, of all the Microsoft employees I have talked with from all across the organization the model does not work outside of sales).
The Yahoo! management has had more than their share of restructuring, but the disruptions this has made to product development and progress have been minimal. The goals, direction, and means to get the job done do not change for the most part (from what I have heard). Employees are flustered, but not demoralized. Yahoo! seems to have much greater continuity and central focus. Their products are well known, well used, and they iterate (over time). Many discussions with Yahoo! employees and managers outside the walls of Yahoo! are more frustrated by the silos and inability to work across the silos, but some the restructuring in the past couple of years has helped move to alleviate these problems. The cross platform team that works to help research, understand, and develop best of class solutions is a great step in this direction (from the perspective of many within Yahoo!). Yahoo! has known what has been holding back its efforts (Panama ate focus and resources) and has taken steps to alleviate the problems and move in a new positive direction. There are many things in Yahoo! that were more transparent two years ago than they are now (part of that may be those talking about things openly have been insanely busy). One of the things that seems to be problematic (from an outsider's perspective) is blinder focus and lack of concurrent development within groups.
Sum of Parts are Not Positive
When looking at the two cultures of the companies they are incredibly polar. One of the first steps in looking at a purchase or merger must be to look at compatibility of the cultures. Sure the products and services look like they may be a good fit by some at Microsoft, but those products and services are built by people with in a culture that propagates an environment to build wonderful things. Breaking that culture (Microsoft repeatedly iterated the vast savings the combination of MS and Y! would make) through integration of polar cultures has the high probability of destroying the value of what you believe will help. In this case a one plus one could equal less than one.
Partnering Not Combining
Yahoo! and Microsoft could have increased value partnering and working together though a Microsoft investment. What and how I do not know, but Microsoft needs positive outcomes and Yahoo! could use some financial boosts. Microsoft could also use a culture change, but that does not seem to be with in their vision as of yet and it is a huge organization to move in a new direction.
Yahoo! could improve its lot with partnerships, be it Microsoft, Ebay, Murdoch, Time Warner (AOL), and Google. I really do not want to see the Yahoo! search engine go away as the competition is good and provides alternatives should something go wrong with a one player or few player marketplace (oligopoly).
Over at Personal InfoCloud I posted The Future is Now for Information Access, which was triggered by an interview with Steve Ballmer (Microsoft) about the future of technology and information. I do not see his future 10 years out, but today. I see the technology in the pockets of people today. People are frustrated with the information not being easily accessed and use and reuse not being as simple as it should. Much of this is happening because of the structure of the information.
Personal InfoCloud is the Focus
One thing that struck me from the article, which I did not write about, was the focus on Google. Personally I find it odd as Yahoo is sitting on the content and the structure for more than 90 percent of what is needed to pull off the Personal InfoCloud. Yahoo is beginning to execute and open access to their data in proper structures. Ballmer lays out a nearly exact scenario for aggregating one's own information and putting it in our lives to the one I have been presenting the last few years. Yahoo has the components in place today to build on top of and make it happen. Google is not only lacking the structure, but they are not executing well on their products they produce. Google does the technically cool beta, but does not iterate and fix the beta nor are they connecting the dots. Yahoo on the other hand is iterating and connecting (they need to focus on this with more interest, passion, and coordinated direction).
The Real Battle
I really do not see the battle as being between Google and the others. The real battle is between Yahoo and Microsoft. Why? Both focus on the person and that person's use and need for information in their life and with their context. Information needs to be aggregated (My Yahoo is a great start, but it goes deeper and broader) and filtered based on interest and need. We are living in a flood of information that has crossed into information pollution territory. We need to remove the wretched stench of information to get back the sweet smell of information. We need to pull together our own creations across all of the places we create content. We need to attract information from others whom have similar interests, frameworks, and values (intellectual, social, political, technological, etc.). The only foundation piece Yahoo is missing is deep storage for each person's own information, files, and media.
Microsoft Live Gets It
Microsoft has the same focus on the person. I have become intrigued with the Microsoft Live properties (although still have a large disconnect with their operating systems and much of their software). Live is aiming where Yahoo is sitting and beyond. Microsoft has the cash and the interest to assemble the pieces and people to get there. Live could get there quickly. Looking at the Live products I saw in January at Search Champs with some in relatively early states and what was launched a few months later, the are iterating quickly and solidly based on what real people want and need in their lives (not the alpha geeks, which Google seems to target). Live products are not done and the teams are intact and the features and connections between the components are growing. They are leaving Google in the dust.
Can Yahoo Stay Ahead of Microsoft?
The question for Yahoo is can they keep up and keep ahead of Microsoft? Google has the focus in search as of today (not for me as the combination of Yahoo! MyWeb 2.0 and Yahoo! Search combined blow away anything that Google has done or seemingly can do. Yahoo! does need to greatly improve the simplicity, ease of use, and payoff (it takes a while for the insanely great value of MyWeb 2.0 to kick in and that needs to come much earlier in the use phase for regular people).
I am seeing Microsoft assembling teams of smart passionate people who want to build a killer web for regular people. It seems Ray Ozzie was the turn around for this and is part of the draw for many heading to work on Live products. The competition for minds of people who get it puts Live in competition with Google, Yahoo, EBay, Amazon, and even Apple. I am seeing Live getting the people in that they need. Recently (last week) Microsoft even started changing their benefits and employee review practices to better compete and keep people. It seems that they are quite serious and want to make it happen now.
Yahoo Under Valued
Recent comments about Yahoo being under valued in the long term are dead on in my view. A recent Economist article about Google pointed out how poorly they execute on everything but their core service (search). This waking up starts to bring a proper focus on what those of us who look at regular people and their needs from information and media in their lives have been seeing, Yahoo gets it and is sitting on a gold mine. Yahoo has to realize that Microsoft sees the same thing and is pushing hard with a proper focus and passion to get there as well.
What does this mean for Google? I am not sure. Google is a technology company that is focussed on some hard problems, but it has to focus on solutions that people can use. Google aims for simple interfaces, but does not provide simple solutions or leaves out part of the solutions to keep it simple. They need a person-centered approach to their products. The addition of Jeff Veen and his Measure Map team should help, if they listen. Google has some excellent designers who are focussed on usable design for the people, but it seems that the technology is still king. That needs to change for Google to stay in the game.
Alex brings up something in his Go and microformat stuff! covering what is in the works with Microformats at Microsoft. Scroll down to where Alex talks about "mRc = Live data wiring", now this live data access is incredibly important.
One of the elements that has been bugging me with social bookmarking it the volatility of the information is not taken into account when the bookmark is made. No, I am not talking about the information blowing up, but the blood pressure of the person bookmarking may rise if the data changes in some way. I look at social bookmarking, or bookmarking in general as a means to mark a place, but it fails as an indicator of state or status change of the information we are pointing to. The expressing of bookmarking and/or tagging is an expression of our explicit interest in that object we bookmarked and/or tagged. The problem is our systems so far are saying, "yes, you have interest, but so what".
What the live data approach does is makes our Personal InfoCloud active. If we could bookmark information and/or tag chunks of information as important we should be able to find out when that information changes, or better get an alert before the information changes. One area where this is essential and will add huge value is shopping. What happens with products in the real world? The prices change, they go out of stock, the product is modified, production of the product stopped, etc. The permeations are many, but those expressing interest should be alerted and have their information updated.
One of the things I have been including in my "Come to Me Web" presentations is the ability to think about what a person needs when they use and want to reuse information. We read about a product we desire, we read the price, but we may think about the product or put it on a wish list that is related to an event in the future. When we go to act on the purchase the information we have gathered and bookmarked may be out of date.
One solution I have been talking about in my presentations is providing an RSS/ATOM feed for the page as it is bookmarked so the person gets the ability to get updated information. I have built similar functionality into past products years ago that let people using data know when the data changed (e-mail) but also provided the means to show what the data was prior and what it had changed to. It was functionality that was deeply helpful to the users of the system. Live data seems a more elegant solution, if it provides the means to see what information had changed should the person relying on or desiring the information want it.
I have been rather quiet about my trip to Microsoft as part of their Search Champs v.4. This trip was mid-January and I was rather impressed with the what Microsoft showed. The focus was late-stage beta for MS Live products and things that were a little more rough. Last week Expo launched, which is a rather cool classified site along the lines of edgio and Craigslist. Expo did not launch with anything ground breaking, but that could be coming. None-the-less it is refreshing to see this kind of effort and interest coming out of Microsoft.
Live Image Search is a Great Web Interface
One of the products that was stellar and near launch that we saw was Live Image Search (shown with vanderwal - what else). Image search was stellar as it is quite similar to Apple iPhoto with its interface, but built for the web. Take Live Image search for a spin. No really, scroll, mouse over, change the thumbnail size on the fly. It is fast and responsive. I am quite impressed.
Oh, since I am on a Mac, I have been using Firefox/Camino to view Live Image search and it works just as wonderfully as it did in the demos on Windows with IE. I think Microsoft understand that the web is a platform, just like Windows and Mac. Microsoft gets that the web as a platform must work on top of other OS platforms. The web browser is an OS agnostic application and must remain so. Microsoft seems to understand that when building for the web it should work across browsers and OS platforms otherwise it is just developing for an OS, but that is not the web. The proof in this will be when Microsoft releases an Live toolbar for Firefox that has all of the access and functionality of the IE toolbar.
More to Come
I am really waiting for another product to get launched or closer to launch as I really think Microsoft will have a good product there too. It is something that really is of interest to me. It really seemed like the Microsoft people we worked with were really listening to our feedback.
Color my opinion changed toward Microsoft. Not only are they doing things of interest, but they are shipping. They are not only trying to get the web, but they have brought in people who understand and know what direction to head. I went to Microsoft out of curiosity and found something that went against my notions of what they were doing. Microsoft get the web in a similar manner to the way that Yahoo does, it is about people with real problems.
Where is my Mac?
Am I giving up my Mac? No. Hell no. My OS works the way that I work and does not get in my way. I don't spend time swearing at it or messing with it. I do the things I need to do for my job and life using technology to augment that effort. Apple has been doing this for years and I don't want to mess up a very good thing.
Boy, did I whine too early! As Jyri blogs, Ray Ozzie demos a desktop to blog structured information tool. Ray demonstrated a potential (or is it real) tool from Microsoft, Live Clipboard. A set of screen captures of the Ozzie demonstration of Live Clipboard shows what they are up to. It is killer stuff that really solves real problems people have in living their life with digital information across their devices and platforms. He focusses on structured information, which is all around us, or should be all around us.
Ray Ozzie is one of my favorite geeks. I would have some extremely serious Microsoft love if Microsoft follows the Ray Ozzie vision of technology rather than that of the buffoon Steve Balmer. Ray has the vision and understanding that Bill Gates had for the desktop, but never showed beyond that. Balmer just seems to do more damage to Microsoft than any benefit (what is his benefit?) he provides. Where as Ray just flat out rocks by being brilliant (in a visionary to real product way), calm, and a wonderful communicator. Ray built one of my favorite tools, Groove, but stopped non-Microsoft version far too early as that could be THE killer app of the decade (last 10 years). If Groove were platform and device agnostic it would be the best thing going, but it will have to settle for a good app that has boundary limitations.
Ray is bright and understands the problems that real people have with digital information and focusses along the lines of the Personal InfoCloud for solutions. He seems to show not only tools, but simple solutions for real people to use. It is what Microsoft needs (that and to ship) and what the industry needs. So far Apple is one of the few big (non-web) companies in the space providing simple solutions that work to resolve the problems of real people as they interact with digital information and media.
Yesterday at the Microsoft Search Champs v4 Microsoft peeled back the layers around their dealings with providing the U.S. Government with data around search. Joshua Porter writes-up U.S. Government request and Microsoft responce. The Microsoft discussion was very open and but was closed to those of us in the room. Late in the day we were told we could openly blog the information and discuss it.
A few of us got together last night to discuss the information and recorded the discussion in a podcast the privacy and Microsoft response to DOJ (MP3 10mb 42 minutes hosted on Alex Barnett server). The podcast is a discussion between:
- Joshua Porter (Search Champs Attendee )
- Chris Pirillo ( Search Champs Attendee )
- Dion Hinchcliffe ( Search Champs Attendee )
- Fred Oliviera ( Search Champs Attendee )
- Alex Barnett ( Microsoft )
- Brady Forrest ( MSN Search Team )
- Myself, Thomas Vander Wal ( Search Champs Attendee )
Robert Scoble was the first to break the news in his blog.
From my personal perspective it was very refreshing to hear Microsoft be open with their thoughts and openly admitting they may have dropped the ball, not in the data they gave (because the data given was not personal data in any shape or form). They openly admitted they need to be a more open citizen of the internet. They have responsibility to be open with the personal information and data, which we as citizens of the web trust those with our digital tracks. There is a compact between the people using tools and the providers of internet tools that our digital rights are protected.
I have a very strong belief that Microsoft is a good citizen that looks out for my privacy. This was a trust I did not think I would have at any point in my life. It is a trust today that I have with them, but it will be a trust they must continue to foster. There are many in the Search Champs that strongly believe all of the search and portal companies must work together to ensure they are consistent in protecting the privacy of the digital citizens that interact with them. There was a lot of Google love that was lost with their public spin to try and drive a wedge between themselves and the other search engines and portals. Google was very good in publicly pointing out the DOJ request and getting public attention on the request. But, Google must work together with Yahoo!, Microsoft, AOL to protect not only digital citizens but their whole industry.
You know that when the Microsoft Security Program Manager has to run Firefox things are not good for IE on the security front.
Browse Happy highlights stories of real people who have chosen browsers other than Microsoft IE and are quite happy with the change.
Microsoft redesigns and takes a great step toward standards. Do they have everything right yet? No. Will they get there? They do not have far to go. They do need to fix the site to work better in Standards-based browsers that people are moving to. They need doctype and some other essentials, but at least they are showing they are learning.
One thing that stands out to to me is the lack of uppercase and mixed-case tags and attributes. This is huge as their tools that are in production for consumers do not do this. To date the Microsoft development tools fail the developers as they have not made it easy to output proper tag and attributes in the standards compliant case (for XHTML), which is lower case.
The talk on Metro this evening between a few folks was whether they would be able to use Internet Explorer the following day at work. The security hole in the browsers have been very problematic over the years, with this past year being particularly bad. This newest security hole permits your keystrokes to be copied by another party with out the user ever knowing. The warnings have been for banks, but it has spread to any log on, password, credit card number, or any information imaginable secure or wide-open, it does not matter.
Molly's WaSP Buzz entry outlining mainstream publications advising user to stop using the browser and Slate's "Are the Browser Wars Back? How Mozilla's Firefox trumps Internet Explorer" article frame the problems and options well.
My personal favorite browser on Windows is Firefox, which is one of the Mozilla browsers (it is the makers of the guts of the newest Netscape browser. On Mac I am a fan of Safari and Firefox and have both running at all times. You have options for browsing. Hopefully your bank and other purveyors of information were not foolish enough to build to just one browser.
For those of serving the Web from a Microsoft Server 2003 O'Reilly Net has Tips on IIS 6.
Dave Weinberger points out gross errors Information Week made when graphically comparing perceived problems with Windows and Linux. The error is that the Windows graphic uses a scale of 80 percent, while Linux uses a scale of 40 percent. When you realize this the differences in perception become huge.
Microsoft shows nearly 80 of those surveyed had concerns about their software quality and vulnerabilities, while Linux had less than 25 percent. More than 60 percent felt the cost of ownership is too high with Microsoft, while far less than 5 percent had the same concern with Linux. The Linux perceived problems revolve around a lack of complete and fully integrated software environment (40 percent), accountability if problems arise (above 35 percent), and lack of clear product road map (35 percent). Each of the Linux perceived problems, once you spend time looking into them, is not really a problem, but more of a lack of a company with a large marketing budget. I am hoping that Novel and IBM can really start making headway in this area. The quality of Linux products is far higher than Microsoft's and for nearly every product that Microsoft pushes there is at least an equal product in the Linux community.
Then again there is Apple too.
In an effort to get in to the swing of things political, what is your candidate running Web site on? The up time of the RNC and DNC is very telling.
Microsoft has put together a Mac and Microsoft compatibility site to answer questions and to provide assistance.
In an article from the New York Times regarding software oversight needed because some large companies don't check their own software for vulnerabilities, I ran across the following:
Proposals for government action being discussed by policy makers and computer security experts include strengthening the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity division and offering tax incentives to businesses for spending on security. Another proposal would require public companies to disclose potential computer security risks in Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
and the double standard for Microsoft
"There's a reason this kind of thing doesn't happen with automobiles," says Bruce Schneier, chief technical officer at Counterpane Internet Security in Cupertino, Calif. "When Firestone produces a tire with a systemic flaw, they're liable. When Microsoft produces an operating system with two systemic flaws per week, they're not liable."
I can just see it now the SEC requiring companies to divulge on their filings that their security threat is using the Microsoft OS. But, this would explain the day or two of lost productivity each quarter. I know of more than a handful of major firms (through friends that work at them) that had whole divisions (200 to 1,000 people) that were knocked off-line or completely out because of the last vulnerabilities. These did not show up in the news and their investors most likely were not informed.
At work I lose two to four hours per week of productivity to software bugs, security vulnerability patching, or operating system issues on the Windows platform we have to use. At home I do similar tasks on a Mac OS X based system and use Linux servers and I have a half an hour per month lost for the same things. Given I do more rigorous work at home and spend about an equal amount of time on the computer at home as I do at work I don't see why folks use Microsoft.
Robert understands Microsoft being the target of hack attacks.
The floppy sneakernet returned this week as networking access to servers was blocked except port 80 (Web traffic). I have not used a floppy in two years and forgot how slow they were. E-mail was up then crashing. Access to the outside world via the Internet was also up and down. The ability to work easily and efficiently was shot to hell thanks to a company claiming to make an operating system, but its OS product only resembles flaky insecure software.
I was also uncovering many more undocumented features in Microsoft products, such as the save dialog causes Visio 2003 to want to crash. It took 5 minutes to diagram a small application database and 25 minutes to save and print the diagram. Outlook would intermittently hang my workstation for 5 minutes by eating all the computing resources as I clicked to move an e-mail to another folder.
On top of this I took the little green pill. This was to help reduce the itching from a rash on my arms (the rash and itching caused me to go to the doctor who said "you seem to have a rash"). The doctor warned the pill could make me drowsy, which to me translates to tired and cranky for me. I get cranky when I am tired because my mind slows, which I find very annoying. Yes, the pill helps to some degree, as does the cream for the rash.
We have been having some housework done by a contractor and his workers. It was supposed to have been seven days. We are on day 20. The workers don't really seem to know what they are doing and the workmanship is poor as the number cut corners is high. The contractor came highly recommended, but he used to do his own work with his brother-in-law as his partner. We had window frames painted, which seems to mean the window panes get cracked. This week the contractor finally agreed to fix the panes his workmen cracked. Fixing meant taking out the panes and replacing them five days later. We have had plastic food wrap and packing tape covering the holes to keep the bugs out. But being that it is humid the tape gives way and the bugs and hot air come in and cool air goes out. I came home the other night about 11pm to our garage door wide open due to a flaky garage door controller and nobody with a clue to unplug the one door and then lock it. This is the tip of the ice flow as nothing was done properly the first time.
Needless to say by today I was very cranky with the language of a sailor at sea for month or years. I was not even able to write a short coherent e-mail to explain that a PocketPC browser emulator did not actually emulate the functions of the PocketPC browser's use of CSS. It seems that the emulator ignores the external CSS when the media="all"@import attribute is used. A real PocketPC will actually render the page properly. I have been rather impressed with the browser capability in the current PocketPCs, but not enough to get one.
Mark Pilgrim offers How to install Windows XP in 5 hours or less. Five hours is about the time of lost production at work in the past two or three weeks due to critical Microsoft patches to my work machine and a development server (this does not include the time making sure the entire Web team was fully patched).
Today AOL axed Netscape. Yes, the Netscape browser and Netscape company is no more. This is sad as it was a free distribution of a browser that has been focussing on Web Standards and has greatly embraced those that understand the importance of building a browser to Web Standards.
Today, the Mozilla Foundation launched with 2 million U.S. dollars from AOL. This is to support the open source continuation of the Mozilla browser, which is the core of the Netscape browser. This is very important and helpful. The Mozilla and Netscape browser in their most recent versions have been some of the better Standards compliant browsers on the market.
Some weeks ago when Microsoft announced it had built its last stand alone browser in IE 6, things did not look so bad for standards browsers as Netscape and Mozilla were still players in the market. This site has seen the Netscape 6 and 7 (along with Mozilla variants) rise to 30 to 40 percent of all visitors in recent months. Apple Safari browsers to this site are about 10 to 15 percent. But, that is who makes up much of the readership here.
Microsoft's statement was very disappointing on a couple fronts for me. One is it is one of the most buggy "modern" browsers when working with CSS box model on Windows machines. The other important impact is IE on Windows does not adjust all font sizes as their version IE 5 on Mac browser first did, and now nearly all other modern browsers do. These two major downfalls of the Windows IE browser make Web developers jobs much harder, but the lack font resizing pokes the aging population right in the eye. The next MS browser will be bundled with their next Operating System, which is due out in late 2005 at the earliest.
I had been finding a couple trends in the past couple years. People that have decreasing vision have tended to use Netscape 6 or higher, Opera 6 or higher, or other modern browsers (including IE 5 for Mac) because they could easily change the font size so they could access the information. I had been surprised with the large number of Non-Win IE users with less than perfect vision, but when explained that the desire to have access to all information was important it made sense.
The competing item is many older folks do not know how to adjust their font size in the browsers that they do have. These older folks often do not know how easy it is to switch to a browser that has the ability to change all text to a size that is easy to read. This is truly sad for these folks. The current computing market is not to the point where their is true ease of use for product, nor freedom of choice for the non-technically inclined (this day will come, someday). The saddest part is the company with the most resources and the capability to do this most easily, Microsoft, essentially raised its middle finger at this aging population (intentionally or not they showed they did not care). Now, its longtime competitor with the next greatest market share is gone from the market.
All around the Web the announcement of the end of development of the MS IE browser (as pointed out by Tantek). Microsoft points to Apple users being better served by Safari, which seems very odd for Microsoft to claim. I am far happier with IE on Mac than I am with it on Windows.
During the redesign of this site to XHTML and CSS for layout and presentation I initially stayed to by the book and standards CSS. It took a couple tweaks to get IE on Mac to display what Camino (formerly Chimera) and other Mozilla variants displayed. I was still using unhacked CSS. When I finally had a look at what was happening from a Windows machine at work IE 6 was way off (the Windows box at home was off line for nearly 6 months as XP Home did not like the DSL connection and the connection speed was a third to half slower than on my Mac.
This experience truly had me appreciative of the work that Tantek and others put into the product. Many of the Microsoft product seem to be better built for the Mac than their Windows counter parts. IE on Mac has definately been a shining star for Microsoft in my opinion.
Every now and then I run across something that really gets me thinking and twisting every way I look at the idea. Dave Winer's Who will pay for software, Pt. I and who will pay, Pt. II along with Tim Bray's Business Ignorance and Try then Buy. These four articles look at the state of the software industry. The consensus, go figure, is not too bright unless one is Microsoft.
As Joshua noted the other day I tend to view Microsoft's products dimmly. This is partly because the Microsoft products are rarely the best in their field, and they rarely have ever been the best. Marketing is Microsoft's strength and they have made a bundle and gained prominance not out of having the best product, but through their business skills.
A few years ago I started on a project that put me back in the UNIX environment, which I dreaded at first as much of my work for the two previous years had been on Windows based systems. I relearned to love UNIX and Linux as my develoment skilss had grown greatly. I found UNIX and Linux gave the developer and SysAdmin far better control and I could control security problems far better than I ever could in the Windows world. I left the UNIX-based project to head back into a Windows world about two or three years ago. In doing so I really wanted to have a UNIX based machine to keep up my skills, I was also in need of a laptop as my old laptop was tied to my project.
I made a decision to buy a Mac TiBook and run Mac OS X. This gave me the laptop, the UNIX underpinnings, and a solid interface. I had not used a Mac since 1990 for work after using friends Macs and loving them. I used Mac's as test environments over the past few years, but the instability of the pre-OS X operating systems and the vast difference in interfaces from Windows and no command line kept me away. From the first month I had my Mac I was in love with it, well it was a frustrating love in the way that you find that perfect mate and they just don't suck and never seem to iritate you. I hated to say the Mac was a computer as it did not cause headaches and did not cause problems. Everything I needed to do for side-projects and even work for a Windows environment was dirt simple and just worked.
This love of simplicity and an aim for perfection at Apple has a new mark for me to evaluate everything that Microsoft does. Granted the Windows software on Mac seems to be far better than the Windows OS versions, sometimes seeming to be an order of magnitude better. The Mac OS X seems to offer a very rare balance, in its simiplicity, beauty, ease of use, and control. While not all of Apple's applications are perfect, they are far better than many other offerings out there.
Apple has a flirting love affair with Open Source applications and has been making it very easy to add Linux-based apps and have them take advantage of the OS X interface, with its X11 (still in beta and it just rocks).
After reading the four articles above I have been somewhat worried that the attempts at great software that bubble up may have a tough road ahead, which is a true shame. A behemoth company that creates mediocre software (MS) may be ruining the opportunities for great software to exist, unless we can find solid methods for funding these great things. Mediocre software leads me to fits of swearing and having another human generation on its way into our home in the next few months I do not want these fits of swearing or the limited view of the world that is nothing like those of us that dream of a better world with computing want to see. I want my child to know that they can have beauty, control, and perfectly built software and operating systems that will help them through life and not provide a means of frustration.
Mark Pilgrim discusses human readable HTML and fatal IE browser bugs. The more bugs that are found in current versions of the Microsoft IE browser on Windows, the more I believe that IE is the current incarnation of Netscape 4. Netscape 4 was known for its lack of playing nicely with Web standards. IE 6 does horribly with valid CSS and now seem like it blows up with valid HTML. Nearly all other modern browsers play more nicely with valid CSS and do not have the problems with valid HTML. (Apple's Safari is not perfect yet, but Apple states their browser is beta.)
Security experts give Microsoft an 'F' CNN reports, but some experts are pointing to Apple as being more secure. One of the experts will be switching to Mac as he finds his wife's never gets viruses Mac.
I was supprised when Bank of America embraced Microsoft OS for its ATMs and services. My first thought was that they did not understand security or care about their customer's digital information. When I was changing banks my first consideration was digital security. I seem to have been thinking correctly this time as it seems the Slammer virus hit major company's resources using Microsoft OS and Bank of America had serious problems. As our society moves more toward digital interactions we need a secure framework and Microsoft has never provided that and appears it never will. The regular people who depend on the digital systems are the ones who suffer and the economy takes a huge hit with every Microsoft failure. We really need to stop the reliance on Microsoft now.
I am still with out most of my outbound e-mail capabilities for my usual accounts. I can see all the inbound e-mail, but I am mostly devoid of responding, which is driving me crazy. This will get resolved once DSL arrives, I am still waiting on Verizon to get their act together and tie the phone number to the address. The last residents of the house has DSL running at a really good clip, but nobody can see that until Verizon understands their role in the world.
We finally got satellite TV today, which is a huge improvement over cable. Why? Much better picture, much better sound, cheaper, and channels like Tech TV and BBC America. The downside is the current placement of the dish, on the right hand corner of the roof on the front of the house. It could be a good reason to remove the tree that is creating this issue or to get the dish moved when we paint the eaves.
I spent today trying to figure out why we had no phone signal, well it turns out the PC modem fries the phone lines. I was waiting for contractors to come and fix a furnace, closets, and the dish guys. All the contractors were stuck in the traffic related to trying to find the DC shooter and we calling the often to let me know of their delays. The shootings really have not un-nerved me as the odds are long that I or anybody I know would get shot. I am much more aware of my surroundings, much like living in the UK in the late 80s with the IRA bombings and such.
I was put off from doing some work for a while today as the CD I burned on a nearly up-to-date security patched Win 2k box would not be acknowledged in the Mac. This is odd as it is how I move files out of XP Home (miserable version of XP). I finally got the CD to run in the PC (I finally had a reason to assmble it after nearly 2 weeks in the house) and reburned them on a CD, which did run on OS X. This little task and figuring out that the PC modem has phone voodoo here caused the loss of a couple hours. I knew I should have pulled the box of blank CDs out of the packing box they are in.
I am trying to focus on getting a couple reviews done, user/usability test a new site, get back to writing some articles, and putting our office together.
Jason discusses his Windows to Mac conversion and the Apple switch campaign. At nearly every turn I have found friends, who I consider peers switching to Mac. I was in California recently for a meeting and of the 12 of us there 7 or 8 of us had our Mac laptops and were using them with great ease. The ratio among the technically adept and advanced and the creative users are hitting highs. Those that have always seemed to be on the leading edge and understand techical solutions are all joining the switch to Mac. Mac lacks the swiss-cheese-security of Windows, which is another fantastic advantage.
One of my biggest stumbling blocks with my switch to Mac has been its ease of use. When I loaded MS Office X it was done in four minutes or so and I had only answered two or three questions. Being a Windows user since 1992 (having left a company that used Macs, PCs, and dumb terminals I lost contact with Mac on a daily basis) I had been patterned to expect long painful loads of software that had a lot of questions. I had thought the Office install crashed, I started my usual Windows cursing patterns (because that is the relationship one learns from Windows and I now see that with friends and family that have not joined the smart side of the world), but I clicked Word and it worked and then click PowerPoint and it worked too. I had learned lesson with Mac, things are easier and just work, even Microsoft products can just work (Office X on the Mac is my favorite version of Office to date and Entourage is my favorite PIM (which I did not think anything would ever surpass or equal Lotus Organizer (user since 1993) and e-mail client . Who knew? At SXSW I had a relapse with my ease of use issues when I was trying to get a wireless network link. I knew I was trying to hit a wireless hub that was non-Apple (the Airport setup here at home was a 15 minute setup including tying down the security settings) and that should mean arcane practices again. I tried entering user names and passwords on WiFi connections that had full signals that I had just clicked on from my dropdown list of "available" access points (stop laughing). Yes, it was that simple and it was already working and the Mac just worked again. I happened to be sitting next to a Windows user who could not get it to just work and I was following her lead and picked up her frustration (she is very technically adept by the way). When I figured out I my connection was working all along I tried helping her, but not wanting to mess up a setting under a poorly labelled tab I surrendered. I came away a happy computer user and she a willing Mac convert because Mac just works.
On the business side of my life I have found very little I really can not do. I have found very little I can not do better than before. I still use my PC for some things, surfing the Internet while I eat (don't want to sully my TiBook with breadcrumbs as I have respect for it) and playing some games (my TiBook is now my work machine and audio/visual entertainment machine) as I have not bought a joystick for my Mac.
Now a moment to exude the pleasure of the TiBook. On my recent trip out West I was able to be on the Mac nearly the whole trip (MS Office, OmniOutline, OmniGraffle, and iTunes) nearly the whole trip (more than 5 hours in total). On the first leg, Baltimore to Denver, a flight attendend stopped and knelt next to me as we were nearing Denver (knew what was coming, the "you really need to shut down your computer" stern warning) and was asked what type of computer I was using as I had been working nearly the whole flight, I had the thinest computer on the plane, and had the most wonderful screen on a flight with about a third of the travellers using their laptops. I explained it was an Apple, which the flight attendant stated "you Apple people are all fanatics", to which I explained this was my first Apple I ever owned and I really could not consider it to have an operating system because operating systems cause headaches (being a UNIX developer has had its frustrations at times too) and this computer did not. The attendant said he would maybe think about a Mac. Then all the Dell, Toshiba, and HP laptop users sitting around me started asking questions and giving me their frustrations. The Windows users wanted to know how their Windows business and technical work would port over, for the most part I had already done what they were asking and I could show them because I still had 2 hours left in battery.
More problems for Microsoft XP Home, it will not work with Mira. Mira is the tablet based operating system MS has been touting that could free users from a stationary desktop machine. The advantages of this are great for businesses and home. In the home Mira has been touted as being a recipe book, a TV guide with remote, and other helpful items around the house all in one "portable" casing. It is a tablet PC. If MS is pushing toward the home environment they had better fix their OS for the Home. Currently the XP Home does not play nice with static IP DSL and older Windows operating systems and does not have the simple and basic standard networking protocol (Samba) to talk with non-Windows machines to easily share files and print services. Step up to XP Pro and you have the basic needs that most home environments need. If you want to run a small office network you are best off using XP Pro. If you want to do much other than share an Internet connection on a Home network buy XP Pro. Now if you want to use any innovative product MS is producing you need to buy XP Pro. Or you could buy an Apple and leave the mediocre software behind.
By the way, MS still not offering an upgrade from XP Home to XP Pro for the price difference between the products. The e-mail contact information on the Microsoft site for sales and upgrade support, does not go to the proper division, you have to call an 800 number that does not pick-up in less than 45 minutes (I give up at 45 minutes and have 5 times now). The price difference between the two products is $100, the price Microsoft wants you to pay is $200. Now to use Mira, to have Microsoft take you where you want to go, and you have XP Home you can pay double the price of the price difference Microsoft set, which is illegal in most states as a bait-and-switch marketing tactic, particularly since the first few rounds of MS marketing materials made no mention what Home was missing, as they do now.
On a similar note I have been looking for resources for folks that are moving from Windows to Mac OS X. I have not found a great amount that take this on. There are resources that are spread around the Web, which can be overcome with a blog or a metablog (think IASlash a small community of posters) or a larger site with resources. Let me know if you have pointers.
Life sucks when: You have to pull an e-mail account that you manage from service. Particularly when this account is for your Dad. My Dad can be reached at Tom and I will be keeping Thomas. The TJV account is closed.
Why you ask? The account was hacked with the klez virus. He cleaned his hard drive, as he had no choice it or another virus took the hard drive out. He took another hard drive and put it in that machine and started fresh. This may have also infected his new laptop. Yes, all of these machines run Windows (the swiss cheese security system). My dad is more than computer savvy and Windows is not a consumer OS, as it is nothing more than an e-mail away from destroying everything digital you own (among many other issues, which I spend hours assisting friends and relatives with their continual problems with the MS OS). Microsoft continues to lie about its focus on security and the basic problem is the OS itself, it is not secure and it seems it will never be secure. UNIX has some issues, but has many more years of development under its belt, which is why is far more secure. UNIX variants (Apple Mac OS X, Linux, BSD, etc.) all have the advantage of years of experience and advanced developers working on the OS.
Keeping a MS box secure requires somebody with a lot of experience and they are not cheap. The MS total cost of ownership being lower than UNIX is a myth and unfounded. If you have MS open to the outside world (Internet server, DSL at home, or unfiltered (through virus scanner) e-mail, etc.) you need an MS security expert focussed on ensuring the sanctity of whatever is considered valuable on the MS boxes. This person will cost as much, if not more, than a senior UNIX systems administrator (who are, by and large, veterans in UNIX security also as it comes with the territory).
Too many folks (that are near and dear to me) have had MS servers hacked or been victims of viruses in the past couple of weeks. Granted the MS boxes hacked may not have been watched over by MS security experts, but that is what it takes.
Making choices, as far as what language to develop Internet applications, should keep in mind lock in factors. A UNIX only or a Microsoft only solution that requires the application be only run on a certain type of server has never been a great idea. This becomes even more apparent now. In my opinion this has never been a good option. Fortunately, there are many more options available that run on nearly all OS platforms. These include: Perl, PHP, Java (JSP), Python, ColdFusion, etc. Each of these languages have their own plusses and minuses, but if a certain OS platform becomes an unavailable option the applications can relatively easily be moved to another OS. This is not the case with ASP, and even less so the .Net framework (as noted before. Sure ASP can use ChiliSoft, but that is a very short term solution (as you know if you have ever had to use it, it buys you time to recode everything into a portable application language) and requires double to triple the hardware resources to run it compared to ASP on MS or any other language running natively.
All of this is just the beginning of the reasons why I most likely have bought my last Windows machine. The other reasons fall into the areas of trust and pricing. This explanation may follow soon.