Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

Home

www.google.co.uk


Recent Comments


Monthly Archives


Most recent entries


Search


Advanced Search


Other Blogs I write for

Brian Micklethwait's Education Blog

CNE Competition
CNE Intellectual Property
Samizdata
Transport Blog


Blogroll

2 Blowhards
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adloyada
Adventures in Capitalism
Alan Little
Albion's Seedling
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Alex Singleton
AngloAustria
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Biased BBC
Bishop Hill
BLDG BLOG
Bloggers Blog
Blognor Regis
Blowing Smoke
Boatang & Demetriou
Boing Boing
Boris Johnson
Brazen Careerist
Bryan Appleyard
Burning Our Money
Cafe Hayek
Cato@Liberty
Charlie's Diary
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
Chicago Boyz
China Law Blog
Cicero's Songs
City Comforts
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Clay Shirky
Climate Resistance
Climate Skeptic
Coffee & Complexity
Coffee House
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Contra Niche
Contrary Brin
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Скрипучая беседка
CrozierVision
Dave Barry
Davids Medienkritik
David Thompson
Deleted by tomorrow
deputydog
diamond geezer
Dilbert.Blog
Dizzy Thinks
Dodgeblogium
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
dropsafe
Dr Robert Lefever
Dr. Weevil
ecomyths
engadget
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
English Cut
English Russia
EU Referendum
Ezra Levant
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Flickr blog
Freeborn John
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
ft.com/maverecon
Fugitive Ink
Future Perfect
FuturePundit
Gaping Void
Garnerblog
Gates of Vienna
Gizmodo
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
HE&OS
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Ideas
Idiot Toys
IMAO
Indexed
India Uncut
Instapundit
Intermezzo
Jackie Danicki
James Delingpole
James Fallows
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Jihad Watch
Joanne Jacobs
Johan Norberg
John Redwood
Jonathan's Photoblog
Kristine Lowe
Laissez Faire Books
Languagehat
Last of the Few
Lessig Blog
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Alone
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
listen missy
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Londonist
Mad Housewife
Mangan's Miscellany
Marginal Revolution
Mark Wadsworth
Media Influencer
Melanie Phillips
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael Jennings
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
Mick Hartley
More Than Mind Games
mr eugenides
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Natalie Solent
Nation of Shopkeepers
Neatorama
neo-neocon
Never Trust a Hippy
NO2ID NewsBlog
Non Diet Weight Loss
Normblog
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
Oddity Central
Oliver Kamm
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
phosita
Picking Losers
Pigeon Blog
Police Inspector Blog
PooterGeek
Power Line
Private Sector Development blog
Public Interest.co.uk
Publius Pundit
Quotulatiousness
Rachel Lucas
RealClimate
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Rob's Blog
Sandow
Scrappleface
Setting The World To Rights
Shane Greer
Shanghaiist
SimonHewittJones.com The Violin Blog
Sinclair's Musings
Slipped Disc
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stephen Fry
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
Style Bubble
Sunset Gun
Survival Arts
Susan Hill
Teblog
Techdirt
Technology Liberation Front
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
The Agitator
The AntRant
The Becker-Posner Blog
The Belgravia Dispatch
The Belmont Club
The Big Blog Company
The Big Picture
the blog of dave cole
The Corridor of Uncertainty (a Cricket blog)
The Croydonian
The Daily Ablution
The Devil's Advocate
The Devil's Kitchen
The Dissident Frogman
The Distributed Republic
The Early Days of a Better Nation
The Examined Life
The Filter^
The Fly Bottle
The Freeway to Serfdom
The Future of Music
The Futurist
The Happiness Project
The Jarndyce Blog
The London Fog
The Long Tail
The Lumber Room
The Online Photographer
The Only Winning Move
The Policeman's Blog
The Road to Surfdom
The Sharpener
The Speculist
The Surfer
The Wedding Photography Blog
The Welfare State We're In
things magazine
TigerHawk
Tim Blair
Tim Harford
Tim Worstall
tomgpalmer.com
tompeters!
Transterrestrial Musings
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
UK Libertarian Party
Unqualified Offerings
Violins and Starships
Virginia Postrel
Vodkapundit
WebUrbanist
we make money not art
What Do I Know?
What's Up With That?
Where the grass is greener
White Sun of the Desert
Why Evolution Is True
Your Freedom and Ours


Websites


Mainstream Media

BBC
Guardian
Economist
Independent
MSNBC
Telegraph
The Sun
This is London
Times


Syndicate

RSS 1.0
RSS 2.0
Atom
Feedburner
Podcasts


Categories

Advertising
Africa
Anglosphere
Architecture
Art
Asia
Atheism
Australasia
Billion Monkeys
Bits from books
Bloggers and blogging
Books
Brian Micklethwait podcasts
Brians
Bridges
Business
Career counselling
Cartoons
Cats and kittens
China
Civil liberties
Classical music
Comedy
Comments
Computer graphics
Cranes
Crime
Current events
Democracy
Design
Digital photographers
Drones
Economics
Education
Emmanuel Todd
Environment
Europe
Expression Engine
Family
Food and drink
France
Friends
Getting old
Globalisation
Healthcare
History
How the mind works
India
Intellectual property
Japan
Kevin Dowd
Language
Latin America
Law
Libertarianism
Links
Literature
London
Media and journalism
Middle East and Islam
Movies
Music
My blog ruins
My photographs
Open Source
Opera
Other creatures
Painting
Photography
Podcasting
Poetry
Politics
Pop music
Propaganda
Quote unquote
Radio
Religion
Roof clutter
Russia
Scaffolding
Science
Science fiction
Sculpture
Signs and notices
Social Media
Society
Software
South America
Space
Sport
Technology
Television
The internet
The Micklethwait Clock
Theatre
This and that
This blog
Transport
Travel
USA
Video
War


Wednesday October 17 2007

Having already written earlier about Vista for CNE, here, I did a short quote-of-the-day posting at Samizdata, trawling for Samizdata commentariat opinion about Vista.  In among the nonsense and the abuse and the political doom-mongering, that kind of question often gets really informative answers.

It worked.  Fellow Samizdatista Midwesterner responded as follows:

Back in my computer geek days (before QDOS!) I saw a far amount of IBM applications source code.  I had to modify and maintain the crap on occasion.  At the same time, I was designing and building from scratch an inventory system that was unavailable from any vendor. 

Seeing systems from the inside out, I quickly developed an instinct for patchwork.  I could spend a few seconds at a terminal operating a program and tell immediately if it was clean and elegantly coded, or patch on patch on patch with bits and pieces borrowed and modified.  The instant I touched a DOS based GUI for the very first time, it positively detonated my crap detectors.  Early Macs did not trigger it, but more recent versions do to a lesser extent.

The biggest cost of all these patches as a way of doing business is best understood by looking at the Y2K software meltdown.  Decades ago, when I was programming, dates were stored as six digit numbers.  Source code was often kept in entirely different places and compiled on entirely different computers than object code executed on.  As bugs got worked out and systems became reliable, expertise in the source code faded and eventually, the source code itself was lost.  When time came to modify computers to accept years beginning in 2000, the software and expertise was unavailable to do it.  Third party companies made fortunes.

Something very similar is happening in Windows.  I’ve never looked under the hood at the actual software, but I can hear the old bubblegummed and bailing wired engine knocking, rattling and I can even smell the smoke.  Meanwhile MS polishes the fenders, adds more chrome and installs a 150mph speedometer.  Nick would know the answer to this more than I would, but I would bet one of my computers that there are still vestiges of QDOS performing critical functions somewhere inside these boxes.  I don’t think the people who wrote this stuff are still available to maintain it or modify it.  I believe that MS is so heavily invested in this accretion and so helpless to overhaul it, that they are into a mode of patching the patches to the patches.

It is actually a lot like the old cathedrals that surround an older church that surrounds and even older shrine, that surrounds an even earlier monument that marks ...  er ... something.  We think.

This, not price, is why open source software will ultimately win.

I find the comparison with IBM especially interesting, having lived, amazed, through their dethronement, by Microsoft.  I can confirm that people on the inside of all this stuff did indeed talk, then, about IBM in just the same way that they now talk about Microsoft.

More anecdotage has accumulated since.  From the same Nick M mentioned by Midwesterner:

There’s a bit in the Simpsons where Carl and Lenny are looking at a rotating cake stand in the power-plant cafeteria. One asks the other, “What do you think makes it go round”? The “camera” then pans down to a slave in a dungeon being whipped whilst pushing a wheel attached to a shaft, attached to the revolving patisserie selection ...

My first contact with Vista involved setting up a spanking new HP laptop out of the box. Vista was on a hidden partition and it just had to unpack itself… Easy work I thought. Noooo! It crashed during install but not before It briefly flashed up a good ole Dos screen complete with C:\> prompt (I thought it was 1991 again). It even flashed up a DOS version number! I didn’t the number because MS’s dirty secret was only very briefly revealed but the gimp in the basement is alive and well and turning the cogs ...

Open source will win because *nix was from the start designed to be scalable and there has to be a limit on how much longer Redmond can carry on papering over the cracks. The lead time for Vista suggests they’re well into diminishing returns already.

Oh, somewhere down in the catacombs there’s QDos and the 640K limit and all the rest.

Subotai Bahadur writes of Vista:

There is the anecdotal evidence of my boffin’s claim that it is the most screwed up thing that Microsoft has ever released, and it is confirmed empirically by the fact that he has developed quite a profitable niche converting brand new computers purchased with Vista pre-installed back to XP. There has to be something severely wrong for this kind of niche market to arise spontaneously.

I have my Guru, and Subotai Bahadur has his Boffin.  It looks like we both use a foreign word, to capture the esoteric nature of the knowledge involved.  Subotai Bahadur is just the kind of commenter I was looking for.  I don’t recall him commenting at Samizdata much, but this time he had something pertinent and interesting to say so he said it.  Lovely.

The original post being three days ago, which is an age in Samizdata time, those interested in things like this might have missed these last few comments, as would geekophobes, i.e. most people.  I get an email for each comment because I did the original posting, and on this occasion I was particularly grateful for that.

If technophobe, geekophobe me is noticing stuff like this, Vista is really in trouble.

UPDATE: Nick M responds to Subotai, ending his comment thus:

If I were Jobs or Shuttleworth I’d be on medication to prevent asphyxiation due to chronic uncontrollable laughter.

They being the gentlemen in charge of Apple, and Ubuntu (which is a particularly user-friendly version of Linux).  But, for Ubuntu to sweep the world, it needs to be even user-friendlier.  And for Apple to sweep the world it must lower its prices.

My Guru also told me when last he dropped by that those adverts with the Microsoft Twat being sneered at by the Apple Cool Guy were a dreadful own goal, which all of us Microsoft Twats felt thoroughly insulted by.  That entirely confirms my personal response to them.