Random Thoughts – Randosity!

Rant Time: Event planning and food

Posted in botch, business, dining healthy by commorancy on November 6, 2015

In recent months, I’ve visited several corporate events. One thing I find that is becoming increasingly common place is the way food is being described at these events. Not only is this a disturbing trend, it’s amazingly discourteous to the attendees. Let’s explore.

Catered Events

If you’re an event planner and you put the word Dinner on your invitation, you need to serve an actual full sit down dinner meal. So, whether that’s catered from a buffet style table or directly from the kitchen of a restaurant using a menu, a full sit down meal is what your guests are expecting when you use the word Dinner. However, DO NOT use the word Dinner on your invitation and solely serve appetizers, finger foods and small plates. Unfortunately, this is becoming an all too disturbing trend in event planning.

Appetizers, Small Plates and Finger Foods

When guests attend your sponsored event at dinner time (6-10PM), you need to feed them some kind of meal… especially if they’re paying you for the event. There is nothing worse than showing up for an event only to find out that the food consists of small fried unhealthy average to low quality food. Your guests attend your event not only for whatever the event represents, they attend for the meal as well.

If you have no intention of supplying a meal and you only intend to supply small appetizer plates, then you need to let every guest know that in advance. Stating this on your event notification is sheer common courtesy. It might dissuade some attendees from attending by making this notification, but that’s better than having your guests walk in the middle of your event. Not only will they walk, they will never attend another one of your events due to your stunt. Tricking people into a Dinner only to serve them appetizers is not only a low thing to do, it’s just not cool. Your guests are like everyone else, they want to eat a healthy meal not a bunch of fried foods. In fact, when you preempt their dinner time with your event, they are expecting to eat dinner there. So, don’t abuse that expectation and serve them a crap meal.

Be Honest

When you send out your invitations, be honest with your guests. If you only intend to serve appetizers and small plates, kindly state that on the invitation. It’s not only courteous to your guests, it lets them know exactly what to expect when they get there. It also allows your guests to make an informed choice whether to attend your event and how to plan their meals. There is no point in letting your guests think they’re about to be served a meal and then serve them tiny hors d’oeuvres all night. Doing this is a sure fire way to make your guests realize just how cheap your event is.

Don’t lead your guests into your event and then pull this kind of stunt. This will completely backfire on you and your organization. In other words, don’t expect those people to ever attend again or indulge in whatever your company has to offer.

Cheapskate Events

I fully understand why it happens. I do. You’re at the run of your event and this is your ‘last thing’ and your budget has run out. So, the best you can afford is appetizers. Fine, let your guests know that this will be an appetizer only event. And specifically, if it’s roaming appetizers (i.e., people carrying them around the venue), you need to let your guests know that too. Roaming appetizers typically mean some of your guests will get an unfair share of food and other guests will get very little.

In fact, if you can at all avoid roaming appetizers, do so. Roaming appetizers do not at all help your party. Sure, it looks cool to have the staff roaming around with plates. Let’s be honest, it’s not the best way to serve your guests their food. Sure, you can start off with a couple of roaming appetizers, but then have the rest brought to tables where guests can serve themselves.

If you do intend to serve appetizers all night, then make damn sure you serve enough for every person at that event at least three times over. You also need to make sure the kitchen has enough to serve the most popular item at least 5 times over. In the end, your appetizer only event might actually cost you more than if you had just served a more satisfying meal.

Event Planning and Courtesy

If you’re in the event business, you need to understand just how discourteous it is not to inform your guests of the venue, the types of foods that will be served and how and when they will be served. If your event is short, is planned after the dinner hour, and you make no mention of food or dinner, then people won’t assume they will be fed a meal. This is a perfectly fine expectation to set. Just make sure to set the right tone regarding food when sending out your invitation. Don’t rope people into an event by making them think they’re going to get a dinner and then serve them a small handful of finger foods.

I don’t know what this trend is all about, but it needs to stop. It’s probably one of the worst trends I’ve seen recently in party planning and it’s definitely one of the worst if you want your guests to actually listen to what you have to say. That even assumes your guests stay along enough to hear your message.

In so many cases today, common courtesy is entirely dead. More and more, I see event planners playing this game. This is not a game that will win anyone over to whatever it is your event is supposed to represent.

Don’t let your event become a victim of this huge event fail.

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Rant Time: You gotta hate Lollipop

Posted in Android, botch, business by commorancy on May 27, 2015

You know, I can’t understand the predilection for glaring white background and garish bright colors on a tablet. In comes Lollipop trying to act all like iOS and failing miserably at it. OMG, Lollipop has to be one of the most garish and horrible UI interfaces that has come along in a very long time. Let’s explore.

Garish Colors on Blinding White

Skeumorphism had its place in the computer world. Yes, it was ‘old timey’ and needed to be updated, but to what exactly? One thing can be said, skeumorphism was at least easy on the eyes. But, Lollipop with its white backgrounds and horrible teals, pinks and oranges? Really? This is considered to be ‘better’? Sorry, but no. A thousand times, no. As a graphic designer and artist, this is one of the worst UI choices for handheld devices.

If, for example, the engineers actually used the light sensor on the damned things and then determined that when it’s dark in the room and then changed the UI to something easier in the dark, I’d be all over that. But, nooooooo. You’re stuck with these stupid blinding white screens even when the room is pitch black. So there you have your flashlight lighting up your face all while trying to use your tablet. I mean, how stupid are these UI designers? You put light sensors on it… use them.

Stupid UI Designers?

Seriously, I’ll take skeumorphism over these blazing white screens any day. I mean seriously? Who in their right mind thought that this in any way looked good? Why rip a page from Apple’s horrible design book when you don’t have to. I’ll be glad when Lollipop is a thing of the past and Google has decided to blaze their own UI way. No Google, you don’t need to follow after Apple.

Just because some asinine designer at Apple thinks this looks good doesn’t mean that it actually does. Get rid of the white screens. Let’s go back to themes so we can choose the way we want our systems to look. Blaze your own path and give users the choice of the look of their OS. Choice is the answer, not forced compliance.

Smaller and Smaller

What’s with the smaller and smaller panels and buttons all of a sudden? At first the pull down was large and fit nicely on the screen. The buttons were easy to touch and sliders easy to move. Now it’s half the size with the buttons and sliders nearly impossible to grab and press. Let’s go back to resizing buttons so they are finger friendly on a tablet, mkay? The notification pulldown has now been reduced in size for no apparent reason. Pop up questions are half the size. The buttons and sliders on there are twice has hard to hit with a finger.

Google, blaze your own path

Apple has now become the poster child of how not to design UI interfaces. You don’t want to rip pages from their book. Take your UI designers into a room and let them come up with ideas that are unique to Google and Android. Don’t force them to use a look and feel from an entirely different company using ideas that are outright horrible.

Note, I prefer dark or grey backgrounds. They are much easier on the eyes than blazing white backgrounds. White screens are great for only one thing, lighting up the room. They are extremely hard on the eyes and don’t necessarily make text easier to read.

Google, please go back to blazing your own trail separately from Apple. I’ll be entirely glad when this garish-colors-on-white-fad goes the way of the Pet Rock. And once this stupid trend is finally gone, I’ll be shouting good riddance from the top of the Los Altos hills. It also won’t be soon enough. For now, dayam Google, get it together will ya?

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Xbox One is already dead before its launch?

Posted in entertainment, gaming, microsoft, redmond by commorancy on November 6, 2013

Xbox One family-580-90Wow… just wow. Infinity Ward, the developers of Call of Duty, has recently stated in this IGN article and this IGN article that Call of Duty Ghosts can only run in 720p resolution and 60hz refresh rate on the Xbox One. Let’s explore why this is yet another devastating blow to Microsoft.

Xbox One

Clearly, Microsoft is banking on Xbox One to last for another 8 years like the Xbox 360. Unfortunately, not gonna happen. The Xbox One is clearly under powered for full next gen console needs. And, you would think the Microsoft hardware engineers would have thought of this issue long before even breaking ground on new hardware. You know, like actual planning.

With all of the new TVs supporting 120 Hz refresh rates and higher and TVs running 1080p resolutions (and 4k TVs not far off), it would be natural to assume that a next gen console should be capable of producing output in a full 1080p 60hz frame rate (as its base resolution). In other words, Xbox One should start at 1080p 60hz but be able to go up to much faster speeds from here. According to Infinity Ward, this is not possible on the Xbox One. I’ll say that one more time. Infinity Ward has just said that 1080p 60hz is not even possible on the Xbox One.

Next Gen Consoles

Because of this significant and avoidable Xbox One hardware deficiency, Infinity Ward has taken the step to produce Call of Duty: Ghosts in 720p at 60hz refresh rate (upscaled to 1080p) on the Xbox One to keep the ‘experience’ similar on all platforms. Let’s compare. Every big game title produced on the Xbox 360 is already 720p 60hz upscaled to 1080p.  What this ultimately says is that the Xbox One hardware is no better than the Xbox 360.  This hardware is basically dead before it’s even hit the store shelves. A next gen console should not see limitations in hardware until at least 2 years following its release. A new console should never see any limitations being hit by any launch titles.

If one of the very first launch titles is already taxing this console’s hardware, this platform is dead on arrival. This means the Xbox One has no where to go but down. It also means that you might as well stick with the Xbox 360 because that’s what you’re buying in the Xbox One. It also means that the games will never provide a high quality next generation game experience no matter which game it is. Seriously, getting high resolution at full speed is why you buy a next generation console.

Granted, I can’t vouch for Infinity Ward’s programming capabilities as I don’t know any of their developers. But, I know they have been producing this franchise for years. I would also expect their software engineers to have both the knowledge and expertise to properly produce any game for any platform they set their sights on.

In other words, I cannot see that this is some agenda on the part of Infinity Ward to try to discredit the Xbox One hardware.

Xbox One vs Xbox 360

The Xbox 360 hardware is well capable of producing games in 720p at 60hz already. It’s been doing this resolution and frame rate for years. Why buy another console that also has this same exact limitation of the current hardware? You buy into a next generation console to get something new. Namely, higher resolution gaming experiences. If the Xbox One cannot provide this, there is no point to this platform and this platform is dead.  DEAD.

Xbox One: Dead on Arrival?

Based on the above, the Xbox One’s lifespan has been substantially reduced to, at best, 1-2 years on the market before Microsoft must redesign it with a new processor and graphics card. This also means that early adopters will get the shaft with ultimately dead hardware and have to buy new hardware again very quickly to get the newest Xbox One experience.

If you’re considering the purchase of an Xbox One, you should seriously reconsider. I’d suggest cancelling your pre-order and wait for the newest next gen console from Microsoft. Or, alternatively, buy a PS4 if you can’t wait that long. Why spend $499 for a console that gives you the same capabilities as the Xbox 360? It makes no sense, especially considering that there are no compelling launch titles on the Xbox One that aren’t also coming to the Xbox 360. It’s worth giving the extra time to make sure your $499 investment into this console is a sound choice.

Coding to the Weakest Hardware?

For the longest time, the Xbox 360 was the weakest hardware of all of the consoles. Clearly, it is still the weakest of hardware.  For the longest time, developers catered to developing their games to the weakest hardware choice. That means, lesser graphics quality, lesser texture quality, lesser everything quality. I’m hoping this is now a thing of the past.

It now appears that game developers are tired of developing to the weakest hardware. Call of Duty Ghosts hopefully proves that. And, rightly so they should. Instead of producing low-res low quality gaming experiences on all platforms, they should provide the highest quality gaming on the best platforms. Then, take that and scale it back to fit on the weaker hardware platforms.

So, this scenario has now flipped the development practices. I’m glad to see developers embracing the best hardware and delivering the highest quality gaming experience on the best hardware. Then, reducing the quality to fit the weaker hardware. It makes perfect sense. It also explains why Infinity Ward reduced the resolution on the Xbox One. But, being forced to reduce the quality of the game to a lower resolution doesn’t bode for longevity of the Xbox One hardware.

What about the PS4 and 4k gaming?

According to those same articles above, the PS4 apparently doesn’t have this 1080p limitation. Call of Duty: Ghosts will run on the PS4 in full 1080p with 60hz refresh. Whether the PS4 is capable of higher resolutions is as yet unknown. Consider this. One of the very first 4k TVs introduced was produced by Sony. I would expect the PS4 to have been built to possibly support 4k gaming experiences. That doesn’t mean it will right now, but it may in the future. The Xbox One? Not likely to provide 4k anytime soon. If Microsoft’s engineers weren’t even thinking of 1080p resolutions, then they most certainly weren’t thinking about 4k resolutions.

If you’re into future proofing your technology purchases, then the PS4 definitely seems the better choice.

Flickr flustr: When design doesn’t meet function

Posted in botch, business, california by commorancy on May 27, 2013

NewFlickerLongIt’s not often I write multiple articles involving the same topic, but in this case I’m making an exception. I think it’s important to explore and understand the reasons why I believe this new Flickr interface change is such a failure.  As a visual artist, I look at the new Flickr interface and wonder what the designers were thinking? See the image to the left.  It’s clear the designers were not aware of the many ways that users use Flickr. Let’s explore.

Original Flickr Interface

The original Flickr design was compelling (if not dated) for many reasons and was also useful for many different purposes. The reason the original interface held up so well and for so long is because the original designer’s vision still held true even today, dated as it may seem. “Why has it held up?”, you ask. Let’s examine.

The images were spaced just far enough apart that the images, colors and shapes didn’t clash with one another. Image thumbnails were generally of the same size whether portrait or landscape. The page was centered leaving white borders on the sides giving well enough space for the eye to rest.  There were limited numbers of photos per page keeping down the clutter. There was just enough information below each image to give the necessary details about the image (like a placard in a Gallery).  From a management perspective, there was also just enough information to show how popular an image is and whether or not it has comments.

Basically, this original interface, while somewhat antiquated and dated, was still very functional on many levels.  Both amateur and professionals alike could use and reference this interface for their own purposes. Amateurs could use it to store their snaps. Professionals could direct paying clients to their portfolio without image clashing or the interface being too busy. It was well designed from the beginning for many purposes and uses.

With this original interface, Flickr even began offering limited customization of the page layout such as images alone or images with sets on the left or other similar layouts. Yes, it was always limited customization and I had always hoped for more customization features to come.

New Flickr Interface

The new ’tile’ interface (which incidentally looks too much like Windows 8 Metro) removes nearly every pixel of white space and fills the entire page (edge to edge) with images. It unfairly penalizes portrait image thumbnail sizes over much larger thumbnails for landscape aspect images. So, you have huge landscape sized thumbnails immediately beside tiny sized portrait thumbnails. More than that, because it removes all white space from the page and fills the entire screen with images, there is no place for the eye to rest. It becomes one big jumbled mess of a screen that’s hard to view and even harder to concentrate on a single image. While the original interface design kept the images spaced far enough apart to let you focus on a single image, the new interface doesn’t. Instead, it forces your eye to constantly jump around to find something else to view. This makes the page too busy and way too cluttered.

Worse, when your eyes get tired of focusing on the images, they begin to focus on the white borders between the images. Because the white borders are of odd shapes and sizes, it begins to take on the motif of a badly copied Mondrian painting. In other words, the entire interface is one big cluttered busy mess. It’s not pleasant to view for any period of time. So, instead of taking time to visit a Flickr site in a relaxing way, many people will likely get eye fatigue fast and browse away from the entire Flickr site. The new site makes you want to look at something less tiring and less stressful. Art should be about the images, not the layout making you queasy.

Worse, in no way does this new interface say ‘professional’.

Polar Opposite Reactions

I hear a lot of people say they like the interface. My first initial reaction was also positive. But, that only lasted for a few moments until I realized the problems. I initially liked it because it was something new and a change, but I quickly realized that it wasn’t ‘better’.  I hear many people saying that it’s the worst thing they’ve ever seen. That it’s horrible. So, why does this interface generate such polar opposite reactions from so many people? It’s because Flickr went from a general purpose interface appealing to a wide array of people to an interface that appeals to only a small subset of those people.

For a casual photographer who takes photos of their dog or baby or kids, it gives a really great at-a-glance image set to know what you have. This especially works well when the images are mostly the same or a series of similar shots. Also, for those people who like coffee table books of images, this is the next best thing to that. You can bring it up at home on your screen and show people your photo album at a glance. It’s much easier to see all your images at once with this interface. For casual use, these are the people I’d expect to like the new interface. It makes seeing the images easy and they’re accessible. In other words, it’s a little like Facebook’s gallery style. But, that doesn’t make it any less cluttered, busy or stressful to view.

For the professional photographer, the exact opposite is true. You do not want your images crammed up on the same page together like this. It’s busy, cramped, the images don’t flow properly, your eye can’t focus and doesn’t allow your clients to focus on each single image easily. It pits too many images against each other vying for attention. This is bad for a professional. Again, it’s just too busy and cluttered. You would never intentionally build a portfolio that looks this way. Why would you ever expect this from a site like Flickr? So, for professionals, this is the absolute worst interface that could have been built to show off professional photographs in a professional way.

The same above for professional photographers also holds true for visual artists. If Flickr were a gallery, it would now be one wall cluttered with hundreds of images. If I were hanging my art in a gallery, I would want them spaced far enough apart that they don’t clash or create the wrong message. I also would be allowed to place my art in the order of my choosing. Yet, at Flickr, the photostream is still limited to the order in which it was uploaded. This is something that should have been fixed long before rolling out this new interface.

The Interface Mistake

Flickr developers have completely lost touch with why the original interface worked for pretty much every use case.  It worked because it offered something for every level of photographer, casual through professional including visual artists.  It was by no means a perfect interface. After all, it needed a lot of improvements.  But, it worked and it worked well.  It was also on its way to becoming something better especially with the latest round of customization features added.

Because the Flickr developers just didn’t clearly understand the full amount of use cases, they developed this new interface that entices primarily just one use case, casual users. The people who snap their baby, their dog, their house or whatever else they can find around the house.  These are those people who want an at-a-glance style interface that’s big, bold, cluttered and in-your-face.  A virtual coffee table book, if you will.  Or, in other words, the Facebookers.

Professionals and visual artists don’t want this. They don’t need this. It’s not professional. It’s not the way you want your photos represented to a potential client. It’s reminiscent of video game or a mobile device or Facebook. It’s not representative of a gallery exhibit or of a portfolio. This is where the Flickr developers have lost touch.

Flickr is a Gallery

The designers need to firmly understand that Flickr is a gallery. We are creative people supplying creative images to this gallery. It’s not a video game. It’s not a mobile device. It’s not Facebook. It is an image gallery. We want to showcase our images, not show them off like some kind of video game or toy or social network. Treat the images with respect, not as toys.

Because it is a gallery, customization is in order. The tile interface is fine as one theme among many display themes, but not as the sole theme for Flickr. Flickr needs to take a page from the WordPress book and offer multiple themes and styles. Let us choose how our images are showcased to our visitors. Yes, customization could easily become haphazard and random, but that’s the nature of customization. It has to. I don’t necessarily recommend allowing CSS level editing, but I do recommend that gallery themes become available. The time has long come for this Flickr feature. This feature is what Flickr developers should have been working on. The tiles theme, again, should have been one in among many different themes available to choose.

Don’t lock me into one single theme that doesn’t allow for customization. If I don’t like it, there’s nothing I can do except move my images elsewhere. Offer me choice. Let me choose my theme and my presentation to visitors. Flickr could have chosen this theme as the default theme, but then let us go into a theme selector and choose among 10-20 different gallery themes. Choice is the answer, not busy unprofessional Facebooky tiles.

Separate Management Interface

Because I’m the manager over my images, I don’t necessarily want to see the same interface that my visitors do when managing my images. I want a separate management interface that allows me to see and manage my images at a glance. I want easy, fast access to my comments, sets, collections, view stats and everything surrounding my images.  I don’t need to fumble through the visitor experience only to expend extra time attempting to manage my images through a cluttered and busy interface. I want a clean concise management interface that users don’t see.  It doesn’t really matter how pretty the management interface is as long as it’s functional for image management. Functionality is the key to image management.

The Fiasco

There were a number of mistakes made here.  The developers did not do enough homework to understand why the original interface worked so well for so many use cases before rolling out the new interface. They refused to see just how narrow of a use case is the new interface. It really only appeals to one of many use cases.  Additionally, Yahoo offered no preview. In other words, there was no beta test for users to give feedback before rolling it out site wide. Offering a preview window would have saved Flickr a lot of grief and is probably the single biggest mistake Flickr made in this whole update.

Developmentally, the mistakes they made included not offering customization. Users have been clamoring for such features as rearranging the image order of their stream. I agree, I would love to have this feature and have been waiting for it for a very long time.  I would like to see other features regarding things like frames and virtual lighting. I’d like to have seen more Ajax features (easy drag and arrange). Users want more customization, not less.  Instead, they locked every single user into a single interface experience that not only alienates most professional use cases, it also offers no customization to change things about the interface. In other words, Flickr has take a huge step backwards.  The interface may appear more slick, but the lack of customization takes us back to a time well before Yahoo ever bought Flickr.

Then it comes to bugs. Instead of actually correcting existing bugs and misfeatures, they worked on changing the style of the main page leaving all of the existing bugs and misfeatures out there. Seriously, the most important thing is to make the landing page ‘pretty’? What about all of the features that were not complete or the bugs that were not fixed, or the features that were never added?

The final mistake, the treatment of Pro account holders. With the increase to 1TB of space and upload limits well increased, the need to purchase Pro is really no longer necessary.  Those who recently purchased a Pro account this year feel cheated out of their money.  And, rightly so. Yahoo didn’t live up to their side of the deal with the money given to Flickr for Pro accounts. Instead, Yahoo basically thumbed its collective noses at the Pro account users not only from the monetary perspective, but also from interface perspective.  Basically, Yahoo just completely tromped all over the Professional photographers who bought into the interface for that use, but also those who paid into the Pro accounts that gave bigger limits needed to be a Professional user. Yahoo hasn’t even addressed this issue at all.

Yahoo has a lot of work to do to repair Flickr Pro user relationships.  Unfortunately, it’s probably too late. Many Professional photographers are already migrating their imagery away from Flickr to alternative services that are, hopefully, more reliable and offer more professional interfaces and support.

Lacking Support

Through this whole ordeal, Flickr support has remained amazingly silent.  They asked for comments and have said nothing about it. They did state they were ‘listening’ for whatever that’s worth. But, we all know that listening and doing are two entirely separate things. There should have been a lot more help and support coming from the Flickr staff after such an amazingly huge change.  Yet, it appears that the Flickr team has rolled the interface out in a fire-and-forget approach. Basically, with a ‘this is it’ attitude given off by those who have been able to get hold of a support person. 

Clearly, if this is the level of support that Yahoo / Flickr is providing to users for this type of service, it’s probably worth moving on to a service where your money will get you real support when you need it. Where the support people actually do care about making a difference and keeping the customer happy.

By the time Flickr realizes the problem and manages to correct it, it will probably be too late. It’s probably already too late.

The Microsoft Botch — Part II

Posted in botch, microsoft, redmond, windows by commorancy on January 17, 2009

In a question to The Microsoft Botch blog article, jan_j on Twitter asks, “Do you think Microsoft is going down?”  In commentary to that question, I put forth this article.

I’ll start by saying, “No”.  I do not think that Microsoft is ‘going down’.  Microsoft is certainly in a bad way at this point in time, but they still have far too much market share with Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 server as well as Exchange and several other enterprise products.  So, the monies they are making off of these existing installations (and licenses) will carry them on for quite some time.  Combine that with Xbox Live and the licensing of the Xbox 360 games… Microsoft isn’t going anywhere for quite a while.  The real question to ask, though, is.. Is Microsoft’s userbase dwindling?  At this point, it’s unclear, but likely.  Since the Vista debacle, many users and IT managers have contemplated less expensive alternative installations including Linux.  The sheer fact that people are looking for alternatives doesn’t say good things about Microsoft.  

As far as alternatives, MacOS X isn’t necessarily less expensive than Windows, but it is being considered as one possible replacement for Windows by some.   Some people have already switched.  MacOS X may, however, be less expensive in the long term strictly due to maintenance and repair costs.  Linux can be less expensive than Windows (as far as installation software costs and continuing licenses), but it requires someone who’s knowledgable to maintain them.

In comparison…

To compare Microsoft to another company from the past, IBM comes to mind.  IBM was flying high with their PCs in the early days, but that quickly crumbled when IBM started botching things up.  That and PC clones took off.  To date, there has not been a Windows OS clone to compete head-to-head with Microsoft.  So, Microsoft has been safe from that issue.  But, Linux and MacOS X do represent alternative operating systems that do function quite well in their own environments.  Although, MacOS X and Linux interoperate poorly, in many specific cases, with Windows (primarily thanks to Microsoft).

Linux as a replacement

While it is possible to replace Windows with Linux and have a functional system, the Windows compatibility limitations become readily apparent rapidly.  Since most of the rest of the world uses Windows, Linux doesn’t have fully compatible replacement softwares for the Windows world.  Because of Microsoft’s close-to-the-vest approach to software combined with their release-just-enough-information to allow half-baked Windows compatibility.  Thus, Linux (and other non-Microsoft OSes) can’t compete in a Windows world.  This is a ‘glass is half empty or half full’ argument.  On its own, Linux interoperates well with other Linux systems.  But, when you try to pair that together with Windows, certain aspects just fall apart.

That doesn’t mean Linux is at fault.  What it usually means is that Microsoft has intentionally withheld enough information so as to prevent Linux from interoperating.  Note, there is no need to go into the gritty details of these issues in this article.  There are plenty of sites on the Internet that can explain it all in excruciating detail.

However, if your company or home system doesn’t need to interoperate with Windows, then Linux is a perfectly suitable solution for nearly every task (i.e., reading email, browsing, writing blogs, etc).  If, however, someone wants to pass you an Adobe Illustrator file or you receive a Winmail.dat file in your email, you’re kind of stuck.  That’s not to say you can’t find a workable solution with some DIY Linux tools, but you won’t find these out of the box.

This is not meant to berate Linux.  This is just a decision specifically by Microsoft to limit compatibility and interoperability of non-Microsoft products.  This decision by Microsoft is intentional and, thus, Windows is specifically and intentionally designed that way.

Microsoft’s days ahead

Looking at Microsoft’s coming days, it’s going to be a bit rough even when Windows 7 arrives.  If Windows 7 is based on Vista and also requires the same hardware requirements as Vista, Windows 7 won’t be any more of a winner than Vista.

Microsoft needs to do some serious rethinking.  They need to rethink not only how their products are perceived by the public, they need to rethink what they think is good for the public.  Clearly, Microsoft is not listening to their customers.  In Vista, Microsoft made a lot of changes without really consulting with their target userbase and, as a result, ended up with a mostly disliked operating system.

Apple, on the other hand, is able to introduce new innovative tools that, instead of making life more of a hassle, it simplifies things.  Microsoft isn’t doing this.  

Rocky Road

While this flavor of ice cream might be appealing, Microsoft’s road ahead won’t be quite so much that way.  They are heading for a few rocky years coming.  Combine their bad software design decisions with a bad economy and you’ve got a real problem.  Microsoft’s problems, though, primarily stem from lack of vision.  Windows roadmap is not clear.  Instead of actually trying to lay out design goals for the next several revisions, Microsoft appears to be making it up as they go along… all the while hoping that the users will like it.   But, their designers really do not have much in the way of vision.  The biggest change that Microsoft made to Windows was the Start button.  That’s probably the single most innovative thing that Microsoft has done (note that the start button is not really that great of a design anyway).  

Microsoft forces everyone else to do it the Windows way

Microsoft’s main problem with Windows stems from its lack of interoperability between Windows and other operating systems.  While Windows always plays well with Windows (and other Microsoft products), it rarely plays well with other OSes.  In fact, Microsoft effectively forces the other OSes and devices to become compatible with Windows.  Apple has been the one exception to this with many of their products.  Apple has managed to keep their own proprietary devices mostly off of Windows (with the exception of the iPhone and iPods).   Even Apple has had to succumb to the pressures of Microsoft (with certain products) and compete in the Microsoft world even when Apple has its own successful operating system.  Note, however, that Apple’s softwares on Windows leave a lot to be desired as far as full compatibility goes.

 Microsoft has an initiative to allow open source projects access to deeper Microsoft technologies to allow for better compatibility between open source projects and Windows.  There’s two sides to this ‘access’.  The first is that it does help open source projects become more compatible.  On the other side, the developer must sign certain legal agreements that could put the open source project in jeopardy if Microsoft were to press the legal agreements.   So, to get the interoperability, it becomes a double-edged sword.

The tide is turning

Microsoft’s somewhat dwindling installations of Windows, lack of quality control and bungling of major products may lead more and more people away from Microsoft to more stable devices.  But, the market is fickle.  As long as people continue to generally like Microsoft products and solutions, Microsoft will never be gone.

Note, you can follow my Twitter ramblings here.

The Microsoft Botch

Posted in botch, microsoft, redmond, windows by commorancy on January 14, 2009

Well, what can I say?  Microsoft has been one series of botch jobs after another recently.  I guess every company goes through a spate of problems, but this series of problems seems a bit excessive (and avoidable). Consider that Windows ME more or less started the botches (ignoring Microsoft Bob).  But, after ME they had the successful 2000 and XP series… then Vista.  Vista is the albatross that Microsoft would like to soon forget.  But, that’s not all of their problems.  We’ll come back to Vista.  

The Office botch

Office 2008 for the Mac has been a huge bust (just check the reviews on Amazon) by the users because of the lack of VBA (among other compatibility issues).  Then, there’s Office 2007 for Windows, which some developer in their infinite wisdom decided to use Microsoft Word’s HTML parser to render HTML emails!  So, when you’re viewing HTML emails in Outlook 2007, there are page breaks!  I’ll say that again, “page breaks”.  You read that correctly.  Since when does anyone paginate web sites?  What makes Microsoft think that people want to see web pages paginated?

That doesn’t even take into account the entire GUI change they made between Office 2003 and Office 2007.  Sure, 2007 is supposed to look modern and streamlined.  But, instead, the new GUI ends up with a huge learning curve and is basically incompatible with previous versions of Office.  Instead of doing actual work, now you have to chase down the function you need because it’s not where it used to be. The addition of the stupid round Windows Flag button instead of an actual menu bar is completely assinine design.  Let’s hope that whomever thought up that innovation no longer works in Redmond.  There are some things that just need to be user tested and this product clearly wasn’t.

The Zune botch

Consider the Zune 30GB had a leap year bug that caused the entire unit to completely freeze up.  This required the owners to wait until the battery completely drained to reset the unit.  That and wait until after the new year, otherwise it would refreeze.

The infamous Xbox 360 overheating botch

To this date, Microsoft STILL has no clue what’s causing the issue or how to resolve it.  They *think* it’s related to heat so they’ve added a heat sink to try and help the issue.  Even still, they had to take a huge financial hit and extend the Xbox 360 warranty out to 3 years from its original 1 year.  

The Origami botch

“What was Origami”, you ask?  Nuff’ said.  If you really want to know, read this Wiki article.

Tablet Computers

Um, where are they today?  No where. People don’t want to lug tablets around.  They didn’t want to lug them when Grid was around.  What made Microsoft think people would want to lug them around 10 years later?  Oh right, I guess they thought they would because that oh-so-heavy tablet was running such a wonderful touch screen version of Windows.  Doh!

The IE7 botch

Ignoring Microsoft’s constant security flaws as a botch job, although some of them certainly qualify, another is Microsoft’s decision to remove the ability to uninstall IE7 after you install Service Pack 3 (SP3) on XP.  So, for an IE repair that should have taken all of about 15 minutes, you’re now saddled with the task of whipping out the Windows installation media and running repair on the entire operating system (broken or not).  Thanks Microsoft.

Note that Microsoft’s justification for this IE change stems apparently from some files that SP3 installs.  The SP3 installer may overwrite either IE7 or IE6 files that, were Microsoft to allow removal of IE7, might leave the system in an unstable state if you were to use IE6.  Well, hello, you guys wrote the software!! So, instead of actually taking the time to write SP3 properly to still allow software removal of IE7, you take the easy way out and leave the system owner saddled with a huge task just to repair IE7 when it breaks.

Why does this matter?  Been living in a cave?  IE7 is not completely stable.  Much of the time the search provider installation process doesn’t work.  You try and you get ‘Errors on page’ and the search providers cannot be loaded.  Then you have the ‘Save Your Settings’ problem.  Once you install IE7, it asks to save default settings.  Yet, much of the time this process won’t save settings and always continues to present this panel on startup.  I’ve searched and searched and have been unable to find a workable solution to either the search provider or the save defaults issues.  The ONLY workable solution (uninstall/reinstall) was conveniently taken away by Microsoft in their infinite wisdom.  So, instead of a 15 minute fix, it now takes 2-3 hours to completely repair the system, reinstall windows updates and test everything.  Of course, it is possible to remove SP3, but at what risk to the system?  These things rarely work once you’ve installed apps on top of the system after an SP is installed.  In other words, be prepared to have things begin breaking and applications to need to be reinstalled.

The bottom line is that Microsoft made this change to make things easy for Microsoft.  For the end user, however, they will now incur high priced repair bills simply because Microsoft decided to make things easy for themselves.

The Vista botch

Well, what can be said about Vista that hasn’t already been said?  Vista has so many user interface problems, lackluster performance, the overreaching and underperforming Aero system and the constant flickering between various modes and resolutions that make Vista seem more like Windows 3.1 than it does a mainstream OS.   Combine this with constant driver issues, Vista is completely unsuable for any real purpose.  You’re forever repairing it instead of actually using it.  Vista also requires a hefty powered system to even perform decently.  So, it’s no wonder businesses didn’t adopt it.

Combine all of this with the marketing of Vista, it’s just been a disaster.  For whatever reason, Microsoft decided to put out 5-8 different version of Windows Vista… 3-4 of which were targeted at home consumers.  This is more confusing for consumers than it is helpful.  This should have been paired down to 1 to at most 2 versions.  Consumers don’t want 4 choices in an OS.  They also don’t want to pay $400 for an operating system.  Yet more botch.

Windows 7 botch or not?

If Microsoft adopts Vista’s codebase to build Windows 7, this product will be no better than Vista and will likely end up being yet another botch.  Vista’s codebase for the driver subsystem is a complete disaster (and continues to be a problem even as of this blog article).  By taking Vista’s codebase for Windows 7, Microsoft ensures that Windows 7 will be just as problematic as Vista.  The interface is only half of Vista’s problem.  People can overlook the GUI learning issues when the components under the hood simply work.  But, they don’t.  For example, one of the most significant problems that Vista suffers from is “Display Driver has stopped responding and recovered”.  Ok, now what is this?  We’ve never ever had this issue before.  Granted, maybe it prevents the blue screen of death, but having the display driver stop responding means what exactly?  And, why is it now that the video drivers are just now having this problem.  Using Vista’s codebase practically assures this issue to contiinue in Windows 7.  So, 7 will end up just as driver problematic is Vista.

Suffice it to say that Microsoft is going through a bad way.  Perhaps they’ve had an exodus of people who actually knew where to take things. But, Windows has become such a bloated hodge-podge piece of trash, I don’t know if Microsoft can honestly salvage it.  Vista and Windows 7 may end up being the death knell for this operating system.  By Microsoft basically botching their two flagship products (Office and Windows), I don’t know if they will be able to recover easily.  Combine this with stupid programming mistakes (like the Zune) and clearly, Microsoft has major internal issues that need to be addressed.

Whatever the issue, I don’t see this botch trend ending any time Zune (pun intended).

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