Saturday, July 28, 2012

Believing the Hype

Via Yglesias via Atrios here is an article about Microsoft's various and continuing failures. This is the kind of thing that's fun gossip - who doesn't like to see the impediment to what they do take a kick in the teeth? - but more than that it's a frustrating demonstration of how much bullshit about making things has been internalized by people who think they're experts.
Microsoft’s low-octane swan song was nothing if not symbolic of more than a decade littered with errors, missed opportunities, and the devolution of one of the industry’s innovators into a “me too” purveyor of other companies’ consumer products.
There are fifteen mentions of some form of the word "innovate", which is interesting because I can't really think of any Microsoft innovations. Were there some? I'm sure I'm missing one or two. Or is this standard middle-management language that justifies middle-management positions? Yglesias, eyeing a future in management, sees this bullshit and follows with:
The basic issue facing Microsoft over the past ten years has been this—innovating is really hard.
He says some other boring stuff too. As a long-time unwilling Windows user I cannot recall wanting them to innovate, I just wanted them to clean their fucking systems up, make tasks take less clicks, show me the information I wanted, et cetera. Microsoft got where it did by having The Stuff That Is On The Machine, not by "innovating". Everybody else beat them to the good stuff and they fucked it up, from MS-DOS forward, but they did good business so that was what you got. FUCK INNOVATION, LET ME DO MY WORK. The Atrios take is right in principle:
I think the real lesson is it's okay to be a big company with a stable revenue and stable predictable dividends.

That used to be the norm.
That's true, but Microsoft produced stuff that people always seem happy to abandon where there's a viable alternative. The lock on the pre-loaded OS has always been their big strength. They can't just cruise along because they've never built the good stuff. They're the god of the gaps, needed by those who don't see or understand the alternatives. If Windows or Office were inherently satisfying their position might be different.

Now we infuriate mikey. I think I'm going to investigate 10.8 largely because of Dictation. It could make my mom's life a lot easier if it works well.

97 comments:

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Clippy and Microsoft Bob.

Wait, maybe "innovations" isn't the word.

Substance McGravitas said...

Turning lots of their OS into various web-pages was a somewhat hilarious thing.

mikey said...

Nah. I'll just say it again - Apple makes good shit, they just charge too much money for it, and there's just too many mindless fanbois who will decide they must be cooler than everybody else because they're willing to pay too much for what is, at the end of the day, the same shit. I'm a Linux user because it is THE SAME SHIT FOR FREE. Honest, people who say in 2012 that this OS or Productivity suite is better than that one is either mindlessly voicing personal preference or just doesn't realize that it's the one they're COMFORTABLE WITH, not the one that's any better. If Windows was the free ecosystem and Linux cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, I'd be a Windows user.

But I read that Yglesias piece (look out! I actually LIKE a lot of Matt's stuff - I know, I'm some kind of fascist) and he's right - innovation IS hard. How many people can you name that hit more than one tech home run. Lots of people took their money and tried something new - hell, Paul Allen has failed at a couple dozen things - but only Jobs, with Apple, Pixar, Next and Apple 2.0 can be said to have done so. How did Ellison's game changing 'thin client' initiative work out? And has anybody heard from McNealy lately? The point he was making is one that he makes often, that success in business is largely dependent on a certain amount of luck.

As to Microsoft, you overlooked the way they changed the world - they are not a technology company, they are a MARKETING company. For many years, in the days before there was one true GUI, Microsoft competed with Borland and dozens of others for market dominance on an application by application basis. But while that was going on, they realized that they would win in the business world by bundling these productivity tools and giving them a uniform interface. In the late 80s, the battle for the desktop GUI was wide open - Windows didn't win it on innovation, it won on better market messaging. And you can say that they had the inherent advantage of owning the OS, but for years that wasn't a given - other entries would have been broadly welcomed, they just couldn't compete with Microsoft's innovative and brutally effective marketing machine.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I set an install on my office desktop going on Friday, but will wait to do it on my laptop.

I can't get a real answer on whether Mountain Lion will break my CAD software in any significant way. Lion changed disrupted a couple of minor things, but since a current update of the CAD software is a four-figure investment, I am not quite there yet. If it works on the desktop, I'll go ahead with the Zombook.

I always like arguing with mikey about this stuff. He seems to never hear when I say that there are no Linux equivalents to the tools I use the most.

I used to use Word occasionally, Excel more rarely. Now, I mostly force the documents I receive in those formats to open in Pages or Numbers.

I Am looking forward to having Messages and Notifications on the desktop. I have also found myself more and more often opening documents from within app, rather than from windows.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Apple makes good shit, they just charge too much money for it

Funny, I have been thinking about getting a dedicated laptop for Windows, mainly to use for Autodesk stuff and other things for FIRST robotics. The Parallels performance hit is just a little bit much for things like Inventor.

Anyways, so what floats in the mail on Thursday but a Dell Business catalog. And looking through it, I find that -hey!- a professional level laptop with comparable specs is roughly the same price as a Macbook.

What I've always seen Apple do is NOT sell the low end junk. And it shows; I have two G3 tower up in my home office that are ten years old or so, and they still run just fine, unless you need a more recent OS than 10.3.

What the catalog made me think is that if I really want a dedicated Windows machine, I probably will get a recent model MacBook and set it up as dual-boot, and keep the Windows crap on there.

I'e been using Macs since I got my wife a Mac Classic when she was in grad school (actually now that I think back, longer; I used some Apple IIs back in the architect computer lab). I would guess that makes me some kind of a fanboi. Mindless, hey, I keep TRYING to fill up on minds, but an hour later, you're just hungry again.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

but only Jobs, with Apple, Pixar, Next and Apple 2.0

NeXT may be debatable in that list.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Apple makes good shit, they just charge too much money for it,

"Quality never comes cheap, my friend"

...now, if I could only figure out WHERE I heard that recently? It's a stumper.

Substance McGravitas said...

Where there's innovation at Apple it's usually in hardware design and the look of the OS. Most of the software goodies are outside things Apple swallows.

Microsoft doesn't have those things.

I'm a Linux user because it is THE SAME SHIT FOR FREE.

Well no, but what flavour of Linux are you using these days?

Substance McGravitas said...

hardware design and the look of the OS

Not just look but interoperation.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

As to Microsoft, you overlooked the way they changed the world - they are not a technology company, they are a MARKETING company.

This is a great point. Autodesk tried to use the same technique to corner the CAD market with AutoCad, but at that point, there were too many alternatives that had established themselves in various disciplines. They always kept trying to break the DXF intermediate translation algorithm, but since they topped out at about 50% market share, I think, they never were able to establish the market dominance that MS did.

As a mentor with FIRST, I've been able to obtain educator versions of AutoDesk software, and out of curiosity, I watched the "New Stuff!" videos they did for Autocad Architect. The most amusing thing was I kept looking at the release date, because a LOT of what they were touting as the hottest shit has been part of Vectorworks for a few years.

Like Microsoft, too, most of their innovation has come by absorbing other companies.

Although I will say I totally love their Sketchbook software, which is great on the desktop AND with their iPad version.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Most of the software goodies are outside things Apple swallows.


Dammit, I made the same point about Autodesk, but in a long comment so it took me forever to type.

So that is the path to success in the tech world these days; come up with something cool that one of the bigs will buy out from under you.

It's inspiring.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Where there's innovation at Apple it's usually in hardware design

the Magic Mouse and Trackpad are really effective.

Substance McGravitas said...

That long Microsoft article is pretty instructive though: the management techniques cause the clunkiness and lack of interoperability in the product by making sure people don't help each other out. Competition fucks you up.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

That's very weird. GE, where Wife Sublime works, is insane about an interior culture of cross-fertilization; myself, most of the innovation in project delivery is happening in collaboration with all the members of the team, not antagonistic relationships.

My next efforts in professional development will largely be finding ways to make those efforts more effective, through BIM and project Wikis and such.

mikey said...

So that is the path to success in the tech world these days; come up with something cool that one of the bigs will buy out from under you.

In the startups I have worked at in recent years, the discussions around moneytization strategy start from two premises: You first have to determine if your goal is to become profitable organically, or if your plan is to be acquired. Usually, the decision is made by the venture and angel funders, who will invest in organic profitability if they believe it is achievable, but will more often recognize that their only hope of recovering their investment is to be acquired by one of the big dogs.

And yeah, while there are specialized applications needed by specialized peeps, the world in general needs a browser and some supporting apps. And sorry, at this point they are all the same, differentiated only by cost and personal preference.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

One of the things that long article omitted was that Microsoft provided an essential part of Apple's success, by writing that spreadsheet program, and then Word, for the Mac.

Without those, Apples and Macs were toys.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I'm a Specialized Peep! I'M A SPECIALIZED PEEP!!!

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

And sorry, at this point they are all the same, differentiated only by cost and personal preference.

no need to be sorry.

Some people elect to spend 1600 dollars on a steak knife.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I find it interesting that Live Search was the only MS tool I had any use for in years. because it had a neat map integration that allowed me to type in an address and go to that location; but unlike Google Maps, it allowed me to view a 3-d view, not just top down. I used it often for looking at buildings and sites.

Google maps now has something similar, but since it forces a N-S-E-W oritentation, any building oriented basically N-S isn't viewable from a corner, which is much more usable for me.

So Microsoft disables that function. Oh well.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

the world in general needs a browser and some supporting apps.

Now mikey is making the case for the iPad.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I've always been harsh on Microsoft, and irritated by the assumed dominance (when I was talking about some cool piece of software I was using, my sister-in-law left me speechless by asking "does Microsoft make something?" this was a product that was available for Windows), but after reading that article, I start to feel kind of sorry for them.

wiley said...

Microsoft's "innovations" are the patches that screw something else up and the new versions of office that are evidently the product of thinking that people want their word processors to change substantially every time their boss gets suckered into buying a new version of a shitty OS.

It was Gates' privileged ability to create a monopoly that made Microsoft ubiquitous, not his brainiac technical prowess.

mikey said...

Ok, real world challenges count. When you ARE the dominant system, you have to support all the legacy proprietary implementations that your enterprise clientele are stuck with. It doesn't matter who you are - if Apple had won that fight, they would not be able to cut off support for earlier OS implementations, and that would lead to a code stack that is huge, ungainly and hard to secure. Sound familiar?

This is an interesting discussion, but it's worth paying attention to how it plays out in the real world.

Wiley, Gates had NO privilege. The privilege went to Digital Research as the leading OS provider of the day. NO ONE cared what Gates thought. He had NO leverage, and no real product to sell. They turned it down. So the entire narrative is not what you think it might be...

Substance McGravitas said...

the world in general needs a browser and some supporting apps

I usually make this argument in my office, where the higher ups force some ridiculous crap on everybody. Everyone knows how to use a browser and you can get a lot of shit done (and I have previously moaned loudly about my favourite wiki shit not getting the attention it deserves). At home I use Google Docs for some things I need to share with a team of people, and their calendaring is handy.

But my mom still needs more hand-holding. I would be floored if a Linux or web-only setup could do the calendaring-mail-contacts-photosharing-moviesharing that's so easy for my mom from her machine. John McCain says you can't do it my friend. Google's getting closer, but they're kinda weird about starting and stopping shit too.

Smut Clyde said...

The Vanity Fair author tells us that "Cool is what tech consumers want." Evidently you people are not consumers, or what you are consuming is not Tech.

Substance McGravitas said...

That article is so frustrating. A mix of n00b bullshit and the kind of geek history I can't ignore.

Without those, Apples and Macs were toys.

There were other word-processors and other spreadsheets; the key was that Microsoft already had the PCs sewn up, otherwise it would have just been someone else.

An interesting part of the Microsoft history, though, was that some versions of Word and Excel were better on Macs than PC because the guys at Microsoft made them that way. They must have done it when people weren't looking.

Substance McGravitas said...

And let us note that JanusNode's precursor was MacPoet, a program that made Apple hardware indispensable.

Substance McGravitas said...

Ha. My plan to up the comment count WORKED.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

if Apple had won that fight, they would not be able to cut off support for earlier OS implementations, and that would lead to a code stack that is huge, ungainly and hard to secure. Sound familiar?


Actually, Apple had a decent record of supporting prior implementations. They transitioned from the Motorola chips to PowerPC, and then to Intel chips; then they transitioned to OS X while maintaining Classic.

The difference is that their advances were accompanied by a compelling reason for their users to make the upgrades also. The dropping of Rosetta support was not met with howls of outrage; even I am kind of surprised that there hasn't been enough desire for an OS 9 emulator to cause someone to put a third party one out there. I guess it helps that for most of their existence, Apple users have been pretty happy to move on to the new stuff; it also helps when the new stuff actually offers a benefit and isn't a pile of crap on its own.

mikey, I got the impression that wiley was referring to Gates' privileged background, not his privilege in business. But then, a privileged background WILL give you a certain privilege in business also...

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

yeah, Sub, a good Mac-PC flamewar can still get people worked up, especially the kind of people who are hanging out on the internozzles on a Saturday Night.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

the key was that Microsoft already had the PCs sewn up, otherwise it would have just been someone else.

But it was before Windows, so Macs had the GUI.

Also, there WAS somebody else. WordPerfect was contemporaneous, right? And Lotus was around.

Those were two that MS used their business model to stomp into the mud.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

was that some versions of Word and Excel were better on Macs than PC because the guys at Microsoft made them that way. They must have done it when people weren't looking.



Hah. I remember that.

Funny enough, Wife Sublime has been WILDLY cranky about the new iterations of Office; I found them relatively easy to use, I wonder if they were looking at OS X software while working them out....

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I apologize for my sloppyness on quoting. I've been drinking.

mikey said...

Apple could support previous implementations because there were, in comparison to MS, virtually NO corporate proprietary applications that depended upon specific OS hooks.

the key was that Microsoft already had the PCs sewn up, otherwise it would have just been someone else.

This is false, revisionist history from people who simply weren't there. PCs were not "sewn up" until '94, until then all the players had an equal chance at selling their software. I was there. I don't know what's still available online, but check out Byte or PC Magazine from the early 90s. NOBODY assumed microsoft had any sort of advantage, and other than an interest in Windows as a potentially workable GUI, they weren't even taken that seriously...

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Hah. I remember some tech-heads who scoffed at the GUI for YEARS. real men use the command line!

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Apple could support previous implementations because there were, in comparison to MS, virtually NO corporate proprietary applications that depended upon specific OS hooks.

But they DID have some pretty serious inroads into publishing and education.

Wordperfect on the Mac had a pretty good toehold into the legal profession too.

But yeah, in comparison; that was the basis for THOUSANDS of "Apple is Dead" articles for a decade or so.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

. NOBODY assumed microsoft had any sort of advantage, and other than an interest in Windows as a potentially workable GUI, they weren't even taken that seriously...

I actually think Substance was kind of talking about 93-95.

It was the advent of Windows 95 (or as I liked to call it, Mac System 6 for PCs) that made everyone think Windows was going to take everything over. Until then, as I recall, Apple was viewed as kind of dominant. I mean, outside of the massive corporate installations.

Gates' stroke of genius was combining the GUI with a platform that didn't threaten corporate IT departments, and was able to use that infrastructure.

Substance McGravitas said...

This is false, revisionist history from people who simply weren't there. PCs were not "sewn up" until '94

MS-DOS was killing Digital Research well before 1994. Word before then had competition on the Mac.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Huh.

I always thought BIOS stood for Built In Operating System. Turns out it's Basic Input/Output System.

well, I am only an architect.

mikey said...

MS-DOS was killing Digital Research well before 1994..

What? No.

This fight ended in 1980. IBM asked Kildall, who was the Grand PooBah of microcomputer Operating systems with CP/M to develop a version for their upcoming PC based on the 8086 Intel processor. Kildall told them to "El Take-o El Hike-o" as they had no chance of influencing his stranglehold over the small computer market. With nothing else to do, IBM asked the company that developed '86 BASIC to do an OS, and microsoft won. But it really has nothing to do with Bill Gates....

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

What Microsoft won, was their strategy to offer attractive licensing to ship makers to include their OS on every chip made; and since adding the licensing for DR's OS was an added cost, most chipmakers went with the cheaper option.

In any case, I think mikey's info actually dovetails with Substance's argument that MS-DOS was killing DR "well before 1994".

People, people, there's no need to bicker about who killed who! Although mikey's insights into the industry are kind of interesting. It's also valuable to see how normal fucking consumers saw some of this too.

In any case, I think we can all agree to point and laugh at WebTV.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

"ship makers" hah.

I've been drinking, I tell you.

mikey said...

That's correct. The innovation, the genius, was to find a way to reach DOWN into the hardware market and make THAT a channel. But the fact that people decided early on that they didn't want to install an OS on their new metal (we always assumed this would just be part of the process) was the path to drive that success. Intel always wanted to be OS neutral, but Microsoft Marketing made that an untenable and impossible position for a hardware company to take.

Therein was all the "innovation"...

mikey said...

One of the interesting questions revolves around if Apple had used Intel rather than Motorola processors in the early years. Then, it would have been a battle mediated by Intel, rather than by money and strategy.

I have no way of really knowing, but I think the outcome would have been more moderate pricing from Apple and better quality from MS...

Substance McGravitas said...

I don't see the control-freakery around the hardware lessening, but maybe it would have gotten them to protected memory sooner if similar machines had more up-time.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...


Therein was all the "innovation"...


well, that and Microsoft Bob. Let's not forget Microsoft Bob.

Also, based on that Long Article, MS has apparently also broken substantial ground in deeply inhumane corporate environments.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Considering the longevity I've gotten from my Macs, I have no problem with the price points they have established.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

So nobody's biting on the WebTV mockery?

Probably for the best. Considering that AppleTV and Airplay are kind of doing the same think with a lot more hardware, it's more akin to the Newton; a lot of great ideas that couldn't quite be pulled off at the time.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I don't see the control-freakery around the hardware lessening,


I was one of the suckers who bought a clone. My one sentence review: the closest I've ever gotten to the PC experience on a Mac.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Now.

Let's talk about the Mekons!

Substance McGravitas said...

NO ENDING THE THREAD.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Now I want a Bob emulator for OS X.

Substance McGravitas said...

So nobody's biting on the WebTV mockery?

Oh Usenet, how I long to return to the days of the first influx of WebTV users.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Gosh, now I am getting all kind of nostalgic and shit.

I remember the first time I plugged a phone line into my Powerbook and fired up AOL.

I was good; it wasn't until the SECOND day that I went looking for porn.

Substance McGravitas said...

iOS and Mac OS X are ruined by an incredibly high Microsoft BOB factor.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

yeah, there's a certain type of geek who's never gotten over computers becoming easier to use.

Substance McGravitas said...

Follow through on that one. I think there's been user-interface decline for quite a while at Apple...it's just that nothing else is as good.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

...although I agree that the UI of the Contacts app is terrible. And iCal has had a batch of changes that haven't helped usability.

Both of those work better on iOS. I hope Apple is not going to continue forcing iOS into the OSX UI.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I don't mind decorative aspects being used in the UI.

I used to trick out my Classic OS computers with a ton of graphics and sounds that were not part of the OS.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Not only did they throw out what they new, they don't make sense and have no consistency. Every "screen" is different.

There was a time that Apple used to enforce consistency from App developers, especially when it came to the first four menu items.

That was considered bad, too.

I dunno. I don't agree that computers are becoming harder to use.

Substance McGravitas said...

I like that consistency: it means I don't have to think about where to click because I know where.

Mail, in one of the latest iterations of OSX, organized my mail into "conversations" unbidden. That didn't help: I had to wrap my head around what it was doing and figure out how to deal with it. The "it just works" hype did not work.

And as someone who fucks around with Quicktime, getting a new version of it that does simultaneously less and more than Quicktime 7 did not impress me.

It's kind of a thing there these days.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I'll just get off your lawn, shall I Substance?

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I dunno, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and change the way you work.

I used to draw by hand. It took a while to get used to doing it on the computer.

The other day, though, a client handed me a roll of drawings of an existing building that he wanted me to do some planning on; first thing I asked for was a CAD file. It doesn't exist, so I have to get copies and work by hand on the light table. I'm on old guy, but those big-ass drafting tables are just so much lumber now.

Substance McGravitas said...

One of the things that keeps me employed is finding easy ways to do things, so I get especially annoyed when it's taking me eight clicks instead of seven.

There's a funny screen in Windows 7 that makes me crazy: something fails and you get a progress bar that says "Windows is searching for a solution to the problem" so against your better judgment you wait for the thing to go through the motions of never finding anything EVER.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Now I am imagining Substance Calrissian objecting "That wasn't the UI of my software!"

To which a re-animated Steve Jobs cyborg rasps "We altered your software. Pray we do not alter it further."

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

"Windows is searching for a solution to the problem" so against your better judgment you wait for the thing to go through the motions of never finding anything EVER.


It's like the Ghost of Clippy.


When I started to do most of my own CAD work, I dug into some of the higher end functions of Vectorworks; automated door schedules and the like. It took me a bit of time, and errors, to figure some of the things out, but once I had it, it helps me to work faster. Well, not faster at the outset, I have to make sure I set the files up correctly. But when the inevitable revisions start coming in, they go much faster.

The thing is, I was never able to get the younger architects to figure those things out. They didn't know the software did it, and had no reason to figure it out.

And I hear that the bigger firms are not much better. i see the files they produce, and they don't take advantage of the power that these costly software packages offer.

For me, there are some productivity gains through CAD, but mostly I see better product through higher accuracy and easier coordination.

Substance McGravitas said...

I don't have a problem changing a workflow if it's gonna benefit me, I can write scripts and macros in a pinch to get around this or that idiocy, and there Apple is a shining example of putting tools in a user's hands. To an extent Microsoft has done some good things with Office lately, in that you can pare down the commands on-screen to what you actually use, but I wouldn't use Office without having to.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

So this is where all that racket is coming from.

Next time I'll just hammer the ceiling with a broomstick!
~

vacuumslayer said...

68 comments? Wtf?

mikey said...

In a sense, software IS getting harder to use - it's due to web-based applications. People seem to operate on the assumption that because it runs in a browser it's a web page even if it's not, and they don't have to pay as much attention to usability and UX features as they would if it was standalone.

And, of course, cloud and web 2.x startups all have their own self-appointed UI and UX "designers" who are both "creative types" and tend to be in thrall to one particular approach to solve all the problems.

I fight with them constantly (at least, to the extent of those brief occasions when I actually, you know, HAVE A JOB) to remember that in the browser, each page should have one function and very clean and self-evident navigation scheme. Oddly, many of these kids tend to want to be stingy with pages and clutter them up, rather than the opposite. I don't get it at all...

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I am just an old guy but I haven't seen the attraction of web-based applications.

I certainly don't see where intensive apps like Vectorworks are feasible in an online iteration. they crunch enough when I run 'em locally.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

each page should have one function and very clean and self-evident navigation scheme. Oddly, many of these kids tend to want to be stingy with pages and clutter them up, rather than the opposite.

Also, change for change's sake. Facebook is a prime example.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

68 comments? Wtf?

I ain't cleaning this up.

Substance McGravitas said...

Clutter is a natural for boys who like toys. It takes real will to hold back on the stupid widgets.

The Interface Hall of Shame still exists. Old but still helpful.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

mikey gets up awfully early on a Sunday.

Substance McGravitas said...

I am just an old guy but I haven't seen the attraction of web-based applications.

Sure you have. Wikis count. In home use Google Docs keeps a bunch of people in the loop on what The Lovely Daughter is up to and what she should be up to. I haven't played with the Google wiki template yet but I intend to.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I stand corrected.

mikey said...

Let me correct you some more. Web based (as opposed to browser-based) apps are EXACTLY what you want now, or in the very near future.

Why? Cloud based flexible resources. To run an application on prem (current geek speak, pay attention) you need to buy enough compute resources to serve your worst case scenario. In times of lighter loads those resources just sit idle. With your application running in the cloud, you dynamically adjust the resources you're using to the immediate demand. Doing something math intensive? Give it a dozen extra GPUs. Need to index a huge file? Add twenty processors. Database running slow? Add a hundred gigs of memory and move more data to the memcache.

People really don't realize how HUGE the changes to virtual compute platforms are - just all of a sudden, right now, we can do things we just could never do before.

This, for example would have taken more than a year and at least a million dollars. They did in in ONE DAY for $21K.

NOW computers and software can really advance the world. It's incredibly exciting.

mikey said...

In my current meltdown, I don't do particularly well with long, dark sleepless nights. When the sky starts to get light, I gratefully jump out of bed (or couch, or wherever I happen to be dozing fiftully) and start a pot of coffee and a browser session.

Yay!

Substance McGravitas said...

That cloud is still not around for most people, and the connections preclude some work: it's fine having a GPU do some stuff but if I work on a large audio file doing normal tasks the up/download times - even if it's only at the start and at the end - aren't worth giving up local processing.

When the internet gets faster it'll be cool.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I gotta say my experience is similar to Substance's. I'm in a middle ground where a lot of my work uses kind of pricey specialized software that is unavailable in cloud based computing, if it ever will; at the same time, it isn't processor intensive enough to require supercomputing power. Even rendering times for photorealism are way shorter than they used to be.

And now Substance has me curious about using XCode to array some computers when i run across something that is that serious.

Yay for the cancer research though.

mikey said...

I don't understand why this is so hard for people to get. What we're talking about is HARDWARE. A computer, as defined by a processor, some memory and some storage in a box is utterly obsolete. Not just for supercomputers, for everything. Your internet speed doesn't matter because you store your data in the datacenter that hosts your VMs. You have gigabit ethernet and OC12. You have as much or as little computer as you need at any given moment. You put the whole thing to sleep when you're not using it.

Soon enough, your computer is going to be a little box that looks like an AC adapter. You have a bunch of displays - a big one on the wall, one on the desk, a table, a little phone-size one, whatever you want. You're computer can't break, because it doesn't exist in any identifiable sense. You don't have to buy a new disk drive, or worry about your motherboard. It's just a dynamic pool of resources. It's precisely BECAUSE processors are so fast and powerful that we're doing this - it's stupid to put one in every computer when it could form the basis for six of 'em.

And I'm REALLY surprised at how much trouble ZRM's having with this concept - it's PERFECT for him. Dude, you still use any software you want. It's sitting in your base VM image in the cloud. Want something else? Install it. It's JUST LIKE that wastefully underutilized box on your desk, but you don't have to EVER think about it.

This is happening in the data center today. It's not some science fiction future. You can go to a company like Cloudshare and have full function VMs for 49 bux a month. That price will come down a LOT. There is NO benefit to having all that hardware in a box at your house.

mikey said...

I should clarify. You only "VIEW" your remote computers. You don't need much bandwidth to do this. It's RDP. You are merely moving the contents of the frame buffer from the remote computer to your display.

Hell, you could do it on dial-up...

Substance McGravitas said...

A computer, as defined by a processor, some memory and some storage in a box is utterly obsolete.

This is false for a number of reasons, three I can think of quickly are connection speed, connection at all, and privacy. There will ALWAYS be separate machines, which will NEVER be obsolete as long as some information is important enough to segregate. My computer will be obsolete when I'm not allowed to have private information and the cloud is fast enough to crunch and display/play giant files for me when I'm on the bus.

One of the things that interests me about you pushing this argument is that the cloud is the key to The Man owning your stuff. I ordinarily think of that as antithetical to your world view.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I get it, mikey. I just don't buy it.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Interestingly, Mountain Lion seems to be moving toward mikey's solution.

documents are usually accessed through the apps, not from your file structure. it looks like you can store things locally if you want, but the default is going to be iCloud.

And app support has become nearly as painless as mikey suggests through the App store, when it gives you a notification when there is an update for your software; one click and you're up to date.

there certainly might be times I would want to access a full version of Photoshop without paying full price, or use Revit for a specific project or something. But those are going to be pay-per-use services, undoubtedly. And for things like P-shop, as mikey and Substance have so helpfully pointed out MANY TIMES, there are freeware solutions anyways.

And when I do something on Revit in a pay-per-use instance, what happens when I want to access it in a few months? I would guess I will have to pay for for another month of access or something like that.

And then when they stop supporting that version of Revit, it's all dead. At least when I have a local copy of software, I can still access it, even if I need to keep an old piece of hardware to do it.

mikey said...

Ok, three things and I'll give up.

1. One of the things that interests me about you pushing this argument is that the cloud is the key to The Man owning your stuff. I ordinarily think of that as antithetical to your world view.

If you have data you wish to keep private you use 128 bit encryption. If you whine about privacy on the internet and don't take the single basic step to protect your data, you are a fraud.

2. I get it, mikey. I just don't buy it.

This is just bizarre. There's nothing to 'buy'. This isn't some pie in the sky technology. Virtualization is real. It's happening every day. Half the websites you visit every day are hosted on virtual servers. People use them every day, and the technology is becoming ubiquitous. To not realize this change is taking place is one thing, but to deny that it is taking place is dishonest.

3. "But mikey, you can't do anything without an internet connection"

[Soothingly] Yes. This is true. I'm utterly broke and the last time I didn't have an internet connection was 2006. Do you people not pay attention? When does this "not having an internet connection" thing happen? Who does it happen to? I thought you people had iPhones, fer fucks sake. It's the kind of artificial argument that people put up because they're afraid of technological change. And yes. It's annoying.

OK. Believe what you want. We'll create a category called "Virtualization Deniers" and you can probably get Jim Inhofe to join in. But it's going to happen anyway, and it's going to make a lot of things better. And then you'll be glad.

Substance McGravitas said...

If you have data you wish to keep private you use 128 bit encryption. If you whine about privacy on the internet and don't take the single basic step to protect your data, you are a fraud.

Privacy is about more than encryption, and encryption is never enough in any case: I am here envisioning someone harnessing the power of the cloud to break a cloud-user's 128 bit key, which would be funny.

When does this "not having an internet connection" thing happen?

When I am beside a mountain. No I do not have a cell phone, which in any case does not work when I am in certain places. It is true that nature free of digital signals may one day be obsolete.

I get the argument and I get the utility of it, but it's not a revolution for most users yet.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

but to deny that it is taking place is dishonest.


I don't deny that it is taking place, mikey.

you're arguing against strawzombies.

There isn't some great virtualization store where I can get the services I would need. GoggleDocs is a joke for me. And I don't want to share all my documents with everybody; do you guys really want access to my immense library of Mekons slashfic?

When does this "not having an internet connection" thing happen?

When Time Warner fucks up service. When the power goes out. When I travel out of 3G range. When I'm sitting in the airport and don't feel like paying for the wifi. When I don't pay the bill. we don't all live in Silicon Valley, mikey.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

mikey it's kind of aggravating that you mistake my not agreeing with your argument as denying the existence of remote computing.

I mean, I just got done in a comment SAYING that OS X seems to be moving your direction.

I just don't see what you're talking about as viable for me right now, and I've got work to do tonight.

Maybe someday it'll be all beer and skittles, but you also told me the Pogoplug was the answer to remote access of my files.

Well, I concede that I might be using the internet incorrectly. I never have been good at following the rules.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I see now where you might have gotten the impression that I deny it, when I said I don't buy it.

I meant I don't buy the argument, not that I don't buy that the change is happening.

As you pointed out, someone once said thin clients were the future too.

Smut Clyde said...

And I don't want to share all my documents with everybody

Last time I had a real software job, all the number-crunching was done on TEMPEST-shielded Sun workstations (using special-purpose boards made at chip foundries that can't be found on Google Map) behind three levels of Maxwell-Smart sliding doors.

Mandos said...

yeah, there's a certain type of geek who's never gotten over computers becoming easier to use.

*bites tongue*

tigris said...

TEMPEST-shielded Sun workstations

That's SO unfair. I bet you could only play Q*bert. BASTARDS.

Substance McGravitas said...

Without vector graphics how do you play Asteroids? HOW I ASK YOU?

fish said...

Two things on this likely dead thread.

1) Apple doesn't exist today if Microsoft doesn't bail it out to avoid monopoly litigation. Ironic that the act of propping up a minor player in the personal computer world to maintain an "illusion" of competition gave Steve Jobs the opportunity to TAKE OVER THE WORLD!!!!

2) I fully buy into mikey's view of where computers are going, but recognize Sub and Zombie's current objections that connectivity is far from ubiquitous in a mobile world. I have many instances as I travel where I don't have an internet connection, yet need computer functionality (exacerbated when traveling abroad or in some hotels/airports where I have no interest in paying horrific rates for access). That is why I love hybrid products like Dropbox which "synchronize" several computers by loading copies onto each platform and updating whenever the local unit has connectivity. It is awesome for my laptop or phone when I travel. We will get there mikey, but common use is probably still a decade away.

Substance McGravitas said...

That is why I love hybrid products like Dropbox which "synchronize" several computers by loading copies onto each platform and updating whenever the local unit has connectivity.

Yes. But there's a middle ground of a personal cloud: there are backup products that essentially sync your stuff via torrent.

In a way Apple seems to me to be going in two directions with the iCloud stuff but also with the superfast connectivity and Xsan and Xgrid. If I can have the latter two in a practical way my need for the former drops. But the cloud stuff is here now and I don't know if anyone does anything with Xgrid.