Python in the Browser – brought to you by Microsoft?

 Microsoft, Python  Comments Off on Python in the Browser – brought to you by Microsoft?
May 012007

Who would have guessed that MS would be the first to really put python in the browser? I know you can jump through hoops to make a browser support python but it was not something you could do for a public website.

There have been a bunch of announcements in the past couple of days about IronPython and SilverLight — will they beat firefox?
Personally, I’m giddy about the prospect of using Python instead of javascript.  John Udell’s blog entry tonight specifically mentions
that exact combination.

Finally, things are starting to get exciting again.

 Posted by at 9:51 pm

How can Microsoft make my life better?

 Business, Great Plains, Microsoft  Comments Off on How can Microsoft make my life better?
May 182006

Today, in Scoble’s post, “Missed big HR meeting“, he closes with “Now, let’s get back to work figuring out how to make our customers lives better.”

Well here is some advice for Bob and the gang over at Microsoft from a customer, “Fix what you got before you go trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” and “Eat your own dog food.” There has been one constant theme out of Microsoft Business Solutions since they purchased Great Plains. And that is, “Make everything look like Outlook, don’t worry about broken or half implemented features.”

Here is a hard example. Notes for customers, products, sales orders, you name it, are stored in a single table as a 32K text chunk. There is no revisioning of the notes and if one user accidentally deletes a note by clicking on the wrong poorly named action button the note is gone. Poof it never existed. This has to be one of the most rinky dink set ups I’ve ever seen. Apparently this feature was implemented by a high school intern and since no one in Microsoft Business solutions uses the notes — it’s never been fixed. This architecture bug is so bad and can be so costly, I’ve had to write a specialized “diff” utility to track and keep a revision history for notes. Nothing like blowing a 10K deal because some fscked up and missed an important note that had been inadvertently deleted.

This is just one of many architectural blunders that MS never seems to get around to correcting — I guess if you make it look pretty enough people won’t care that their headed twoards the poor house.

Come on folks, this is an accounting application. An ACCOUNTING APPLICATION not an image editor or a roll-up cube. Boring and reliable is what brings the boat back to port. Fix the issues, then worry about making it look like something it isn’t. I can’t believe that sysadmins at MS don’t lie in wait for these geniuses to go strolling down a dark hall alone.

 Posted by at 10:05 pm

Microsoft to “Standardize” file formats…

 Business, Microsoft, Web 2.0  Comments Off on Microsoft to “Standardize” file formats…
Nov 212005

Microsoft, today, announced that there were going to “standardize” their Office 12 XML file formats. Looks like someone from Microsoft read my article on ODF. But there is an awful lot of word parsing coming out in these announcements. To wit, the use of the phrases, “standardize” and “openess.” Either they are playing word games to trick the public or the managment at Microsoft. If Microsoft was truly serious they would approach OASIS and participate in the ODF work going on there.

Another problem is their use of Ecma International as their “standards” partner. Need I remind you of the Ecma Script/ javascript dichotomy? This is something for you to decide, but I would point to their list of standards as a place to start. Anything there ring a bell with developers or doesn’t it seem more of a “safe harbor” for corporate interests.

Here is some more “marketing speak” from Scoble interview with Jean Paoli:

“we are offering the Office XML file format technology behind billions of documents to customers and the industry as an international standard.”

Well, to my knowledge, it is highly questionable that a non-shipping product and a non-shipping format can behind billions of documents.

Now I know that the smart people at Microsoft are probably going nuts trying to convince upper management to give up making buggy whips — but that isn’t going to happen until Ballmer is gone. Ballmer is still a firm believer of grabbing a company’s corporate jewels (Data) and wrapping it up in a Microsoft format. Steve needs to learn that it is “our” ball and not his. We’d love for Microsoft to keep playing but throwing these tantrums and then trying to talk around it is making companies more than a little….impatient with Microsoft.

So in short, until Microsoft starts participating in Open Document Format and OASIS — I wouldn’t read anything into this more than trying to FUD Open Document. After all, when was the last time anyone read a book on Ecma Script?

 Posted by at 7:18 pm

What fat clients can learn from the Web

 Business, Great Plains, Web 2.0  Comments Off on What fat clients can learn from the Web
Oct 212005

One of the beautiful things about the web is that you can share discoveries with others by merely sending a link to a friend or co-worker. Find a cool new shoe or a laptop and want their input on the item? You just click on “send link” in your browser, or cut and paste the link in an email message and off it goes. They click it and voila! there it is. The item of your attention and the thing you want to talk about. No muss, no fuss. The other person gets instant context when they click on that link. No big explanations are necessary. They can respond with their ideas and links to some other possibilites. The gift of sharing your contextual vision with another by only clicking.

Now say you are in your accouting application and you have a problem or need a resolution from a co-worker or superior. What do you end up doing? You end up emailing them account numbers and dates and telling them what view you are looking at so that they can look at it too and give you the feedback/information you need. Starting to see the lesson? Why aren’t fat client developers taking a clue and incorporating one of the most powerful features of the Internet in to out bread and butter fat clients? Why can’t I send a “link” from the view I’m looking at in my accounting application to a co-worker or superior. Think of the time savings. Got a question on a receivings, send a link and the respondent gets instant context.

And finally, a word to the Web 2.0 developers: The lesson is for you too. Don’t give up the ability to link to an item in your sweet new AJAX weblication otherwise you end up costing more than I think we should pay.

 Posted by at 10:00 am
Oct 202005

Every once in a while you come across a good Idea. Tonight, I just read one. David Berlind, on posits the idea of Open Document Format (ODF) could be a transport mechanism for moving content between different wikis.

Could ODF be the Net’s new, frictionless document DNA? by ZDNet‘s David Berlind — There’s no reason, for example, that, regardless of what proprietary markup languages the different wiki solution providers use to put a pretty face on Web authoring, that they cannot natively store those documents in the XML-based ODF. […]

Now this is the type of idea that I believe will happen more frequently once ODF picks up steam. It is the open format of HTML that gave rise to most of what we have on the Internet today. Everyone competes to make it better and more compelling. With closed formats, ala Word, there is not the same kind of pressure to advance the format and when it does change we are at the mercy of one company to give us solutions for migration. With an open format, market pressures and new ideas will create a dynamic system that gives users the benefits.

The only reason to keep a document format closed is to keep your customers locked-in. There is absolutely no advantage to users from using a closed document format. This will force the market giant, Microsoft, to once again compete solely on the merit of its product and not rely on lock-in and the advantages that they get from being the only one to fully support the document format. Remember how much better Word became when it was competing with WordPerfect? The features implemented really had the user in mind. However, once they crushed the competition the goal of new features was not to improve the users productivity, it was to use those new features to reinforce the tie-in/lock-in with other upstream Microsoft products.

There are benefits for Microsoft as well. Because of a standardized format, their upstream products could work with different word processors and different platforms. This, in my opinion, is the direction that Microsoft needs to move to stay relevant for the next 20 years. There are smart people at Microsoft and they do have some very good tools, however those people are often hamstrung from having goals that are in direct opposition to Microsoft’s current philosophy of product tie-ins. Now is the time for Microsoft to use its brains and not its market muscle. It will stop the hemorahging of talent and bring you real customer loyalty in the long run.

 Posted by at 11:23 pm

Critical Windows patch may wreak PC havoc

 Business, Microsoft  Comments Off on Critical Windows patch may wreak PC havoc
Oct 152005

A story on speaks to the problems that Microsoft continues to have in regards to regression testing on their patches. After the “no patches” last month, to the 9 this month, (what a joke, 9? Did you look at the number of updates downloaded by WSUS? Also, they never talk about the number of “updates” to existing patches, which in my mind are new patches that need to be counted too.)

Microsoft, where do you want to get wormed today? Ok, so you patch so you don’t get wormed but then you can’t access your computer — so in fact you still get stung. Either by malware from a malicious individual or malware from a corporation. Thanks for the gumball, Microsoft.

 Posted by at 2:00 pm

A note on Microsoft Great Plains “notes”

 Business, Great Plains  Comments Off on A note on Microsoft Great Plains “notes”
Oct 152005

Great Plains’ note taking system is an annoyance at best. While they’ve expanded it so that you can attach notes to just about everything (customers, invoices, vendors, items, etc) each note is stored as a 32K text entry — If you are at the limit, you’ve got to delete something else to add more. If someone inadvertently wipes out a note, it’s gone. In fact this problem is so bad I’ve had to write a note archiving and diff tool so that I can recover “lost” notes.

Microsoft needs to fix this archaic note taking system. What should be done is that each new entry in the note should be stored as an individual entry, along with the date/time that note was entered and who entered the note. When notes are displayed, it should show them in reverse chronological order (newest on top) with the date/time and note text. There should be security for editing and deletion of notes. Adding notes should be available to anyone with permissions to view the data. The entry should also show if the entry had been edited, when and by who.

 Posted by at 12:00 pm
Oct 152005

Microsoft continually updates things by changing the interface or adding new, mostly working, functionality but hardly ever by fixing the brokenness of existing functionality. They might enhance functions but they seldom fix the primary brokenness. I grow weary of Microsoft’s continual upgrades that are suppose to make their software better — unfortunately they only have their shareholders in mind and not their customers. Each features links you more tightly and in proprietary ways with other Microsoft products. They should at least improve basic functionality of existing features and expand the interoperability with other products, both Microsoft and non-Microsoft.

This is the same lesson that IBM had to learn in the 90’s — Their proprietary, non-interoperable tendencies led to a sound thrashing by the market. I keep wondering why the market has allowed Microsoft to continue this bad behavior. Yes, the market has allowed this to happen. So everytime you decline to investigate non-Microsoft products out of hand, you are contributing to the problem.

Now it is important to not dismiss Microsoft products out of hand too. Doing so is just bad business sense. But it is time that the market stop following the Jones’ and do their own homework when it comes to software acquisition. You need to evaluate not only features(+), security(+) and vendor strength(+) but vendor lock-in(-). Vendor lock-in exposes you to increased future prices. The longer you allow yourself to be ensnared the higher the cost of escape. Not allowing for vendor lock-in in your analysis is actually exposing your company to increasing risk.

Microsoft needs to be forced to compete via the strength of their product and their ability to free businesses to use them in new and unexpected ways and not by using a death embrace of intra-product lock-in. Every time Microsoft uses a closed, proprietary file format or communication protocol they are displaying their “not getting it.” When Microsoft starts publishing formats and protocols, allowing them to be used freely and openly, then that is when Microsoft will start to “get it.” When Microsoft starts adopting open specifications with out attempting to subvert them (think OASIS) then they will have “gotten it.”

 Posted by at 9:56 am