When Penguins Attack!!!

One of the other jobs I have at
Microsoft is to be the Community Lead for the VSCore team.  I won’t get into
what that means just yet (I think we are still trying to figure that out.). One of
the benefits recently is that I was asked to take a gander at the Linux community
at the latest Linux World show. 

With only a show badge advertising MICROSOFT larger
than my name, a Tablet PC ( No, I do not run a Linux distro on it ), and an Ipod (This
actually garnered a bit of respect with the crowd.) I set out to enjoy the latest LinuxWorld
.  It was an intriguing mix of well dressed big business and people wearing 
” hats accompanied with the only thing that could add geekyness to the hat&
Star Wars parody ” OS
” t-shirts.  Though I was told by a vender looking to do real business ”
There is less riff raff this year and more people here to save and or make money.”  
This statement could have been construed as a theme to this Linuxworld.  I boiled
several of the talks I saw down to ” Community and free stuff is an important
part of the equation, but we have to make money somehow”.  

Community Project Spaces, Source
Control, and the IDE

The Sourceforge concept
was everywhere.  The big guys were all touting their solutions during their sessions:
Sun (sunsource.net),
Novell (Novell
), IBM (Developer
), HP (hp.sourceforge).
On the show floor you could find several venders selling their solutions, both intranet
(for running MAUI like projects internally) and internet hosting.  Bugopolis and Perforce were
two among many.  Other companies that did not have had their own solution were
making sure to tell people to check out their projects on Sourceforge or similar. 
Missing from all of these solutions was any exciting forms of IDE interaction. 
Everyone had their own favorite IDEs but noone had any real innovative solutions for
merging community development into the IDE.  <Sarcasm> Oracle showed
off Jdeveloper hosting
a web browser and opening a project from a web page during their keynote!!!</Sarcasm>
There could be a great integrated solution somewhere. 

Listening (and Responding) to

Everyone beat MS up on this one. 
Simon Phipps, the Chief Technology Evangelist at Sun, made the point best when he
said ” I used to work as a tester at Microsoft on Word 1.0.  I would log
bugs that I’m not even sure the developers ever looked at. I never saw any fixed or
heard about the bugs again. The first time I logged a bug against OpenOffice.org one
of the developers wrote me back, told me he had fixed it, and I would see it in a
released version in 3 months”.  He challenged Microsoft to do the same thing
and the audience cheered. It reminded me that Microsoft
continue to be a black hole in the eyes of the customer. 


Another, sadder theme, at Linux
world was still ” Look, you used to be able to do this only with Microsoft. Now
our cheaper Linux solution does it. ” Missing in the copycat cycle was innovation. 
It seemed the most innovative demo was Sun showing off ” Project Looking Glass”. 
This was a three dimensional desktop environment for Linux that looked like some mix
of OS X(Complete with that funky pop-up start bar) and Longhorn.  The audience
went crazy for this.  Red Hats CEO challenged the people in the audience with
“Each of you here are heirs to the future information society& I’m here to ask
you to participate…in moving the entire industry forward.” IBM representatives also
seconded this challenge in a session delivered designed to inspire innovation in computing
for years to come. 

every developer I talked to said ” What linux is missing is your product (Visual
Studio)”, but I saw a bunch of copycat IDE’ s trying to close the gap.  Too bad
we are still moving forward on an even better version. 

Other News, Rumblings, and

The whole SCO thing

From the ” Prove it” buttons
being given away at the Red Hat booth to the people that told me ” You should
be happy, now MS is second on the hit list” .  SCO wanting to hit everyone running
Linux with a $699
licensing fee
for using pieces of UNIX code was big on the minds of everyone there.
 Red Hat became instant heroes when they pledged $1 million to help fight the
SCO thing in addition to filing
a countersuit

Stability and Cost

I can’t recall the last time I saw
the Blue Screen of death, but it still haunts us(Microsoft) with jokes abound everywhere. 
Quality (finding and fixing the right bugs) is something we need to continue to push
on until it becomes obvious to customers that we have beaten the demon.  I did
smile a bit when the StarOffice demo I watched crashed to the point the machine needed
to be rebooted then crashed upon boot again.  Neither time did an opportunity
arise to ” Send Error Report” , but we were encouraged to go to bugzilla and
file a bug if it happened to us.

I’m also not even sure what the
details of our licensing policies are, but if you were at LinuxWorld you were educated
on how evil they are.  No one at the show claimed that Linux was free, but one
company that made the Linux switch did claim that no evil lawyers have come after
him since they switched for being 8% under licensed.  It just depresses me to
lose customers because of this.

Where’ s Linux

I saw plenty of people with windows
laptops and plenty of OS X notebooks, but outside of the booths and Sun sessions I
was surprised at the lack of people running Linux.  Sure, their slide decks talked
a big game, but it looked a lot like Powerpoint and Windows XP underneath for Dan
Powers(IBM VP of Grid Computing and Emerging Technologies) and several others. 
For presenters and general show goers I saw it felt like the order was MS > OS
X > Linux.  It surprised me enough to mention it I guess.


For scalable server solutions to
projects like Seti@Home this was touted as what is already the ” Next Big Thing”
from IBM, Sun, Oracle and others.  IBM is starting to require their employees
desktop machines for spare better than mainframe power at night.  They talked
about a cool demo they did by modifying the Quake engine and creating a grid based
quake server that could have over 500 people playing at the same time.  I’ve
always wanted to see us take advantage of it to scale out HUGE virtual test labs.

The Microsoft Booth

We had a pretty sizable booth with
demo stations. I wasn’ t there to work the booth, but I did stop by frequently for
the free jelly beans.  We were showing off VS.NET, Web Matrix, Unix Services
for Windows, and Rotor.  There seemed to be a lot of interest in the last two. 

that’s it.  My tablet doesn’t run Linux and I was not captured by an evil penguin. 
If there is anything else you would like to know please stop by. Thanks for reading
this far.  Now “Where do you want to go tomorrow”




between the AMD micro 3 button with a scroll wheel laptop mouse and Microsoft jelly


Ploy to take advantage of:
networks threw an after hours party with free drinks to convince people to build
their next generation software
for them.  “Sure, I’ll write free code for
you in return for peanuts and beer”.  (With the unemployment in the valley they
might have had a few takers who considered it a good offer.)

most likely heard after people read my badge
Oh, well at least you don’t work for SCO.

I asked for demos of all the competing IDE’s:
you know much about IDE’s, so I know where to start?” Followed by “So what project
at Microsoft do you work on” and then by “Oh, nevermind you guys kick our butts anyway” 
have some feedback on these IDE’s as well, but I think they require some more time
to play with in person for real details.

Comments (13)

  1. Simon Phipps says:

    Good report, Josh. One small note: I wasn’t actually a Microsoft employee when I participated in the Word beta program, I was just a developer (this was all in pre-MSDN days – I actually interviewed for helping found MSDN but decided not to move my family to Seattle!). And I wasn’t intending to either criticise Microsoft directly with my comment nor to claim that the open approach gets bugs fixed faster. I think you got my main point though – that an open approach can lead to a better experience for the customer – if I’m smart enough to find the bug reporting tool I ought to be included in the bug fixing cycle.

    I’d also point to Sun’s equivalent of SourceForge – http://java.net/ – as well as the SunSource site. Glad you liked Looking Glass 🙂



  2. Josh Ledgard says:

    Ah, thanks for the correction. I think it’s actually worse that we never responded to a beta customer who reported a bug. Interestingly enough the point was rather timely since we had just started engaging alpha customers trying out the latest VS bits. Thankfully, this time around one of our goals has been to respond to every piece of customer feedback we get. It’s been somewhat of a culture shift taking place at Microsoft, but good because it’s forcing us to be more accountable to our customers. Where did you find out about my blog from?

  3. Simon Phipps says:

    You showed up on my regular Feedster scan, along with the pointer on ISerializable – I keep an eye on who’s linking & referring 😉

    Really, the approach all those years ago was neither surprising nor bad. My point though is that we’re now in a massively-connected era (my blog says more) and the rules are changing about what is appropriate – Cluetrain++ so to speak. My real observation is that I think, as you point out, MSFT is seeing past the Linux to the trend and embracing it (albeit maybe in an ’embrace and extend’ sort of way).



  4. Boy!!
    Betcha, noone can come anywhere near to Microsoft on creating IDE’s . The one thing which made me happy is not you were there in Linux world, but you being in Linuxworld when the staroffice crashed. I have used staroffice and it is no where nearer to MS Office (lets patent office :).

    Jokes apart, Lets challenge the guys there on Productivity and usability. Lets forget everything else, why build some app when you know it is not usable. When are they going to come up in life. I now know why someone said Penguins never mature ;).


  5. xml training says:

    Greay read! It is wierd how Linux and the OS movement can’t contend with MS in the IDE arena. Even open source IDE‘s like netbeans java IDE seem better when running under Windows.

  6. job search says:

    Good report, Josh.

  7. redsolo says:

    C’mon, havent you guys looked at Eclipse at all? I have just started using VS2005, and I cant say that Im impressed.

    * Many refactoring actions are missing.

    * File compare (with local history) is missing. A class view window that is showing the same class that is opened in the editor.

    * An ability to clear all errors, if you work with more than one project and some of the unrelated projects wont compile, then I want to be able to clear the Error view to only show the current project errors.

    * Better integration to clear case and other CM systems

    * Help to override certain methods in base classes

    This is only what I can remember now, as it was 1-2 years ago I worked with a Java project, but of course VS2005 (8 ?) is way better than Visual Embedded C++ 3 that I used for my previous job.

    But the prime jewel is the Tools->Options->Keyboard dialog. The List view containing commands is full and it is hard to find a certain command in it, which is not suprisingly. But what is surprisingly is that the dialog CAN NOT be resized. Why cant I resize it? What arent I allowed to make my own decisions about sizes of a dialog, I promise that Im old enough.