Steve Jobs Just Loves Windows Vista!

As more Windows users cry “Help, I’ve been Vista whipped!”, I thought that the introduction of the oppressive Windows Vista was going to be a boon for Linux.

I got the first part right. As Vista subverts your computer into a Microsoft Peripheral, subject to whatever whim “Balmer and The Boys” cook up, users have resisted. A large number of not-so-technical people I’ve talked to want to avoid Vista like the plague. [And in my opinion, rightly so.]

My assumption was that given reasonably priced hardware from several suppliers and completely free Linux distributions like Ubuntu, the discomfort with Vista would be the kick that finally pushed Linux into the consumer mainstream.

Not so. (more…)

Open Source Changes Software Acquisitions

It used to be that when one software company acquired another, it was frequently as much an acquisition of a customer base as it was one of technology. Often it was a “strategic acquisition” which frequently meant taking a competitor out.

These sorts of acquisitions are the worst: Some innovative company gives a major player a hard time by delivering a great product. It develops a fiercely loyal customer base. “Majorco” users start to ask “when are you going to implement feature X like ‘Smallco’ does”? Unfortunately feature X requires a complete re-write of the major company’s fragile solution, and being constantly reminded of this is no fun. So what does the major player do? Simple, acquire Smallco and throw their technology away. All the customers who hated you now really hate you, but they now have no choice and the customer bleed stops.

As a customer I’ve had this happen to me more than once, and it sucks. I’ve dropped entire lines of business partially because I couldn’t bear working with the purchaser’s sorry-ass excuse for a product.

The integration process must be something else in these situations too. The guys who run Smallco are now rich. They have a contract that makes them hang around and say nice things about Majorco for a couple of years. Then they can go off and do what they want. The rest of the staff, at least those who survive “cost efficiencies”, have a choice of working with a product they probably hate, or finding new employment.

In the open source era, customers are defended from this sort of thing. (more…)

OpenProj: Proprietary Spin Meets Open Source Product

Notification of the 1.0 release of OpenPrjoj came through my news feed recently. The contents were a typical press release. The release quickly gets to making the statement “Projity announced the initial OpenProj beta in the Fall, over 200,000 users joined the beta testing in over 132 countries.” Now this is interesting, because a news item just five days previous claims “OpenProj has now been downloaded over 200,000 times with deployments accelerating around the world.”

It seems to me that someone has drawn an equivalence between “downloads” and “beta testers”. What they can really claim is “200,000 tire kickers” or without the metaphor, “200,000 evaluations”.

I can speak to this because I’m one of the people who downloaded it. I have to say that I was impressed, both with the concept and with the obvious level of effort that’s been put into it.

I used it to import a Project file, with the intention of making some changes and printing a report. Although I was able to change the data, the report they produced was wholly inadequate. Butt-ugly, rasterized fonts, and so on. It sucked. I wound up exporting it to an OpenCalc file and reporting from there.

Now if I was a beta tester, I’d probably have provided some feedback to let them know about my experiences. If it was really a beta release (instead of just another one of thousands of projects with “v0.9” releases) you think it might have told me. After all user involvement is part of the “social contract” of open source.

I resent being placed in a group (or so it seems) that I never thought I belonged to. This press release smacks of the kind of marketing over-hype that isn’t — and shouldn’t — be associated with an open source project.

So make that “over 199,999 users”.

Criminalize False Caller-ID Messages

Here’s a crime for modern times: make the transmission of an intentionally false Caller-ID message a minor criminal offence.

There’s an established mechanism for blocking identity through caller ID, namely the “Private Number” message. Therefore the only conceivable use of false information is to mislead the person being called. Most of the fraudulent calls I receive use bogus, rather than private numbers.

But what should the penalty be? How about something proportional to the impact on the victim? In and of itself, direct victim impact is pretty small, so how about three hours in jail per occurrence?

What, you say that’s ridiculously low? Well then how about this: mandatory consecutive terms, no concurrent sentences. Fraudsters have to make a large number of calls in order to find victims (see footnote). Three hours in jail works out to about a year for every three thousand calls. These guys need to make tens of thousands of calls a day, so in a month or so they could easily rack up a sentence in excess of their entire lifespan.

A slap on the wrist for people who flirt with the idea, major hard time for the fraudsters. Works for me.

Footnote: One operation I led on started with an automated dialler, transfered to a “qualifier” who made sure I had a credit card, and then transfered to a “closer”, who was none too thrilled when I finally admitted that I was deliberately wasting their time, eight minutes in.

About this Blog

Observations on Everything

Alan LangfordAlthough “It’s Fixed in the Next Release” is a mantra from software development (or rather technical support), the intent here is to apply the phrase to a broader context, for example, “It’s fixed in my next reincarnation.” This broad interpretation means that the entries here cover vastly unrelated subjects.

If you’re looking for a tightly focused blog with short, pithy entries, you are in the wrong place (although there are some). Here, blogging is about content.

I have done one thing to make things easier on non-technical readers. All of my comments that deal with specific aspects of software development are in a category that doesn’t show up in the main list. you have to select It’s a Code, Code World to see these posts.