June 16th, 2004

Illuminati

Dragons in Iraq

From a description of life in Iraq

Ali has described several near-miss situations with American aircraft. One time he walked out of his house just as an A-10 Warthog flew 100 meters overhead, firing missles at a tank emplacement a few streets over. Another time he had gone up on the roof to watch a battle as an Apache approached. He waved, and the pilot turned his head to look at him. When armed, the forward vulcan on an Apache automatically moves to track any target the pilot looks at. It did the same to Ali. Safety tip: don't attract the attention of Apache pilots. It's like being coolly regarded by a dragon.


More here.
Illuminati

(no subject)

Joel Spolsky (who you should all be reading, if you have any interest in computers) has something interesting to say on why he thinks Microsoft has a problem...
I'm quoting stuff dotted from all over an article here, even more so than usual - if you think you're going to read it, skip the following and go read the actual article

Although there is some truth to the fact that Linux is a huge threat to Microsoft, predictions of the Redmond company's demise are, to say the least, premature. Microsoft has an incredible amount of cash money in the bank and is still incredibly profitable.

However, there is a less understood phenomenon which is going largely unnoticed: Microsoft's crown strategic jewel, the Windows API, is lost.

There are two opposing forces inside Microsoft, which I will refer to, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as The Raymond Chen Camp and The MSDN Magazine Camp.

The most impressive things to read on Raymond's weblog are the stories of the incredible efforts the Windows team has made over the years to support backwards compatibility

The MSDN Magazine Camp is always trying to convince you to use new and complicated external technology like COM+, MSMQ, MSDE, Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer and its components, MSXML, DirectX (the very latest version, please)

Inside Microsoft, the MSDN Magazine Camp has won the battle.  The first big win was making Visual Basic.NET not backwards-compatible with VB 6.0. This was literally the first time in living memory that when you bought an upgrade to a Microsoft product, your old data (i.e. the code you had written in VB6) could not be imported perfectly and silently. It was the first time a Microsoft upgrade did not respect the work that users did using the previous version of a product.

With this major victory under their belts, the MSDN Magazine Camp took over. Suddenly it was OK to change things. IIS 6.0 came out with a different threading model that broke some old applications. Then .NET 1.1 was not perfectly backwards compatible with 1.0. And now that the cat was out of the bag, the OS team got into the spirit and decided that instead of adding features to the Windows API, they were going to completely replace it. Instead of Win32, we are told, we should now start getting ready for WinFX: the next generation Windows API. All different. Based on .NET with managed code. XAML. Avalon. Not an upgrade: a break with the past.

Microsoft got big enough, with too many developers, and they were too addicted to upgrade revenues, so they suddenly decided that reinventing everything was not too big a project. Heck, we can do it twice. The old Microsoft, the Microsoft of Raymond Chen, might have implemented things like Avalon, the new graphics system, as a series of DLLs that can run on any version of Windows and which could be bundled with applications that need them. There's no technical reason not to do this. But Microsoft needs to give you a reason to buy Longhorn, and what they're trying to pull off is a sea change, similar to the sea change that occurred when Windows replaced DOS. The trouble is that Longhorn is not a very big advance over Windows XP; not nearly as big as Windows was over DOS.

The idea of unifying the mess of Visual Basic and Windows API programming by creating a completely new, ground-up programming environment with not one, not two, but three languages (or are there four?) is sort of like the idea of getting two quarreling kids to stop arguing by shouting "shut up" louder than either of them. It only works on TV. In real life when you shout "shut up" to two people arguing loudly you just create a louder three-way argument.

At last year's PDC they preannounced the next major version of their operating system, codenamed Longhorn, which will contain, among other things, a completely new user interface API, codenamed Avalon, rebuilt from the ground up to take advantage of modern computers' fast display adapters and realtime 3D rendering. And if you're developing a Windows GUI app today using Microsoft's "official" latest-and-greatest Windows programming environment, WinForms, you're going to have to start over again in two years to support Longhorn and Avalon.

So you've got the Windows API, you've got VB, and now you've got .NET, in several language flavors, and don't get too attached to any of that, because we're making Avalon, you see, which will only run on the newest Microsoft operating system, which nobody will have for a loooong time.

Installing a web application means typing a URL in the address bar. Today I installed Google's new email application by typing Alt+D, gmail, Ctrl+Enter.

Which means, suddenly, Microsoft's API doesn't matter so much. Web applications don't require Windows.

Much as I hate to say it, a huge chunk of developers have long since moved to the web and refuse to move back. Most .NET developers are ASP.NET developers, developing for Microsoft's web server. But it's a server technology, so clients can use any kind of desktop they want. And it runs pretty well under Linux using Mono.
  • Current Music
    U2 - Zoo Station
Illuminati

Songs Andrew Loves #752

Don't believe what you hear
Don't believe what you see
If you just close your eyes
You can feel the enemy
When I first met you girl
You had fire in your soul
What happened your face
Of melting in snow
Now it looks like this

And you can swallow
Or you can spit
You can throw it up
Or choke on it
And you can dream
So dream out loud
You know that your time is coming 'round
So don't let the bastards grind you down

No, nothing makes sense
Nothing seems to fit
I know you'd hit out
If you only knew who to hit
And I'd join the movement
If there was one I could believe in
Yeah I'd break bread and wine
If there was a church I could receive in
'cause I need it now

And I must be an acrobat
To talk like this
And act like that
And you can dream
So dream out loud
And you can find
Your own way out
  • Current Music
    U2 - So Cruel
Illuminati

(no subject)

Oh, I got Firefox 0.9 up and running in the end, by the simple method of finding the data folders of 0.8 and deleting them.  As I have almost no bookmarks this wasn't a problem, and the new version is even smoother and nicer to use than the old one.

(Yes, it's still just a web browser)
  • Current Music
    U2 - Acrobat