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They make us look bad

Week of October 21, 2002
They've let such deplorable products out the door.

Microsoft programmers are so bad they make the rest of us look bad too. And good programmers should take offense at that.

Over the years, I've heard about how Windows boxes can totally freeze, and people lose all their work, etc, but I have fortunately never been a victim. I have seen how Windows boxes can freeze, but never while they're active.

Last night I was on a Windows box - yes it serves me right - and typing away, catching up on correspondence and writing a long letter to friends in Iberia, when all of a sudden everything froze. Right in mid-sentence. The cursor stayed on screen even. The computer was dead, totally dead, and nothing could be done to revive it, and believe me, if there had been any trick, I of all people would have known.

My editor window onscreen was huge, and so I took out my trusty PowerBook and fired it up, opened TextEdit, and copied from the one dead Windows window into the very much alive Apple one. This took perhaps an hour - there was a lot of text in that letter, and most of it onscreen. This was my first real trauma with Microsoft products in a long time.

It brought back a few memories too. Like the initial Windows 95 - how one day it just corrupted its core files and the whole thing had to be reinstalled. Everybody's been down that road, most people more often than we have, because we are very careful, and because we are supposed to know our stuff and most often do.

But the core idea here is that there is only so much you can do, and far from everything is the user's fault. A lot of this stuff is pure and simple Microsoft's fault: they've let such deplorable products out the door.

And suddenly it hits me: people everywhere really think not only that operating systems have always been this shitty, but that programmers are this bad too. And they're not.

There is no doubt anymore that Microsoft houses the absolute worst programmers in the world. That has been debated so much and the questions have been long since resolved. Microsoft is unique in having such a concentration of incredibly bad programmers. It's the corporate mentality (or lack of it), it's the total lack of expertise, it's the fanaticism which says at the same time that the products don't have to be good, it's the lack of heavy duty in-house experience, it's the prevalence of so many unguided weirdos running around talking more about how to stick it to the competition than how to write good code - it's a bit of all those perhaps, and a lot more, but it's been debated enough already, and the world has long since come to a general agreement that not only are Microsoft products the shittiest in the world, but that their programmers are too.

And especially Linux people have been quick to point out that the vast majority of home users who buy their equipment at Clueless R US really have no clue: that they just assume (and who can blame them) that operating systems for anything - mainframes, you name it - have always been this shitty. Things hang, things freeze, you gotta reboot every so often, you gotta take yer puter back to the store to have it 'reformatted' (it will run a lot faster then, they say, as if they were just given a colonic), stuff like that. They really believe it. IBM's MVS? Shit. DEC's VMS? Shit. Anything else? How about Cray computers? Ever heard of them? Maybe not, but they're shit too. They have to be. All computers are shit. Look at mine.

So we know that: most people just assume, thanks to ever-lovin' Microsoft, that all software anywhere, is as shitty as what they are looking at on their Windows boxes - Microsoft software. What we generally don't recognise - what we have up to now overlooked - is that people must feel the same way about us professionals, if they give us any thought at all. Software engineer? Shit. They all are. Hey, could the Microsoft people be any good with the shiteware they foist on us? Of course not. Software engineers are a pestilence. They're shit.

System architects? Do they have anything to do with computers? If they do, they're shit too. Programmers? Just programmers and nothing else? They're the worst of the lot. Just look at this fucking Windows box I have here - what a mess of a mess. Tell me programmers are not shit and you'll get a punch in the mouth.

Yep: people probably think that, the vast majority of them, if they give us any thought at all. And it is not fair. We are not bad like Microsoft's programmers are. Most of us write good software, and curse and swear like the rest of them at the deplorable (or missing) quality in Redmond. It makes us angry too.

But I will bet that most good programmers have never understood how Microsoft is also ruining the profession - and its reputation.

There are a LOT of good people out there who should be incensed at this. Who might even lose work because of it. They really ought to band together.

Microsoft has to be stopped, and not because they abuse their monopolistic position, and not because little Billy Boy needs a good spanking, or because Steve Ballmer wants to get to Hollywood to get into the next Planet of the Apes sequel, or because Microsoft literally ruined Mosaic Communications Corporation, or because Microsoft keeps - to this day - trying to stick it to Sun Microsystems, or because Microsoft screwed with Ray Noorda (and Noorda won in court), or because of anything like that.

Microsoft has to be stopped because they make us look bad too.


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