Unmistakable Marks

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Developers! Developers! Developers!

Back in April, I was a bit worried about becoming a Microsoft developer, afraid that I’d have to immerse myself in a new culture, and start paying attention to new sources of information.

That fear’s turned out to be only somewhat appropriate — I have been reading more Microsoft news, and am increasingly a member of the Microsoft developer community. For instance, now I’m getting irritated by the constant misrepresentation in anti-Microsoft comments, the same way that I’ve long been irritated by the misrepresentation in anti-Java/Linux/Perl/XML comments. But it turns out there’s not much to be afraid of here in MS-world.

When it comes to software, I’m fundamentally a pragmatist — I want to use the stuff that works best for what I’m doing. Since today’s cutting-edge software is tomorrow’s legacy installed base, using “the good stuff” means being fickle as hell. So I’ve hopped from C++ to Perl to Java to C#; I’ve switched from Windows 95 to Red Hat and back to Windows XP (and if I’d bought a computer a year or two ago, I’d probably have made a stop in MacOS X); I’ve upgraded from Netscape 3 to IE 4-6 to Mozilla Firebird. Switching software is easy to do, and if I can get more utility from making a change, I’m all over it.

And as a developer, it’s pretty clear that Microsoft is focused on giving me utility. For a long time, this wasn’t true — no sane person would want to develop for the antiquated mess that was (D)COM(+) and the Windows API, and ASP/VBScript was a joke for Web development. But hey, it’s 2003 now, and Microsoft has a top-notch language in C#, a phenomenal (but, in v 1.0, limited) desktop API in the .NET Framework, the best XML APIs you’ll find anywhere, and a Web development architecture that’s unparalleled in power and ease-of-development in ASP.NET.

As nice as all that is, though, what’s particularly compelling is Microsoft’s roadmap for the near-term future. In the next version of SQL Server, C# will sit alongside (the somewhat primitive) T-SQL as a first-class language for writing stored procedures; oh, and SQL Server will have great XML support, even supporting the XQuery spec. In the next version of Windows, the .NET Framework will replace the old Win32 API entirely, and be augmented by a declarative XML language for writing user interfaces.

For comparison purposes, what does Linux offer developers? Well, if you’re writing for GNOME, the most advanced desktop environment out there, you’ve got... C and CORBA. Er. How about MacOS X? Objective C and the NeXT API from the mid-80s. Um.

For a long time, Microsoft’s ascendance was something geeks dreaded — programming in Unix was clean and elegant, and writing apps for Windows was anything but. That’s not true any more, though; I just wonder how long it’s going to take for Unix partisans to realize it.

Comments | September 30, 2003

Elongating Proboscides, the Importance Thereof

John Scalzi writes a spot-on essay about why Bush's lying matters:

The Bush administration is really the first presidential administration to wholeheartedly embrace the talk radio concept that truth should not get in the way of the larger picture of absolute victory, however that victory may be defined. Other presidential administrations have lied, of course. They all lie. And some lie really, really big -- look at Nixon. But at the very least Nixon and his cronies lied because the alternative was jail time. Members of the Bush administration appear to lie because it doesn't occur to them that they might simply tell the truth. Or to put it another way, they don't appear to affirmatively decide to lie; rather they appear to have to affirmatively decide not to lie.

The difference between those two states is both rhetorically and cognitively massive -- so massive that one reflexively shies away from considering that one's leaders actually process information in this way. We assume rhetorical good will in our leaders, even the ones we don't like. We accept that they are going to spin the truth -- that is, find a version of facts which best support their claims and goals -- but fundamentally we assume they are starting from a ground state of honesty.

Go read the rest of it.

Comments | September 24, 2003

Reese's Short Links

Lacking a Particles section, I don't have anywhere to drop interesting links about which I have little to say. Lacking a certain amount of motivation, I don't have the desire to write up long, quasi-insightful posts. Truly, these are two great tastes that go great together, so help yourself to a few delicious linklets.

Comments | September 23, 2003

Our Alien Friends to the North

Via Neil Gaiman, an account of unsettling accusations in Canada:

The increasingly bitter tone of the Ontario campaign took a surreal turn Friday when a press release from the Tory election machine labelled Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty a pet-eating alien. ..

"Dalton McGuinty," the statement said. "He's an evil reptilian kitten-eater from another planet."

Conservative Leader Ernie Eves blamed the release on a staffer who apparently "had too much coffee this morning ... too much time."

But he refused to retract the statement.

Not only does Eves refuse to retract the statement, but McGuinty refuses to openly deny it:

Mr. McGuinty smiled broadly when asked to confirm or deny that he eats small pets and comes from outer space.

"I love kittens, and I like puppies too," he said.

Particularly with a side of hashbrowns, eh, Mr. McGuinty?

Comments | September 16, 2003

Rush to Sunday

There's no better feeling in the television-watching universe than the return of the NFL every fall. The NFL fills the place in people's lives that used to be filled by church-going -- not the spiritual part (though not necessarily not the spiritual part), but the having something to do on Sunday part.

Starting with NFL Countdown on ESPN, moving through the early and late games, then seguing straight into NFL Primetime and the Sunday Night Football game, it's possible to watch football-related television for well over twelve continuous hours. I can't imagine a better way to spend a Sunday.

But this year, there's a metaphorical fly in the proverbial ointment. Failing to learn from the Dennis Miller Disaster, NFL Countdown has decided that it needs to appeal to the non-football demographic by bringing in a mainstream entertainer to draw the non-football-watching masses. They've decided to go with Rush Limbaugh. This is a bad idea on many levels.

Conceptual: What's the purpose of having a "mainstream" guy on a show like NFL Countdown? As misguided as MNF's Dennis Miller experiment was, at least it had a comprehensible purpose: MNF is a prime-time show on a major network, and wants a huge mainstream audience. In contrast, NFL Countdown is a Sunday morning show on a cable sports channel, and -- oh yeah -- consists of two hours devoted solely to football minutiae. Why would anyone expect a non-football fan to even consider watching this show?

Personal: So you want to jazz up your show, and attract a more mainstream audience, in defiance of all common sense. Okay, sure, whatever. So you pick... a comedian (a la Miller)? An attractive woman who knows nothing of football (Fox's approach with its "weather girl")? No, you pick a conservative political commentator. Sure, makes perfect sense. I expect William Safire and Bill Kristol were on the shortlist.

Implementation: Having chosen an inexplicable person in aim of an inexplicable goal, the ESPN people then put him on the show in a completely batshit crazy way. See, Rush isn't one of the regular anchors on the show -- he sits off to the side in a special desk, and has three "challenges" that he can issue during the show, where he can interrupt whoever's talking and tell them that they're wrong. This would be interesting, except that's what the anchors do all the time. Interrupting people to tell them they're wrong is the essence of the NFL pregame show, and to formalize it like this makes Rush seem like he's raising his hand to talk in a casual conversation. It's bizarre and totally throws off the pace of the show. If you're going to do a stupid thing like putting Rush on your NFL pregame show, at least have the decency to do it in a full-assed manner, and give him a spot at the main desk.

But I am optimistic: If NFL coverage is full of stupid innovation, it's also full of quickly-aborted stupid innovation. Like Arizona fans, I'm already looking forward to next season.

Comments | September 15, 2003

I'm Back!

Why, yes, it has been an awfully long time since I've updated this thing. That probably has something to do with having been gone on a nine-day driving trip through New England.

Quick tips for the prospective New England traveller: Vermont's really beautiful, and has superb restaurants; New Hampshire's got some great mountains; Maine's a shithole past the (admittedly pretty) coast; Boston's a perfect tourist city, all compact and full of stuff to see; Pennsylvania is pretty, but huge; rural New York has nice scenery, but incredibly depressing abject poverty; and Connecticut and Rhode Island are inoffensive. You can now skip the guidebooks, as you know all you need to know.

Comments | September 9, 2003

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