27 October 2005

How to look for customers

James Duncan Davidson has a great post about his experience shooting pictures of folk as they present and interact with customers in a public way. I think it's great advice for any one who works with the customer directly, not just CEOs or big wigs giving keynote presentations. Check it out.

The Emperor Has No Perf/Watts!

Arstechnica has a great article about why the MacTel switch and why there's more to it than Mr. Jobs' "perf/watt performance road map." Here's my favorite bit:

But they didn't jump ship for performance or performance/watt reasons. They jumped ship because they no longer care about making leading-edge computer hardware. They also don't care about PC market share, or any of that other G3-era Mac Faithful malarkey. From now on, merely "good enough" is good enough for the Mac line, and the real innovation will come in the form of post-PC gadgets and entertainment-oriented, techno-cool doohickeys.
It's anyone's guess what Apple will do, but it's certain their options are pretty open. If the PowerPC becomes important, the could use it and switch back. If the Intel really does gain, they've made the right bet. By moving to Intel, the performance comparisons become much more meaningful and not so full of caveats. If their deal with Intel gives them cheap access to chipsets they need for their "next big thing", it sure is nice that the open ended question: "Will Apple license their OS to other hardware vendors?" will continue to taunt Microsoft and pundits alike, even if they never pull the trigger. What's more clear now, is that what we heard Jobs preach, was much more like a favorite short story of old.

14 October 2005

It's a great time to be a Mac developer!

I've been saying this since 2000 and it's even more true today. Recently the Journal Times wrote an amazingly positive piece about MacBU entitled, Microsoft Corp. is plugged into Macs In that article there is this gem:

The autonomy of this relatively small division allows Microsoft programmers to cut loose and design the best software they can imagine without having to conform to the restraints of the mammoth parent company.
I absolutely LOVE being in the MacBU here at Microsoft. It's at the confluence of all this Microsoft Technology and all this Apple simplicity. It's really an exciting combination which allows for a pretty good perspective. I've often wondered why we are next door to Redmond MSR, but I think it's just because all the "cool kids" hang out together. ;)

05 October 2005

Focused Study vs. Cursory Survey

I just read a great quote as I begin another of Henry Petroski's books, this one named The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance. The quote is from the Preface of the books and is as follows:

I believe that a person who is attracted to bridges, for example, can learn more about the method of all engineering-–including such seemingly diverse branches as chemical, electrical, mechanical, and nuclear engineering-–from a focused study of bridges alone than from a diffuse and cursory survey of all the past and latest wonders of the made world. Yet a focused study need not be overly technical. It need only place the artifact in a proper social, cultural, political, and technological context in order to allow the essence of engineering to be distilled by the receptive mind.
This has been true in my life. As I've focused my curiosity deep in a subject I love, I have been forced to learn more about almost every other ancillary subject. For this very reason, I'm excited about how my younger brothers are working to build an airplane in my parent's backyard. I'll paraphrase what I remember Burt Rutan saying in one of his presentations at Oshkosh when talking about how he hires people, "We will not ask you about your college grades, but we will ask, 'What did you do?' and hope to see that fire in your eyes." The focused study of anything over time in my experience has a deeping and broadening effect that like a deep tap root, makes for strength, but also well rounded influence and understanding. When someone says you need a "well rounded" education, don't think cursory survey of everything, think deep, focused study. With the "deep" will come the "breadth" and it will make a whole lot more sense in context.

04 October 2005

Tuned for the Task

I was just reading a post by Steven Sinofsky and he mentions the new UI in Office "12" with this comment

One of the things that has made us very comfortable thinking about change has been the role of new hires and interns in our group. They have seen the work we are doing and take to it right away. In fact they don’t see it as nearly the huge change that folks who have grown up with the products see it. The generation of people that move between TiVo, iPods, and IM have not been indoctrinated by “consistency is all that matters” or the goal of having “one single user experience”. Rather they experience life, and productivity, through a series of programmed experiences each tuned to the task at hand remarkably well. Our job in Office is to build those tuned experiences while integrating the work products seamlessly across the entire range of programs in Office.
In physical life, where phsyical things are created and made, this happens quiet a bit. Design, good design has a lot to do with understanding the process and needs of the user as well as the specific task at hand. I'll give an example. My small yard has grass and in that grass a small plant likes to grow called by us Duvall folk Dandelion. They spread around the yard like crazy and really distroy the look of the lawn. You can go and weed them out, but with their tap root, it's really hard to get them fully gone, and they just come up again, this time closer to the ground. Well, the other day, my neighbor introduced me to a tool that is specifically designed for this weed removal task and as a proud owner, I can say it's perfect for the job. Here's what it looks like and some pictures on how it works: The basic idea is that the suspended nails pierce the broad leaft vegitation and surround the tap root while simulaniously squeezing it, so when you pull up, the whole root comes up. It's perfect. It's called the Weed Hound and the whole Hound Dog web site is full of specially purposed tools. The point is someone actually sat down and worked out how to solve this very specific problem, and by doing so, produced a tool that is aguably not general purpose, but also perfectly suited for maximum effeciency given the specific purpose for which it was intended. The same can be said for Office. When you look at what people do with Office there are certain patterns, problems that show up again and again. It's taking the time to specifically solve those problems in a tuned way that makes the UI changes to Office "12" so exciting.

03 October 2005

A Good Vacation

I just read an interesting post by Chris Pratley on the History of the Project Manager position at Microsoft. He ended it with this bit that resonated with me:

I'm not sure where this saying came from originally, but one way to describe PMs is that they not only "pick up and run with the ball, they go find the ball". That really defines the difference between "knowing what to do and doing it", and "not knowing what to do, but using your own wits to decide what to do, then doing it". That means as a PM you are constantly strategizing and rethinking what is going on to find out if there is something you are missing, or the team is missing. You're also constantly deciding what is important to do, and whether action needs to be taken. The number of such decisions is staggering. I might make 50 a day, sometimes more than 100 or even 200. Most of the time there is not nearly enough hard data to say for certain what to do, and in any case almost all these decisions could never have hard data anyway - you need to apply concentration and clear thinking. Some years ago I realized that as a PM, my definition of vacation was not just going somewhere to have fun (work is quite fun most of the time). Vacation means getting to an environment where no decisions have to be made. I used to drive my friends nuts, since I would go visit them, and they'd say "what do you want to do?", or "where do you want to go?", and I would simply say "you decide".
Some times it's hard to for everyone to realize that a vacation can be simply not doing what you have to do normally. For my wife, it's often time away from the house and kids. For me it's time to think and be home. What ever it may be, it sure is important to find time to relax and really re-create.

01 October 2005

MacBU: The Movie Trailer

Well, kind of... Last MacWorld I got to help with building what the Marketing team calls a "sizzle reel." If you've ever been to MacWorld and seen the Microsoft booth there, you know that there's a projection screen in the "theater" area where we demo Office. Well when we break between demos we show stuff on the huge screen for folks just walking by. So that's what you have here. I asked for a copy after we finished back in January, but just re-discovered it on my hard drive and thought I'd share it. Why it's cool:

  • It shows how long the Mac products have been around and how important they were to young Microsoft.
  • It shows that we are still very much committed to the Mac. It seems like that comes up every 6 months in the news media.
  • It shows super old 1.0 versions of Word and Excel that only ran on the Mac.
  • You get to see the Mac Lab where we run all our automated testing. You see me pretending to check out the lab machines. (If I really had to walk around the Mac Lab every day and "monitor" our millions of automated tests, I'd go insane, but they thought it looked good, like I was working or something...)
  • You get to see prototype boxes for Office 2004 and VPC that we ended up not using for the final products.
  • People in the video are NOT models, they actual members of the MacBU, so that's kind of cool too.
  • Shows the "real" reason people buy VPC: Solitaire. ;-) One thing I learned through all this is the amazing quantity of footage that goes into just a short clip like this. We have a big Mac Lab. I think outside of Apple, it's the biggest Mac test lab the world. The only company that may come close, is Adobe, but we think we've got them beat too. Hundreds and hundreds of Macs. Even so, I wasn't expecting to spend 1 full hour taking shots at different angles and speeds. I think it turned out okay in the end. I hope you enjoy it.

  • War and Peace

    I'll never forget reading this post by Robert Scoble:

    Two guys, heading back to Iraq Yesterday, when I was boarding the plane in JFK airport I saw two guys, dressed in US Army uniforms, huging their wives, crying. One had a young daughter hanging off his leg while her parents clung to each other with the kind of hug you give someone you know you might never see again. They said their goodbyes and entered the plane behind me. "Where you off to?" "Back to Iraq." I don't care what your politics are. I don't care what your view of the war is, or your position on what we're doing over there. There are plenty of places and times to argue those things. It's just that scene has just been burning in my mind all day. I'll never forget the sacrifice that these guys are making on my behalf. Voluntarily.
    I enjoy reading the pithy news bite as much as the next person, but some topics, and often very important ones can not be summed up in one small statement. Even E=mc^2, while an accurate summary, does not justice to the subtlety and implications involved. The challenges of NASA's Space Shuttle program are not something you can fully describe in a headline. Often I see references to Iraq or the War on Terror without giving the issue the full discussion needed. I just recently read this speech written by the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley. I think it accurately and fully expresses my opinion, so much so, that I'm going to quote it in it's entirety. It's true, that as a member of the LDS church, I view these words as prophetic, but independant of your religous or political views, take a few minutes to read this speech and see if you don't agree also. I think there is a tenor in this treatment of the topic, that to me, speaks of wisdom that only comes after long experience with life, real life.
    War and Peace President Gordon B. Hinckley My brethren and sisters, last Sunday as I sat in my study thinking of what I might say on this occasion, I received a phone call telling me that Staff Sergeant James W. Cawley of the U.S. Marines had been killed somewhere in Iraq. He was 41 years of age, leaving behind a wife and two small children. Twenty years ago Elder Cawley was a missionary of the Church in Japan. Like so many others, he had grown up in the Church, had played as a schoolboy, had passed the sacrament as a deacon, and had been found worthy to serve a mission, to teach the gospel of peace to the people of Japan. He returned home, served in the Marines, married, became a policeman, and was then recalled to active military duty, to which he responded without hesitation. His life, his mission, his military service, his death seem to represent the contradictions of the peace of the gospel and the tides of war. And so I venture to say something about the war and the gospel we teach. I spoke of this somewhat in our October conference of 2001. When I came to this pulpit at that time, the war against terrorism had just begun. The present war is really an outgrowth and continuation of that conflict. Hopefully it is now drawing to a conclusion. As I discuss the matter, I seek the direction of the Holy Spirit. I have prayed and pondered much concerning this. I recognize it is a very sensitive subject for an international congregation, including those not of our religious faith. The nations of the earth have been divided over the present situation. Feelings have run strong. There have been demonstrations for and against. We are now a world Church with members in most of the nations which have argued this matter. Our people have had feelings. They have had concerns. War, of course, is not new. The weapons change. The ability to kill and destroy is constantly refined. But there has been conflict throughout the ages over essentially the same issues. The book of Revelation speaks briefly of what must have been a terrible conflict for the minds and loyalties of God’s children. The account is worth repeating: “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, “And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:7–9). Isaiah speaks further concerning that great conflict (see Isaiah 14:12–20). Modern revelation gives additional light (see D&C 76:25–29), as does the book of Moses (see Moses 4:1–4), which tells of Satan’s plan to destroy the agency of man. We sometimes are prone to glorify the great empires of the past, such as the Ottoman Empire, the Roman and Byzantine Empires, and in more recent times, the vast British Empire. But there is a darker side to every one of them. There is a grim and tragic overlay of brutal conquest, of subjugation, of repression, and an astronomical cost in life and treasure. The great English essayist Thomas Carlyle once ironically shared the observation, “God must needs laugh outright, could such a thing be, to see his wondrous mannikins here below” (quoted in Sartor Resartus [1836], 182). I think our Father in Heaven must have wept as He has looked down upon His children through the centuries as they have squandered their divine birthright in ruthlessly destroying one another. In the course of history tyrants have arisen from time to time who have oppressed their own people and threatened the world. Such is adjudged to be the case presently, and consequently great and terrifying forces with sophisticated and fearsome armaments have been engaged in battle. Many of our own Church members have been involved in this conflict. We have seen on television and in the press tearful children clinging to their fathers in uniform, going to the battlefront. In a touching letter I received just this week, a mother wrote of her Marine son who is serving for the second time in a Middle Eastern war. She says that at the time of his first deployment, “he came home on leave and asked me to go for a walk. . . . He had his arm around me and he told me about going to war. He . . . said, ‘Mom, I have to go so you and the family can be free, free to worship as you please. . . . And if it costs me my life . . . then giving my life is worth it.’ ” He is now there again and has written to his family recently, saying, “I am proud to be here serving my nation and our way of life. . . . I feel a lot safer knowing our Heavenly Father is with me.” There are other mothers, innocent civilians, who cling to their children with fear and look heavenward with desperate pleadings as the earth shakes beneath their feet and deadly rockets scream through the dark sky. There have been casualties in this terrible conflict, and there likely will be more. Public protests will likely continue. Leaders of other nations have, in no uncertain terms, condemned the coalition strategy. The question arises, “Where does the Church stand in all of this?” First, let it be understood that we have no quarrel with the Muslim people or with those of any other faith. We recognize and teach that all the people of the earth are of the family of God. And as He is our Father, so are we brothers and sisters with family obligations one to another. But as citizens we are all under the direction of our respective national leaders. They have access to greater political and military intelligence than do the people generally. Those in the armed services are under obligation to their respective governments to execute the will of the sovereign. When they joined the military service, they entered into a contract by which they are presently bound and to which they have dutifully responded. One of our Articles of Faith, which represent an expression of our doctrine, states, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (Articles of Faith 1:12). But modern revelation states that we are to “renounce war and proclaim peace” (D&C 98:16). In a democracy we can renounce war and proclaim peace. There is opportunity for dissent. Many have been speaking out and doing so emphatically. That is their privilege. That is their right, so long as they do so legally. However, we all must also be mindful of another overriding responsibility, which I may add, governs my personal feelings and dictates my personal loyalties in the present situation. When war raged between the Nephites and the Lamanites, the record states that “the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for . . . power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church. “And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God” (Alma 43:45–46). The Lord counseled them, “Defend your families even unto bloodshed” (Alma 43:47). And Moroni “rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole. “And he fastened on his headplate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren” (Alma 46:12–13). It is clear from these and other writings that there are times and circumstances when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression. When all is said and done, we of this Church are people of peace. We are followers of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the Prince of Peace. But even He said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). This places us in the position of those who long for peace, who teach peace, who work for peace, but who also are citizens of nations and are subject to the laws of our governments. Furthermore, we are a freedom-loving people, committed to the defense of liberty wherever it is in jeopardy. I believe that God will not hold men and women in uniform responsible as agents of their government in carrying forward that which they are legally obligated to do. It may even be that He will hold us responsible if we try to impede or hedge up the way of those who are involved in a contest with forces of evil and repression. Now, there is much that we can and must do in these perilous times. We can give our opinions on the merits of the situation as we see it, but never let us become a party to words or works of evil concerning our brothers and sisters in various nations on one side or the other. Political differences never justify hatred or ill will. I hope that the Lord’s people may be at peace one with another during times of trouble, regardless of what loyalties they may have to different governments or parties. Let us pray for those who are called upon to bear arms by their respective governments and plead for the protection of heaven upon them that they may return to their loved ones in safety. To our brothers and sisters in harm’s way, we say that we pray for you. We pray that the Lord will watch over you and preserve you from injury and that you may return home and pick up your lives again. We know that you are not in that land of blowing sand and brutal heat because you enjoy the games of war. The strength of your commitment is measured by your willingness to give your very lives for that in which you believe. We know that some have died, and others may yet die in this hot and deadly contest. We can do all in our power to comfort and bless those who lose loved ones. May those who mourn be comforted with that comfort which comes alone from Christ the Redeemer. It was He who said to His beloved disciples: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, . . . that where I am, there ye may be also. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:1–3, 27). We call upon the Lord, whose strength is mighty and whose powers are infinite, to bring an end to the conflict, an end that will result in a better life for all concerned. The Lord has declared, “For I, the Lord, rule in the heavens above, and among the armies of the earth” (D&C 60:4). We can hope and pray for that glorious day foretold by the prophet Isaiah when men “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4). Even in an evil world we can so live our lives as to merit the protecting care of our Father in Heaven. We can be as the righteous living among the evils of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham pleaded that these cities might be spared for the sake of the righteous. (See Genesis 18:20–32.) And, above all, we can cultivate in our own hearts, and proclaim to the world, the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Through His atoning sacrifice we are certain life will continue beyond the veil of death. We can teach that gospel which will lead to the exaltation of the obedient. Even when the armaments of war ring out in deathly serenade and darkness and hatred reign in the hearts of some, there stands immovable, reassuring, comforting, and with great outreaching love the quiet figure of the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world. We can proclaim with Paul: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39). This life is but a chapter in the eternal plan of our Father. It is full of conflict and seeming incongruities. Some die young. Some live to old age. We cannot explain it. But we accept it with the certain knowledge that through the atoning sacrifice of our Lord we shall all go on living, and this with the comforting assurance of His immeasurable love. He has said, “Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me” (D&C 19:23). And there, my brothers and sisters, we rest our faith. Regardless of the circumstances, we have the comfort and peace of Christ our Savior, our Redeemer, the living Son of the living God. I so testify in His holy name, even the name of Jesus Christ, amen.