#MSBuild a Non-Starter

I’m back on Twitter. Dang it. But it’s cracking me up that Microsoft’s (virtual) developer conference #MSBuild is getting so little attention on the platform.

Compare and contrast this with Apple’s WWDC. There’s more activity with the #WWDC tag right now, and that isn’t for another couple of weeks.

I made a post about the lack of excitement around Microsoft’s conference.

Twitter bubbled that up from my no-name, 2-day-old account to some other rando who responded (nicely). I replied that this basically proved my point, and then THAT response got retweeted by some .NET-oriented bot.

Look, I don’t really like Microsoft, because of their long history in abusing their monopoly position, but their platform has enabled about half of my career, so I still want them to announce cool new stuff, but there’s really nothing going on. They’ve gone to the mattresses to get Visual Studio Code, Windows Services for Linux, and their rewritten terminal accepted by the developers of the world over the past few years. And, sure, there are plenty of fanboys of this development environment, but I just don’t get it.

VSCode is a heavy editor/light IDE, and I don’t want that product. Sublime Text is a blazingly-fast, lightweight text editor, with all the features I need for editing Rails applications. WSL2 is just a Linux virtual machine with hard-coded defaults. I’d rather install VMware or VirtualBox, and take total control of the setup. I get the feeling that the primary users of Microsoft’s latest toys are Javascript developers who are constrained to use Windows because of corporate policies, and, sure, that’s a non-insignificant number of developers in this world.

So far, this seems to be the highlight of MSBuild 2021: Quake mode for Windows Terminal. You know, that gimmicky little feature that popped up in Guake on Linux… <checks Google> 14 years ago? Look, I know it’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but “HUGE EARTH-SHAKING?” LOL. No.

Unfortunately, while I was able to install Windows Terminal on my work laptop, the preview build doesn’t install. I don’t know if that’s because of corporate policy or the fact that I’ve got the wrong build of Windows. The company, surprisingly, just updated the build corporate-wide, but I wonder if this requires a preview build. On the other hand, I don’t care enough to sort this out.

About the only thing I want to see from Microsoft is a cross-platform UI widget set that you could use from .NET Core to write native apps across Windows, Linux, and Mac. But people have been clamoring for that for 20 years, and there’s not even a hint that this will ever happen, for a lot of very understandable technical reasons. However, I suppose it’s primarily a function of the age-old scavenging problem. Everyone wants this, but this would open the door for a lot of companies to choose not-Windows for desktops, and Microsoft can’t give up that revenue.

Peter Thiel: Competition Is for Losers – WSJ

I am woefully late in coming to this understanding that monopoly is the goal of all venture capital. Peter Thiel, of Paypal, Palantir, Facebook “fame,” literally said this was the goal, in front of God and everyone, in a WSJ op-ed, seven years ago. Like the PG article from the other day, Thiel tells some whoppers to try to make everyone feel better about monopolies.

Even the government knows this: That is why one of its departments works hard to create monopolies (by granting patents to new inventions) even though another part hunts them down (by prosecuting antitrust cases). Source: Peter Thiel: Competition Is for Losers – WSJ

If this isn’t the most-lopsided statement I’ve ever seen, I don’t know what would beat it. First of all, the patent office does not “work hard.” An awful lot of patents are given out like candy for trivial things. Further, software patents — which I’m sure Thiel loves — have been one of the most business-stifling things to ever happen in modern history.

Second of all, the government has only ever stopped the very biggest deals. It would seem that the current “gentleman’s agreement” is that anything under about $30B isn’t worth talking about. So Microsoft buys LinkedIn and Skype and GitHub, when it doesn’t really make much sense for them to own any of them. All the FAANG companies run around, picking up interesting toys in the flea-market bins marked “less than $1B,” and the government doesn’t even bat an eye.

And the government certainly hasn’t broken up any monopolies since AT&T. Given that the “baby Bells” have all since re-merged into the duopoly of Verizon and AT&T — which, mysteriously, line up almost perfectly in their cell phone contract terms — I’m not sure that even this was worth the hassle for the customer. What I am sure of, is that lots and lots of executives pocketed lots and lots of money for all that M&A activity.

If your industry is in a competitive equilibrium, the death of your business won’t matter to the world; some other undifferentiated competitor will always be ready to take your place.

This reveals Thiel’s cognitive bias. These “undifferentiated competitors” — in his terminology — are small businesses that would make their owners a comfortable living, and provide good job opportunities in their local market. Yes, if it folds, someone else may come along and take your place. I feel that’s a humane cycle of life. Thiel thinks this is a tragic notion, when he can be the guy who provides the capital to corner a market, and then extract all the profits that would have gone to those smaller businesses.

Monopoly is therefore not a pathology or an exception. Monopoly is the condition of every successful business.

Bullcrap. Utter VC narrative-spinning bullcrap. There are millions of small businesses being run out of business or bought up to further fuel multi-national corporate behemoths, who were too big decades ago, in this twisted game to become the largest companies in the world.

History is going to judge this period in human development as the time where we either decide how big is “big enough,” or whether we become a planet of corporations instead of governments. We’re running out of time to make the call, and if we don’t, we will eventually get the latter.

You can say that it’s unethical to tell Peter Thiel, “No, you can’t have any more,” but if we find the collective will to start doing that to the billionaires of the world, in another generation, it will matter more which company you work for, than what nation you are a citizen of. It already does in China, where working for Apple — as detestable as the working conditions are to Americans — it’s still one of the best jobs in the country. It already does in Alabama, where working for Amazon was seen to be so good — despite all the press to the contrary — that they overwhelmingly rejected the call to unionize. Those people would work for Apple or Amazon no matter what country they had to do it from.

(Makes you wonder who was running all the pro-union stuff in social media, huh?)

Microsoft Released a Bizarre New Surface Pro Ad and It’s Hoping You Won’t Notice It’s Pure Gaslighting | Inc.com

Microsoft made a point of mentioning that price point–since the Surface Pro is cheaper–but it’s worth mentioning that it means the MacBook Pro in question is sporting Apple’s new M1 processor. It raises an interesting question: How do you compare two things that are not at all like each other? And, maybe more importantly, why would you?

Source: Microsoft Released a Bizarre New Surface Pro Ad and It’s Hoping You Won’t Notice It’s Pure Gaslighting | Inc.com

Whatever sales figures Microsoft might release about the Surface, they are continuing to struggle to sell these units. How do I know this? Because of jumbled and confusing ads like the one referenced in the article.

The kid in the video complains about not having a stylus or a touchscreen, but you can get both of those things in an iPad. The only reason alluded to in the ad about why you wouldn’t just want buy a tablet in this scenario is “gaming.” LOL WUT? You can’t pay me to believe that people are buying a Surface to play games that you couldn’t play on a MacBook.

Microsoft continues to try to sell people on the idea that the Surface somehow bridges a theoretical gap between a laptop and a tablet, but if that market segment exists, it’s very small. And, when your competition has so completely dominated the tablet end of that spectrum, any effort to wedge a hybrid device into that market gap is going to be difficult at best.

The issues with using a touchscreen while it’s not-horizontal have been beaten to death, and I won’t rehash them here. I know 3 people who have Surfaces, and they seem to like them. But I watch them fumble around with their keyboards as they switch between tasks, and wonder why they put up with it. Microsoft is betting they can make money selling to people who don’t mind living in the usability gap. Maybe they can, but they’ve obviously not created a segment-defining product the way the iPhone and iPad have.

My advice to Microsoft’s advertising department would be to simply sell the devices on their merits. The people who are interested want to live in that “convertibility” space. Market that. Play to that strength. I don’t see it, but there are people who do. Sell to both of them.

‘Wormable’ Flaw Leads July Microsoft Patches

Microsoft today released updates to plug a whopping 123 security holes in Windows and related software, including fixes for a critical, “wormable” flaw in Windows Server versions that Microsoft says is likely to be exploited soon. While this particular weakness mainly affects enterprises, July’s care package from Redmond has a little something for everyone. So…

Source: ‘Wormable’ Flaw Leads July Microsoft Patches

Every time I read a lede like this, I’m struck with the stark difference between Windows and macOS in terms of security posture. Apple releases patches for their operating system once every couple of months, and they contain a dozen or so patches. Microsoft releases hundreds of fixes every month. Sometimes multiple times a month. HUNDREDS! Every month!

Apples fixes are primarily about local privilege escalation. Microsoft? It seems like every patch note is for a “random interweb haxxor can pwn you”-type of problem. I’m sure I’m being overly generous with Apple, and completely unfair to Microsoft, but the difference in the general nature of the two kinds of problems is also starkly different.

The Microsoft fanboys will say that it’s because Windows is still the majority of the desktop market, but Microsoft has lost a lot of ground lately. macOS is around 15% of the market, making it a perfectly viable hacking target. So that can’t be the reason. I say it comes back to Windows having a DOS heritage, and macOS having a BSD heritage. The foundational assumptions these two systems were built on could not possibly be more different, and the ramifications of those differences are still present 30 years later. One is holding up very well. The other… isn’t.

I bring all of this up because the prevailing wisdom in Fortune 500 companies is that we 1) must run Windows, and 2) load it up with all sorts of first- and third-party software to A) “secure” the system, B) guarantee the integrity of the build, and C) lock it down as tightly as the internal staff can understand and manage. All of this approach is a holdover legacy from the 90’s, where we didn’t have much choice. What were we going to do? Run Linux? As much of a Linux zealot as I was — and continue to be — even I know that’s not workable. Now, it’s become a house of cards, with alternating layers of vulnerability mitigation and policy enforcement.

But macOS has matured. Almost all commercial software runs on it now. (The only things I know of that don’t are high-end CAD/FEA systems, but even AutoCAD does now.) And Apple has grown into a behemoth of a company, in terms of support capability. A truly staggering amount of money is being wasted in the Windows-ecosystem-based approach. It’s time for corporate America to stop — really stop — and think about the situation with a fresh set of assumptions. Do we really need to continue as we have for the past 25 years?

And maybe — just maybe — if we didn’t have to load up the corporate desktop image with layer after layer of software, trying to stem the flow of Windows’ suckage, my work laptop wouldn’t run its fans at full blast all the freaking time…

GitHub goes off the Rails as Microsoft closes in

And this year, Microsoft App Center and Google Container Builder showed up as Marketplace apps, signalling(sic) that GitHub isn’t just a storefront for startups but a cog in the code deployment machines of major tech firms.

Source: GitHub goes off the Rails as Microsoft closes in

Mark my words, this deal is going to wind up biting the developer “community” in the rear end.

I wish they hadn’t sold to Microsoft. It’s too much critical-path infrastructure for one company to manage. They now own the OS, the directory, the cloud, the languages, the dev tools, the database, the code repo, and the deployment tools. I mean, that looks good on paper, but we all know what happens when one company owns the entire vertical space.

It’s a perfect example of monopolies taking over the entire economy, and I think government should get serious about reigning-in this sort of thing. In my opinion, there should be limits on how large companies are allowed to be, based on various combinations of market cap, number of employees, and number of locations, and probably some other things that I can’t think of off the top of my head.