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Lack of Communication and Direction from Microsoft RRS feed

  • Question

  • I began computer programming in 1972 on a Univac 1108 mainframe.  I maintained 30,000 lines of local code on seven mainframes for a Pentagon agency as a contract employee.  The software development department at Sperry Rand was very careful to ship stable software.  They would not ship software without accompanying descriptions of what the software would do for the paying customers and how paying customers could arrange for it to do it.  Compared to Windows, the number of "features" in the mainframe operating paled in comparison.  But you could figure out all the ins and outs of what you were working with.  Gates & Co. accidentally invented the go to operating system for workstations and servers when IBM top executives considered PCs to be unprofitable toys.  Windows is mainly used by administrative staff and principals in business to produce spreadsheets, documents, send/receive email, and make PowerPoint presentations.  Limited to that universe Windows is presentable.  The lack of clear policy as set by Microsoft is no hindrance to using Windows.  People poke, hope, and "discover" the means to accomplish their tasks.  Were someone like me to become responsible for a PC that is an audio streamer using open source, 3rd party software, all bets are off.  Microsoft does not acknowledge that  Windows is suitable for that application.  There are no formal product descriptions.  There are no formal operating instructions.  There are examinations that people can take to prove that they are "certified."   They know what is available but not necessarily how to use it.  Hire that man!    I assume Gates & Co. adopted the position that Windows would be the first operating system that did not need to be shipped with product descriptions and operating instructions.  Everything would be a simple matter of point and click.  End users imagine what the developers intended to provide and follow your instincts.  Microsoft engineers could work on matters much more important than explaining what they are providing:  New! Improved! Features!   Feature rich software gets deep pocketed executives at major corporations to sign fat checks made out to Microsoft.  I spent nine weeks in a classroom twenty years ago to familiarize myself with Windows 2000.  It was a good class led by a competent instructor, a bit pricey, and came with what are now called MCSA books.  Nine weeks was far too short.  Passing the exam was a matter of rote memorization using a 3rd party exam prep service.  The notion is that executives at Microsoft's customer companies want "certified" people (i.e. people who have passed the exams).  So Microsoft paid somebody to write the books, construct and administer the exams.  And hide the engineers away so probing questions from the field NEVER reach them.  In my work, unanswered questions arise every day about what Microsoft intended  when they invented some FANTASTIC NEW FEATURE.  The first resource for elucidation is the end user interface, which generally is a nested bunch of trees with undefined terms hung on every node.  If you really are stuck, Microsoft provides a Break/Fix department who will, for a price, explain Microsoft policy to you.  They may or may not have the resources to solve real-world problems.  But they pretend to provide a service.  The executives are generally happy with the arrangement.  Undefined terms:  Windows documentation (i.e. product descriptions and operating instructions) is either non-existent, out-of-date, incomplete, embedded by edict within the user interface, or otherwise completely unusable by end users.    Try to reach out to top executives and they remain unresponsive.  It is their prerogative to remain silent.  They have nothing to gain by responding to or making commitments about proposed policy changes.  Policies themselves are handled as Intellectual Property, not to be disclosed outside the Company.  The policies are subject to change without notice.  And so we in the field have no formal interface with Microsoft except, perhaps, an interface that applies when the customer is a megacorporation and the top executives of Microsoft and the megacorporation are interested sufficiently to fix what is broken to include writing answers to "How To" questions.  I sense the situation developed as a way to protect Microsoft from liability suits.  After all, when there is no claim that some piece of software will accomplish some particular function, it follows that, when the software fails to meet specification, one can argue "There is no specification."   So, Microsoft has tacitly told the World, as far as Windows goes, you must  deal with the product as best you can.  We refuse to help you.   The latest Microsoft, shall we call it a "mistake?", is to adopt DevOps.  That where the people who use the software work closely with the people who develop the software.  That way a queue of unimplemented features does not build up.  Stuff goes from the coders to the field.  Any QA department has been disbanded.  A cursory check is done.  And out the door it goes.  Worldwide.  Dev is happy having lots of work to do.  Fixing product defects takes a back seat to implementing new features.  Ops is a unidirectional feedback mechanism from the field to the engineers.  Most reports are discarded as non-germane.   I get the sense from the trade press that many long time Microsoft Windows users are more unhappy now than ever before.  But, because the revenue picture is so rosy, the current path shall remain the current path well into the 23rd century.  Have a happy day.

    MARK D ROCKMAN

    Sunday, October 6, 2019 2:14 AM

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