* Posts by Philip Storry

247 publicly visible posts • joined 28 Nov 2007

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PumpkinOS carves out a FOSS PalmOS-compatible runtime environment

Philip Storry
Gimp

A superb platform

I still occasionally miss my Palm devices.

I think my last one was a Tungsten III. A great device.

It was a great platform. It did just enough as an OS, and had a great interface which many seem to have since "been inspired by"... even if they'd never admit it.

But what I miss more was the software. Being mostly disconnected meant that the focus for developers was different. I had entire database systems on my Palm - I think the one I used most was called ThinkDB - so could build my own little solutions. It was superb. Not too expensive either.

With a smartphone that's always on, the incentive is to keep everything online and then get you subscribed to cover the costs of hosting and development. And whilst each individual solution might be a bit slicker and a little bit better, I miss the flexibility. The Palm felt like a perfect halfway mark between only-at-the-desk and access-from-anywhere.

I know it's partly rose-tinted glasses, but the fact that I was doing things on my Palm 15 years ago that I can barely do today says such a lot to me.

But then again, I've changed the way I'd solve those problems, and the world has moved on. I wouldn't go back.

But I would like to see some people be "inspired by" Palm OS a bit more...

Fancy building a replacement for Post Office's disastrous Horizon system?

Philip Storry

I'm surprised

I'm surprised to read that the tenders must be submitted by the start of May.

I honestly expected that they'd just extend the whole process indefinitely until the inquiry is finished, then spew out some guff about "valuing the relationship" and "wanting to capitalise on existing working knowledge" and hire Fujitsu for it.

That's the kind of spineless, venal thing I've come to expect from the management at the Post Office.

So I am quite surprised that this appears to be a genuine attempt to break away from the existing contract.

Unless, of course, Fujitsu already knew about this and therefore regard it as as exempt from their ban on tendering as it falls under ongoing projects.

Or the Post Office management decide that the bids are all unsuitable and go for another round... then another... then another... until they get what they want.

Still, there's plenty of time for that to happen yet. I won't believe it until contracts are signed...

Irish power crunch could be prompting AWS to ration compute resources

Philip Storry
Stop

Re: Economics are a PITA, aren't they?

My apologies for the late reply, busy day yesterday...

I did read what you said. It seems the mistake I made was thinking that predicting 1000 years into the future was hyperbole I could dismiss, not an actual attempt to predict the future of 1000 years.

I see little point in predicting past my own lifetime and perhaps the lifetime of the next generation. Mostly because that's all I can reasonably hope to influence. There is fun and even value in exploring possibilities through fiction - see Asimov, Bester, Clarke - but little point in making solid plans as though fiction will be reality.

I prefer pragmatism over fantasy.

That seems to be our fundamental difference, and I suspect it will be irreconcilable.

Philip Storry
Mushroom

Re: Economics are a PITA, aren't they?

I just don't even know where to start with this reply. Almost everything you said was wrong.

I'm going to ignore the breathless idiocy about post-scarcity society or AI somehow making making your meals. AI is orthogonal to that - our most advanced robots can currently do some gymnastics and make a few specific cocktails. That's a long way from cooking meals, and if you don't realise that then I pity your local fire brigade, who you will no doubt be on first name terms with soon after you get your first domestic robot.

The Wright Brothers' Flyer is a terrible analogy, because they didn't start charging people for transatlantic flights immediately after they'd first flown it.

Fifteen years after they'd flown we were flying combat aircraft in a war. The pace of development was rapid, and the constraints were clear - power, albeit of a different kind to what we were discussing. The word you'll hear time and time again when looking at failed aircraft is "underpowered". The jet engine just about fixed that after the second world war, albeit in its second and third generations.

All technologies have constraints. The problem with AI's constraint being power is that building new power infrastructure usually takes decades.

So if you want this glorious new future you're convinced is there, you're going to have to accept that it won't be quick to arrive by any stretch. And I'm going to completely gloss over the questions of the economic and environmental costs of building that power infrastructure, as that's a very hot potato.

As to the fiscal cost of AI services, I think you're underestimating how many businesses see it. I'll take a quick example for my home territory - the UK. Microsoft charge £31 per user per month for an E3 license. Which, for the Office suite plus Exchange Online and (until recently) Teams, isn't bad. But if they're charging an extra £20 per month for CoPilot (their branded AI), that's basically a ~60% price increase.

For a handful of people that's fine.

For a company of 500, that's extortionate. A jump from £15,500 a month to £25,500. Or if you prefer yearly figures, £186,000 to £306,000. Given how few use cases there are for AI right now, I'd have difficulty getting that past most finance departments...

And we're supposed to be in the "selling the razors at cost so we can make money on the blades later" stage of the business plan.

The costs are not looking like they'll work out in the short term.

I'm sure AI will change many things. But it won't cook your dinner for you without major advances in robotics, and a new power station in your area. It's lovely that you have £1000 a month of disposable income though - have you considered employing a cleaner and maybe subscribing to one of those dinner services like Hello Fresh? That might get you further towards your goals, with change to spare...

Philip Storry
Flame

Economics are a PITA, aren't they?

This is the problem with fads like cryptocurrency and AI. Everyone's looking at the technology uses or outputs, but nobody's looking at the hardware costs or power draw.

I really want to say that AI has a future, but the costs just seem far too high given the results. I'm having a difficult time making economic arguments for any uses at my workplace. Whilst it's free, sure go ahead and use it. But many companies are asking an extra ten or twenty bucks a month for AI features, and given how often it will be used and how little time it therefore saves, that's hard to justify across a whole company.

Seems like unless we address these power issues, those prices are only going to go up, and the business case harder to make.

I hear that there's some work going on in low-power draw models, but I'm not convinced that the AI industry is taking it seriously enough to make much of a difference right now - I suspect that they're just hoping hardware and power grids (or batteries on portable devices) will catch up.

Still, that's why I've called it a fad. I'm sure that some elements of AI will linger in a useful manner, but I don't think it will be in the pervasive way that the AI prophets think it will be.

Windows 95 support chap skipped a step and sent user into Micro-hell

Philip Storry
Stop

Re: Bogus

I'm willing to chalk that up to a slip on the author's part.

We have two main issues - the first is that the person telling it isn't a journalist so may not be phrasing things well, and Matthew JC Powell has to deal with that.

The second is that this was somewhere between 29 to 24 years ago, and therefore the memory may be a touch hazy.

It's good to have high standards, but I find these minor mistakes fairly easy to forgive in these circumstances.

Philip Storry
Pint

Scandisk?

Having worked in a call centre near Sidcup* that handled Microsoft's newly outsourced OS support in 1995, I have one question...

Why not scandisk? Easier to use, does most things better, and has one huge advantage... the surface scan.

The integrity check of the filesystem's structure will take a couple of minutes, but then you're into a nice long scanning operation.

Which gives you the excuse to wait five minutes for them to realise that this will take forever, and then tell them to call back if it encounters issues. Allowing you to go home on time.

See? It may be almost thirty years ago, but I still have my support skills. ;-)

---

* Any other FCY03 survivors out there? FCY01 is a housing association office, 02 and 03 are now flats. The Seven Stars is still open, and I'm tempted to swing by one day for old time's sake...

Microsoft Copilot for Security prepares for April liftoff

Philip Storry
Facepalm

WTF?

Copilot for Security?

What the...?

Honestly, the sheer front here is remarkable. Whatever will they come up with next?

Gary Glitter for Kids Parties?

Kwasi Kwarteng for Budgeting?

Paul Gascoigne for Temperance?

Boris Johnson for Honesty?

This has gone beyond faintly ridiculous, and into the realms of the absurd.

AI to fix UK Civil Service's bureaucratic bungling, deputy PM bets

Philip Storry
Flame

They never learn...

They say that recent political events have stripped the Conservative party of its talent, leaving only a bunch of loud empty vessels.

They may be right.

Let's imagine training a model to "spot patterns of criminality to discover culprits quicker than ever". If said model had looked at the conviction data, and was then asked "Did this post office subpostmaster commit fraud?", what do we think it would say?

It would of course conclude, based on the data in its training model, that the subpostmaster was guilty as hell. After all, there are a lot of convictions for similar people...

Being actually intelligent and informed by more than just departmental data, we know that this is likely not the case. But AI is almost as dumb as the average Conservative politician, so will not know the difference between a bias in its data and good data. It will simply reinforce existing biases and failures in the system.

I doubt this will save much money. The models will end up being retrained monthly or weekly to handle bias issues, and that will require people to do it. Employee headcount might drop in some areas but will simply rise in the appeals department to compensate. Or we'll have to spend more in the court system to handle legal challenges that result.

Frankly It's unlikely that there will be real savings, just the usual shuffling of money from one column of the spreadsheet to another. The department heads responsible for some of the columns will claim success, simply because they're ignorant of what's happening in the other columns. And politicians will parrot those claims in ignorance as per usual.

We need a new saying to sum this up.

Perhaps: "You can teach an AI model, but you can't teach the politician that endorsed it."

Apple's Vision Pro costs big bucks to buy and repair ... just don't mention the box design

Philip Storry

More homepod than ipod?

I have to admit that I still don't get it.

Yes, it's impressive tech, but Microsoft have been plugging away at this in the corporate market for years with Hololens, and mostly what we have are some nice demos in the engineering sector where you look at an engine and it labels all the parts and piping for you. Producing a laminated and ring-bound paper manual is probably cheaper, which is why we're not seeing those everywhere.

Whilst I'm sure that the Vision Pro is incredibly accurate in terms of spatial work - much more so than your phone can manage - the fact is that for most consumer purposes your phone has been able to do "good enough" for over five years now.

Actually, I just went to check, and it turns out that the first version of Apple's ARKit shipped in 2017. Blimey! And remember when some phones had lidar/radar in them to help? The market spoke, that didn't last long...

So all evidence is that, outside of games like Ingress/Pokemon, augmented reality is hardly making a dent in the world.

The most practical and compelling idea for AR was that companies like Ikea could let you use your phone (or Vision Pro?) to see what that bookshelf would really look like in the room. But that's an expensive bit of app development, how many extra bookshelves do they have to sell to recoup it? A branded virtual tape measure app might be a better option!

And that hints at the real issue. Your phone has a better battery life, is more portable, is more useful and generally a better option. So if someone does find a "killer app" for the Vision Pro, they'll want it to work on phones as well so that they can scale it and make more money.

At which point, why would anyone spend three times as much on a Vision Pro when they're more likely to use their phone most of the time anyway?

I guess given Apple's customer base even a small niche would be quite large, but traditionally Apple has not been good at supporting their niche users (Mac Pro anyone?), so this feels more like a vanity project than anything else.

For a moment there, Lotus Notes appeared to do everything a company needed

Philip Storry

Re: Did he jump or was he pushed?

"So it would appear that things were sabotaged to create unbearable working conditions for the new IT director."

How so? I see nothing in the original post that indicated sabotage. What I see indicates an age-old story - he turned up with his own ideas, and didn't bother to due appropriate due diligence before implementing them.

It seems fairly obvious that the company had a very customised workflow in Notes, and in my experience any project moving away from that will be a multi-year endeavour. Most companies start the migration with mail, then move on to applications. Mail migration usually takes a year or two just by itself, and after that you need to run coexistence tools so that the email from workflow applications still gets delivered properly, so it's expensive.

Maybe he'd previously done this quickly in a smaller organisation that had less customisation? Maybe he just didn't know or care about the challenges, and was being brought in by the rest of the management to be the fall guy?

"He was being set up to fail."

By himself. Not by anyone else, except possibly the management as mentioned above. A new IT Director arriving with grand plans that fail is a story as old as time. Just because you don't like the product being replaced, that doesn't mean you should assume that the failure was anything more unusual than the other ones we end up talking about here.

"In 2024 it would seem that his assessment to gradually retire Notes was the correct one"

I don't disagree with the first part of that sentence, but would like to take you up on the second one. The OP did not talk about a gradual retirement. They spoke about a two year deadline to remove Notes. Nothing gradual about that, which is why I said above that he set himself up to fail. No sabotage from anyone else required, he brought all that he needed with him.

Two years is, as I've mentioned above, just too short. Based upon the workflows described I'd guess that they had fairly heavy automation of business processes in Notes. At a rough guess they probably had an application that created their contracts as multiple documents in a Notes database, possibly pulling item specifications out from a separate document store (also a Notes database) and then just automated the printing of it with a button on the view. It probably also had some light review features for routing through management and legal to ensure everything was OK. Nothing difficult for Notes, and possible in SharePoint, but not as easy.

So I'd guess that removing Notes in this organisation would be a six to ten year project, not two. That's based on an estimate of at least 500-1000 seats, and I'm having to guess that based on the size of contracts being mentioned, so it's not a precise figure.

You're going to have a year of requirements gathering and usage auditing - identifying what's used and what it can be replaced by. You then should start a two year mail migration, alongside prototyping for the new applications on their respective platforms. Then once mail is completed you ramp up the application migrations. It will be very expensive, as you're going to need to employ a number of contractors or employ development services, not to mention the possibility of temporary staff to help with the logistics of the mail migration.

Want to take a friendly bet that the IT Director underestimated costs and did it on the cheap? ;-)

I'd like to make a final note about the OP's comments on Word and long documents. Basically, that rings true. Microsoft disabled the "fast save" by default feature in 2007, and that was notorious for losing data especially in longer or more complex documents. Word has gotten better in more recent versions, probably because of work done to enable incremental saving to the cloud and collaborative working, but I still find myself nervous at work if the document gets long. (And at home I use different tools anyway, so it's not an issue.)

Philip Storry
WTF?

Re: Fully Loaded Goats

I hate to break it to you, but Outlook sometimes fails to send emails too. Just this week I was on site at a new office that's literally an empty shell right now, so my laptop was tethered to a mobile hotspot as I did some work. I had some consultants visiting to advise on AV and acoustics, and wanted to send them over some files whilst we were talking. For whatever reason Outlook just plonked the email in the Outbox and left it there. Maybe I'd strayed out of the hotspots range briefly and the send timed out? I only noticed when I went to Sent Items to check their email addresses a couple of hours later, and failed to see the email there. I had to manually force Outlook to do a send & receive cycle to actually send the mail.

I've always found Outlook to have enough foibles of its own when it comes to remote working and server access. Many of them due to its insistence on using a local cache for storage, because Exchange's database can't cope with high transaction levels very well. Every time I come back from a couple of weeks off, I have to just leave my machine as Outlook slowly download and index thousands of emails and makes everything sluggish. I never had that problem with Notes, as its replication engine and indexer were just far better than Outlook.

But the basic point to take away here is that offline working can be difficult to get right, and neither product does it brilliantly. Always on networks just mean that we see the problems a lot less these days.

As to "they shouldn't have focused on email" - well to be honest they were left with little choice. For a while we had the concept of "Groupware" - a category that Notes effectively defined when it arrived in the market, because there was nothing else that was as capable as Notes. Novell following with GroupWise, and Microsoft tried to compete with Exchange Server, but in Groupware Notes was still very much the king of the hill. Exchange may have done email well, but have you ever had to use Public Folders? Do you think that they made a good company directory, or workflow application? Because they didn't. They were, to be frank, rubbish. There's a very good reason most people have never heard of them these days...

But then Intranets came along and offered a lot of that functionality. Have you ever wondered why Sharepoint is a trainwreck of a product? Architecturally it looks like it was assembled in a hurry with things Microsoft had lying around. Operationally it seems to be held together with staples stolen from Satan's own stationary cupboard. It's not a product that is well architected, it was a hurried response to the market wanting something more than Exchange's Public Folders could deliver. And preferably to be delivered to a web browser.

The web browser and Intranets changed the market. Groupware as a category vanished, subsumed into a more general set of internet technologies. Management wasn't interested in spending money on Groupware solutions, but was happy to spend it on websites. Notes did add a webserver, but it didn't get huge traction (despite being quite good) and it rapidly it seemed that all Notes had left to sell was its mail functionality.

Markets change. In this case they didn't change in Notes' favour.

Philip Storry

Three things I miss from Lotus Notes...

I spent 15 years administering Lotus Notes, and am well aware of its capabilities. But a lot of people are going to judge it solely as a mail client, so I may as well meet them there...

Here are three things I miss from Lotus Notes as a mail client, in roughly descending order of my fondness for them.

1. Tabs

For crying out loud Microsoft, it's 2024. Give us tabs in Outlook, you lazy bastards.

Actually, this wouldn't be such a problem if switching between Mail and Calendar in Outlook wasn't such a bad experience. Switching contexts between Mail/Calendar/Tasks/Contacts/Notes is slow and prone to forgetting small aspects of what you were doing in a most frustrating way, so that when you switch back it's not quite what you remember leaving. (I know I can run another Outlook window and use the Windows Taskbar to switch between them, but that's also not a great experience.)

Just give us tabs. IBM did in Release 5 of Lotus Notes way back in 1999. That was 25 years ago! And yet Outlook is still forced to do context switching like it's a tranquillised sloth with a head injury. I've honestly been experimenting with using the web version just so I can have mail/calendar open in separate tabs there. As a user experience it's almost there but there are still some deal breakers for me. But I'm genuinely looking forward to switching to the web version just for this feature!

2. Copy Into New

Notes 5 or 6 (I don't quite recall which) added a great feature called Copy Into New. You could pick any email, calendar entry, or task, and copy it into a new one. It did it very well, and avoided clogging up the clipboard with crap. For example if you copied an email into a meeting it would add all of the recipients of the original email to the meeting invite. I would often find myself copying an email into an email, which sounds crazy but when you realise that it takes all the addressing, the subject, the text body and any attachments - well it saves so much time versus copy and paste manually from each field! Obviously we could try using email templates, but not everything needs a template, and Copy Into New is just a very quick and handy workflow.

I'm aware that you can drag and drop mails to create calendar entries in Outlook as a workaround, but see my previous note about tabs. It's not a pleasant experience, and we should accept that Notes just has a better solution.

3. Rich Text Sections

Notes Rich Text was one of those odd rich text variants, and has many more features in it. You could add buttons, links, and so forth quite easily. But my favourite feature was the Section, which was introduced all the way back in Notes 4. They're basically a demarcation for a bit of text, and were intended for use in Form Design. But you could specify how a section should behave in different contexts (reading, writing, printing) and it had sensible defaults for that. It meant I could write an email to people that had a summary for everyone in upper management, and then hide the gory technical details in a Section that was collapsed by default when reading. Quick, easy, the management is happy, my colleagues are happy because one click expands the section and gets them what they want.

Outlook's Rich Text - being effectively just a slightly constrained Word rich text - does some things better, like tables. But I still miss Sections, they were a nice feature.

So there we go - three things you may not know you're missing if you didn't use Lotus Notes. Because even software you don't like can have good ideas in it, and there is no such thing as the perfect mail client.

Infosys co-founder doubles down on call for 70-hour work weeks

Philip Storry
Big Brother

And you're going to pay me for this?

Generous overtime will be provided, one assumes.

No?

OK then.

I have two words for you.

Off, and sod.

(Rearrange to decode the extra special message.)

HMRC launches £500M procurement for new ERP, though project's already a 'red' risk

Philip Storry
Pint

Timng?

Well this is just spectacularly bad timing.

Imagine the effect the meetings will have on Dry January!

Won't somebody please think of the salespeople? ;-)

Veteran editors Notepad++ and Geany hit milestone versions

Philip Storry

Re: EMACS or death

A strange choice, but as a Vim user all I can say is... have you considered living and using vim? ;-)

UK immigration rules hit science just as it rejoins €100B Horizon program

Philip Storry

Re: We are overdue an adult conversation about immigration

And that's part of the adult conversation we need to have. As I said to another commenter, we can't underfund training and the NHS and not expect it to be seen as effectively having a policy of importing nurses. But until we can admit that, we cannot then look at how we might want to change our immigration system to better entice and support those people we are trying to attract.

Alternatively, if we decide that we want native nurses, then we need to better fund training and better fund the workplace (the NHS).

I'm not really going to say which one is better - to be honest I feel like I sit in the odd space where I have some facts but know I'm missing many, so I feel any decision I took would be ill informed.

But I won't be better informed without that adult conversation I was talking about. And neither will most other people.

Philip Storry

Re: We are overdue an adult conversation about immigration

Who said anything about low pay being necessary?

As to training for nurses, yes, that's been a problem for a long time. We even had a point where the government removed bursaries for training nurses, therefore expecting them to take out student loans that they could never repay on a nurses' wages.

But this is all part of that adult conversation that we need. If we want more native nurses, we have to pay to train them. We have to make the working environment for nurses an attractive one. We may need to pay nurses more to do that. Right now, when we look at the funding for training, it would be reasonable to assume that the government's strategy is to import nurses. Unfortunately, at the same time they also stir the xenophobic pot to see if there are any votes left in it. It's hardly a well thought out and consistent position to take.

You say that we should stop frothing at the mouth about xenophobes, but they are part of the problem. If we have the likes of Suella Braverman signalling to the far right that they should feel safe and secure when looking for a fight at the Cenotaph, then we have to assume that xenophobes will disrupt adult conversations about immigration with their blatant nonsense. At which point the conversation inevitably becomes pointless.

I'm not in favour of "import cheap labour". I'm also not in favour of shirking our obligations. Nor am I in favour of demonising people arriving in our society for the failings of a government that wasn't even "theirs" when the bad decisions were taken.

There won't be a solution that pleases everybody. But right now, we don't even have a workable solution, yet alone one that pleases everybody, so even small steps would be welcome.

Philip Storry
Flame

We are overdue an adult conversation about immigration

Our government appears to be a bunch of spineless, amoral gits who pander to a minority of xenophobes.

We have major shortages in a number of occupations. Nursing and social care are amongst the hardest hit, but we are hundreds of thousands of people short across the whole of our society. The "hostile environment" drove away talent, especially coming just after Brexit.

Some people seem to think that knee-jerk reactions and slogans-as-promises show that the government is somehow "respecting the wishes of the people". But that assumes that they have an underlying respect for the British people - which I'd say they don't, as they're not willing to be honest with them.

You can't stop the boats any more than you can stop the clouds. We have international obligations with regards to asylum seekers. We need immigrants in our society. Each of those statements is true, yet you're more likely to take a working train across the Pennines than you are to hear anyone in our Government acknowledge them.

We desperately need an adult conversation about immigration in this country.

They're playing the British people for fools. Sadly, a vocal minority of the British people seem to like it.

Windows CE reaches end of life, if not end of sales

Philip Storry

Too much, too young...

WinCE was an incredibly ambitious project which succeeded, and in doing so sealed its own death warrant.

It succeeded in providing a fairly portable, robust OS which carried with it a significant subset of Win32 and later also .NET APIs that made development for it much easier than many competing platforms.

Unfortunately if you want three quarters of a PC OS, you need three quarters of a PC to run it on. They somehow managed to shrink that to run on a mere two thirds of a PC, but it was a tight fit and more expensive than their competitors.

It can't be denied that Toshiba, Dell, HTC and others made some very nice Windows CE devices. But they were also more expensive than their competitors for most purposes. And I do wonder if they ever made much money on those devices...

By comparison the Palm platform was profitable enough within 3Com that they felt it worth spinning off as its own company, and they did fairly well for a number of years.

Yes, they had a slower CPU and less RAM. Yes, they lacked memory protection and were slow to move towards multitasking. Yes, they required learning an entirely new platform for your programming. But the money customers saved on the device would often pay for more software or accessories to make the device even more useful.

I'd hope most of that was a fairly uncontroversial assessment of the practical aspects of Windows CE. Now for the more controversial bit - the opinion.

The biggest problem that Windows CE had was that it was trying to put a PC in your pocket. Unfortunately, experience has shown that's the wrong direction to approach the problem from.

For the developer it's great that they can use the same tools, but that means they're thinking about desktop usage patterns. A lot of the user interface and workflow that they choose is then, well, wrong.

By contrast the Palm platform, and later iOS and Android, have specifically eschewed the idea of bringing the desktop to a small device, and instead went out of their way to have a specific "small platform" or "mobile" mindset. Love it or hate it, it tends to produce much better results in terms of software usability and workflows.

Hindsight makes it easy to see why Windows CE seemed like a great idea, and also why it was ultimately doomed.

But for a while there, it was definitely a contender...

Word turns 40: From 'new kid on the block' to 'I can't believe it's not bloatware'

Philip Storry

Re: That sounds about right...

Office has supported vector/raster graphics through the WMF (Windows Metafile) format for decades. By which I mean I think I first recall seeing it in Word 6.0 for Windows, but I suspect it was present in the previous Word 2.0 for Windows as well. I'm pretty sure that Excel would also have supported it in the appropriate versions, as would PowerPoint.

The issue is that the default clipart library of WMF files it shipped with was, well, not great.

Most clipart libraries went with BMP as it tended to work with all programs no matter what, or maybe a file format like PCX. This was before JPEG and PNG, and GIF was more of an online CompuServe thing...

As such WMF just wasn't used much, so people assumed that such features weren't available.

Philip Storry

Re: FreeOffice

The article is about Word, and more about the very old versions of Word than anything else.

It would be more appropriate to talk about WordStar, WordPerfect, pfs:Write, or IBM's DisplayWrite. (Other ancient discontinued word processors are also unavailable.)

Basically, this is a nostalgia trip, and not many people have that much nostalgia for StarOffice/OpenOffice/LibreOffice, part;y because they're a later development.

Personally, I recommend LibreOffice for most people, but see why companies might prefer Office 365/Microsoft 365. I have documents I wouldn't trust to Word due to their size and complexity, which LibreOffice Writer has happily handled without issues. But such documents are an outlier, and not necessarily a great proof of superiority if others don't have such requirements.

You're standing on the shoreline constructing a strawman to try to cause an argument. Good luck with that - everyone else is off bathing in the sea of nostalgia...

Philip Storry

That sounds about right...

Software was very expensive back then.

By the early 90s the price would probably have been more like $299. Competition did lower prices somewhat over time.

People often say that Word "won" the battle of the word processors because WordPerfect et al was late. But I'd contest that the prices had a lot to do with it as well.

WordPerfect was $299 for a word processor. Lotus 1-2-3 was $299 for a spreadsheet. But Office 4.3 Standard was $499, and that's a saving of $100 AND you get PowerPoint for free!

(To be fair, nobody knew how bad PowerPoint was back then, so it seemed like a good deal.)

Word didn't win. Office won. It was the first bundle, the rest were all late or had confused branding (SmartSuite, Borland Office, WordPerfect Office, etc).

Microsoft's real advantage was that all its competitors had fewer fingers in fewer pies, so couldn't bundle software as effectively.

SEC boss warns it's 'nearly unavoidable' that AI will cause financial crash

Philip Storry
Go

New Business Model!

I think I've found a very effective way for a large financial organisation to remove smaller ones from the market, thus gaining more power within that market.

  • Step 1 - Find your target company
  • Step 2- Poach their senior engineer from their AI team
  • Step 3 - Determine the vulnerabilities of their AI model
  • Step 4 - Design a sequence of trades that you can afford to make small losses on but that will likely cause their model to overextend/overcommit within the day's trading
  • Step 5 - In the aftermath, buy the assets of the victim during the fire sale
  • Step 6 - Fire the senior engineer as extraneous to your business model
  • Step 7 - Go to step 1

Given the propensity for hallucination in AI models, the people most familiar with your model (most likely the senior engineer) are now a huge threat to your business once they leave. They are most likely to be able to figure out how to get them to misbehave.

It opens up a number of interesting thoughts about how you defend against that. Do you tighten thresholds for outputs? Reduce the flow of transactions? Adjust inputs?

I wonder if we'll get to a point where insurance companies have requirements on how models are used in the event that "a person with critical knowledge" leaves the organisation...

I started writing this sarcastically, but now I'm thinking it's actually a very interesting attack vector. And not one that anyone seems to be prepared for.

UK rejoins the EU's €100B Horizon sci-tech funding program

Philip Storry

Switzerland has an unusual position due to its à la carte agreements with the EU. Something which the EU has decided it won't be doing again, as it's a lot of bother. This is as good an example as any other of why it's a lot of bother.

So when Switzerland decided to look at passing laws that would negatively affect EU businesses and citizens, the EU naturally reacted. Switzerland is sovereign and has a right to determine its own future, but that sovereignty does not grant a right to avoid the consequence of their actions.

The EU is also sovereign, and when it saw that Switzerland was trying to do something that was very much against the spirit of closer working and cooperation that Switzerland had previously been cheering on, they had a right to react.

It's not bullying. It's cause and effect. If the EU had done it out of the blue and for no good reason than to exert power, it would be bullying. But that's very far from the situation described. Not that I think you'll want to admit that...

Your view reflects the two major problems with the Quitling's view of sovereignty - it's one-sided and ignores the possibility of consequences. It's a completely useless view because of that.

You're right that the EU could have found a solution. And they did. They made it clear to Switzerland that if they want access to their share of the benefits, they have to pay their share of the costs. The ball then went into Switzerland's court to decide whether or not the benefits were worth the cost.

As an aside, remember when major Quitlings were trying to tell us that the Switzerland model would be a fine one for us to pursue after leaving? "All of the benefits, none of the downsides?"

It might not be best to try to claim that Switzerland is being bullied lest you find yourself having to perform logical contortions when you (inevitably) hold their arrangements up in a positive light to try to downplay the benefits of Single Market membership...

Philip Storry

I really wouldn't hold your breath there.

Whilst Erasmus isn't technically dependent on Freedom of Movement, the program does rely on easy movement of people. When Switzerland voted to restrict immigration from the EU, they were suspended from the program.

Erasmus membership would require immigration controls that would make the swivel-eyed loons' heads explode. So I don't see it happening under this government.

That's not to say it's impossible. Just that the barriers to entry are very much ours, not the EUs...

Philip Storry
Joke

Re: "it wanted to pursue a domestic fusion energy strategy"

You don't understand - they can use this money better!

They already have several excellent bids for domestic fusion services. They include:

  • Energy FusePro, an exciting new Baroness Mone venture.
  • Michael Green's Fuse-o-Rama (in association with Grant Schapps).
  • Stockheath & Fox Associates (totally not Grant Schapps in a badly fitting hat).
  • A non-dom tax-avoiding multimillionaire that Rishi Sunak has met several times at parties but doesn't like speaking to because he regards him as poor.
  • Group4. [Seriously? How are they still in business? -Ed]
  • Capita Fusion Services. [Oh, FFS. - Ed]
  • A bloke that Matt Hancock met in a pub once.

I think we can all agree that whoever is picked for this funding, it will be well spent and not at all a boondoggle of colossally corrupt proportions...

(Seriously though - Capita Fusion Services. If the idea of that doesn't scare you, you're a damned fool.)

Farewell WordPad, we hardly knew ye

Philip Storry

A simpler tool for a simpler time...

WordPad is definitely a simpler tool that reflects a somewhat simpler time.

The history of operating systems/environments was, for a long time, one of constant feature creep

I remember the days when it was exciting that DOS was getting an undelete feature... and looking back, it has never been a good long-term strategy for a company to sell software that "fixes" deficits in any operating system. There was once a time when having something like Norton Utilities/PC Tools was essential for any serious user, but most of the functionality in them has either become part of the OS or been made irrelevant by improvements in software or hardware.

WordPad reflects a specific point of time in the development or personal computing. It had just enough features to be worthy of replacing Windows 3.x's Write, but not enough to compete seriously with Word. It was there purely so that Microsoft could check a box in comparison tables when going up against OS/2, GEM or the Mac. "We also have a basic document editor. And a scientific calculator. And a paint program."

It's a shame to see it go, but I can't claim I've used it even once in the past decade. Are we now entering a period where the constant feature creep will be replaced by trimming? ChromeOS would seem to indicate that, but it's actually very much an outlier. I suspect that this is simply more an attempt to reduce the maintenance burden and attack footprint for Microsoft's development teams.

As such, I think WordPad currently tells us more about the industry's history and future than it offers in actual functionality.

HCL proves Lotus Notes will never die by showing off beta of lucky Domino 14.0

Philip Storry

I'd say no.

Which no doubt sounds bad, but you're asking the database equivalent of "Does that submarine have ABS brakes?"

The Notes database is a document-oriented noSQL system that's specifically designed for working in distributed and often disconnected environments. So let's take each ACID element one by one...

Atomicity - I'll say Yes, providing you're on a server and the database is using transaction logging. If so then all writes are atomic, via the transaction logging. If you're using a local database or don't have transaction logging enabled then this is more debatable. (Transaction logging can be circular or archival, depending on your backup strategy.)

Consistency - Kinda. As a distributed NoSQL system Notes doesn't have relationships or foreign keys to care about. So the consistency being asked for was never offered by this database engine. Consistency is an application level concern, not a database level concern.

Isolation - Like Consistency, this is coming from a data viewpoint that isn't really part of the Notes database engine design. Isolation is hard to provide when a database might have upwards of 100 replicas across three continents, many of which are on laptops that are not currently connected to the network.

Durability - Absolutely. Not a problem here, if it's written it will stay written.

The issue with Consistency and Isolation is that Notes could only really offer that at the Document level - there are no tables or rows. The Document is a bit like a row, but that's not quite right as it still implies tables.

The Notes database engine was built to solve different issues, and that's sometimes why it's so hard to replace old Notes applications...

Philip Storry
Megaphone

Re: And integration...

End user issues are rarely if ever included in TCO.

I wouldn't necessarily jump at the opporunity to go back to Notes, even though I miss having tabs and a couple of other features. But then again I just returned from 2 weeks off, and spent almost 3 hours watching my laptop crawl as Outlook indexed 11,000 messages. Fortunately, I could use webmail in the interim. Unfortunately, each change I made simply meant more indexing queued up on Outlook...

There is no perfect mail client. It doesn't exist - never has, never will.

Philip Storry
Pint

And integration...

The main thing that won Microsoft a lot of migrations was integration, especially with AD but also to a lesser extent with Office. They used that to claim a lower TCO.

The Office integrations were merely niceties in Outlook, like re-using Word for email editing so it was a little more familiar, and having a few Send To type options in Office applications.

Integration with Active Directory was always touted as a significant lowering of TCO. And to some extent it was - by comparison Notes had ID files to distribute, and although IBM did fix that with the ID Vault it didn't arrive until version 7(?). By that time most companies had made their own arrangements, so it was a bit too little too late.

I've met plenty of people who have "managed an email system" on their CV because they created and deleted mailboxes on Exchange. They know nothing about mail routing, or the SMTP protocol, or email headers. They wouldn't know what SPF was if it tap danced on top of a piano whilst singing "SPF is here again" and waving a sign that says "I am SPF", but that AD integration is all they need to claim being an email administrator.

I can certainly make an argument that the day to day TCO of Exchange Server is lower than Lotus Notes. However, I also know what the cost of doing an upgrade for each is, and whilst Notes is easy to upgrade - it's a trivial install over the top of the existing server software, then a rollout of new mail templates at your leisure - Exchange Server is horrifically expensive to upgrade

You have to specify and purchase new hardware, and deploy it. Microsoft has almost always changed something in the storage layer that means research and training, and you effectively end up building a new infrastructure and then migrating your mailboxes and applications to use that infrastructure. This requires more knowledge than just creating/deleting mailboxes, so often organisations are ill equipped for the project.

You can upgrade to the latest version of Notes in an afternoon. Exchange will take you many, many months. So overall I'd say that the TCO is probably about the same, but it's distributed very differently for each product. Notes has a consistent but slightly higher TCO with an occasional mild increase for upgrades, whereas Exchange has a slightly lower TCO with mountainous increases at the start/end of each product lifecycle.

(This is why most on-prem Exchange instances are ancient, and why so many people are happy to move to O365 - why not let Microsoft do the mountaineering for you?)

Integration with AD, and its lower day to day TCO, were a definite factor. Combined with the FUD, it's what got Exchange into its dominant position.

Atlassian pipes software flaw reports into Jira, so the boss can see them too

Philip Storry
Meh

Is JIRA becoming like helpdesk software?

There is very little good helpdesk software out there. A few options have their advocates, but they're all flawed in one way or another.

I remember when someone explained to me why our new helpdesk software was so lacklustre. "It's the managers. They're the ones that sign the cheques, so look at the features that they get. Shiny graphs, scheduled reports, dashboards that allow them to obsess over SLAs. But actually updating a call? The manager will never see that, so of course it's a bad experience. The development goes where the budget holder's attention is."

JIRA was, for a long time, a common standard for software development precisely because it seemed to pay some attention to what developers wanted as well as what their managers wanted.

It seems that those days may be over...

UK govt Matrix has unenviable task of consolidating several different ERP systems

Philip Storry
Pint

What a boost for the hospitality industry!

I suspect that the expense accounts of Oracle, Microsoft and other are about to take one hell of a battering.

The hospitality industry will likely be the only beneficiary from the initial phase of this project...

RIP Fred 'Mythical Man-Month' Brooks: IBM guru of software project management

Philip Storry

I first read The Mythical Man-Month in the early 2000's, and it was a revelation.

Its descriptions of technology and the process of programming were laughably outdated - like stumbling across a charming time capsule.

But on time estimating, project management and even on the ability of technology to magically fix things via "silver bullets", it was spot on. And has never been bested.

The last person I lent my copy to handed it back saying "I now understand why my last project was so late". That was two decades after I first read it, and over four decades after it was first written. Fred really hit on something in that book, and we are in his debt for it.

RIP Fred Brooks. And thanks.

He's only gone and done it. Ex-Register vulture elected to board of .uk registry

Philip Storry
Pint

Congratulations!

Given your lamentable bubblegum situation, I hope you find solace with a sturdy pair of boots.

Good luck!

Don't mind Facebook, just putting its own browser in its Android app

Philip Storry

We found a large attack surface area, so we increased it...

Good job, Meta.

You found a problem - people not accepting updates meant a larger attack surface area. So you chose to try and fix this by... increasing the attack surface area.

Yeah. That's a good solution.

Honestly, just be honest and tell us it's about tracking. Or if you actually cared about the issues of updating software, perhaps lobby for some kind of regulation in that area?

I hope that this has an off button so that I can reduce my risk by opening links in WebView, which I always update...

White House to tech world: Promise you'll write secure code – or Feds won't use it

Philip Storry
Flame

The first blow has been struck...

This is just the first blow in what could be a long and difficult fight.

But only if software developers want it to be.

These problems have been solved before now. In the 19th century there were plenty of people swanning around calling themselves doctors. And killing people through incompetence and ignorance. Doctors (real Doctors, hence the capitalisation) simply shrugged and said "What can we do? We're *proper* Doctors who do things properly, they're charlatans and snake oil salesmen who call themselves doctors."

Then the government said "Well, we could regulate you."

And suddenly Doctors were remarkably interested in doing something themselves. Associations were set up, accreditations required, boards put in place to review conduct... all so that they could then say "Hey, Mr. Government Man, how about just using what we have already rather than having to do it all over again to regulate us?"

The same thing happened with engineers. People who knew a bit of woodworking were wandering around building larger and larger things, without knowing quite how to do it at that scale. Buildings and bridges collapsed. People died. The government stepped in and said "Hey, maybe we should regulate this?" Engineers chose to organise rather than accept that.

Make no mistake, the same thing will happen for software development. People's lives now depend on software. Assisted driving and self driving has already claimed at least one life, probably more. At some point it'll get too much, and the politicians will be looking for a scapegoat. Rather than attack the companies, they'll realise that they can attack the developers. They're highly paid, they often associate with fringe groups in society, and some (not all) aren't very skilled socially. A perfect target for the ire of an angry public.

The software industry needs to get ahead of the game and organise. Not unionise - but have professional bodies as Doctors and Engineers do. Because in 50 years time people will look back as this and say "It all started when the Government realised it needed higher standards for its software. But they were purchasing guidelines, not regulations. Then, after some high profile deaths, things got shaky and there were calls for more Government action, so they took those guidelines and proposed regulation. Software developers weren't happy with that..."

Software developers can choose how that story ends. But the sooner they make the choice, the better the outcome will be for them.

Philip Storry

Re: Software is flakey and full of holes, get over it

Surely this is what a Software Bill of Materials is for?

And it'll just end up with companies having to make a choice - adopt open source projects and actively participate in them, or build their own. The former is much cheaper, so this might actually improve FOSS participation and support.

Frankly, it's long overdue. Whilst some companies are good citizens, too many of them have been freeloading for too long...

Nadine Dorries promotes 'Brexit rewards' of proposed UK data protection law

Philip Storry

Re: UK rejoining the EU?

Yes and no.

This article shows that it was seriously considered, but the housing market and some other differences kept us from joining:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_economic_tests

It's an interesting read.

It's probably also worth pointing out that all of that research is well over a decade old - once joining the Euro was ruled out by Blair, I suspect everyone stopped bothering to research it. You certainly shouldn't quote that as though it applies to our current economic clusterf... er, situation.

(Phew! Close call at the end there!)

Philip Storry

Re: UK rejoining the EU?

You're either purposefully twisting my words or you're misunderstanding them.

"The EU project is so amazing and glorious that we should join but then refuse to meet the conditions or outright lie so as not to join the EU proper."

Nobody said refuse. There are already conditions for joining the Euro, we likely won't meet them.

The simple fact is that whilst our economy benefited from being in the Single Market, it's dissimilar enough that we may not benefit from the Euro. The last thing that anyone in the EU wants is a repeat of Greece, where a country lied to get into the Euro club. The mere mention of that will have everyone happily accepting a more cautious approach.

So we don't need to refuse or outright lie as you state. We can be reasonable partners who understand each other's positions and agree on a pragmatic compromise.

"If we voted leave even when we had out exceptions and opt outs why would we want to join fully?"

Because the people who told us it would be great to leave were either liars or incompetent.

Go speak to fisheries and farmers about their happy fish and sunlit uplands. Go speak to small and medium businesses about how we have all of the benefits of membership, but none of the drawbacks. Go speak to hospitality and entertainment about red tape.

Boris Johnson led one of the campaigns, and he's a liar. Not even an accidental liar, but a man who lies as easily as he breathes. His name is attached to the Brexit project. Farage is the other campaign leader, and he's not exactly a shining beacon of honesty and truth.

I remember the Iraq war. Before we actually went to war the public was roughly 50/50, and on any given day you could have had a vote go either way. That was because nobody knew who they could trust. Which side was right - the USA/UK governments, or the wider international community?

Once people saw how badly wrong the planning and intelligence had been, support simply fell away. Sound familiar? Seeing anything like that happen recently? The people are fickle, and I'd bet money that when the histories are written Brexit will be seen as a doomed failure sold by liars and incompetents.

Either Brexit's supporters start delivering all those promises, or Brexit will continue to be a failure.

What quitlings fail to understand is that it won't just be a campaign to rejoin, it will be a campaign to regain what we lost. What they gave away. And that is far more quantifiable than "sovereignty" and "control" ever will be - as this article so amply demonstrates.

Philip Storry
FAIL

Re: UK rejoining the EU?

You're right and wrong.

We will be required to join the Euro.

And that won't matter.

Because Sweden has been required to join the Euro since 1995, and has done bugger all about it. We'll just do exactly the same.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweden_and_the_euro#:~:text=Sweden%20does%20not%20currently%20use,they%20meet%20the%20necessary%20conditions.

Initially we'll just claim we don't meet the conditions (which is likely anyway), then we'll just drag our feet.

And the rest of Europe won't expect us to join, so they won't care. We'll all just get on with things that are more important.

Honestly, this "We can't rejoin we'll have to join the Euro" rubbish is exactly that - rubbish.

AI detects 20,000 hidden taxable swimming pools in France, netting €10m

Philip Storry

Re: If it steers boots on the ground to double check

It'd never work in the UK.

We could easily buy satellite photography and train an AI to try to identify buildings and match potential land registry data. We could even then buy more data next year and look for new buildings and construction.

But there are two main problems. The first is that local planning permission system may not feed accurate data back. As an example, remember a certain Dominic Cummings? The starting point for his notorious eye checkup was his parent's farm, but there were questions about whether the building on it was kosher: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-52911605

At the time I heard all kinds of statements about this being an outhouse because it lacked a kitchen, or other stupid loopholes in planning law. I'm not qualified to judge such things, but this did teach me that determining such things will be way beyond what an AI with some photos and a database of coordinates can be sure of.

The second issue is related.

The moment a donor to the Conservative party gets a visit about their new "outhouse" and what it means for their tax bill is the moment that the project dies. This government condones corruption, and would always stand with its friends and donors rather than have them pay their due.

Huawei dangles developer incentives to sell Harmony OS around the world

Philip Storry

An Alibaba font? Mischief incoming!

Does it have emojis?

Because I reckon even if it doesn't, pretty soon a variant will appear that does. Some people are going to want to cram a Taiwanese flag in there ASAP...

Technically it would be a breach of copyright to do that. But it's fine, because they can't complain about it without acknowledging Taiwan exists, so they'll never complain about it. It's the perfect political crime!

Linux may soon lose support for the DECnet protocol

Philip Storry

This is anecdote and opinion, but what I think really killed Novell wasn't the protocol switch - you could get a Netware server to speak TCP/IP.

What killed Netware was Windows NT.

The vast majority of clients were running some version of Windows by the mid 90's. But nobody in their right mind would run their printing and file sharing on Windows for Workgroups 3.11 - it was fine for small offices, but lacked the security controls and stability you needed for a larger site.

Then Windows NT arrived. And suddenly you could feasibly replace both your file/print server AND run applications as services so replace your UNIX servers if you had them too. (Software availability allowing, that is.)

Windows NT wasn't perfect. It wasn't as good as Novell for file sharing - in particular it didn't do complex file permissions well until Windows 2000 shipped, and the workaround was using the unsupported CACLS command. But it ran applications a lot better than Novell did - a heck of a lot better.

So Windows NT was Good Enough(TM, Patent Pending) and due to the ongoing lowering of storage prices per MB you could consolidate several expensive old Novell machines onto a set of fewer, cheaper new Windows NT machines.

And those new servers also worked very with all those new Windows clients. In fact, why not just bite the bullet and set up a Domain at some point, maybe migrate everyone over to that too?

Novell Netware's file sharing was brilliant, but they were not that good at anything else. (Except directory services with Netware 4.x, but that's a different story.) The Windows NT/(Windows 95|Windows for Workgroups) combo landed at a time when people expected more from computers, preferably for less money. Windows NT delivered that, Novell didn't.

The death blow was probably the atrocious Netware protocol/logon drivers for that Novell shipped for Windows 95 - for a while the advice was to use the "bare basics" drivers that shipped with Windows 95 itself! The official Novell drivers were buggy and unreliable for quite a while, as well as being rather a resource hog.

That story was then repeated with the drivers for Windows NT4, which didn't help at all.

But I think that the move away from Novell had started long before that, when people saw how easy it was to create a file share whilst also running a service on a Windows NT machine. It made it viable to run a branch office from one server without hassle. In theory Novell could do that, but in practice Novell just couldn't do it reliably enough so everyone moved to Windows NT.

Philip Storry

Re: IPX/SPX

Gaming was the last refuge for SPX.

I had a couple of customers that used it for that, and then moved from DOOM/Quake to Half Life - which used TCP/IP. So they then removed SPX from the network.

Of course, this generated errors whenever the Notes server started because it was trying to bind to an SPX driver that was no longer there. Easy fix - remove the protocol from the server document in the directory, remove the driver from the line in notes.ini, restart the server. Well, easy when you know how...

It was an interesting conversation with the technical staff at the company, and we had to slightly modify the problem description and solution so that neither their nor my management realised that the whole problem was caused by LAN gaming! The words "legacy file server access" got used a lot...

Philip Storry

True, but IPX/SPX was still being deployed for several years after that in businesses.

By 1999 or 2000, nobody was deploying anything but TCP/IP, and maybe AppleTalk if you had a marketing department in the building.

Hindsight is 20/20. For a while in businesses it did look like IPX/SPX might win, then Novell tanked and the protocol went with them. Eventually SPX was only deployed for access to file servers we were decommissioning, and being used for cheeky gaming sessions by technical staff.

When Half Life replaced DOOM/Quake, SPX had absolutely no use and got stripped from the network. I was working for a consultancy at the time, and had conversations about this with a few customers. ;-)

Philip Storry

Absolutely.

Early in my career I specialised in Lotus Notes. Which had network drivers for all kinds - TCP, NetBIOS, SPX, Banyan VINES, serial connections... I don't specifically recall DECnet being in there, but that's probably because VAX was one of the few server options Notes never had...

I met Notes back in 1996. I think I only ever had one production server that used SPX - a Notes server running as an NLM on a Novell Netware server. Very very rapidly everything went to TCP/IP. A decade later, those drivers were already a historical curiosity for 99% of computer professionals working with Notes.

They got removed from later versions shortly after that.

(Yes, there were later versions of Lotus Notes, no matter what it might have seemed like. Companies just took their own sweet time deploying them...)

I'd say that TCP/IP had won by the year 2000. Everything since then has been mopping up operations...

GitLab plans to delete dormant projects in free accounts

Philip Storry
FAIL

A year seems a bit too low... Three years maybe?

On the one hand I see where GitLab is coming from. Inactive projects can be a risk to the general software ecosystem, so this could be seen as a good move.

But in my experience working for larger companies, there's no agility there. The idea that anything gets updated to a later version more than every few years is laughable. So a one year timeout is useless.

Even in personal computing, it's only Macs that get yearly software updates. Most Linux distros (rolling ones excepted) ship a new update every two years or so at best. So if I'm using one of these projects and it doesn't work on the latest version of Python, how am I going to know before the project's repo gets pulled? I have literally no chance of finding out and reporting it, which leaves the developer in a very poor position.

And before someone says "Well, they could always just make a change every year" - really? An unnecessary change just to keep the repo open? Time flies past, a year can feel like the blink of an eye. And if the developer regards the project as complete - or has just moved on to another personal project - a year could easily feel like a month for that project.

After a few years and a few projects, this will become quite a hassle.

Frankly, a year feels way too low. Three years feels more reasonable, given the cadence of software development these days.

(As an aside, I was evaluating GitLab and GitHub for deployment at my work. I'd already picked GitHub, but it was very close and this does nothing to make me think I was wrong.)

PowerShell pusher to log off from Microsoft: Write-Host "Bye bye, Jeffrey Snover"

Philip Storry

So much hate here!

There does seem to be a lot of hate for PowerShell here, which I find odd given the state of managing and automating Windows before it arrived.

So I figured I'd throw my tuppence out here.

PowerShell's biggest strength is that everything is an object.

PowerShell's biggest weakness is that everything is an object.

Some days everything being an object is great - to the point where you take it for granted. On UNIX based systems you might get back a stream of text from a command that you then have to strip text from with sed or split into fields and and recombine them with awk. That can be fragile if your regex isn't good or the data doesn't quite match your expectations. By contrast in PowerShell each item will be an object with properties - it's trivial to get back only the parts you want from an item, to the point where we take it for granted.

Some days everything being an object sucks because objects are more memory intensive and a bit slower than a text stream. Good old sort.exe can handle thousands of lines of text with minimal resources, but Sort-Object working on an array of a similar size can be slow. And I've also seen it almost kill machines due to memory usage. This sometimes means your script works just fine when you're writing it on your desktop with some test data but then fails on a server - because your workstation has four times the RAM that the server has. (Yeah, that can happen especially with smaller edge/management servers.) I've seen people get called out by the ops team because a critical RAM usage warning was issued, and the culprit was a PowerShell script with a Sort-Object a bit too early in the pipeline... Nobody is going to laud a technology that woke them at three in the morning for a callout!

All tools have their own strengths and weaknesses, and tools have a tendency to amplify the strengths and weaknesses of their wielder. Nothing's perfect, but I've enjoyed using PowerShell and I think of it as a valuable part of my toolkit, despite occasionally having fought and cursed it. In the end, I'd rather work with it than rail against it, because when it works it really works...

Philip Storry

Re: Enjoy your retirement Jeffrey

My apologies!

Enjoy your summer off, and I hope that your new gig is everything you want from it.

There do seem to be a lot of ignorant haters here, I hope you can ignore them. "A bad workman blames his tools" - and PowerShell is more a very large toolkit than a single tool, which unfortunately gives people a lot of room for manoeuvre.

Thanks for the clarifying reply - always good to see that the Reg forums are read by people at all levels!

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