My ultra-boring life

Monday, February 28, 2005

Interoperability

OK, I'm going to geek out for a minute here.
I don't particularly care for Internet Explorer or Outlook. It's not a matter of hating Microsoft's ill-gotten monopoly so much as I really don't care for their feature set. I've worked with GroupWise as a full PIM/Groupware it whomps Outlook's keister all over the playground. I switched to Firefox a while ago and if you're reading this you probably already realized how much it kicks IE's tail. However, I also work in a very corporate world and am completely shackled to IE and Outlook, which causes me no end of frustration.

With my last job, working in the smaller-business sector, I experienced some frustration because of the many products we used that wrote only for Outlook and/or IE. Now that I'm on the corporate software side, I get frustrated because we're even MORE shackled by the legions of businesses that use those standards, almost forcing our hands. And it all comes down to 1 word: interoperability.

In my mind, I haven't generally considered Microsoft products to be a shining example of 'playing well with others' -- however, when you control most of the interfaces and basic software (OSes, document production, PIMs, browsers, etc.), you automatically LOOK more friendly automatically without even trying. On top of that, if your architecture is rife with holes and security issues, it's easy to use those holes to 'hook' other software into your own. So we end up with this nasty cyclic pattern:
1. Developer programs new software to interface with Microsoft products for reasons including: a) heavy marketing from Microsoft, b) ease of hooking into the software, c) easiest to program for maximum interoperability for existing users, increasing customer base.
2. Users wants developer software bad enough that they make sure to use Microsoft products for complete functionality.
3. Microsoft product usage goes up as people switch to inferior products to get 3rd party software.
4. Decreased market share weakens competing software, making it harder for them to develop interoperability solutions.
5. More Developers go to 1. because of 3. and 4.

I hate it. I really do. But as a business consumer, how can I justify buying a product that, despite its better functionality in its limited scope, drastically limits my options for functionality through integration and interoperability with other products I need? And as a developer, how can I justify the time and money into full development of integrations with products that represent such a small market share, particularly when those products are often much more difficult to develop for?

Firefox has made a serious dent because it appeals to so many different levels of consumers. But IE will have an iron grip on most corporate users because of intranet and other internal functions that need integration with 3rd party products that have been too hard-coded towards IE. I know many of my daily work functions are now browser-based, and I HAVE to use IE for them because that's the way they were coded.

PIMs, however, make me extra sad because they are so deeply rooted in corporate structure. Many people in a work environment live in their PIM -- e-mail, calendar, task lists, etc. Integration with this piece of software is therefore vital and incredibly common, and I fear GroupWise is being driven from the playing field, and I can't fully blame Microsoft, because if Novell had been able to make Groupwise easier to integrate with it, they might have had a chance.

So when Bill Gates says that Microsoft has goals of greater interoperability, be afraid. Be very afraid. In this world, being the best isn't what it takes to win. It just takes the slightly better 'ease of integrating' and 'commonality of use' to win the lowest common denominator card and teeter that market over the edge.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Changes

This week my husband found an old tape of mine, so yesterday I was listening to Aerosmith while I cleaned house, and it brought back a lot of memories. Aside from remembering how extremely obsessed with sex that Aerosmith was, and the memories of riding in the back of a green 1968 Camaro in an unusually precious window of time, it reminded me of tapes. You know, tapes. The kind that were our lifeblood when we were young and we had so much more time and mental energy to spend on music. I mean, they were ubiquitous, because they were so portable and adaptable and versatile. I remember seeing shiny brown nests of ratted tape innards strewn on roadsides or in trees and thinking, man, someone either really hated that tape or they are missing it right now. You know, that sort of thing. The kind of thing that makes the 80s seem so much more far away. At any rate, that started a train of thought, as those things often do. I remembered what a pain tapes were. How, if you didn't like a song, you had to either fast forward, timing it perfectly to the end of the song, or (as I usually did) you had to suffer through it. How you usually had to physically be there to turn the tape over when you reached the end of the side. And how they got grainy or tangled in your machine when you had listened to them just a couple of dozen times. And all this got me thinking about how nice technology is today, with CDs and MP3s and computers. No rewinding, no fast forwarding, no turning over, no suffering through songs you're not real keen on. Which got me thinking about how kids today never have to learn patience and long-suffering and things like that, that we learned from suffering through cassette tapes. Darn spoiled kids. Get off my lawn. :P

Monday, February 21, 2005

@#$%!*#!

When I was a teenager I was a pretty good kid. Got good grades, ran errands, babysat my younger siblings, went to church, etc. This led to my being labeled something of a goody-two-shoes and I found people who hardly knew me predicting my behavior -- often accurately. For some reason this made me livid and I started doing something for the shock value -- cursing. It didn't take long for this to become a habit at school, at home, everywhere. As teenage rebellion goes it was pretty mild so there weren't many repercussions, but as I got older I became more ashamed of the habit and found myself not quite able to shake it.

The more I tried to overcome the habit, the more it seemed to dig in and the more my anger and frustration with myself grew, until I realized a very important thing: no matter what we call them, the words themselves are not bad. They have no power, except what we as listeners give them. When I realized this, the power that the guilt held over me diminished and I was able to control my mouth better. I still swear in private and that has been the cause of some embarrassing situation on occasion, but for the most part most people don't know I have such a potty mouth. :)

Different cultures, different classes, even different families often have different ideas of what constitutes a 'bad' word. We can't always know what those words are for each and every person we encounter, but we can usually have a pretty good idea of the most likely offenders and we show respect for the listener by avoiding the use of these words. It's one of the many rules of conversational etiquette that most adults don't even think about anymore, though depending on the company we may sometimes slip up.

I find even my potty-mouthed self still flinching internally sometimes at the traditonal 'bad words,' but I don't react because I know that most speakers don't mean to offend, and if they do mean to offend, I certainly don't want to give them the satisfaction, especially over something so powerless and silly! So I actually get rather annoyed with persons who react with shock or disdain at the vocabulary of others. There can be absolutely nothing admirable gained from such actions. No one will be impressed by your show of 'innocence.' No one will think that you are superior because you are offended. You may, however, alienate or discomfort the speaker and present yourself as a judgmental snob or an easily manipulated fool, making any attempts at a good conversation or influence much more difficult. It's exactly like someone paying such close and critical attention to your grammar that they don't even seem to care what you are saying.

So watch your own language. That'll reflect positively on you and it'll be enough for most sensible people to know how to speak around you. But chill out about the language of others.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Knowing God

OK, excuse the weakness of my writing on this one. I haven't had many opportunities to exercise my logic muscles for a number of years and they are pretty flabby. But as I've said, there are some things I just want to get out and this venue is more for me than for you, so here goes.

I've been bothered for a number of years at the attitudes of some people towards the concept of God. Specifically, the idea that God can somehow be defined by our beliefs or desires. All the time we hear people use phrases like, 'well MY God doesn't do that.' I see people choosing a religious denomination for its after school programs or how nice the people are or even how close it is to their house and if it's 'fun,' things that have little to do with their relationship to God. And, gratingly, the intense intellectual and archaeological studies of the near east 2000+ years ago and clinging dogmatically to the crumbs of information and the conclusions drawn from them in the mistaken belief that by studying the footprints we can somehow come to know & understand the person who made them.

Either God is, or He isn't. What you believe has no effect on that fact. If you are content with worshipping an idea, then go ahead, pick something that meshes with whatever values you want. Make it male or female or vengeful or fluffy or purple or whatever suits your fancy. Belief by itself has some power, so if it brings good out in you, that's great. But to really get more benefits out of the deal and tap into something that is more than yourself, you have to get to know the REAL God. Which means you may need to change some of the ideas or beliefs that you've had, since reality won't change to fit your beliefs, and when it comes to something as big and complex as the Creator, we can't expect to be able to know or comprehend everything about Him, either, no matter how much we study.

Archaeological studies can give some idea of things that have happened in the past, but they are incomplete and no matter how well-intentioned the interpretation of the data, interpretations on driblets are highly fallible.

Personally, I am a big fan of the scientific method. Simply, gather information and decide on a 'hypothesis,' or belief system that you want to test. Then test it, as spiritual things can best be tested. That is the first part of Faith and it's rather tricky with things like this, because of the complexities of getting to know anyone, so it's not like the results can be 100% consistent in the short term. But you take your hypothesis and test it. You pray, you act, you seek. If it grows in a positive way and you feel the positive effects of it, work off that and move forward. If you reach a point where you feel you have dead-ended, or received everything from that path that you can, then there is something else out there that can give you more truth and light and you might need to move to move forward. The important thing is to get a working theory. Even science mostly works with theories -- where they have enough data to move forward and it's not fact yet, but it's enough to work with. Scientists sometimes forget that and think that they are working with immutable facts more often than they are, while faithful persons sometimes forget that God works with facts as well as faith.

I'm glad God gives us the choices to find information on our own, but He still gives us sources of information so we don't have to be completely blind. I have tested my hypothesis and I'm glad I have; I feel a close relationship to God that has wrought miracles in my own life. Where do you stand?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Sins v. Sinners

I am, in general, considered to be a nice person.

I say please and thank you, volunteer at hospitals, will watch friends' children for free, and even occasionally remember birthdays. I'm not perfect, of course, but in general, I'm not too bad.

However, I am also very opinionated. I have pretty strong opinions on a lot of things, and unfortunately, if you're strongly opinionated FOR something, you usually have to take a stance AGAINST something else. And I am here, gabbing away, for my own benefit. Because I want to rant about something. Get it out in the open. I've always been a ranter, and I've finally decided to take this opportunity to rant publically but not so forcefully that I'm a boor at cocktail parties.

So I want to get something straight. This is not a personal thing. If I say I don't like some activity or lifestyle choice that you happen to like, I am not saying that I don't like YOU. Everyone does things that are unlikable, including myself. It doesn't mean I don't like the person, but that doesn't mean I have to like the act or choice, either. So many of us get so caught up in defining ourselves with something that we do that we defend that activity like it's suddenly an act of self-preservation. This, too, I understand. When people ignorantly attack my religion, for instance, I feel my hackles rise.

So if you feel I have ignorantly attacked something that is precious to you, post a comment to it. But please, leave out the emotional rhetoric and present facts and legitimate sources. I am not easily emotionally swayed and if there are facts supporting both sides, I will probably not change my mind. But if I am honestly in the dark, I will admit it when I was wrong. And in the meantime, try not to be offended. If you can't help but be offended, you don't have to read this blog. Ain't freedom great?