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Microsoft Government The Courts News

A Real Bill Gates Rant 293

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the well-that's-not-so-bad dept.
lou ibmix XI submitted an email written by Bill Gates a few years ago and turned over to the feds as part of the government's antitrust case. Great quotes like 'Someone decided to trash the one part of Windows that was usable?' and 'The lack of attention to usability represented by these experiences blows my mind.' We like to think of him as an abstract, but I think this is interesting stuff. Also, this might seem familiar. Oops.
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A Real Bill Gates Rant

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  • I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spazztastic (814296) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [citsatzzaps]> on Monday February 23, 2009 @09:13AM (#26956875)

    I don't understand all the hate for Bill. Unless if this e-mail was nothing more than a publicity stunt to make him look less evil, it shows that he wasn't happy with the way things were going. He clearly saw the direction the ship was going and he couldn't turn it in time.

    Despite what you say about Microsoft now, Ballmer will always be funny to read about and watch on youtube.

  • Abstract (Score:4, Insightful)

    by msuarezalvarez (667058) on Monday February 23, 2009 @09:13AM (#26956877)
    We like to think of him as an abstract? Huh?
  • Re:Massive Dupe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wisty (1335733) on Monday February 23, 2009 @09:14AM (#26956889)

    It's been 6 years, and he still can't install it? Maybe he should install Wubi, and try apt-get, that usually works.

  • by Dolohov (114209) on Monday February 23, 2009 @09:14AM (#26956901)

    "'This is a shocking e-mail. Shocking!' And I said, 'What do you think I do all day? Sending an e-mail like that, that is my job. That's what it's all about. We're here to make things better.""

    Apparently he either really sucked at his job, or it was the job of the people who worked for him to completely ignore what he said.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vellmont (569020) on Monday February 23, 2009 @09:33AM (#26957101) Homepage


    I don't understand all the hate for Bill.

    Bill's the guy that's responsible for creating this monster. Obviously he didn't do it all by himself, but he's ultimately the captain of the ship.

    He clearly saw the direction the ship was going and he couldn't turn it in time.

    I actually don't really hate Bill (though I understand why some do). Even though I saw this email about a year ago I'm still greatly amused by it. It shows that even Bill Gates can't control the monster he's created. It's very interesting and amusing that Bill Gates, largest owner of Microsoft and (then) the person with the greatest control over it, reboots his computer nightly. That explains so much.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday February 23, 2009 @09:36AM (#26957133) Homepage Journal

    I don't understand all the hate for Bill.

    You may hand in your geek card at the door.

    If BillG's actions as the head of Microsoft we're enough for you, then surely his new mission of spreading IP law across the third world should get your attention? The Gates foundation makes for-profit investments that are killing people they claim to be trying to save [latimes.com]. Bill is personally heavily invested in big pharma [theregister.co.uk] and Gates supports strong IP law [newmediaexplorer.org] in order to protect his profits.

  • by stewbacca (1033764) on Monday February 23, 2009 @09:38AM (#26957161)
    Maybe had Bill been more hands-on in a Steve Jobs sort of way, the focus might have been more on usability and less on feature-lists. Bill gets what he gets. It's his fault that usability sucks, because he didn't cut into the bottom-line to make it better. It's also Bill's "fault" that Windows enjoyed a 95% market share for a decade.
  • by bogaboga (793279) on Monday February 23, 2009 @09:43AM (#26957239)

    Now let's turn the conversation the other way...to KDE and GNOME. Bill Gates here, is just being a typical newbie if he is anyway. No offence to him here. But if he were to send such a "rant" to the GNOME folks, you all know what kind of answers he'd get.

    This is not to say the KDE folks get it either. But for Linux to succeed even in the minutest way, it must meet Joe Public's expectations...and this can be done while at the same time meeting expectations of whoever it is at present.

    I guess I will be labelled a troll but what I am saying is the truth...so go right ahead and mod me down.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smallfries (601545) on Monday February 23, 2009 @09:51AM (#26957323) Homepage

    It's the law of unintended consequences. The vision at Microsoft has always been to try and reduce complexity. Whenever there has been a tradeoff between control and simplicity, Microsoft has chosen simplicity. Unfortunately some things are inherently complex, and as you try to wrap them behind simplistic abstractions there comes a point where you simply can achieve what you want. Suddenly you, and your current task is one of the things that the designers abstracted away. The quote about "we didn't realise people would try and download it from the downloads page" is a classic example.

    Which of course was exactly the point that Neal Stephenson made in the essay In the beginning was the command line [cryptonomicon.com].

  • by socsoc (1116769) on Monday February 23, 2009 @10:20AM (#26957613)
    how many test pages do you print?
  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by porkchop_d_clown (39923) <[mwheinz] [at] [me.com]> on Monday February 23, 2009 @10:27AM (#26957691) Homepage

    > It's the law of unintended consequences. The vision at Microsoft has always been to try and reduce complexity. Whenever there has been a tradeoff between control and simplicity.

    Have you ever actually compared Windows to MacOS? Microsoft most definitely did NOT choose simplicity, rather they have always chosen flexibility - the ability to configure and reconfigure the system to run on different hardware and to do different things.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vellmont (569020) on Monday February 23, 2009 @10:29AM (#26957709) Homepage


    From the perspective of developers once it builds and there aren't any showstopper bugs, everything is fine.

    Usability is likely one of the hardest things to get right because it forces (anyone really) to look outside of their own perspective. I don't see this as a disease of just software developers, but everyone. Different users want different things out of the software, and sometimes those ends are at cross purposes. I won't defend developers as a whole class here, because I've seen some (and worse) of what you're describing. I will point out that it's a grand generalization though.

    The problems Bill describes seem pretty inexcusable. It seems more a systemic problem than a particular one.

    The point of Bill's email is that he tries new products and tries to make these 'dumb user' type critiques of it.

    Heh. Dumb is an odd description for it. We've all experienced these same frustrations with using Microsoft software. Go to the horrible MS website, spend a lot of time looking for the DL, hopefully find it, wait wait wait while it DLs, machine locks up to being un-usable, finally install it.. but wait.. reboot! (assuming you survive the reboot).. now hope it works. No? Go to step 1.

    If I had to identify the single biggest underlying problem here.. it'd be that the user doesn't have a single place to go to install new software that just handles it all for you (and doesn't make you reboot) like say..... a package manager under Linux ;).

  • But for Linux to succeed even in the minutest way, it must meet Joe Public's expectations

    Why? It's a tool. The majority of "Joe Public" don't have specialized tools to work on bikes/cars/woodworking/electrical/floors/whatever. Does that mean that professional tools for those tasks should be re-designed for those "joe publics" to use without skill?

    I don't want my tools to be n00bified, they work great as they are, and appreciate them going in a direction that doesn't ape a broken paradigm. Thanks.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by maxume (22995) on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:18AM (#26958239)

    Counting their failure, they are still, by many measures, the most successful software company on the planet.

    For instance, more desktop users have complained about how bad Vista is than have used Linux.

  • by jmpeax (936370) * on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:19AM (#26958245)
    You have to understand that the original poster was coming from the "my dream is that Linux becomes the only OS used in the world" perspective.

    The idea that different software suits different people is lost on those with this mentality.
  • by Draek (916851) on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:37AM (#26958479)

    But for Linux to succeed even in the minutest way, it must meet Joe Public's expectations...and this can be done while at the same time meeting expectations of whoever it is at present.

    Define "success", then prove meeting "Joe Public"'s expectations is a requirement for such, and *then* prove that meeting them can be done doing only changes that don't alienate any of the current users. Good luck with that, you're gonna need it.

    As it stands, your post is just unsubstantiated opinion, off-topic as it pertains to Linux instead of Windows, and very likely a troll since you're using a CEO's letter to his employees to imply that the Gnome and KDE developers react badly to any criticism from 'newbies'.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by deoxyribonucleose (993319) on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:37AM (#26958485)
    You wouldn't happen to have anything which actually substantiates a ban on open source software as a prerequisite for funding schools and libraries? Apart from Stallman's rants? [slashdot.org]
  • Re:I don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:53AM (#26958681) Homepage Journal

    When you have billions of dollars, it's hard to be sure that all of it is doing good, and not doing evil.

    Ah yes, the "saving the world is hard" argument. That's what the Gates foundation said in a press release explaining why they would not be examining their investments for ethical acceptability. Of course, this immediately followed a press release claiming that they would review their investments for same.

    This argument is of course pure horseshit. You have a responsibility to invest your money ethically. To do otherwise is to simply abstract away all your bad behavior on to a proxy. If you invest in genocide, you're a murderer. If you aren't sure your investment is ethical, then the only ethical thing to do is not to make it. To do otherwise is to admit that you have no principles!

    You can not be considered an adult until you at least attempt to comprehend the results of your actions.

  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Monday February 23, 2009 @12:03PM (#26958789)

    Problems opening the control panel can often be due to poorly written 3rd party control panel applets (.cpl files). My control panel would frequently lock up or open very slowly....

    Well that sounds like a very poor design decision, synchronously calling into 3rd party code to see if it's okay to remove such code. IMHO an uninstaller should have more confidence and authority. What's the point of an uninstaller that is subordinate to its minions?

    If you are talking about the time taken to list installed programs, this was sped up considerably with Vista, which begins to show installed programs instantly...

    No thanks, I tried Vista for an hour and then returned the laptop. Plus this is a pointless hack. I do not care if the items start showing up as they're found. I need to see all of them.

    ...and populates the list in a fraction of the time XP uses for the same task.

    A fraction of two hours is still too long to wait for something that should be instantaneous.

    This seems more like "Classic Troll" to me. Are you sure you aren't ripping the programs out manually in a fit of rage and then surprised to find that Windows can't find the uninstaller?

    I sometimes rip the program out by hand as the stupid add/remove gadget is not featureful enough to inform me as to what it's talking about or when or where it installed FooMangler Deluxe, plus it gives me no useful undo/redo ability with these critical system components.

    Entires can be removed by deleting the appropriate registry keys located in:

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall

    Oh yeah, good strategy, point me to yet another clueless system utility, where any change is likely to break the whole system, and with no undo ability.

  • by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75@y a h o o . c om> on Monday February 23, 2009 @12:28PM (#26959121)

    I know it's a dupe, but I still love to see Gates say: "But that is just the start of the crap..."

    It says it all right there. At least Microsoft knows about the problems with Windows. It is said that realizing there is an issue is the first step to resolving it :)

    I don't think Bill Gates is really responsible for the problems with Windows. In fact, I think it's probably one reason why he left when he did. The company just got too big for him to manage day-to-day - he wasn't the one making relatively minor decisions like where Windows Movie Maker sits on the Microsoft web site or how to install it, somebody else was making those decisions. And little decisions like that, all added up together, are 95% of what makes Windows as maddening to use as it is. And he was as annoyed by that stuff as everybody else.

    Worse for him, it was his job to defend it, which probably gave him never-ending heartburn.

    I think he built this thing, saw what it had turned into, saw no easy way of fixing it (especially at his age and point of his career arc), and so decided to get out and leave it up to someone else. The two questions are:

    a) are the people he left behind smart enough to recognize the problems he saw?

    and

    b) are they actually up to the task of fixing the OS's problems?

    So far, Windows 7 seems like a step in the right direction, as is its quick turnaround time (suggesting these guys don't have their heads in the sand about Vista anymore), so I think there's some hope.

  • by Mister Whirly (964219) on Monday February 23, 2009 @01:07PM (#26959629) Homepage
    Bill Gates didn't get to where he is today by being ignorant and in the dark about Windows.

    Bill Gates realizing and complaining about something that could work better in Windows isn't a huge "discovery". It is his job.
  • Re:I don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Monday February 23, 2009 @03:06PM (#26961133) Homepage

    "capitalism" didn't kill communism, corruption did.

    The Soviet union was very much a crony-ism. Everyone that could,
    robbed the state blind. This went all the way from the factory
    floor up to the politburo. After awhile, the system just couldn't
    take it any more.

    Capitalism needs a little reigning in so it doesn't devolve into
    cronyism. At that point, the positive incentives to do well start
    to evaporate and the system loses it's ability to sustain itself.

    Considering where Russia started at the start of the 20th century,
    they still managed to do very well for themselves despite of
    everything. Ultimately, they did themselves in and we will follow
    right behind them if we don't pay attention.

  • Re:Massive Dupe (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2009 @07:15PM (#26963989)

    * All the editors (except vim)
    * Amarok and Banshee are both better than WMP, iTunes, QuickTime, and the other common Windows media players
    * The file browsers are mostly better than Windows Explorer
    * Using butterflies beats Outlook (XKCD ref)

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