Saturday, July 11, 2009

Working the kinks out of the system.

Being old and a programmer in a previous lifetime, I can say that I was hating on Bill Gates and Microsoft back when most of y'all couldn't pick the guy out of a line-up. It's been about thirty years now since gigantic IBM tapped tiny Microsoft to write the operating system for their soon to be released personal computers. There were personal computers already on the market that had better hardware than the first IBM PC. I have heard many hardware guys from several different companies from back in the day say that the internal workings of the Atari 800 was the best and fastest hardware of its day, better than Apple or Commodore or IBM, but the IBM name was impossible to beat, and the guys who wrote the crap software bundled with that trusted name in hardware were going to be filthy rich regardless of whether they were actually competent at their jobs or not.

Which they weren't.

We used to joke that using any Microsoft product whose version number was less than 3.0 was just asking for trouble. The software was buggy and unintuitive and slow. In the 1980s, "innovation" at Microsoft was stealing ideas from smaller competitors, most notably Apple and their more intuitive software for the Macintosh.

Of course, that was long ago. The folks running Microsoft today aren't the people from back in the day. Bill Gates is long gone from the day to day operation of Microsoft. New people who weren't even born when Gates and crew started the company are writing the code now.

But the early versions of their software? They still suck.

Submitted for your disapproval: Bing, the new search engine.

My bad. The new and first decision engine. You may have seen the ads. Bing isn't going to give you all the nonsense you don't need when you search. It's better than that other search engine. You know, the one that 95% of computer users turn to every day. (Statistic made up on the spot, but probably close to accurate, given how people find this blog.)

Well, I have fooled around with Bing a little, and I don't find it a significant improvement on Google or Ask. I still like to check my blog's stats on sitemeter a few times a day, and on a recent check of referrals, two people stumbled on my blog through Bing.

One person was searching "Harry Potter forhead", spelled exactly like that. Another was looking for "scary clown faces". I did a quick, inside my brain search for what posts I had written about either of those topics and came up blank.

Bing thinks this picture of Jesus belongs on both those searches. Not at the very top of the list, mind you, but close enough to the top that two people came to my blog to see what I had to say about what they were looking for.

It's Jesus, it's Harry Potter's forhead, it's a scary clown face. Like a lot of great artwork, it's open to multiple interpretations.

Especially if the interpreter is a crap piece of barely tested beta software.


Lockwood said...

Glad to see you give a shout-out to Atari. My first computer- really my first platform of any kind beyond my TI-59, was an Atari 1040ST. With a mind-boggling one full megabyte of RAM and no hard drive, I was in seventh heaven. I learned how to program C on it and would spend 18-20 hours at a time putting together badly written, but ultimately very satisfying little programs to entertain myself.

I never really did figure out whether Mac stole Atari's opsys ideas or vice-versa (or a little of both) but when I moved to a Mac, it felt like I was on the same old GEM platform, just a little more sophisticated. I have always regarded Atari as an unsung hero in the early days of personal computing; I'm sorry that they failed in that market, and that MacroHard became so dominant.

As an aside, you've probably heard this, but maybe not... some years ago, there was a contest to identify the greatest oxymoron ever. The winner? MicroSoft Works.

Lockwood said...

PS: I actually did all of my Master's degree work- thousands of pages total- on that little workhorse.

Abu Scooter said...

Here's something Microsoft won't tell anyone in its ads: If you don't let Bing put cookies on your computer, it won't work correctly. By contrast, Google gives you a full set of results, whether you allow cookies or not. That makes Bing a big privacy FAIL.

Matty Boy said...

Lockwood: Hadn't heard the joke before, and I love it. It will be repeated often.

Abu S.: I didn't know about the cookie thing but it both does not surprise me that you found this AND this is the mode of operations for Microsoft.

Karlacita! said...

An excellent search engine that almost no one knows about is

Go there and put in a difficult search, or search your own bad self. The results will be listed by relevance in much the same way google responds, but on the left side of the results screen, the results will be clustered in their own subcategories.

You gotta see it! I go there when google loses its shit behind my difficult searches.