Author Archives: ben61a

The Great Double Standard

Disclosure: I am a Microsoft employee; however, the content of this blog does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Microsoft Corporation.

Joe Wilcox recently discussed how Microsoft’s past mistakes have haunted itself by causing negative perception in the media and marketplace to a degree more severe than deserved. I liked the article a lot, but I think I took it in a slightly different way than he intended. I first reacted with a, “Word! This sucks! We don’t deserve that.” But then, I remembered that we really did this to ourselves and that, more importantly, we are responsible for digging ourselves out of this. It’s going to be extremely difficult, but I hope we can change that perception in the coming years.

I’ve peppered comments through selected portions of the article. Check out the link below for the full text.

Two closely timed events—today’s release of Mac OS X Leopard and yesterday’s big Microsoft earnings report—raise questions yet again about how Microsoft and Apple are perceived.Apple it seems can do no wrong, while Microsoft can do no right. If someone passes gas in the room, someone blames Microsoft. Yet Apple can “brick” iPhones for which customers paid $400 to $600 and sales just soar.

Microsoft reports solid earnings quarter after quarter—and yesterday beat earnings estimates by more than $1 billion. Yet Microsoft’s stock price is stuck at 2001 levels. Apple earnings results are good, but nowhere near what Microsoft delivers. Yet Apple’s stock just climbs and climbs—this morning to more than $185 a share, up from about 77 bucks 52 weeks earlier.

. . .

Apple’s success is one of perception, spurred on by some very smart marketing and branding decisions made over the past six years. Apple is a cool brand that people want to be associated with. When people really like something, they also tend to be more forgiving of faults.

[ben61a] I think the above statement goes a bit far; Apple makes some amazing products, which I believe is more a factor in their success than perception alone.[/ben61a]

By contrast, Microsoft has huge perceptions problems, many of its own making. For years, Microsoft rushed OK products to market, leading to a popular (and usually right) perception that the company wouldn’t get it right until the third release. Marketing 101: The products are the company, and its image. I hear people complain about buggy, crashy Windows, years after Microsoft released the very stable and reliable XP and, later, its Service Pack 2 update; the days of perennial crashes are long gone, but not forgotten.

Microsoft’s past behavior has created some perception that its products aren’t good enough, that the company doesn’t care for customers. Windows Vista is a poster product for Microsoft’s perception problems: It’s got an undeserved bad reputation.

[ben61a] Someone out there is saying that Vista deserves the bad reputation. But why?

I love Vista and have had no major problems with it, even on my 5-year-old home desktop that only had 1 GB RAM. Things run just as fast as in XP, I had no driver problems, the sidebar is awesome (with the right gadgets), it’s pretty, the sleep mode is awesome – it lets me turn off the computer in a few seconds and it boots right back up in less than 5 seconds, and more. There are a lot of great things in Vista.

Sure, there are also a few bad things like the annoying security dialogs that pop up (which I turned off) and its cost. The most common complaint I hear is that it consumes more resources than XP. Big deal. It’s a next-generation OS that was actually design to use that extra memory very efficiently. Why shouldn’t Microsoft design for the ever-increasing, ever-cheaper amount of memory that comes in computers nowadays?

Given its strengths and improvements over XP, I don’t think these things validate the “suck” label.[/ben61a]

. . .

This week, a number of tech journalists gave glowing reviews of Leopard. They received the software on Mac Book Pro laptops provided by Apple. Nowhere have I seen anyone gripe about conflicts of interest. But when Microsoft’s PR agency sent bloggers preloaded Vista notebooks ahead of the operating system’s launch, there were ridiculous accusations of attempted bribery. The accusations made it difficult for those receiving the Vista units to say anything positive about the operating system.

[ben61a] Hahahahahaha TOTALLY. I saw like 5 articles about how Microsoft was bribing people with awesome laptops with Vista installed. IMO, this is the best example of the media and bloggers’ double-standard.[/ben61a]

. . .

Apple is perceived to be a progressive company. But it has a spotty record for green computing—even though one of its board members just won a Nobel prize for environmental work. Its record of giving is OK, but not exceptional. Apple has few programs (actually none that I know of) for helping people in emerging markets. Oh, but it’s cool, though, and has style.

By contrast, Microsoft’s focus for years has been the conversion to digital documents, which is hugely environmentally friendly. The company’s chairman is trustee for a charitable organization with billions of dollars to give away. Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential program seeks to use technology to empower people in emerging markets.

[ben61a] Beyond this, Microsoft also matches employee charitable giving dollar-for-dollar up to $12,000 per year. Last year alone, Microsoft and its employees gave $39.2 million in cash through our Employee Giving Campaign. That’s a big deal! I’m guessing that if one year, Apple or Google employees gave that much through a company-sponsored program, it’d be all over the media. Microsoft has been doing it for YEARS. Since 1983, Microsoft + employees have given $2.5 billion in cash, services, and software to non-profits around the world. Isn’t that weird for an “evil empire?”[/ben61a]

There’s perception, and there’s reality.

No question, Microsoft makes lots of boneheaded decisions, for which it is rightly vilified. But the company also deserves more praise than it gets. Meanwhile, strong brand perceptions—and their feel good association—lets Apple off even when it screws up.

Today will be no exception. The blogosphere will praise Leopard as the next best thing ever and use it as more proof why Vista sucks (It doesn’t). Meanwhile, there will be little good said about Microsoft’s colossal 2008 fiscal first quarter results. Those people acknowledging the earnings results will blame Microsoft for trying to kill Linux and babies in Africa as reasons for its success. The perception: When Microsoft competes, it cheats.

There is a double standard.

Missing Berkeley

Since I couldn’t sleep, I started looking through old pictures on compy. I reminisced about the good old days; I wondered what so-and-so was doing now; I saw friends as they were years ago; I missed Berkeley.

I also found this old post from my previous blog of 100 random memories that I had the foresight to catalogue. What a throwback.

1. going to foothill to eat dc
2. late niet jack runs
3. sc and war3
4. fellowship hopping
5. ee40
6. cleaning henru and jon’s apt on channing
7. 2002 summer interns
8. moving into royston
9. soda
10. living at ken’s before i moved to berkeley
11. visiting sobay my first year summer; denny’s and cars with dave h.
12. carrying a 3-seater hardwood couch with dave h. from royston to past GPB at 11pm (0.84 miles if you go thru campus if you were wondering)
13. visitors from upenn
14. shk, ben and jerry’s, mcdonalds, the opening of tako, pyramid, cheeseboard, ibhoagies, shogun, sushi house
15. driving up the mountain (kamu, dave h.)
16. sleeping at 7am, waking at 5pm
17. pulling all nieters to correct my sleeping schedule
18. using various cards to break into apts for people who locked themselves out
19. sae vs. axio
20. pizza at westminster as a frosh
21. singing on sproul, in dwinelle, vlsb, around campus
22. ms. jackson-benedict
23. 102, 108, 110, 203, 210, 303, 304, 306, 308, 310, 401, 402
24. bb gun wars
25. batting of a roll of paper towels in the garage
26. singing in the stairwells, garage, and laundry room
27. laundry room floodings
28. 20th, 21st bdays
29. underhill before it grew a dc on one end
30. old couples
31. visiting stanford with therapists
32. spring break 2003
33. joe’s summer in 203
34. the faces of people i saw around campus that i’ll probably never talk to again
35. friends i’ll always remember
36. pool in foothill
37. meeting special incoming frosh each year
38. extension
39. telegraph commons
40. first pres FIVE 45
41. going to unit 2 dc for brunch and the unit 3 dc after church
42. turkey and mashed potato niets
43. passing by the triad restaurant in oakland chinatown with therapists
44. going to chinatown with my parents on a saturday afternoon
45. cheesecake on too many occasions to list
46. shopping
47. pinole and all its goodness
48. emery bay
49. ikea when it first opened
50. replacing my recliner with a couch
51. dual monitors
52. oldddd friends from saratoga
53. rsf (225 baby)
54. running at the clark kerr track
55. the mountain
56. finding goats one time on the mountain
57. finding out they are placed there to eat the grass to prevent wildfires
58. winter retreats
59. worship
60. small groups
61. buying that light from ikea that makes my eyes hurt
62. sleeping on my couch on hot summer niets
63. settlers
64. going to jack in my bathrobe
65. holdem
66. being caught for supposedly cheating
67. friends and scrubs at derek’s
68. bbqs at will’s, kevin’s
69. buying 48 cans of soda at a time cuz they’re on sale at safeway
70. visitors from other ucs
71. weekends away
72. crazy friends’ ex-gfs
73. late-niet ludeness
74. equinox
75. clubbing (that one time i went)
76. never having gone up the campanile or the big c (yet) [STILL!]
77. driving down to la/sd
78. testimony
79. kelly getting beaten by a girl
80. plotting to take several cs61a midterms after having taken the class, standing up after 10 minutes and saying “wait, was that it?”
81. starting this xanga
82. walking home one niet with grr from an aacf thing up channing
83. visiting 6a40
84. watching endless streams of generations populate royston
85. hooking dan up with the waitress at tanaka
86. singing at clc
87. visiting ebac
88. watching matrix 14 times at my apt with so many different groups of people
89. watching lotr fotr at emery bay
90. driving to get food from the tacobell/kfc on telegraph
91. seeing friends randomly on campus every time i went
92. doe library at niet
93. turning in homework at 3am at soda
94. running around the block at 2am one time cuz i was bored
95. taking history of Christian thot zzzzz
96. helping ta move from unit 1 to royston in the rain
97. coming up with the nickname tenis
98. accountability, discipleship, and chess
99. mooey coming as a frosh
100. missing berkeley everytime i was away

The Fruit of Immaturity

Here’s a great article on indecisiveness and inconsistency–what this writer believes are the hallmarks of immaturity. Several quotes:

Regardless of the context, to make a decision is to intentionally limit oneself from other, potentially good options. As a single guy, it was a challenge to think of marrying the woman God had clearly given me, since I would no longer have the option to pursue the women I might meet someday. An indecisive man is recognizable by a perpetual inability to make and keep commitments — a failure to “swear to his own hurt and not change” (Ps. 15:4). A decisive person, by contrast, can choose what he loves, and later (when the going gets tough) nurture the love he previously chose.

Assuming responsibility means embracing risk. Though we can distinguish between “good”, “better” and “best,” there is no perfect job. Or perfect church. Or perfect marriage. Each will require us to roll up our sleeves and give of our time and energy to make it better.

I think there’s a lot more that can be said about maturity versus immaturity, but I like the author’s thoughts.

From Melody

Great Review of Latest Windows Live Hotmail Update


Microsoft this week updated Windows Live Hotmail with some pretty hefty improvements. This is notable for a number of reasons, the most obvious being the company just issued the latest Hotmail version back in May (see my review), just three months ago. And that update came after many, many years of testing. That the Windows Live team at Microsoft is able to turnaround revisions very quickly should never again be questioned: It’s one thing to update a comparatively minor service, but Hotmail is used by 280 million active users. This is a big deal, folks.

Here is a list of new stuff, taken from our blog:

Performance: We’ve been hearing you loud and clear across the world: speed is one of the most important aspects of a web-based email service. We’ve spent more time in this release identifying what parts of the product are slowest and fixing those. We hope that you notice an improvement when this update is released to your account, and we’ll continue our work on performance in future releases.

Quality of Service: Our last release went quite smoothly, and we’ve been continuing to monitor the live site to make sure that we’re providing e-mail that is reliable – you always want to be able to get to your mail, and we hear you!

More storage! Just when you were wondering how you’d ever fill up 2 or 4 GB of mail, we’ve given you more storage. Free users will get 5 GB and paid users will get 10 GB of Hotmail storage.

Mail retention changes: We’ll be increasing the amount of time that we leave messages in your junk and deleted items folders over the next few months.

Contacts de-duplication: Do you have five different entries for the same person in your Contacts? Yeah, me too, but not anymore. We’re the first webmail service to roll out “contacts de-duplication”. If you get a message from “Steve Kafka” and click “add contact” but there’s already a Steve Kafka, we’ll let you know and let you add Steve’s other e-mail address to your existing “Steve Kafka” contact entry. We’re just trying to be smarter to make your life easier and faster. There’s also a wizard you can run to clean up your existing duplicate contacts.

Show content more easily: Hotmail blocks images and links in messages from unknown senders for your protection from spammers and phishing scams. Now you can click directly on the gray square or link to decide if you want to show content in a message. (It’s still not a good idea to show content, especially images, in messages from spammers. Just loading the images in a spam lets them know that you’re reading their e-mails.)

Spam-fighting: We’ve made it possible to report phishing attacks like those fake bank notices or fraudsters who want your checking account number so they can supposedly make a deposit. Just click “report phishing” if you think you’ve found a dangerous scam. In the junk folder, click “not junk” to help train our filters. Every mail you report does help make our spam filter smarter, but fighting spam takes constant vigilance. Spammers always find a new trick whenever we thwart their old tricks.

Right-to-left languages: Support for Hebrew and Arabic is now out of beta! If you speak these languages or want to see Hotmail in a totally new way, go to Options and change your language. We fixed a lot of bugs for users of Hebrew and Arabic, so we hope the whole UI works better for you now.

More space for your email, a.k.a. smaller header: We heard you asking for more space for your mail, so we shrunk the header in this update.

Forwarding messages: You can now forward mail from your Hotmail account to other accounts. For now, if you have a free account, you can only forward your mail to other Hotmail accounts. (Paid accounts get more choices.) This is great idea if you have a few different addresses and want to consolidate your mail.

Cobranding: This is what we call showing the logo of an organization for whom we are hosting email. Hotmail is currently hosting e-mail for universities (and a few ISPs) around the world, so we show their logos in Hotmail.

Accepting meeting requests: If you receive a meeting request, such as one sent from Outlook, you can now click “accept” and have it added to your Calendar. This had existed for years in MSN Hotmail, and we’re adding it to Windows Live Hotmail now.

Vacation replies: Now Hotmail can automatically tell your friends why you haven’t written them back in a few weeks.

Classic version jump to page: In the classic version, we’ve made it easier to jump to different pages of mail. This will be very handy as you grow into your new 5 GB or 10 GB account.

And finally… Drumroll please… we know this is going to be a big hit with a lot of you out there in blog land. I hope you remember this as the Hotmail team listening to what you want.

You can turn off the Today page (if you want to). If you’d rather see your inbox immediately upon login, you have the option to turn off the page of MSN news (called the Today page). The choice is yours.

The Queen Is The Queen Of Canada??

Wow, I am ignorant. I did not know that the same Queen of England, Elizabeth II, is the Queen of Canada and a whole bunch of other places! She owns!

In addition to the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II is also Queen of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, and Saint Kitts and Nevis, where she is represented by Governors-General. The 16 countries of which she is Queen are known as Commonwealth Realms, and their combined population is over 129 million.

I Just Ruined 4 Years Of Suspense

Over the past two months, I have been very careful to limit the places I go to browse for cool stuff to post. You see, several years ago I had the ending of the 6th Harry Potter book ruined for me because someone posted the spoiler as a thread title at a forum I frequent. I couldn’t miss it and I didn’t.

Tonight, I made my new blog title a self-describing truism. I came across a link that read, “Full Disclosure: Harry Potter 0day.” And I clicked it. I had a brief lapse of good judgment and I clicked it. I know what “full disclosure” means. I know what “0day” means. And I clicked it.

In the 4 seconds it took to scan the page, I have possibly ruined 4 years of suspense. I may know what happens at the end of the Harry Potter series. I am an idiot.

Sure, it’s likely that this is a hoax and that the person who posted the spoiler is just looking for attention, but it might be real. Either way, it will definitely be in the back of my mind for the duration of Book 7.

Article 1 about the claimed spoiler

Article 2 about the claimed spoiler

*The spoiler*

“Try And” Versus “Try To”

My grammar annoyance for today is different from previously blogged annoyances because it’s not technically a grammar problem: it’s a problem where people say what they don’t mean.

James is going to try and use English well.

What do we understand the above sentence to mean? James is going to attempt to use English well.

What does the above sentence actually mean? James is going to try doing something that we are not told anything about; in addition, he is going to use English well.

What should the sentence read?

James is going to try to use English well.

Get it? Good. =] Sadly, this one hits you all over the place, even in the news:

Astronauts To Try And Fix Thermal Blanket