Next to, "You today, me tomorrow..." it is what it is has to be my favorite saying.
Windows Vista is what it is... and while it is just an operating system, it is at the center of a pretty important ecosystem and relevant to nearly all of us working in the technology industry.
Explanations are often simple... we often cannot change things, but we can respond to them in productive ways - it is a choice and choosing to find the best in all things and all people isn't a bad one. Embracing things for what they are, and making the very best of them, can be a lot more productive than looking for faults. You today, me tomorrow... - you may need my help today and I will gladly give it, because sure as day follows night, I will need your help in the morning. I tell every member of my family and teams at work (they really are one in the same) to always seek out the best in all people and all things, because if one looks for faults, one is 100% certain to find them - if one looks for the best, they are likely to find that, too - most especially in themselves.
I take some flak for not being more frequently critical of Windows Vista. The time for that is past and, as a Microsoft Partner, any misgivings I had for the new OS were appropriately delivered when the operating system was in testing - they were many, and they were sharply delivered. On occasion, my criticisms weren't especially helpful or even professional and from time to time, they were best characterized as a mad rant. On other occasions they were productive and delivered in appropriate and perhaps helpful ways. I've been in this industry for much longer than many seasoned IT/MIS professionals have been alive and I knew Windows Vista was in for a rough ride in a following sea. I'm old enough to know more than operating systems; I know our industry and more than a thing or two about communications, media and business as they relate to technology. I knew that collectively, many aspects of our society and industry were going to line up and bash the ever loving crap out of Windows Vista. I'll get to why in a moment...
As Vista shipped and rapidly matured, our roles changed - evaluations ended and work would begin. Work to design, test and deploy computers and networks that delight customers and run Windows Vista, and work to make sure that customers remain delighted, productive and safer while on-line. As a partner, not just of Microsoft's, but of an industry, it is our responsibility to act like one and deliver on our end. It's easy to take that the wrong way - to be labeled, and branded with hot irons as a mere shill. That isn't appropriate and the word "partner" needs to be considered - what it means and what it means to be a good one. First, partnering is about fairness, honesty, integrity and objectivity. Partnering is also about being loyal to those one partners with. Entering into a partnership is not easy and should not be taken lightly. It isn't about seeking unfair advantage, or cutting and running when things aren't going as well as they might be. Being a good partner demands that one embrace the full weight of their responsibility and seek out and implement solutions. Being a good partner is also about being good in a storm and working with what you have as opposed to what you want. Above all else, being a good partner is about being consistent. So when a new operating system ships, a good partner learns it - its strengths, its weaknesses and the many ways to shape it to suite one's customers. In that spirit and opposite all the companies and governments with which we partner, we apply our best efforts. While on occasion we do not see the same effort in return, in most cases we see those we partner with treat us with equal respect, objectivity and loyalty. We are consistent about that and as such companies are consistent with us and our collective customers benefit and trust us with their business. That is the simple math attending what it is to be a partner - of Microsoft's or of any other company.
Working with Windows Vista is and has been no different. Vista, like any operating system, takes effort - consistent effort and a continuous pursuit of excellence. Vista, like any operating system, is no panacea, but it is a platform that certainly can be discovered and managed with reasonable effort - and certainly it requires no more effort than any version of Windows before it. I expected other partners and industry experts to continue to embrace similar interpretations of what it is to work in our industry.
What I did not expect is that a large percentage of on-line experts and technology pundits would prove to be as subjective as they have been. Objectivity, testing, discovery and problem solving don't sell well these days. "Snark" does. Take Michael J. Miller, - very accomplished, equally objective and most experienced. He doesn't write for PC Magazine any longer. Why? He's objective, thorough, thoughtful and accurate - one would think he'd be doing amazingly well in the tech journalism space... But wait..he's not snarky; doesn't look snarky and he couldn't pull off cool if his backside were immersed in liquid nitrogen. He doesn't fit the modern mold and what now passes for journalism. Mr. Miller is one other thing in my opinion, he's morally courageous - rather than jump on Snarky's Machine, he got off and now heads up technology strategy at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm.
In Snark Infested Waters, one can't solve problems, or build things that actually work well. In the land and day of the Snark, it's illegal to use even simple tools to diagnose and resolve computer problems. If you do, you're a shill, or worse, a liar and a fraud. Thousands of Microsoft Partners build terrific Windows Vista computers - nearly 130 million at last count. A big percentage of those computers run really well and the people that use them will probably never read a computer magazine - much less a blog like this. The computers we build run really well - not because we love computers, but because we really do care about the people that use the computers we build. And yes, we do love some of our customers - as friends, brothers and close colleagues often do. We also love to work with computers and at least one of my boys wishes he was directly jacked into them (some days I think he is - he's that good)
Building great experiences based on Windows Vista is not hard to do. While it requires effort, that effort is not especially great, or unreasonable - if it were, we could not afford to do it and the objective side of what it is to be a partner would have to communicate that we could not do it. Are there challenges faced when building a Vista based computer? You bet! Are the challenges really tough? No! They are in fact, fewer and less problematic than they are with previous versions of Windows and a lot less challenging than those inherent to non-Windows operating systems. (I gotta ask... how many Linux based computers have you built this year? ...That are really used by real people? How many? - I'd bet I have built and shipped more than any tech pundit I have written about. (how many kids have you taught to install and configure Linux as well as Windows Vista? How many?)).
Snarking for a living - does any of us really think Jim Louderback could configure a Linuces if he couldn't solve his problems with Windows Vista?
It has become so bad that one can't offer solutions - not unless they require a Snarkel to breathe... Let's say rather than speak objectively about Windows Vista and share solutions we discover for that which challenges it and based upon a positive perspective, instead and for ad dollars, I stated what is not true - and that I hated it... but here's how to fix it... sort of... (I'd be an article over at Maximum PC?). Well... I'd be lying. I like the new version of Windows. Do I like everything about it? Nope. Do I like more about it than I don't like about it? Absolutely!
What don't I like about Vista? Well... a lot, actually... I am used to placing the Network icon on the desktop and right-clicking it to get to adapter properties. In Vista we all know such things are found much deeper in the UI. Ok and I understand that a) adjusting network settings is a lot easier for end users of Vista, b) one does not very often adjust network adapter properties and c) in enterprise environments these are managed for users, or at least pre-set... I get that, but I still miss how quickly I could get to them in previous versions of Windows.
What I like about Vista is Instant Search and that saves me and many users a lot more time than having readier access to the adapter and its property sheet. Staying positive can be easy and produce good results - by example, type Network into Vista's instant search box and you'll note that the third return at the top is for the Network Sharing Center - offering a lot more than simple access to adapter properties.
So perhaps Vista isn't bad...? it's different... it is what it is...
Snarks are, too... To me the modern Snark is best exemplified by Mr. Chris Pirillo. He seems to have found new relevance in a sea of Snarks by emulating them and gaining the attention of and ad dollars from sponsors that are also competitors of Microsoft's and therefore Vista. Chris wants us to believe that a move from Outlook 2000 to Outlook 2007 on Vista is somehow more traumatic and unacceptable than a complete move to a new platform (OS X). He adds to this difficult to grasp logic by comparing (favorably) features and behaviors in Apple's mail.app to Outlook 2000?!? - without ever running Outlook 2007... all while simply saying, "Outlook" Huh?!? (Which version, Chris and in which configuration? Outlook Anywhere? Outlook 2000 as a POP3 Client? Yeah, I thought so...)
Chris continues to confuse at least me, by venting buckets of spleen over an HP Printer / Scanner that I'd guess is at least as old as his preferred version of Outlook (1999/2000??) which proved to be unsupported by Windows Vista... and by some means, in the land and sea of the Snark, a new printer is more costly than a new Mac Pro with dual quad core processors and 16 GB of fully buffered RAM?!?!? What?!?
But wait... as Chirs sorta, kinda, revealed... his sponsors helped him acquire that new $5,000.00 Mac Pro and all that RAM.
Ok, no problem at all. Chris can do what he likes by whatever means he likes... and so can I.
I have a couple of problems with Chris Pirillo opposite not his move, but how it was couched. He's a "tech expert" and surely he could have run the Windows Update Advisor before choosing to move to Windows Vista and discovering his software and hardware were unsupported? Certainly he could have. He could have disclosed the results of his discovery and if the advisor had misinformed him, then he would have had a legitimate reason to hold Vista and Microsoft to task. As an expert to the many people who trust him, Chris could have and should have simply presented the facts, but he didn't, or worse, couldn't because, may be, perhaps... he's not really a PC expert at all? I think he is an expert, and that troubles me.
So either Chris is an expert, or he's not. Regardless, I wish him success. If he's not an expert, cool. He's just a nice kid that's found his voice and an audience to share it with. Fine. As I see it, if he is an expert, then he's got some issues that go well beyond the mild OCD and ADD he shares with his viewers... he's got some integrity issues that should cost him and plenty. If, as an expert Chris and many like him, intentionally shape the truth for personal gain and ad dollars from Microsoft's competitors, then we have to start to ask a lot more questions and in a lot of different ways. If Chris, like Mr. Miller, was losing traction and relevance in the modern world of the Snark, we have to ask what the real motivations were for his recent move. Unlike Mr. Miller, Chris seems to have taken a different and in my opinion, less than honorable route. Was it simply a matter of money and relevance, or was it that he simply did not like Vista? The later is fine, and so is the former - so long as Chris is candid about it. Choice and candor are always respected. BS and most especially, Snarky BS are not.
It's really simple... dislike Vista all you want. Scream from the mountain tops that you hate it. But the second one leverages a position of trust to present less than accurate information in order to gain favor and ad dollars from competitors of the product being bashed, then that is where I find real trouble and real reasons to be concerned.
It's fine and good to compete - with Microsoft most especially - just do it openly and candidly and even if you think that Microsoft abused its dominant position in the market, that never justifies dumping your own integrity. Multiple wrongs don't make things right and injustices aren't mitigated by any one sense of justice.
To me, people are jumping naked into Snark Infested Waters, because there's money in it.