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June 26, 2008 3:06 PM   Subscribe

Bill Gates files a bug report: "There's not a day that I don't send a piece of e-mail ... like that piece of e-mail. That's my job."
posted by Blazecock Pileon (66 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I read this the other day, and it made me like Bill Gates a lot more than I did beforehand. Very entertaining.
posted by kbanas at 3:10 PM on June 26, 2008


I wonder if he's tried Vista yet
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:12 PM on June 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


Money quote: "When I really get to use the stuff I am sure I will have more feedback."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:13 PM on June 26, 2008


MetaFilter: They are not filtered by the system ... and so many of the things are strange.
posted by Poolio at 3:13 PM on June 26, 2008


Someone decided to trash the one part of Windows that was usable?

That's pretty funny... but shouldn't he, like, have already known what major changes were being made to his flagship product?
posted by dersins at 3:15 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wonder if he's tried Vista yet

He'll say "Vista, gotta get me some"

His woes with his company's flagship product certainly make for interesting reading.
posted by porn in the woods at 3:18 PM on June 26, 2008


F*ck this Windows-only garbage.
posted by cog_nate at 3:18 PM on June 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


kbanas, it hit me the same way. It's nice to know that the mess that is Windows is not his grand vision. It reaffirms "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity" idea for me.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:19 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's my job.

Call me naive, but I thought his job was to lead and inspire the company to make good products, not build an empire of shit and then send pissy emails to his minions complaining about the smell.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 3:21 PM on June 26, 2008 [7 favorites]


I sent him a congratulatory email on his retirement. He hasn't answered yet, so I'm wondering if he's having trouble with Outlook, too.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:22 PM on June 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


F*ck this Windows-only garbage.

Too bad that the link doesn't have specifications telling you that you need to buy a Microsoft product in order to read the material. Otherwise, I'm in total agreement with you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:25 PM on June 26, 2008


I too, read this the other day and loved it.
posted by Brainy at 3:25 PM on June 26, 2008


You can read the article on a Mac, no problem if you've got Boot Camp
posted by porn in the woods at 3:28 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


From: Bill Gates
Sent: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 10:05 AM
To: Jim Allchin; Chris Jones (WINDOWS); Bharat Shah (NT); Joe Peterson; Will Poole; Brian Valentine; Anoop Gupta (RESEARCH); Steve Jobs (FUXXOR); Mom
Subject: FW: FW: FW: FW: Bill Gates Is Sharing His Fortune!

I am forwarding this because the person who sent it to me is a good friend and does not send me junk. Microsoft and AOL are now the largest Internet company and in an effort make sure that Internet explorer remains the most widely used program, Microsoft and AOL are running an e-mail beta test. When you forward this e-mail to friends, Microsoft can and will track it (if you are a Microsoft Windows user) for a two week time period. For every person that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $245.00...
posted by katillathehun at 3:35 PM on June 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


The lack of attention to usability represented by these experiences blows my mind.

Dear Bill,

Welcome to your legacy.

Signed,
Everyone who made you stinking rich.
posted by nudar at 3:35 PM on June 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


man, I wish it was my job to bitch about Windows 'cause BOY could I go on.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:38 PM on June 26, 2008


It is both simultaneously refreshing and pretty horrifying to see the level of unfamiliarity that Bill has with his own company's products and user interface. The fact that he seems to have the same complaints as the rest of us gives me hope that he's not that out of touch with what makes sense.

The fact that even he can't seem to make any headway in Fixing What's Broken makes me weep for the windows user community world-wide.
posted by Parannoyed at 3:46 PM on June 26, 2008


I don't have the patience to type an email like this, but I've often dreamed of setting up a camcorder to record some of my awful web/install/useability experiences.

Then I'd pack the video into a MPEG file and email it to the vendor.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:47 PM on June 26, 2008


Hasn't Bill Gates heard of Google?
posted by autodidact at 3:51 PM on June 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


In fact it is more like a puzzle that you get to solve. It told me to go to Windows Update and do a bunch of incantations.

I get the feeling that there are many aspects of the business that Bill didn't really touch and doesn't really like. He's certainly not happy with all of it, but recognized that it's a mammoth company with thousands of Type-A personalities, and he couldn't possibly turn the company on a dime by mere fiat. So he holds his nose like the rest of us and tries to focus his energies on things more strategic ... but every now and again, he throws down a thunderbolt on some random item like this and watches people scurry.

In other words ... while he might be a great exec, he's just a so-so manager.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:55 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm 100% serious here, I swear -- are you saying that the Gizmodo link isn't a spoof?
posted by matteo at 3:56 PM on June 26, 2008


Yeah, the ellipsis really throws me off.
posted by sunshinesky at 4:08 PM on June 26, 2008


If it is a spoof, boingboing and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer are both in on the joke.
posted by dersins at 4:08 PM on June 26, 2008


the age of billocracy lasts until there is a vaporware shortage
posted by pyramid termite at 4:15 PM on June 26, 2008


How many times do you figure he screamed WTF while in the midst of this scenario?
posted by netbros at 4:22 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wish it were real but doubtful Bill is so clueless:
Then it told me to reboot my machine. Why should I do that? I reboot every night — why should I reboot at that time?
He would understand why things need to be rebooted (he may not like it, but he would understand it - surely this is not the first time he's noticed and asked about it).
posted by stbalbach at 4:36 PM on June 26, 2008


hoax..

you guys really believe this ??? I thought y'all were smarter than that...
posted by HuronBob at 4:37 PM on June 26, 2008


Has anyone told him about Clippy yet?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:40 PM on June 26, 2008


If you follow the Seattle PI link, then read the actual PDF, you can see this in context as it was forwarded among the business units like a hot potato. They blame marketing, of course. And there is this gem: "But, if you want nothing revolutionary and want to band-aid (which is fine and understandable) then I agree with your plan to give it to Dave." Poor Dave.
posted by smackfu at 4:46 PM on June 26, 2008


Get this man an Ubuntu install disc.
posted by DU at 5:03 PM on June 26, 2008 [6 favorites]


He would understand why things need to be rebooted (he may not like it, but he would understand it - surely this is not the first time he's noticed and asked about it).
He means "why should I have to reboot it" -- ie, "what the hell are you chumps doing demanding a reboot right now? Either arrange it so you don't need to reboot and hot-patch, or let it do its stuff when I choose to reboot."

I loved this email. It's good to know that even when you're one of the world's richest men and unquestioned leader of your company, you still can't win against code-nerds who know better.
posted by bonaldi at 5:06 PM on June 26, 2008


what's mind boggling to me is that a lot of that stuff is STILL THERE! Those Qxxxx patch things in the add/remove programs area? still there in both XP and Vista. All this time I've always assumed that microsoft's upper brass was ok with that shit, and that they just let it slide for myopic reasons.

now I find out that he has experienced real frustrations that I've experienced myself, insisted they be fixed, and they haven't been. This means, as near as I can tell, that someone went to bill gates and convinced him that no, these things cannot be fixed and here are xyz reasons why it's better this way anyway, and he BELIEVED it. honestly, it seems to me that this email should have been meaner. It should have ended with:

If you don't fix this - all of it - by shipping then I am going to come over to your house and skull fuck you. I am not kidding. This is bush league shit and it will kill this company. Then I will kill you. Fix this or die.

hugs and kisses,

billy
posted by shmegegge at 6:28 PM on June 26, 2008 [7 favorites]


I seriously doubt that Bill is as clueless as he represents himself as being in this email. It sounds to me like he's playing dumb to emphasize all the stupid hoops he's gotta jump through to get what he wants.
posted by deadcowdan at 6:35 PM on June 26, 2008 [7 favorites]


hoax..

you guys really believe this ??? I thought y'all were smarter than that...


It's not a hoax, HuronBob.

It's been -bunked a few times over at this point, by multiple sources. According to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, it originally came out as part of the discovery process for the anti-piracy lawsuit.

Yeah--this email just cracked me up! It was surprising to see BG saying so many things I'd thought about Windows myself. And so bluntly.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:42 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wonder if he switched to Mac after this ordeal?
posted by EatTheWeak at 6:53 PM on June 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Then it told me to reboot my machine. Why should I do that? I reboot every night — why should I reboot at that time?

He's not asking literally. He's playing the role of the user, being Joe Typical for the purposes of explaining how silly the steps are.

I also found this all quite endearing. It's nice to know he realizes how awful Windows is.
posted by rokusan at 7:07 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Bunked and REbunked.
posted by wemayfreeze at 7:07 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wait, it's real?

So, when is the son of a bitch going to send me the money for forwarding all those emails?
posted by yhbc at 7:10 PM on June 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Bill's memo must have bothered a lot of Microsoft people but it didn't really result in any change, did it? Just because he was the head man didn't mean he was actually involved in any real decisions at the tactical level. No wonder he's unhappy with the design.

Still, he's a lot more savvy than Ballmer could ever be. That doesn't bode well for the future.
posted by tommasz at 7:19 PM on June 26, 2008


shmegegge
I'm guessing it's less that someone convinced him to keep the bad stuff, and more that it fell by the wayside. As smackfu said, first they spent a bunch of time passing the blame. Then they probably had meetings and studies and such to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. Meanwhile, other stuff is coming up, the project gets pushed back...
posted by Sangermaine at 7:20 PM on June 26, 2008


That pretty much sums up why Microsoft makes crap software; they just don't care about quality, and dumb people run that company. Sloppy, dumb coders do things like "Then it'll reboot" without thinking "Hey, I'm not changing kernel information, why should it reboot?" just because it's a quick and easy way to do things. Learning to right tight, elegant code, that is basically self-contained and installs/uninstalls without a lot of cruft and crumbs, when Microsoft's own products offer quick solutions that just happen to have complex nested dependencies, is something the average coder- and thus the majority of MS coders- simply aren't able or willing to do.

It's not Bill's fault- if anything, MS is the victim of its success, and expediency is the name of the game there now. With 90,000 full and contract employees, the company is so huge and the only people promoted are middle-management suck-ups who learn to say the right things to the right people. Genuinely talented folk who want to build something "insanely great" give up on Microsoft as soon as they have a few years of decent paychecks to pad their bank account. It's a great place to work, if you just want to make some cash while planning on what you really want to do, or know that you're the kind of mediocre barnacle that needs this job and can't really go elsewhere based on your actual resume.

Getting a better job out of Microsoft takes some talent, or a well-padded resume that even bigger idiots will think reflects quality. Staying there and working your way up just takes time and a lack of passion for perfection.
posted by hincandenza at 7:58 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Another fantastic bit of Bill Gates lore -- Bill Gates and Petals Around the Rose:
It was June 1977, the very early days of the microcomputer industry. The founders of Microsoft, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, were amongst those heading home to Albuquerque from the National Computer Conference in Dallas. In the September/October 1977 edition of "Personal Computing" magazine, Henry Gilroy provided the following report on the introduction of the Petals Around the Rose brain teaser to his fellow travelers on the return journey.
posted by peeedro at 8:32 PM on June 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Everyone who's wondering why Gates didn't, you know, do anything about it besides the e-mail: I'll bet it has to do with the rumours-verging-on-fact of the power struggle between Gates and Ballmer that indirectly led to Gates taking a back seat and now retiring from Microsoft. In other words, I think you can blame Ballmer for all of this.
posted by chrominance at 8:37 PM on June 26, 2008


Genuinely talented folk who want to build something "insanely great" give up on Microsoft as soon as they have a few years of decent paychecks to pad their bank account.

Most of the software industry is like this. Hell, even tangential industries that merely have ancillary software to keep the business running have to face the same bullshit. The people who give a damn are always outnumbered by those who just want to collect their paycheck and not rock the boat.

This is the curse of middle management. You can only get to middle management after wowing higher-ups with your talent, but once you're promoted for your ingenuity, you quickly find that the safest way to ensure you have a job tomorrow is to do nothing. Nothing is always safer than something.

I was talking with a friend of mine a few days ago who works at one of these "get-nothing-done-at-a-glacial-pace" shops. For one section of a software application, he took the initiative and added some great UI functionality on his own time. They told him to remove it. Why? Because to fuck with the customer. They told him, "your customer is QA, and QA doesn't have this in their testing plan."

That's the problem with "waterfall" managerial styles: when managers don't know what's possible, they don't know what to ask for. So instead you get half-baked, old-as-biscuits, dumbass suggestions from 5 years ago because your management team is filled with pencil pushers too scared about losing their jobs to ever pipe up and say This Is Wrong.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:53 PM on June 26, 2008


That's what he gets for upgrading from MS Bob. It's a good thing Microsoft was able to get a handle on all of these usability problems in the five years since he sent the message.
posted by whir at 9:02 PM on June 26, 2008


what's mind boggling to me is that a lot of that stuff is STILL THERE! Those Qxxxx patch things in the add/remove programs area? still there in both XP and Vista.

No. The patch listings are gone in Vista (at least in Home Premium), with a link on the left to "View installed updates". I can't speak to anything else in the email, but it seems they at least cleaned up one thing.

Also, in my view, seeing Windows patches listed with installed programs was never much of a problem. Slow file transfers... there's a problem.
posted by SAC at 9:25 PM on June 26, 2008


About the rebooting... I know I've had to reboot an iMac when installing updates to both the OS and to Office. Maybe the Office thing is again Microsoft's fault, I can't say. I honestly haven't installed much else on the Mac, but we shouldn't pretend you're never forced to reboot. I think I even had to reboot after installing an update for the wireless keyboard.
posted by SAC at 9:34 PM on June 26, 2008


For one section of a software application, he took the initiative and added some great UI functionality on his own time. They told him to remove it. Why? Because to fuck with the customer. They told him, "your customer is QA, and QA doesn't have this in their testing plan."

That doesn't seem that crazy to me. I've found that developers, including myself, generally don't consider any downstream impacts of their great new features. They code it, it passes unit test, and it's done! Ship it! Yet QA does have to test it and needs a test plan to prove they tested it, so he created work for them and maybe pushed their schedule. Someone else has to document it so people know the feature is there. Someone probably should check with an end-user or two, to see whether it's really a good idea or will just be confusing, since developers have a horrible track record at this kind of thing. Maybe it has to be internationalized... waiting for translations is a total buzzkill.

I can totally empathize with the programmer here, but I can also totally understand why they would tell him to pull his code.
posted by smackfu at 9:38 PM on June 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


So after more than an hour of craziness and making my programs list garbage and being scared and seeing that Microsoft.com is a terrible website I haven't run Moviemaker and I haven't got the plus package.

He's just imagining the experience of the average user, except he has a lot of patience. I help these people for a living, and the vast majority of them have already given up long before then. Heck, most of them wouldn't know how to get an app through Windows Update, or that Windows Update exists at all other than a background annoyance. I mean, if he really wants to experience MS hell, then do some tech support. Vista attempted to answer some issues, but they removed telnet. Oh, you can still get it as an optional add-on, but it's a complete PITA to install it. The damn executable is less than a meg, and that's all there is to the program. Why does it take 20 minutes to install it, Bill? WTF did you remove it in the first place? Just to piss off the already beleaguered tech support, by removing a completely useful diagnostic application that took up no space at all and zero resources, that was included since Win 95? I get a little pain shooting up my spine just thinking about it. I mean, even Mac comes with a real terminal now and a box o' Unix tools. Think they included all that for nothing? I swear, institutionalized stupidity is going to do us all in one of these days, a Blue Screen of Death at the end of the world.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:18 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Bill Gates and Petals Around the Rose:

Oh, man, once you figure that game out you feel like a freaking idiot for having taken more than 5 minutes to do it...
posted by dersins at 12:04 AM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I completely agree with this Economist editorial on Gates' legacy. What made Microsoft great wasn't innovation but business insight and pragmatism (ruthless, law-bending/breaking pragmatism).
posted by costas at 5:02 AM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


This almost makes up for all the Blue Screens of Death.
posted by ersatz at 5:25 AM on June 27, 2008


re: petals around the rose

now i'm stuck wondering if i'm a genius or just lucky. i solved the game after seeing the answer to the first roll. on the one hand, it seems like that's not enough information and i was just lucky enough to have my first guess be right. on the other hand, the name gives away so much.
posted by 256 at 7:19 AM on June 27, 2008


My officemate just solved it in two rolls. I still haven't figured it out. :(
posted by DU at 8:01 AM on June 27, 2008


pedals around the rose is pretty great, and the ending of that bill gates story is even greater. I need to start bringing dice to conventions.
posted by shmegegge at 8:33 AM on June 27, 2008


I'm impressed by this guy's dry wit and commentary. Despite his ruthlessness and my numerous irrational personal grudges, I'm scared to admit he and I would probably get along swimmingly on a coffee date.
posted by spamguy at 9:25 AM on June 27, 2008


Also, in my view, seeing Windows patches listed with installed programs was never much of a problem.

Well, in my view, most users don't think of OS patches and program updates as programs. And considering Windows patches and updates were being released at a rate of roughly one every three hours for a while there, I can see getting annoyed about this. I do.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:26 AM on June 27, 2008


Now I feel smug for having figured out Petals in less time than Bill Gates, but in checking my work I also lost the game.
posted by drezdn at 11:45 AM on June 27, 2008


Well, in my view, most users don't think of OS patches and program updates as programs. And considering Windows patches and updates were being released at a rate of roughly one every three hours for a while there, I can see getting annoyed about this. I do.

I never said it wasn't something they should fix (which they did). My words were, "never much of a problem." Considering the number of times I've needed to see that list of installed programs, scrolling down isn't something I'm going to bitch about. If it annoys you, that's fine. My point with the previous posts was to first correct the misconception that nothing had been done and to point out that there are bigger issues with Vista than where updates are listed.
posted by SAC at 1:36 PM on June 27, 2008


I mean, even Mac comes with a real terminal now and a box o' Unix tools.

I agree completely with your point, but there's one fact that gave me a big pause about the competency of the Mac OS programmers. After I happily typed up instructions to get the head of a big graphic design firm set up to upload some files, I discovered too late that the built-in Mac FTP client supports downloading but not uploading.

I've always wondered how that design meeting went:
Smithers: We've finished the code for downloading, now we just need to add uploads and we can ship.
Mr. Jobs: Whoa, whoa! Slow down there, maestro. There's an upload now?
posted by TungstenChef at 5:19 PM on June 27, 2008


I discovered too late that the built-in Mac FTP client supports downloading but not uploading.

OS X is built on BSD Unix. Its FTP command is a bog-standard BSD FTP. Has nothing to do with Apple.

The FTP command for uploading files is "put". The synonym "send" can also be used.

Last login: Fri Jun 27 17:56:50 on ttyp1
Welcome to Darwin!
macbook:~ fffish$ ftp
ftp> help send
send send one file

The man entry:
put local-file [remote-file]
Store a local file on the remote machine. If remote-file is
left unspecified, the local file name is used after process-
ing according to any ntrans or nmap settings in naming the
remote file. File transfer uses the current settings for
type, format, mode, and structure.
IOW, RTFM. Your claim is beyond ridiculous.

posted by five fresh fish at 6:03 PM on June 27, 2008


[closes code markup]
posted by five fresh fish at 6:04 PM on June 27, 2008


Your claim is beyond ridiculous.
No it's not. The Finder's ftp client is read-only, and has been for years. That's arguably much more "the Mac" than the BSD subsystem, and it's all Apple's fault.
posted by bonaldi at 6:08 PM on June 27, 2008


IOW, RTFM. Your claim is beyond ridiculous.

Well yes, I realize that OSX is based on BSD and has quite a powerful set of command line goodies under the hood. But as bonaldi kindly pointed out Finder is the FTP client built into the GUI and supports downloading but throws an obscure error if you try to upload. When I said "the Mac" I assumed people would know I was talking about the GUI that 99% of Mac users stick to, I wasn't trying to start a Unix fight. If I had told this completely non-technical CEO to open a command line I might as well have been speaking in ancient Sumerian.
posted by TungstenChef at 7:43 PM on June 27, 2008


Sorry. It never occurred to me that one would use the Finder for FTP. Didn't even know it had the capability.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:36 PM on June 27, 2008


Sorry. It never occurred to me that one would use the Finder for FTP. Didn't even know it had the capability.

Well jeez, now you've ruined all the snark and bile I had saved up by being a reasonable guy. I'll say just one more thing because I have to get it out of my system:

Shut it, beardo. ;-)
posted by TungstenChef at 10:22 PM on June 27, 2008


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