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Giving up on Microsoft?

Jeff Atwood giving up on Microsoft? Holy cow.

There is a huge gulf between Microsoft and Unix developers. I somehow missed walking down the Microsoft road, since I'd started on the Apple II (BASIC, 6502 assembly, Pascal) and never had an IBM PC way back. Then when I got to school it was Tops-20 and VAX/VMS and a little bit of Unix here and there. And by the time I got a PC, it wasn't to run Windows, but rather SCO XENIX on my 286.

I thought this was going to catch up with me around '93, since it looked like Windows was going to kill Unix dead. And then I'd have to start over and learn all this msft stuff. But no, the Internet came along, and suddenly I could code "client server" cross-platform GUIs with print statements. Thank f'ing god I thought.

And it turned out Unix seemed a whole lot better suited to server software, having been designed as a multiuser OS from the beginning. There were horror stories of startups paying 24/7 operators to sit watching banks of NT machines and rebooting them when they froze. And the initial failed attempt to migrate Hotmail off of unix when it was acquired by msft. Whereas we'd routinely get uptimes of hundreds of days on our unix servers. (Heck, the uptime for this machine is currently 158 days.)

At this point it doesn't seem to come up much anymore. As Jeff points out, there don't seem to be many web startups running on a microsoft platform. When they do crop up you know their tech isn't likely to be very strong. You see nonsense like Dipsie supposedly being "the next google" but then hear they're coding everything on microsoft and you don't have to pay any attention anymore since you know there's nothing there. There are the odd successful standouts like Fog Creek shipping actual PC apps, but they seem increasingly rare.

You can probably even avoid buying the usual raft of PC stuff on the business side now. It's thousands of dollars, installation and maintenance are a pain. Raw linux could be a bit much for a bizdev or marketing emp to use but OSX + google apps is probably a good enough replacement.

Comments (8)

> There is a huge gulf between Microsoft and Unix developers.

This is exactly what motivated my post. It puts the whole Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus thing to shame. Different worlds indeed.

I think it's less about cost now and more about friction, as the all open source stuff starts to get really mature (compare with what we had on Linux/PHP in 2000 era) and stretch its legs. It's just *easier* to download stuff and get started than it is to buy something.

In evolutionary terms, I think there's no contest. If you think in terms of decades, OSS will inevitably win. MS has done a pretty good job of absorbing some of these lessons (eg, they have always-free Visual Studio and SQL Server editions, some shared source stuff, etc) but I'm not sure it's enough.


Gosh, how nicely the world fits into two boxes, black and white ...

The "you don't have to pay any attention anymore since you know there's nothing there" attitude resulted in some of the grossest technical misjudgments I've had the great but dubious pleasure of witnessing, on both sides of that particular fence.

There are the odd successful standouts like Fog Creek shipping actual PC apps...

Is Fog Creek truly successful? Who knows except it's sole promoter and owner.

My opinion: it's a vanity shoppe.

Since your statement is about "startups" this may not apply but isn't Myspace a big exception to this?

A recent article I read describes the difficulties and complexities they've had scaling. This article is pretty clear they're entirely on Windows, .NET, SQL server etc.

I imagine they'd have the same issues scaling in Linux/UNIX, but beyond Myspace I imagine few startups would run their web app platform on Windows. I certainly wouldn't.

Funny your mentioning NT. I remember several years back a local ISP that eventually became the largest in the region ran their original mail and web servers on NT and literally had minimum wage flunkies sit there and reboot their constantly freezing systems. And I worked as a sysadmin in IT shops where part of our weekly procedures was to reboot all the NT servers - just because we knew they'd lock up if we let them sit too long.

Funny article.

We developed a website for a client a few years back. Classic ASP, SQL Server 2000 then SQL Server 2005 (64bit) ... delivered 6.5m page impressions a day. Typical outages were 120 seconds of downtime in a 3 month period (and that was mostly scheduled and happened at 3am)

For various reasons (not least leaving the country) the client has a new dev team (note team... we were one developer - me, and one designer) who rebuilt the thing on an open source platform.

Even with twice the number of processor cores performance has been average, outages in the order of hours and fixes taking days to apply.

This isn't actually a Windows Rocks rant. My experience and skill were with the MS platform and so I was able to to create a stable, scalable platform. The new guys had never experienced anything with these levels of traffic (and its perculiar peaks) didn't appreciate the thought that goes into planning for it.

It's not that the MS platform is any harder, or any more limited than Linux as a start-up technology, and it's probably no more expensive if you have a good hosting company but it's perception... because Eclipse, PHP and MySQL are "free" it must cost less to develop... but the problem comes when it hits that scale wall...

MySpace, Hotmail, Spaces and more ... these guys are all running on MS technology quite happily ;)

I totally agree it's more about knowledge and experience than the platform you're using.
My team has been scaling and performance tuning .NET web applications for problematic application in the past few years and it is amazing how much unprofessional work you can find out there.

I think the problem with MSFT is that they were so focused on enterprise solutions and rapid app development with ASP.NET that they almost completely neglected the need for performance and scalability built-in capabilities. When we develop on MS platforms we use our own application blocks to support growth and predictable behavior of our apps.

The thing with open source is that you can quite easily enjoy the collective experience of other and use tools such as memcached to dramatically improve you positioning in terms of performance whereas in the MSFT world you still need to invent some of your own wheels / purchase 3rd party components.

I believe open source community encouragement around MSFT platforms will be able to change the current paradigm.

And yes - MySpace runs on ASP.NET and it's one of the most tacficked sites on the web today.

Joey S: MySpace is also horribly slow and has frequent downtime and system glitches where some sections don't work. You'll also often see random errors when you try to do various things.


Great article!

So MySpace runs on MS servers. Figures. A friend forced me (!) to get a MySpace account the other day, and since then I've been cursing it for being the slowest, buggiest and most retarded system I've ever experienced on the web. Now I know why... Dear lord, have mercy on the millions of kids who use it every day.

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