Posts Tagged ‘Rants’


This is slightly off topic, so if you don’t want to read a rant about Michigan and the idiots who run this state: move along to the next blog. If you want to understand how hard it is to run a software development business or get a better understanding of what your employer faces from time-to-time, read on.

Running a high tech business in the state of Michigan is hard enough without being impacted by people in government who most likely never ran a business. Companies are closing up all over Michigan and a lot of the reason is Michigan is suffering through a one state recession. While the leadership in Lansing cannot be blamed for the decisions of companies like GM, Ford, and Chrysler for laying off more than 100,000 people, I do blame them for the decisions made that are further hurting the state economy. Here is a fine example.

White Light Computing has been in business for nearly four years. During this time the company has paid unemployment insurance at various rates based on the length of time the company has been in business. The first two years the rate was 2.7% for the first US$11,200 of salary, and last year it dropped to 1% based on the fact my company has not pushed a single person on the unemployment line. As a reward for this, as White Light enters its fifth year (according to the state 2008 is year five) the company gets a 50% increase on unemployment insurance. This means an extra US$56 per person on the payroll. While the impact is minor to White Light Computing, imagine being a restaurant owner with lots of lower wage employees and getting a 50% increase just for surviving the first four years in the nations worst economy. How about automotive supplier who already has the slimmest of profit margins to work with and a huge staff on the assembly line?

The people who run this state are complete morons. I called the agency in charge of increasing my rate and their only defense was “it is only a half percent increase, not a 50% increase.” And people say they will never use the math they learned in school. Sheesh.

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Each night the partitions on my computer get backed up to an USB drive (drive O:\). When I connect the USB drive sometimes it remembers it is O: and sometimes it thinks it is F:. Kind of a pain in the neck, but I just hop into XP’s Computer Manager and select the Disk Management, pick the disk and right-click to bring up a shortcut menu. I pick the Change Drive Letter and Path… option. I have done this hundreds of times.

Until last night when I accidentally picked Mark Partition as Active. This tells the hardware to make this drive the bootable drive. It did not even ask me if I was sure I wanted to hose up my hardware, it just switched it as if this is done everyday by users. What the heck?!?

So I poke around on the Web and every message I read usually ends with “dude, you are sooooo hosed.” Ugh.

I called my hardware guy and tell him what I did. He went and did a little research and came back with the “Dude, you are so hosed…”

I HATE hardware.

In a desperate last resort kind of thinking I recall I have a four support incidents with Microsoft from my MSDN Universal Everything Suite System Subscription. So I take a shot. After all, I am already hosed so what could be worse? Thanks for asking. {g}

I want to let you know I had low expectations going in, but I am very happy to report Microsoft Tech Support fixed me up. Actually they inspected my machine and found out I was not hosed, but I did not know this until the very end. I literally could throw away the USB drive and the OS would have booted fine. But Surbhi downloaded a disk sector hex editor and made it so the USB drive was not the active partition. I was literal sweating as she was probing and hacking. Even though she was very reassuring all would be well I was naturally concerned. If I had rebooted with the USB drive it would have come up looking like I had no OS loaded, but she “hacked” sector 1 and made it so it was not active. Sweet.

So my first experience in years with Microsoft Tech Support was a pleasant and rewarding one. I also asked her at the end what happens when XP is no longer on the support list. She said it would be a long, long time before this happens. I kind of laughed when she said Vista was a baby operating system. I know she was referring to the “infancy” definition and not that it was inferior or smaller in some way. Getting premium tech support is a natural concern for businesses moving forward and not adopting the latest OS from any company.

So now you know how I wasted my morning and part of my afternoon. I HATE hardware. Almost drives a man to drink more than water and lemonade. {g}

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(Sorry, I am in a ranting mood this afternoon)

Abandoning customers is bad for business? Duh. I know, this is not rocket science. I know this is one of the fundamentals of running a solid and successful business. So why am I reading and hearing about so many businesses who are and what is the cost?

This question was actually asked of me recently. One of my customers asked me if the decision by Microsoft means I will be abandoning VFP and with it abandoning the customers I have worked with for years. My answer was “Absolutely not!”

I recently wrapped up the work with another customer. In meetings in the last month of the project the customer asked me if they needed support would I be around. They were worried because they had me working on their project for more than two years. We decommissioned a FoxPro for Windows application, but their 2.6 app will run for the near future because some of the functionality is not in the new application and likely will never be in the new application. I told them they could call me anytime. Just because I am not in their offices does not mean they all of a sudden are not my customers.

So why are other businesses abandoning their customers?

Example #1: General Motors. For years we owned Safari vans (yes multiples, I think 4). The reason we owned a van is we are a family of five and need to tow a heavy camper. We liked the Safari because it fit in the garage, yet it had a strong engine and lots room for the kids, the dog, and our gear. GM decided to stop making the vans three or four years ago. The full size vans are ugly, consume too much fuel, and won’t fit in our garage well. We settled on the GMC Envoy XL as our replacement for our van. It is definitely smaller so we take less gear when we travel, but some of the gear we are leaving behind are bicycles which is a huge trade-off. GM has now decided to stop making the XL and the regular Envoy is too small for a family of five with a dog. The replacement for the Envoy XL is not as nice. Abandonment.

Example #2: Hewlett-Packard. Previously HP had stated that they would not be producing any new print drivers for printers that were more than 3 years old. What? I still have an HP 4P Laser printer in the basement that works fine. It is slow, but the electronics work fine. This printer must be 15 years old. Printers were built better back in the 90′s (said in my best cranky old man impression). How can HP think they can get away with thinking every time you update your OS or more naturally introduce a new OS into the computing environment you should get a new printer? Nonsense. Complete nonsense. Fortunately I read this morning where HP has reversed this decision. Could it be their customers were outraged, or did common sense all of a sudden kick in?

Example #3: You knew this one was coming, Microsoft. Vista has some real positives in it, but Microsoft is really missed the boat when it comes to customers. SQL Server 2000 and MSDE – not supported on Vista. SQL Server 2005 patched so it runs on Vista more than a month after Vista was released to consumers and many months after it is released to businesses. SQL Server is strategic in the Microsoft revenue stream. “Just upgrade” is not a simple and straightforward task when businesses run their mission critical apps on the database. Visual Basic was dropped cold years ago and VB6 developers are still trying to get new versions out of Microsoft. J++ gets the ziggy after Microsoft woo’ed Java developers over to their side. VFP is feature complete. FrontPage was recently dropped (some say it was a blessing), but at least Microsoft has their new Expression Web product to replace it. No security patches for Windows 2000 and even XP SP1 is inexcusable in my opinion. Just because Microsoft decides it is out of its support cycle does not mean businesses and home users will automatically upgrade. There are significant costs involved for Microsoft and consumers. Vista is getting compared to Windows ME, and this is definitely not positive. I got a phone call this morning from the Microsoft Partners program because they wanted me to know about the Linux Winback marketing campaign. This campaign is suppose to provide my company with the marketing material to convince my customers and prospective customers to move back to Windows. Seriously. I told them they need to focus on keeping the Windows customers happy instead of trying to win them back. Abandonment of customers is not a good business practice.

Example #4: Coke: The makers of Coca-cola abandoned their customers when they introduced their “new” Coke and later had to come out with Classic Coke so customers would return. I am not sure if this was a premeditated plan or not, but I remember how I felt as a customer. Abandoned.

Companies need to wake up and smell the hot chocolate. Otherwise they won’t be in business very long or spending lots of money trying to regain the customers they lost.