About 1/3 of the way down in Joel Spolskys essay How Microsoft Lost the API Wars there is the mention of Raymond Chen and the so-called Raymond Chen camp. Raymond is an at least 16 year veteran on the Windows Quality assurance team. Raymond, according to Joel, goes into Windows and fiddles around with the Windows bits to insure that programs that used to run in Windows continue to do so. So in one apochryphal tale – Sim City is not working because it uses pointers on memory that it has just freed. A timing fault no-no – something that should be passed back to the Sim City software folks and they should be told in no uncertain terms – heres your problem, fix it and never do it again.
But no – Raymond adds to the Windows code a check for Sim City and then applies a workaround chunk of programming – all in the name of having Windows be backward compatible and able to run all the popular code on all its various versions 9x through XP.
I didnt and still dont want to hear about Raymond Chens exploits and hairbrained efforts at preserving backward compatibility. This was just so depressing and disappointing to read about and here is why:
Never allow incorrect code to persist. If you have been fair in access time and absolutely transparent and accurate in publishing your APIs (and nothing could be more fair and equitable than providing open source) then there is no need for the Raymond Chen camp to be “making changes to Windows to guarantee that it works with badly behaved but important in numbers of users” software. Why – because the opposite could be true.
Microsoft is infamous for being ….
-Stephen Manes in his book on Gates tells of the “DOS is not ready until 123 does not run” era;
-Andrew Schulman wrote three books on Undocumented Calls in Windows and Microsoft software;
-Google as of September 13, 2004 returns 34,900 entries for “Undocumented Windows calls”;
-The company that coined the phrase “cut off the oxygen” to a competitor;
-The company that presented a doctored tape in evidence in Antitrust hearings;
-The company that once it achieved a browser monopoly cutoff all improvements to that browser.
Now Steve Ballmer has been going around for the past 3-4 years and arguing to customers, ISVs, partners, and anyone who will listen that Microsoft is more mature, Microsoft is more circumspect about its position in the industry … in effect, Microsoft is more trustworthy.
This week, Mary Jo Foley at Microsoft Watch raises the issue of Microsofts deliberate deceit and prevarication in testimony before the courts this summer.
It is a travesty and a shame on Microsoft management that the working premise has to be – in Microsoft we cannot put our trust. This is simply not a good way to run a business.