May 25, 2006

Microsoft's New Products

Just out of curiosity, I installed Internet Explorer 7 on my computer. Almost all the features Microsoft had introduced with this update were copied from Firefox. And that too, they didn’t do their job well. The code is quite buggy. I just don’t understand one thing – they don’t have any idea to improve their product. Ok, that’s understandable. But when copying somebody else’s idea, can’t they even write some good code to implement those features? I don’t think they will be able to get back their browser market share (at least with IE 7).

I came to know that Microsoft Office 2007 beta is available. For office suites, I do prefer Microsoft Office than anything else. But before saying my comments about office suites, I must tell you my usage pattern. Predominantly I use the word processing application only. Very less frequently I use spreadsheet application. In the past two years I have hardly prepared 2 or 3 presentations. As I am a developer, I don’t like to use any small scale database applications (like MS Access). So it would now be obvious that if I say something about Word, it’s worth listening to.

I have used MS Office, OpenOffice, and Lotus SmartSuite. Of these, MS Office is the one I have loved to use. OpenOffice is good in some ways, but it still has a long way to go. They have to implement many new useful features and introduce all good Microsoft features like smart tags, and the like. Till they do something to make it better than MS Office, I’m gonna continue to use MS Office.

The new version looks so promising to me. The UI is so great. Now we can perform all the trivial jobs without having to go to a dialog box. Menu bar and tool bar are kind of integrated. Very rarely only we got to open up some dialog box. Otherwise it’s pretty much easy and cool. Other office suite vendors will have some tough time competing with MS Office 2007.

After typing all these and saving the file, I noticed that they use a different file extension: .docx. I got curious again and tried to open the document with 7-Zip. Microsoft is now following the same approach OpenOffice is also following: they save all the data in XML files and put all the XML inside an archive (maybe a ZIP file. I don’t know). Good. Microsoft goes on doing well with their new Office suite.

May 23, 2006

I hate (the idea of) IT Superpower

You know what? I don't like the fact that India is IT superpower. Whenever something gives a good opportunity for people to make money, it just becomes a commodity. It's seen only as a tool to derive money.

This person, Rahul* is my neighbour. He is an MCA and work for a big Indian software company. He's quite close to me, and we use to chat when we get free time. He recently got married. His wife is also an MCA. A few days back when I was talking to him he told me that he particularly wanted to marry an MCA or BE Computer Science girl. He wanted his wife also to earn money for the family. He wanted her to search for a job and start earning ASAP.

He was quite unhappy about his wife. He said, “Payal* (his wife) doesn't remember anything she studied in the previous semesters. Even when I ask her to study certain concepts, she doesn't. I told her that those are really important concepts. But still she doesn't care to learn them. I hate this girl.” He continued, “We can study only when we are in college. That's when we get time. After getting a job, the whole day is absorbed by office and in the evening we really need some rest. I know a lot of people who has never touched a book after completing their college. But I am serious about my career. I go on studying new technologies. Even after 6 years after my college days, now I am continuing to learn.”

I was a bit confused now. He started off with blaming his wife. Then he said, unlike everyone else he continues to learn. I was not sure if both are related or not. (I know very well how he “learns” new technology. I never had respect on his technical skills. Quite often he proves that my assumption about his “knowledge” is not wrong.) I told him, “Oh really.. that's great. I completed my college only last year. Now I cannot even spend 15 minutes continuously in a book. If you are still learning technology, that's really good.”

He said, “At least you have worked for a year. Payal has not even completed her course.” I interrupted him, “Is it? When is she completing her MCA?” “This is her final semester,” he replied.

“She has to get a job soon. I asked her to learn J2EE,” he said.

“Yea.. that's a nice thing. Nowadays J2EE people will get a job easily,” I said.

“She asked me what J2EE is. I was really irritated. She is in college and she doesn't even know what J2EE is. Controlling my anger, I asked her if she studied about Java servlets, JSP, or EJB. She said that she studied only those things covered by Java Complete Reference.”

“Quite a lot of people only use that book. But I hate that book,” I said.

Without even caring what I was saying, he continued. “I told her that she had only studied Core Java in her syllabus. So, I asked her to start learning J2EE. I asked her to start with servlets.”

“Oh good. Is she learning that now?” I asked him.

“No, she always has some reasons for not to learn new things. She says she's not able to understand anything in that. And she says though she had Java in her syllabus she doesn't know Java. So it's very hard to understand the high level concepts without knowing the basics.”

I was about to say something supporting his wife. But thank god, I didn't say anything.

He continued in his flow. “She wants to learn everything from scratch again, starting from Hello World. I told her that it's not going to help her. If she starts to learn everything from the basics, she would need at least three months for Core Java alone. When can she then start to learn other things? Before going for an interview she must know J2EE, .NET, and Oracle at least. I told her to take 30 days – 10 days for each. But she is not at all understanding that it's urgent. She says the same thing again and again that she wants to learn the basics first.”

Let me pause the scene at this place and start my commentary. Most of our neighbours and friends are like this only, no? Why we don't want to learn from the basics? Are we seeing technology as just a tool for making money? All this shit is just because software engineers gets a “lot of money” at the end of the month.

When somebody asks me how they could learn some technology, I would advise them to spend a lot of time in basics so that the higher level concepts are obvious to them. But how many software engineers understand machine language? How many of us know why our OS books say “if we allocate the CPU to another process while one process is doing its I/O, we can improve throughput”? How many of us at least thought once in our life time how does our Pentium-4 CPU understand Java objects?

I have seen people who has learned (or at least tried to learn) how is break statement different from continue statement without knowing how for statement works. All that's because, in an interview we may be asked how break is different from continue. But we don't usually expect the interviewer to ask us how for loop works. I don't get surprised when they're not able to implement a very simple function later in their job. But the irony is that we can manage to survive in the industry even if we don't know how a constant is different from a variable.

Yes, I hate the fact that India is considered as IT superpower (at least by Indians).

* Names I have used are fictitious.