Despite having been a font fanatic, having done support for Microsoft, and having been a big fan of the Lucida fonts, which turn out to have ties to Wingdings, I had no idea the full story of the Wingdings fonts. The one thing I could have told you, as a matter of logic, is why dingbat fonts arose, even though I was unfamiliar with the history of dingbats in traditional print.


It’s an awesome program for editing things like HTML, CSS and PHP, for opening text files that aren’t in CR/LF format, and for search functions.

However, I am amused that the spell checker is in British English.

Dying Microsoft? Don’t Panic

Is Microsoft a dying company?

I’d say “dying” is a strong word for it, but my perception is of size and hubris problems enough to place them near their pinnacle of size and success before having to rethink themselves, and probably shrink, whether in a controlled, planned, voluntary way, or a more chaotic, seemingly unpredictable way.

Malone’s observations are good ones. Microsoft really is, as Ian notes, full of marketing and business smarts. My experience working in Microsoft tech support years ago was that they wanted superior customer service because they were fully aware they weren’t automatically going to stay on top forever, and it was important always to scramble as if you were still the scrappy underdog, not the IBM. Have they forgotten that? Probably not overall, but maybe in parts of the company.

All of which might matter little if they are up against sufficient powerful outside forces, accumulated perceptions, and maturation and demystification of the PC market.

I always point out the problem of creating a magnum opus and then not being able to improve on it enough to be compelling. For instance, Word 97, or even Office 97 more generally. Almost nobody would ever want or need anything more in that type of software. If they ended up on Word 2000 instead, the same applies. Microsoft ends up chasing a tiny share of people who really do need exotic new or improved features, first time or “with a new computer” purchasers, and any upgraders they can force. In that last case, they end up looking like bullies. Blam! There goes some mindshare.

Which is not to say that Office 2003 isn’t nifty, but there’s no compelling reason for most users to upgrade, and it’s a business challenge for Microsoft that they seem to have trouble facing. It’s worsened by the fact that writing an adequate word processor is a relatively easy programming challenge, so there is price pressure to boot.

I think Malone is onto something. I also think it will be a long, slow decline that could be arrested at any time, and will be in no way complete, ever. They’re not going to be the next DEC getting eaten by Compaq getting eaten inexplicably by HP in a fit of corporate rock star CEO insanity.

Article link and some of his own commentary via Ian Hamet, who also keeps us posted on the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie here, here, here, here, and probably elsewhere, but those are the recent ones.

Do We Make It Too Easy?

When I got my first IBM compatible PC, a 286, it booted up to a C prompt. That was it.

I had to know or learn what was a file and a directory, how to navigate, and that some files by typing their names and pressing enter would – gasp! – run program. Do things, make the computer be useful. By the same token, I learned that other files contained data or were in support of programs, and I learned that files had extensions, usually three characters after the period, and what those extensions were controlled what the system or a program expected them to contain or do. This became vastly more important with the advent of Windows.

These days, people get computers and fire them up to razzle dazzle graphics, but don’t know and often don’t care to learn the first thing about files and folders (directories), how to find and open things, and so forth.

So it is that I have routinely encountered a rather comical if sad scenario. People who never use and are unfamiliar with the concept of Windows Explorer, as such or accessed via “My Computer,” know that they use Word, and the File, Open dialog is a way to navigate and see files. And it is, to a point, because these days instead of the old Windows common dialog interface, it’s a wrapper to Explorer.

The unwitting user then tries to open a JPEG file the location of which they have been given on a network drive, or an EXE utility they have downloaded and extracted from a software vendor, and they cry out “all I get is gibberish!”

Well, yeah. You opened a picture or a program in Word as if it were a document. File open may be a wrapper to Explorer, but it’s a specialized one that says “open the file I have selected in Word as best you can.” Not “open the file I have selected with the appropriate program or action Windows associates with the extension” as it would be in Explorer proper, or from the run command line.

If this were a rare thing, I’d shrug it off. It almost routine though. I find it unbelievable the way people don’t care to learn to drive their computers that are absolutely integral to their jobs. It’s not rocket science.