September 7th, 2004

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[PROGRAMMING] The Immobile Monolith

Hmm. I get back from Worldcon, and the first news in my email is Microsoft Watch, talking about the way that Longhorn is getting scaled back. It appears that the next version of Windows, due in 2006, is losing one of its key features (WinFS) and one of the others (Avalon) is in some danger.

There's an architecture lesson in this, on the dangers of interdependencies. I mean, look at this: an operating system that has already been in the works for years, and isn't slated to be released for another two years yet, and they're still having to drop features that until recently they were trumpeting as the main point of that release. And there are tons of knock-on effects: other projects such as ObjectSpaces, which were supposed to be big deals themselves, are getting pushed even further back because they were dependent on WinFS.

This isn't a problem of Microsoft's evil business practices -- it's simply a consequence of intentionally building a monolithic environment, where everything depends deeply on everything else. It's a consequence of APIs that are driven by proprietary processes, all woven into a web of such complexity that the spider itself is having trouble navigating it. Frankly, more than anything, it's a consequence of viewing the whole system in the gestalt too much. Trying to make everything seamless means that you can't change anything without resewing the whole garment.

There's a real opportunity here, and it'll be interesting to see if anyone jumps into the breach. Firefox has finally lapped IE technologically, and is quickly building up an impressive lead -- it's not just better than IE, it's a lot better, and improving rapidly. I suspect that, with the serious advancements in Windows now pushed out until 2008 or 2009, Linux has the best opportunity it's likely to get to similarly lap Windows and get out ahead. I'll be very curious to see if it manages to take good advantage of that opportunity...
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350 Messages. Oy.

Ah, the effects of being LJ-deprived for five days (and being a day behind to begin with).

If you need me to see something, please assume that I will not be caught up with LJ for a few days, and send it to me via email instead. Thanks...
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[POLITICS] Primaries Coming Up -- Please Vote

This is a general message, but particularly targeted at folks in my local area (especially Waltham and Lexington).

State primary elections are happening shortly, at least in some localities. Please pay attention to these, because they matter more than usual this year.

In Waltham/Lexington, the current state rep is Tom Stanley. He's a middle-of-the-road politician: unremarkable but decent. But he's been a quiet but consistent supporter of gay rights throughout the brouhaha of the past year. He's being challenged for the Democratic nomination by someone who, from all accounts, wants to change the state constitution to outlaw gay marriage.

I suspect this situation isn't unusual. The gay-marriage fight isn't over yet, and next year is going to be a key showdown, as the conservatives try to edit the basic laws of the land to outlaw it. There's every reason to believe they can get away with it -- the state house is pretty evenly divided, and a swing of just a few seats either way may make a big difference.

This being Massachusetts, this fight is going to play out more in the primaries than in the election itself: in many areas, it's a foregone conclusion that a Democrat will win, but it is *not* always clear where that Democrat stands on the issue. So do some research, see where your candidates stand, and if someone's running who is on the right side of the issue, please make the effort to vote for them. The primary in Waltham is September 14th; I'm not clear on whether that applies to other towns as well, but I suspect it does.

(Yes, I consider this an issue that has a "right" side and a "wrong" side. That's fairly unusual for me, but I have yet to see an argument against gay marriage that isn't wholly spurious.)