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Paddington Thoughts

Paddington Thoughts

  • Comments 31

The other day, I mentioned I got sucked off on a high priority project shortly after I returned from my vacation.  I was asked to help out with the EU protocol documentation effort, working on a couple of the documents (based on some stuff I did back when I worked in the Lan Manager group).

I'm pretty darned proud of the work that the people on the documentation team have done - the specifications that were produced are really quite impressive.

 

But what most impressed me the most was the amount of work that the people working on this project have spent on it - I just got roped in to help with the final push, but some of those people have been working 16 hours a day, 7 days a week for months and months on this stuff. 

The level of dedication to this project that I saw was as much or more than I've seen on ANY other Microsoft project.  These guys figuratively worked their fingers to the bone typing up documents - countless late hours spread across the entire team.

In particular, the work of Henry Sanders, Iain McDonald, and several others was absolutely heroic.  Henry personally reviewed and provided technical feedback on every single specification that was submitted to the EU.  For the specification I wrote, there's no way that it couldn't have been completed without Henry's insightful comments and the invaluable help of David Kruse (he's the guy who's currently responsible for networking code I wrote back when I was on the NT networking group), and of course Veronica Skeels who made all the words I wrote look professional.

I'm not going to say one word about the politics of the EU documentation work, I just want to recognize the truly remarkable work and the heroic effort that was done on the project.

 

  • I just hope they're being paid well for sacrificing themselves on the company alter.   ;)

    Sure, crunch time happens, but for months on end? They must really love their jobs, the poor bastards.
  • I've said it before and I'll likely say it again: For protocols for communication (incl. e.g. data file formats) specifications must be available, and competition should be on Quality Of Implementation. Any entity failing under those conditions deserves it, for not being able to create even "good enough" implementations.

    What I find deeply disturbing about this, is that the documentation wasn't already available, and that it even required this "heoric effort".

    Should I have been in the unfortunate position to be more-or-less forced by my company to work around the clock to provide documentation for something the company itself should have had readily available since a decade and more, I'd be mighty pissed off at that company.

    The fact Microsoft only does this when facing multi-billion dollars in fines is a sad display of the kind of mentality that must have prevailed for over a decade - implement communication protocols without proper specifications. Who the heck even comes to think of the idea? It's enough to make a grown man scared.


    That said, it will be interesting to see the completed (?) documentation. It's good that it's finally (allegedly) happening, even if it is a crying shame it has taken 1.5 decade+.
  • Mike, I did say that I'm not going there.  I'm quite serious.

    There have been other statements made by Microsoft about the EU protocol documentation process, and I'll defer to those comments.

  • I'm living in Germany and therfore in the EU and I am quite pi**ed how Microsoft is treated by the EU lately. Punishment for what happened with Internet Explorer might be okay, but I don't understand why Microsoft should be forced to hand out these specifications??

    I mean would Apple be forced to hand out specifications of their ITunes-store? Or are they punished for bundling Safari, Itunes, Iphoto and all the other stuff with Mac OS??

    I hope that this lust for power of some EU-representants somehow dies and you can continue to work on Vista.

    I wished Microsoft was able to bundle more stuff (only stuff with value) with Windows (if it can be switched off and left from installation by the CUSTOMER and not by the filthy OEM who rips me off by putting Google Desktop search- and Norton-spyware/trialware on my new PC).
    Hopefully not too many good features are lost now!
  • What I forgot to say: Keep up the good work!
  • This is purely my personal opinion do don't read anything into it other than that, but how come Microsoft is automatically assumed to be the guilty person and the bad guy? Does anyone know how reasonable the documentation requirement was in the first place?

    Based on my own experience with my previous employer, you can ask for the moon as far as documentation goes. There is no end to it if you keep asking for more and more details. You can always read some documentation for some code and then claim you need something more. What if the documentation demand is to describe each line of code in English? Is that reasonable or sensible? Is that feasible for large bodies of source code?

    If you have been involved in any real software engineering project then you will know that not everything can and will be documented. For some things you will ultimately need to look at the source code. You need to strike a balance and document the important things and not just everything under the sun.

    And why should there be a requirement to make protocols and file format specifications available? If some company decides to do that then that's upto them but they shouldn't be forced to. Let's say some company comes with an innovative protocol to do something new that no one else has done before, then they should just hand it over? What about the time and money they spent in coming up with their idea and cool protocol that allows them to what they do?
  • You don't want to talk about the politics of the documentation effort, but would you be willing to talk a bit about the technicalities?  
    Some questions I am interested in:
    -What is the relationship of DOS LanMan to SMB/CIFS?
    -What is the general structure of the protocol? I've heard it's RPC-based, but is it the same RPC that's used in COM?  

    Thanks for the great blog!
  • nksing, DOS LanMan was my baby (me and two other deveopers, but I did most of the network client).  DOS LanMan was a CIFS client, nothing more, nothing less.

    If you look at the CIFS protocol, you can get a feel for how the protocol worked (search for leach naik and cifs).

    There was also a protocol known as CIFS-RAP, for Remote Administration Protocol, parts of that are also on the web (search for leach and naik and cifsrap).
  • Now if only the same amount of quality had been put into the DOJ settlement's API documentation (primarily shell APIs used by IE).  That documentation is sparse, incomplete, misleading, and in some cases downright false.

    I know you had nothing to do with that Larry, sorry to pollute your comments.

    Regarding the word "heroic"... It's nice to recognize people who contribute extra effort during a time of need.  But I never like the word heroic because that implies that something was in need of rescuing... which isn't a good thing.
  • I can't help comparing this to the WMD documentation. Iraq produces tonne of documentation and then say, "See, there it is, just like you asked". Then TheBigStickOwner says "Gee, sorry, we don't believe you, doesn't matter how much you say it's complete, we will never believe you because you've been a very naughty boy in the past, and frankly we've been looking forward to an excuse to kick the stuffing out of you."

    s/Iraq/Microsoft/
    s/TheBigStickOwner/EU/

    Interesting? Will we be wondering in a few years times if things were better before the EU stepped in.
  • Convicted child molesters are going to be hassled by the police for the rest of their lives.  If anything happens to a kid in their neighborhood, the natural assumption will be that they did it.  You know what?  I don't really have a problem with that.  Don't become a child molester, and this lifetime of suspicion won't fall on you.

    s/child molester/monopolist/
  • What's the Paddington connection? Did I miss something?
  • Of course, steveg, you realize your analogy isn't very flattering to BillG. :D
  • Ignoring the political comments by Mike, he has a valid point: on purely organizational/structural/whatever grounds, wasn't this documentation already existant? Or was this work only to re-arrange it to a certain documentation-model requirement?

    I find hard to believe the possibility that MS (or any other sw company with their size) didn't have ready made documentation about all that. Perhaps it was only poorly written/organized?

  • Gabe, Paddington was the final milestone of the EU protocol documentation effort.  There have been a number of articles mentioning it, a search for "Microsoft Paddington" shows:
    http://news.zdnet.com/2100-3513_22-6091994.html

    for example.

    Azrael, of course the documents existed.  But often times the engineering documents that are sufficient for a development team aren't always sufficient for a 3rd party.  As a simple, example that I ran into today on Digg, consider the "mork" file format used for mozilla bookmarks.  Here's the documentation: http://www.mozilla.org/mailnews/arch/mork/primer.txt
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