go ahead, mac my day

a Macintosh girl in a Microsoft world

December, 2005

  • go ahead, mac my day

    three months at MS


    It's the end of the year, and thus time to reflect. I've been with MS, and the MacBU, for three months. Back when the recruiter contacted me, I was ... well, I suppose 'ambivalent' is the best word here. I wasn't actively looking for a job, but I was beginning to think that it was time to move on from my previous employer. The recruiter found me one afternoon (through MacRumors, no less [1]), identified himself and the group he was working for. The recruiter caught me at the right time, but I wasn't sure about the idea. I mean, it's Microsoft. I'd learned from years of reading /. that MS is the Evil Empire. I've made all of the same jokes about MS that everyone else has: blue screens, borg, you know the drill. But I gave it a go anyway: I had nothing to lose, and since when were /. commenters known for their unbiased opinions?

    Walking in, aside from the vague concerns that I was going to have a chip implanted and I'd never be able to leave Redmond, I was wondering how the MacBU worked. Was it a redheaded stepchild? What kind of people worked here? Do they like it? What's next? What interesting questions are there to be answered? My attitude changed through the day: from ambivalence with the first interviewer (who was the recruiter, so maybe he doesn't count as an interviewer) up to genuine excitement at the position when I finally left campus at 5:30. They offered, I accepted, and here I am.

    What do I like about working here? I work with a lot of people who really care about putting out good software. We're not completely divorced from the Windows side (after all, there's always file format compatibility that needs to happen), but we get to do what we need to do. There are Mac-only features found throughout the suite. (My favourites are the Project Center in Entourage and the Notebook view in Word.) The group that cares deeply about doing right by the customer, which means that my work as a usability engineer is highly valued. It's not about putting new functionality into the product; it's about making it easier for our users to do whatever it is that they need to do, whether they're a chef or a teacher or a retail buyer or an IT director. Plus I get to attend MWSF for the very first time (and you can swing by the MacBU booth and say hi to me, I'm there quite a lot).

    What don't I like about working here? I tense up a little bit when I tell people that I work at MS, because I'm not the only person who has ever referred to this company as the Evil Empire. I've long since lost count of how many complaints I've heard about blue screens or something about VB or whatever. For that matter, I've long since lost count of how many times I've been asked whether I've met Bill Gates yet; it's as if people think that he's just going to pop into my office one afternoon and ask how I like the cafeteria. And speaking of the cafeteria, the local one is closed this week, meaning I have to go out in the cold rain for lunch. I get asked a lot about future MS products, especially Windows and Xbox stuff, and I have no idea about that kind of thing.

    In other words, I'm very happy about being here. I like working on software that people use because they want to. I like the people I work with. I like working on something that has a strong user focus, and with people who fundamentally understand that a user focus is important. There are cool things in the pipeline. What more can a geekgirl want in a job?

    [1] I created an account there so that I could post a question on the forums. When I created my account, I filled out the info pretty honestly: I had my name, my IM info, and my job title. I'm not sure how the recruiter found that, but he did. He IMed me, and that started the process that somehow ended up in me sitting here in SVC.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    a Macintosh girl in a Microsoft world


    SVMUG was interesting. Despite my best intentions, I had never managed to attend a MUG meeting before this. I walked in without too many expectations.

    I was somewhat, but not entirely, surprised to find that there was some amount of Microsoft-complaining going on before the meeting. (It wasn't strong enough to count as MS-bashing, but maybe my tolerance for this is higher because I read /. semi-regularly.) It is, after all, a group of Macintosh users, and I think it's fair to say that there are some Mac users who feel superior to their counterparts who use Windows. (We won't discuss whether I'm one of them; suffice it to say that my Windows machine lives out-of-sight under my desk and has nothing connected to it other than a power cable and a network cable.)

    We had to spend some amount of time establishing our Mac cred. Early on, one of the volunteers told us that it must be uncomfortable for us being Microsoft People at Apple; my colleague said that it's not, but rather that it's more uncomfortable for us being Macintosh people at Microsoft. We pointed out that we have a huge Mac development and test organisation, the largest all-Mac organisation outside of Apple themselves. Above all, we tried to answer their questions and show them that we really are Mac people. We're not Microsoft people who had to do a stint on the Mac side of the fence. We're here because we care about the Mac and we care about making great software for it.

    My colleague did most of the talking during the presentation, and I chimed in occasionally. After the meeting, my colleague left pretty quickly (it was late, and he had to drive back up to San Francisco), but I stuck around, answered additional questions, and chatted. I don't know whether we were successful at convincing people that we really are Mac people, but the group certainly seemed friendlier at the end of the meeting.

    In all, I did enjoy being there and talking with them. I handed out my usability cards and hopefully will get some more local users into the database. A couple of people were clearly excited at the thought of being able to participate in our sessions. We're back next month for Virtual PC, and I might attend if I have any energy left over post-MWSF. I don't make any promises, though!

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Office:Mac at SVMUG tonight


    I forgot to post this earlier ... Richard Kmieciak, one of the program managers here in the MacBU, is demoing Office 2004 tonight at SVMUG. I'll be there in the role of a less-sequined Vanna White, handing out some goodies and asking people to sign up to participate in usability studies.

    If I recall correctly, we (that's 'we' as in MacBU) are also at SVMUG again in January, talking about Virtual PC. I'll probably tag along for that one, too, assuming that I'm still standing after MWSF.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    a tempest in a teapot


    It seems that every six months or so, Linus Torvalds stirs up some kind of trouble in various geek communities. The most well-known incident was the Tanenbaum-Torvalds debate way back when. He's mellowed some in later years, although I wouldn't say that he's any less opinionated.

    The can of worms that Torvalds opened this time was a post to the gnome-usability mailing list, in which he railed against GNOME and said that he simply recommends that people use KDE instead. I like the clean interface that GNOME provides, and I like its consistency. I agree that KDE has more options, but that doesn't say 'more powerful' to me.

    Maybe it's that I've mellowed myself over the years, but I've come to see any of these X versus Y debates as artificial, whether it be GNOME versus KDE or Windows versus OS X or peanut butter versus chocolate. So long as you're making an informed decision, just run with it. If you like Windows, use it to your little heart's content. If you like KDE, have at it. But don't tell me that I'm somehow misinformed or less of a geek because I haven't made the decisions that you have.

    I'd probably have more to say on this subject if I weren't battling off a case of the Redmond Snow Flu (brought about by being up in Redmond when it snowed last week).

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Embracing the wired future


    In this week's Opus (although, as of this writing, it's still last week's Opus that's linked on the site), Opus is comfortably ensconsed in his anxiety closet with his books, CDs, Spongebob Squarepants telephone, and (I think) a pin-up penguin poster. Steve Jobs comes in and tells him to embrace the wired future, and throws out everything in Opus's closet, including (at the very end) his newspaper and comics. He replaces it with an iPod that has a keyboard and satellite dish attached. Opus is less than enthused.

    And I would be, too. Except I wouldn't. I read quite a lot, and we simply won't discuss how much of my salary ends up in the hands of various bookshops. I've tried e-books and don't like them. I want a paperback that I don't mind leaving on a plane, or a nice hardcover that I cna pull off the shelf and just flip through it. But I've switched my SIGPLAN membership to electronic-only, because storing all of the various proceedings for conferences that I didn't attend is just too much. I still buy CDs (another sizeable, and unmentionable, portion of my budget), but I buy individual songs from the iTunes Music Store because I don't want to have to buy the whole album. When I buy a new disc, it goes into my player for a few listens, then I rip it and just let iTunes do its shuffle magic. It's rare that the CD comes off my shelf again. (To be fair, I have a six-disc changer in my car, which got a lot more use when I had a 45-minute commute each way. Now that I've got a 10-minute commute, which will become a bike commute in spring, I don't bother.) I rarely take paper notes anymore. I use the tabbed notebook feature in Word:mac, and have different files for different projects or people or whatever, and create a new tab in the notebook for the notes that I take in a particular meeting. I would remove my landline if my ISP's headless DSL wasn't so much more expensive than basic_phone_service + DSL.

    I suppose this means that I'm not as close to Opus as I might have thought I was. I was horrified at the idea of someone taking away my books, CDs, and vinyl, but then I realised that I was reading the comic strip online. Is it really a matter of time before I give up these physical artifacts?

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Apple gift cards


    Apple has finally made gift cards available. These aren't iTunes gift cards, but are good for anything at the Apple Store.

    It's about time, guys! I would've thought that you would've picked up on the idea much earlier. iTunes gift cards have been available for awhile, why did it take so long to do this?

    Dear mom: You could get me this instead of something like the battery-operated wind chimes that you got me a couple of years ago ...

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