7 Things to Like About Microsoft

In which Ms. Pea takes a break from Redmond-bashing.

The other night, poor Fabio had to run out and buy a box of bonbons and then rub my shoulders while I ate them and sobbed inconsolably. You see, Auntie had been reading the latest truckload of mail from you loyal readers, when she ran across one that accused her of being a “Linux-loving, MS-bashing author” and was stung to the core.

OK, perhaps I wasn’t quite that upset, but putting on the show did get me the chocolate and shoulder rub, and the letter did provoke me to reflect a bit. It’s true. From this vantage point, it’s easy to be critical of Microsoft, and Redmond-bashing has a wide following in the IT journalistic elite these days. But the reader is quite right—we should have a little balance around here. Hence, I’m going to devote this column to a number of things I actually like about Microsoft.

1. IIS 6.0 is secure by default. Sure, Microsoft’s security record has been patchy at best, but it’s learning. Install Windows .NET Server, and you’ll get a Web server that doesn’t, by default, allow hacker kiddies to use your computer as a playground. The power and flexibility are there if you need them, but the new emphasis on safety is a welcome change.

2. Coding with Visual Studio .NET is actually fun. This gal dabbles in programming when she isn’t slaving under the hood of a hot server. Way back in college, I learned to write FORTRAN code, and a more tedious way to program computers can hardly be imagined. Now, with Visual Studio .NET, it’s drag this here, drop that there, write a few lines of code and kaboom! It all just works. It’s more like playing a well-designed game than writing software.

3. Microsoft Research is cool. New algorithms for drawing fur! Implementations of CAML for .NET! Video chat for Pocket PCs! Dancing paperclips! Yes, there are easy targets of derision in some of the Microsoft Research results, but there are also serious papers that advance the state of computing. And, you secretly wish you could get paid just to muck around with whatever you like.

4. Active Directory. Most of us went through years of pain learning how to use Active Directory. Many of us are, in fact, still going through that pain. For a moment, though, set the anguish aside and think about the results. Do you really want to go back to the NT 4.0 model for managing things? Care to maintain separate user lists in Exchange and Windows again? I thought not.

5. Windows Terminal Services. Far be it from me to recommend working during your next Caribbean vacation but, if you must, Terminal Services will make it much easier. Even over dial-up, you can run command-line tools as well as the GUI tools that make administering a Windows box possible. It’s just about the best remote-control solution out there, and you get it for free in the box.

6. Serious support information. I know. There was the recent mystery problem where you couldn’t find anything applicable in the Knowledge Base and finally had to sacrifice a chicken and reboot the machine. But how many other problems did you solve thanks to Microsoft’s support structure? Between thousands of Knowledge Base articles, some of the best help in the business and an army of newsgroup posters, Microsoft really does make a serious effort to support its products.

7. Steve Ballmer is just too cool. What else can you say about a guy who admits to having marketed blueberry muffins and brownie mixes and who jumps about on stage like a monkey (and doesn’t even seem to mind when the video leaks all over the Net)? Even at the top, Microsoft manages to maintain a style that reminds us what a fun business this really is.

The bonbons are all gone and so is Auntie’s allotted space. Perhaps next month I’ll once again indulge my finely tuned sense of outrage. Meanwhile, it feels good to reflect on some of the positive things about working in this segment of business.

What did I miss that you really like about Microsoft? Let me know at Auntie@mcpmag.com and get the chance to win an MCP Magazine hat. The best comments will be published in a future issue.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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