Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Marc Andreessen and Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader: Separated at Birth?

Marc Andreessen and Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader: separated at birth? You be the judge ...

The second picture is Sebastian Shaw, the actor who played Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader) in the first three Star Wars movies (Episodes 4-6, otherwise known as "the Star Wars movies that didn't suck").

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Firefox MASSIVE FAIL - frequent, incompatible upgrades and instability

For years, I have been a dedicated Firefox user.  Before Chrome, Firefox was a browser that really
met my needs.  Firefox was faster and more flexible than Internet Explorer.  Firefox was innovative, supporting tabs, add-ons, standards, and multiple platforms.  Over the years, I customized my Firefox environment to meet my needs, with add-ons that made my many tabs manageable, that enabled my news curation on Twitter, that remembered my many user names and passwords.

I've retained Internet Explorer, since many corporate apps I use are supported only on IE or otherwise don't work well on Firefox.  But my main browser use has been with Firefox until recently.

I'm sad to say that this post marks my final use of Firefox.  I'm switching to Chrome finally, with IE for some corporate apps.  This is not a sudden decision of mine; rather, this is a decision I've been putting off for a while in the hopes that things would get better with Firefox, but things just keep getting worse and worse.  What are my complaints?
  1. I rely on Firefox add-ons to achieve productivity and for their many innovations.  Yet, the good folks at Mozilla have decided to frequently update Firefox and to do so in ways that are not upwardly compatible.  Firefox updates unpredictably break add-ons on which I rely.  With each update, and updates now seem to come about once per month, some add-on is broken.  You might argue that the add-ons I need are not likely to be available on Chrome, but more and more of the Firefox add-ons I need are not maintained with the same cadence as Firefox.  I think the add-on makers are demoralized and are giving up.  You might also argue that I could find other add-ons to replace my favorites, but who has the time?  And, anyway, you just know that no add-ons will keep up with the Mozilla cadence.  If you are going to that update cadence, you need many things to be upwardly compatible. :(  At the same time, Google has found a way to do frequent Chrome updates while keeping updates compatible enough to keep Chrome add-ons working.
  2. Firefox has become a slow, buggy, bloated product with little apparent innovation.  With all these releases, you'd think you'd see tremendous changes from release to release.  Instead, other than breaking the add-ons, I can't see any improvements in user experience or functionality from Firefox 20 to Firefox 23.  These days, it seems like most of the innovation is in the Chrome ecosystem.  In the past, the innovation seemed to be partly in the Mozilla team, and partly in the add-on ecosystem, but that add-on ecosystem has all but ground to a halt.
  3. Back to Firefox being slow and buggy.  At least once per day, Firefox becomes unresponsive; sometimes it recovers after a few minutes, but more often it just hangs and must be forced to shut down.  Firefox has become very unstable.
  4. But Firefox is also slow.  I know that some recent projects focus on Firefox performance and some recent benchmarks show Firefox performance improving, but that is not my experience.  In fact, the more tabs you have open, and the longer the pages you view in Firefox, the noticeably slower it gets.  And then it crashes.  And takes a VERY long time to restart.
In the end, though, the killer for me is Firefox's constant upgrades blowing away its crowning jewel - the add-on ecosystem.  Without add-ons, Firefox is just another browser.  Stacked up against Chrome, Firefox lacks adequate support for Android, lacks stability, drags slowly on start-up (especially on restarting after crashing), and shows little or no innovation.  Mozilla needs to slow down the upgrade cadence, attempt some bigger and more innovative projects, support the add-on ecosystem to be ready with updates whenever the browser gets updated, and find a new reason to exist beyond fighting the bygone bogeyman of Microsoft hegemony.

What do you think?  Do you agree or disagree with me?  Let me know by leaving comments below ...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Database Billboards: Times and Cars and Oracle Competitors Gone By

Database Billboards: Times and Cars and Oracle Competitors Gone By

Driving up or down 101 these days, you can't avoid the new SiliconView billboard - it's a double-sided electronic billboard, so you can see it whether you are going north- or south-bound, and most of us on 101 are driving slowly enough that we get to see several iterations of the billboard content as we sit in traffic.

A few weeks ago, the billboard started displaying ads with that distinctive SAP orange/amber/mustard/whatever color, drawing my eye to something that normally just existed in the background.  Yes - it was an SAP ad!  That's odd, I thought - very few business decision makers for large SAP-style prospects drive up and down 101.  Wouldn't it be better to put something up in San Francisco airport, like Oracle does, or in San Francisco?

Then I realized - this billboard was advertising SAP HANA. Could it be?  Could SAP be making the same silly mistake made by so many other database competitors over the years?  Could SAP be falling into the same trap sprung on IBM, Ingres, and Informix?

Yes, it appeared that SAP was getting into the chest-thumping, one-upsmanship game played by Oracle's database competitors so wastefully in the past.  Those companies started focusing on Oracle, rather than on Oracle's customers' needs.  It was more important to Informix to try to tweak Larry's buttons than it was for them to properly account for their software in the channel, or to do a better job meeting customers' needs.

As I was thinking about writing this blog, I looked for images of those older billboards.  If you have any images (especially IBM or Ingres billboards), please post a link in the comments below.  I was able to find online only Informix billboards.

That last billboard was the one Informix displayed as the company was in tatters, falling apart from its latest scandal.  After that, no more billboards (from Informix).

Did these billboards help Informix beat Oracle?  Did these billboards focus Informix's employees on the goal (better serving customers)?  Did these billboards help recruit and/or demoralize the best developers and others at Oracle?


SAP HANA is a product that has a great deal of potential, as I and other Enterprise Irregulars have written in the past.  However, in conversations with SAP HANA customers and experts, there are still significant issues to be overcome before this becomes a worthy competitor to Oracle - issues in cost, stability, scalability, standards support, openness to a third party ecosystem, availability of complementary solutions, and availability of reasonably priced expert resources.  Hopefully, SAP is focusing its R&D investments on this issues, and on being a platform for a new kind and new generation of in-memory applications rather than the RDBMS-focused applications of the 1990's, even while SAP marketing participates in what is perhaps just harmless competition and good-natured rivalry.

However, I hope SAP will remember that Highway 101 is littered with the burned out wreckage of SAP HANA's predecessors who took Oracle on directly in the marketing arena, rather than delivering more value to customers.  In fact, SAP even owns one of those defunct database companies itself ...