Apple Hates Java

Apparently Apple shipped OS X without updating to the most recent version of Java. Welcome to the joys of living in a walled garden.

As a Java fan, I'm pretty disappointed that Apple is not more supportive of Java. I've long believed that OS X is a nearly ideal development environment for Java with is *nix base and polished UI. PowerBooks have been taking over the Java developer market for a while, although this latest turn of events certainly won't accelerate that process.

However, as much as I think this is just stupid on Apple's part, I can't say that they seem to be hurting because of it. Apple is just lucky that the main threat is Windows, which most people left for OS X anyway. I don't think Vista will be winning them back, even if they are stuck on JDK 1.5

Apple OS X Leopard Blue Screen of Death

An OS X BSOD, who would have thought it was possible? John Gruber outlines the issue on his blog. As a possible future Apple Fanboy (as defined by John of course) I find Apple's products appealing, and believe that they are more stable than Windows. But, let's not kid ourselves. Apple, and OS X, are not perfect. And as Apple's market share continue to grow, you are going to see more and more issues with people doing things with Apple devices that Apple did not intend. The number of bricked iPhones is another obvious example.

The problem is, people see computers (Windows, OS X, iPhones, etc) for what they are, multi-purpose devices. They figure out how they work and take advantage of undocumented features. This has been going on for years with Windows, and as regular readers of The Old New Thing blog know, Microsoft has made plenty of 'hacks' to their operating system to support applications that leveraged 'undocumented features'. This brings up the two different approaches that exist at Microsoft and Apple.

Microsoft: Support Everything
OK, not EVERYTHING, but Microsoft seems to spend a significant amount of time testing existing products and applications on their operating system. When they find issues, they are even willing to make changes to the OS to fix it, even if the application is 'wrong'. This makes live much easier for application developers and application users who may be using applications long abandoned by their authors.

Apple: Upgrade
Apple does not seem to be much of a fan of backwards compatibility. And they are certainly not very tolerant of you playing outside the box. They may not shut you down right way, but somewhere down the line your life will become very difficult.

Microsoft's approach is obviously more user friendly in the short term. I think a lot of Apple's reputation for reliability and ease of use comes from their walled garden/clean upgrade approach. I'm torn between the two. On one hand, I like the idea of clean system that does not make concessions to poorly written programs. However, being someone that is prone to writing his own poorly written programs, I appreciate the wiggle room Microsoft affords people. I'm a guy who won't buy an iPhone until I can deploy 3rd party applications, so while Apple is appealing, I'm not a 'switcher' yet.

The bottom line is, John is correct. The BSOD upgrade problem is not Apple's fault. Just like how many of the BSODs on Windows are not Microsoft's fault. Apple and Microsoft still get blamed whenever there are issues like this with their operating systems. It isn't necessarily fair, but your average user can't distinguish between an OS issue and a faulty driver.

Apple, welcome to real market share, and all the associated joys.

The Upgrade Catch-22

I have a compulsion to upgrade. Whenever there is new release of any software or driver that I use, I MUST upgrade. The problem is, most of these upgrades/updates just cause problems.

This classic situation arose last night. Excel 2007 has been crashing recently when I used the build in scroll function of my ThinkPad T60p. I figured it was worth downloading the most recent drivers from IBM (OK, Lenovo). I used their auto-update tool, which of course found tons of updates to run, including the BIOS, etc.

It all seemed to go well until after the wireless card driver was updated and I re-entered the WEP key to reconnect. BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). After a couple reboots to make sure it wouldn't 'work itself out', I booted into safe mode (which took forever), and disabled the wireless driver. I then rolled back (using the nifty 'rollback button'. This solved the BSOD but I still couldn't connect. So I ended up downloading the newest driver again and installing, but it didn't seem to take. So I found a more recent driver I installed earlier this year and reinstalled it. It didn't work either. Well it did, but it took me a while to realize I was entering the wrong WEP key.

Bottom line, updates are necessary for security and often do improve functionality, but more often than not, when I update I find myself hacking/fixing something to get back to 'normal'.

This will have no impact on my reaction to the next shiny update though. I will still install immediately.

Oh, and I still don't know yet whether any of this fixed my Excel 2007 scroll problem. We'll see.


Marc Andreessen is writing a series of blog posts about career planning. His second post discusses education. Reading this post I cannot stress enough how right Marc is. He pretty much nails what I believe to be the best approach to building your skills.

Starting with a college education, build a foundation for success. A degree in Science, Engineering, or Mathematics is highly valuable regardless of whether or not you pursue it as a career. General Liberal Arts degrees are just stepping stones to something else, and essentially a waste of time. Graduate degrees can be useful (or required) in certain fields but in general you will be better off launching yourself into the working world. PhD's are nearly worthless unless you want to make a big impact in a very specific field.

Get real world experience while you are in college. Absolutely.

Be excellent at something (or two). Before you become a jack of all trades, demonstrate your ability to learn something in-depth. Once you've been a rock start in a certain field, you'll find it much easier to tackle the next one.

Get a broad set of experiences. Once you've tackled an area in depth (or better yet, while you are doing so), build the basic skills needed to handle the working world. Speaking, Management, Sales, Finance, International (an area have a lot of room to develop).

Read the post, it is dead on. Of course, I may be biased given our shared pedigree. Of course, while we both worked for the NCSA, Marc was writing Mosaic while I just worked in Mosaic customer support (for the Mac no less). Oh, I think Marc has sold a few more companies than I have as well. I guess I need to work on my skills.

NetBank Fails

NetBank, was closed by the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was named Receiver. My bank failed. Not something people think about on a regular basis, but it does happen.

Granted NetBank isn't just any bank. As Internet's oldest online only Bank (up until Friday at least), there is some inherent risk. However, NetBank had been around over 10 years and wasn't some fly by night operation. See Wikipedia's summary.

So this is what FDIC insurance is for. There is almost no immediate impact for customers with FDIC insured accounts under the maximum threshold. The existing website, checks, ATM cards, etc. are still functioning and they money is intact. However, money over the FDIC limit will probably only be recouped at 50%.

ING Direct purchased the existing NetBank accounts from the FDIC immediately and provides a clean transition. In the near future (~60 days) they will be working with account holders to transition into ING accounts and close the existing NetBank accounts. From what I can see on the website I'm not sure ING Direct offers checking accounts so I'm not sure how they will transition checking accounts.

As an early adopter of Internet banking (I was also a customer of the short-lived WingSpan Bank) I'm not sure this will scare me away, but I may be a little more selective in the future, and I'll certainly be conscious of the FDIC insurance levels.

Let this be a reminder to everyone. Banks do fail. Make sure you are covered.