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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

By Keith Ward on July 23, 2008 (9:00:00 PM)

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If you've ever used Microsoft Access or Excel, you have likely used a product that Mike Gunderloy had a hand in developing. The irony is that Gunderloy himself doesn't use those products anymore. He's given up Microsoft for open source -- and he's not going back.

Gunderloy, an Evansville, Ind.-based freelance developer for the past quarter century, goes way back with Microsoft. "I was never a full-time employee, but have several times been a contractor with a badge and [Redmond] campus access," he says.

His contracting work -- on the order of half a million dollars, Gunderloy estimates -- led to a substantial amount of code contributed to the Access and Excel versions of Microsoft Office 97 and 2000. He's also worked on other, more obscure parts of the Microsoft software empire, including SQL Server, C#, and ASP.Net.

It was good work that paid well. But over the last several years, changes crept in that began to bother Gunderloy. "I saw Office 2007 really, really early -- alpha code. I gave feedback on parts of the code I was less than satisfied with. It was pretty clear my feedback and that of others was pretty much ignored. That was different from [my experiences with] Office 97, 2000, and 2003. It seems the Office team felt they didn't need any outside" opinions, Gunderloy recalls.

But those annoyances were merely a precursor to what was to come. The beginning of the end for the developer was when Microsoft went patent berserk. "What finally pushed me over the edge to 'I'm getting out' was when Microsoft started to assert non-intellectual property rights over the its Ribbon interface, making that level of sweeping intellectual property claims. Microsoft went from not patenting much to patenting everything," Gunderloy says.

Microsoft essentially tried to patent the new Ribbon interface that appeared on Office 2007 products. The Ribbon is a series of controls for various functions of Office programs. Redmond, Gunderloy says, "basically told any control vendor that wanted to make a control that the Ribbon was Microsoft property and they had to license it from Microsoft. They had to acknowledge that Microsoft owns that piece of the user interface. I said to myself, that's nuts. You may have copyright rights in code, but the arrangement of controls in the user interface is not something that's intellectual property."

If that happened, Gunderloy reasoned, it could become impossible for a developer to write any code that didn't tread on some vendor's patent somewhere. "It was the sweeping land grab by Microsoft that pissed me off."

Add to that Microsoft's infamous May 2007 claim that Linux and other open source software infringed on 235 Microsoft patents, and Gunderloy had seen enough. He broke with Microsoft and started looking around for new languages to learn. He knew he wanted to keep in the Web development realm, so he checked out open source languages like the Python-based Django and Ruby on Rails. He settled on RoR because he saw more opportunity to get paid to develop on that platform.

Gunderloy's disgust at Microsoft spilled into areas beyond the development platform; his work environment, he says, is now "100% Microsoft-free." He bought a Mac, which he says is more reliable than his Windows boxes. He runs both OpenOffice.org and NeoOffice, and uses iWork a lot.

Gunderloy has been using RoR since late 2006. He says the biggest difference between ASP.Net and RoR is that "now, I'm a whole lot closer to the code. With the Microsoft tool chain, it was about the IDE (integrated development environment), and visual drag-and-drop. I've gone back to the way I used to develop 10 years ago, with text editors. Now I'm just writing code instead of moving stuff around. It's easier to look at the code and know what's going on."

The drawback, he says, is that it's harder to develop fancy interfaces. On the whole, though, Gunderloy sees more advantage to the open source way of doing things. "Free is a pretty powerful argument. With ASP, to build a database, you had to consider what it would cost to build a fully licensed SQL Server. [RoR development is] much cheaper. The other thing is if you look at the ferment going on in Web development, an awful lot of the most visible properties are being built on Rails or Django or plain old PHP."

This trend away from Microsoft, according to Gunderloy, is likely to continue. "I don't think we've seen the high-water mark of Microsoft being replaced yet. If you look at the [open source development] numbers, Firefox, the [Python-based] Google application engine, all those things are trending away from Microsoft."

The switch has cost Gunderloy money. "I ended up cutting my hourly rate for development. I could command a higher rate [for Microsoft-related development], as someone who'd worked with Microsoft for as long as I had. The levels of compensation in the Rails development community will not reach the highest levels in Microsoft community."

Still, he's not complaining, and he believes the tradeoff is more than worth it. By bucking Microsoft for open source, says Gunderloy, "I'm no longer contributing to the eventual death of programming."

Keith Ward is a freelance technology journalist.

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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 91.45.178.136] on July 23, 2008 09:27 PM
Now that's an interesting story worth to pass on. Thanks a lot. :)

Dennis

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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 96.228.149.153] on July 23, 2008 10:26 PM
I am not a programmer but just a normal user and I have to agree with the article. This is one of the best examples why there needs to be a large grass roots effort in the US for all us users out here that I know number in the millions, unlike developers that only number in the 1000's to get organized and lobby our elected officials to get the patent laws as well as the DMCA, DRM etc changed and or done away with. If the US continues to permit the patenting of software in a short period of time we will not have any options as to what OS we choose for there will only be one and that one is owned by Microsuck. I wish I knew how to get this started, anyone out there have any ideas? I think that the best way would be to organize similar to the way the political parties do things. Have a national group and regional and then local groups that the members go door to door or to shopping malls to educate the millions of sheep out there to the dangers of software patenting. We all need to band together to protect our freedoms and rights or we are going to soon wake up and discover that we have given them all up by not doing anything.

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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.26.91.67] on July 23, 2008 10:55 PM
So you are posting an interview with a programmer who just couldnt cut it anymore and was put out to pasture so he runs over to Microsofts competitors and then claims Microsofts crap. What a jack off.

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Re: Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.83.182.95] on July 24, 2008 07:46 AM
And you can cut it? Whatever that is supposed to mean.

Not that you refuted or even disputed any of his reasons, nah, you just say he's an idiot etc.

I'd rather think your last sentence accurately describes you more than him.

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Re: Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 65.100.37.100] on July 24, 2008 08:29 PM
You did not read the article, nor did you check your spelling/grammar. I get the impression that you are EITHER dumber than a box of broken hammers, or a right-wing douche-bag trying to go "high tech".

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Re: Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.203.187.55] on July 25, 2008 05:32 PM
You would have a point if Microsoft weren't crap.

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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 222.155.7.52] on July 23, 2008 11:18 PM
That's your way of looking at (nice rose tinted glasses you have there). It's not the way I see it. Blatant patent grabbing is enough of a reason to 'leave the building', so to speak.

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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.6.254.211] on July 23, 2008 11:40 PM
I like microsoft because it circulates the money in the economy through us (software developers). Open source is great but it amounts to free labor creating an environment where software developers will not be left with paying jobs. Look at what Linux did to Sun micro. All big banks etc. use Linux based systems for critical applications and pay peanuts for support. Alternatively, they could have been paying a lot more and all that money could be circulating through software developers. Ever heard of an "open source" mutual fund??? Think about it!

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Re: Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 165.228.231.90] on July 24, 2008 12:01 AM
You are so very welcome to continue creating proprietary code, thats your own choice. But I'd like to point out that no big banks pay 'peanuts' for support. Trust me, they don't. I guess if you compare it to the traditional proprietary business model where they immorally rip off their vendors then yes, it is peanuts. But its what it should be. No one should have to bleed through their nose to get a good solution.

My company uses linux and opensource solutions for that very reason. We can't afford to bleed our money into a proprietary hole, we use linux and pay for the help and support we need.

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Re: Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.240.11.2] on July 24, 2008 04:41 PM
ROFL. anyone who thinks there's no money to be made working as a developer with FOSS is an idiot. I "turned" in 1999 and have never looked back. The systems and architecture are more reliable. This makes your job as a developer easier. Almost every problem I've had I created myself. This makes debugging much easier since you can rule out broken (and undocumented broken stuff at that) microsoft architecture as the culprit. If you need another piece to meet requirements, you aren't forking out more and more cash for each feature, you just install it. When it takes 3 weeks to push paperwork through a buying department, this can cut your project development time significantly.

You don't have to reverse engineer undocumented parts of APIs since you can just see the source to figure out what it does. With MS it's like pulling teeth to do anything more than they want you to. There are FOSS apis for most proprietary databases so you can literally migrate in stages or integrate easily.

I could list a thousand more reasons why OSS is better for you as a developer. Suffice to say, I'll never go back. I just wish game developers would see the light, take the risk, and get off the DirectX teet. I know a lot of gamers that would run linux if their game worked as well in WINE (or was available natively) as it does on XP.

The FOSS world is about 1000x more developer friendly than proprietary OS land is...

-Viz

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Re: Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 205.250.159.224] on July 26, 2008 08:28 PM
Given that a lot of software developers working on FOSS are paid your comments make no sense at all. Nor in all my years supporting various installtions for banks, among others, did I see a lot of penetration by Sun in that market.

As for Linux dominating the banking server and ATM world perhaps it's simply a better product? Have you thought about that? And please tell me the name of any bank that pays peanuts for IT support.

Anyway, Mike doesn't say he works for free rather that, for now, he has to work for less due to market ignorance (non-pejorative dictionary usage) of ROR, Django and other non MS solutions.

Now if you're worried about your pay because you are firmly attached to the Microsoft teat and the money just doesn't seem to be there as it once was that really isn't Mike's problem or FOSS's problem. It's yours! Follow the money or find a new line of work!

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Re: Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.87.123.246] on July 26, 2008 11:10 PM
Ever heard of IBM, Sun, Red Hat, we could go on and on. There are more companies involved in open source than in Microsoft development by a long shot. Just look for an Internet service provider that is Microsoft only. I quit Microsoft development nine years ago. I've been paid to write a few little apps for Microsoft desktops, but the server side has been on open source servers. Microsoft won't go away, but any programmer who thinks they are the only thing is seriously limiting themselves.

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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: PerlCoder on July 24, 2008 12:23 AM
Cool article! Mike's got a blog too, with RSS:
http://afreshcup.com/

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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.189.107.166] on July 24, 2008 02:44 AM
I'm surprise the Ribbons were patentable, they seemed like a blatent rip off of the Novell Groupwise interface

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Re: Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 205.250.159.224] on July 26, 2008 08:16 PM
I read it as him getting pissed off because they claimed it was patented rather than any reality.

As you point out there is prior art out there.

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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 81.231.61.57] on July 24, 2008 04:34 AM
Hmm, "Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source" - and he buys a Mac? Seems ironic, doesn't it?

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Re: Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.109.127.127] on July 24, 2008 03:05 PM
Not really... I came to the Mac from the Linux world. Been running Linux since before kernel version 0.97.0! It really sux trying to get Linux to run on a laptop and Apple's laptops are among the best in the business. Under the hood, Apple Mac OS X 10.5 is really FreeBSD with a custom Mach kernel. Apple gives you all the developer tools and API's for free with the OS. I can do everything I can do on Linux on a Mac (download just about any Linux or FreeBSD software, and compile it), plus run all the Apple software (Adobe apps, etc.) and WinXP/Vista/Win2k3/etc in a Virtual Machine. I can even run 32bit & 64bit at the same time! I can also interconnect to any other OS over the network. Sun, AIX, Linux, FreeBSD, Microsoft, & mainframes. I've got a MacPro w/8 cores and 8GB's of RAM and I can run multiple VM's alongside Mac OS X while I interconnect each VM to each other while developing and testing an entire multi-server solution! I can even take all my Mac's and have them collaborate on big compiles to shorten the compile time! Mac's are the ultimate developer and sysadmin system! A Unix SysAdmin with a Mac laptop is unstoppable! No task is outside his/her grasp! I am not an Apple Zealot, use what works for you! But Apple's work quite nicely for me! I still run Commercial Unix & Linux under VM on a Mac and on production servers. I still run and support WinXP/Vista/Win2k3 but I feel so dirty afterwards!

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Re(1): Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 84.236.34.166] on July 24, 2008 03:50 PM
I'm sure you can do all these things with a Mac, but that's really beside the parent's point. I'm sure you can do lots of things with Windows too. The point was that it is strange that the developer is pissed off at Microsoft's behavior and then goes over to Macs. Apple is no MS, but it is also guilty of proprietary holes and lock-ins.

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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.170.62.36] on July 24, 2008 06:06 AM
I am sure they are not patentable. After all, once Apple sued Microsoft for copying the "look and feel" and lost. Right now it is FUD. Anybody that signs on board agrees that they have to bow to Microsoft and give up their legal legs to do what they want. Anybody that bucks Microsoft may eventually be taken to court. Assuming you have enough money and time. Microsoft can be beat on this one.

Microsoft will try to milk out all the money they can from those that will pay to "license" the ribbon look. They may never sue. If the do. They will work on suing those who will loose because they can't hire good enough lawyers or afford a long court battle. They will follow that route, till they are forced to sue someone who can stand up to them. At that point it would all unravel.

Look at how much mileage they have gotten out of the mention of "235" patents. Over a years worth without doing anything other than mentioning them once. They may be specific, 'using an array as a virtual file system to speed up lookups", or total junk like "a pointing device with buttons that click". All we know so far, is Microsoft prefers to flex it's muscles over actually using them.

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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.106.223.157] on July 24, 2008 06:08 AM
Open Source is a terrific development environment but I wish user interfaces looked better. SDL can't even draw an anti-aliased line.

M$ has been a lousy development platform for years but maybe that will change with Silverlight/Avalon which is also available on Linux.

I'm hoping for great things from IronPython.

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Re: Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.203.42.177] on July 25, 2008 03:49 PM
With a graphic primitives add-on that is in common use, SDL can in fact draw anti-aliased lines:

http://www.ferzkopp.net/joomla/content/view/19/14/

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Re: Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 205.250.159.224] on July 26, 2008 08:22 PM
As someone has noted SDL does quite well and Qt4 does even better.

I doubt that much will change with Silverlight/Moonlight/Avalon for the simple reason that Adobe isn't going to sit idly by while Microsoft tries to eat their lunch.

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Ribbon Control.... If you can even call that!

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 221.128.202.174] on July 24, 2008 06:47 AM
I can't understand what's so special about the Ribbon control. I mean, did anyone look at it? It's just a fancy Tab notebook control which MS has given a fancy name. The notebook control exists in almost all GUI frameworks from wxWidgets, Qt, KDE, ..... To go ahead and patent it is just plain lunatic. The Tab notebook is not MS' innovation. All they have done is add pretty pictures to it and claimed that somehow the tab notebook aka Ribbon control is their innovation.

MS claims that it has innovated the layout system in the control. That's plain wrong too. I could use existing layout systems in wxWidgets and/or Qt and come up with exactly same functionality as the "Ribbon Control" used in Office 2007. So where is the innovation and why is there a pending patent?

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The problem with Microsoft

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.192.250.149] on July 24, 2008 07:24 AM
"Assuming you have enough money and time. Microsoft can be beat on this one"

The problem is that very few companies have enough money.

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Re: The problem with Microsoft

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 151.188.247.104] on July 25, 2008 01:51 AM
IBM does. :-)

Also remember that IBM has a software patent portfolio that dwarfs everyone else's on the planet, combined. That's why MS won't ever sue IBM; MS will get squashed like SCO did. It also explains why MS is trying to patent everything under the heavens.

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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.94.213.82] on July 24, 2008 07:45 AM
Excellent article and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Anytime Microsoft is compared against a open-source is always a good read. :- ). In this case, it is more interesting as this comparison is comping from someone who has worked a long time with microsoft.

Ramesh
http://www.thegeekstuff.com

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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 61.11.86.226] on July 24, 2008 05:08 PM
Goodbye software patent... what will M$ reaction to this (http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2008/07/the-death-of-go.html) be.

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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 170.186.245.72] on July 24, 2008 08:04 PM
Goodbye software patent... what will M$ reaction to this (http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2008/07/the-death-of-go.html) be.
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Flying chairs!

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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.0.43.5] on July 25, 2008 05:15 AM
Micro$oft==>RIP. Mico$oft=TOAST.

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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 98.168.154.7] on July 25, 2008 12:58 PM
This is amazing propaganda for the FOSS software but the fact is that the software is still too buggy and difficult to use. Only hardcore geeks want to use the user-hostile open source software. Until aestics and usuabilty become more important to FOSS types they will continue to lag behind companies like MS and Apple.

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Re: Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 81.98.32.69] on July 25, 2008 11:10 PM
Ever seen any recent Window Manager? Some have a UI as good as Aero, and with lower system requirements too. Your statement was true about 8 years ago. At the moment, you only need the command line for advanced tasks: And guess what? It's the same with Windows; they just hide it.

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Re(1): Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 65.38.40.108] on July 26, 2008 06:45 AM
Make that 10 years ago.

I'm a non-techie -- and I successfully switched (to Debian!) over the 2000-20001 time period.
The easy distros were Suse and Mandrake; as long as you made sure to use "real" (ie. non-Windows-only) hardware, you were golden -- the real issues were compatibility with MSOffice and Outlook/Exchange.

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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 64.81.85.143] on July 26, 2008 07:40 PM
Some well meaning soul posted: "It really sux trying to get Linux to run on a laptop" - wow, that doesn't sound like anyone who's in touch with the current state of things. Maybe they tried installing linux on a linux unfriendly laptop in 1994, and assume nothing has changed.

At any rate, I had a macbook pro, and I liked it - I also started using an hp laptop with ubuntu hardy installed, and everything worked. I took the buntu laptop on a trip with me and it partied like a rock star, using the wireless in the airports, connecting via the cisco vpn to the office, watching videos online, all with eye candy and suspend/resume and a lot of fun.

I sold my macbook pro - don't need it anymore, and ubuntu is a lot more fun to use.

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Why Mac when theres Linux?

Posted by: AdeliePenguin on July 27, 2008 06:01 AM
Here here!
I myself a few years ago thought about buying a mac to replace my broken PC, but I diden't like Mac's OS. It was all too much eye-candy, to much messing around. But when I finally bought a new computer, I choose one with Ubuntu Linux, and i've never looked back.

Ubuntu is just easier for me, I can work without fussing over the way a button looks or what happens when I click on a menu. Or maybe I'm just boring.

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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 63.22.155.158] on July 27, 2008 03:07 PM
Some of Gunderloy's remarks about Microsoft's tools echo what Charles Petzold (best-selling author of Windows programming books) has said - the Visual Studio Wizards lead to code bloat and the developer feeling he doesn't understand his own code. Petzold recommends starting each new application with an empty Visual Studio project.

These Wizards do what used to be called CASE (Computer-aided software engineering). That was the state of the art with 3rd generation computer languages, but it seems that with today's more expressive, object-oriented languages, we ought to have better.

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Veteran developer ditches Microsoft for open source

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 32.136.222.253] on July 30, 2008 01:38 PM
I was also once firmly in MS's clutches as a MCSD, author of several MS tech books and as a frequent conferen e speaker. My little company built scores of solutions using MS products - mostly because we didn't know any different, like many who got into software in the '90s. But as we got more serious about our work, as the systems got larger and more complex and as we sought to create RTM solutions we found that MS was inadequate. The stuff is too expensive to develop, maintain and support due to bugs, security problems and onerous licenses. We switched to Mac, FreeBSD and Linux and all open source development and have never looked back.
I've met Mike in the past and always respected his work. It was interesting to learn that he has switched too and I can only wonder how many other former MS developers are out there.

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