Avoiding Subservience to Microsoft

I’ve received some great feedback regarding the entry onsetting up a MediaWiki install on Windows. Many of the commentswere kind words of thanks (which I really appreciate. Knowingthat it helps people is my greatest motivation), and othershelpfully suggested improvements to the instructions.

As an example of comment-driven improvements, my instructionshave you installing the GNU diff utilities, in particular for thediff3.exe utility, however the MediaWiki setup scripts don’tproperly find it (e.g. as the instructions are currently writtenthe GNU diff utilities are completely unused, although they canstill be useful in your day-to-day travails). This is because aprior revision included fairly involved changes to the MediaWikiconfig/index.php script so it would properly locate diff3on the Windows platform, as it is currently Unix-centric anddoesn’t look for the proper executable, not to mention that itparses the PATH environment variable incorrectly . Afterreceiving two comments that those steps were a little toocomplex, however, I removed that section.

My goal was to get people experimenting with MediaWiki, or evenjust wikis in general, so diff3 functionality really wasn’tcritical. I pared the instructions accordingly. Similarly oneearly draft included the building and installation of a PHP memorycache to improve performance, but that too is unnecessary to simplytry out the product.

Another line of comments involved asking:

  • Why would I give instructions for Windows. People shouldjust set it up on Linux and go with its native home.
  • -or- Why would I recommend a wiki product that largelycaters to the open source crowd. Instead I should be pushingSharepoint, or something properly anointed by the Microsoft camp,enabled with all of the latest Microsoft buzzwords.

To answer this I really need to describe the philosophy of thisblog, along with my resistance to “technology alliances”.

In the byline of this blog I describe my philosophy as”pragmatic software development“, and this really drivesmy recommendations. In this case there are a lot of developmentshops that are Windows-centric, with little or no UNIX/Linuxexperience, yet MediaWiki is one of the best, most featurer rich,”standard” wiki products out there. Choosing a solution thatleveraged what shops already know with the best solution is apragmatic approach.

Which brings me to my general philosophy towards Microsoft, ascomments indicating that I’m either a Microsofthater, or a Microsoft droneparroting the corporate line, have hit my inbox over the shorthistory of this blog.

I am not subservient to Microsoft.

Unlike many Microsoft technology advocates (I truly love bothSQL Server, and .NET, and I think they’re remarkable solutions), Ihave no desire to ever work for Microsoft (Microsoft hassome top notch, world-class talent, and I’ve met and worked with alot of great talent from there, but they also have their share ofboth jerks and duds). I’m not going to praise their every movein hopes that I’ll get noticed. yafla, my consulting/ISV company, haschosen to avoid any partnerships or tying to the Microsoft brandbecause we don’t want to become another drone “consulting” companysingle-mindedly acting as a third-party sales force for Microsoft,desperately racking up Microsoft partner points by pushingless-than-optimal solutions on customers. We didn’t choose to use.NET for our software because we’re hoping to nestle into theMicrosoft family — we chose it on technical merit, and a pragmaticanalysis of our current and prospective clients.

We work for our clients and ourselves, not Microsoft. This is avery important mantra for our services, and for the technology ofour software, and if Microsoft wants their products to getrecommended to our clients, and their technology to the foundationof our software, they need to make great products atcompetitive prices. No sales gladhanding, or sad career dreaming,is going to change that.

Am I saying that Microsoft solutions are second rate Of coursethere are examples of Microsoft products that areterrible, and customers are being misled into buyingbuzzword-laden atrocities because a Microsoft partner is hoping toget invited to the next Microsoft dinner party. Yet there are alsoMicrosoft solutions that are extraordinary. Windows 2003R2 is asuperlative operating system, and where you need the breadth of itsfunctionality, it can be well worth the money. Microsoft SmallBusiness Server can be an amazing package of value for some smallorganizations, within the constraints of the product. Other times,however, if you have the appropriate skills, a Linux machine is thebest choice, along with a stack of the many available free or closeto free server products on that platform. Sometimes IIS 6 isthe superior solution for a problem, while other times Apache wouldbe your best bet. Sometimes PHP and MySQL is a great solution, andother times C#/ASP.NET with SQL Server is the perfect combo.

I don’t blindly assume the Microsoft product to be the best, butneither do I automatically presume it to be second rate. Instead Ievaluate on merit, and propose solutions based upon the customerand their needs.

To do otherwise would be just biasednoise, and wouldn’t be to the service of clients and peers.

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