Sunday, August 17, 2008

Would you buy a car powered by Microsoft?

I am currently driving a rental car, a Ford, which to my horror has a tag 'Powered by Microsoft' next to the gearshift, no kidding:

So here is a question of believe, a yes or no, a good or evil, black or white kind of question; I want no nuances, no ifs or depends-ons: Would you buy that car? As for me, I clearly wouldn't. I wouldn't buy a car with an automatic transmission to begin with.

See also PS on Cast Away.


Navneeth said...

Old but relevant.

If MicroSoft designed cars.


Uncle Al said...

Entrusting your life to Microcrap is like boarding your dog at a taxidermist. Sure - you'll get it back.

Will the next version shift out of first gear?

chimpanzee said...

Are you saying, that you are still up in Mountain View area at the SciFoo conference?

I just finished an Interdisciplinary conference..SIGGRAPH 2008 here in Los Angeles.

SIGGRAPH 2008 blog coverage

Flickr photo blog photo/video blog

Met many physicists who are using Scientific Visualization, as a means

- for getting funding for their projects
e.g., Univ of Indian CS Dept Head (MIT Physics PhD), using Scientific Visualization techniques for Quaternions, et al.

- entrepeneurship
e.g., nuclear physicist starting up a Graphics company

I even found an IBM streaming server solution, which is being used for CERN/LHC Tier 1 data reduction (Triumf in Canada). I ran into a post-doc working at ETH/Switzerland (Einstein's old haunt).

Did you get a chance to see the silver Tesla Motors Roadster? (TM was founded by my officemat in grad-school..Martin Eberhard). I recently declared my car (Dodge 4x4 van, gas guzzler) non-operational, so I basically quit driving. No more fossil fuel based cars for me!! My next car will be ALL ELECTRIC..not hybrid, but EV (electric vehicle). You can install a 220v system in your garage, that uses PV (photo voltaic, i.e. "solar") charging. You can literally drive TOTALLY on Green Energy. You did say you were a tree-hugger, right?

I did send you an email, about getting you (& other qualified female physicists) into a Tesla Roadster. It would be a great combo, to help promote Physics (incl gender issues) & Green Tech. I made significant progress, in making contacts for funding an Interdisciplinary R&D Inst (Academia-Industry, cross-discipline) to help any Alternative Energy company. TM ran into a problem with their 2-speed tranny: the instantaneous Torque curve was too big of a shock load..trannies were failing prematurely. M. Eberhard was unfairly blamed *by Elon Musk, Stanford PhD program dropout after 1 day) for picking the wrong transmission vendor (along with a famous Caltech engineering alumni Wally Rippel, who had fond memories of R. Feynman as an undergrad). Even Judy Estrin (iconic figure for Silicon Valley startups) was canned! So, an "engineering issue" manifested strangely into a "personnel issue".

If things go right, I should be involved in some infrastructure development that will help future Alternative Energy vehicle development. This requires R&D expertise, ranging from Mechanical Eng (like from Caltech) & Condensed Matter Physics. 1 of my former HS classmates is a specialist in material fractures (UCSB PhD), so this is how physicists would get involved.

I think your "cry for help" (mid life crisis, nomadic existence going from 1 institute to another), might lead you to explore a Technology option like mine. Kea's vision is for a Cateogory Theory Inst, Louise wants something based out of Hawaii/Maui, G. Lisi wants something from Hawaii or Reno/NV, & you...? Possibly, something out of California (you say you like the weather). My Inst would have "satellite divisions" all over the globe, so possibly I could hellp all of the above people.

I met a U. Mass/Amherst alumni (who knew my good friend D. Lawton, formerly CS prof @Georgia-Tech), who has sat on NSF review panels & was himself involved in building infrastrucutre (33 million funding). He was excited about my idea, & will try to help see, he has EXPERIENCE doing this. There is another guy I met (Australian native, math background working at research inst in Ireland), who excitedly sent me a followup email. Again, he has experience doing infrastructure development & knows many of the important contacts I have (e.g., UC San Diego, CALIT2). He was also eager to help Kea, find some work (excuse me, but waitressing is not an option!) Finally, I met a German professor who is involved with the Fraunhofer Inst. He also was excited (about Alternative Energy vehicle as a "concrete application", he instantly named Daimler-Benz, Volkswagen, BMW as possible clients..i.e., he is automotive savvy), & we had a good exchange.

Pioneers meeting

Met another German researcher (Science Director at DFKI), whose outfit is more basic research..Fraunhofer is applied research.

Yes, there is definitely a European component to my contacts, especially German. Maybe, you would want to get involved as a hiree (or architect, like what I'm doing).

Are you game?

Check out the ATI/Natalya Tatarchuk demo at:

ATI/Natalya Tatarchuk demo

She is doing hardware-based physics simulation (GPU/Graphics Processor Unit, what you see in ATI graphics boards for computer gaming). Gaming is a BIG market in Computer Graphics, it exceeds the Film Industry market (PIXAR, Disney, et al) by a huge margin. Your computer skills (I notice you are good with HTML) might make you a good candidate in this field.

BTW, did you get one of the cool Google flashing led lapel pins? A friend I made, gave me his spare.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

It looks that I'm one of the few that said yes. I do have a stipulation though and that is I don't want to hear those stupid chimes every time I turn on the car :-)



Arun said...

Dear Bee,

I don't buy automatic transmission either, but its days are numbered. In the new hybrid/electric universe, manual shift is going the way of the dodo.


Kaleberg said...

No way I'd trust MS to design a car. On the other hand, our Honda just got stranded due to a software glitch in the anti-theft system. We were at a remote trailhead in Olympic National Park so we had to hitch a ride with a Dutch tourist so we could call AAA for a tow. Luckily, the nearest phone was at a resort with a good restaurant, so we had dinner, then got towed home.

All it took was a software reset. Shafted by DRM again. Let's face it, we've been stranded by DRM bugs more often than car thieves, so we are not being unreasonable.

St Linus said...

No, I would only buy a car powered by Linux. Sure, it would break down just as often, it would be impossible to work out how to do anything, and it would be impossible to find anyone to fix it, but the glow of self-righteous superiority I would feel would compensate for that.

chimpanzee said...

A little note from Computer Science:

"there is no such thing as a perfect computer program"

told to me by my office-mate (CS PhD candidate) in grad school. There is actually subject matter called "algorithmic correctness", & then of course those algorithms are put into practice by programmers. So, there are TWO potential sources for bugs..each involve imperfect humans.

MS has a reputation for some incredibly buggy software ("a product release is in fact a beta test..they let paying customers do the dirty work"). I use Palm Treo PDAphones (Treo 650 & Treo 800w..w stands for Windows), & when the Windows mobile version came out (Treo 700w), there was an outcry for the reliable Palm OS (although simpler & less technologically advanced than Windows). Thus, they released the Treo 700p (p stands for palm).

Modern cars (with computers in the control system loop, aka "drive by wire") will have the risk potential of "quitting" if there is a software glitch. I myself drive a Dodge 4x4 van (1982)..all mechanical carburetion & electronic ignition box. If there is problem, I can re-build the carburetor on the spot (I had to do this for the '91 solar eclipse in La Paz/Baja Mexico), or just swap out the ignition control module (I carry a spare). These new-fangled cars with onboard do you fix that on the spot? I suppose you could carry spare computers & swap out yourself. But, that requires a skill set most owners don't have.

I was at the '06 Baja 500, & some guy simply lost his electronic key in the desert. He couldn't get his dang pickup truck started!! He was tearing up the dashboard electronics, in order to jump-start the car. Somone told him "if you do that", the dealership will charge you $1500 to fix it back. Because it happened to a friend of his (who has 300 million lying around, to dabble in offroad racing).

Lesson learned:
electronics/computers is a double-edged sword, it can be your best friend.. or your worst enemy.

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Bee,

I've no personal problems with Microsoft, since I decided in 2000 to become an Apple user. At the university we use Linux. Thus I only smile, when Microsoft tell me their experience. I gave up to convince them to change, since they seem not believe that Apple is not exhibiting any random, mysterious errors, or they appear driven by habits.


Thomas Larsson said...

At this time, I wouldn't buy a car.

Stockholm has excellent public transport. Besides, my wife does not have a driver's license.

Andrew Thomas said...

It's a voice activation system for controlling your iPod and mobile phone in your car:

Actually sounds excellent idea.

Bee said...

Hi Chimpanzee,

No, I'm back in Canada. No, I'm not game. I could have bought one of the flashing pins but had no clue why I'd want one.



Bee said...

Hi Kay,

Funny you say that. I've been running MS since more than a decade and some years ago considered switching to Mac. From experiences people told me however I'm far better off with MS. My computer crashed down once in the last three years (and that after I hadn't restarted it for more than three weeks which probably isn't a good thing to do). I see Mac's crashing down or stalling all the time. The biggest difference between Windows and Mac users seems to be that the latter believes their product is better and cooler and hipper. Admittedly, I don't particularly like MS but it seems to be the least painful solution at the moment (though I'm not running vista, have heard it's a regress not a progress).

Either way, reason why I wouldn't buy that car has nothing to do with MS specifically, but as I've expressed in earlier posts that I think the tendency of devices getting ever more complex is not a good trend. I don't want a car that can do a thousand tricks, I want one that drives. I want one that can easily be fixed, I want one that makes life easier, not more complicated. I'm waiting for the retro-move to kick in (it will come, believe me, it will come).



Bee said...

Dear Arun,

You've forgotten about the Europeans. They like manual gears, and as I've noticed during the summer, the hybrid wave still hasn't swapped over the ocean. Best,


kay zum felde said...

Hi Bee,

so it seems that having problems with computers depends how I treat my computer ? This reminds that of the nineties when I've worked in computer companies and often people have had problems because they install and/or uninstall every program they can get. Again your statement: "I don't like thermodynamics ;-)" seems to be applicable :-).


bellamy said...

Ahem, the need for pets is based in insecurity. On topic: HEH, no automatic. Spoken like a true Eupe. I learned on a stick. My third car was one. And it gets tiring. Leisure, you know.

As for the MS (or, perhaps, anti-MS) schtick. Things could be better - and they could be a lot worse. Preferring Mac or Linux is not remarkable. Preferring a non-anthropomorphic frame of reference is. Quite.

steven said...

Why are you so scared of Microsoft? I mean technology frees you from mundane activities if u haven't noticed? imagine being able to take a nap while driving to work because your car is being driven by a computer