Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft

Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at MicrosoftThe Phenomenal Success Of Bill Gates And His Microsoft Corporation Hinges, Above All, On An Ability To Look To The Future Not Content With Holding A Bulging Share Of The Market For Software Applications, Nor With Dominating The Crucial Operating Systems Business By Virtue Of Its DOS And Windows Programs, Microsoft Is Always Looking To The Future And The Future For Microsoft Now Goes By The Name Of Windows NT A Software Innovation Of The First Order, NT Could Redefine The Standards For Computing Throughout The World, Into The Next Century NT Endows Inexpensive Personal Computers With The Capabilities Of Giant Mainframes Yet Without Sacrificing The Inherent Flexibility And Appeal Of PCs. After I read this, I wanted to become a hardass and kick holes in walls whenever people checked in buggy code However, I m not Dave Cutler so I couldn t get away with it This book is interesting on many levels, from Cutler to the people who worked with put up with him to accomplish some pretty amazing things Definitely worth reading if you re into the whole software team does death march to ship product genre. It was a fun rundown of how the NT project came to be and the crazy cultural process that birthed it, but I felt like it was light on contextual details of Microsoft the company at the time and what it meant for this particular piece of software to exist for the company, both in terms of where they came from and where they were going Despite that omission, it actually held up really well 23 years later. Stunning, absolutely stunning insight into how large scale, extremely complex technical projects are carried out If you are a programmer, or in any field that requires managing mind numbing complexity, I think this book is a great read, or should I say, a must read regardless of what you feel about Microsoft.And it isn t a dry technical read either It s an extremely entertaining book I was able to finish it in half a day It reads like a novel by some gifted writer The characters are some of the smartest people on the planet and there is a protagonist that doesn t take orders from anybody And in the middle of all the drama, the book manages to convey really great insights about managing complexity, and teams of super intelligent individuals who all see things differently, and still manage to get things done. I enjoy books about tech history and business I also enjoy biographies So, Showstopper The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft by G Pascal Zachary was a perfect fit for me It has a compelling software business narrative, backed up by significant author access to the major players, and features non stop action throughout most of the book.Showstopper, written in 1994, is a book about the building of Windows NT, one of the last still in use desktop operating systems to be developed from scratch Windows NT remains the underpinnings of Windows 10 Zachary had incredible access He was able to interview all of the major players involved in NT development, including David Cutler, the project s lead, and Bill Gates, the CEO of Microsoft at the time It provides real insight into the market landscape at the time, the challenges that Windows NT faced, and what is was like for regular software developers and management to laboriously crank out NT over many sleepless nights throughout a period of roughly four years.Zachary does a good job balancing vignettes about management with vignettes covering lowly software developers, testers, and their families during development He pays attention to the human story What was the toll of the breakneck development schedule and the high pressure environment on families and worker mental health He clearly did his research, took the time to interview everyone relevant that was involved, and weaved their respective narratives into a cohesive largely chronological whole.Where Showstopper falls short is in Zachary s understanding of the technology While seemingly written for a mainstream audience, I imagine most readers today, like me, will be software developers From the beginning it was clear to me that Zachary did not fully grasp all of the software development technology that a book like this inevitably needs to cover Or if he did, he dumbed it down too much for my liking He did his best, and I think if I were a mainstream reader, his explanations would actually be quite good just enough to give me a basic understanding But as a software developer, I was left wanting.The parts of Showstopper I liked least were the first thirty pages, largely covering Cutler s career at Digital, and the Afterword in the 2008 edition with Zachary pontificating about 2008 Microsoft I think Showstopper was at its best when reporting on the week by week challenges and worker vignettes during NT development, and at its worst when trying to analyze the big picture Another problem with the book is that it tries to cover too many characters It was easy to lose track of who was who You will be treated to many mini biographies, which while interesting, are not enough to get you invested in each of the players.Despite its flaws, Showstopper is worth reading because it pulls back the covers of a Herculean software project in human terms If you are interested in computer software history or the business history of Microsoft in the early 1990s, it s a must read Software developers with an appreciation of computer history will find it compelling and enthralling, if they make it past page thirty. Really interesting read if you are in the IT infrastructure sphere.I can very much relate to the breakneck pace and pressure with deadlines and having to learn on the job.Really interesting insight into the core technology that runs the core OS from Microsoft. One of the better books from the Computer industry showcasing not only the grandeur of a corporation, product or personality but actual goings in the trenches the thoughts, decisions, influences in from daily lives, depicting what is takes, openly telling on pragmatic stands taken rather than presenting them in a manner to appeal to theatrics thus ending up with some real and raw storytelling.One of my quickest reads in a while the writing is quite gripping one gets attached to the title in a sense and tries to read out the book you feel as if you are also traversing the journey of the NT development and completion along. I started this with high hopes, but was disappointed within a few pages It wasn t nearly as technical as I had expected what little bit of detail that was given was often simplified to the point of being misleading if not outright wrong The writing style was sensationalized and breathless, which I found annoying.Beyond that, there wasn t a single person described in this book that I would want to work with NT is apparently what you get if you give a bunch of undisciplined, immature code monkeys practically unlimited time and money to throw something together. I read this after seeing it recommended on the dadhacker blog Overall, I found the book much intriguing than I thought I would, and yet I was simultaneously frustrated by it.The book starts off as a dual biography of David Cutler and Windows NT The first chapters are pretty focused, and really delve into Cutler the man, and the genesis of Windows NT I was especially intrigued because Cutler at the time that NT was being developed was in his mid forties definitely not a cool age for people to be doing big, cutting edge high tech products today As a software developer manager presently in my early 40s, I found Cutler s viewpoint to be of incredible personal interest I also relate directly to many of Cutler s personal struggles as the nature of the project, the team, and his role in the project changed.As the book rolls on, however, it introduces character after character after character, and it eventually becomes really difficult to keep track of who is who, even if you happen to recognize a number of the names as I do as authors, speakers, MS personalities, etc Often, the narrative side tracks into personal details of comparatively minor characters I suppose Zachary hoped to explore the effect the scope of the NT project by pursuing the stories of the effect it had on various peoples lives, but as the narratives digs into spouses, children, and in laws seriously , I just got lost in a sea of names and people.My other issue was, as a highly technical person myself, I was embarrassed at some of the non technical metaphors and the occasional technical ignorance expressed by the author And several times, especially in the discussion of NTFS, I felt that he was holding back on technical information that I would have loved to have seen, and would have made the story enjoyable for me but perhaps not everyone My very favorite quote, which had me laughing out loud, was By preventing code writers from making mistakes, C sic promised faster results and greater consistency Which reminds me also that the Kindle version I read had a number of typos in it, largely mis capitalizations and spacings No idea if those existed in the dead tree version.The core narrative is adequately relayed, and sometimes is relayed quite well The strength of the book is that it s a very well chosen topic a story that is compelling regardless of the foibles of the author So despite my issues with the book, I would give it a nice, strong recommendation. A book about how Bill Gates and his crypto jew cronies could not write a serious OS, and had to steal someone from DEC to do something the Windows XP for them Even that was a real kludge to run old 16 bit windows programs They had to put special precautions for each popular program like PhotoShop to run on it Its a good resource to compare how shitty windows is compared to development of Unix by truly smart engineers in ATT.

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  • Hardcover
  • 312 pages
  • Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft
  • G. Pascal Zachary
  • English
  • 19 June 2018
  • 9780029356715

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