I came up with an interesting thought a few days ago, and
I figured I'd share:
It's strikingly appropriate that the default office
assistant in MS office is a paper clip.
My freshman year of high school, I took a drafting class.
One of our assignments was to diagram and describe the form
and function of a common machined object made up of no more
than a few parts. A friend of mine did his report on the
paper clip. During the course of his research, he discovered
that by most metrics, the standard paper clip isn't well
designed. It doesn't do an especially good job of holding
sheafs of paper together; tends to mangle the pages a little
bit; is not especially durable; and, while not difficult or
slow to use, is not as easy or quick to use as it might be.
In short, the paper clip does a minimally decent job of
accomplishing its intended function, but no better. My
friend even had a few diagrams of alternate designs
for paper fasteners which were better than standard paper
clips along at least one metric.
Nevertheless, the paper clip is ubiquitous, alternative
paper fasteners much rarer. I think that this is so because
it doesn't even occur to people to look at paper clips with
a critical eye, to actively seek out other options.
When one considers the quality, speed, efficiency,
freedom, and cost of many Microsoft offerings --
particularly in the desktop market, and especially as
compared to what's available in the free software world
nowadays -- the correspondence is fairly clear. (Of
course, the analogy shouldn't be taken too far. There are
many dynamics at work in the software business that are not
present in the office-supply business.)
Personal stuff -- I'm looking forward to the Gilroy
Garlic Festival this weekend, but I'm told to expect lots
and lots of traffic; that I should take alternate routes
where possible instead of taking the trickling parking lot
that California 101 will become.
Caltrain doesn't ordinarily run trains to Gilroy on the
weekends, and they didn't make an exception for this
weekend, which just mystifies me. Okay, there is a single
train going down and back from San Francisco once on
Saturday and once on Sunday that's more of a charity engine
than anything else, but that's not mass transit.