2009-08-17

Tool or toolsmith?

I am really tired of poorly designed software development tools.

The primary reason for creating a tool is to solve a problem. Or a set of problems. Or make some problem domain half way bearable. If at all possible without creating new problems. Or failing that, at least without creating new problems that are more severe than the problems the tools claim to solve.

Having spent more time than I care to contemplate trying to make poorly made developer tools work, I am considering becoming consistently unpleasant to annoyingly incompetent toolsmiths whenever the opportunity presents itself.

The same goes for authors of books on relatively generic technologies who first promise to focus on the matter at hand and not favor any particular implementation of said technology, and then proceed to prattle on about some useless toolset that they happen to like and which renders the book half useless unless you adopt their particular flavor of crazy.

There are some times when an idiot is just an idiot, and one would be doing society a favor by pointing this out vigorously and with enough blunt verbal force to deflect the trajectory of their career to a more suitable one. Possibly one in carbonizing roadkill oozing with saturated fats in places where I am not likely to dine (the amount of negative karma generated remaining constant, but at least without inflicting their software on people who deserve better).

2009-08-16

One Billion Downloads

Why would one doubt that Firefox has been downloaded 1 billion times?

The number itself doesn't tell us much. It only tells us that there have been 1 billion downloads of Firefox from the Mozilla web site in total -- representing all versions over several years.

It would take a particular type of dumb to a) interpret this as there being 1 billion instances of Firefox in use or b) to imply that anyone with an IQ of 80 or above seriously thinks this number represents the current installed base.

Only in relation to other metrics can this number be used to estimate anything, and even then you have to expect huge errors and that the model would have to change with what is happening in the ecosystem where Firefox exists. Playing with these numbers and coming up with a model only becomes science when it can predict and/or verify observations. Until then it is just an amusing fact.

As for the number itself; I am sure I have installed firefox perhaps 200 times (give or take 100, who's keeping track of these tedious things anyway?) over the past few years. New machines, machines that have been reinstalled, Firefox upgrades. Given a market share somewhere around the 20-25% mark it is entirely believable that over the years the Mozilla web site(s) have seen 1bn+ downloads.

So let's not read too much into this number. If you want to interpret the number then please have the courtesy of supporting it with a believable model and don't be a tedious fool.

It is an amusing fact and let's leave it at that.