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[Vanity] SnagItAll -- Reflections on Software, Markets, and Government
grey_whiskers | 1-19-2015 | grey_whiskers

Posted on 01/19/2015 5:25:40 AM PST by grey_whiskers

The other day at work I was working on Windows 7 and opening an XML document by right-clicking on the mouse and going to the menu to choose “Windows XML reader” and then, once it was open, to save it to Excel. At some point during the process, I noticed a menu item appear that read “Use SnagIt.” I thought this was interesting since the last time I had used SnagIt, was when it was a proprietary stand-alone application.

And I thought to my self, first, “Hey, that’s great! I’m glad it’s available”...and then, coming to, “Hey! Wait a minute! How come I had to *trip* over this, and nobody told me about its being available?” These thoughts illustrate the very tension in the heart of ...well, not only software development, but the marketplace in general, and the interplay of entrepreneurs, large companies, consumers...with applications to politics as well.

For, you see, unless I had already used SnagIt, and known what it did; and unless SnagIt had *kept* its name upon being sucked up by the Borg incorporated into Windows, I would have gone right on by: I might never have seen it, or learned about it, and (by hypothesis) I might never have gone on to learn to use it.

With all the options available popping up left and right on the bloated monstrosity that is Windows, who has time to learn even half of the new bells and whistles, and keep them straight among all the legacy programs, datasets, applications, and the like? And indeed, what is the ostensible purpose of the constant rush to add new features, change old ones, and adopt a “look-and-feel-of-the-month” (1)?

Well, the sages tell us, the key is “interoperability.” That is, that different programs and hardware can work together. In the dark ages, that is, B.M. (2), each separate vendor would have its own programs and operating systems and peripherals, which worked great -- as long as you connected to other offerings from that vendor. This meant that applications were not portable, you were locked into a vendor; and it also meant that vendors had to deliver quality: for as much money as you paid, the d@mn computer had *better* work. Microsoft introduced a new paradigm: allowing anyone to write code for them, so that all kinds of chipsets ran the same thing. Ah! Portability at last! Yes, but at the tradeoff of greatly decreased quality (by comparison) to go along with the lower price.

This is an illustration of a humorous principle -- “Good, Fast, Cheap. Pick Any Two.” Old-time computers were good and -- well, fast is debatable, and a relative term, given Moore’s Law, and the advances in technology. But they were fast for their time. Most computers today (and the associated software) are Fast and Cheap (recall the famous line from Microsoft’s Bill Valentine: “Think India! Two for the price of one!”). And of course the famous counterexample -- and topic of continuing religious flame wars --is the Apple. Good and Fast: but definitely not cheap.

And so, the same thing happens with individual software packages in different realms: desktop productivity, customer relationship management, security, business intelligence, databases, reporting, HR. Software companies merge together like quicksilver to deliver interoperability, convenience, “synergy” -- and profits to the vendor. The essential functions are conceptually similar, but everything from the look and feel, to scalability, to customer support plans, to required hardware, to licensing fees -- all differ by package, by “tier” if you will, by vendor. And, as before, “Good, Fast, Cheap” still applies.

But there is a larger dimension here besides the canonical Good-Fast-Cheap. Think of it by analogy to purchasing a new car. Options. Sun roof, power windows, bluetooth? Fuel injected V6 or V4? Each option represents a trade off of styling, performance, fuel economy, price, and other factors: and just as auto manufacturers combine certain sets of options together in to canned packages, so too, do software vendors bundle together sets of features at certain price points: and it may well happen that the features you really need or want. cannot be purchased off the shelf in your price range, for love or money.

What then, is a customer to do? One may scotch tape together solutions which piggyback on the commercial software; sometimes if one is a large company, the IT department (or, as my wife calls them, The Helpless Desk) may be able to fashion add-ons, or tweak the program; sometimes contractors or the software vendor may customize the program as sold: for a fee, of course. There are several tradeoffs here, of course: hiring permanent staffers to do such things is expensive in the first place, and second, in order to do their jobs quickly enough, often the staffers will have to be *dedicated* resources, in order to keep current with changes in the vendor’s code base: which means they are paid a high salary, as befits a specialist, for what in principle could be a relatively pedestrian, unskilled job (if only the knowledge of one’s own business and the commercial code, weren’t so...proprietary!) And if one goes with the vendor, or a contractor, they know the commercial code, but adapting the details of one’s own business models, and documenting them...and the ongoing cost of licensing, and *re*modifying every time an interface to the vendor system changes, or one’s business rules or infrastructure are overhauled. Or worse, the vendor now knows they have you over a barrel, and begins to charge you what Rush Limbaugh might call “confiscatory rates” to renew their software. Maybe it would be best to take the entire thing in-house after all...

The main point here, is that when a transaction between two parties is more complex than a hand’s length exchange of cash for a widget; when the sales cycle creates an ongoing relationship between buyer and seller;when the complexity of the product creates unavoidable trade-offs for the buyer; and when all of these things happen where there is a large interactive market, the efficiency of the market suffers: the sellers begin to take advantage of the buyers -- first, because there is plausible deniability behind the inefficiencies (“Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t make it like that, it’s a special order, very complex” and so on), and second, because the lack of direct accountability on the part of any one vendor, creates in effect an inadvertent, de facto, trust, or cartel -- where else is the hapless consumer going to go? In other words, while each vendor may not have a firm moat around their product, the leading vendors, taken as a whole, do. One may see a similar dynamic at work in things like airlines, cell phones, cable TV, and insurance.

Oh, yes. And our current inimitable representation (ahem) in Washington D.C.: the politicians are representing the people - the donors and lobbyist who help them get re-elected that is. And even then, they don’t always get it right. Ask the insurance companies who lobbied for Obamacare, or the left-wing pressure groups who actually believed Barack Obama would stop interfering in the Middle East.

Oh, and the saying about "Good, Fast, Cheap"? Right out the window. Or rather, the one-way mirror. The government is guaranteed to be Lousy, Slow, Expensive: except when benefiting a member of the elite, or attacking a threat to the entrenched interests. In which case, look for what will benefit the powers that be the most, to decide what to expect.

The ancients said, Caveat emptor, let the buyer beware; our founding fathers said, taxation without representation is tyranny: but what do we do when the representatives no longer represent us, but don’t even have the common indecency to stay bought by whoever paid for them *this* time?

TOPICS: Computers/Internet; Government; Society
KEYWORDS: economics; republocrats; software; whiskersvanity
1 posted on 01/19/2015 5:25:40 AM PST by grey_whiskers
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To: grey_whiskers; neverdem; SunkenCiv; Cindy; LucyT; decimon; freedumb2003; ...

Tar and Feathers stick together!

2 posted on 01/19/2015 5:29:16 AM PST by grey_whiskers (The opinions are solely those of the author and are subject to change without notice.)
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To: grey_whiskers

I ‘thought’ I might learn from reading the article what SnagIt does...

...I was terribly mistaken. /s

3 posted on 01/19/2015 5:46:40 AM PST by logi_cal869 (-cynicus-)
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To: grey_whiskers

Microsoft is to software as Demopublicans are to government...

Both bloatware.

Should be

Linux is to software as Tea party is to government.

4 posted on 01/19/2015 5:51:07 AM PST by WildHighlander57 ((WildHighlander57, returning after lurking since 2001)
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To: WildHighlander57


5 posted on 01/19/2015 5:56:13 AM PST by grey_whiskers (The opinions are solely those of the author and are subject to change without notice.)
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To: grey_whiskers
Knocking Microsoft is like using the f-word in a stand-up routine: it's guaranteed, for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with humor, to spawn a chuckle.

MS opening making itself a platform for 3rd party developers is a logical free-market approach and the results...well, what other brand measures its installations in the deci-millions?

6 posted on 01/19/2015 6:02:35 AM PST by 9thLife ("Life is a military endeavor..." -- Pope Francis)
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To: 9thLife
7 posted on 01/19/2015 6:03:21 AM PST by 9thLife ("Life is a military endeavor..." -- Pope Francis)
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To: grey_whiskers

I’m not sure about this. Are you saying SnagIt is now built in to Windows 7? Because that’s just not so.

I happen to know William Hamilton and the folks at TechSmith—the makers of Camtasia Studio and SnagIt.

They are not owned by Microsoft in anyway, nor is their product incorporated into a default Windows installation. In fact, SnagIt works on MAC OS, too. As far as I know you still have to install it—or at least your administrator does.

8 posted on 01/19/2015 6:09:39 AM PST by Alas Babylon!
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To: logi_cal869
From TechSmith's site:

Snagit: Images and Videos in Minutes
No matter what you're working on, Snagit helps you capture great looking images and videos with just a few clicks. Easily customize your screen captures with effects, or show off what's important with Snagit’s markup tools. You can also create quick videos by recording your screen.

I use it all the time as I am a technical trainer. I can make stills and videos of very complex configurations and provide these to my students. And TechSmith gives me a free license, as I am a certified instructor. What's not to like?

9 posted on 01/19/2015 6:21:51 AM PST by Alas Babylon!
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To: Alas Babylon!
Microsoft is in competition with Camtasia. Their free tool is Microsoft Expression Encoder 4.

Expression seems to be limited to 15 frames per second. I can't remember if Camtasia is likewise limited.

10 posted on 01/19/2015 8:07:16 AM PST by Dalberg-Acton
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To: grey_whiskers

Aw Jeez. Not another Microsoft is evil thread!

11 posted on 01/19/2015 8:11:32 AM PST by McGruff (We have met the enemy and they are our own party.)
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To: Alas Babylon!

I get emails from a friend that he forwards from his smartphone. They come to my mail program as an attachment, but I can’t see what program to use to open them. Would Snagit be a all-encompassing useful tool to open these emails?

12 posted on 01/19/2015 12:48:07 PM PST by wildbill (If you check behind the shower curtain for a murderer, and find one... what's your plan?)
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To: grey_whiskers

Thank you so much for sharing your analysis, dear grey_whiskers!

13 posted on 01/19/2015 7:41:41 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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