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Proudly Serving My Corporate Masters: What I Learned in Ten Years as a Microsoft Programmer Paperback – 20 Dec 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse (20 Dec. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0595161286
  • ISBN-13: 978-0595161287
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,882,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Adam Barr worked as a programmer at Microsoft from March 1990 to April 2000. He worked on several software projects, including the first two versions of Windows NT, interactive television, Softimage, and Windows 2000. He lives in Redmond, Washington.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Nominally a from-the-trenches view of life inside Microsoft, this book instead swings between crying out in defence of the company 'Why does everyone hate us?' 'Clearly the best definition of what is part of an operating system is whatever is included', and a few interesting anecdotes. We learn very little about the on-the-ground management or organisation and instead are treated to a two-chapter rant on why an interview system the author never really worked with is broken (but still the best in the industry!), or a fascinating story snippet about life inside a small video processing company Microsoft acquired. Sadly, the remainder of the book devolves into a plaintive series of transparently one-sided chapters where everything from the convicted anti-trust actions to API release practices are defended at tedious length.

This book contains a few snippets of interesting material, but is overall too tedious for me to suggest anyone reads it who isn't looking for a case-study of Microsoft employee indoctrination.
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Barr acknowledges some well-known Microsoft idiosyncrasies, such as the overemphasis on puzzle-like tests during interviewing and the management affection (not so unusual among software management) for crazy long hours by programmers (apparently independent of results). However, all in all, who stays at Microsoft for 10 years and then has so much good to say but a die-hard? If you want to know everything you never wanted to know about API's and why your next release of a Windows release may have hundreds of API incompatibilties, this book may help you. I suspect an outsider could have written as "inside" a book on mattters of substance. It's not clear Barr has burned any bridges with Microsoft by what is revealed in this book: was that ever his intent? The title seems intended at face value.
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Adam Barr shows us some interesting things about what it's like to work for the most successful software company in the world. His arguments in defence of it against its critics are pretty weak, but they do provide an insight into the mindset and culture of Microsoft. Makes for interesting reading. For once, we get a view from the trenches rather than from the lofty heights of management. Worth getting.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 14 reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Good beginning, but the book veered off course 22 May 2001
By Jonathan Weinberg - Published on
While the beginning of the book was an interesting read with the author talking about Microsoft's hiring practices, the inner workings of the company and his experience at SoftImage, a company acquired by Microsoft, I felt that the book went downhill quickly from there.
At exactly page 146, I felt like I was reading a different book. Unfortunately, it was a book that I did not enjoy nearly as much as the first 145 pages. From this point onward, Mr. Barr felt the need to write a long drawn out essay about the history of the computer industry peppered with comments about how it affected Microsoft.
I have read this history countless other times in books much more entertaining and comprehensive (i.e. Fire in the Valley) than this book.
The author supposedly worked on two different versions of Windows NT and Windows 2000, but there was no talk whatsoever of what it was like to work on those teams. I definitely expected more information about what specifically went on inside Microsoft (from an insider's point of view) rather than Microsoft's relation to the industry which is public knowledge.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
honest, well-written, but long and ultimately disappointing 17 Mar. 2003
By Sundar Narasimhan - Published on
Adam Barr writes well. I found myself agreeing with several of his analyses: esp. his dissection of MSFT's evangelistic activities and his keen understanding of the api-itis that afflicts MSFT products today.
The book is in four parts. The first is a look at MSFT hiring and interview processes, which is followed by a description of his time at Softimage (which includes a brilliant dissection of type-1 through type-4 demos), then a long and meandering recounting of his early involvement with computers and then an equally meandering final part which is a compilation of his observations about MSFT and the industry in general. I found the first two interesting enough to read, but found the final two not as compelling. He completely mis-understands the point about middleware and Java (see Lou Gerstner's book "Who said elephants can't dance?" for a different definition of middleware and business strategy). Perhaps his narrow, unappealing and unfocussed second half meanders so much because he didn't take his chances to widen his own career within MSFT as a manager or PM.
Like Adam with his interviewees, I agonized over whether or not I should give this book a "four" or a "three" star rating :). Ultimately, I had to go with the lower rating because as a developer, I was hoping to read about what "he" had actually "learnt as a developer" when I picked up the book. Unfortunately, while he talks about a whole lot of things (such as the importance of testing for product quality, and the importance of programmers getting a 'life' as they mature, the contributions of MSFT to the open source movement, etc. etc.) he doesn't at all talk about what he worked on, what was exciting and new about NT code he may have contributed to, or how methodologies and practices changed while he was there. Maybe MSFT prevents people from talking about such stuff, but by cutting out such professionally interesting bits, the book becomes a "missed opportunity" (esp. since Adam is a self described "systems guy"). Perhaps he really was writing only for the non-programmer crowd (but I doubt it).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Tells it like it is (was). 25 Mar. 2001
By A Customer - Published on
This is a great book for anyone who really wants to know what it's like, and was like, on the inside at Microsoft. If you want to know how the world's most successful software company really operates from a person who has been in the trenches, as opposed to some breathless overhyped narrative by a "writer", then get this book. Adam Barr's book is an entertaining mix of some history, some common sense debunking of a few of the myths that exist about Microsoft, and some real reflection on the way that the company operates. Microsoft's challenge moving forward will be to preserve the small company values that made it so successful while addressing some of the real issues raised in this book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Great title, interesting book, vague conclusions 13 July 2001
By Sky Kruse - Published on
Can't fault the author for trying, really - this is a reasonably entertaining tale and conveys a number of interesting points along the way. And frankly, I bought it for the title and the amusing things I'd heard, rather than an expectation of great insight. As long as that's your level of interest, I suspect you'll do fine. There were some good observations made herein about Microsoft's road to power (including why Win95 adoption was so crucial, which will be mirrored shortly by WinXP) and some dubious ones (like why APIs are good but middleware is bad). A mixed bag, and definitely one written in a fashion that makes its name ring rtue, but for all that it certainly has its moments.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
The real truth of how it is 28 Mar. 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Verified Purchase
In this book you'll find the story of Microsoft and SoftImage in the 1990s, from a software developer's point of view. I worked at Microsoft myself for most of this time and I can say that the book is accurate and gives a good sense of the place, and of the problems facing software developers. I especially liked the detailed discussion of hiring practices. In the software business the assets walk out the door each night and a software company is only as good as its employees - hence the critical importance of hiring and retaining good ones.
The author includes a history of the personal computer industry and some thoughts on the problems facing Microsoft now, from court battles to public opinion. If you want to get a sense of what it's like inside the company, this is a really good book. I enjoyed reading the book and recommend it to you.
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