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Joel on Software


by Joel Spolsky
Friday, October 14, 2005

From the Good-Intentions Department

When you see an error in the Windows Event Log, there's always a handy URL that you can click for up-to-date, detailed information about why you got that error, especially since most of the errors you see in there are completely incomprehensible.

Does it work? For really common problems, it gets you an official explanation from the documentation, but it never seems to really have useful information about what caused the problem. Every time I've ever clicked it, I've gotten this:


Today I was thinking, what the dialog box really should say is, "For more information, type the text of this error message into Google," because that always gets you useful information as the first result.

Including, in this case, a couple of Microsoft knowledge base articles about this very problem that aren't linked up in Microsoft's own help system, which seems to require that someone hand-code a link between each numeric message ID and a particular knowledge base article, proving, once again, that Microsoft consistently underestimates the value of pervasive, free form, instantaneous search.

How the JetBlue Shuttle to Boston is Like Dell's Move Into Servers

JetBlue launching a shuttle between New York and Boston is a brilliant move, for subtle reasons. It's not really that they need a share of the NY-Boston market, although that would be nice. It's not that they want to strengthen their JFK hub by feeding in passengers from Boston, although that would be nice, too.

Here's my theory. They're launching this because Delta and USAir consistently make huge profits from the Boston shuttle ... profits which subsidize their other loss-making routes. By forcing down prices in the shuttle market, eliminating those excess profits for their competitors, they're going to make it harder for those airlines to accept losses on other routes elsewhere which compete with JetBlue.

Dell used the same strategy a few years ago. Originally Dell was only interested in desktop PCs and didn't really care much about servers. Unfortunately they discovered that companies like Hewlett Packard were making huge profits in their server business and using those profits to subsidize a money-losing desktop PC business, which made it hard for Dell to compete (I remember when HP desktops sold at J&R were a lot cheaper than the equivalent Dell desktops ordered direct over the Internet).

Dell's solution was to enter the server market and force those prices down, to force the other server manufacturers to stop subsidizing their PCs. They didn't originally care much about the server market, but over time, they actually improved their servers, and today the 8th generation PowerEdges are really excellent, well-thought-out servers and usually about 2/3rds the price of their competitors. HP and IBM have lost the ability to charge $10,000 for a basic 1 CPU server, and now Dell dominates both markets.

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