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Microsoft Hardware Hacking Build Technology

MSFT Reaches Out To Hackers: 'Do Epic $#!+' 249

Posted by timothy
from the and-then-shut-the-garage-door dept.
hessian writes "Microsoft isn't exactly known for its underground hacker culture, but a recent effort to give its employees more slack is generating some wild experiments. Last summer, Microsoft completed a redesign of one of its original buildings on campus — Building 4, where Bill Gates' office used to be — into a laid-back workshop where staff can tinker with things. It's open to anyone, anytime, and it's got everything from a hardware workshop to an actual working garage door. If it doesn't sound to you like something Microsoft would normally do , the Garage's motto will really shock you: 'Do epic s--t.'"
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MSFT Reaches Out To Hackers: 'Do Epic $#!+'

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  • uh oh (Score:5, Funny)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Sunday August 12, 2012 @12:43PM (#40965225)

    If Microsoft doesn't bleep out the 'shit', but Slashdot does (in two different ways?), does this mean MSFT is "hipper" than /. now?

    • I was wondering about that. If the motto is actually "Do epic shit," that's a sign that someone at Microsoft gets it. If it's "Do epic $#!+" or "Do epic s--t," they don't.

      • by Hentes (2461350)

        If it's "Do epic $#!+" ... ,they don't.

        You don't get it [wikipedia.org].

        • Re:uh oh (Score:5, Funny)

          by kwark (512736) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @01:33PM (#40965607)

          Thanks for the link, it thought it was perl code before your hint.

        • Indeed. From the link:

          One theory is that it was developed to defeat text filters created by BBS or Internet Relay Chat system operators for message boards to discourage the discussion of forbidden topics, like cracking and hacking. ... Variants of leet have been used for censorship purposes for many years; for instance "@$$" and "$#!+" are frequently seen to make a word appear censored to the untrained eye but obvious to a person familiar with leet.

          We've been able to write all kinds of Forbidden Words online for a long time now. The only reason for "leet" euphemisms nowadays is to call attention to how Daring and Naughty you are--which, frankly, is a pretty shitty reason.

      • Re:uh oh (Score:5, Funny)

        by davester666 (731373) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @03:22PM (#40966341) Journal

        The printed motto might be 'Do epic shit', but what they really mean is "Please do epic shit with Windows"

        • by MiniMike (234881)

          Whatever they mean, it's a big step up from their previous motto, which was similar but missing the word 'epic'.

      • Well, if they all understood it, that would explain the Windows 8 interface.

      • by oiron (697563)

        Does that make Microsoft programmers scriptkiddies?

        Sure explains Vista and Win 8...

    • Re:uh oh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by craigminah (1885846) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @01:11PM (#40965473)

      Never understood why anyone censors "bad" words yet leaves enough letters there so people easily figure out what the word is. Is it the spelling that's offensive or do they think they're tricking kids?

      • Re:uh oh (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @01:39PM (#40965661)
        Its educational - they not only learn there ARE bad words, they get to figure out what they are!
      • Re:uh oh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Sunday August 12, 2012 @01:41PM (#40965673)

        Yeah, I'm not quite sure what the deal is. I wonder if it originated with the Orthodox Jewish approach of writing "God" as "G-d", which was based on a sort of superstition against writing out the full word, even if it was obvious what the word was.

        In older English texts that want to censor such things, they seem to do a better job actually censoring the words so that they're removed entirely, replaced with just a mention that there was a swear, like "the man responded with an interjection not printable in a magazine of this type". That seems like the way to go if you're truly offended by them.

        • "I wonder if it originated with the Orthodox Jewish approach of writing "God" as "G-d", which was based on a sort of superstition against writing out the full word, even if it was obvious what the word was."

          Hm. I thought the name of the Jewish God was YHVH, or, Jehovah. Weird.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Never understood why anyone censors "bad" words yet leaves enough letters there so people easily figure out what the word is.

        That's because in many places they'll yank your entire post for saying "shit," so you change it to "$#!+ or $hit to get past the automated filters in MSN messageboards.

        I laughed out loud last week when one of the news channels scrolled by. They had replaced "booby prize" [wikipedia.org] with "bobby prize". Can't have the word Booby [wikipedia.org] on TV now can we! Those birds are so evil!

      • My favourite is changing "ass" to "*ss". Exactly who thinks it's better to replace the letter "a" with a symbol that looks like an explicit, close-up view of the very anatomy you think is offensive? ( * )ss indeed.

    • Re:uh oh (Score:5, Funny)

      by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @02:35PM (#40966019)

      If Microsoft doesn't bleep out the 'shit', but Slashdot does (in two different ways?), does this mean MSFT is "hipper" than /. now?

      Indeed, they are; I've even heard that they are actually seriously considering a change of name from "Microsoft" to "Micros#%t" as part of becoming even hipper.

      • by Jesus_666 (702802)
        They briefly considered the name "M#.net" but decided that Dotnet was no longer the wave of the future. Then rumors said that they wanted to rename themselves to "Metrosoft" but now they insist that they have always been "Modern UIsoft".
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        You misspelled /\/\1cr050f+. "Micros#%t" is a $#1++y way to spell it.

    • It means that the disease of being 'overly casual' has continued its spread upward, and that the dignity of the middle class will be defeated from within.

    • by Jon Abbott (723)

      Thanks for your analysis of how many folks with a 3-digit UID are left! Clearly we are among the few...

      • by 1u3hr (530656)

        thanks for your analysis of how many folks with a 3-digit UID are left! Clearly we are among the few...

        Now that Malda's gone, 998.

        What you are showing is how many are tedious wankers who post merely to show off their UID.

    • Re:uh oh (Score:4, Funny)

      by isorox (205688) on Monday August 13, 2012 @03:23AM (#40970879) Homepage Journal

      If Microsoft doesn't bleep out the 'shit'

      Or vagina

  • by bersl2 (689221) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @12:44PM (#40965233) Journal

    "...as long as it doesn't threaten our bottom line."

    • And the related, implied, "... and it will probably never make it into any products."
    • "...as long as it doesn't threaten our bottom line."

      That's kind of a given, though. Fat lot of good "epic shit" will do if it bankrupts the company...

      • by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @01:41PM (#40965675)
        Then again, the reviews suggest Windows 8 ACTUALLY IS epic $#!+, and probably will bankrupt the company as a direct result of this situation.
        • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Sunday August 12, 2012 @03:29PM (#40966395) Journal

          Actually Win 8 may end up making them a mint, how? New Coke. Corps and people rush to buy Win 7 to keep from getting "stuck" with win 8, thus boosting their bottom line. After all MSFT was gonna put out a WinTab anyway so it isn't like they would have had to spend a ton sticking the UI they already had for WinTab onto X86, so they get all those that have been sitting on XP to go "ZOMFG if I don't get Win 7 I'm screwed!".

          Hell it worked for XP, I saw XP sales go up after the stench that is Vista and we all saw how quickly the OEMs jumped on with "Buy this unit with XP preinstalled!". Seems like a quick if nasty way to get your customers to buy your product, MSFT gets paid either way, no skin off their ass.

        • As with all shit, people will pretend it's gold. Look at Gnome3. It is so far away from a traditional desktop, and there people which like it. I'm not saying that it is bad, it's just not what many people want.

          The same will happen with Windows 8...while many people will take a step backwards, there will be some which go "Look, I can now unlock the login screen when I swipe with my mouse! This is awesome!" - "Yeah...previously I just typed my username..." on us...and you can bet that it will find it's way in

    • by waveclaw (43274) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @02:21PM (#40965903) Homepage Journal

      Like Microsoft Research, this will be a patent farm where ideas that threaten Microsoft's platform go to die.

      Maybe, just maybe, someone in marketing will decide they can make a product out of something from this new Microsoft lab. It may even be awesome. But you never know until after the research.

      It seems that whenever someone in management lets marketing smoke enough weed to even think about visiting the engineers we get something like Bob or ME or Vista or Metro.

      I wish them good luck. Changing corporate culture is very hard when 'those other guys in that other building' are easy to let go when the stock price tumbles for reasons known only to the Random Number God(s).

      • by Phroggy (441)

        It seems that whenever someone in management lets marketing smoke enough weed to even think about visiting the engineers we get something like Bob or ME or Vista or Metro.

        I don't think Vista belongs in that category. It seems to me that the driving force behind Vista was always from the engineers - they just weren't very good.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        They are trying to artificially regenerate creativity in a company that has become bogged down in corporate politics sociopathic stoginess, where everyone is ready to stab everyone else in the back to get ahead. Problem is this area becomes political in and off itself, with two results happening. Employees either drop by to stick in a crap idea to become politically visible, high risk or it becomes a place to kill your career as those that don't take the risk target those that do (the more politically awar

  • And MS is still following Google in a way. Google didn't build on-campus but they signed up with Tech Shop a while back.

    • by Animats (122034)

      Google didn't build on-campus but they signed up with Tech Shop a while back.

      Google does have an on-campus shop for employees. [pressherald.com] They're not doing much at TechShop. They've done team-building events at the Menlo Park TechShop, and downloaded and cut out a model of a bridge on the plasma cutter. One or two Google employees go there now and then. But it's not a big thing.

  • Epic? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lagi (303346) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @12:45PM (#40965237)

    Epic $#!+ can't come out of sitting in "Building 4, where Bill Gates' office used to be ..." and pretending it's hacker's garage.
    you need a real garage, with real hackers in it, don't think Microsoft's engineers will do the trick.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Angelina "Acid Burn" Jolie and Matthew "Cereal Killer" Lillard will be stopping by.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Many of their engineers still have a heart and haven't had it burnt out yet by the corporate grind.

      But it will take a lot more than this to bring them out. They need an entire corporate culture change, not just a 'play room' down the hall with a cute sign and a big door.

      • by Trepidity (597)

        One option to foster that kind of environment within a large company is to actually set up a physically separate reporting structure, a sort of startup within a large company. That can fail too, but it's sometimes worked. Microsoft themselves had some success doing that with the original Windows NT team.

    • by Chuckstar (799005)

      This is exactly what I was thinking. You don't fix corporate culture through interior design.

    • Some rumors say in Building 4 there's an epic toilet...

  • "$#!+" ? "s--t" ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Solozerk (1003785) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @12:45PM (#40965251)
    Really ? the word is censored both times in TFS and even the image itself is blurred in TFA.
    Are we really so prude and puritan as a culture that we can't even bring ourselves to write "SHIT" ?

    This goes beyond political correctness - it's frankly ridiculous.
    • I think its totally appropriate. It shows the PR campaign is completely watered down and most likely so is the actual project, assuming there is any project other than the PR campaign.

      Now if it were real, instead of a PR stunt, then it would be inappropriate.

    • I'd rather avoid epic shits anyway. Epic blurs sound interesting though.

    • Because in this instance, it is not about being prude or politically correct. It is because as other people have pointed out, it's more "hip and "kickin" to use a curseword and censor it, particularly masking it with fake "L33T" characters.

      If anybody involved in writing the article or submitting it to slashdot actually cared about "keeping those evil, satanic cursewords from the eyes of the children" they would have simply written it to not include them in the first place.

      Also, retarded lameness filte
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Also, retarded lameness filter is retarded. Here's sme more random crap to make this post go through...

        I wish I had mod points, I had the same damned problem trying to explain that $#!+ was actually the word "shit". Took me 15 minutes to figure out that the subject was what was being lamely filtered.

        HEY EDITORS: When I quote the fucking headline and the lame-ass filter is encountered, what does that say about your lame-ass headline?

        That "lameness filter" is just fucking lame. PLEASE get rid of it, OK? Or at

    • s--t (Score:4, Funny)

      by guttentag (313541) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @08:48PM (#40968793) Journal
      s--t opens up all kinds of possible clues as to what they're really doing in there (courtesy of the RegEx Dictionary [visca.com]):

      "Do Epic Salt" could be religious in nature, if only they had the light to go with it.
      "Do Epic Scat" could be, well, crappy.
      "Do Epic Scot" could be a hint that Sean Connery will play Ballmer in an upcoming movie about Steve Jobs
      "Do Epic Seat" could be a hint that they're working on a special chair to offset the major pain in the ass NotMetro is expected to be
      "Do Epic Sect" could be a skunkworks project to recruit fanboys
      "Do Epic Shat" could be a retrospective on the history of Windows... uh, narrated by William Shatner
      "Do Epic Skit" could be a code for the rehearsal to train people to look excited at their store openings, and hide the fact that hired DJs are using iTunes
      "Do Epic Slit" could be... nahhh...
      "Do Epic Slut" or "Do Epic Smut" could be an indication that MSFT wants to enter the lucrative smut scene and cut off Heffner's air supply
      "Do Epic Snot" or "Do Epic Spit" No. Just no.

      Personally, I think what they're really saying is they plan to "do shit" to the Electronic Privacy Information Center [epic.org].
    • *sigh* I've been trying to explain it for fifteen minutes, but slashdot's lame filter won't let me. The dollar sign is an s, the hash is an h, the exclamation mark is an i, the plus sign is a T.

      And I'm still getting the lameness filter, must be tha subject line. I wonder why I keep getting it, and how you managed to post?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 12, 2012 @12:57PM (#40965373)

    First, there needs to be a company culture in which people dare to take time to play in a facility like that.

    Second, there needs to be an outside chance that the epic "s--t" will actually see the light of day and not be stomped on by Steve Ballmer because it doesn't run Windows.

    Third, there needs to be infrastructure. One MS manager I know tried to order a bookshelf to store technical references for the group's use. The request was denied because the bookshelf wasn't a standard item. What happens when a hacker orders something random?

    Fourth, for people who aren't pure hackers but have some self-interest, there needs to be some believable financial benefit to developing something cool

    Without all that, this idea is sheer cargo cult.

  • It's all... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Duncan J Murray (1678632) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @01:02PM (#40965401) Homepage

    ...too late.

  • by sribe (304414) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @01:54PM (#40965749)

    The problem is not that MSFT employees don't have good ideas; the problem is that management kills them (the ideas that is).

    • by Achra (846023) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @02:15PM (#40965853) Journal

      The problem is not that MSFT employees don't have good ideas; the problem is that management kills them...

      Microsoft doesn't only kill the ideas. They also kill the employees too. (Spiritually). I notice that Microsoft isn't giving any employees any time allocation to do their epic shit. It's something that you can do in your "off time". Since the standard work week for a salaried employee at Microsoft is "Any 80 hours a week you want", I don't see too many people spending too much time in this "garage". Maybe a few recent grads that don't have any reason to go home after work.. but I wouldn't be there, that's for sure.

      • by bratmobile (550334) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @04:44PM (#40966979)
        That's just completely false. I know you hate Microsoft, but you're obviously writing from total ignorance. I've worked at Microsoft for years, and there is plenty of goofing off and just general creativity. Any group (inside or outside Microsoft) that drives people at 80 hours/week forever is just doomed to failure, because they will burn people out and destroy their most important asset.
    • Great point. That is hardly unique to Microsoft (although MS does have enormous resources that make such killing of employee initiative more gratuitous).
    • Exactly - they've had research group that does the exact same thing as this for the past 20 years.

      It's coincidentally called "Microsoft Research" - and every cool thing that everybody from Microsoft's own OS engineers to *nix and BSD people think are a good ideas, which their management promptly kills, because "it doesn't push MS Office or Internet Explorer (basically insert other MS product here)" onto corporate IT and home users more.
      • by sribe (304414)

        ... because "it doesn't push MS Office or Internet Explorer" onto corporate IT and home users more.

        Fixed that for you.

  • by drkim (1559875) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @02:38PM (#40966039)

    I liked the line in the original article:

    one Microsoft Office developer is currently working in the Garage on a tool allowing people to make mobile payments with just their bodies.

    I think this already goes on all over the world.
    http://www.theonion.com/articles/housewife-charged-in-sexforsecurity-scam,1773/ [theonion.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 12, 2012 @03:11PM (#40966265)

    Have to post anonymously for this one, as it's about my current workplace...

    I work for an IT service provider that services a very staid, boring, stick-in-the-mud industry. The company has been around since the 50s, is multinational, and has a very management-heavy, bureaucracy-laden culture. Our engineering teams (including the one I'm on) are pretty much allowed to operate around this whole mess because we build their products and services. And the industry we serve is concerned with reliable, always-on service ONLY, nothing else. As Engineering, we give that to them with a minimum of fuss, often completely end-running the layers of bureaucracy to make sure things stay alive.

    All of a sudden last year, the company brought in the usual suspects from the management consultant universe, who suggested a radical culture shift. One of the other division offices (not ours)got gutted and turned into a clone of the Google office pictures that have leaked to the web. All the fun happy stuff from the Hipster Twentysomething Web 2.0 Culture Checklist is there -- no offices, hot desking, open floor plan, beanbag chairs, large common areas, and a cutesy color scheme and design pattern reflecting our company's core customers' business.

    The problem is that nothing else has changed. People are still stuck in the same mindset, but now they're sitting in beanbag chairs doing it or trying to be heard over the noise of their colleagues in one of these open-area offices. I'm actually one of those people who prefers a private office or cube with enough quiet to be able to work, so I'm glad our office didn't get transformed (yet.)

    So, Microsoft can change anything they want, but it won't bring back the hacker culture and 90s startup feel unless they start actively cultivating that mindset. As far as I can tell, it's too late for that -- there's way too much at stake to make radical changes. I'm betting that SP1 of Windows 8 will let businesses remove the Metro (or whatever it is now) interface, just to keep the status quo going.

    I think that once a company gets established, there's no easy way to bring it back to startup mode. I'm not even sure that's the right thing to do. For example. I'm older now (late 30s) and lack the desire to work 90-hour weeks for a company, just because I have a life -- married with children and all that. Almost everyone else my age who is still in the startup, 90-hour, gotta-do-this-for-the-team crowd is divorced, headed that way or permanently single, and has nothing going on outside of work. I work hard, but something really has to be on fire that no one else can fix if any employer expects tons of extra work. I work hard already keeping my skills sharp outside of work so I don't end up unemployed... The problem is companies don't understand that people who aren't just out of school have a lot of good experience, so I don't know if the relentless focus on startup culture is a good solution.

    • Awesome post. Blew 15 modpoints yesterday so all I can do is a: +1 Insightful (moral)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bratmobile (550334)
      I work at a group in Microsoft, and you are just completely effing clueless. My specific group is more fun than any startup I've worked in (I've worked through two startups), and many other groups that I work with are just as healthy, productive, and focused. The work we are doing is on a long time-scale (meaning, we're not driven into making bad trade-offs just to meet idiotic short-term deadlines), it's significant, and I think it will have a significant impact when the time is ready. Your hatred for M
      • I see nothing in AC's post that implied, much less stated, a "hatred for Microsoft". All he said was that you can't create a maker-culture by corporate fiat, unless you change the whole company, and that managers (and marketing consultants) tend to forget that.

        You seem to be the one projecting, not him/her/it.

    • Simpsons did it, see "Marge Gets a Job"...alas I cannot find a clip of the relevant portion but there is a joke where Marge is concerned that all the employees are depressed and/or suicidal, so she suggests piping in some Tom Jones music and having funny hat days....cut to the employees wearing funny hats and listening to Tom Jones, while still being depressed and suicidal...
  • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @04:04PM (#40966685)

    A giant mech warrior that throws chairs and can rip cars in half would be epic. A stress indicator butterfly? Not so much.

    OTOH it might help protect the microsofties from Ballmer if they could get him to wear one.

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