Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Future of Windows Live Spaces

I guess it's morphing into some freaky version of tick-tack-toe, with lines instead of Xs...

Well, my old page won't be missed. It's RSS (totally automated al-la Microsoft) doesn't work most of the time, it's slow to load, or doesn't load. And the update-via-email function works every once in a while.

To hear their bloggers talk they are really doing a whiz-bang job getting into this Web 2.0 space. Could have fooled me. But their AJAXified webmail actually works for me now. It works much better than Yahoo's, from whom I'm still waiting for a beta ID. The fact that I got my ID before they were even a company doesn't carry any weight I guess. Or maybe it is the almost certainty that I'll give them a lousy review. That must be it. The influence I have with my three point five regular readers has them quaking in their boots. You're dead meat Yahoo! And MS? they are history too. I'm circles, you lose!

Why Firefox is NOT 'Safer, Faster, Better' | Gil's Method

IE is built into Windows, and my feeling is that that was done primarily to win idiotic "Which browser loads fastest" benchmarks that Ziff-Davis and the like ran back in the 90s. All you have to do to not have to wait for your browser to load is to never exit it completely. Generally I keep my browser (Firefox) open all day, particularly these days when so much of what I do is web-based. Netscape once had (may still have) a gadget that loaded when you started Windows and kept the Netscape browser resident and ready to go too. Worked just as fast as IE. But I really don't want that, and there is a good reason.

For anyone that has programmed complex systems or even has a smattering of computer training (that would eliminate the author of the original article I think) you know that there is an advantage to completely closing down an application from time to time and that is to free up buffers, de-fragment memory a bit, and (again) these days, terminate all those nasty hidden background activities that so many web sites start up and forget to terminate themselves (or intentionally leave running for that matter).

No, you can't completely restart IE without re-booting. Poor Windows users. I no longer -R- one of them. Which brings me to the biggest advantage of Firefox: It runs on everything. I run Firefox on OS X, I run Firefox on Linux. When I dabble in one of the BSD based systems I run Firefox there. I run Firefox on my old iBook running Debian and I've run it on PCs loaded with Red Hat, Suse, Linspire, and a few others. With the exception of specific version differences, it's the same in all these environments. I can even run multiple versions of Firefox on different computers at the same time from the comfort of my desk. Try that with Windows without using some pig-slow special purpose program. Of course if I HAD to run Windows for any length of time, I could run Firefox there too, and not have to deal with the nagging defects in IE (like no tabs for the last three years, no pop-up blocking, dozens of controls on by default that need to be turned off for security, and so on).

Sorry, but after you've seen what you can do with a real operating system, these Windows users look like they need training wheels. Get off the information superhighway! You don't belong here. Maybe the best thing after all would be for Microsoft to have a special "kids" network for Windows users to play in. I'm sure it will be a big success, and it will keep the children out of our way. Run along and play with your IE7 now. I want to see you back home and washed up for supper young man. Now scoot!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

RIAA/MPAA adopt new stealth tactic

"Make no mistake about it, this is the first, or at least an early attempt to infect popular culture with the themes the content mafia wants you to believe are reality. They have lost the online war, and are starting to lose in the courts. The overt attempts at bending conversations have failed, mainly because they are wrong, so now they are trying the back door."

Friday, July 28, 2006

OpenDarwin Closes

"OpenDarwin was meant to be a development community and a proving ground for fixes and features for Mac OS X and Darwin, which could be picked up by Apple for inclusion in the canonical sources. OpenDarwin has failed to achieve its goals in 4 years of operation, and moves further from achieving these goals as time goes on. For this reason, OpenDarwin will be shutting down."

Ballmer Tries to Offset Flak over Vista Ship Date

"In a talk about shareholder value at its annual financial analyst meeting at the campus here on July 27, and after the company's stock fell more than 2 percent or $0.50 to a market close of $23.87 on Vista shipping concerns, Ballmer stressed that Microsoft would never take as long to ship another version of Windows.

'Some of the things we work on will take a number of years, but we will never repeat what happened with Windows Vista again. We won't ever take five years to develop another version of Windows,' he said. "

I have an idea!

Schedule some minor releases, but with all the fanfare of a major release of course. Like the follow-on to Vista could be just to correct spelling errors, typos, and bad grammar in Windows error messages. They could code-name that Webster or something. Any ideas for what they would call the one after that, where they handle punctuation?

Scobleizer - Why Ozzie doesn’t think the Web is the be all and end all

"Does Joe or Ryan know that Ray is an investor in Second Life?

If he did, that would have explained why Ray believes that the Web won’t deliver the most interesting experiences online. You go try to build Second Life in AJAX. I’ve seen it done and it’s not pretty."

And Scoble goes back to comment moderation I Guess. Oh Well:

Is it just me or does it seem like those who are most obsessed about being online ALL of the time are equally obsessive about having offline tools?

If you don't like Gmail, try AIM mail, which supports IMAP instead of POP. Of course then you have to deal with the fact that Outlook doesn't support IMAP (Outlook Express does though I think). At what point is this "failure to communicate" a Microsoft problem though? I think both protocols predate Outlook. Isn't the onus, now more than ever on Microsoft to support standards rather than expecting standards to support Microsoft?

AJAX is based largely on a technique introduced by Microsoft, which has since become a "standard" for most browsers. I suspect nobody, including Microsoft realized that with persistence you could drive railroad spikes with this fly-swatter of a tool. That has nothing to do with the viability of more server-centric capabilities however.

I wouldn't expect you to know this, but one of the fundamentals of client/server architecture (even accepted by Microsoft) is that both client and server components can exist on the same machine. Anyone running X-windows (Unix and Linux, and even OS X) on a PC (as opposed to running a GUI on one machine talking to a back-end on another) is in fact "talking to himself" over a null network connection. On modern Windows machines the registry on the local machine may be not much more than a mirror of the "Active Directory" housed on the enterprise network (a fact that can lead to some non-intuitive results). Similarly, much of what you see going on in Second Life is a prediction of what is happening on the server. You fly along and suddenly bump into a building that you can't see yet because your machine is still downloading the parts. Amazingly, this effect is described in Snowcrash, written so many years ago now. Next time you are FORCED to be offline, it would be a good use of your time to read it.

Many Unix home users set up one or more of their PCs to act as a mail server (in a back-end sense) and then use their favorite client program to access that server whether their Internet connection is up or not. Best of both worlds if you ask me. The question you should ask your pals at Microsoft is when are they going to fully support these standards that have been around longer than they have? Once Microsoft has caught up to the rest of the world on existing standards, maybe they could even contribute a few more. There is no reason a company so dedicated to the word "innovation" should be intimidated by such a notion.

The people at Linden Labs are innovating as fast as they can, and they are integrating existing standards into their product whenever they can, sometimes putting off whiz-bang features for a release cycle to do so. Maybe through Ray Ozzie Microsoft can learn from them. Second life runs on Windows, OS X, and Linux. When will we be able to say the same about Outlook?

PS: Wilcox gets it right:

"I'm sure there are plenty of Microsoft executives that would like to dismiss the Web, because of all the problems it has created for the desktop software model. But if the Web isn't so great, as Ozzie insinuated, why should Microsoft invest so much in Windows Live Services? No rocket science: The Web is a huge competitive to Microsoft, still. And all the talk about making people's lives better through software services may be nothing more than misnomer. The Web already is the "experience hub." Microsoft wants to shift people to another experience hub. Whether or not Microsoft succeeds is future history, because the Windows Live concept outlined today is still vision. Meanwhile, Web 2.0 services like Flickr or MySpace deliver great experiences to consumers today. Here and now."

MacBook Pro with noise under the keyboard

Apple: The company that values your satisfaction. Eventually. One wonders if someone hasn't already filed a class-action lawsuit.

I've heard that Microsoft is going to look into some sort of "security issues" real soon now too.

Meanwhile, I got an update to both versions of Firefox that I'm running (1.0.4 on Linux PPC, and 1.5 something on OS X) TWO days ago, and only yesterday got notification from official sources about what the flaws are (or were). I think that is the way the system is supposed to work.

There, I feel better.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Long Tail

Being a part of the long tail of the blogosphere feels sort of like going to a planetariums and trying to relate to our suns position in the galaxy...



"Does your cat look like Adolf Hitler? Do you wake up in a cold sweat every night wondering if he's going to up and invade Poland? Does he keep putting his right paw in the air while making a noise that sounds suspiciously like "Sieg Miaow"? If so, this is the website for you."

I guess that all the good domain names ARE gone after all.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Report advocates open-source approach for software acquisition

"“The business model of purchasing physical goods and services has served DOD well in the past; but it falls short when applied to software acquisition,” the report concluded.

“Currently, within DOD acquisitions programs, software code is reused on a limited basis. For example, within an individual DOD program office, software code from a previous contractor may be shared with a new contractor taking their place. But as a rule, sharing of code across the DOD enterprise does not occur. As a result, the possibility that development funding is wasted by multiple efforts is high,” the report noted.

The report also noted that the use of open-source software would make “industry more likely to compete on ideas and execution versus product lock-in.” "

*Report in PDF format*

Friday, July 21, 2006

Packet Storm eh?

So many disgruntled undercover Microsoft employees, so little time.

IPV6 we need you soon!

Do the unhappy Google people use MSN spaces? (poor them)

Are there any?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

PBS | I, Cringely . July 20, 2006 - They Wrap Fish, Don't They?

"The Internet is, in fact, the idiot savant of journalism -- supremely good at a thing or two and not at all good at anything else."

This is the best one sentence summary of the situation I've come across. Unlike some assessments that regularly confuse the message with the technology used to produce it. Is a blog a blog if it isn't built with software such as Typepad or Wordpress? I was "blogging" before the term was coined by regularly editing an HTML file on a server. If an employee can be fired for a "blog" (however we decide to define it) then can they be fired for having a diary? What if they share their diary with a friend? Two friends? What if they distribute it with a mailing list? Should all employers mandate that their employees keep their affiliation with the company a total secret? That would sure solve a lot of problems. Maybe anonymity IS the solution.

Let us stop and catch our breath and stop confusing the issue of free speech with the Internet and how it allows speech to be disseminated. This muddled thinking is has been the genesis of too much mischief already, such as Apple suing a blogger to try and discover which of its employees leaked product information. The courts fortunately in this situation ignored the technology and considered the blogger as much a journalist as anyone working for the New York Times. When it comes to laws, specific technology should be of NO CONSEQUENCE. Do we really want Congress, with their bad Tube/Truck analogies debating the legality of RSS feeds? To be sure, a lot of these systems are miserably misused, in some cases downright broken, but I don't want congress people, journalists or "evangelists" trying to fix them.

Predictably Cringley's article veers off course by comparing print journalism to that on the Internet, reminding me of how accurate in many ways that spooky "Googlezon" sci-fi Flash meme from a couple of years back was. Yes, in the end, our dumbed-down society may well pick the wrong technology mix, in fact, for the most part they already have (they use Windows don't they?) But part of the problem is that "thought leaders" who should know better keep pointing people in the wrong direction using arguments that don't hold water, or walnuts for that matter.

Cringely veers back into the truth though when he says of the Microsoft Yahoo IM alliance:

"They want to be your phone company. And between them their IM operations touch a third of the Internet homes in both the United States and the world. That's an important statistic, because it means that through this simple (in a business, if not a technical sense) interconnection they have the prospect of carrying a substantial percentage of world phone traffic at almost zero cost."

Well, yeah. The running joke on Slashdot, which can be found in almost every thread goes like:

1. blah blah blah
2. blah blah blah
3. Profit!

and the joke is, essentially, almost everyone thinks there is some scheme out there by which they can do practically nothing, or at least nothing that costs them anything but by taking advantage of the stupidity of their fellow man they will get rich off of it. Nothing new about this. Various pyramid schemes have been tried and failed (and some even succeeded) for many years. The Internet has merely accelerated the process of dishonest people trying to rip the rest of us off.

Yes indeedy, I'll sign up for free phone service. Where is it? Does Microsoft or Yahoo throw in an actual phone number and a copper wire coming into my house? Better yet I'd like a free fiber optic line while they are at it. Last time I tried something that was "free" from Yahoo it ended up costing me $300.

I don't want anything that is "free" from anybody until I know how they are going to monetize (i.e. fund) it. As long as Google is turning out quarterly reports like todays, I don't have to worry about my "free" e-mail account going away or being reduced in features (as my yahoo account once was). I'm still a little fuzzy on how this will work with voice messaging. Will ads be inserted randomly in my phone conversations? No? Maybe that's why Google isn't all that interested yet. Microsoft and Yahoo are letting their desperation show. More power to them, and to their users that can take advantage of these "free" services, just don't become dependent on them. Don't invest in any specialized hardware that will be valueless in a year.

As to the future of newspapers and magazines, their fate is entirely in their own hands. As we all know, there is, or can be, tremendous value in original, on the spot reporting, true investigative journalism and so on. But how those products are delivered is a NON ISSUE, or maybe a "Red Herring" is a better phrase, because the subterfuge that is being spread daily is that somehow the Washington Post, New York Times, and many magazines and local publications cannot stay in business without print-edition subscribers. Last time I checked (about two hours ago) Google is not operating as a charity. Nor is their future business dependent on lock-in with hardware vendors as is Microsoft's (and in a more and more similar way Apple's). I PAY for a Wall Street Journal subscription online as I have no interest in having stacks of newsprint piling up for the weekly recycling pick-up that never occurs.

And while I'm stepping on those toes, I follow at least as many ad links from online version of Ziff Davis and other such publications these days as I glance at full page ads in their print publications of the past. So why can't they convince their advertisers of this? Are they so accustomed to lying about their own circulation numbers that they can't conceive of making an honest living out of it?

1. Lie to advertisers about effectiveness of ads
2. Pump up circulation numbers
3. Profit!

I'd suggest to many companies these days that it is time to find a new scam, or better yet, go straight. Unbundle those operating systems, word processors, VOIP boxes, and investigative journalists and stop muddling it up with "free" services, discounted under-cost computers and let consumers find value where it actually exists and avoid buying things they don't need to get, for "free" or otherwise, things that they do.

The conversation is not (or should not be) about technology, but rather value.

Quarterly Results Surprise in Both Directions

The numbers are rolling out and I wonder if new reporting rules (and Sarbox, or whatever it is called) are not making it harder and harder to hide less than impressive results...

Yahoo surprisingly bad. Apple better than expected. Intel, not so hot (except for the Core Duos in Apple laptops). IBM even had a good report, thanks to never being afraid to spin things off before they become permanent drags. Microsoft: more lies and obfuscation! hehe. Google surprisingly good:

"Google reported revenues of $2.46 billion for the quarter ended June 30, 2006, an increase of 77% compared to the second quarter of 2005 and an increase of 9% compared to the first quarter of 2006. Google reports its revenues, consistent with GAAP, on a gross basis without deducting traffic acquisition costs, or TAC. In the second quarter of 2006, TAC totaled $785 million, or 32% of advertising revenues. "

We can see the affects on this graph already, but it'll get more pronounced over the next few days. Whoohoo look at that Yahoo drop!

New! Improved! Microsoft: Now With Principles!

"WASHINGTON—Microsoft has announced 12 principles by which the company will guide its development of the Windows desktop platform, starting with Windows Vista and beyond."

Beyond? That implies Vista will ever get out the door doesn't it?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Symantec: Vista probably 'less stable' than XP | The Register

"The networking technology underpinning Windows Vista may be less stable on release that that behind Windows XP, according to an analysis by security firm Symantec."

I was going to ignore this, but reader(s) demanded that it get a mention. Windows is so yesterday.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Techdirt: An Honest Debate On Net Neutrality (Too Bad It's So Rare)

My only debate is whether to even raise the subject with friends who see opposition to yet another building full of bureaucrats as just another Bush conspiracy. The "moveons" have built a fortress of phony dialogs that boil down to "Let the government do everything, control everything, tell everyone what to do, but DON'T CALL US SOCIALISTS!"

But their thinking goes beyond socialism, and the last thing that socialism and beyond wants is an honest debate, on anything.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Brazil | Linux Journal

"Fortunately, we don't live in a world like the one in the movie Brazil where there are NO choices. We only live in a world where choices are limited, and people often have the illusion of choice when there are few to none, and the illusion that there is no choice when there are alternatives."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

NewsForge | Freedom Partners leaves Microsoft for Nitix

"In addition to the added security and cost savings, Kaupp likes the simplicity that Nitix affords him. 'I can't even put a monitor on this server,' he says. 'The really nice thing is that the operating system is so small that it's all installed on a chip. You could trip over the power cord and turn it back on and it comes right up. My Microsoft server, to reboot it and get everything started takes 15 to 20 minutes.'"

Apollo 11 tapes go missing

"A SCIENTIST is trying to track down a series of high quality magnetic tapes that record the Apollo 11 extra vehicular adventure (EVA) on the Moon before it is too late and they disappear forever."

Interesting, and sad, and probably related in a way to this story. Nobody cares about this old data until it's gone missing.

When I was at a well known agency there were people at least speculating about archiving data to DVD or large format CD type storage for long-term, but as far as I know nothing actually came of it. During my time there there were a couple of incidences of back-up data mishandling and in at least one case, a contractor got fired over it (although I think for the wrong reasons as no change in procedures took place afterward). Typical scape-goating.

I was told recently regarding backup procedures "We don't bother with backups any more, just rely on the fact that all the important stuff is on more than one computer." That, I guess, and leaks-like-a-sieve security will allow them to just ask the Chinese for anything that we accidentally erase.

I have another idea: Put a sticker on the bottom of every government laptop that says: "If you steal this computer, please make a backup of the hard drive before you reformat it for sale. Backups can be sent to: (address). No questions asked."

As one old friend says when things go wrong: "Life is funny." At least we keep telling ourselves that since we don't have the option of whacking someone up-side the head.

I've been most encouraged by the fact that NASA has published every single photo taken by the Mars rovers since they landed. I'm sure there are at least a few people downloading every one for their own archive. There is a good chance that those photos will never get lost from our collective memory. The advantage of digital formats is that what would otherwise be analog data can be copied endlessly without loss of quality. That is, as long as the possessors of the original make it available for people to copy.

Something to think about as we watched Microsoft being dragged kicking and screaming to the ODF pond and being forced to drink. Now, when ODF becomes widely available will government managers be smart enough to require that it be used for all new documents, and all extant old documents be converted? I'm taking bets.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

BeyondVC: Top-heavy teams

"I met with a 10 person company the other day and once I got to Slide 2, I immediately started having questions about the opportunity. What struck me was a company that had a CEO, COO, and a VP of Marketing and a VP of Sales. "

Staking the Vampire: SCO's case comes to an end?

"There's 'Not much left for SCO but to appeal this almost-fatal ruling in its already weak case. Yes, it is the beginning of the end. I expect summary judgment will be the stake that kills this vampire long before it gets to trial.'"

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

What's in Store : Update to the Update (on WinFS)

"Failure happens every day. Nobody's perfect. But when you fail, don't tell customers that failure is what they wanted. Don't tell them that they're not getting a 'pillar' but that the missing pillar won't impact the product. Don't fill your excuses with marketing euphemisms about 'ship vehicles' and 'packaging stragies' and happy-ass nonsense about the 'vision' being 'alive.' Don't tell your customers that it was 'really coming together well' in one breath and 'it's not going to ship' in the next. Don't tell your customers it won't impact Vista, then claim you can't talk about future products because you're not done with Vista.

Is it really a good idea to treat your customers like idiots? I would have thought the answer to that question was 'no big mystery' either. "

I think Microsoft has been treating its customers like idiots for a long time now. In fact... well, if I can't say something nice I guess I shouldn't say anything at all.