Monday, December 31, 2007

Clickable Culture - Eleven Fit Teens Fail Wii Fitness Test

"MedPage Today reports that Wii Sports, a game for the Nintendo Wii console, wasn't found to contribute to recommended daily exercise standards set in Britain, according to a Liverpool University study. Nintendo has been hoping its console would be seen as a fitness aid, releasing the Wii Fit controller and Wii game in Japan earlier this year (due out elsewhere in 2008). A number of academics, researchers, and consumers around the world have been looking at the console as a potential fitness device, with varying results. A Canadian hospital is even using the game console as part of a physical rehabilitation program."

Friday, December 28, 2007

Your Social Network

Full Image at title or click this fragment.

I also want to add that I do think there is a use for this stuff. If you've ever posted any sort of resume online (and I have) you may have given away more information than you would on one of these social networks.

It would make sense to have a central place to post (for example) a complete resume, including all sorts of personal details (name address phone number) but only have that information available to a select few, for example with a key that can be reset as in your Google photo albums. No need for this information to even be available to your "friends" list.

I have at times submitted resumes without full contact information, or without salary history, or without a previous employment history at all.

Can the interface be made simple enough to use, and yet allow for all these variations (and more)? If so, it would be a great alternative to keeping track of all the variations with Word documents, PDFs, etc. Updating a field, like your phone number, would be a one step process, and only those with "need to know" would ever see this information.

Unfortunately I don't think any of the existing "Social" sites approach this seriously (especially Facebook, which makes a lot of claims in this area).

Here is an idea, free for the taking (patent pending):

A single place where all such information about your career life, social life, dating preferences, hobbies, etc. can be typed in using combinations of free-form fields, check-boxes, menu-lists, etc. Now the hard part, as I've mentioned, is making the access matrix both easy to set up, but complex in how it parcels out information. Not desirable for a potential employer to see your dating preferences, nor for a potential date to see your employment history. It needs to be EASY for you to keep these things straight, not a complex maze as Facebook now has. I personally think that Facebook is working at too many cross purposes to make this even possible.

Orkut, on the other hand, hasn't painted itself into a corner yet by making all sorts of high minded claims while actually implementing something totally different.

For Orkut, it should be possible for me to make both my friends list and my interest groups information invisible to everyone, or only visible to selected individuals. Facebook has addressed this to a limited extent, but then muck it up with their need to generate revenue. Google doesn't have this problem, Orkut is just one of the many products they have to keep you connected to them and viewing ads, they don't live or die by Orkut.

Finally, if all of this information could be collected, and properly segmented and secured, I should be able to do the following things with it:

1: Generate a nicely formatted resume for printing out or e-mailing or posting on a web page (with a revocable key in the last case). There might be a variety of formatting options for standard government resume formats, or more casual forms.

2: Generate a business card summary from above information. There are of course $69 Windows programs to do this item and the one above, but I don't NEED or want to manage such a system on a single PC, especially a Windows one with all the security and database corruption issues it has. Windows has been so bad it has made it positively acceptable to get data off your local PC as fast as possible and onto secure servers somewhere (but NOT a Windows Home Server!).

3. Coupled with online calendar information, photos, blogs, news feeds, address lists, credit card data, and so on, you could also do automated slide shows, photo albums, either online or for printing, holiday card processing...

I can't think of anything you wouldn't want to connect up to this, assuming of course that you have confidence in the security of the application, and as I've mentioned, the online alternatives don't have a very high hurdle to get over to be way ahead of what Windows has established as baseline for local storage.

Supposedly, Google is working on an online health system that would keep (will it be selected, or all?) of your medical history, prescriptions, allergies, and so on that can be rapidly and easily shared with your medical professionals. If this can be done in such a way that people trust it, I see no reason why even less sensitive information that would go into a resume or business card, can't also be stored online, all the time, for those with a "need to know" to get at.

See also: A Lover's Journal: Contacts Management System

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Windows Home Server: files may become corrupted

When you use certain programs to edit files on a home computer that uses Windows Home Server, the files may become corrupted when you save them to the home server. Several people have reported issues after they have used the following programs to save files to their home servers:
• Windows Vista Photo Gallery
• Windows Live Photo Gallery
• Microsoft Office OneNote 2007
• Microsoft Office OneNote 2003
• Microsoft Office Outlook 2007
• Microsoft Money 2007
• SyncToy 2.0 Beta
Additionally, there have been customer reports of issues with Torrent applications, with Intuit Quicken, and with QuickBooks program files. Our support team is currently trying to reproduce these issues in our labs.

No matter how smart your geniuses are, they can (and will) create a system to complex for themselves to understand without: Design, documentation, testing.

Time for the Bill Gates school of code and go to take a permanent recess.

(Not that Microsoft is the exclusive vendor of half baked software, just the preeminent one.)

Monday, December 24, 2007

What I learned about security, privacy and Apple (Scripting News)

"I have no agreement with Apple that covers the security or privacy of the data. As far as I know they think they own the contents of the disk as well as the disk itself. The experience I had with them actually makes me think they probably do feel its theirs. This from a company that takes the security of its own private information very seriously, they seem to have almost no regard for the security of its customers' information."

McKesson Migrates To Linux As Boost To Patient Safety -- Health Care -- InformationWeek

"In addition, McKesson has the added incentive that universities are turning out fewer graduates with training in mainframe Unix, HP (NYSE: HP)-UX or other Unixes but most students are familiar with Linux. 'It's very difficult to find computer science students familiar with MUMPS [another aging healthcare operating system] or mainframe Unix,' Simpson said, but the investment in new Linux will give providers the option of hiring developers and maintainers who know what to do with its applications."

Salon: The year in technology

"The iPhone was great, except for its restrictions. And guess who's dialing up a better mobile Web now?"

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Who Is Really Hurt by Apple Rumor Sites Closure? - New York Times Blog

Several publications where asking questions such as this in the last few days and my response to those I responded to were consistently that Apple was the victim of a self inflicted wound, and to extend the metaphor, considering the companies situation possibly a fatal one.

As a dedicated blogger, I take seriously my right to exaggerate an issue beyond all normal sensibilities.

But as if to prove my extreme point of view, yesterday Slashdot posted an article titled
'Apple Lawyering Up On "Fake Steve Jobs"'
and whether they (Slashdot) were attempting to go along with a joke already well underway or were themselves fooled by the publicity stunt, the readers were certainly up in arms with only a few pointing out the more likely explanation for the FSJ postings.

Checking back today on those "dialogs" started by NYT and others what I find is mostly negative comments about Apple. People are very much inclined to accept the notions that Apple is the mini-me to Microsoft when it comes to screwing, or screwing with their users.

So whether it was a misguided legal department, the PR department being on vacation or a vindictive Steve Jobs, Apple has succeeded in neutralizing whatever "good guy" image it once had.

I'm not the only one who thinks Apple will exit the computer business as soon as it can do so without too much embarrassment, so maybe as a phone company, or music publisher they'll be forgiven for treating fan sites like a cheap date or that tacky one night stand with open source.

But a three legged stool with one leg removed cannot stand. So presuming Apple's ability to handle public relations re-awakens, what will they get into next? I mean it's not like music companies can just hop into the airline business is it?

Is it?

Friday, December 21, 2007

LLNL Energy Chart

Nice chart.

Google-backed Nanosolar rolls out first set of panels | December 20, 2007 04:18 PM | By Ted Samson

"Even without additional funding from Congress via the recently passes energy bill, the future of solar power is looking bright. As reported the other day in the New York Times, Google-backed solar-panel start-up Nanosolar has started cranking out a new breed of panels that can be manufactured 'at a price at which solar energy becomes less expensive than coal.'"

One-Man Gridlock: Meet Tom Coburn, Senate's 'Dr. No' -

"Mr. Reid, calling Dr. Coburn's tactics 'unreasonable,' said when the Senate returns next year, he plans to combine a number of blocked bills and bring the package to a vote.

Dr. Coburn says he isn't to blame for slow progress. Democrats used too much floor time debating the Iraq war, he says, and tried to move too many bills on the fast track. He notes he didn't try to stop the spending bill, the only legislation Congress technically must pass in order to keep the government running."

Rep. Clay introduces another data security bill

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Apple Forces Shutdown Of Think Secret Web Site -- Apple -- InformationWeek

"On Thursday, Ciarelli said in a statement that he was glad to have the legal wrangling behind him. 'I'm pleased to have reached this amicable settlement, and will now be able to move forward with my college studies and broader journalistic pursuits.'"

We can now look forward to the day when the a-holes at Apple are begging for this type of publicity.

U.S. Senate Report: Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007

"Even some in the establishment media now appear to be taking notice of the growing number of skeptical scientists. In October, the Washington Post Staff Writer Juliet Eilperin conceded the obvious, writing that climate skeptics 'appear to be expanding rather than shrinking.' Many scientists from around the world have dubbed 2007 as the year man-made global warming fears “bites the dust.”"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Relative prices of different liquids

I decided to try doing this chart with the Google Graphics API. Seems like this interface could be a bit more user friendly, or maybe the documentation isn't clear (or I'm dumb).

"Source code":

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Find Your Gmail Contacts in orkut

"It's not clear whether the fact that Gmail automatically adds to the address book all the people you've ever sent messages makes it irrelevant or comprehensive. It's not clear whether orkut will ever become a respected social network in other places than Brazil and India. But one thing is for sure: orkut really wants to become a serious alternative to Facebook."

I re-opened an Orkut account after giving up on it a year or more ago. I've found exactly ONE person know in there. And even that is an online contact, not someone I know in "real life".

Nobody I went to college with, nobody I went to high school with, nobody from big companies I've worked for. Finally, only two people who share my last name, both of which are blank profiles (there seem to be a lot of these for which I have no explanation).

One thing Google has going for it, which I mentioned in the post above (or is it below) is a practically infinite server capacity. Are Facebooks PHP and MySQL server farms going to hold up under load? For me Facebook has already gotten painfully slow in spots, while Orkut, which I think worldwide actually has more users, is still quite snappy.

Both systems are filling up with people with fake names (like me) and in some cases many multiple identities, used to push some product or agenda. Can either company in the long run figure out who is real?

My guess is that Orkut/Google don't have to care. "Let the servers fill up, we've got plenty".

For me, it gets to be a real convenience when my Google Docs, maps data, contact information, photo collection and on and on are all talking to one another, and right now, Google is just starting that process of connecting everything up.

The photo application in Facebook is pathetic. They let you upload nice full-sized photos, but only through a Java program that shrinks them down to almost nothing.

They may hope that their application providers will do some of the heavy lifting in that regard. Somehow I suspect that most of them are not prepared to deal with actual success.

Fascinating to watch this unfold isn't it?

Google Is All About Large Amounts of Data

"In a very interesting interview from October, Google's VP Marissa Mayer confessed that having access to large amounts of data is in many instances more important than creating great algorithms."

Hmmm, I think there may be more to this.

Searching the entire Internet used to be a challenge. Some might say that Google was the first to do a really good job of it. But now, Microsoft and Yahoo, and others are being competitive (not VERY competitive, but they are at least playing in the same league).

As more companies create vast self-healing server farms the number of companies in that club might grow. I think the enormous power of these vast armies of server are Google's strength. What would be called in other industries, a "barrier to entry".

The more stuff there is to search now, the bigger that barrier will get. Books, photos, blogs, documents, maps and so on. Google is basically saying "we can handle all of this stuff and more, and do it so cheaply that we pay for it with advertising (and make a profit to boot)".

Suppose that other big companies like Microsoft and Yahoo not only fail to catch Google in search or advertising, but also fail to make their ever growing server farms run at any sort of profit margin at all.

Who is left holding all the marbles?

Why Amazon Should Buy eBay - Bits - Technology - New York Times Blog

"EBay’s management wins credit for not messing up one of the best business models ever invented. But it scores far lower on innovation. To my eye, the site’s design and technology have never been in the same league as Amazon’s."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

NYSE places buy on Linux, hold on Unix

"'What we want is to be able to take advantage of technology advances when they happen,' Rubinow said. 'We're trying to be as independent of any technologies as we can be.'"

Facebook Business Solutions


View it now before Facebook staffs up their legal department.

Cutbacks: AOL cancels concert funding as it cuts Virginia ties


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hospital software vendor McKesson uses Linux to heal IT budgets

"Red Hat estimated that health care facilities that have switched have been able to save as much as 60% on IT costs compared with what they were spending before.

With the Red Hat/McKesson systems, hospitals and medical offices run their back-office infrastructure on Red Hat Linux, while their front-end clients use Microsoft Windows -- at least for now, Simpson said. 'Our hospitals aren't ready yet for Linux on the desktop, but it's coming' in another three or four years, he said. 'If you look at the total costs of hospitals and the pressure on hospitals to continue to lower their costs, it's coming.'"

AOL Cuts Summer Music Fest Sponsorship

"'They called to try to smooth it over. They wanted me to have a good feeling about all this and if I'd known this was going to happen six months ago, that would have been fine. I can't feel good only having 30 days notice. The woman I spoke on the phone with said 'we wont be guilted into doing this' and I knew that we should get off the phone at that point,' Parent said."

More Facebook Apps You're Sure to Love Eventually - Advertising Age - The Media Guy

Shocker! Google Gains More Search-Query Share | Voices | Eric Savitz | AllThingsD

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Voyager 2 finds our solar system is squashed | Underexposed - CNET

"Thirty years after launch but earlier than expected, Voyager 2 has left the cozy realm of our solar system, where the stream of particles from the sun dominates space."
Three Dollars Too Much

To try and thwart Nicholas Negraponte's One Laptop Per Child effort Microsoft is making copies of Windows available to a competing Intel box for $3 as I understand it. They are also working to make a version of Windows that will run on the OLPC, presumably for a similar price.

I know a lot of people that use computers. Before I left the big city to head for the beach I might have had conversations about home computer use (leaving out work related use for the moment) with dozens of people. But having been in the boondocks for a while my circle of friends has grown smaller. Get this though, here is the percentage of my Windows using friends who are reporting significant problems with their home installations: 100.

It just struck me the other day that I don't know any Windows users, not one, who isn't having problems, and I don't mean minor problems, I mean major "lost everything" problems. To help convince you that I'm not making this up, here are their stories, names omitted to save them the embarrassment...

Case A is a retired technologist, programmer for the Apolo moon missions, inventor, and aspiring author. He doesn't want to tinker with computers any more, he just wants to write his books. For months he has been doing so on a laptop, without major incident, but having "normal" Windows users issues with pop-up ads, spy-ware, spam, and drivers mysteriously failing to do what they used to do. His reaction to these problems has been to remove almost everything except Microsoft Office from his machine. Having sent him either links, or actual files that require Adobe Acrobat or Real Player I find that he has uninstalled those things out of fear. Nevertheless he managed to get Internet Explorer outfitted with so many "helpful" tool-bar additions that there was little screen real-estate left over for anything else. His sound card stopped making sounds, pop-ups continued to pop-up and he complained that the machine was getting slower and slower. He didn't want to try Firefox though as Microsoft has succeeded in convincing him that his problems have nothing to do with Windows itself, but just that big-bad world that it has to live in on the Internet.

He recently called in a panic to tell me that his machine, a laptop, suddenly wouldn't boot at all. Long story short, he had installed yet another "security" package from his ISP that had caused the condition. A trip to the shop for an overnight stay and $65 later the machine was working again. Fortunately, the fact that he hadn't done a recent back-up didn't cost him anything as they were able to retain his existing file system. Fortunately or otherwise, he was so shaken by the experience he purchased another PC as a "back-up machine" on the rather safe assumption that a similar thing will soon happen again. If the medicine makes you sick, try taking more of it.

Case B is a dear little lady that I agreed to help with her e-mail problems. Now I've steadfastly refused to get involved with anyone's Windows issues other than offering generic advice such as "why are you still using that crapware?" but in this case the problems seemed to be mostly "older person trying to cope with new-fangled technology", so I stop by once in a while to get her unstuck with sending a reply, forwarding a message, or attaching a photo. Unfortunately this has turned into three machines so far. The last one I purchased myself, used, from a shop I trusted, with a clean install of Windows XP and little else. I put on anti-virus programs and such, and so far so good. I can't be sure that her earlier machines were hardware or software failures. At some point it gets hard to tell from a post-mortem point of view. Power supplies burn out, fans die and machine overheat, often after running at 100 percent CPU for days at a time doing no-telling what in the background. If she manages to kill this machine, her next one will run Linux. Enough is enough.

Case C is a minister, on a dial-up connection, who really doesn't do much more than e-mail and print out church related materials from time to time. When I first saw his machine it had an obscure virus that was not removable by any of the major packages that are supposed to do such things. Fortunately I learned this through research, which was much quicker than trial and error. He too took it to a "competent" shop who managed to get rid of the virus and most of his applications software at the same time. I'll be installing Open Office for him and he is already using Firefox, thanks to some other kind soul he ran into. Should the need arise, he will already be over the hurdles that tie most people to Windows.

Case D is a couple of guys that run a small home business involving shared files with several other people working at home. Their Windows machines, although of relatively recent vintage are always bogged down doing something in the background that nobody can quite define. Opening a web page is a go-to-the-fridge-for-another-coke sort of operation at times, and while some of this problem is a slow ADSL connection and a care-less Verizon support system, my Apple laptop works pretty well on their network, even wirelessly, while their hardwired desktop systems continue to crawl.

Finally, the co-workers in this small business are always having trouble with their PCs too, except for the one Apple user of course. So those machines have to be regularly hauled over to "headquarters" for diagnosis and I dread even hearing about the long tortuous road to recovery, which is often followed by an almost immediate relapse.

So those are my sample points. All of them. Other people I know that are using Apple computers or Linux haven't been complaining much about slow systems or slow Internet or random crashes. Oh I know, there are Apple machines that are junk (I had one of those once too) and Windows machines that perform flawlessly, those just don't happen to be in my universe of users at the moment.

Worth three dollars? Hardly.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Microsoft's New Operating System

This may be a repeat (I know I've seen it before) but...

Click title for link to original web page, click graphic for larger version.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Friday, December 07, 2007

The First Year of Google Docs (& Spreadsheets)

In case I haven't embedded this before. A good example of the old made new. Back to doing things the way we used to on the mainframe. It's a good thing! (tm) Programming is Hard, Let's Go Scripting...

"Suppose you went back to Ada Lovelace and asked her the difference between a script and a program. She'd probably look at you funny, then say something like: Well, a script is what you give the actors, but a program is what you give the audience. That Ada was one sharp lady...

Since her time, we seem to have gotten a bit more confused about what we mean when we say scripting. It confuses even me, and I'm supposed to be one of the experts."

Microsoft pulls plug on potty-mouth Santa - Network World

Mark ‘Sorry’ Zuckerberg’s Beacon Memo: BoomTown Decodes It, So You Don’t Have To! | BoomTown | Kara Swisher | AllThingsD

"Translation: Philosophy? All those Harvard philosophy majors now work for me in customer service. Opt-in, opt-out. If we say it fast over and over again, users will hopefully get really dazed and confused and just lay down and accept their ultimate fate as target practice for marketers. More to the point, I just said we will still receive information on all your purchases and I hope you did not notice that. Opt-in-opt-out-opt-in-opt-out-opt-in-opt-out. Are you getting sleepy yet?"

I just love these "translation" things.

Translation: All Things Digital does such a great job pounding Facebook, I should just go back to hating Microsoft.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Developer's Guide - Google Chart API - Google Code

Suddenly this week, Google is kicking ass. Hey copy-cat department over at Microsoft: Time to get back to work. We expect to see these features in Windows Live by Monday!

The Dr. Seuss Jumble: Naming Web Sites - New York Times

"These startups think that these names will stick in our minds because they're so offbeat, but they're wrong. Actually, all those twentysomething entrepreneurs are ensuring that we won't remember them. Those names all blend together into a Dr. Seuss 2.0 jumble.

So little imagination is on display nowadays, you could create an algorithm that spews out comparable domain names with the click of a button." : Male Dolphins Woo With Gifts

"A pair of scientists say new findings that document male Amazon river dolphins carrying objects like weeds or sticks in a bid to lure female mates is evidence of behavior once believed to be the exclusive preserve of primates, says New Scientist."

Weeds and sticks? Once again dolphins prove themselves smarter than humans (the male ones anyway).

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

FORTUNE: Techland RIP Facebook? �

"It could have all been avoided with a smart adult running things. Facebook has no old hands in its corner, no advisers to tell the kids how to behave. Netscape had its Jim Barksdale, Google (GOOG) its Eric Schmidt. This company has no one babysitting it. And watching it now is like watching an unattended child play with a pack of matches in a wooden house. "

And the Zuckerberg-Bashing Begins… | BoomTown | Kara Swisher | AllThingsD

"The mainstream media and blogosphere, which recently were feting him, have now turned and ire has been growing over Beacon, which seems to be focusing everyone on the inexperience of Zuckerberg and the challenges facing Facebook."

YouTube - Lifted

Here Comes Another Bubble! | BoomTown | Kara Swisher | AllThingsD

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Wedding Anniversary:

Ed was in trouble. He forgot his wedding anniversary. His wife was REALLY angry.

She told him, "Tomorrow morning I expect to find a gift in the driveway that goes from 0 to 200 in less then 6 seconds AND IT BETTER BE THERE!!"

The next morning Ed got up early and left for work. When his wife woke up she looked out the window and sure enough there was a box gift-wrapped in the middle of the driveway. Confused, the wife put on her robe and ran out to the driveway, and brought the box back in the house.

She opened it and found a brand new bathroom scale.

Ed has been missing since Friday.

Please pray for him.

Coke Is Holding Off on Sipping Facebooks Beacon - Bits - Technology - New York Times Blog

"Matt Hicks, a Facebook spokesman, said Mr. Zuckerberg had meant that users would be given the opportunity to opt out of having information sent out by Beacon, and the company had assumed that anyone who didn’t say no meant yes. Even though the company changed that policy last night, it may find more marketers who had said yes to Beacon saying they really meant no."

Teddy Bear Case Exposes Failure of American Feminist Leaders - Opinion

As an authentic feminist, my work has always been based in the belief that America, and American women especially, have a responsibility to help women internationally achieve their freedom. Our financial power is key, but so are our voices. Civil rights organizations rightly speak of the power of "advocacy" — the act of speaking up for people who are unable to speak for themselves.

Calling attention to abuse, violence and oppression is something the left claims it does, but these days they’re more than willing to throw those who need our voices under the bus. Their obsession is to make sure the leftist false construct of an evil George Bush and oppressive United States won’t be eclipsed by the truth — the truth of a world where our enemy targets women on a daily basis for terror, torture, oppression and murder as our troops risk and give their lives to banish that horror from the lives of tens of millions.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Value of e-mail, a Holiday Story

Got this from a friend the other day, thought it was insightful:

An unemployed man is desperate to support his family of a wife and three kids.

He applies for a janitor's job at a large firm and easily passes an aptitude test.

The human resources manager tells him, "You will be hired at minimum wage of $5.35 an hour. Let me have your e-mail address so that we can get you in the loop. Our system will automatically e-mail you all the forms and advise you when to start and where to report on your first day."

Taken back, the man protests that he is poor and has neither a computer nor an e-mail address.

To this the manager replies, "You must understand that to a company like ours that means that you virtually do not exist. Without an e-mail address you can hardly expect to be employed by a high-tech firm. Good day."

Stunned, the man leaves not knowing where to turn and having $10 in his wallet, he walks past a farmers' market and sees a stand selling 25 lb. crates of beautiful red tomatoes. He buys a crate, carries it to a busy corner and displays the tomatoes. In less than 2 hours he sells all the tomatoes and makes 100% profit. Repeating the process several times more that day, he ends up with almost $100 and arrives home that night with several bags of groceries for his family.

During the night he decides to repeat the tomato business the next day. By the end of the week he is getting up early every day and working into the night. He multiplies his profits quickly.

Early in the second week he acquires a cart to transport several boxes of tomatoes at a time, but before a month is up he sells the cart to buy a broken-down pickup truck.

At the end of a year he owns three old trucks. His two sons have left their neighborhood gangs to help him with the tomato business, his wife is buying the tomatoes, and his daughter is taking night courses at the community college so she can keep books for him.

By the end of the second year he has a dozen very nice used trucks and employs fifteen previously unemployed people, all selling tomatoes. He continues to work hard.

Time passes and at the end of the fifth year he owns a fleet of nice trucks and a warehouse that his wife supervises, plus two tomato farms that the boys manage. The tomato company's payroll has put hundreds of homeless and jobless people to work. His daughter reports that the business grossed over one million dollars.

Planning for the future, he decides to buy some life insurance. Consulting with an insurance adviser, he picks an insurance plan to fit his new circumstances. Then the adviser asks him for his e-mail address in order to send the final documents electronically.

When the man replies that he doesn't have time to mess with a computer and has no e-mail address, the insurance man is stunned,"What, you don't have e-mail? No computer? No Internet? Just think where you would be today if you'd had all of that five years ago!"

"Ha!" snorts the man. "If I'd had e-mail five years ago I would be sweeping floors at Microsoft and making $5.35 an hour."

Which brings us to the moral of the story:

Since you got this story by e-mail, you're probably closer to being a janitor than a millionaire.

Sadly, I received it also.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Things That are Not What They Seem

"The Absence of Character

We are witness to a national trait of never accepting any culpability when it matters, and then when it does not, blaming one’s successors. Neither Richard Clark nor Michael Scheuer could find bin Laden or the 9/11 terrorists before they struck. Both blamed each other, their respective agencies, the Bush administration, and almost everyone else but themselves. Then in retirement they cashed in with books, became the darlings of the Left and provided a blueprint for others. Now Gen. Sanchez claims we can’t win and must leave—voiced in his service to election-cycle Democrats. But, of course, the insurgency took off under his tenure, even as he assured us in sworn testimony before Congress that we had enough troops, the right tactics, and things were improving under his watch. Was he not truthful then, or now, or both?"

Republicans Report Much Better Mental Health Than Others

Of course!

Being right is extremely gratifying.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Doug Morris: The world's stupidest recording exec, in easy-to-read comics format

I think this comic is going to be a classic.

"Bears with chainsaws for hands" cracks me up every time I read it (and I had to go check to make sure he didn't actually say that).

PopularityDialer Goes Offline - New York Times

"It gets weirder. When Ms. Chowdhury and Mr. Forsyth contacted the F.C.C. to get an explanation for the citation, the F.C.C. minion who responded was equally baffled. 'I don't see how a Web site falls within the jurisdiction of the F.C.C. or how it would cause T.C.P.A. violations,' went the reply. 'We would not give any advice on how to legally continue the operation of your business. That would have to come from your own attorney.'

So let me get this straight: The same F.C.C. that sent the citation has no idea why it sent the citation?"

That sort of sounds like my experience with the Feds. I had to hire someone to intervene.

How Your Creepy Ex-Co-Workers Will Kill Facebook

Keeping track of our social relationships is a serious piece of work that runs a heavy cognitive load. It's natural to seek out some neural prosthesis for assistance in this chore. My fiancee once proposed a "social scheduling" application that would watch your phone and email and IM to figure out who your pals were and give you a little alert if too much time passed without your reaching out to say hello and keep the coals of your relationship aglow. By the time you've reached your forties, chances are you're out-of-touch with more friends than you're in-touch with: Old summer-camp chums, high-school mates, ex-spouses and their families, former co-workers, college roomies, dot-com veterans... Getting all those people back into your life is a full-time job and then some.

You'd think that Facebook would be the perfect tool for handling all this. It's not. For every long-lost chum who reaches out to me on Facebook, there's a guy who beat me up on a weekly basis through the whole seventh grade but now wants to be my buddy; or the crazy person who was fun in college but is now kind of sad; or the creepy ex-co-worker who I'd cross the street to avoid but who now wants to know, "Am I your friend?" yes or no, this instant, please.

Google Immortal

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Verizon Wireless to Offer Open Access to Network -

"In a major break with industry practice, Verizon Wireless said it will allow consumers to use any compatible cellphone on its network and allow open access to the Web and third-party applications."

Do Not Read This If You Are Anti-Nuclear Energy - Freakonomics - Opinion - New York Times Blog

"In other words, even if you end up pro-nuke, you can still find something to blame on nuclear industry. (I have always found this argument shaky, especially when put forth by journalists: that the nuclear industry didn’t tell its own story well. When a besieged industry does “tell its own story well,” it is said to be manipulating the media; and when it doesn’t, it’s not the media that’s at fault, but the industry itself.)"

Google Plans Service to Store Users' Data -

"Google is preparing a service that would let users store on its computers essentially all of the files they might keep on their personal-computer hard drives -- such as word-processing documents, digital music, video clips and images, say people familiar with the matter. The service could let users access their files via the Internet from different computers and mobile devices when they sign on with a password, and share them online with friends. It could be released as early as a few months from now, one of the people said."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Q&A: Talking with Stephen King - TIME

HT: Google Blogscoped

I think there ought to be some serious discussion by smart people, really smart people, about whether or not proliferation of things like The Smoking Gun and TMZ and YouTube and the whole celebrity culture is healthy. We've switched from a culture that was interested in manufacturing, economics, politics — trying to play a serious part in the world — to a culture that's really entertainment-based. I mean, I know people who can tell you who won the last four seasons on American Idol and they don't know who their f------ Representatives are.

I don't know if Mr. King intended this as a criticism of Google so much as modern media culture, i.e. what is being produced as opposed to what is being hosted.

Contrast with cable TV, which provided much more in the way of educational content such as History Channel etc, while at the same time producing an explosion of mindless entertainment programming. The difference is that with cable, if times get hard, they'll keep the programming that pays the bills and jettison the intellectual stuff.

I don't see Google (or Youtube) as being in this position, unless they change significantly. They host whatever anyone wants to put out there and search for it as well. If I want news on the "DC tax scandal" I don't have to see anything else in the process of looking for it. I don't have to visit the front page of the newspapers and magazines that might carry this story. Google has given us that and the capability is not well understood by people like Mr. King.

Also not understood by Mr. King (who after all is wealthy as a results of our entertainment oriented culture) is that parents who don't take an active part in their children's development are going to raise imbeciles (functionally, regardless of their IQ). Unfortunately in that regard the damage is done, and even if we were to reverse course now (doubtful) it would take 20 years or more to see the difference.

We've made our bed and now have to sleep in it. Google can hardly be blamed.

Coding error to blame for DHS award to Chenega

"An agency of the Homeland Security Department improperly awarded a 10-year, $475 million sole-source contract in 2003 to the Alaskan Native firm Chenega Technology Services Corp., according to a new report from the department’s inspector general."

Doesn't exactly sound like thy have any plans to correct the error either. Typical. Your money at "work".

Of course it could be worse. Yes it could. No member of the DC government was involved in spotting the millions of tax dollars embezzled there, it was a lowly private bank teller who thought something seemed fishy. Maybe one day voters will wake up too. You think?

A $160,000 Bentley, a $26,000 designer handbag, more than 40 fake government tax-refund checks averaging a staggering $388,000 apiece and $1.4 million in Neiman Marcus luxury items. These are some of the gaudier details of the $20 million tax scam inside the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Apple: Zune outselling iPod on Amazon

When you've nailed the analysis, I can't think of any reason not to brag about it (quoting myself):

I imagine it has a lot to do with Apple not allowing retailers of their products to compete with one another on price.

If I'm going to buy an Apple product online I might as well buy it from Apple where it can often have it monogrammed and gift wrapped for free. If you could get them significantly cheaper at Amazon I'm sure they would be selling more of them.

Add to that the fact (I think) that you can ONLY buy a Zune from retailers, not directly from Microsoft:

and I really don't think there is any validity to this comparison.

I do think though that Apple's lead in this area will die a slow death unless they do something new to differentiate themselves. At the volume the innards for these things are being cranked out by whatever godforsaken country they are coming from, there is just no way for any US "maker" to claim a leadership position.

They are positioning themselves as a general purpose upscale consumer electronic company (some might call this painting themselves into a corner).

Keep an eye out for the iBeam (a small white radar detector that once you're stopped will actually try and talk the officer out of giving you a ticket), the iContact, a knobless no-moving-parts stereo entertainment center that you control by staring at various parts of it and the iCUP for which no product details have been, uh, leaked.

Thompson to DHS: Give small biz a chance

Quick fix #587:
"Small businesses are more flexible than large contractors and can react more quickly to change, said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) at a Nov. 15 breakfast hosted by Crowell and Moring."

Quick fix #1: Get rid of federal managers who fail to acheive their goals (or any goals). The rest will take care of itself.

I wonder if they'll ever try it?

Server Too Busy, Laptops Broken, No Light at End of Tunnel

Server Too Busy: "Server Error in '/' Application. Server Too Busy Description: An unhandled exception occurred during the execution of the current web request. Please review the stack trace for more information about the error and where it originated in the code. Exception Details: System.Web.HttpException: Server Too Busy Source Error: An unhandled exception was generated during the execution of the current web request. Information regarding the origin and location of the exception can be identified using the exception stack trace below. Stack Trace: [HttpException (0x80004005): Server Too Busy] System.Web.HttpRuntime.RejectRequestInternal(HttpWorkerRequest wr) 148 Version Information: Microsoft .NET Framework Version:1.1.4322.2407; ASP.NET Version:1.1.4322.2407"

You DON'T always get what you pay for.

When in doubt:

Buy TWO of them!

#6: Way to turn this into an Apple ad.

Man: My Apple computer is so unreliable I had to buy two of them!

Other Man: That's nothing. My Windows Computer is so unreliable I had to buy THREE of them! Uphill!!

Or something.

If we were talking step ladders or x-ray machines, there would be companies out of business, and executives in the un-employment line. Only a career in modern high-tech can make selling cigarettes seem a noble way to make a living.

More news of updates that don't fix anything.

"boot from sleep mode" is an oxymoron.

If you had a computer fast enough to make possible actually booting Windows in a few seconds it would go to work for you while you lay around and watch videos all day.

There will never be such a thing. Microsoft's job is to make systems that are progressively slower so that you need to buy more hardware.

Intel's job is to make hardware that is progressively more complex so that you need to buy more software.

Whether they have a written or verbal agreement or just communicate with nods and winks across the card table doesn't matter. They'll play the winning strategy as long as consumers are dumb enough to keep falling for it.

Don't any of you ever get it?

GAO Flunks SEC's Internal Controls - -

"The GAO's report said that data related to accounts receivable balances is processed manually at the SEC in a manner that is prone to error and could result in inaccurate financial reporting by the agency. The news is a blow to the SEC, which was criticized by the GAO in 2006 for the same manual processes, but narrowly avoided a material weakness by putting in place extra controls to compensate for them. The GAO said those controls were not effective in 2007."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Google admits to cracking Facebook private data

"It's not that Facebook disapproves of targeting ads to its users' private data. It just disapproves of Google doing it."

Kindle: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device

"Three years ago, we set out to design and build an entirely new class of device—a convenient, portable reading device with the ability to wirelessly download books, blogs, magazines, and newspapers. The result is Amazon Kindle."

Open Source Mathematical Software

From PDF file at link:
Open source software, such as TEX, Mozilla Firefox, and Linux has had a profound effect on computing during the last decade, and we hope that open source mathematical software will have a similar positive impact on mathematics.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Media Matters: Inside the Media Matters, Clinton, Obama Love Triangle

"Or! Playing white knight to Obama's distressed damsel could just be a ploy to handily distract people from asking any more uncomfortable questions about the lefty group's alleged angel investor, Senator Hillary Clinton, who acknowledged helping to fund the site at this year's YearlyKos convention. "

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Nokia 810 Fan Video

Boston Review — Pious Populist

"In truth the only solution to the “Iran Problem”—from the nuclear question to Iran’s regional support for Islamist groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah—is for the century-old dream of democracy to become a reality. Ahmadinejad is fully aware of this danger and has done everything to forestall democratic change. Since taking office, he has closed virtually every opposition paper, stepped up censorship of films and books, attempted to dismantle the student movement and suppress the embryonic labor union movement, and tried to intimidate Iranian women who were beginning to find a public voice."

Friday, November 16, 2007

OpenWorld: 1,500 companies adopt Oracle Unbreakable Linux

"The number of customers is impressively greater than the number Oracle announced six months ago: 26. And that was with 'virtually no selling at all' of Unbreakable Linux, CEO Larry Ellison bragged during his keynote speech at Oracle's OpenWorld 2007 conference. 'We did all of this while just building up our Linux sales team,' he said. Unbreakable Linux includes enterprise support for applications running on either Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) or Oracle's close clone, all at half the price of Red Hat Inc.'s offering."

Considering Oracles entire data center operation converted over to Linux years ago, and last time I checked it was their development platform, why would anyone in their right minds (that excludes my former employers within the federal government) want to run a dedicated Oracle server on Windows?

Maybe I answered my own question there.

Katie Couric imitates Dan Rather on YouTube video clip

If I still watched TV, I might be watching Katie. But just for the cute of it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

One Post per Blog

I recently decided to do all my blogging here. So much simpler. Hardest part will be making sure I have a back-up of some sort (Google still doesn't provide a true back-up for archival purposes as far as I know) for the blogs that will eventually be dropped.

But I have it easy. Some people have apparently taken the opposite tack of posting one or two items and then just moving on to another blog, another name, another profile entry. (Didn't there use to be a five blog limit per user?) It almost looks like domain name squatting, or an amateurish SEO effort.

As an early user of most things Google, I've always, or almost always, been able to pick the name I wanted for things. Not true at AOL where I was very late to the party and had to look for a name that included numbers, or special characters so as not to be unbearably long and hard to remember. Fortunately I don't use AOL for much (IM) and even that less and less as time goes on.

But we may be approaching a time when all the "good" names are used up within the Google name space, and possibly by people who, for whatever reason, aren't really making such good use of those names. I wonder what, if anything they (Google) will do about it, and whether they have considered the impression this makes on potential new users who will have to call their blog something like "J4n3ts Blog". | Queen Hillary's disruptive court

"But Hillary's performance at prior debates was never as deft or 'flawless' as the media claimed in the first place. Conventional wisdom has now flipped, and the air-headed lemmings of our free press have turned on a dime and are stampeding in the opposite direction. This is the same crew who passively swallowed administration propaganda about the urgency of an invasion of Iraq. Don't ask for critical acumen from this lot."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Student describes how she became a Clinton plant -

The college student who was told what question to ask at one of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign events says "voters have the right to know what happened" and she wasn't the only one who was planted.

Stefano's Linotype ~ Dalvik: how Google routed around Sun's IP-based licensing restrictions on Java ME

"So, here we are: Apple makes the iPhone, incredibly sweet, slick and game-changing and yet incredibly locked. Google makes Android and not only unlocks development abilities on the mobile phone but also unlocks millions of potential Java mobile programmers from Sun's grip on it.

Plus, they're targeting 3G phones, not the crappy 2.5G that the iPhone supports now.

Screw the iPhone and screw Java ME with all its profiles, midlets and the stupid requirement to crypto-sign your application to run on your own phone: I can hardly wait to get my hands on hardware that can run Android... and if they can't support multi-touch out of the box because Apple owns patents on it, I'll download the patch that enables it from a country where such nonsense doesn't apply."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Facebook Unveils Social (Class) Actions? | Digital Daily | John Paczkowski | AllThingsD

Nothing new but...
“It seems as though Facebook might be assuming that if a person talks about a product, then he or she consents to being used in an advertisement for it,” Solove writes. “But such an assumption might be wrong, and the use of a person’s name or image in an advertisement without that person’s consent might constitute a violation of the appropriation of name or likeness tort. …

Thursday, November 08, 2007 Hillary's High-Stepping

FactCheck has always struck me as left-leaning, both in their analysis and in what they often choose to analyze (and what they don't), but now they seem to be to the point of debating what the meaning of the word "is" is. Maybe it has something to do with the company they keep. Canceling my subscription.

Rough Type: Nicholas Carr's Blog: The social graft

"Once every hundred years media changes," boy-coder turned big-thinker Mark Zuckerberg declared today at the Facebook Social Advertising Event in New York City. And it's true.

Hilarious. Must-read. I won't spoil it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Astronomers find system with five planets | Reuters

"This discovery of the first-ever quintuple planetary system has me jumping out of my socks," Marcy added. "We now know that our sun and its family of planets is not unusual."

Pajamas Media: Ask Dr. Helen: Should Men Get Married?

"When things become less attractive to people, they are less likely to do it. If society wants men to be involved more in marriage, marriage has to be more attractive to them–it is getting riskier and more expensive for men to be married. It’s not surprising fewer of them are interested."

And You Should Be Left Alone to Run the Internet as You See Fit, Why? | Digital Daily | John Paczkowski | AllThingsD

"Verizon’s Advanced Web Search service was, in the words of the company, “designed to help you quickly find the destination Web site you were seeking.” But apparently that’s true only if the destination site you’re seeking happens to be Verizon’s own search-engine page."
Not to mention that this whole thing is in conjunction with Yahoo, one of my least favorites. But for some reason, WSJ properties speak no evil of that company.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Google Phone - New York Times

The company refuses to comment on the Google Phone, but Mr. Rubin’s responsibilities, as well as recent leaks from the as-yet-unannounced alliance that Google is building to develop the software, indicate that the company plans to do more than merely develop an operating system for cellular phones: it plans to muscle its way into the center of the business at a time when people worldwide are searching the Web from just about anywhere they happen to be.

Leopard Has More Holes than Spots

"'Only Apple can explain what precisely is going on here,' Schmidt wrote with regards to the firewall's failure to prevent a test service from starting that was initiated by the user and could well have been a Trojan. Perhaps Apple could explain, but the company chooses not to."

As usual.

Nerdspotting: Retrofuturist builds "steampunk" laptop

Friday, November 02, 2007

Thursday, November 01, 2007

First OpenSocial Screencast and Screenshots at

MySpace Joins the Google OpenSocial Team - Bits - Technology - New York Times Blog

The OpenSocial effort is designed to allow third-party developers to create one set of programs that work across many of the Web’s most popular social networks, including LinkedIn, Friendster, Hi5, Bebo, and now MySpace.

I think what this shows is that while end-users (webtards that they are) pay very little attention to privacy issues,lock-in, and so on, modern technology companies are realizing the value of ganging up on the leader much earlier than they have in the past, particularly when that leader shows signs of attempting a lock-in maneuver.

This will get great kudos from idealists such as me, but will it be enough to head off a Microsoft-like takeover of the Internet?

Yeah, prolly. Especially as the whole do-everything-using-Facebook experience sucks pretty bad anyway.

World's Smallest Radio Fits in the Palm of the Hand . . . of an Ant - US NSF

Functional across a bandwidth widely used for commercial radio, the tiny device could have applications far beyond novelty, from radio-controlled devices that could flow in the human bloodstream to highly efficient, miniscule, cell phone devices.

To Marketing types: Better watch your step from now on, and be careful as you cut the grass this week. Those are potential customers down there!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Google and Friends to Gang Up on Facebook - New York Times

“It is going to forestall Facebook’s ability to get everyone writing just for Facebook,” said a person with knowledge of the plans who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the alliance. The group’s platform, which is called OpenSocial, is “compatible across all the companies,” that person said.

“Facebook got the jump by announcing the Facebook platform and getting the traction they got. This is an open alternative to that,” the person also said.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

More on Google Phone

"After opposing Google Inc.'s moves to dramatically reshape the wireless industry, Verizon Wireless is now in serious discussions with the Internet company over carrying phones tailored to a new Google operating system, a person familiar with the discussions said."

Can Google-Powered Phones Connect With Carriers? -

And as usual Microsoft respondents are FOS, and short on imagination:

"Microsoft executives question what impact Google will have. 'The idea that there are all these things software developers can't do -- it's just not true,' said John O'Rourke, general manager of Microsoft's Windows Mobile unit said. 'It's hard to imagine what huge breakthroughs [Google] is going to have.'"

My Sprint "powered" phone allows me to access the Internet "without limits", except that only applications that Sprint approves of can make use of location data within the phone. When I use the provided utility to look for application for the phone I only see applications from Sprint or "affiliates" and the applications either cost money, or operate in some sort of "trial" mode. I'm free, of course to download Google applications that do as much or more, but, oh what is this? The pop-up that allows applications to access cell phone location data is grayed out for Google maps. Fancy that.

For someone working at Microsoft though, limiting options available to your competitors is as unnoticeable as the air we breath. As wispy thin as the atmosphere of "innovation" within the company. Nope, I'm sure you can't imagine what huge breakthroughs they might have, I think that's been demonstrated already.

Your Privacy Is An Illusion: Why Facebook employees are profiling users

"What happens when you put twentysomethings in charge of a company with vast amounts of private information? Sheer madcap chaos, of course. Not to mention abuses of power. And that's what seems to be happening at Facebook."

Great Moments In Public Relations: Facebook calls reporter's question "harassing"

Monday, October 29, 2007

Facebook's New Hiring Hurdle? -

"In Facebook's case, its new value for the purpose of issuing options 'isn't going to be $15 billion,' Mr. Timmins says. 'But it's going to be higher than it was before.'"

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Microsoft sees progress in getting Windows on XO | Technology | Reuters

"The world's largest software company is now working to adapt a basic version of Windows XP so it is compatible with the nonprofit One Laptop per Child Foundation's small green-and-white XO laptop. 'We're spending a nontrivial amount of money on it,' Microsoft Corporate Vice President Will Poole said in an interview on Thursday."

Oh cry me a bucket-o-tears.

Why not trim down Vista. After all, half the new features were removed from it before release anyway.

As The Consumerist puts it: "as if impoverished children don't already suffer enough"

YouTube - The Day The Routers Died...

Very good one:

Link from Valleywag.

Scoop: Facebook employees know what profiles you look at

"Well, Facebook's privacy policy doesn't explicitly reserve or waive employees' right to check out your profile for any reason. Of course, the practice still reeks of skunkery -- it's one thing to check profiles in the course of business, but these people are looking up records for kicks. "

I can't think of any other service that when you cancel your account promises to keep it around for a later re-activation. Most such systems in fact promise to delete your data and make it clear that you can't ever get it back. Seems to me like this latter approach is what most people would want and expect.

There really doesn't seem to be a whole lot of "Do no evil" in Facebook's design. Maybe that had something to do with who's money they decided to take.

Indian River Inlet Bridge Project Flushes Millions Down The Toilet

To remind us that not ALL wastefulness, fraud, deceit and excuse-making happens at the federal level:
According to Cole, the state expects to announce the new bidding process for the project “within a month,” and the contract to be awarded “within a year.” Construction on the new bridge should begin shortly after that. And to answer a question that has been posed on the air a few times, whatever bridge ends up being built should work just fine with the new approaches.

A statement that soon proved to be formed from the atmosphere of interplanetary space.

FEMA Workers Play Role of Reporters

As hard as the previous story is to believe, this may be even worse:
"WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House scolded the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Friday for staging a phony news conference about assistance to victims of wildfires in southern California. The agency—much maligned for its sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina over two years ago—arranged to have FEMA employees play the part of independent reporters Tuesday and ask questions of Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the agency's deputy director."

Can't we just fire everybody and start over?

TPMmuckraker | Talking Points Memo | D'Oh: House Panel Screw-Up Reveals Whistleblower Email Addresses

Link from Slashdot.

This is hilarious.

On Slashdot they are arguing over whether Dems or Reps are more likely to experience such a snafu.

Correct answer: both equally

If the actual error was made by a contractor, there is a good chance someone will lose their job or at least get shuffled to a position where they can do no further harm. Not so with government jobs.

Believe what you will about the motives for each political party, but doesn't this make the case for smaller government?

But in an email sent out today, the committee inadvertently sent the email addresses of all the would-be whistleblowers to everyone who had written in to the tipline. The committee email was sent to tipsters who had used the website form, including presumably whistleblowers themselves, and all of the recipients of the email were accidentally included in the "to:" field -- instead of concealing those addresses with a so-called blind carbon copy or "bcc:".

And then there is this:
Compounding the mistake, the committee later sent out a second email attempting to recall the original email; it, too, included all recipients in the "to:" field, according to a recipient of the emails.

A committee spokesperson emailed the following statement in response to TPMmuckraker's questions:

The tip line was created to be a confidential method for Justice Department employees to provide the Judiciary Committee with information that might aid the Committee in its ongoing investigation of politicization at the Justice Department. Because of the confidentiality agreement, the Committee will not discuss any emails sent on this tip line. A technological error in a recent communication inadvertently disclosed certain email addresses.

"A technological error"???

Sounds like the inmates of the asylum have nothing to worry about.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Science and Public Policy Institute - 35 Inconvenient Truths: The errors in Al Gore’s movie

Al Gore’s spokesman and “environment advisor,” Ms. Kalee Kreider, begins by saying that the film presented “thousands and thousands of facts.” It did not: just 2,000 “facts” in 93 minutes would have been one fact every three seconds. The film contained only a few dozen points, most of which will be seen to have been substantially inaccurate. The judge concentrated only on nine points which even the UK Government, to which Gore is a climate-change advisor, had to admit did not represent mainstream scientific opinion.

And so on.

Organised crime goes to the top in online attacks

"'Social networks are being plundered,' he says. 'Facebook and MySpace aren't just a productivity nightmare, they are also a goldmine of data for the bad guys. They can profile a company structure using LinkedIn, get personal details from MySpace and Facebook, and use that data to construct a targeted attack."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Notable & Quotable -

"For example, I suppose CNN did not announce two weeks ago when the Antarctic sea ice extent reached its all-time maximum, even though, in the Arctic in the North Pole, it reached its all-time minimum."

No, I 'spose they didn't.

Slashdot | Comet Unexpectedly Brightens a Millionfold


Microsoft Watch - Messaging & Collaboration - What Microsoft Gets from Facebook

"Problem: There's some crazy popular concept that social networking is something new. Online communities, such as bulletin boards, IRC or newsgroups long predate the World Wide Web. Operations like Facebook and MySpace are merely the newest incarnations of online community, and they are by no means the be-all, end-all social watering holes."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

For anyone who needs a picture:

Open API
Walled Garden
Linux, Apache
Microsoft, Yahoo, and most other web properties,
iPhone, iEverythingelse, iEtc.

Let Buyer Beware!

Microsoft Inks Deal with Facebook -

"The Microsoft agreement comes after intense lobbying by Microsoft and Google Inc. for Facebook's hand. In recent weeks executives including Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer have courted the three-year-old Palo Alto, Calif. company, which this year expects a profit of $30 million on revenue of $150 million, according to people familiar with the company."

Bad news for Facebook users and developers who will find the lock-in that pervades anything MS touches will eventually lock them out. Why FB management would rather not do business with Google is a mystery. Oh wait, they are only interested in money, and may actually take delight in screwing users. That would explain it.

What's the REAL reason they only want REAL names? Because to allow anything else will subvert their advertising plans (such as they are). Eventually using Facebook without giving up your life story will not be practical. Wait and see.

Getting Started with IMAP for Gmail

"Q: How much does IMAP cost?

A: IMAP for Gmail is free."

Yahoo? Microsoft? Anybody home?

Ibm: IBM patents way to make money on patents


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Facebook bug dishes out notes designated private | The Register

Acquisition reform proves slow-going, panelists say

"WILLIAMSBURG, VA. – After about 15 years of efforts to reform federal procurement through different types of contracts and different ways of thinking about acquisition, the government has not made as much progress as advocates of change would like, according to members of a panel who spoke today at the Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, Va. "

The Associated Press: Lawsuit Targets Facebook Mobile Texting

"SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The popular online social network Facebook Inc. is being sued by an Indiana woman who alleges it has profited from its members sending thousands of unauthorized text messages to mobile phone users whose numbers previously belonged to other people."

Link via Valleywag

Monday, October 22, 2007

San Diego County Fires, Oct. 22, 2007

Works and Days: The Current Scene

It makes no sense to condemn Turkey for its forefathers’ crimes, but then do nothing about ongoing slaughter from the Congo to Rwanda—much less unilaterally to withdraw abruptly from Iraq, when we know our departure would unleash massive violence against civilians worse than we have seen heretofore in the war.

Either the Pelosi gambit is to be seen as a way to stop the Iraqi war by cutting off our supplies through Turkey, or simply a ‘all politics are local’ pandering to domestic constituencies, or both, or proof (if proof were needed after her visit to the assassination-mind Bashar Assad) of her inexperience and ineptitude.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Victory Is Within Reach in Iraq -

The Turkish Front -

"The ructions over the House's foray into Ottoman history and Turkey's threat to invade northern Iraq don't look good. But clear-eyed leaders will spot an opportunity in this crisis to renew an alliance for this difficult new era. American and Turkish interests overlap, and the countries need each other as much as they did during the Cold War."

Meanwhile, with uncanny timing, Congressional Democrats this week were about to stick a finger in Turkey's eye. Whether the massacres of up to 1.5 million Armenians in eastern Anatolia in 1915 constitute "genocide," as a nonbinding House resolution declares, is a matter for historians. In the here and now, the resolution would erode America's influence with Ankara and endanger the U.S. effort in Iraq. Worse, Mr. Erdogan's ability to work with Washington would be constrained by an anti-American backlash.

Is there really any doubt whether this was simply ineptitude on the part of feel-good Dems, or a deliberate attempt to sabotage US foreign policy in preparation for 2008?

And does it matter which?

My Way News - Indian Immigrants' Son New La. Governor

"Political analysts said Jindal built up support as a sort of 'buyer's remorse' from people who voted for Blanco last time and had second thoughts about that decision. Blanco was widely criticized for the state's response to Hurricane Katrina and she announced months ago that she would not seek re-election."

Comcast Is Pretending to be You | Susan Crawford blog

"Like the Verizon/NARAL flap and the Pearl Jam escapade, here’s another story about currently-legal action, permitted under someone’s elaborately-walled Terms of Service, that interferes with basic communications. Comcast will say “we’re not blocking.” But they’re degrading, prioritizing, and filtering, without telling users. And they’re planning to do much more of this."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Pelosi Makes Political Misstep in Reversal on Armenian Genocide

"Since then, Pelosi, 67, has been in retreat. Her vow to bring the measure to a vote outraged Turkey, which recalled its ambassador and threatened to cut off the use of its military bases to resupply U.S. troops in Iraq. On Oct. 17, Pelosi said it ``remains to be seen'' whether the vote would occur after more than a dozen lawmakers pulled their names from the measure and some Democrats asked her to drop it."

In another day and age, trying to usurp a foreign policy by such means would have been considered treason. Pay attention to those who signed on for this. Subsequent withdrawals after assessing the fallout don't count.

A Blog For All: Dishonesty in Action: Media Coverage of Limbaugh's Auction

It's absolutely reprehensible that the media does this, but since the editors in those outlets aren't injecting objectivity into these articles, it goes to their overall bias against all things on the right side of the political spectrum. And unless consumers of these media outlets know any better, or read more than the headlines, they wouldn't understand how in the tank these outlets are for the Democrats and how those 41 Senators used and abused their position of power to try and silence a private citizen.

My Way News - Hollywood Union Authorized to Strike

"'Writers do not want to strike, but they are resolute and prepared to take strong, united action to defend our interests,' guild President Patric Verrone said in a news release. 'What we must have is a contract that gives us the ability to keep up with the financial success of this ever-expanding global industry.'"

I have an idea: Go on strike, bring all Hollywood production to a halt, and um, leave it that way. The world will be a better place. Now go out and get real jobs.

PS: I don't have any better attitude about the "industry" of which I was a part, you know, the one that lately is producing such time wasters as Facebook, Twitter, and even Blogger for that matter.

San Francisco "artists" shake down Google

MSFTextrememakeover: What if Microsoft wasn't a screwup?


I admit that I'm no fan of Microsoft generally. I think their monopoly position (legal or otherwise) is not good for the country, and not good for businesses that have developed a dependence on it.

On the other hand I don't hate the company because they are rich as I've never held similar antipathies for IBM, or more recently Google. I think it has to do with HOW you compete, whether it has to do with the pure merit of a product versus some gimmick (EG: even new web based tools from MS almost never work with Firefox at the outset, if ever).

Given all of that, I'd have no problems if the company truly reinvented itself (what ever happened about that grand entry into the consulting business?) or voluntarily split itself up into independent companies or divisions that could work honestly with other companies (enough of this "co-optition" nonsense that the company BRAGS about).

But can any of this happen with Ballmer in charge? In two years I haven't seen an article anywhere (outside of MS) quoting him with anything but derision.

Is there any way, with any other company that this man would still be in charge were he not a "Friend of Bill"?

Is the board so much composed of spineless yes-men that they don't have the nerve to say ENOUGH!?

It would seem so.

As a investor, beyond evaluating a company's present position, don't you need to evaluate the abilities of the Chairman, CEO, AND the board itself in navigating uncharted waters? Maybe investors are doing just that.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Taking a Whack Against Comcast -

"This was the company that has had consumer service problems serious enough to prompt the trade magazine Advertising Age to editorialize that Comcast and other cable providers should spend less on advertising and more on customer service. And has spawned a blog called that's filled with posts from angry customers."

Comcast blocks some Internet traffic - Online World -

"Comcast's interference, on the other hand, appears to be an aggressive way of managing its network to keep file-sharing traffic from swallowing too much bandwidth and affecting the Internet speeds of other subscribers."

Time to start using some of that dark fiber maybe? Or does Google own it all yet?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

EBay's Founder Bets on 'Participatory Media'

"By contrast, in Mr. Omidyar's world, it may not be possible anymore to turn a profit from old-fashioned news gathering. As a philanthropic gesture, he is helping fund the Sunlight Foundation, which seeks fuller disclosure of government documents. The Omidyar Network also is funding some nonprofit media enterprises, such as Common Sense Media Inc., which invites users to rate movies, videogames and the like for family suitability."

Yahoo pings, but don't sing

I recently read an article somewhere comparing the various free web-based e-mail systems (I think) that spoke about how reliable Yahoo was.

I think I made a comment to who whoever posted it that while Yahoo might handle ping requests (the only method being used to monitor "uptime" for the various systems) it often was in one failure mode or another for me that had nothing to do with pinging.

Today was a good example. First of all I don't check my yahoo mail frequently any more because it has become a spam magnet and Yahoo's spam detector seems to be a random number generator, sending about 25 percent of the obviously spam messages to my inbox, while sending about 25 percent of the precious few real e-mail messages I get on Yahoo to the spam box.

But today I decided to check, and after waiting for server (I think I've been on ole 309 for a few years now... why does only Yahoo need to reveal all sort of internal information about what server your mail is hosted on, oh, that's right MSN does the same thing don't they? ... I got this message:

Connection Timed Out

But I was persistent and after an hour or so got in long enough to get my Outlook-like interface of the new Yahoo mail long enough to actually click on a message I wanted to see. Instead I got this:

We're sorry, but there appears to be a problem loading the message "Lulu Ink! October 2007". Click here to try again

I tried again, and again.

Finally, I decided to see if I could switch some options on or off to shake something loose in this poor excuse for an e-mail system. Instead I got:

Not finding any sort of "status" page for Yahoo mail, I finally visited some sort of self-help forum where Yahoo users cry on one another's shoulders. Apparently the problem was common. Will it get reported in the news? Well, not any of the news associated with the WSJ, or it is just All Things Digital that is in love with them?

They never failed to return a ping though. I guess there is something in that.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Apple - Mac OS X Leopard - Features - 300 New Features!!1!OMG!

Since I got my first Apple computer (I'm now on my second, (well, not RIGHT now, as right now I'm on my Linux computer that I use most of them time) which is a laptop that I use, whenever I use a laptop) I've always been as interested as any fanbois in the latest version of the Apple OS. I even went so far for the last version of the OS as to buy a FIVE users license for my TWO computers, because there isn't a TWO user license, or a THREE or FOUR user license, but in buying a FIVE user license I saved something like 75 cents over the cost of two ONE user licenses. So it was a no-brainer. I think.

Somehow though, I can't get all worked up over this one. My lesser laptop is exhibiting the click of death syndrome again, as this model is incapable of lasting more than about two years without total internal replacement. Something that fills me with confidence regarding the superiority of the Apple "design" process (which at this point consists of picking one from column A and two from column B). Maybe I should check to see if there has been another recall.

Anyway, my newer Powerbook, which has been FLAWLESS, just runs fine on the current version, whatever it's called. And aren't they about getting to the point where they won't support the PowerPC any longer (in spite of promises, promises that they always would?)

So, what might I get excited about among these 300 new features in an operating system that is already light years ahead of Windows (you know, the OS that can't even copy files?)

Several new Apple script features... uh I've actually written more bash shell programs on my Apple computer than Apple script. So, don't use it, don't need it.

Automator... same as above.

Boot Camp. Can't run Windows on a Powerbook, not with Bootcamp anyway, even if I wanted to.

Dashboard... oh those widget things. Never liked them. Tried a bunch of them too. They are either in the background doing things that don't need to be done in the background, and using up resources. Or you bring them to the foreground and lose control of the applications you are using. Isn't this what tiled windows were supposed to prevent? I don't get it.

Dashcode... uh, yeah. Don't call me, I'll call you.

Desktop... A new look. Now we are getting somewhere. But... can I set my own background color yet? Or do I have to pick one of the standard ones still? Oh, I know you can save a JPG consisting only of a color in a secret folder somewhere, the the silliness of this only makes it more aggravating. Somehow I have a feeling that the N-th generation of desktop-look designers at Apple aren't the sort of person I'd have designing my living room. Main thing Apple need to do with the desktop, beside providing a half dozen standard ones, is get out of the way and let users set it up how they like.

Then there are 3 items under desktop about stacks. I think you can finally do your desktop like Linux (KDE for example) and have multiple of them going at once. Like any commercial vendor, Apple has to invent new terminology (and probably a patent to go with it) for something that has already been done. Yawn.

Still under Desktop, something about ".Mac" that I'm too lazy to read. And "Spring loaded dock" which sounds like the way it already works to me. Dictionary, I'm getting sleepy, sleeeeeepy.

zzzzzzzzzzzzz... huh, where, uh, oh, dozed off there. Well lets skip ahead a bit...

DVD player... Finder... yada yada, oh...

Printable Font Book... now there is a winner, I've been looking for ways to quickly empty out those toner and ink cartridges so I'd have an excuse to trot down to Staples, I think this will do it! Maybe I'll get a three ring binder while I'm down there and print out ALL the fonts, even those funny fereign ones. Maybe I better get TWO toner cartridges wile I'm there.

Front Row, Apple TV, (thinking of all the money I blew on MR. Monk episodes that I can only watch in a tiny window on my laptop). I'm clutching at my back pants pocket to make sure my wallet is still there. It is. Whew.

Graphics and Media... Core animation, Core Image filters, Multicore Enhanced. hey, didn't they get rid of core memory with the mainframes. I'll stick with those new SIM things. Thanks.

iCal... Don't use it. Use Google instead.

iChat.... also don't use, but will all the features they list it sounds like they must have hired the ICQ team away from AOL. wonder if anyone who is not an Apple employee actually cares about this stuff?

Imagin... you can now control your "tethered camera" directly. Party like its 1999 while you're at it.

Instruments... I have NO IDEA what they are talking about.

International... uh. Don't need.

Mail... don't use.

Networking... got that already.

OK, about here is where they are really trying to add heft, i.e. another pound to the term paper. Minor updates to terminal, text edit, all over the head of the average user, and more frustration for the bithead who would rather they really open up the OS and get back with the whole contribute back to the community mythology.

Nope, nope, NOPE. Nothing here to get excited about. And by not upgrading, I get a whole 'nother year or so of crash-less operation.

I think I'll just wait.

Maybe until I get my next laptop. Which probably won't be an Apple.

PS: 1000th Post!

or therabouts.

Apple Reduces Prices on iTunes Songs Without Anti-Copying Software -

"Apple Inc. is reducing the price of all songs on its iTunes Store without anti-copying software to 99 cents from $1.29, bringing Apple's prices on such tracks closer to those offered by Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other rivals in online music."

Competition always helps companies be a little bit "nicer" to their customers. Of course some people might eventually noticed that this niceness is always being forced.

CSB predicted that Al Gore will get Nobel Prize - 8 months before announcement!

 CSB predicted that Al Gore will get Nobel Prize - 8 months before announcement!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Error Message: Your Password Must Be at Least 18770 Characters and Cannot Repeat Any of Your Previous 30689 Passwords

Microsoft pushes security to new limits?

The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy On the Internet

"In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne was forced by her colonial New England village to wear a scarlet letter A to represent her sin of adultery. The Internet is bringing back the scarlet letter in digital form – an indelible record of people’s past misdeeds."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Kasparov's new opponent proves formidable -

"But his match now is against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who Kasparov says is engaged in an effort to strangle democracy in Russia and push the country to resemble the former Soviet Union."

Not Nobel Winners -

"In Olso yesterday, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was not awarded to the Burmese monks whose defiance against, and brutalization at the hands of, the country's military junta in recent weeks captured the attention of the Free World."

Slashdot | Google Phone Rumors Solidifying

I've had a Sprint based Razr phone for almost a year and at the other end of the spectrum a Nokia 1100 via Tracfon for a couple, and I've played with an iPhone long enough to know that I can live without one.

I too like the Nokia flashlight feature (mentioned in the Slasdot discussion). I also like that it has a standby life of a month or more (in my experience) and can quickly be turned off and on, unlike the newer phones that must "boot" into a mode that can drive the display even to do something as simple as plug in to recharge.

I love the fact that I can check e-mail browse the web and so forth with the Razr, but the screen is too small to get much out of it (and the iPhone, to me isn't that much of an improvement, I have a Nokia N800 that serves about the same function as the iPhone in that regard).

My main use for a phone is, uh, talking on the phone, and unless I'm in a run down diner on the Interstate in the middle of nowhere, I'm not all that far from being able to check my mail and read the news on a real computer. Like most cell phone users I also own a laptop that does just fine in most Wifi locations.

All that to say, there may be a gPhone that competes with the iPhone, but iPhone users have shown that money isn't the issue with them. They'll stand in line to pay exorbitant prices for an untested product just for the status alone, and I'm sure many of them would do the same even if an equivalent service were available for free.

If the eventual gPhone has none of the features of the iPhone it will serve as a business-model-ending device for pay as you go services as Tracfone T-mobile, etc. Millions of people will buy them for emergency phones in the car, for their kids to take to school, for a spare when the battery on the iPhone dies, and so on. A dirt-cheap (production wise) phone will be almost as big a hit as an "iPhone killer".

Devil in these details: How will ads be presented? In the iPhone format, on the screen of course, possibly annoying the h*** out of you while you are trying to do something else. On an N1100 type device, maybe you would hear a 5 second ad at the start of a call you make, and your callers could be subjected to such a thing too. Tying up a real 10-digit phone number costs money. I don't know how much, but it isn't zero. A totally free phone will have an issue with rapidly using up these numbers for (as mentioned above) phones that get stored in a car and rarely used. Maybe such a device will have a two step process to call. (1) call an 800 number (provided by Google) followed by (2) an internal ID to get to the phone. This could tie in with the GrandCentral acquisition (which I'm already using and impressed with). Finally, an "iPhone Killer" phone that is free, has a large display and other state of the art features is going to be treated like any other free thing: carelessly. It will be subject to all sorts of physical abuse and people will be ordering replacements like they are dim-sum. What could have marginally been an ad-supported device could quickly become a sink-hole for any company who tries it.

So, as usual, I think many of they "analysts" have their heads up their a**es and are either dreaming, or engaging in typical stir up rumors to pump up the stock price tactics. Oh they wouldn't do that would they?

Regardless, when the gPhone does arrive, if it arrives, I hope it has a flashlight too!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Saving Facebook

It's all been said already by those who can say it better than I can:

The Children’s Hour: Facebook Apps Are for Toddlers (There, We Said It)
Blackbird, Rainman, Facebook and the Watery Web
Facebook ‘Grants’ Devotees a Disappointment

But when did I ever let that stop me before?

My history of "social web" goes something like this...

I've had a web page for almost as long as individuals outside of universities could have web pages of their very own. Why? Because it was there. I've always been more interested in the creating/writing/tinkering than with whether anyone was reading it. I've never even told family members or most of my friends (and certainly not employers) that I even had a web page. My web pages have always been anonymous, or as now, used an "online" identity, and I think with fairly good reason. Until someone pays me to be a journalist, I'd just as soon not have to worry so much about identity theft, stalking, and things like that.

In the time since the early Web, I've participated in dozens of online activities, chat rooms, IRC, instant messengers (just about all of them at one time or another), and on to 3D virtual reality systems, which led to operating a forum, creating a lot of content for the forum, starting a blog, then another, and another, buying a few domain names, and so on.

In the process, I've made a few online friends. People who I would never have met in real life, but who are just as much friends as those I have met in real life. Friendships are built on common interests, common viewpoints, common struggles, longevity, trust, and so on, and whether they are primarily face-to-face, primarily by e-mail, on-line chat, or Morse Code, I think is far less important than those other factors.

But I'm not sure the founders of Facebook see it that way. In fact they make it clear they want you to only use your real name, something I am loath to do. I know this because I saw one of them in a YouTube interview say exactly that, and that their goal was to mirror each persons "real world" network of friends, associates and relatives. I'm getting ahead of myself though, first back to my history...

One of the many things I did to experiment with the Internet was to set up a domain named "". The original plan was very simple. At the dawn of the personal web page era, it occurred to me that there were far too many people giving far too much information out about themselves to total strangers. My plan was to do a tongue in cheek parody of such efforts as an example of what not to do. Paperworth, a name I chose because I couldn't find that real name in a phonebook or online anywhere (I have since) was going to be the name of a fictitious family in "mid-America" who's father had just gotten his very own web page for the family. I've told this story before, so I won't drag it out, but I was going to include photos of the family, pets, and kids, including such useful tidbits as where we hid the spare key to the house and what the kids route to the school bus looked like. I'd have photos that carelessly exposed credit card numbers, private phone numbers, and so on. The only thing that stopped me from doing it was having a real job at which I worked too hard, and too many other "hobbies" like getting drunk five nights a week and recovering the other two. OK, I probably shouldn't have divulged that last part, but I've reformed, retired, and told potential employers where they can stick it so many times that any career for me will have to start with busing tables anyway. Of course when I did have enough time to do the project it was too late. Real people everywhere were now telling more about themselves to the entire world than I could ever have made up, the joke had become real, only in its reality, it wasn't funny any more.

With that in mind, I've since anonymized my domain names, checked pretty carefully for identifying info on those web photos and so on. Do I think it would be impossible to track the real me down if someone were determined to do so? Of course not. Just as you can't keep some nut from picking you at random in the grocery store parking lot as someone worth giving a hard time to, nothing protects any of us from random acts of insanity, or from very determined villains either.

So, when I first wrangled an invitation to Orkut out of curiosity (and before they were acquired by Google), I used a fake name. Orkut was fine for what it was, but it wasn't all that interesting to me. If everyone I knew in the world had suddenly shown up at Orkut, I would certainly have wanted to continue using e-mail, the telephone and air travel as a means of communicating with people. The groups you could join on special topics were less useful than the average IRC channel or Usenet group or web forum on the same topic. I soon dismissed Orkut as not useful enough to stick with. In fact at some point when I realized that almost all the messages I was receiving in Orkut were in Portuguese I just deleted my account. Apparently it had become really popular in Brazil.

It wasn't until MySpace was in the process of getting purchased for billions that I decided to test those waters again. This time didn't take nearly so long. I hated MySpace. First of all I didn't know anyone there. The interface was cluttered from the get-go, and all the features that allowed you to customise your "home page" (or whatever they called it) only seemed to make it more so. Add to that the system was very slow at times, and the things that would often spill out onto the screen taught you more than you wanted to know about MySQL and PHP (or whatever language they were using at the time). My testing of MySpace ended after only a week. I kept the ID for maybe a month, checking back from time to time for an announcement that they had thought better of it, wiped it all out and started over. When no such announcement came I again cancelled my account. One less thing to generate e-mail reminders that I hadn't signed on for a while or... whatever.

Always a glutton for punishment, I was intrigued again by the hype over Facebook (instead maybe the nature of the hype should have served as a warning).

So I signed up. Nobody invited me. Nobody I knew had told me how great it was. I just made up a name, not my real name, and signed up. There was nary more than a mild warning that they wanted you to use your real name. But like the second thing they asked for, my credit card information (which they said would be for "my convenience" in making future purchases) I decided not to take that request too seriously. Like almost everything online today, my "proof" that I was a real person consisted only of my giving them an e-mail address they could send my authorisation link to. Whoop Dee Doo! But then, I wasn't as hung up on this "real person" angle as the Facebook people seemed to be.

Oddly enough, using my online name, I was eventually discovered by several of my online friends. Hey, this Facebook thing might be useful after all! Hopefully they weren't going around looking every new user up in the phone book or something. I continued to not worry about it.

But then I looked up my university. Not working at the moment, I couldn't "join" as a member of some company, but I wanted to join something that was more than just a special interest group "sewing for men" etc. So I went to my university, where I found out you had to actually have an e-mail address associated with the university to join. Hmmm, I'm a member of an alumni thing. Is there an email address associated with that? Turns out there was, but I had never signed up for it. So off I go to do that. Of course they are fancy and really serious about identity, they get your name and address so they can send you letters begging for money. And of course if you are going to have a chance to contact old school chums through that (assuming I had any) using a fake name you just made up a few years ago would hardly do.

So now I was stuck. To test this whole social network thing with my alumni association, I'd have to change my name to my real name on Facebook. Could I even do that? After all, I'd already sworn on a stack of Bibles that I had used my real name in the first place. But the name change option was pretty easy to find, well trodden path I would say, complete with a fresh warnings like "You must use your real name", and "Facebook staff must approve your name change". Sure they do. The staff seemed to have done their work in mere seconds. My network of Facebook contacts didn't even notice a ripple in the space-time continuum.

So now that I was the real me, I could look up people and connect like crazy with other folks I went to school with right? Well, maybe. Only problem being that as wildly popular as Facebook might be at Harvard, and Stanford, and Starbuck coffee shops around Silicon Valley, it didn't seem to have caught on so well with my ole buddies at Podunk U. I couldn't find a single name there that I even remotely recognized, nor a picture, and similar to my experience with Orkut, it seemed that everyone who went to college where I had, now resides in India or Brazil. What-up with this?

Then I tried my high school. Well, I didn't see anything that required I have an old high school e-mail address, if there even was such a thing. Only problem is, they had a drop-down for the year I graduated, only the years didn't go back far enough to cover when I graduated. Now I know I'm old, but this is ridiculous. It's not like I was in the first (or 8th) graduating class or anything. I don't actually know how long the school had been around before I went there, but I know it had seen some wear and tear. So, essentially, there was not a single soul I recognized from my high school either, even though they would have all been younger than me, I should have been able to spot someone or some name, that I'd recognize. Well, at least they all hadn't moved to India!

Now this last week, a fairly well known online celebrity known as "Mini-Microsoft" was unceremoniously ousted from Facebook for the obvious TOS violation. Now MM couldn't exist as he/she does being critical of Microsoft from within, and I'm quite sure the individual made no effort to join the Microsoft employees group as that would have required an identifiable MS e-mail address. So what was the problem? Did some MS exec apply pressure to the company they were talking about investing a few million in? Inquiring minds are still inquiring on that I guess.

So there it is on "Real" versus "Virtual" identities. Facebook is only interested in the former (preferably with credit card information to go along with it), and not the latter (even if you have more REAL friends online than virtual friends in the real world). They talk a good game about verifying identities, but they really let alumni associations and workplaces do all the work. Want to game the system? Get a free web site from Google (or AOL), form a fake company and you and all your fake friends are off to the races! Are you getting the picture yet about what this company is really all about?

Now on to usability, and usefulness of Facebook. In short, as far as I can tell, there isn't any.

Is there an IM (Instant Messenger) capability? Well, no, unless you count keeping a web page open and bringing it to the foreground every 30 seconds as there is no beep or other indication of activity. Do they hook up with AIM - no, MSN - no, or the free and open Jabber used by Google - no.

They have something that sort of resembles e-mail, except that you can't send from a real e-mail system into it, or from it outbound to a real e-mail system. No, instead, you are supposed to go about your business as usual, until something important happens like, uh, someone throws a virtual pie at you from within Facebook at which time you get an e-mail message that summons you to Facebook where you are informed that "Someone has thrown a pie at you". And that's it. No fancy graphic, no splat sound, nothing. You have to wonder why they couldn't have just included the text with the e-mail message they sent you... as in: "Someone in Facebook has just thrown a pie at you, you might have better things to do than check on that right now, but if not, come on in." Who in their right mind would want to use this for business, or anything that remotely resembles business? Oh, yeah, Robert Scoble.

Yes there ARE some people who get paid to play with technology and write about their experiences. I don't begrudge such people the idyllic life they lead. I do get annoyed at the presumption that they have anything meaningful to say about how the majority of us... and by "us" I don't mean factory workers and plumbers, I mean people who work with technology, like payroll system, billing systems, aircraft avionics, and so on... how that fairly large group of people are going to benefit by whatever the latest fad is in Silicon Valley. (And while we are at it, shouldn't some of these WhizzBang things be of benefit to factory workers and plumbers?) I mean unless you are in some sort of specialized area, that somehow (and I can't even imagine how) benefits from sending and receiving a constant stream of text messages regarding what you had for lunch, how is a service like Twitter of any use to you? Sorry, but to me it can never be anything but a toy, and if you really need text messaging from anywhere at any time, then Blackberrys are already in place and do that job just fine. A better use of Silicon Valley's supposed brain power would be to duplicate the functionality of RIMs service at a fraction of the cost. How about free?

Oh, but back to Facebook, a program, that like Myspace, might dump screens full of MySQL and PHP statements out at you at any moment. The same program that wants my credit card info RIGHT AWAY, just in case they, um, need it for something, takes a regular DUMP (we used to call it that in my mainframe days and nobody ever laughed, I don't know why, it seems like such an uncomfortable word to use now) on my screen with all sorts of information that I suspect the programmers would rather I not see. How can they expect to be taken seriously? Just because the kid that started it, or stole the code, or whatever he did, looks and acts a lot like the young Bill Gates? Pull the other one. That seems like a reason to avoid Facebook like the plague. Why would anyone want to go down that road again? The biggest detour 'round the barn that technology has ever taken, Windows, and we are looking for someone just like that to invest our time, no, time and dollars into? OK, I'm dense, I admit it. So 'splain it to me Lucy.

OK, so you've now figured out I don't have much use for Facebook. I don't. As it stands anyway. But I'm not above giving my advice, and then saying "I told you so!" later when the company has run aground. Like, you know, when I was against Apple's switch to Intel, which I'm still sure, eventually, in thirty years or so, or someday, will be seen to be the mistake that I.... Well, OK, I probably got that wrong.

Take Second Life for example. For the life of me I can't figure out what to do with it other than to go in there and play tinker-toys. It's fun. But I think it should be more than that. IBM thinks it should be more than that. I think it can be more than that, easily, relative to the difficulty of a virtual reality in the first place. I've begged in the forums (while they still had forums) for better interaction with the outside world. Nothing. But I go in to talk to an IBM guy, in a well built IBM "build" and he knows less about IBM than I do. Five minutes and I've done all there is to do there other than oooh and ahhhh over how nice their building is. But these things have to be more than just fun don't they? They have to be useful for something. I'm a big supporter of Second Life, have been since the beginning. I go to an IBM presentation, "simulcast" in "real life", "Second Life" and some other virtual world (one I used to use and don't have much ongoing respect for) and the whole thing seems silly. The slides aren't in sync with the speech, they keep having to pause for technical issues, and as far as I can tell, and I really had to stretch to get this out of it: "we're in there, because it's there, and we don't have anything better to do."

Well, there is nothing wrong with doing something just because it's fun. People play video games for fun, go bowling for fun, and if they want to send text messages to each other all day for fun, who am I to say they shouldn't? Just don't pretend to be anything else but a fun thing. Second Life, if after all this time you haven't seen the advantage of hooking your virtual meetings into an IM, IRC or other text interface, I guess you never will. Can I ever send a message to an SL user without going into the interface? Can't each SL user have their own web page? Can't Facebook, using standard old HTML and RSS and messaging technologies work seamlessly with iGoogle, MSN Live, and AOL Instant Messenger? It isn't rocket science, but I guess if you 're all about scoring the next big billion dollar buy-out you can make it look like it is.

Warning to investors: It isn't worth it. Scoble and some others will tell you that once a company builds that walled garden and gets a few million users inside you will never get them to switch. Some carefully chosen examples will support that claim. But tell Yahoo that people haven't migrated from Geocities or their own e-mail program, not to mention search. Tell Blockbuster that Netflix hasn't hurt their business, or tell Netflix that Walmart, Amazon and Blockbuster going online hasn't hurt theirs (even if some of those efforts haven't been spectacular). There is a healthy ebb and flow of customers in any healthy commercial ecosystem whether it's cell phone carriers or plumbing supplies. Where there isn't that free flow of consumers there is decay. Windows, and the ecosystem that surrounds it is a perfect example. That's being fixed though, it took way too long, but it will get fixed eventually, with or without Microsoft's cooperation.

I don't think the tech sector is stupid enough to go down that road again, not during this generation of users anyway. Maybe in another twenty years when the echos of "Where do you want to go today?" have faded.

What we need today are more projects like OpenID, Jabber, cross platform operating systems and browsers and a spirit that says "I'm going to compete on features, I'm not going to lock you in, I'm going to let you weave in and out of my system freely and into others that may be of more use for you in other areas. You can get my stuff on your phone, instant messenger, home page, or inbox, it's all up to you, and we will take input from all those sources as well. And one more thing, we'll value you as a person whether you use your real name or not. We'll take the real you or the virtual you, and let you hook up with other people however you choose."

I don't hear those words coming from Facebook, and until I do, they can't be the next big thing.

Update: Apparently Dave Winer has pointed out that Facebook is a closed system. So Scoble now agrees that it sucks. Which seems odd considering his name is on this document:

here are some other handy links on the subject: