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:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Worlds In Motion - IBM And Linden To Collaborate On Interoperability Standards

Theory: The life of a buzzword - Valleywag

Most Excellent!

Judge rules Gore climate film requires guidance notes

Judge Burton said the Oscar-winning film should be accompanied by government guidance notes and to distribute it without them would breach education laws prohibiting the promotion of unbalanced political viewpoints.

Unbalanced? Fer Sure.

Welcome to the GovITwiki

I don't know how complete or "open" this intends to be, but might prove interesting to anyone interested in one major component of where all that tax money goes.

As a Wiki should be it is a work in progress, with some sections fairly well filled out and others...


Ahem, not yet started.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

VOA News - Scientists Discover Stored Blood Loses Life-Saving Gas

"Scientists have discovered that blood stored in a bank loses a vital gas that is important for transferring oxygen from the blood. As VOA's Jessica Berman reports, the discovery may explain why a significant number of people die after receiving blood transfusions."

Convenience Wins, Hubris Loses and Content vs. Context, a Presentation for Some Music Industry Friends at FISTFULAYEN

The whole world is watching.

Well, some of us anyway.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

PC World - Products That Change Without Permission

"Call it a trend: Don't hold your breath for amends or even apologies from the next hardware or software provider that screws up a minor portion of your life with inferior 'improvements' focused on the company's interests, not yours."

Saturday, October 06, 2007

John Batchelor Returns to WABC


Thank you to whoever posted this news.

I'm shocked.

Nightly would be better, but I'll take what I can get. From the C-Span interview it sounded like John would rather devote more time to his books anyway, but the radio program was a service to thinking newshounds, and has been sorely missed.

Now to figure out whether I can still stream WABC, pick it up on my shortwave, or better yet get a local affiliate to carry it.

Heck, if I have to I'll just move to New York!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Microsoft Launches Health Records Site: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

"The HealthVault site itself doesn't do much more than provide a window into stored information, and a mechanism for sharing it. Microsoft hopes hospitals, doctors' offices, advocacy groups and insurance companies will build Web applications that patients will want to use."

Only problem is that if they are Windows applications it's going to give me the same feeling that I'd get if I saw mold growing on the ceiling over the patient's bed.

The article said that medical systems are still in the 80's. Depending on what they mean by that I think it might be a very good thing. Hopefully critical record keeping like this can skip the Windows era altogether.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Scholars share info on WWII killings of Jews -

"While no major surprises emerged, pieces of Ukraine's Holocaust story came together as never before: killings of Jews in western Ukraine before the Nazis arrived, botched Soviet orders to evacuate Jews from the encroaching Germans, mass grave sites only now being discovered — even as long-known Jewish grave sites are being abandoned, razed or used as open-air markets. 'We cannot underestimate this. It is historic, it is history that ... may be changed based on new information,' said Mikhail Tyaglyy of the Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies."

Pretend to Be All That You Can Be - HUMAN EVENTS

"In my experience, having prominent Democrats censure you on the Senate floor is the equivalent of 50 book signings. Or being put on the cover of The New York Times magazine 20 years ago when people still read The New York Times magazine. They should rename Senate censure resolutions 'Harry Reid's Book Club.'"

Internet Allstars ‘01: Where are they now?

According to graphic at In the modern Internet/short-attention-span era, everyone is a loser (almost). - Plame and the 'Bush Lied' Meme - Politics | Republican Party | Democratic Party | Political Spectrum

"They don't mention that Isikoff and (especially) Corn have been among the journalists flogging this meme, and the time that it takes to research and write a book indicates they've known for quite some time that it isn't true. They're only willing to tell the truth, now, for money."

OpenID: an actually distributed identity system

"OpenID has arisen from the open source community to solve the problems that could not be easily solved by other existing technologies. OpenID is a lightweight method of identifying individuals that uses the same technology framework that is used to identify websites. As such, OpenID is not owned by anyone, nor should it be. The OpenID Foundation was formed to assist the open source model by providing a legal entity to be the steward for the community by providing needed infrastructure and generally helping to promote and support expanded adoption of OpenID."

Silicon Alley Insider: Westheimer: Ballmer's Right--Facebook is a Fad

"On a large scale, Facebook and a few other top dogs may be the only ones who think it’s in their best interest to keep information closed. Everywhere else you turn, however, you’ll see people opening up. That means that the collective, open social graph will increase in value indefinitely, because it will be truly portable, while the little we’re actually investing in Facebook diminishes in value. Get one thing straight: tomorrow’s great platforms will be open. The next Facebook, Google, Bebo, whoever — they’ll all be open."

CrunchNotes - Wow. We’re worth $100 million!


Sony BMG's chief anti-piracy lawyer: "Copying" music you own is "stealing"

"Gabriel asked if it was wrong for consumers to make copies of music which they have purchased, even just one copy. Pariser replied, 'When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.' Making 'a copy' of a purchased song is just 'a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy',' she said. "

I think Sony needs to fire everyone and start over!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Dan Rather

In case you have ever thought of him as a serious journalist...

YouTube - Facebook Infomercial Parody

Caution: Language may not be suitable for office.

Microsoft powers up for change - Telegraph

"He says consumers particularly are unlikely to pay for their software, which will largely be funded through advertising. 'The average consumer really doesn't like to pay for things. And anything that can be ad-funded sensibly for the customer and sensibly for the provider will be."

What an idiot!

Silicon Alley Insider: Huffington Post: Lerer Hands Reins to CBS's Betsy Morgan

Just in case you had any doubts about how far left the MSM leans. Watch which direction they swim as they abandon ship!

The Victor? - The New York Review of Books

Bad Idea: The three worst social networks since - Valleywag

Good (funny) review of some bad sites.

How to Quit Facebook - wikiHow

Yankee Group Says Hype of Second Life Far Outweighs Its Ability to Impact Mainstream Interactivity

Monday, October 01, 2007

Silicon Alley Insider: Microsoft's MSN: Still Sucking Wind After All These Years

Did you know that MSN is currently losing about $1 billion a year (run-rate)? That's right, $1 billion. On about $2.2 billion of advertising revenue. (See this page for details). Unless Microsoft's disappearing access business is losing a lot of money--which we doubt--all of the division's losses are attributable to the advertising and media business. That means that MSN is losing nearly $0.50 for every $1.00 of advertising it sells.

CEO Pay: Larry Ellison is overpaid, while Steve Ballmer is unmotivated - Valleywag

"Since Ballmer assumed the role of CEO in January of 2000, the stock has declined almost 50 percent and has gone sideways for the last 6 years post-antitrust."
The Microsoft chief executive has questioned the mammoth $74m pay-package taken home last year by Oracle's Larry Ellison

Note to Steve:

You Fail It! graphic

EBay Plans to Take $1.4 Billion In Skype-Related Charges -

EBay Inc. said it plans to take about $1.4 billion in Skype-related charges in the third quarter and announced a management shakeup at its Internet phone subsidiary.

The Internet auction giant said the charges include $530 million to complete payments related to its 2005 acquisition of Luxembourg-based Skype. The other roughly $900 million in charges reflect goodwill impairment due to "the updated long-term financial outlook for Skype."

I remember a lot of predictions about how Skype would replace telephony and e-mail for EBay users to finalize sales, negotiate returns, etc. I guess this technology stuff is harder than we thought huh?

Nokia - To Buy Navteq

"Espoo, Finland - Nokia and NAVTEQ today announced a definitive agreement for Nokia to acquire NAVTEQ. Under the terms of the agreement, Nokia will pay $78 in cash for each share of NAVTEQ including outstanding options for an aggregate purchase price of approximately $8.1 billion (EUR 5.7 billion), or approximately $7.7 billion (EUR 5.4 billion) net of NAVTEQ existing cash balance. The acquisition has been approved by the board of directors of each company and is subject to customary closing conditions including regulatory approvals and NAVTEQ shareholders' approval. "

YouTube - Battle at Kruger

Slashdot Anniversary Party

Happy Birthday, Sputnik! (Thanks for the Internet)

Quick, what's the most influential piece of hardware from the early days of computing? The IBM 360 mainframe? The DEC PDP-1 minicomputer? Maybe earlier computers such as Binac, ENIAC or Univac? Or, going way back to the 1800s, is it the Babbage Difference Engine?

More likely, it was a 183-pound aluminum sphere called Sputnik, Russian for "traveling companion." Fifty years ago, on Oct. 4, 1957, radio-transmitted beeps from the first man-made object to orbit the Earth stunned and frightened the U.S., and the country's reaction to the "October surprise" changed computing forever.