Tuesday, 13 December 2005

DIY Search tool

Now this is blows things open a bit... I wonder how far they're willing to let the licensing go? If someone came up with a killer idea, which they could draw substantial revenue from, would Alexa pinch them?

Friday, 25 November 2005

But it's scientific research, luv!

Whoever persuaded a university to fund research forthis deserves a sales job anywhere in the world!

It's cyber-war! Chinese hackers breach US military defences

What's interesting about this is not the spying implications, nor even the minor revelation that, in these internet security times, several important military installations seem to be readily breachable. These are repeating patterns over centuries. What made me pause to reflect is the traceability. For spies these days the hardest thing is no longer getting in, but covering your tracks afterwards. Electronic information systems, by their nature, log every activity. In the real world evidence can be burned, tracks covered. In the virtual world all is recorded. Even doctored evidence is traceable, insofar as the fact that it was altered is logged. Tricks can be used, but there is still a trace to show that they were used. And if they are traceable, they can also be monitored...

Thursday, 24 November 2005

Microsoft loses money on each Xbox on Yahoo! News

What's surprising here is not that Microsoft are price dumping (they did that with the original xbox), but the staggering amount: 40% over the retail price - so probably double the wholesale price.



That's a huge grasp for market share, if ever I saw one... it will be interesting to compare to Nintendo and Sony's offerings. Even if Sony's is comparable, I think they have a much larger portfolio of games development companies to lean on to recoup the cost.

Related to this, the first news of Xbox 360 crashes are pouring in. Seems that although Microsoft are addressing security, they're still having problems with robustness.

Wednesday, 9 November 2005

Demanding Apple



Well, I know gadget freaks are a demanding bunch, but I have started to use my Treo 650 more frequently (~conveniently) than my ipod these days, mainly because I don't have to remember to take my ipod.

Will Apple's stringent sense of proprietary technology and DRM shot it in the foot again? In 1984, they had the PC market sewn (sown, even) up but refused to share. Other companies went to the next best thing: IBM's 8086 architecture. Now, in 2005 Apple seem to have the digital media market sewn (sown, even) up. Will they allow their seeds to cross-germinate this time?

Tuesday, 1 November 2005

Traceroute and Google Earth
It was only a matter of time before someone combined the two.

Remember to click the 'Traceroute' box, and be sure you have Google Earth installed (obviously).

Now all we need is a 'dial a missile' service, and the port scans on my firewall will be no more...!

Wednesday, 26 October 2005

Here's asummary of an interesting speech given by Tim O'Reilly about emerging technologies & patterns, and the way to portray them. Since seeing some of Edward Tufte's diagrams I've been smitten by the importance of concisely informative visuals. Like a good software application, they are a nexus of artistic and scientific ingenuity. The slides that accompany the presentation are here.

Tuesday, 25 October 2005

The portal war looks like a fantasic battle of the internet. Finally, the new medium seems to be maturing, although it's arguable whether this is too soon. After all, the car industry took about 50 years to settle.

Friday, 14 October 2005

Here's an interesting viewpoint on Apple's entry into the digital video distribution market.

Saturday, 17 September 2005

Hear no evil (Economist.com) Finally, someone's gone and done it: created a 'fair trade' online record label. It allows your to stream music for free, but charges a one-off fee for you to download it, with 50% of proceeds going to the artist. Hallelujah! A new era begins
A new way to stop digital decay (Economist.com) is an interesting conundrum. Because of its apparent replicability, computer data is often assumed to be indestructible. Yet, this overlooks the simple premise that computer data needs a compatible computer to read it, and as computers evolve, readability is reduced. I knew there was something more useful for emulators than just nostalgic games of Chuckie Egg...

Friday, 2 September 2005

The digital home (Economist.com)... here we go again. It's always a sign that technology innovation is flagging when tech companies start talking 'Jetsons' and homes of the future. Best quote, from a CTO at Microsoft: "The home is much more exciting than the workplace." Possibly, Mr Mundie, because it doesn't have Windows computers in it. The problem is that the premise for doing this is not to better consumers' lives, but to saturate them with as much revenue-generating media as possible. Screens in car steering wheels! Safety be damned, let's pummel them with our media.


What this industry needs, in these flagging innovation times, is a refinement cycle: a phase where these innovations are refined and hardened for broader appeal. Marketers would do well to remember the adage that "an englishman's home is his castle". People expect the hard sell at work and in the shops, but selling in the home is viewed at best as a necessary evil (TV adverts), and at worst an object of ridicule (door-to-door selling). Technology adoption, at the domestic level, is driven strictly by necessity, and is almost always by invitation only.

The upside to all this is that consumers, unlike corporates, do not tolerate multiple standards for long. So maybe it will force tech companies to behave themselves... the only 600lb gorilla in the ointment being Microsoft...!

Friday, 12 August 2005

Fascinating stat from Silicon.Com: "The first mobile phone virus, Cabir, has spread to more than 20 countries, ranging from the United States to Japan and from Finland to South Africa, using only Bluetooth."
An epidemiologist's dream!
Yahoo's Personality Crisis (Economist.com)... here's a useful precis of the internet portal/search market forces. AOL and MSN in decline, Google on top, and Yahoo teetering between the two.

Monday, 8 August 2005

Jeremy Clarkson actually likes Gran Turismo 4 (Times Online), which is as good an endorsement any driving game could get if, like GT4, its main selling point is realism.

Tuesday, 2 August 2005

This article about Internet businesses (Economist.com) is noteworthy for its identification of the simple traits that make online businesses successful. Most notably, that the differentiator for ebusinesses is the business model, rather than the traditional product or service.

Monday, 1 August 2005

Yahoo! buys Konfabulator... two interesting aspects to this. Firstly, that this is a fascinating play by Yahoo to get onto the desktop, and one that Apple could well have done themselves, and significantly benefitted from. After all, iTunes works as multi-platform, so why not Dashboard? Too late now, Apple...

The other interesting aspect is that Yahoo did this in the context of moving "more onto the mac". That would be a resounding endorsement to mac users, especially if they could get a Yahoo plug-in for iSync working and beef up their OSX version of Yahoo IM.

Monday, 11 July 2005

Inside the big switch: the iPod and the future of Apple Computer. An interesting article speculating on the reasons why Apple are switching to Intel. Essentially, it's saying that the company's focus is shifting more towards 'post-PC gadgets' like the iPod, rather than traditional PC desktop/laptops.

Friday, 8 July 2005

Mobile phones and development (Economist.com) are once again highlighted as the IT saviour of the developing world. I think the potential is staggering, but so are the opportunities for corrupt govts to leech their own African potential dry. After all, in the past 50 years they've proven an uncanny ability to piss in their own well.

Thursday, 30 June 2005

The nebulous world of consultancy. I'm not usually one to comment (being an ex-consultant myself), but here's an interesting article (Top-Consultant.com) that discusses the 'crucial stage' in its evolution (no mention of 'step-change' or 're-phasing', so stop sniggering at the back).

It's nice to see that consultancies are actually realising that customers rule, and that they actually have to work for their money by doing more than the in-house staff. The physicians are healing themselves at last.

Wednesday, 29 June 2005

William Gibson: God's Little Toys (Wired). Thought-provoking stuff from the nominal father of cyberspace, especially in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling on peer-to-peer software technologies. It's interesting that he talks about the 'peculiar juncture' we are at with regard to the old, static, obect-based world and the new, dynamic, process-based world. The comment resonates with me at all sorts of levels - technology and business models - pointing to a profound virtualisation of key aspects of humanity from copyright of ideas to de-sensitising violence.

Thursday, 23 June 2005

Beware the Google Threat (Wired) It was only a matter of time before someone would see the next evil empire forming. The nice thing is, this is an insightful, well-balanced, well-written article that muses on the question, rather than implying anything specific.

Monday, 20 June 2005

Honour among Phishers? (link to article WSJ.Com). It seems that, like any clever and successful real-world ventures, phishing is becoming organised, with its own market and ratings, as well as the usual slang terminology. And unlike other tech hooligans, these guys are not doing it for bragging rights, but cold, hard cash.

Even the scams are maturing online, it seems...

Thursday, 16 June 2005

Here are a couple of interesting articles from the Economist that provide two very useful examples of the current state of the Internet as a market:eBay are celebrating their 10th birthday with 150m registered users, and an auction market worth $40bn a year. Meanwhile PartyGaming, at only 2 years old, are looking to float a 23% stake on the London Stock Exchange. My off-the-cuff assessment? It's still a frontier, with high risks and high rewards.
It seems Microsoft are actually competing (CNET News.com) against something specific, rather than just hurling insults about open source and 'viral' Linux. This is something long, long overdue, in my view.

I can remember my first web development project using MS tools being excruciating because of the verbose way ASP interacted with ADO and SQL Server. We actually had tools to automate code writing, such was the cludginess. I remember mentioning to a Linux-fan colleague at the time that the stateless nature of the web meant that the most efficient delivery mechanism was a database and a scripting engine. He said "You mean mysql and PHP - and better yet, they're free. The whole software setup is free if you run it on Linux, too." The prospect of setting up Linux galled me at the time (it involved formatting a special floppy disk, and rather too much fiddling in vi and recompiling), but the principle of a free database-oriented, powerful web deliver mechanism amazed me. It's gratifying to see Microsoft treating it as enough of a threat to address.

Wednesday, 8 June 2005

Apple and chips (ZDNet UK) After much speculation (years, even) Apple have finally gone & done it: switched hardware to the same stuff as PCs - Intel.

This will really split the cult of Mac. There will be those decrying Apple's decision to go with a 'technically inferior' architecture, selling out to Wintel etc. Then there will be those who have begged all along for an Intel version of OSX. Many of the latter are either mac techies (rather than the traditional mac designer beard types), or mac wannabes who want to break out from Windows, without having to learn Linux. And the latter are who Apple should be targetting, in my view.

It's not an aesthetic or an engineering decision, its a corporate decision. It may tarnish the brand, it may cause unforeseen engineering nightmares (unmanageably large driver support list? new target for viruses? etc.), but at least it will woo the market. Rupert Goodwin sums it up best here.

Monday, 23 May 2005

Spore Previews for PC at GameSpot... from the man who gave us Sim everything we now get... Sim Everything, or as they've subsequently called it: Spore. Looks thoroughly intriguing - a real social life sapper!

Wednesday, 18 May 2005

Wired News: The Beeb Shall Inherit the Earth... all it needs is a 'Land of Hope and Glory' backing track. From an American author, in an American magazine too! It just goes to show that market forces don't always feed innovation down the best channels. The reason why BBC does, and can do, this is because it feels beholden to its shareholders: the license fee paying British public. Each of whom have one vote - their license. So, no corporate shareholder influences, and even the government have only marginal influence - even after the Hutton affair.

Having worked there, albeit briefly (a year), I can confirm that it is an extraordinary company to work for. There is a very strong sense of social responsibility for such a large entity.

Monday, 16 May 2005

Take one nifty online resource, Google Maps, and programmatically blend it with a hugely popular online urban classified ads system. Hey presto: HousingMaps. This is the future of software development. Now, for bonus points: how does the economic model behind it work?
Here's another powershift theory:GoogleNet - the ultimate embrace and extend? (The Register). I'm not sure about the conclusion (either of them), because it precludes the possibility of any number of competitors doing the same thing. Also, the web-as-global-operating-system theory has been around as long as Google. Nevertheless, there's some interesting food for thought, and the insight into the eastern way of thinking is quite enlightening.

Friday, 13 May 2005

Mobile e-mail - the next killer app? (Economist.com): an interesting commentary on this 'nascent', if somewhat obvious, application. Notable quote: "Indeed, e-mail is likely to blow away a lot of the other fancy services that mobile operators are hoping to push over their third-generation wireless networks. Andrew Odlyzko, a telecoms guru, once did a survey in which he asked people to choose, hypothetically, between having either e-mail or the entire content of the world wide web: 95% chose e-mail.".

It's the essence that techies tend to overlook: that IT is about information and interaction, not technology - the 'I' comes before the 'T'. TV is not an interactive medium, it's a broadcast medium; it doesn't mix with mobility.

Wednesday, 27 April 2005

Microsoft Exchange - a problem lying in wait?

What amazes me about this article is the 'glaring oversight' that M$ have made in leaving this problem in their mail system. Storage is cheap and has been for several years now, so there is no excuse for M$ to be reticent about overcoming the capacity issue.
Again, this is the Ultimate Monopoly dictating a hidden upgrade path which users only stumble across when a) it's too late and b) they don't have the time/resource to find and implement another solution.

Monday, 25 April 2005

Murdoch's future of journalism (Economist.com) It's nice to see an industry god not succumb to imperialistic hubris. Here's Rupert Murdoch, the biggest media mogul in the world, saying that traditional journalism is dead, and that his industry must adapt or risk more drastic decline. What next? Bill Gates proclaiming that open source software is a bit good, rather than their current stance that it is 'viral'? The Recording Industry of America declaring that they really do need to change if they want to stop piracy, rather than suing their younger (most populous & vulnerable) customers.


I've always felt a certain fear & loathing of the Murdock empire: the right-wing 'balanced viewpoints' of most of his press, the nepotism (elder son runs Fox, younger son runs Sky), and just the plethora of his portfolio - monotheic opinions voiced through many, often obscured, channels. In a profession seeking 'the truth', he seems to control an awful lot of varieties of it. All of which makes this latest speech thoroughly fascinating. Is it merely pandering to popularism, or is it a genuine rallying cry? Does it matter which, as long as it's him saying it? My brief stint in media has taught me one thing: the closer to the top you get, the more people will try to gun you down. Clearly, it's this sort of foresight that has enabled him to survive as long as he has.

Friday, 22 April 2005

Proprietary standards grow online

I think the author is right to be concerned; Microsoft is not the only monopolistic vendor out there. Essentially, I think the argument stems from ensuring that the medium of communication (be it a program controlling layout or a means of ensuring that a vaste readership can access information) should always be controlled by those who can gain the least profit from it (W3C) and not single vendors who, for the moment, provide the viewers of the products for free.

Thursday, 21 April 2005

An Apple user's manifesto, of sorts. This article from The Register says it all, really. Not an Apple advocate per se, merely a Windows non-advocate. A man after my own mind. I get sick of being called a Mac zealot. I'm not, I'd just like people to think different...!

Thursday, 14 April 2005

Cellular greed: Vodafone Says Let Them Eat Marketing. This article from The Feature is the first definite sign I've seen of cell telcos' greed being detrimental to their own progress. Until now, I've always thought of this industry as being the most progressive one around - even more so than software, because it's extremely competitive, has a good mix of business and tech savvy, and has much to offer the world.

Sure, they were clobbered by the 3G license bonanza, but then they have the gravy of SMS fees (this extra channel costs them nothing - an accidental, and lucrative bonus). It would seem that this is not enough, and that they want to continue making money for no effort (of their own). This, coupled with their silly restrictions on phone functionality (eg. no bluetooth DUN on provider-locked phones), and their insistence on hefty GPRS charges, makes me wonder whether there are serious problems in the health of that market.

Is it too competitive? Not competitive enough? The key difference between this network and the internet is that the internet is open, whereas the global mobile network is factioned - regionalised and cross-charged. Could you imagine your ISP charging you 50% of your takings for your website? Could you imagine the eBays, Amazons and Googles of this world working in that context? They messed it up once with WAP; GPRS is still hovering in the early-adopter stage, and, unless they loosen their grip, 3G and proper data services will also stall. Leaving them, at least for a while, in another consolidating market. Stop charging for air, guys, and let the consumers breathe a little more.

Friday, 8 April 2005

Mo:blog via Treo
here's a test message from moblog on my treo

Thursday, 7 April 2005

Microsoft seeks to stifle innovation (Yahoo!) - direct Gates quote! It's a bit worrying when a Stanford law professor hails the most sucessful IT company in the world as 'a threat to business and the economy as a whole', bit it even more so when he reports that M$ are hiring every Patent lawyer they can find. I thought they'd been a bit quiet for a while. Is this the calm before the almighty storm of intellectual property debate? It's been a long time coming - one could argue ever since we've had the ability to digitally store information.

Records and books traditionally cost nearly as much to reproduce as produce. It's only when we get to the digital age that reproduction is as easy as drag 'n drop. And while some have been making hay while the suns shines, others have been quietly buying up all the fields. Ultimately, I suppose, the consumer will still get their hay. But at what cost to progress? Imagination and innovation are what drew me to information technology. To threaten those is to threaten the heart of this incredibly progressive industry.

Wednesday, 30 March 2005

Slashdot | 2005 Star Wars Fan Film Entries Online... and here are some surprisingly good amateur films of a humorous Star Wars nature
Devil's Advocate: Programme management (silicon.com) - Here's an article that's right on the button about project vs programme management. Most usefully, it doesn't vent opinion about which is better, but merely weighs up the pros and cons of both, and advocating a pragmatic approach to the impending hype.

Monday, 28 March 2005

This is a test from my new Treo 650... the picture is part of the test.
typewriter

[Posted with hblogger 2.0 http://www.normsoft.com/hblogger/]

Thursday, 17 March 2005

Economist.com | Technology and development: The real digital divide. Finally, some empirical evidence to support the intuitive view that the developing and even 3rd world could use mobile telecoms to narrow the digital divide. Not only that they could, but that this is the only really viable solution, mainly because it provides the greatest advantage for the lowest cost, but also, interestingly, because certain characteristics (eg. battery life) are more suitable for nations with poor energy infrastructure.

Wednesday, 16 March 2005


Mobile and Open: A Manifesto... from Howard Rheingold. I read one of his early books on the internet as a communication community at university, and he's definitely a man to listen to on intuitive, compassionate aspects of the internet.

Friday, 4 March 2005

intelligent Picture and Sound Pusher, or iPSP. A rare case where the acronym is more informative than the full name. This is a synchronizer for OSX and the PSP (PlayStation Personal) handheld gaming and multimedia system. Not only does it synchronize iLife apps (iTunes, iPhoto), but it also converts other media types to the latest, most efficient MP4 format. Amazing, and market-beating were it not for that damn Sony proprietary memory stick. I'm an SD man, and memory stick is the equivalent of betamax, in my view.

Thursday, 3 March 2005

Yet another piece of brilliance from Clay Bennett (click on pic to visit his website)...
Google's secret of success? Dealing with failure | CNET News.com. Here are some interesting insights from the VP of operations responsible for Google's infrastructure - the real asset strength of the internet uber-company. It's interesting that they use their own tweaked version of Linux, with a modified file system, and that they gear their systems for massively parallel tasks by default, in the expectation of system failure from the component level right up to the location level.
The Sound of iPod... now this is hacking from the old school. This guy describes how he managed to hack an ipod using the clickwheel sound controller to access the ipod's memory (thought to be a closed system for 4th gen ipods). By sending the ipod different sounds he manage to figure out how to write a decoder for the rest of the memory. He then recorded the content of the memory, and played it through the decoder to get the ascertain the contents of the flashrom (the bit required to boot an operating system). Top marks for perseverance and hacking innovation.

Wednesday, 2 March 2005

It seems that metrics are still a key issue for the IT industry. For all the data collecting and processing tools that this industry provides, it seem it still can't measure ROI (Working out IT value tough, say banks - silicon.com) or even their own industry metrics (Analyst research 'distorted' against open source - ZDNet UK News). Is this seemingly perennial problem (I remember the ROI problem as an undergraduate) willful, or simply part of the process of a pioneering industry?


I'd suggest both, with the latter often used as an excuse to cover the former. If organisations delieated more clearly between operating costs of IT and project delivery costs, the picture would be clearer, but where is the incentive for CIOs to be more open about justifying their budget? This is further confused by the inherent nature of software: is it a product or a service? The answer is in the pricing, and that's usually very flexible. Personally, I veer towards service, and that's at the core of whether open source is a viable industry model in the long term.

Thursday, 24 February 2005

Surely some Microsoft marketing guru needs to be shot for this Microsoft Windows Licensing advert. What next? Maybe a picture of a turd with a cross through it, and the caption 'Windows Longhorn: not as bad as the old Windows'.

Wednesday, 23 February 2005

adaptive path � ajax: a new approach to web applications. Google maps is an excellent example of this. I suspect it has more application for graphics programming than anything else, but it's nice to see the web finally getting smoother.

Tuesday, 22 February 2005

Free Mojtaba and Arash Day. There, I've said it. Democracy has a global voice, and, sorry technophobes, but it is blogging. Economist use the concept of 'perfect competition' to describe basic economic rules. As economists strive for perfect competition, shouldn't politicians and governments strive for perfect information?

Friday, 18 February 2005

Xen lures big-name endorsements | CNET News.com... what's Xen? Well, it allows you to run several OSes on the same machine. Very handy for those Linux buffs who have to contend with Windowsland. And possibly quite handy for those tentative people who may just want to see what the penguin is all about without leaving the safety (but not security) of Windowsland. So this endorsement is not only massive, but very healthy.

Some would argue that the OS market should not really be a competitive market (linux people, mainly) because all the OS should really do is allow application software to talk to hardware. Indeed Linux, like unix, differentiates between the core OS kernel and the window (UI) system - you can get different 'windows' for linux: KDE, Gnome, or even good old xwin. Microsoft doesn't differentiate the two in Windows because it would clearly reduce dependency on Windows. I'd argue that their punishment for monopolistic practices should be exactly that: split the kernel from the GUI (rather than the favoured option of splitting the OS division from the apps division). That would expose the real value discrepancy in their product: that they value the kernel, but the majority of their customers value the GUI (and only then through familiarity).

Tuesday, 15 February 2005

PalmSource's sideways shuffle to Linux | The Register. Well, at least the company are finally doing something forward-thinking. Being a long-term Palm user, my main criticism of the devices is the software. Sure, its simplicity is what got them to the forefront of the market, but hardware has evolved significantly. Yet Palmsource's development path has been pedestrian, with over-simplistic PIM software and ropey sync software. Hopefully, with a more opensource approach, they can leapfrog back into the game.


Now this (Wired News) is a good Valentines day prank. Female UK police chief sends valentines cards to suspected burglars which are coated in a unique liquid which coats their hands and is virtually impossible to remove. So the next time they nick something, there's more than a fingerprint's chance of catching them. Assuming they're not wearing gloves, that is...

Monday, 14 February 2005

The next generation of computing? Here are two articles from the Economist, the first is about the new cell chip, and the second is about a new, faster access form of data storage. I can't help thinking that the combination of these two technologies will lead to the next surge in multimedia evolution. It makes me ponder the possibility that, in terms of the technology of digital information, we are on a par with the early commoditisation of electricity: it's widely adopted, but non-standard, barely reliable and barely understood. Yet the possibilities will extend far beyond the pioneers' imaginings.

Thursday, 10 February 2005

Tablet flaw hard to swallow (ZDNet UK News)... basically using the pen on any tablet PC leaks memory, so every day your memory fills up forcing you to reboot. Every day. This is a product that's worth at least $1000. In any other industry such a flaw would be grounds for a recall, compensation, lawsuits etc. But in software, it's a corporate 'oops! Please hold while we figure out how to fix it'.
Why do we tolerate this? How long must we tolerate this for?


Surely the strongest argument for open source is that it is ethically more balanced with the standard EULA offered by most 'professional' software. Currently, when you buy most software, you indemnify the vendor from just about any fault with their software. And if you want fault resolution, you pay extra for it. If they won't take responsibility for their software, why should they be entitled ownership? In open source, the positions are clear and more even-handed: no ownership, no responsibility - just pay for the service.

How-To: Podcasting (aka How to get Podcasts and also make your own) (Engadget)... well, it seems to be a how-to day today. Just need to find a decent podcast search tool... and maybe try to persuade the BBC to adopt it for their radio shows - subscription/license fee only, of course.
Two great thinkers of our time discuss the profound (Neal Stephenson's Past, Present and Future) and the bizarre (William Gibson's blog) follow the link in the birds and bees entry in the latter.
Decent article on secure connections on Mac OS X -- here's a useful, comprehensive blog article about using secure sockets (SSH) in OSX. It explains the rationale for using it, as well as the techie stuff in layman's terms. Also recommends a handy config product: SSH Tunnel Manager.

Monday, 7 February 2005

Slashdot | Grand Unified Theory of SIMD. Wha...? Well, here's one for those who think that graphics people only prefer macs because they look nicer. Single Instruction, Multiple Data (SIMD) is an essential part of graphic manipulation, and is yet another one of the hidden wonders of Apple's OSX. Have a look at the comments below the article for explanations and other good links.

Also, the cell chip, mentioned in the article, is due for launch today. Touted for the PS3, it is supposed to be supercomputer fast (16 teraflops in a blade is one quote I've read). Wonder if it will fit into a Powerbook...?
Economist.com | The economics of sharing. This is one subject area I've been pondering for a while: how can open-source development work, economically, and can it be applied in other areas/industries? As ever, the Economist does the thinking for you, while at the same time provoking more thought. The essence of the first part of the question is the "non-rival" nature of such goods (your use doesn't interfere with my use) and their network effect benefits (the more use, the better).


The second part is harder because there is another key to open-source sharing: the cost of distribution, which is negligible. Clearly, for physical goods there will always be a non-trivial cost component. However, there are still plenty of semi-virtual goods out there that could work, including radio frequencies, computer processing and bandwidth (eg. SETI).


Key quote in all of this: “Social sharing [represents] a third mode of organising economic production, alongside markets and the state.”

Economist.com | Computer circuits: Barred and latched. Here we have it: the missing piece of nano-circuitry. They had already sussed the basic gates (AND, OR etc.) on the nanoscale, but not transistors. Enter the new nano-transistor, a breakthrough that some electronics genius with no sense of marketing decided to call the "crossbar latch". Great stuff, can't wait for my first Crossbar Latch Radio..!
... and so it came to pass that Microsoft was based on unix all along. While this isn't exactly news, it is a useful reminder of the reality behind Microsoft's version of history. They started out as opportunistic as some of their latter day competitors, so their implication that the fragmentation of unix was a bad thing, not to be repeated, and implying that they are merely custodians of some OS standard that must be preserved is rich, to say the least. As is Gate's comment about AT&T not realising what they had (in unix) and be very hard to deal with. Sound familiar? Although I think this time round it is worse: the protagonist knows exactly what it has, and is willing to fight, fair or foul, to keep it... even to the extent that it has created a nemesis that is essentially a guerilla movement: amateur idealists giving their software away for free: Linux. And what is this software based on...?

UPDATE: just saw this (ZDNet) containing an analyst's response to Bill Gates' complete misunderstanding of open source. He cites another interesting reason for not having interoperability problems: less incentive to fork.

Friday, 4 February 2005

The Story of the PING Program In many ways, this is open source before open source, in that it's one guy with an idea who sits down one evening and changes the world in a small but significant way. That, to me, is the real revolution of the internet. Sure, you can buy stuff online, you can download stuff (pirated or otherwise), you can even make cheap calls, but the crux of the medium is the sharing of ideas. It is an incredible, unfathomable medium for ideas, be they bits of code, songs, films, discussions, or documents of trade, business or research.

Another fine example of this is Bram Cohen's BitTorrent, which is nicely covered in an article here.

Friday, 21 January 2005

Slashdot | Games Better Than Books? There is a precedent here: HSBC, in the UK, (then Midland Bank) used to use Theme Park (a theme park management simulator) as a management training tool. Now, I was pondering this the other day... I wouldn't go so far as to say that games could be better than books, provocative though that may be, but I would argue that more should be done to leverage modern gaming technology in teaching. The two key things that most games already offer are the need to solve puzzles and the need to make decisions.. The latter, in my view, is a critical weakness in most modern education systems. Kids are encouraged to make choices, but not decisions (ie. choices that may effect others).

Computer game evolution has leapt in recent years, with the advent of multiplayer online gaming. This has not only brought a much-needed social aspect to computer gaming, but it has made games less predictable, more open-ended... more like life. If the US army can use these things for training, even offering cut-down versions for free on the Internet, then why can't we leverage this stuff better for kids?

Games will never substitute books - that's absurd, like saying TV or radio would. But what they can offer is a degree of immersion and interaction far beyond previous media; a chance to ignite those young imaginations while retaining the informational input, and even testing their skills and knowledge.

Wednesday, 19 January 2005

CIO Jury: Apple 'irrelevant' to businesses - silicon.com. Now, notwithstanding my evident Apple bias (typing this on a powerbook), the only comment from this jury that shows real insight (or foresight, even) is the last one. For one thing, Apple are not targeting the mainstream corporate market. It's a bit like advocating high-end mercedes benz cars as fleet sales rep cars. Furthermore, the opinions that Apple products are over-priced are, in my experience, based on ignorance of the products in question, rather than knowledge. I suspect that none of these CIOs would claim their Merc was "overpriced and irrelevant". It's the classic overly-defensive CIO syndrome: in the absence of knowledge, be indifferent and/or dismissive. As the CIO of DrKW says, it has potential, but it's not there yet, and it may never be unless corporate IT systems move away from a desktop and OS-centric approach. Without the mac, it could be argued that Microsoft would still be touting command prompt-based OSes, rather than Windows. Apple are many things: niche, design- more than feature-oriented, haughty, litigious... but they are not irrelevant.
3G: forget video, what about unified messaging? This is what I meant about the impending importance of voice messaging, Simon. Sure, voice-controlled machinery is still ropey, but voice is still the number 1 communication tool of choice for techno-phobes and -philes alike. Yet the tools we use to manage these recorded voices are crude at best. Why can't I manage my voice messages as easily as I can manage email? With the increase in VoIP and 3G comms, I think that unified messaging may just finally have its day.

Tuesday, 18 January 2005

Economist.com | Crunch time for Apple . A good, concise summary (as ever) from the Economist about Apple's recent launch of the Mac mini and Shuffle.

Friday, 14 January 2005

BBC NEWS | Technology | World tour for top video gamers... Cyberathlete Professional League? I'll only choose to recognise computer gaming as a sport when they have their first e-steroid scandal.
How do we make XML faster? - Builder UK... I seem to remember debating this on the tube about 2 years ago with Tim Velvick (The Velvick Underground), and my argument was then, and is now, that it's not a software issue, it's a network protocol issue. XML itself is not slow, the transportation of it is. Therefore methods should be found to transport XML messages faster, probably at the network protocol level - like SSL, only for speeding up certain types of traffic, rather than encrypting them.
Linux company chalks up success with teachers - ZDNet UK News... finally, a successful, altruistic use for Linux, rather than techies and companies penny-pinched into using it. I'm utterly amazed nobody thought of this before. Cheap, portable and hackable... what better use for this OS is there?

Wednesday, 12 January 2005

Hacker breaches T-Mobile systems, reads US Secret Service email | The Register... while this is an intriguing, cat and mouse story of trendy, hi-tech derring-do, I can't help thinking the motives are a little sad. No romantic, ethical defections or high stakes heists. Just a poor kid who wanted a job in computer security, so he breaches a significant site, and instead of reporting it to get kudos, gathers and tries to sell info from it - presumably for financial gain and kudos. He got to the crossroads and chose the dark side.

Makes you wonder what the USSS are missing... I mean, imagine if some Sith lord type got hold of this talent and mentored them...

Tuesday, 11 January 2005

Open-source database gets backing | CNET News.com Now this is long overdue, in my opinion. One of Linus Torvald's reasons for releasing Linux, and a key tenet of open source, is that some pieces of software become so universally used that they transcend ownership. An OS is defined as the piece of software that enables applications to talk to hardware. Nothing more, regardless of what the Microsoft marketing leviathan may say. And that's how Linux started. If Linux can take on Microsoft, then why can't PostgreSQL take on Oracle?

Software is, and always will be, a service. That's why it's soft. The sooner companies wise up to that, the sooner the industry will deliver what its customers demand, and should expect.

Monday, 10 January 2005

How the music biz can live forever, get even richer, and be loved | The Register... an interesting transcript I had overlooked, from a convention back in September, that discusses not only the current and future state of the music industry's approach to DRM, but also, unlike so many critics, proposes a solution. Not bad, considering he's addressing a room full of music industry barons. Memorable quote:-

...because of digital technology, you think your rights are worthless. They aren't. You need to monetize them in two ways: by ensuring that there's a revenue stream for things you can't count, and finding new bottles that you can count.

Nicely put. Now, if he could just do the same for my other bugbear: battery life (Economist.com), then I'd be willing to hail him as a guru. Notable stat from this article: ...the amount of energy that a battery can store (its energy density) is growing by 8% a year. Mobile-device power consumption, meanwhile, is growing at more than three times this rate. That, and the hilarious prospect of America's "Future Force Warriors" lugging 15kg of batteries around with them. Wonder if they've factored in the multi-adaptors and docking cradles into that figure??

Wednesday, 5 January 2005

MS out of the bundling business? | The Register. Here's an interesting analysis of the EC's bitch-slap of Microsoft, with some enlightening comparisons to the IBM anti-trust cases in the 80's.

On a more emotive note, Will Eisner, the reknowned god of comics and creator of the first comic dubbed a 'graphic novel' died yesterday aged 87. His main legacy, other than his amazingly timeless works, is in the form of the annual Eisner Awards - the comic book equivalent of the Oscars. If you're a comics skeptic, who tends to view the medium as little more than Garfield or Peanuts, I suggest you investigate the inspiration for at least a quarter of all the major studio movies in the last couple of years. For the rest of you, there's an excellent set of tributes on Neil Gaiman's blog here

Finally, and on a lighter note, here's an interesting quirk... go to href="http://www.mammals.org">www.mammals.org and see where you end up. Weird, eh?

Tuesday, 4 January 2005

Economist.com | Software takeovers. Who says the software industry is boring? I've been wondering what all this M and A action in the industry has been about. I originally thought it was just medium and big companies beachcombing after the dotcom tsunami, but it has gone on for a while now. Perhaps a reflection of the instability caused by entrenched incumbents on the one hand and the free-wheeling, revolutionary open-source movement on the other hand?