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Alan Greespan gave one of those speeches yesterday where he tiptoes around something important but leaves that subject alone. (The picture is from MSNBC.)
He talked about intellectual property rights. He said they're increasingly important.
But while most commentators will take this as a chance to go on-and-on about the Copyright Wars or the Patent Wars, it's far more important to think about where ideas come from -- people.
The battle is on for smart people. We have always been ahead. But we are deliberately losing ground. Years from now people will refer to this era as the American Brain Drain, and we only have a limited amount of time to reverse it before its effects become irreversible.
As a veteran journalist, I know. The person who writes the story almost never writes the headline to accompany it. (The justice scales pictured are from the U.S. Department of Transportation site.)
In the case of newspapers and magazines there's a natural reason for this. The headline must fit the space, or "deck," available to it. It must "sell" the story, convincing people to read it.
So headlines are written by editors, working for lay-out people. Publishers, with an eye toward sales, oversee the process.
Thus I'm inclined to forgive headlines in ways others may not be. But once in a while we get something like this and I have to speak up.
While the attention of the public is focused on gay marriage, let's talk today instead about a possible divorce. (The image is of an old movie poster, taken from a schedule of shows at San Francisco's Roxie Cinema.
The evidence is becoming overwhelming. Intel has deliberately made its 64-bit chips incompatible with those of AMD. Yet when Microsoft decided to secure its XP operating system at the chip level, it did so through an alliance with AMD.
So, I put the question to you. Has the WinTel marriage ended? Can this marriage be saved?
It snowed in Atlanta this morning. So it's a musical day.
Remember, ICANN is supposed to be on the verge of approving a Verisign-run Waiting List Service. The deal is supposed to be finalized next week in Rome.
Sing along with me:
There is still time to bid on the Auction Of The Year.
On eBay (current high bid $7) -- ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
This has always been one of my favorite albums, but not just because of the music (or the words):
The music must change
For we're chewing a bone
We soared like the sparrow hawk flied
Then we dropped like a stone
Like the tide and the waves
Growing slowly in range
Crushing mountains as old as the Earth
So the music must change
Look at the picture again. This is 1978, at the dawn of the PC era. This is the band in front of just some of the equipment they need to perform. Think of all the money that cost.
Now consider how much it would cost today, and how big it would have to be. It would probably pack in a suitcase, and cost just a few thousand dollars.
Speaking of health care, News.Com has a "special report" out on the problems of health care paperwork.
It may be the biggest health care scandal of all. (The picture, by the way, is from Stafford Medical, an outfit working toward solving this very problem.)
Every time I go to any doctor, I have to fill out a form. This despite the fact that everything one needs to know about me is in a computer somewhere, and the doctor gained all my "private" information on the phone before making the appointment.
Have you ever thought about how much money that wastes, and how easy it would be to end that waste?
The distrust between privacy advocates and big business is creating a solution where there's no problem, as RSA begins offering technology to disable RFID tags. (The picture is from a California medical group offering patients information on medicine.)
As The Register reports, the Blocker Tag is a cover applied to a passive RFID tag at a register that keeps the tag on an item from signaling to a radio. RSA demonstrated this on drugs. The prescription bottle tag couldn't be read after the blocker was applied.
The International Space Station is putting the answering machine on.
The entire two-man crew of the Space Station is going outside tomorrow to make repairs, USA Today reports. Ironically both men, station commander Michael Foale and cosmonaut Alexander Kareli, are veterans of the Russian Mir space station. (The picture of Mir is from this page describing "third generation Soviet Space Systems.)
In the 1998 movie "Armageddon," the mission is to get astronauts onto a comet which is on a collision course with Earth and somehow blow the thing up by drilling a bore hole and planting an A-bomb in it.
Today Europe launches Rosetta, an unmanned satellite that will slingshot around Mars and, 10 years from now, drop a lander on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
There are no plans to blow it up. (The picture of Rosetta is from CNN.)
In Congress, the best way to get something unpopular through is to put it in the hands of someone with no election worries.
In the House, this means a Congresscritter in a "safe" seat, someone who wins with 80% of the vote. In the Senate, it's usually someone newly-elected, trying to rise quickly to the leadership, who gets its dirty work. By the time they meet the voters, it's assumed, they will have forgotten.
Thus, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee wants to tax VOIP. Actually, he wants to let states and localities tax it.
As you may know this page features Google's AdSense . It posts context-sensitive ads on Web pages, and pays you for them. A few weeks ago I got a check for over $57 (OK, $57.09) covering ads both here and on my newsletter, a-clue.com, over the last quarter.
Alert readers of this blog will remember our recent item on ATM card skimmers.
Well, a brave Slashdot reader apparently went a little further than we recommended. Rather than just looking around for these skimmers and avoiding them, he got his mates together and stole the thing, then took it apart.
Click below to see some interesting pictures:
This could be the Internet’s “Elvis Moment.”
You’ll remember (from history class) how, back in 1957, Elvis Presley appeared on the Ed Sullivan show and wasn’t shown below-the-waist (although his dancing was all done through his hips). The “censorship” caused a sensation. The backlash opened up TV, it became a litmus test of parental acceptance and it made Elvis the biggest thing ever (until then he’d just been the biggest thing in rock and roll).
Well fast forward 47 years. (Yep, it’s been that long.) There’s a huge underground hit out there, something the media will neither play nor cover. It’s called The Grey Album, by DJ DangerMouse (from which the art here is taken), a mix of The Beatles’ “White Album” and Jay-Z’s “The Black Album.”
EMI, which owns the Beatles’ output, has banned the thing. It has tried to seize all 3,000 copies in circulation. And (like Sullivan) it has only succeeded in fanning the whirlwind.
Sun co-founder Vinod Khosla has returned to Bangalore as a partner in Kleiner Perkins, an Indian tech godfather. From where he sits George W. Bush looks very, very good. (The picture on the right is taken from an Indian Car Rental site, specifically a page that offers driving tours.)
Why shouldn’t he? No President has ever done more for India. Bush has reversed the nation’s brain drain and transferred millions of high-paying (by local standards) jobs to the subcontinent. Now Khosla wants India to defend its rights to outsourcing before the WTO, and to take the next step into building giant enterprises of its own.
While waiting for a family prescription to be processed I "Napstered" the cover of "The Wall Street Journal" (I looked at the stuff over-the-fold on the front page) and found much of it devoted to Microsoft vs. Consumer Electronics. (The drawing is by Matt Elder and you can find more here.)
Microsoft has drawn universal resistance from the consumer electronics industry toward licensing its Windows operating system, even the kernel. The article's thesis was that this has everything to do with Microsoft's "embrace and extend" policy, and fear that, if they let Microsoft serve them, pretty soon they will serve Microsoft.
I think it goes deeper.
Last week's startling attack on the Bush Administration's abuse of science should not go unremarked. (If you like the cartoon, start the process of buying it here.)
Essentially 60 top scientists directly accused George W. Bush of perverting science in the name of ideology, and compared him to Joseph Stalin.
Some people feel this may be a tipping point in the politics of our time, a moment when the powerful finally went too far.
But the cynic in me doubts it.
There are days when, talking to people about The World of Always-On, I sound a little crazy even to myself.
But I know I'm on the right track. Because every once in a while I meet a vendor who "gets it."
And every once in a while I see a profile of someone else who "gets it," like this recent piece on Leonard Kleinrock.
Kleinrock, now on the UCLA faculty (the picture is from his home page there) proclaims himself "father of the Internet technology." He pioneered packet switching while at MIT, and a decade later his host at UCLA became the first node on the Internet.
If last year was the Year of Dean, is this to be the Year of Furl?
Furl, for those who don't know it, is a tool created at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst for saving whole Web pages. Instead of bookmarking pages, so you can go to them later, you save the whole page, and build a library of them.
You sign-up, you get an e-mail in response, you respond to the e-mail, and then you get a browser button for your toolbar.
There is no software to install.
The Internet is a great validation device.
My daughter, for instance, loves the Harry Potter characters. She wants to read about them all the time. On fanfiction.net she can, in stories written by people her own age, with her sensibility. She doesn't have to wait for Book 6 to come out. And her feelings are validated, because the authors of those stories feel the same way she does.
Grown-ups have the same kind of experience.
The Internet is not one thing, and it's not really a "network of networks." It's a social contract, among networks, where the promise is to pass data without asking questions.
That contract is now breaking down.
The failure of governments or Internet governance to find a solution to spam, or to even define spam properly (as mass e-mail I didn't ask for), is forcing ISPs to break the contract that has tied them together.
Hilde Van Gool, who runs a newsletter called neTTies in Belgium (from which the image above was taken), noticed this and sent a note on it to Ken Rutkowski's "connected" list. "I have problems with some providers who think my html-mail is spam, and as such they refuse to transmit my mail to the people my mail was destinated for," Hilde writes.
We have had a good discussion here on my post about Security and Source so I have decided to re-visit the topic. (The picture, by the way, is taken from this page at Computerworld's Windows Advantage.
PhilipW pointed out the 95-5 rule as it applies to Linux. Nearly all the work on its kernel is done by a handful of people. Given that, he asked, how can it be any more secure than Windows?
That's true, but Linux is better when trouble hits because you don't have to be passive in the face of it. With Windows, all you can do is wait. It's the difference between being able to shop for a mechanic or being totally dependent on dealer service for your car.
While that's all well-and-good, and that might even be possible, I think the comments miss the point.
Yeah, you'll have to click below to get to the point.
Sometimes Andrew Orlowski is remarkably clued-in. And he writes well. (The picture is from Guy Kewney's Newswirelessnet.)
Then there are times when he sticks his foot somewhere the Sun don't shine.
Today was one of those times. He wrote a nastygram against the Intel Developer Forum, claiming the chip company is "against free TV."
Nothing could be further from the truth. But if Intel were against "free TV," it might not be a bad thing.
The Economist's print edition has a long screed claiming that outsourcing concerns are phony, and everything is A-OK.
The statement was originally made by the Administration's chief economic advisory, Gregory Minkiw (pictured, from his home page) and has since become a political lightning-rod.
In theory the magazine is right. Most of the jobs being lost overseas are jobs we're well rid of. How many Americans really want to put together stuffed toys, or be an "operator standing by?" The magazine claims that a huge spurt in job growth is just around the corner, good jobs with good wages.
To which I respond, not necessarily.
So I'm sitting here with my morning coffee looking for news, when what comes over the e-mail but another note from Tee Emm, my Karachi correspondent.
And the news he has for me is right up my street -- literally.
The question of Iranian liberty may be the most important debate of 2004.
The Iraqi invasion was predicated, at least in part, as a transforming event that would spread democracy outward. Iran has been nominally a democracy for some years, but, especially since the invasion, the accent there has been on the word nominal.
This tech blog is tackling the question because a crisis has been reached and (surprise) blogging is in the center of it.
Been to your ATM lately?
There's a new scam going around that can catch you out easily.
It involves two pieces of technology, installed by thieves at an ATM machine. This is already happening in Brazil, and Texas police are now on the look-out for it. (The picture is from Brazil, but if you can't see it just click on the Texas police link -- they have some grainier versions.)
InStat/MDR today offers some valid concerns concerning the rush of cell phone makers to Linux and Windows.
But they should have less concern over my advocating that makers of access points or mesh points build with embedded Linux or Windows.
Search has suddenly become fun again.
That's because Yahoo has debuted a new version of its search engine, dumping Google from its site like J.Lo dumped Affleck.
As a quick review, I searched for me on both the new Yahoo and Google.
Time sure flies when you're having fun.
Few can quibble with the job he's done. I certainly won't. He was a Stanford Professor before he began climbing the greasy pole at Intel, in 1974. Before joining the company he was also a Fulbright Fellow and the author of a materials science textbook.
I mention all this because it's time to consider who will follow him.
The leaking of some Microsoft source code is a big story. Virus writers will now have an easy time making nastier bugs.
But if that's the case, why isn't Linux, whose source code has always been available, more vulnerable? (The picture, by the way, is from a BBC Q&A on the Microsoft leak.)
The fact that it's not should tell you something about the intersection of politics, creativity, and copyright in our world.
Those who know me also know that I have spent time these last months on the Howard Dean campaign. Those who want to hear my thoughts on his demise may click below.
For the rest of you, there’s plenty more bloggy goodness on this here tech page.
The Internet Bust of 2000 taught us nothing. (The image is from PBS, an article for students on the Crash and its aftermath.
To most investors, the lesson was confined to a single sector. The lesson, as it was understood, was that you don't overpay for companies without earnings.
But that's the wrong lesson. The real lesson must be, you don't overpay, period.
Over the last year, we've seen some recovery in profits, especially among the biggest companies. But we've seen even more of a recovery in those companies' stock prices.
Remember, the historical average P/E (price-earnings ratio, the number of times you have to add up a company's annual earnings to reach its stock price) is 15. But look at some of these:
The market says Cingular overpaid in its acquisition of AT&T Wireless.
The proof lies in the tales told by the deal's advocates. It's about consolidation. The idea is that, with fewer players (and this deal eliminates two -- AT&T and NTT DoCoMo) the remaining players can enjoy something like monopoly profits, or at least oligopoly profits (which as Coke or Pepsi will tell you are tasty indeed).
But are the barriers to entry really that high?
The great thing about being a great company is you can make mistakes and get away with them.
Microsoft makes lots of mistakes. Think "Bob." (The illustration to the left is from a Toastytech tribute to Bob, by Nathan Lineback.) IBM has made mistakes, the most notable being losing control of PC operating systems.
Intel has also made mistakes, especially in the area of communications. And, at least in public, it's compounding that mistake this week.
Its home networking concepts are smart, but they're being packaged stupidly.
Martyrdom is a powerful force.
Once unleashed it can't be put down, because there's no longer anyone to negotiate with. (The picture at right is from a BBC story on Du Daobin, who has been formally charged with subversion for writing online articles no more compelling than this one.)
The only way for an oppressor to beat martyrdom is to keep making martyrs until the passion to create new ones runs out. This is the sum of China's policy on dissent.
When a martyr can use the media, especially this medium, or when the martyr comes from the Internet, however, the oppressor's task becomes impossible. (This is the secret of Amnesty International, although they don't just use the Internet but all media to spread the word of oppression and martydom.)
For a martyr being martyred, however, this is small consolation. The path of Nathan Hale is not recommended, except as an example for others, or in time of war.
While most makers of access points are in a standards race -- 802.11a, then g, then a+g -- a little outfit called Firetide is beating them to the punch.
The reason, in a word, is that Firetide is not selling access points, but mesh networks.
For customers, the difference between a mesh and a set of access points is like night-and-day. With an access point, coverage goes in a circle from that point, and you need a site survey to know how many points you need, and where you need them. With a mesh, on the other hand, you just keep adding nodes until you get coverage, and the nodes configure themselves.
The more alert among you may notice some changes have been made here at Moore's Lore. Among the new features:
I hope you like the new Moore's Lore. Please feel free to write me about it directly with any feedback.
I say the reference is a mistake although I know they will disagree. I'm defining Always-On as one thing, they're defining it (in this case) as simply something that doesn't really turn-off -- it just goes to sleep when you close the lid.
Be that as it may, when I first read the news I wanted one. Ever since I defined "Dana's Iron Law of Laptops" -- an ounce on the desk is a pound in my hand -- I've been looking for a full-featured (that means it has a keyboard) PC that "gets it."
This one seems to "get it."
I'm in the market for a new computer.
For career reasons, it needs to be a Windows machine.
Of course it will need an operating system. Since I need Windows, that means $146.75 for Windows XP Pro. Office Depot sells Office 2003 for about $400.
See the tipping point? The hardware costs $484, the absolute minimum Microsoft software needed for it to run costs $546.75.
Yes, you can reduce this cost. You can run Linux and Star Office if you like. But if you're a serious office user you run Office. It's your ante into the business game.
This is an important tipping point. There is no Moore's Law of software. If we're to progress further, there needs to be.
But there can't be with Microsoft. Microsoft can't reduce its prices because, frankly, it can't reduce its costs. There are not just coders and support people to feed, but vice presidents, product managers, lawyers, marketers, executives, and shareholders to consider.
As a result of this progress has essentially halted. The only way Microsoft has found to push things along, even a little bit, has been to subsidize some of its users. If you're buying for a school or university, or a big corporation, you won't pay those prices I quoted -- you will pay much less. (Of course you'll pay those costs on all PCs you have, even those that run Linux.) This sustains the monopoly, but it doesn't feed the bottom line the way individual users or small businesses can (and must).
Still, what if a PC didn't run Office? What if it just ran, say, the Windows kernel, with a new class of hardware-based applications running on top of it? Then your home might, in fact, have 10 or 20 or more PCs inside it, networked, running the heat and the lights and the security and who-knows-what, with maybe one copy of XP and one of Office, as part of a central control. Perhaps this $600 in software might be rented, made a part of your online bill, just like the services that need attachment to the greater Internet on those other 10-20 PCs?
The point is there are ways this can work. There are ways out of the box. First one to find them wins the future.
Back in the early 1990s personal computing faced a crisis.
The power of the computer had exceeded the needs of most tasks. The answer, it was felt, was to keep more than one task up at a time, to "multitask." (The piece to the left is called "The Multitasking Queen," by Beverly Naidus. You can find it, and several other interesting artworks by the same artist, here, and some background on the installation at Washington University in St. Louis here.)
It took time for software to catch up to this but it did happen.
And now hardware has the same need.
We're accustomed to thinking of chips as doing one thing. You have processors, memory chips, radio chips, communication processors. You have graphic chips and application chips.
But by combining several related functions onto one product, printer makers found new life building "multi-function" products that could fax, print, scan and copy. Why not define all that functionality as one chip?
Processor makers learned long-ago how inefficient it was to keep memory on separate chips, and so "cache" memory holds data as it waits for processing.
By taking this lesson to heart, chip makers are reaching toward a new growth spurt. I hesitate to call it a boom, because true booms are based on doing something new, and we're not talking here about something new, more like something borrowed.
But it's an important concept to Always-On. When you can combine, say, a sensor and a radio, you have a single-chip medical device that is manufactured at the chip plant. The same thing happens when combine communications and a camera's workings. Make every chip that lives in the world an 802.11 client, and the chip-maker has a new growth market, while you as a systems vendor have many new applications.
Suddenly there's a real motive toward making that wireless access point a platform, with a modular, scalable, PC operating system. The wireless network is no longer the end of the road. It's no longer a cul de sac. Like many modern suburbs, it too becomes the city. And it should be planned-for the way suburbs should be planned, with growth assumed, and plenty of lanes for new traffic.
Because it's simpler, Palm's operating system had a big advantage when chips were simpler.
But that same advantage becomes a disadvantage when chips get more complex.
So Palm is fighting for relevance. (At right is the Palm 71, taken from Palm's sale Web site.)
One way it's doing this is by offering two versions of the OS -- one for connectivity, one use on the client. Skip the code words (Garnet for the client, Cobalt for communications) and you get one OS for the processing-heavy PDA, one for the communication-heavy cell phone.
Another way to stay in the game is with some powerful friends. Palm's most powerful friend remains Sony, which makes the Clie version of the Palm. Sony understands retailing, it understands price points, and it's rolling out three new Palms, only two of which have the Wi-Fi and MP3 capabilities computer geeks long for. But that's OK, because the $200 device will be a $100 device by Christmas, and people like my wife (who doesn't need communications capability and doesn't plan on listening to music on her PDA) will finally get a color screen.
The third way toward relevance is by finding more partners. Nvidia is filling that niche. The graphics chipmaker will be able to make the next generation of Palms more graphics-friendly. Only by getting to the chip level (Intel, ATI, M-Systems, Motorola, Samsung Semiconductor and Texas Instruments already license from PalmSource) can Palm get into new devices.
By having multiple partners, in multiple niches, and multiple versions, Palm hopes to have enough friends to withstand the continuing Microsoft onslaught. Now if they can just connect the Palm OS firmly to Linux...
The problem with science education lies in how it's taught.
The fact is science is all around us.
Take that jar of M&Ms, for instance.
Paul Chaikin of Princeton (pictured, from his Web site) was given a huge jar of them as a joke, because he likes them. M&Ms, unlike most other candies, are "oblate spheroids," thin, wide, and solid.
Chaikin started thinking of them in terms of his specialty, physics. It sure seemed like you could get a whole bunch of them into that jar, more than you could, say, gumballs (which are spheres).
Chaikin did the math. Dump gumballs into a jar at random and they take up 64% of the available room -- there are many spots where the balls run up against each other. (Want to see this pattern on a large scale? Go to any Toys R Us and look at the cage where they store the cheap rubber balls they sell to kids.) An M&M, however, will turn and take up 71% of the space. Best of all, how about something that's not circular on top, say, an almond M&M? Now you're taking up 77% of the space. (Mars, which makes M&Ms, donated 125 pounds of almond M&Ms for this stage of the research.)
So take these two guys on the right, taken from the official M&M site. For 50 points, kids, who packs better into a 50-pound drum?
What does this have to do with anything? A lot. As things cool into a solid, they come together. If they're not coming together in a crystal or lattice, if they're coming together randomly, they're going to pack in as tight as possible. If you want to build high-density ceramics, say to make better planes, this kind of knowledge is vital. Simply replace the M&Ms with some other material, say a plastic, whose molecules share the shape, and you have the strength you need to get off the ground with less weight.
Physics, not boxing, is the sweet science.
I love short stories.
I love to read them, and I love to write them.
Short stories are very, very powerful. They can, when done right, pack the punch of a novel into just a few pages.
But short stories have nearly disappeared from most writers' repertoirre because of business models.
Ever since O. Henry's time, however, markets for short stories have been drying up. There was a vogue for "pulp" magazines, from which modern science fiction emerged, and a few publications, like The New Yorker, still buy a few. Once a writer becomes established they can pull their old short stories out of a drawer and make a book out of them. Some, like Orson Scott Card, even lend their names, their sensibility, and their editing to whole collections of short stories in book form.
But that's rare. There is, on the whole, nothing between the "heights" in the short story format and the "dregs." There's no way to make a living there. You either write novels or you go hungry.
I'm not complaining. I'm simply stating that business models, or the lack of them, can control what we read, see and hear. What's true in fiction is also true in music and movies.
But, as we're seeing, maybe not in music any longer.
For two generations now the business model in music has revolved around the album. The format moved easily from vinyl to CD. Singles were created to sell albums. Albums had arcs. Listeners might complain, at first, "why am I buying 10 songs when I only care about one," but after they played the thing enough times they were usually satisfied.
Musicians, meanwhile, issued albums the way novelists released books. Every year or two your favorite artist had something new in the stores, new hits on the radio, and fans would add this to their collections. Concerts became "live albums," and for those who only wanted to hear one or two songs a year, there were "greatest hits" collections.
Apple's iTunes (the illustration is by Jason Schneider of iLevel Designs) has made this start to break down. Suddenly there is a business model for singles that people might accept. How long before an artist, say one not tied to the old system but popular nonetheless, starts releasing singles on a monthly basis? They can sell the singles now, through iTunes, and sell the collection later, when they're all hits.
One more interesting point that is often missed. The Apple iTunes site has a book store. Prices range from $3 to $16 per book.
But how about a short story, a new one, from someone you like, at, say 50 cents? How about if Apple started giving these stories away, to folks who registered for an online "book club?" Sure, at first you'd just see popular novelists in there, name-above-the-title brands. But a contest, say (an online answer to "American Idol") might bring new people into the mix, short story specialists whose work we'd pay for.
Alan Greenspan's power is based on the claim he's both infallible and above politcs.
We're now coming out (maybe) of the second recession we've faced under his watch. He was late raising interest rates in the late 1990s, leading the the bubble, and then didn't lower them in the 2000 election year, making the recession worse. (The picture above came from here.)
But lately he has gone beyond partisan. His recent testimony is nothing but sunshine, irrational exuberance in a hearing room.
Claiming that "spending cuts" will balance the budget is ludicrous. Spending in many areas could fall to zero and the budget would still be out of whack. Requirements are written into the law, not the budget, and costs are already being passed on, through state and local taxes. So the economic impact of domestic "spending cuts" is minimal. He knew that. He said it anyway.
But that's not the worst of it. Not by a long shot. Asked about China's growing hoard of dollars, he suggested that foreigners are using hedge funds to limit their risk, and then added he wants no regulation of that market.
Quite simply, countries like China who are getting tons of depreciating dollars for their goods are going into the market and betting on the dollar falling further. Then, when the dollar does fall further, some of their own losses on holding dollars are offset.
Greenspan doesn't want to do anything about it, doesn't want to look under that rug at all. China can destroy our economy at a stroke, simply by calling its broker, and Greenspan doesn't want to do anything about it. We have an imminent threat to our national security, the economic equivalent of 100 hydrogen bombs sitting over our head in Beijing (what are you going to do if your money becomes worthless tomorrow) and he doesn't want to go there? He doesn't want the rest of us looking at it, either, let alone trying to do anything to stop it.
This takes political cover too far. He's past retirement age. Let's find a banker who understands banking, and hasn't gone native to the politicians he serves.
News.Com has a big feature today on a phony issue -- the dilemma supposedly facing open source about how they will make a living. (The diagram at right is courtesy of a Cal-Berkeley lecture on gem formation.)
It's a phony dilemma because many companies, like Novell, are under the mistaken belief that they sell a product. They never did. Software licenses have always been written so that no one "buys" any software package. The original reason was because software broke, and software companies didn't want to be liable. Later, under Microsoft, this changed to a "subscription" model -- you don't buy anything, you rent it.
The fact is that the government classifies software as a service. This is the key point.
In a complex system there are many layers of software, and as more people have banged on them the bottom layers have become very stable indeed. This is especially true of kernels, the operating system instruction sets that define what you can do with the operating system and how you can do it. The current Linux kernel is very stable. So, believe it or not, is the Windows kernel, and the Macintosh kernel is also rock-solid.
Licensing a kernel, then, based on a fear it will break, or trying to get paid for it again-and-again, under a subscription, is silly. This is a product. Whether it has a price on it is irrelevant. Its incremental value, based on how easily software is copied, is zero anyway.
Above this we have the operating system, which implements what the kernel can do. This can be very stable. Linux is very stable. This may not be stable at all. Windows is not stable. Buyer beware.
Above that are stacked a host of applications, many of them in layers. As applications age, as they're tested in the marketplace, most gain a measure of stability. The incremental cost of maintaining them falls toward zero.
But there are two things that are never worth nothing in the world of software. One is the inspiration needed to come up with new things for software to do, to create the initial design and the first implementation. The other is the grunt work needed to slowly make existing products stable.
This is where the real money is.
It doesn't matter at this point whether your software is written under the General Public License (GPL) of GNU-Linux, the less-restrictive BSD license, or the you-can't-see-the-code Windows license. It's the design and implementation of something new that costs the big money, with continuing payments necessary to maintain the software as it becomes stable. The more copies there are, the more people paying this freight, the faster these costs can go down, but they are real enough. And customers will find a way to pay them.
My best analogy is to that of a volcano. The lower layers are fairly stable, although if someone comes up with a great innovation you might get another path toward profit (as in the illustration). It's the gems that emerge from the surface, and the lava bubbling from underneath itself, that require energy (money) to produce and maintain.
IBM is a wildly-profitable company. The company has annual sales of nearly $90 billion, and last year divided $7.61 billion in income to its common shareholders. (That's IBM founder Thomas Watson Sr. under the "Think" sign at left, from Ed Thelan's Web site.)
IBM has committed itself to Linux. IBM is forging its entire identity around Linux solutions.
IBM is not stupid. Sometimes it is outmanuevered, sometimes it is bureaucratic, sometimes it is even Clueless, but the company is not stupid.
IBM sees that the value of Linux comes in creating solutions, in the labor needed for system integration, making stuff work, and keeping it working. This is a business model with legs.
IBM has been around since 1915, and its predecessor companies are even older.
If IBM sees a business model in Linux, I won't disagree. Neither should you.
Moore's Law was never intended to be a scientific principle. Gordon Moore was an engineer and entrepreneur. He never claimed to be Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein.
He saw a pattern, and issued a challenge. The pattern was that, using a photographic process, he could double the number of circuits on a piece of silicon every year and a half of so. This was true in 1965, and it's still true. (That's Intel's main office above, a view taken from Intel's Web site.)
But at the heart of Moore's Law was a challenge to engineers everywhere. Keep it going. Even when we reach the molecular scale, find some new technologies, some new ways of making chips, that will keep it going.
And so it has been. So I predict it will remain. Because there are many ways of getting out of the box the original semiconductor business put itself into. There are other materials besides silicon, and other technologies for forming chips besides photographic etching.
No company on Earth understands this better than the company Moore himself co-founded, Intel.
So it's no surprise that Intel has found a way to solve one of the biggest bottlenecks in the silicon world, the transfer between electricity (which moves relatively slowly) and light (whose top speed of 186,000 miles/second is more than a good idea). The first result of this breakthrough is a "silicon modulator" running at 1 GHz, but by the end of the year Intel says the same technology will produce a modulator running at 10 GHz, which is as fast as the best gallium-arsenide modulators. (Editors at The New York Times mistakenly trumpted this as a general chip-making breakthrough.)
The news hits just seven months after Intel bought West Bay Semiconductor, a maker of optical chips. This is the way good mergers work. Give some bright people the resources they need to make a splash faster than they can on their own.
It's a small news item, as these things go. W.J. "Jerry" Sanders is resigning as chairman of the company he founded in 1969, Advanced Micro Devices. (The picture at right is from the AMD web site.)
Of course, AMD without Jerry is a lot like Playboy without Hefner, or News Corp. without Murdoch.
Jerry Sanders was, when all is said and done, one of the most seminal figures of the computer age. For starters, just look at the picture. Look at that suit, those twinkling eyes, that smile. The man made every rival CEO look like a candidate for BBC's "What Not To Wear."
This is quite amazing, given that AMD never did, from its founding until today, get out of the shadow of its larger chip rival, Intel. AMD is Gimbel's to Intel's Macy's, Pepsi to Intel's Coke, Avis to Intel's Hertz.
And the reason for that has much to do with how the two companies are run. Intel is run based on a strong corporate culture, one that rigorously rewards intelligence, and that tries hard to fight its own internal bureaucracies. AMD, on the other hand, is a truly entrepreneurial company, one molded in the image of one man, Jerry Sanders, and whatever his plans were at the moment.
The best historical comparison I can make is to the automotive business, and Walter Chrysler. (The picture of Chrysler at left is taken from the UAW's site for Daimler-Chrysler.) Chrysler called his own autobiography, "The Life of An American Workman," and in fact his early career was blue-collar. But he was, in the end, one of those mythical entrepreneurs who create their own myths.
And his company never did catch up to General Motors. This was partly because GM's founder, Will Durant, was (like Gordon Moore) perfectly happy to give up the reins for someone with more on the ball, in GM's case Alfred P. Sloan.
Sloan was, like Intel's legendary Andy Grove, perfect for his time, but in deference to Grove (one of the great men of our time) Sloan's were different times. Sloan built a set of product lines, he built a corporate culture that could outlast him, and he stuck his more entrepreneurial rivals, Ford and Chrysler, into second-and-third place for all time.
So it was with Jerry. AMD is not a bad little outfit. Its market capitalization is $5.44 billion. You can count on one hand the number of entrepreneurs who have come from nothing to a figure like that, and hung on to their offices that long.
Through it all Jerry was always Jerry. He was notable, quotable, never boring. He was AMD, and I suspect that he always will be.
So raise a glass this weekend to the great Jerry Sanders. The semiconductor industry will never see his like again.
I use analogies all the time here at Mooreslore. I prefer historical ones.
But I also know that, while patterns repeat leaving Clues in their wake, that history never repeats itself exactly. Karl Rove may compare his boss, George W. Bush, to William McKinley. This does not mean Mr. Bush need fear Buffalo, New York. (Although come to think of it, Tim Russert does come from around there...)
But analogies can be over-done. Such is the case, I fear, with John Dvorak's latest column, reprinted at ABC News today.
Dvorak's headline calls the ethics of music distribution a complex issue, but his analogy is overly simple. It's the story of a kid with candy. Is it OK if you take my candy, should I leave it lying about, he asks. Is it OK to take it if the other neighborhood kids all say it is?
(The image above, by the way, is a computer fractal print, by Jeanne Brickman of Elmhurst, Illinois. If you like the image, consider buying a copy here.)
The trouble with the analogy is it isn't accurate. The first kid actually stole the candy, with the help of a big brother who's a lawyer. And it's not candy we're talking about, but the soul of a writer, a singer, an artist, that we're talking about. Not only that but the candy isn't even real. We're talking about a copy of the candy. There's just as much candy in the bowl after the "theft" as there was before. Someone left it out in the rain, and the "victim" (the record company) fears it may never have that recipe again...
The kid with the candy, in this case, wants to be paid any time any other kid eats a piece of that kind of candy. And the kid got the candy recipe by forcing another kid, who made the candy, to fork it over, saying he was the only one with access to all the world's other kids, and a candy maker without candy eaters is nothing more than a sugar hoarder.
Now does it matter that the kid with the candy got the recipe by controlling access to all the other kids, and that the kid who had the recipie for the candy is only getting paid on, say, every 20th piece of candy, and then with "expenses" taken out? Does it matter that the contract between the kid with the candy and the kid who made the candy stipulates that not only this candy recipe, but all future candy recipes, will be held by the kid, under the same onorous terms? Does it matter if the kid with the candy recipe is hungry, while the kid who got the candy with him under these forced conditions has more bling-bling than a Detroit pimp?
Beware analogies...even sweet ones.
Comcast's offer to buy Disney this morning is good news for Disney shareholders, but bad public policy. (In fairness, I should mention here that my IRA presently holds 200 shares of Disney, but I have never held Comcast stock. I do, however, use Comcast Cable, but only for TV. And the Comcast logo at right is from CNNfn.)
The proposal represents an attempt to marry two "Trusts," -- the cable trust and the media trust -- into one big thing.
Generally, I think folks should stick to their knitting. This becomes harder-and-harder the more you combine disparate businesses under one umbrella. People go from being entrepreneurial, and bottom-line oriented, to being bureaucrats, managing to the numbers rather than the customers. This is the kind of lunacy that caused Time-Warner to buy AOL.
It's Time-Warner, in fact, that Comcast's Brian Roberts is trying to emulate. But Time-Warner built its cable empire at the same time it was combining various media properties. At Time-Warner, the cable guys have always known they worked for the media company, not vice-versa.
The word Roberts will spin around this is "synergy." I don't believe in it, not between big companies. I do think a big company can buy a small company and, perhaps, exploit it in ways the small company never imagined. But big mergers almost never work, in the long run, not for the shareholders anyway.
Oh, and rather than illustrate this with the Disney logo, which everyone else will do, I decided on the picture above, the box for MouseHunt, the 1997 Dreamworks release starring Nathan Lane and Lee Evans. It's a role I suspect Roberts and his father will be reprising in the next several weeks.)
I found myself having dinner last night with a politician. Strange days indeed. (The picture is from the film "My Dinner with Andre," and retrieved from Fusionananomoly.net.)
We talked about tech policy. The politician seemed Clued-in, but wanted my thoughts.
I talked about my key word in all this, competition. Tech policy should focus on artificial barriers to entry and, if it can't keep them from existing, at least fight to keep them as low as possible.
This helps even those companies that might consider themselves "victims" of such policies. It keeps their internal bureaucracies from overwhelming values of efficiency and customer service. It keeps them lean, which keeps profits up, and stock values up.
Of course, I said, the companies involved will never believe that, just as a couch potato won't buy-in to the fact that exercise and a healthier diet will make him or her feel better, although we know they will.
The politician had an idea. When writing policies governing technology, set standards, minimum requirements companies can meet on their own. This is not the way things normally work, he explained. Usually governments try to mandate a specific solution, a box or process they either create or buy. But change is constant, it's constantly accelerating, and such solutions become obsolete even before they're implemented.
You're too smart to be in politics, I told him. Well, he said, he had made his money and considered this work public service, a more absorbing form of retirement than golf. Anyone who puts himself in the line of fire like that and thinks it fun is to be commended, I replied. Any politician is a volunteer, and those who aren't taking with both hands are heroes in my book, regardless of party.
There are many gatekeepers today in the technology world, I continued, monopolies and trusts held together mainly by government regulation designed before Moore's Law, around the assumption that monopolies are an efficient use of capital. This is how cable arose, through local licenses. This is where the Bell System came from. Moore's Law of Radios is making such monopolies technically obsolete, but they will fight for the death to maintain their stranglehold. Why they can't see themselves as wholesalers, as well as retailers, is beyond me, I said.
But such fights are a natural consequence of big companies becoming huge and, thus, bureaucratic. Nothing wrong with bureaucracy, per se -- America has some of the best, most efficient bureaucracies in the world. But bureaucracy on a corporation is like fat on your figure. A little may be necessary, especially as you age, but it's very easy to overdo it, and that's our inclination.
It's these bureaucracies that try to raise-up artificial barriers to entry, and there are many of them. Copyrights, trademarks, and patents can all become barriers to entry, if their terms are too long, or they are too easily obtained. Tariffs and subsidies are also barriers to entry. Big, competition-free contracts can be barriers. These are not absolutes -- we need patents, and copyrights, we need tariffs, subsidies, and big contracts. The trick is to seek a balance between our needs and the desires of incumbents to want it all. (The picture of Shawn, above, is from his work in "The Princess Bride," and was found at the University of Sydney's ROCSOC Forum, in Australia.)
There is no perfect balance, either in law or regulation, I said. It's always shifting.
But generally, the only way through to American competitiveness is for Americans to embrace change. This is the secret to our success. The right to succeed also brings with it the responsibility to fail, which is something the Horatio Alger myth probably forgot to mention. (This is why I prefer Buddenbrooks.) How we deal with failure is a choice we make, but if the penalty is death and true poverty, undeserving successes will fight to the death to maintain their artificial advantages, so maybe a social safety net isn't just good for your soul, but good for the economy at large.
So passed a very pleasant evening. I splurged on key lime pie. The politician paid the check. This, I decided, was a unique occasion, perhaps never to be repeated.
Like My Dinner With Andre.
Despite its overwrought (even silly) use of sport analogies, today's News.Com story on baseball's online rights has a point to make.
Baseball is trying to treat streaming media players, like Real and Microsoft, the way it treats the broadcast networks. Sports leagues have long pushed broadcasters into taking losses on those rights, figuring that they capture key demographics (men 18-34), which they can then push into watching other shows on the same networks.
This is not the way the Internet works. The Internet is not publishing, and it's not broadcasting. The survivors in the Internet business have finally learned this, even those which, like Real, began life expecting it to recapitulate broadcast.
If Major League Baseball is convinced it can make more from its Internet rights than the market is willing to pay, of course, it has a perfect right to go off on its own and try to prove its point...in the market. I should not that it did this once with broadcasting and wound up crawling back.
Maybe this time it can do better. Personally I see no value in watching out-of-town baseball games on a small PC window. But, like I said, I could be wrong.
So, Bud Selig, it's up to you. Think I'm wrong? Think you're right?
Parks Associates has a new research report out indicating (not to my surprise) that most consumers think consumer electronics when considering a Media Server. And most of those who think of a consumer electronics company think of Sony.
Consumer electronics are appealing because, despite all the ballyhoo about people who can't set the clock on the VCR, most of us can at least play a tape. When we think of entertainment we think of sitting in front of the TV, not fighting with a PC. (My kids are different in this -- their preference for PC and Internet technologies is increasing with age. My daughter turns 16 soon (thank you (I think)).)
There is a second, hidden message in this report, namely that a Sony buy-out of Apple does indeed make some sense. Apple has been better than anyone, even Microsoft, in marrying PC and CE technologies. Marrying them to Sony's content guarantees their future. Just give Jobs the autonomy (and fortune) he needs in the deal...I'm starting to have a yen for it.
There is a "hot new" research outfit in England called Rethink Research. It's headed by Peter White, formerly of Comptuerwire, and Caroline Gabriel, formerly of VNU.
They have been able to get their stuff into the right places, like The Register, and some of it is pretty good. One example, from the previous link, shows how the music industry is now in a no-win situation regarding file trading. It must either get the Supremes to overturn the old Betamax decision, which allowed videotaping even though it might be used to tape copyrighted shows, or go to Congress, which won't pass anything in an election year.
The paper's not perfect. There are flaws in the reasoning. A lawyer could easily argue that the Digital Millenium Copyright Act overturns the Betamax decision. And the copyright industries have friends on both sides of the aisle -- there is no real cost to their going against consumers in that instance.
These, however, are minor quibbles. The paper has a point of view (good) and argues it well (very good). It's worth the money they are charging for it.
The problem here is credit, or the lack of it. Rethink has no author credits on its reports. It depends entirely on the brand to carry the day. It does this deliberately, to keep any writer from getting too much salary, and to keep successful ones from gaining the reputation needed to go out on their own.
But they don't just shortchange the writers here. They shortchange the customers. I don't know whether this report was done by qualified experts of a bunch of Googling Monkeys in Bangladesh.
More important, writers write -- not corporations. Any corporate product is, by its nature, homogenized. But if someone is putting their name on it, there is someone on the team fighting for a vision, for something unique and interesting.
Without that oomph, research is worthless. If the tech economy grows, I hope new voices emerge in England. Human voices.
In many ways this has not been a good year for Siemens, the giant German telecom company.
The company announced job cuts of 2,300 last summer, as it continued to lose share in mobile commuications. The company, with its joint-venture partner Fujitsu, admits "the boom days are over" in PCs. Do we have to talk about the telecomm equipment business?
So what do you make of this chart. It shows the value of Siemens' American Depository Receipts (ADRs) over the last six months. From a low of about $30 per share in October 2002 you've nearly tripled your money, to over $80. Just in the last six months you're up over 25%.
What gives is the U.S. dollar, and its value against the Euro. A few years ago a Euro cost 85 cents. Now it costs $1.27. A pound will set you back $1.87 and you can only get 105 Yen to the dollar.
This is helping no one. In the short term European recoveries are slowing, because their exports are costly.
But in the long run there's a silver lining, and I don't just mean Frenchmen all getting cheap trips to Disneyland (although it means that too). The total value of everything in America -- including the Disney Co. itself -- is falling in Euros, in Yen, in Pounds.
Siemens, for instance, is now worth $74 billion. What's left of AT&T -- mainly its long distance unit and international cables -- is worth just $15 billion. Siemens does not have such grand plans in store. For now it's content to just buy Chrysler's electronics plant, in Huntsville. (Sprechen sie Deutsch, y'all?)
The reason we haven't seen a wholesale looting of American equities by foreigners is simply because the value of the dollar continues to shrink, as does the cost of those assets. It's when the elevator hits the ground floor that you're in for the big surprise. That's when the chickens start coming home to roost.
Michael Powell is one of the best speechmakers in my memory of the FCC.
He was at it again yesterday. His speech to an industry conference in Colorado had nice phrases like "power to the people," and he came out against contractual arrangements cable operators are already trying to impose on customers, limiting what they can do with their bandwidth.
The problem is Powell may be one of the worst politicians the agency has yet seen. He was outvoted on competition rules. And when he sees himself is weak his instinct is to suckle next to the American Ayatollahs and favor outright censorship.
As a result he has developed a credibility gap, much like his father's on Iraq. Words mean little if your actions contradict them.
If Powell is for personal liberty and consumer choice, he should act on that belief. Otherwise he should, in Bill O'Reilly's words, shut up.
In these times of rampant e-mail spam, fraud and viruses, where every visit to your inbox is a trial, I am amazed at how many letters I get from real experts in the field who complain about deleting individual messages.
Whether those messages are tagged with Spam Assassin or some other tool, they are still in your inbox, cluttering your hard drive. They should not be there, they should not be about. They should not be there when your Outlook is out.
My spam flood has just doubled.
I had become accustomed to coming in each morning and seeing 100 spam messages, along with a few real notes. I had even become accustomed to seeing several of the spams being unknown to the blacklists, even though they were clearly spam.
This morning I come in and find, not 100, but 230 spam messages, overnight.
Some were copies of the Mydoom virus, and blacklists are very good at marking these as "possible virus."
Many were also false bounces from various e-mail servers around the world, all of them certain I was sending "possibly dangerous content" to people I have never corresponded with.
But, sadly, much of the new spam was just that, spam. The same-old same-old, with different "from" addresses.
I have often called spam the cholesterol of the Internet, and it is. The reason spam hasn't caused a heart attack in the core is that its carrying capacity keeps jumping in a Moore's Law fashion.
But now the rise in spam is exceeding the rise in capacity, perhaps for the first time.
A heart attack is coming.
In these times of rampant e-mail spam, fraud and viruses, where every visit to your inbox is a trial, I am amazed at how many letters I get from real experts in the field who complain about deleting individual messages.
Whether those messages are tagged with Spam Assassin or some other tool, they are still in your inbox, cluttering your hard drive. They should not be there, they should not be about. They should not be there when your Outlook is out.
That's why I always pre-wash my mail with Mailwasher. And the "pro," fully-licensed and supported version of the product, costs just $29.95! (Don't believe me? Try it for 30 days free.) So why are you letting that trash off your ISP's server? Dump it now, dump it all at once, dump it permanently.
Oh, one more thing. This is not an advertisement. I get no money from Firetrust. I just want you to be careful out there.