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One of the advantages of having multiple movie channels (as on my cable box) is that you might be forced to watch something you resisted for years.
So it was with me and Oliver Stone's Nixon.
For me the most powerful moments came at the end, in Bob Dole's eulogy, spoken at Nixon's actual funeral. "The last half of the 20th century will be known as the Age of Nixon," he said. And I think we're still in it.
Few people really noticed it, but Microsoft yesterday made a formal announcement for a new version of Windows CE, designed for "embedded" applications. (To learn more about using Windows CE features, consider buying this book.)
In the World of Always-On, however, this is big stuff.
It's big stuff because Always-On applications will be essentially hardware. They will run in the background. Their output will be in the form of real-time warnings, or actions. Most clients, and many servers, in this world will need and use only the embedded version of an operating system.
Rajesh Jain, who's "on the scene" as they say in Mumbai (what's 500 miles from a distance of 8,000, right) has his own views on the matter, which he shared with me:
When change comes to Google, people notice. And they blog about it.
The latest iteration of my favorite search engine looks a lot more like the new Yahoo than Google may have intended.
But the real news is currently pointed out by a tiny red "new" sticker. It's that Froogle, the company's catalog search site, is now out of beta (although the site's home page still identifies it as such). The "hidden" news is that Google News, which is probably far more popular, still isn't .
One of the differences between this world of journalism and the real world of technology is the concept of the deadline. (Image from Civilwaralbum.com.)
In journalism a deadline is just what it implies. If you don't get the work done by the deadline, it's dead. Maybe your career is dead.
The term originated aboug 120 miles from where I live, at Andersonville, outside Americus. Back during what I prefer to call "The Recent Unpleasantness" and most call the Civil War, Andersonville was the Confederacy's most notorious prison camp. It became a mini-Auschwitz, with soldiers starving because they could neither be exchanged nor fed.
The guards erected a line of fence in front of the stockade, and shot to kill any prisoner who crossed the line. Hence the term, deadline.
The New York Times today features another one of those tut-tutting articles about Web vigilantism they do so well. (The illustration accompanies the article.
I'm being facetious. Because in all their questions about the Internet and justice, the key question is never asked. Define justice.
Consider the case of spam. All users know what spam is. But when the U.S. government tackled the question, they wound up making "spam that is not spam" quite legal. If you're a legitimate company (like Hormel), and your e-mails have a valid return address, then if you respond to opt-outs you're golden. Spam all you want. As I've noted before, that's a loophole you can drive the destruction of e-mail through.
It may have gone through a fair, supposedly impartial process, but the result isn't justice.
So what is justice, in the Internet sense?
There are more wails and gnashing of teeth today. Journalism is being outsourced.
C|Net's Builder.Com, which features technical articles for application developers, has decided to push half its editorial to an Indian outfit. According to a memo obtained by Newsforge, the idea is that it's easier to sign one contract for the editorial calendar than a bunch of contracts with freelancers.
On the surface this sounds appealing. But who is taking responsibility here? Not a writer, or an editor, a company. Are we even going to see bylines?
But there's another issue at play here, one that may cause C|Net, and others to rethink their position.
However you feel about the incumbent President there is no denying that America is more alone in the world today than it was, say, four years ago.
And as that world grows smaller, the price for isolation grows higher. We pay for it, here, on this medium. (UN flag from the UN site.)
Example One is a possible UN takeover of the Net's infrastructure. I won't argue about whether they're on freedom's side, or whether they're more interested in using the Internet to extract tribute from rich countries on behalf of poor nations' bureaucrats. I will simply point out, here, that if America weren't so diplomatically isolated this would be a fly swat, not a potential hammer blow.
I am no genius, but in my field I'm smarter than some people.
Simmons, rap's Barry Gordy, told CTIA last Tuesday that the industry should forget about data for a while, and concentrate on making its voice service better.
Nice try. Click to learn why:
The two-CD set following 9-11, called "America: A Tribute To Heroes," is fascinating in retrospect for how it made old songs moving with a new context.
The best-known of these was Bruce Springsteen's "My City of Ruin," which opened the show. Originally written about the failing economy of Asbury Park, NJ, the faded beach resort town where he began his career, its prayer to "Rise Up" gained new clarity in the wake of the tragedy, and brought the house down to its knees before they were barely in their seats.
Shortly afterward, Tom Petty came out and sang his "Won't Back Down," a 1980s song that, again, gained a new context. (The picture is from a Tom Petty ticket broker.)
In the wake of Microsoft's decision to fight the EU's sanctions in court, we have yet another context for Petty's lyric. "You can stand me up at the Gates of Hell but I won't back down..."
I saw Microsoft get triple-teamed today.
Yep, they got hit with defenders on three sides, three top guns all trying to stop Gates from scoring again on the court of financial success.
How much you want to bet that Bill Gates doesn't have a little Michael Jordan in him? That's one big advantage of being a geek over being a jock. When you get to be 49 (as Bill soon will be) you've still got your hops.
First, I see Scott McNealy over at CTIA, once again demonstrating his server-based Star Office. "No floppy, no fan, no Microsoft, no virus, no there there." The demo is impressive, as are numbers like "4 million Java developers," "50 million Java cards" for security, "1.5 billion Java-powered devices," and "46% of my employees don't have an assigned office." But the market doesn't see much in the way of profits there, either. (Drawing from Encrypta.)
Opera, which just went public in Norway, has announced a "talking browser," based in IBM technology.
This is important stuff, and not just for my blind mother.
What's being provided here is an interface, between the Internet and voice, which can be embedded in other devices, not just PCs.
Opera and IBM are talking up the value of putting this into cell phones, which is cool. But what about putting this into Always-On networks? Now you can simply write interface routines in HTML, and interact with those routines from wherever you are in the house.
You may remember a few notes ago I wrote about how the spam flood has shifted since January, from "real spam" (phony offers with forged addresses) to "spam that is not spam" (real offers from real addresses). The volume hasn't declined, if anything it's gone up.
But my lovely bride found out exactly why the law is worthless. She looked at one of the "opt-outs" on a "spam that is not spam" message.
It only opts you out on that client.
Stage One. Who's Howard Dean?
Stage Two. Get Me Howard Dean!
Stage Three. Get Me Someone Like Howard Dean! (Enter John Kerry.)
Stage Four. Get Me A Young Howard Dean! (Enter John Edwards.)
Stage Five. Who's Howard Dean?
Now, Howard Dean, if you dare, and if you want another taste of the apple called money, fame and power, follow this thread to learn how to get another ride on the Merry Go Round.
In covering the CTIA show in Atlanta this week, I sometimes found myself boiling with rage, and not knowing the reason.
I have learned to listen to this rage, and to keep it inside until I find the reason.
I found the reason while talking to Andrew Bud. Bud is an Englishman running Mblox, an Atlanta-based company (they're a few miles southeast of the Atlanta Airport) bringing Premium SMS billing to the U.S. market.
What Premium SMS does is bring indirect sales to the cellular data market. That's a key entrepreneurial idea. It's an idea being fiercely resisted by most U.S. carriers, which is why the market for cellular data is so explosive in Europe and Asia, why so many new entrepreneurs are coming up in that world, and why the U.S. is behind in the biggest opportunity of this decade.
FCC chairman Michael Powell sounded unusually intelligent during his CTIA keynote. Asked by new CTIA chairman Steve Largent about Voice Over IP, he riffed toward wisdom.
“It’s short-sighted to see Voice Over IP as another way to do something,” he said. “When you see Voice Over IP as an Internet appliation you see both the potential and the challenge. The applications change when you move from selling a service to software.”
In publishing this piece I think I learned where Powell came up with this idea. It might have been here , visiting the Wherify booth at a recent trade show.
At CTIA Powell said that, in fitting voice into a 3G data infrastructure, the wireless guys are thinking about this more than the wireline guys, but they’re still building a network utility, not applications. And complex applications demand a more complex sale than you can do on a TV spot.
The cellular world is slowly being dragged, sometimes kicking-and-screaming, into the computing mainstream. Always-On applications are playing a big part.
I saw that at the small booth of Wherify. This company makes strap-on GPS devices. The sales material in their booth was filled with kids on skateboards whose mommies worry about them. But when I sat down to talk, CEO Tim Neher admitted that the message didn’t match the market.
The company has been deluged with requests from the families of Alzheimer’s patients, he said. In response the second version of the company’s product strips away the fashion statements.
It’s a tiny box, the size of the chewing gum samples you get from cheap houses at Halloween. He noted that one woman sewed a false pocket onto her father’s trousers, and talked movingly of a patient who was traced across the LA bus system from Hollywood to Santa Monica.
I suggested glueing a pin to the thing, and mentioned a company that has turned walkie-talkies into Star Trek-style communicators, worn on the front of the shirt. That sounded like a good idea to him.
I had to spend the afternoon cleaning out my son's inbox. He has over 2,000 messages, dating back to September.
It was very educational. (Image from ABC News.)
In the course of the afternoon I learned the real impact of the CAN-SPAM Act. For every sex spammer, viagra spammer or scam spammer who has backed away, two "spam that is not spam" 'ers have come to take their place.
I noticed this as soon as the date on the messages changed from 2003 to 2004.
A quiet revolution is about to overtake the cellular industry.
The revolution is being launched by Nvidia, best known for its graphics chips, and a new line of chips it's going to ship soom called GeForce. In the words of Phil Carmack, vice president for handheld products, who spoke at the Mobile Entertainment Summit, we’re talking a thousand-fold magnitude in the improvement of common cell phones, starting next year.
On the CTIA show, of course, all the talk is about enabling content that wasn't really new in the late 1970s. The most popular game on cellphones remains bowling. Yes, there's talk about ring tones (10 second bursts of sound that play when your phone rings), which should be a huge business, and the Hollywood crowd was out in force this year, pawing for revenue. (The illustration, by the way, is from the Domestickers line, number 96 if you're keeping score at home.)
But they ain't seen nothing yet.
I never thought I'd have to suggest this to Intel, even in jest.
But they need to Americanize. (The picture is a branded image from the Intel site.)
The thought comes to mind on word Intel is going to rename its future chips along the lines of Germany's BMW motor cars.
No offense to the Germans, but to me numbers just aren't sexy. Names are sexy.
Many people note that the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980s was the End of Communism. That is, Communism was tried, it failed, we need to move on. (The picture, of five Chicago Anarchists associated with the Haymarket Riots, is from the Chicago Public Library.)
I agree. Communism fails to adapt. Unless everyone has the right to change, and unless there's a mean through which change at the bottom can be reflected in changes at the top, then your society will fail. Democracy is far more adaptable, capitalism is far more adaptable, and thus in an era of increasingly-rapid change they triumphed.
But the Web has collapsed another, even older, value system, and that hasn't been remarked upon.
The Web has collapsed Anarchism.
The image in the item below actually comes from a directory that was left open by the publisher. I sort of hope it disappears soon. (I didn't link to the directory in the item, just to the home page. Thank me later, VNU.)
But it does bring up an important point, namely that any tool in an open directory is apt to be used by anyone.
In the U.S., the Bush campaign got a taste of this recently, when a "make your own poster tool" (the idea was borrowed from a similar tool on the Dean site) was used to make a flock of anti-Bush posters. The tool was taken down. (I wonder if they know that their "contact the media" tool can also be used by Democrats?)
The "be careful out there" reference below, in other words, applies to servers as well as browsers.
The launch of a new family of Internet Explorer viruses named Bagle, exploiting Explorer's Object Data Remote Execution (it causes attachments to automatically open) reminds me again of how important a program Mailwasher has become. (Image from VNUNet.)
However, it's not foolproof. I often see a spam or two that gets to my Outlook Express box in the seconds between my use of Mailwasher and my clicking the "send and receive" option in e-mail.
In the short run the best thing to do is increase your security settings on the browser so you will always be prompted before any program -- even an authenticated program -- starts to run.
Also, make sure you have a firewall.
Be careful out there.
It's funny. Just when I thought I was well shut of my old beat, Internet marketing, I get not one, but two great stories on it to bring you.
The launch of Google's Local Service provides great opportunity for anyone who wants to do Web advertising, Web sites, or Web commerce.
The service isn't complete because Google only looks at key words. Thus its identification of shops isn't always accurate. It's also incomplete because of churn - shops close all the time and they don't tell Google about it.
But the capabilities of the service, as it expands, look very interesting.
We interrupt this tech blog for an important announcement. (Picture is from CNN.)
That the War on Iraq, which began a year ago, is part of the War on Terrorism is an assertion. It is not, repeat not, a fact.
An assertion may be true, but it may also be false.
The only answer to our economic ills is education. (Mortarboard from MIT, praising Dr. Daniel Kopp.)
I’m not talking here about schools. I’m talking about me and you.
Most of us think our education ends at graduation. But it doesn’t. Mine hasn’t. All my college education gave me were the tools with which to learn other things. And so I have kept my skills up for nearly 30 years.
Of course I’m lucky. I was a “liberal arts” major – actually political science, history, and lots of English (which I liked a lot). These things don’t change much. The Civil War was still when it was, and Shakespeare’s plays haven’t changed. Yes, the interpretations are different, the way they’re being treated is different, but if you put me into a classroom today I could get along.
This is not true for my lovely wife (insofar as her 1986 Master's in Business Information Systems is concerned), and it’s probably not true for many people who took technical subjects. Science changes. The engineering landscape changes. Majors exist today where knowledge didn’t exist in the 1970s. Her first computing class was on a PDP machine, with punch cards. All engineers face this. Old skills become obsolete, new skills become vital, and if you don't keep learning you atrophy.
So our whole attitude about education must change, and the way we organize it must change as well. We’re in a global race to the top of the stack in every field, and anyone who can’t climb is going to be left behind.
These days, when I visit the beat of Internet Advertising, I feel like an engineering graduate at a college reunion. I feel a little stupid, like the world has passed me by.
One of the most important concepts of Internet advertising in the 1990s was the idea of “real estate.” Where was the ad? How much space did it occupy? The idea comes from publishing where every page has a specific size. It’s also applicable to broadcasting, where you have a certain “inventory” of time to sell.
Well the Web doesn’t work that way. Pointroll has been proving this for a few years now. I first saw some of their stuff on Yahoo finance, little buttons that expanded when you rolled over them, covering larger pieces of content.
Dean's Law is something I just made up.
Dean's Law holds that, at some point, even the up-take on a wildly popular product will slow. A bandwagon rolls and grows, it loses its intimacy and immediacy, and suddenly there's resistance to it. Getting past that resistance requires, not more noise, but more intimacy.
Under Dean's Law, the S-curve of mass-market acceptance suddenly has a break in it, somewhere near the middle, and instead of sweeping on ahead it slows. That's because the market isn't that wide an ocean. It is more like a swimming pool. You can start a set of waves, but those waves cascade against the far wall, they come back and cancel out momentum.
In Iowa, Howard Dean saw just what Pat Robertson and Steve Forbes had seen before him. In order to "get over the hump," you have to scale down in the foreground, actually seem smaller, while building your real infrastructure below the Web.
How does this apply to broadband? Click and find out.
One great irony in the early Wireless ISP market is that everyone jumped the gun on it.
The 802.11 standards define local networking. WISPs managed to jury-rig tomato cans and stretch the power limits to do wide-area networking with it. But it was never meant for that.
The 802.16 standard, or Wi-Max, offers the chance for a total solution. The 802.16 standard defines a standard way in which great heaps of bandwidth can be sent through the air, across many miles. It allows you to create "virtual wires," on very high frequencies, which can link a small network of 802.11 nodes with competitive fiber backhauls.
And now the necessary equipment is starting to flood into the market.
There's an old rule that every reporter knows. Where you stand depends on where you sit.
In other words, you discount what a source says based on what he or she is expected to say.
If a source is a sell-side analyst covering a stock for a broker who makes a market in that stock, and the source says "buy," you discount it. The source is selling stock, not passing information. (I originally wrote this as "buy side" analyst, but Brian wrote to correct me. You're buying, the analyst is selling.)
Spam That Is Not Spam is protected under the so-called CAN-SPAM Act. (I couldn't resist the cartoon at left, nor Erynn LeRoy's eloquent anti-spam screed, which accompanied it.)
Spam That Is Not Spam is spam sent by "legitimate" marketers. Their products are legal. They obey opt-out orders.
But permission audits are not required. Neither is the discipline these same companies apply to postal mailings.
Because direct mail costs about $1 per envelope, marketers routinely "age" these mailings. If they don't get an affirmative response (an order) after sending a set number of mailings to a prospect, they drop them. They may return later. Marketers are also very careful in buying lists of prospects, filtering lists to get just those people who might be interested in their offer, based on expensive research.
None of this happens when the same companies do e-mail marketing.
This has nothing to do with basketball, however. (Awwwwww....)
Instead, we're talking about the Internet Protocol. It's slow. It was designed decades ago. NC State researchers Dr. Injong Rhee, Dr. Khaled Harfoush, and grad student Lisong Xu (a real All-American team) used the binary search approach usually applied to databases in their replacement, allowing for rapid detection of maximum network capacity with minimal loss of information.
Now before you get started on that business plan for Super-Kazaa, this is not something to be tried at home. It's really for things like the Energy Science Network (ESNet) and other super-fast collaborative nets.
An Always-On home has both a wireless LAN on the inside and fast Internet connectivity on the outside.
So it would seem, on the surface, that a residential gateway (like the 2Wire unit to the left) would be the best route to Always-On. A gateway combines three important elements -- a modem, a router, and a firewall. And its cost can be subsidized by the ISP.
But it turns out there are two big problems with this approach, to wit:
Here's a trend for you readers to investigate and comment on.
Pop-up blocker blocking. (Yes, I know the illustration isn't exactly on point, but I found it on this government web page about food thermometers, labelled pop-up, and couldn't resist.)
I first noticed this on the New York Times site. Pop-ups blocked by Google Toolbar's pop-up blocker persistently re-launch, so you get this crazy shadow of a pop-up, despite the block.
I've also noticed that the same pop-up blocker sometimes sees whole windows as pop-ups and forbids them, and that many blog comment areas are perceived as pop-ups now -- they won't appear unless you un-block with the ctrl-key.
Is this just a Google thing or are others having trouble?
We report, you decide. Or deride, if you prefer.
A comment from Brad Hutchings to the item below stimulated further thought.
He wrote how many of the dot-bombs he worked with "back in the day" lacked what we like to call "adult supervision." (The picture to the right is being used here to sell latex gloves.)
Which leads to the question of what adults know.
Adults know failure. They know the lessons of failure. They know the obvious pitfalls, the obvious routes to failure, but they also know that the surest route to failure is to over-react.
Adults know more than that.
The collapse of Howard Dean is just one example of a phenomenon I'm calling "below the web." (The figure to the right is available for sale here.)
Dean's strategy, his tactics, and his numbers were all well-publicized by his Web site. He really had no secrets. It was just left for someone -- turned out to be Kerry -- to craft a strategy that worked "Below The Web." In Kerry's case, it was the use of professionals at caucus sites, along with quiet, intimate gatherings in place of the large rallies Dean's "Above The Web" troops were enjoying.
My point isn't political, however. This happens in business all the time.
Recently I did a job for a client who was worried about a competitor. It turned out the specifics of the competitor's offer were not available online. By the time the offer was online, in fact, it was redundant, obsolete. Instead, the competitor was tieing up interested customers with Non-Disclosure Agreements, and only them showing them the real stuff, and the real deal.
It's time someone said it.
Employers are on strike against health care costs. (The picture, by the way, comes from the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington.) Politicians, and those who follow politicians, are starting to take notice.
Who can blame them, really? You can control direct costs, moderating salaries and wages based on the economy. But you can't control health care costs.
And in America, they are out of control.
Let me give you one example. I'm a healthy man in my late 40s, with controllable hypertension and high cholesterol. Based on the latest research, my doctor recently added a third medicine to my regimen, aimed at raising my "good cholesterol" levels.
Never one to let an opportunity go by, I chided him on the fact that blogrolls are a poor way to measure blog popularity. When new blogs game the system (by trading rolls) and good bloggers refuse to, the results are skewed, I said.
To my surprise, Rajesh agreed with me. But he added another important point. "Many people just don't keep up their blogrolls."
Now, I just started keeping up with mine, after moving to Movable Type. One of the people I added was Rajesh. He's smart, he's cool, he knows his stuff, he's worth reading.
But I'm an exception. Most people, as they become accustomed to creating blogs, slow their reading of others' blogs. They may continue reading 6-10 favorites, but most of the rest simply disappear from their radar screens.
Among many publishers the fear of the Net remains palpable. Sometimes I wish it could be overcome.
If it could be, you might now share "The Measure of America," an article in last week's New Yorker by Claudia Roth Pierpont.
The article -- one of the longest I've seen since the days of William Shawn (at whose knee I'll admit I once perched while a Northwestern journalism student) is centered on a biography of the anthropologist Franz Boas (1858-1942). (The picture of Boas above is from a biography of one of his students, Margaret Mead, on the Library of Congress site.)
Boas, a German immigrant, may properly termed the "Father of Modern Anthropology." He took it from its racist origins, applied rigorous scientific observation to it, and gave scientific credence to the Declaration that "all men are created equal."
But, in her meticulous description of Boas' life and times, Pierpont does something truly extraordinary, something as extraordinary as anything Boas himself ever attempted.
The "War On Terrorism" requires that we distrust one another and absolutely trust the government. (The illustration, one of the most famous in the history of journalism, is from CNN.)
This does not come naturally to Americans. But it comes come naturally to many Chinese. (Not all of them, obviously.)
So Intel's tilting at Chinese windmills, in the form of a Chinese government demand that Chinese snoops be given a back-door into its 802.11 systems, isn't just one company standing in front of a Chinese tank.
That's also an American tank they're standing in front of. My fear is they have no more hope of success than that Chinese man did, since "The War" trumps everything, and with absolute security comes absolutism. Better our'n than there'n, right?
Am I being alarmist? No, I'm not. I don't know any other way to treat the latest FBI demand, that government be able to tap all broadband communications, and quickly.
Anyone who knows anything about the Internet knows this is not as easy as it sounds. Bits are bits. You can't tell voice bits from text bits from graphic bits. And you can't easily tell if the bits have been scrambled, either.
I'll admit that just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they are not out to get you.
Just as many figure John Kerry as a proxy for the Kennedys, press reports are indicating that SCO is really just a proxy for Microsoft, on a FUD attack against an operating system it can't fight in conventional ways.
It the paranoid are right, Microsoft is simply Clueless. Or, perhaps, there's a point it wants to prove, namely that there should be no such thing as "public property" when it comes to the world of ideas.
If that is indeed the point, I disagree. Here's why.
I am suffering from a worse-than-expected case of "Dean Withdrawal."
I'm not talking here about the candidate. I'm talking about myself. Unlike most Democrats (apparently) I am singularly unimpressed by the choice facing voters.
It seems like the same kind of fight (by proxy) we've faced for generations, Kerry for the Kennedys against the Bush Dynasty. It's a very conventional left-right fight, a battle between elites, with a third elite, the paid press, keeping score on behalf of their masters.
Dean, I still believe, offered something different, and better. He was to the right of Kerry (and even Bush) on many issues dear to Republican hearts -- the deficit, health care, the environment. He sought compromise on the hardest social questions -- civil unions, guns, crime.
Perhaps more important, I seem to be taking Dean's rejection personally, not as an attack on him, but as an attack on me, and in the involvement of ordinary, non-elitist voters in the very process of politics.
Dean himself is not a very angry man. He knew when he was giving the crowd "red meat." He had fun with it. "We're going to have some fun at the President's expense," is the way he would open his stump talks.
Ronald Schmeltzer of ZapThink has a piece out calling for the creation of "rich clients" to serve web services.
It's an interesting point. Where you put required software is important. But he's thinking of it in terms of software living either on a client PC or a Web server PC.
I think that's a limited view.
The most important place for applications to live in the future will be firmware. That is, they will be burned into silicon, shipped as boards, that either act as discrete devices or are added to them.
This will be especially true with home networks.
As we should know by now, George W. Bush has proposed cuts in science (let the Hubble die) in favor of missions to the Moon and Mars.
Former Astronaut (and Senator) John Glenn is among the critics. He said the plan breaks promises, to science, and to other countries. (The picture of Glenn, from his public introduction as one of the first seven Astronauts, is courtesy a brief bio of the man on Pambytes.Com.)
What the two men are arguing about are priorities within a limited budget. And that fact is more important than the substance of any Mars vs. Earth debate.
The fact is that, 42 years after Glenn's three-orbit flight, we have yet to find any way to make space pay. If I had a vote in this, that is where I would put my money.
We think of the Internet as being composed of routers, or Web pages, or services, or servers, or computers, maybe all of these technology artifacts.
But it's not just that. The Internet is people. It's the people behind the screens. And it's the people dedicated to the resource. In some places, like the U.S. and Japan, these people are thick on the ground. Map them, and their homes, and you get a very dense weave indeed.
Elsewhere, they shine very bright. In places like Mongolia, they are like stars. And their passing leaves a great void
One such light went out today. You probably didn't know her. I didn't. But, reading the honors given her on the ANR-Talk mailing list, which Izumi Aizu helped me join, I can understand the mourning, and share in it.
Narantsetseg Baljin ran InfoCon Ltd., an IT consulting practice in Mongolia. (You read that right, Mongolia.) Before that, she was marketing director for the country's first ISP, Datacom. In Atlanta or Tokyo, she would not be remarkable. In Mongolia, she was a legend.
More than any of that, she was a bright and lively personality, as Izumi writes. "You are always dynamic, charming and thoughtful. You gave us a lot of courage, help and sense of humor." In her honor he offered, through Ofoto (registration required), a collection of photos he took in Vientian, Laos, early this month.
It wasn't by accident that a Netopia gateway is featured on the item (below) about cell phone business models.
Netopia has done more to be ready for this than any other company.
CTIA is coming to Atlanta in a few weeks, and we haven't partied here since 1999. (I found this CTIA logo on a Taiwanese page selling trips to the show.)
The parties are going to be big and glorious. The liquor will flow. I expect to eat big shrimp in cocktail sauce. I have little doubt that the tchotscke (little gift) pickings will be lush. There will be toys, candy, maybe even t-shirts.
That's because the cell phone industry has figured out a business model that works. They give consumers something valuable, the cell phone, then charge them to use it.
Of course, it's not that simple behind the scenes. Even a "giveaway" phone costs money. What they're doing is charging you roughly $10/month for a $200 (retail) item in exchange for a 2-3 year service contract.
But the secret of the model goes deeper than that. The companies are balancing the sophistication and cost of the phone against the "billable events" it might reasonably generate. And they're giving consumers the power to make a higher-value choice, offering a range of models that do more than their giveaway model.
This has everything to do with the World of Always-On.
Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) are unhealthy for economies and any living business. (The slightly edited Gary Larson cartoon here is from David Weinberger's Joho the Blog. In the original, the word Linux is replaced by Fud, a "dog's spelling" of food.)
So it is that businesses, especially large businesses, work hard to reduce FUD as much as possible.
That's why I don't automatically condemn companies like Computer Associates for choosing to sign a license for something they may not need a license for, namely Linux.
They're doing the rational thing. Whether it's the right thing is for a court to decide.
After writing the previous item on credibility, I decided the subject should not pass without honoring a real American hero on the question of credibility.
Ladies and gentlemen, once again, Warren Buffett. (The picture is from today's BBC story.)
"The Sage of Omaha" has always understood that the purpose of a credibility account is to be heard when it counts. He is a unique man, who has used his annual Berkshire-Hathaway shareholders' letter to sound off on issues that need sounding off on. And, note this, he chooses his issues carefully. He speaks, on the whole, to issues of interest to small shareholders. Despite his immense wealth, he remains their advocate, their friend, their neighbor.
Matthew Yglesias has an interesting blog item up on the subject of "credibility laundering." (The picture is from his blog.) His complaint is on universities giving their names to wealthy patrons' dubious projects. This lets political partisans pretend that their nonsense has some sort of academic credibility, which it often does not.
Of course, credibility is sold and traded all the time. Michael Jordan earned credibility as a basketball player and sold it through a long list of commercials. Jerry Seinfeld earned credibility as a comedian and sold it through American Express.
We expect this, and accept it. The ability to be a seller in the credibility market is one of the perks of fame. It's how notoreity turns into money. (This cartoon of former Viagra spokesman Bob Dole is courtesy Brian K. White of Glossy News.)
But there's a limit. If you saw Antonin Scalia or Alan Greenspan hawking cheeseburgers or soda pop, you would be appalled. They should at least wait, as Bob Dole did, until they're out of office.
Yet increasingly, they do not.
The "big excitement" over social networking sites is beginning to smell like the portal boom of the 1990s.
And to think it all started with Kevin Bacon. The picture to the left was taken from a CNN story on the eponymous game, the idea being that everyone is within six links of the heavily-networked Hollywood actor. (Bacon himself once did an American Express ad on the theme.) (UPDATE: John A. Stoner points out that was a Visa Check commercial that Bacon did. As a prize you get to move one degree closer to him, and to me.)
Social networking sites try to get everyone together to make friends or do business based on the concept of getting invited by someone you know, the idea being that you'll then invite your friends and participate, growing out your network until, like Bacon, you're connected to everyone.
Bacon's a good actor, but this concept has always smelled to me like smoked, salted pig belly. At minimum, we can say it's not to everyone's tastes.
So why all the big money? Everyone wants to win the "personal networking space," just like everyone wanted to win the "portal" race "back in the day." I'm afraid the result will be the same here as it was then, a lot of hurt.
That should tell you all you need to know. The play should be to wait and see if one of these things can make money, then buy it for a decent multiple. But that is not what is happening.
It was a big win for Microsoft, but also a big win for innovation generally. (The cartoon is by Terry Fletcher of England, who draws for several magazines and is also editor-publisher of Brittania Magazine.)
Eolas' patent on web browser plug-ins has been tossed by a committee of the U.S. Patent Office.
Hopefully there will be a trend emerging. When you over-reach in your patent claims, you're going to lose your rights. Too many patents have been used by lawyers as kudgels against others' innovations over the last years, on behalf of clients who did nothing in the marketplace.
BellSouth has hitched its future to the good old U.S. of A. (If you think that's a mistake put your money where your mouth is by buying the great Telefonica bike-racing jersey at left.)
The course was set firmly this weekend with the $5.85 billion sale of BellSouth's Latin American mobile assets to Spain's Telefonica.
The asset sale is necessary so it can pay its part of the bill for AT&T Wireless, which its Cingular joint-venture with SBC decided to pay $41 billion for last month.
Will it work?
Larry Lessig has been getting hammered online for a column in which, while calling The Grey Album a Gray Area, he nevertheless approved of its creation. (There are over half as many links to the item as there are to this entire blog.)
Many of Lessig's own commentaries on the law make heavy use of recent decisions and discussions. But I'm no lawyer. My question is, "What Would Jefferson Say?"
You may notice a new name on our blogroll this morning. It's Rajesh Jain, a Mumbai (Bombay) entrepreneur, blogger, and sage. (The picture is from an April 2003 profile of Jain in an Indian publication.)
India is among the hottest topics in America at the moment. Everyone is afraid of losing their job to India. Indians are, in the American mind, brilliant, indefatigable, and will work for peanuts (or at least a nice satay sauce).
Well, many Indians are brilliant. Many do work hard. And, while the wages of, say, an Indian help desk worker look low by American standards, understand that it spends very well locally, and that college-educated Indians can care for large families, or live lavishly, on those salaries.
The great part of covering technology is that Cluelessness is dealt with ruthlessly.
The sad part of covering technology is that Cluelessness is dealt with ruthlessly, and I have to watch this rough justice in action. It's sad in any language. (The image is from Sun's Canadian site.)
What you did in business before doesn't count. The market's constant demand is not, what have you done for me lately, but what are you doing for me now, and what will you do for me tomorrow?
If the answer is, not enough, then the market's rough justice comes into play. In this case, it means that bonds in Sun Microsystems are now junk.
The Hippocratic Oath is pretty clear. Your first priority is always the patient. This is why we have cost-shifting. Poor people are cared for in emergency rooms, and the doctors (through the hospitals) find ways to raise prices to everyone else to pay for that free care. They don't have a choice. Their oath says give care.
A doctor who stands around and lets a patient die over money does not deserve the honorific. He (or she) is a money-grubbing quack.
So I'm not arguing here over issues like "database compilations." Texas doctors, or third parties, are free to compile whatever databases they want to. In this case, we have a database of people who've sued doctors in the past, real and alleged victims of malpractice.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (actually it was the 1830s), the United States of America went on a canal-building binge.
The idea was to link the rivers, over the mountains, and enable trade to flourish between east and west, north and south. Huge bond issues were floated, some backed by state governments.
But technology got in the way. The plans were impractical, costs skyrocketed. Meanwhile, a little invention called the railroad made the whole scheme obsolete.
As a result, America went broke, starting in 1837. The bonds defaulted, despite their state backing. Thus, no European investor wanted to touch anything American for over a decade. We were seen as charlatans, con artists, and gullible fools. So we were.
Fast forward to today, and watch Libya doing the exact same thing. (The picture above is from the New York Times article linked-to in that last sentence.)
I have seen this trick before. (And you can get this picture as a spiral notebook here. It's item 135.)
The trick is known as a "roll-up" and it's presently being executed by Ask Jeeves. The idea is that you buy out a bunch of minor competitors and suddenly look like a major one.
It works about as often as Bullwinkle's tricks.
It's one thing if I say it, or the tech industry says it. It's one thing if a few Democrats say it, or even a lot of Democrats.(The image is from CNN.)
When respected business leaders say it, action is likely to follow.
In the case of the Copyright Wars, that point has not been reached. The Committee for Economic Development, which will never be confused with the Socialist International, has issued a detailed report saying, in effect, that the industry's abuse of copyright is hurting our economy, not helping it.
It's time to be blunt.
The Bush Administration is destroying the currency, with the approval of the Federal Reserve chairman.
The idea is that imports will fall, and exports will rise, because the former will cost more and the latter less. Thus, a higher GDP and lower trade gap heading into the election.
But it ain't going to work, not even in the short term. The reason? U.S. oil demand is just too inelastic.
Foreign news sources may bemoan this but those are crocodile tears. The fact is that oil prices are stable or falling against currencies like the Yen, Euro and Pound.
Facing a revolt by Republican commissioners who refused to do their job, FCC chairman Michael Powell pushed through rules allowing the states to do the job of regulating competitive access to carrier networks instead. (The dodgeball image courtesy A Perfect World.)
An Appeals Court has now thrown those rules out. The states don't have the power, the court ruled. Only the FCC has it.
While I disagree with the decision on policy grounds, the legal reasoning was correct. Network access rules are a national issue. They should be decided on a national basis.
Some 43% of shares were voted against chairman Michael Eisner's re-election to his own board, and he was stripped of the title. But he remains CEO, and nominally his power is enhanced, since he's free of those stakeholders for another year.
But as a general rule shareholders are about as restive as delegates to a Stalinist party congress. I have some Disney shares in my IRA, and while I'm not happy with Eisner I never bothered to vote my proxy, meaning those votes were cast for Eisner. People need to take an affirmative action to vote no, and even highly-organized campaigns by big, savvy shareholders usually fail.
I don't know if you noticed it, but there is a Central Planning aspect to Moore's Law. (The chart, found on a University of Vermont server, is credited there to Smart Computing 1999.)
By making economic change predictable, Moore's Law lets a chipmaker set a five year plan, from a central office, and even (unlike the Communists) execute to it.
I well remember an early-1990s keynote from then-Intel chairman Andy Grove, in which he talked about making the "686" (they weren't using the name Pentium then) at a plant in Ireland. Intel does indeed have facilities in Shannon, and the Pentium II came out precisely as envisioned in the speech.
To read the entry above you would think that the tech game is over, and America has lost.
But America has not lost. Ford's Law wasn't the end of the automotive industry.
Ford had not counted on Alfred P. Sloan.
While "Bet-A-Billion" Bill Gates is sometimes (mistakenly) compared to Henry Ford, he himself recommends Sloan's own autobiography as the best book about business you could ever read. (The picture is from a University of Chicago Press page selling "Sloan Rules," by David Farber. It's a better picture of Sloan than on the current edition of the autobiography.)
He is going to five different colleges, trying to convince kids to study computer science.
Given that his head appeared in my church recently, as part of a collage called "Images of God," this move to pitchman might be considered a come-down. (Although the page where the picture came from claims he's an atheist.)
When I wrote recently about the need for Alan Greenspan to go, I wasn't trying to start something. I am not a trained economist. I was offering my opinion.
It's nice that someone trained in that field, Paul Krugman, apparently agrees. Krugman's column attacks another issue, Greenspan's call to cut Social Security, against my mention of how we're losing the battle for sharp minds.
But the point in both cases is the same. Alan Greenspan, who was appointed by Reagan, re-appointed by Bush II, then re-appointed twice by Clinton, needs to retire. We need to stop acting like this guy is the Oracle of Delphi. He's just another partisan, with a partisan pitch to make.
The picture, by the way, is of the aforementioned oracle.
If you can't find a publisher (and most middle-list authors can't any more) then you can publish yourself.
I published my Moores Law book, "The Blankenhorn Effect," (right) all by myself. While the results to date haven't been financially thrilling, all it took me to get going was $1,000, which was reasonable.
Now the price has plunged. Borders is trialing a $200 price point in some Philadelphia stores. For another $300, you get an ISBN number and the store in question stocks five copies.
Despite the hype, despite the sales, despite the promise, these are still the CP/M days of wireless broadband. (The screen shot of Visicalc for CP/M is from a great computer history site, Zorz.Net.)
I mean this in two ways. First, I'm referring to the old CP/M operating system. It was great, it worked for hobbyists and geeks, but it never reached mass acceptance and every dollar spent on CP/M gear, in the end, was wasted. I also mean this in the advertising term of "cost per thousand," which is how ISPs and carriers (cable or phone) will evaluate things. You've got to get over both the usability hurdles and the cost hurdles to reach the mass market.
It may surprise you to see me write this, since I'm such a big booster of the technology but the fact is that Wireless LANs aren't easy. A close friend, very clued-in, recently gave-up trying to use one in his home. If you go to the Broadband Reports forums, you're going to read a host of notes complaining about equipment, even from the very best equipment makers.
It's not their fault, I say. While the capability of WLAN equipment may be jumping with Moores Law (when you combine 802.11a+g standards you can supposedly run at 108 Mbps) other, slower curves can't be rushed.