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Well, nearly, judging from the latest re-org news coming out of Microsoft.
The retiree in this case is Jim Allchin (right), who has been the Windows guru there for years. What struck me was his age, 53.
I'm going to be 51 in January. And I'm launching a start-up.
Seriously, Microsoft is going through the middle-aged crazies, and the solution is in many ways typical. That is, push decision-making down the stack, toward younger managers. Let a hundred flowers bloom and all that.
The other big headline in here is that Ray Ozzie, the former Lotus executive who joined Microsoft last year as a chief technical officer, is being given line responsibilities for what's called the "software-based services" strategy.
Unfortunately, Microsoft's middle-aged trouble goes a little deeper than that.
Apple has released iTunes 5.0.1, which it says fixes problems found on iTunes 5.0.
I was frankly surprised at the number and vehemence of responses to my earlier item about iTunes 5.0 The reason? Reports on the problems have gotten very little traction in the mainstream press.
George W. Bush must envy Steve Jobs in some ways. Kanye West, who famously dissed the President during a Katrina fund-raiser, actually sang at the Apple iTunes 5.0 announcement, and didn't go off-message either. This story is being carried mainly in the blogosphere, where there are currently 176 posts under iTunes 5.0 problem (although not all are on-point).
Instead, Jobs and Apple continue to be hailed as heroes in the mainstream press:
Everyone is on the Red Cross bandwagon these days.
But that was not the case before Katrina. The Red Cross was fiercely criticized for its reaction to 9-11. The criticism was bipartisan.
All was forgotten once Katrina hit. The only alternatives offered for giving wre overtly-religious organizations, ranging from the Salvation Army to Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing (number two on the Administration's hit parade).
Besides, you've got to figure, this was really more up the Red Cross' alley than 9-11, which in the end only took out the center of a well-insured central city, and completely displaced only a few tens of thousands. This was different, not just New Orleans but the parishes around it, and Mississippi all the way up to Jackson.
So how are they doing?
Let me take a stab at explaining Google's grand strategy.
Well, sort of. You may, instead of buying Microsoft Office, suscribe to Google's GMail and have a rudimentary office system with a gigabyte or two of storage.
But to say Google is going after Microsoft, the way we said Microsoft was going after IBM, is really to damn with faint praise.
Google isn't aiming at Microsoft, or at IBM. It's aiming at the entire computing-telecommunications complex, building out what I'll call the Google TeleComputing Environment.
The idea is to take advantage of not only the Internet's ability to disintermediate clients, but its ability to disintermediate the phone network at the same time, and to do this in an entirely open source way.
What do I mean? Here are the ingredients:
Google is flattening the world. More on what this means after the flip.
Americans are finally following the rest of the world toward the controlled interface of the cellular phone.
This has profound implications. Mobile carriers are not Internet Service Providers. They control where you go and what you do on their networks. They act as gatekeepers, and take a proprietary attitude toward every bit transmitted.
The difference between the Internet and a mobile network is like the difference between a downtown city center and a shopping mall. There is nothing inherently wrong with a shopping mall, but it is controlled by the mall owner, and everything which happens there must be aimed at making the mall owner (and his tenants) money, all assumptions of liberty to the contrary.
In other words, cellular turns the Internet into a shopping mall, neutering it, and making it solely a means toward a commercial end.
Thus, is has been difficult for mobile (Americans call it cellular) to gain the kind of reach and use that we find even in Africa. But that is changing:
The winds of change are blowing hurricane-force in Washington. Every politician in town knows it. So the natural inclination is to push the envelope as far as possible, knowing that it will be pulled back fairly quickly.
This is as true regarding the Internet as anywhere else. The Bell-cable duopoly hangs by a thread. Wireless ISPs have Moore's Law on their side. The incumbents need something very strong to counter.
This is precisely what they're going for with a bill in the House that would raise entry barriers to the sky and prevent independent ISPs from ever gaining a market toehold. (That's the chairman of the committee proposing the legislation, Joe Barton, up above.)
Naturally they call it "pro-competitive," but in the Orwellian Washington of today those with a Clue should never listen to what they say but look at what they do.
The bill is also filled with goodies for broadcasters and TV networks, such as:
No, not on the football field, silly.
(The original Rice seal, to the right, dates from 1911, and carries its own story, including Confederate gray "warmed into life by a tinge of lavender.")
I'm talking about the laboratory, where Rice is successfully managing the transition from Dr. Richard Smalley's "Buckyball foundation" generation with new research into the link between optics and electronics.
Professor Peter Nordlander has announced "a universal relationship between the behavior of light and electrons" which "can be exploited to create nanoscale antennae that convert light into broadband electrical signals capable of carrying approximately 1 million times more data than existing interconnects."
This is big. In many ways it's as big as the original BuckyBall discovery, and more readily exploited.
More after the break.
I know people are going to read this as good news.
Intel announced it is putting $340 million into expanding plants in Colorado and Massachusetts.
What could be wrong with that?
Here is a surprising story.
Three times more money is lost to identity theft where the thieves just make up an identity than when they use someone else's.
Gartner Group figures $50 billion is lost from such "victimless fraud" every year, against $15 billion from identity theft.
The problem is U.S. banks don't check identities closely. Crooks can get a pay-as-you-go mobile phone with no credit check, open up a bank account in the name of that "person," pay bills on that account for a while, then use the account to get credit cards.
Banks in Europe share identity information and aren't subject to the same fraud to the same degree. Gartner said.
A 17 year old who admitted to hacking Paris Hilton's cellphone (and some other things) drew an 11-month prison sentence from Massachusetts today. (Next time, kid, go with Drew Barrymore.) He also draws two years' probation with no computer access.
Informa market research estimates 380 new customers will pick up mobile or cellular phones this year, against 335 million last year. The promised slowdown still hasn't come, with the developing world going ga-ga for the devices.
Some like that. Some hate it. So most of it is after the flip. Enjoy.
How is a democracy lost?
It isn't. Just as freedom can't be given, only taken, democracy can't really be lost, only stolen.
There are dozens of examples over the centuries, of honest systems turned to dictatorships. And what they all have in common is ruthlessness, not just of the dictator, but of those around him.
Amidst all the wailing over the Times' experiment in forcing people to pay subscriptions for Internet newspaper content, an important fact is being lost.
I have seen no announcement that the IHT is changing its policies, or changing what content it offers. (The Tribune is owned by the Times Co., which bought out The Washington Post Co.'s interest a few years ago.) Here's today's opinion front page.
Here is the situation:
Below is a typical Feedburner RSS ad, which appears in Newsreaders but not on Web pages. We'll discuss it after the flip:
UPDATE: After this was posted, Feedburner vice president-business development Rick Klau wrote the following. It is directly on point (as the lawyers say):
While I can only speak for FeedBurner, we only splice ads into feeds for publishers, on behalf of the publisher. We never splice ads in a feed that the publisher didn't ask for, make money from, or know about, ever. It's the same type of model as web advertising solutions that you use on your site, and you make most of the money.
FeedBurner is a publisher service. We only perform those services on a feed that a publisher wants us to perform, and that goes for everything, whether it's splicing ads, applying a stylesheet, or tracking statistics.
No blog site manager running our service can be unaware that their feeds have ads in them because it is impossible to get ads in your feed at FeedBurner without either directly contacting us or selecting the AdSense for Feeds program and providing us with all the details needed to splice in those ads.
Google's blog search is finally open, in beta, at http://blogsearch.google.com/ See if you're there. (Searching by name will bring both your own work and that of others who link to you.)
NOTE: This Table of Contents will be continually updated as new chapters are placed online.
NOTE: This is part of a continuing online novel. Here is the Table of Contents.
The America Diaspora is a sequel to The Chinese Century.
Despite everything Mark Cuban had done for New Orleans, a warrant was still out on him
One good thing about covering space is that it puts what's happening to this Big Blue Marble into proper perspective.
See if you don't agree:
Blogging let us all become commentators.
Now we can become true journalists.
Dialogue announced that it Mobile Applications Portal can now be used by news aggregators to take in any cellphone video you may want to offer, as an MMS message.
Yes, I can see the problem here as well. This is expensive stuff. It's being offered as a service to Big Media operators, who will then take stuff from ordinary Joes, probably free, and spin it.
But it is a step in the right direction.
Skype, like most VOIP companies, is a tax arbitrage play.
The idea is that you avoid the tax costs of telephony by running your voice calls over an Internet connection. As everyone gets broadband, telephone service dies a natural death.
But neither the Bells, nor the governments they feed, are willing to go away quietly. I've written often about how it's done here. But it's done everywhere.
The same day eBay announced it would buy Skype, China started cracking down harder on Skype, and its Internet-Phone version SkypeOut. Unlike the situation with, say, Falun Gong, this is an effort where telephone firms are, not reluctant, but eager co-conspirators.
"I'll take Bubble for $100, Alex." (That's 2004 Jeopardy mega-winner Ken Jennings, whose 15 minutes of fame are now up.)
And the answer is, "The final proof of the second Internet bubble, in 2005."
"Correct. eBay paid $2.6 million in cash and stock for a company that had few revenues, no profits, and hardly any business model, and whose operations were completely incompatible with eBay's own."
"I could understand the stock, and even understand the press claims the deal was worth $4.1 billion. It's the cash that gets me."
Qualcomm manager Nick Glassman, a New Orleans native, visited the city last weekend. His story is not for the squeamish.
NOTE: There is an update to this article. Please go here to view it.
Users are reporting that not only doesn't the software work, but they can't back out of it, and can't load older versions, once the upgrade button is pressed. Some complete computer failures have been reported.
Lauren Weinstein, co-founder of People For Internet Responsibility, reported on this to Dave Farber's Interesting-People list today:
I've personally now seen two systems that have fallen into this black
hole -- no working iTunes, no working QuickTime, and attempts to
install older versions (even just of QuickTime) fail miserably, even
after complex (and in some cases dangerous) attempts at cleaning out
the leftover muck. It's really a mess -- reminds me of early DOS
Hopefully this is a short-term problem.
Richard Wingard has figured out a way to fund cutting-edge technology with angel investors, and hold them in their investments for nearly 7 years. (The picture is courtesy the University of New Hampshire alumni association.)
Wingard runs Euclid Discoveries, which is working on an object-based video compression technology he says will deliver 10 times the performance of MPEG-4, enough to "turn your iPod into a DVD player."
And he's done it all with angel investors, who are best-known for backing only early-stage customers. Wingard has rejected the entreaties of venture capital firms, saying their time frames for pay-outs are too short. Yet he has succeeded in getting angels who will wait as much as 7 years for a private auction of his technology, and a distribution.
Want to know how he did it?
After $2 billion, Rupert Murdoch's Internet strategy has become clear.
Murdoch finished off his buying spree by putting $680 million into IGN, which runs Web sites devoted to video games. This followed his earlier purchases of Scout Media, which runs sports sites for various sports teams, and the company that owned Myspace.com, the music fan site.
Murdoch has called a special "summit" of his top corporate chiefs for this weekend at his California ranch. Prince Alwaleed bin Talals Kingdom Holding Company of Saudi Arabia has apparently endorsed his strategy. (Didn't know the Saudis had their hooks into Murdoch quite that deeply, did you?)
So, is this going to be a gusher or a dry hole?
Yesterday, for the first day since Katrina, the city of Atlanta seemed to return to normal.
The traffic jams were back. The parking lots at the Tucker Wal-Mart (pictured) and Target were full. I even overheard customers chatting amiably about good things happening in their lives, and laughing.
But the New Normal is a mirage. Its not real. Its made possible by Governor Perdues short-term cancellation of the states gas tax, and by the Administrations decision to go back to dirty gas and suspend EPA rules.
The gas tax is going back up, next week. And gas prices are headed higher, much higher.
The folks at Google write that they've appointed Vinton Cerf as their Chief Internet Evangelist, and brag on his nickname "Father of the Internet."
But what is he going to do? And what can he accomplish?
While Cerf was a fine engineer in his day, his record as an executive leaves a lot to be desired. Those with memories recall that he was with MCI all through the Worldcom disaster. He gave speeches, he took awards, and he had nothing to do with the fraud. He was out of the loop.
He was lipstick on that pig.
Will he be any closer to the loop at Google? Or does this mean Google is about to turn itself into another MCI?
The sad fact is that Google is rapidly becoming a bureaucratized mess. Current CEO Eric Schmidt ignored Blogger, he gave his corporate credibility a padding, he has loaded up on his personal fortune and generally made a hash of those things it was in his power to make a hash of.
In an era where money is magnetic ink, even the rich of New Orleans may not be safe.
A friend forwarded an American Banker feature (all content is behind their firewall, only the headlines are in front) that explains all this.
The story, by Steve Bills, details the problems banks had in the impacted area, and as many as five banks were still out of action as of Tuesday.
Those banks hurt worst were small community banks that did not outsource their financial processing.
Customers of those banks who managed to escape may be unable to get to their money, although they may not all know that because financial networks do have a limited ability to "stand-in" for their absent customers.
This could happen again-and-again, because only 40% of small banks out-source. Would out-sourcing solve the problem? Not necessarily. One of the bigger outsourcers, Fiserv, has operations in New Orleans (fortunately they're based in Wisconsin) and eight employees are still missing.
Given all this there are some basic things that need to be required:
Over at ZDNet, Steve Gillmor (left) has a wonderful commentary that got me thinking about a financial disease, one to which corporations like Microsoft are addicted and by which users like us are burdened.
I call it Upgrade-itis.
The FEMA forms that allow victims to apply for disaster assistance only work with Internet Explorer 6.0.
Back in 1985, you would have spent big money to get an Intel 386 chip, with over 100 Megabytes of storage, and a local network that ran as fast as 1 megabits per second.
I know I didn't have one. The closest I saw to one that year was an entrepreneur 10 miles north of me who had a Digital Equipment PDP-8 minicomputer in his office.
Yet that is just what you see in the picture to the right:
NOTE: This is part of a continuing online novel. Here is the Table of Contents.
The America Diaspora is a sequel to The Chinese Century.
Im back in my home country again, and exhausted.
A dedicated minority can overwhelm a disinterested majority.
To do so takes discipline, and a mindset that will brook neither criticism nor interference, that is totally obedient to the will of the leader.
What drives this mindset is fear. The leadership drives fear into people, and the mindset is gradually acquired. There are many examples of this. South Africa's Nationalists. Mussolini's Fascists. It was a hallmark of Peronism in Argentina. It's not a left-right thing, since it's most closely associated with Lenin's Russia, but it's more common than most in the democratic world believe or accept.
Note that in all these examples there's one ingredient which, many will say, does not exist in today's Republicans -- ruthlessness. That is, the willingness to do anything in the name of the cause, whether that's stuffing ballot boxes, taking control of the news media, or just shooting to kill. In the wake of New Orleans I'd question whether that ruthlessness is lacking. When you hear someone try to defend what has happened, it's hard to argue it's lacking.
Political movements can easily morph into Bolshevism, even in democracies. It's the main Achilles Heel of the whole system. I think it's what Washington most feared when he talked of "factions."
Over the last two centuries many political movements in this country have been accused of a Bolshevistic mind set, even before such a thing existed, starting (long before there was such a thing) with Jefferson's Democratic-Republicans. Jackson's Democrats had some of it, and it morphed into the Slave Power, which had it in spades. Did the Big City Machines have it? How about the New Deal -- they were certainly accused of it.
See how common this is?
What's most infuriating about our time is how many white, male Americans (some females, some blacks, but overwhelmingly it's white males) have internalized this mindset. It's why I find it increasingly difficult to communicate with these bozos -- all avenues of communication are blocked-off.
Want to see the dance?
George W. Bush's Bridge to the 19th Century has deposited us in 1881, in the era of the Spoils System.
The spoils system was instituted by Democratic President Andrew Jackson. "To the victor goes the spoils" meant that every government job belonged to the party in power. Postmasters, and port managers (big jobs in those days) were all political hacks.
The movement against the spoils system was led by a Republican named James A. Garfield. He was elected President in 1880 alongside a representative of that system, Chester Alan Arthur, former port commissioner for New York. He wasn't a perfect vessel for reform, but he moved in that direction.
The picture illustrates what happened next. Garfield was shot, killed, by Charles J. Guiteau, a "frustrated office seeker," in other words, a party hack who was upset that Garfield wanted to bring competence to government. (Guiteau, in fact had visions of becoming Ambassador to France.)
Specifically, I'm looking at the impact of Google Maps on our business, and how we practice journalism, as well as how we deliver it to readers. (Speaking of which, Google has satellite imagery of New Orleans taken at 10 AM on August 31 available here.)
Talk about shock and awe...)
There's a saying that bloggers are journalists who won't make a five-minute phone call, while journalists are bloggers who won't spend five minutes on Google.
Both views have something to them, although I'd say that Google keeps getting better, while the phone doesn't.
But there's a bigger secret neither side tells you.
We seldom leave our desks.
I think nearly all Americans can now agree that the biggest mistake made after 9-11 was avoiding a call to sacrifice.
(Picture from the BBC.)
My generation has never been "in" to sacrifice. It was our parents' thing. They went hungry during the Depression, they risked their lives during World War II, and then they stayed together, working hard, so that their kids (us) would have "everything."
Which we do. Our lives are very comfortable. Most Americans have cars, and TVs, and air conditioning, and healthy food in our refrigerators whenever we want it. We can take vacations. We can get fat. Then we can pay to have the fat stripped away and get fat again.
Maybe that's the real Vietnam syndrome. Those of my generation who felt the call to sacrifice as young people died in rice paddies, or had their dreams shot away. Frankly it doesn't matter why anymore. No matter what side you took in that war, get over it. We're in a different era.
These days sacrifice must be forced on us. And for many this week it has been.
When you elect people with contempt for government, the result is contemptible government.
There is a long-running charge, or meme, on the left that President George W. Bush is a "dry drunk," an alcoholic who hasn't dealt with the roots of his alcoholism, and thus exhibits alcoholic behavior even when sober.
Dr. Justin Frank explored this in a book called Bush on the Couch. Katherine Van Wormer made the charge in 2002 and Malachy McCourt has gone further, writing in his short 2004 book, Bush Lies in State that hes still an alcoholic.
So here is my point. Given his falling popularity and recent bizarre behaviors (running away from Cindy Sheehan, comparing Iraq to World War II while New Orleans died) I'm wondering if this meme isn't about to move.