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Monday, November 29, 2010

מהפכת הקינקט של מיקרוסופט כבר הגיעה למפתחים הפרטיים kinect revolution already at the private developers stage

התלהבתי כבר מהקינקט של מיקרוסופט לא אחת ולא שתיים, ושמחתי מאוד לראות שאני לא לבד. מפתחים עצמאיים שונים מוצאים שימושים מרהיבים לקינקט גם מחוץ לעולם המוצרים של מיקרוסופט. העתיד כבר כאן.

I've already expressed my enthusiasm with Microsoft's Kinect. and was very happy to see I'm not alone. Various independent developers are finding ravishing uses for Kinect, even outside the Microsoft product world. The future is Here! [remark of warning: the story is in hebrew, but the videos quoted there kind of speak in the international language of techno-philes...]

Sunday, November 28, 2010

נפשה של האינטרנט נקרעת בין פתיחות לסגירות, בראיון עם יוחאי בנקלר

ראיון מצויין של דה-מארקר עם פרופ' יוחאי בנקלר, על היבטיה השונים של נייטרליות הרשת, שנושא בחובו גם אמירות מעניינות על הרשת והעולם. בהחלט שווה קריאה. כדאי להתעלם מהכותרת שדה-מארקר משום מה בחרו למאמר.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gmail conversation-mode can be turned off

I have this bizarre habit of checking Gmail's settings every month (or so), to see what is new. The labs section is usually the more interesting bit, but I was surprised to find out in the general section of settings, the possibility of turning conversation mode off!
At the past, I belonged to those who insisted that conversation view and labels are two of the strongest features of Gmail, and give it a unique edge over competing services. I still believe so. But I do know that people - some of them are dear close friends (embarrassing as it is ) - have been complaining about it, and wanted the old way of RE:-RE: dance, and it seems that the people at Google's Gmail team have been listening.
 
Gmail's willingness to adapt to the needs of users is quite impressive, despite its slowness at times. It took a long time till labs brought us nested labels, which was another fine example for a design concept Gmail was willing to adapt, in respond to public demand.
 
At an age when people talk about the coming death of gmail, or about the death of all traditional email systems   one should not forget this agility of Gmail and this attentiveness to users' wishes. This, more than anything else, is what makes a consecutive winner.  

Friday, November 19, 2010

a sum of $335,000 For Virtual Property

Sometimes you just read it again, to make sure you haven't missed something, or maybe it was a trick of the mind. But no. Turns out someone actually paid hundreds of thousands of U.S$ for virtual property. Now, don't get me wrong - I'm a technophile. I am well aware of the east-europian and south-asian sweat shops where people are playing hard to make a poor living, by selling advanced-stages characters in virtual reality games to lazy gamers.  I am also well aware to the fact that virtual games, in addition to the fun and company they provide, sometimes even benefit the real side of life. But lets consider 2 facts:
  1. ~300K$ could have been used to buy a real-life real-estate asset, in one of the periods of real-estate history when prices are REALLY low.
  2. Gaming and computing trends are frequently victims of fashions, and yesterdays great asset is today's midwives horror story for the newcomer entrepreneur/investor .
And yes, I know, it might very well be that in a year or two he will sell this asset and double his money. But I'd hate to be the last one stuck with this asset. I for one, belong to those who believe we should learn from history. Did anyone yell "bubble!"  ?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Researchers get a free meal at MS Azure

Microsoft is trying to find a path to the hearts of the academic community. And it has found a very interesting direction: Microsoft cloud services (Azure) are offered for free to academic researchers. This is a very cunning move aimed against linux, trying to establish microsoft as an option for huge computing tasks. As we all know that There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, it is very intriguing to see what happens after those scientists get hooked on MS....  

Microsoft launches game hub

Microsoft has anounced the launch of Game Hub, which effectively unifies MSN Games, Bing Games and Windows Live Messenger. Is it me, or has Microsoft just effectively created another social network ?




facebook is valued at 41 Billion $

Facebook is valued at 41 Billion U.S $, according to trades in secondary markets (the IPO is still to come). This means that Facebook is currently the 3rd largest Internet business corporation in the U.S, trailing only Amazon and Google. I have to disagree with the source of this item regarding the importance. The value in secondary market is not unrelated to real economic value. If at all, then this value includes some discount, because of the lower transferability/merchantability of ownership-units traded in secondary markets. Considering the immensely high value that is traditionally given to the number of users/members/subscribers an internet company has, one would expect Facebook's 500 million users to be of a higher value. If we would assume that secondary markets are rationale (an assumption usually made about stock markets as well, without a lot of proof, I claim) It would appear that this valuation is also based on certain risks and difficulties the secondary market sees in facebook. It seems that quick rise and fall of myspace, and the fluent nature of users and members along the social networks, are taken into account in the valuation of facebook. It might also be that the valuation takes into account the variety of fields in which these internet giants are operating. Amazon just announced its entry into the movie making field, with what appears to be a very interesting business model. In such circumstances, with rivals loaded with talent and money, one's moat - competitive edge - might never be deep enough...

good and bad in the Java war - oracle's response to apache's threat

I've written on the evolving legal side of the java war in a different blog I run, and included a small comment there about Apache's willingness to escalate. Not surprisingly, Oracle claims the moving farward cause. It is usually difficult to find out who is the good one and who is the bad one, but somehow having to choose between profit-oriented Oracle and the non-profit ASF, this time, making the choice seems quite easy to me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

always, always, make a detailed contract

Another tale of partners in an entrepreneurship, whose ways got separated, and will now mark the final farewell in court.

Without getting into the details, the lesson drawn in this tale is simple: "Always Insist upon a detailed contract".

Now, this is not always easy to do, especially in the early stages of an entrepreneurship. Efforts directed at formalities are ones that do not go into the work itself. Sometimes differences in opinions that could have been bridged later on create such tensions that groups break up without producing anything of value. And naturally, making a really good contract requires money.

But working without a detailed contract mean you may end up the way that tale, at the beginning of the post depicts....

So what can we do?

Some people believe that the solution is to choose only good people. But we all know how people may change when huge sums of money might be involved. And the solution to that is clarity. You don't need a lawyer to set up a simple document, setting the borders, intentions, and limitations. If you see you get into corners, a lawyer may save a lot of time, but to begin with, if you contemplate between the "it will be ok" to the "lets draft something up" approach, I'm all in favor of the drafting something approach. Just like any other formed of documentation, some form of expressed intentions is better than nothing, when the time comes and it is needed.





google hotpot launched, and more importantly - a new privacy policy by google

Google's  new personalized recommendations engine, hotpot, has been launched.  But the content of this specific launch is not what interests me, in writing this post. (Not that I have anything against  recommendations engines. A close friend of mine has been trying to develop such engines, and I've been somewhat aware to the importance and complexity of this issue even before hearing his complaints).

What caught my eye was the design chosen by google to protect the privacy of a person giving a recommendation. I haven't tried it myself, but according to a reliable report, hotpot (actually google places, hotpot being a new feature of this google service) requires a different profile and has a different friends list. This is intentionally done, according to a reply from google, quoted in that report: "We have done this to ensure that users have control over how their reviews appear to the public".

And this, in turn, sheds light on a basic difference between facebook and google. One of the reasons google buzz was accepted with a lot of objection, in my mind, was the fact that Gmail is a real-life service. It is used in one's regular real life, just like cellular phones and other communication media. Facebook may serve as a real-life friendship service, but it is more virtual in nature, and also gives the infrastructure for a lot of virtual, not regular real life, communications. As a result, when the regular real life, and the virtual real life collided, in the introduction of buzz, people got scared. Google got the message, and hence this separation of identities.
As far as I understand, at the moment, Facebook does not offer such an option, and actually cannot offer it, as it stands in distinction to the your-friends-define-you axiom, which stands at the basis of Facebook's concepts.
One has to wonder which approach would prove more appeasing to the evolving network-society.


Monday, November 15, 2010

the innovative ways of the youth, facing facebook's privacy issues

As a software developer, a sys admin, and as a person who supported users under many hats, I've always been surprised by the ingenuity of my users (by their stupidity too, but that is for another post, at another time). A lot is being said in recent years of the changes in privacy concepts and of the behaviour of teenagers in the social networks. A fascinating post in allfacebook.com, taught me about the ingenious ways teenagers developed to control their privacy and their image in the social networks. In addition to the ingenuity of deactivating your account when you are not there, so that your profile will remain as you've left it, and people won't be able to check you out too deeply there is also the rigorous option of removing past contents, and controlling what remains at present. These practices are probably used by others, no longer teens, as a mean to control their social-network-image, and they have another lesson to teach us - seems like privacy concepts aren't changing as much as people like Mark Zuckerberg and Eric Schmidt would like us to accept. It might also be an indicator for software developers - the need for tools that would enable one a control over his or hers net-image are greater than ever. Social networks, like most of the new technologies, have created a new need...

Paul Buchheit, Gmail's creator, talks a little (really a little) about leaving google, facebook and his new workplace

apple taking sides in the java war ?

As the Java War unfolds, it is expected for people (more accurately: corporations) to take sides. But one can always remain neutral, if determined enough, as switzerland's history taught the world. Seems like the following story on MacWorld, by Dan Moren, teaches us that Apple has chosen a formal neutrality position in this war. Considering the surprising similarity between this stance and Apple's formal position in regards to flash, I don't think I'd turn my back to Apple, had I been Oracle...

tablets can die too

Although some of the news around the tablets arena reminds of the late 90's Internet Hype, tablets can die too. joojoo, a linux tablet, has been declared dead. One has a feeling he is not the last....

Saturday, November 13, 2010

a promise made: next generation of Android-based tablets will be magical

ZDnet quotes Nvidia CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang , who justifies the months of delay in the need to plan something really competitive, to stand its ground in opposition to Apple's  iPad, and he makes the same mistake others have made before him, "a magical product". I don't mean to say that the man doesn't know what he is talking about. On the contrary, I'm sure the Android based tablets will be very impressive technological creations. But politically, you must never promise magic. The expectations that will be evolving upon such a declaration, especially when bearing in mind the very impressive product the android tablets are up against, are infinite. These tablets will now have to do really extraordinary stuff, on the leve of making coffee and finding a cure to cancer. And it is a pity, because when bearing in mind that Android does enjoy a broader potentional as an operating system than iPhone OS, the Android based Tablets had a hidden advantage. But now, with the magical anticipation, they will have to much much more than just technologicaly superior... shame, really.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

what is the 2nd most popular app on facebook ?

farmville is still #1 on Facebook's most popular apps, but the 2nd app on the list might surprise people... Windows Live Messenger is the culprit, and this is a very strong indication of the coming change in the social networks of the internet... the integration.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nokia aint giving up on symbian

Nokia is not giving up on symbian. The company is taking the development of the share-losing O.S into its hands. Mobile operating systems market just got a few degrees hotter, and our life - more interesting ! Long live competition and diversification !

[update: Nokia is ditching symbian for windows 7 mobile

an interesting side-effect of the social-networks mini revolution : social networking browsers

A report on RockMelt, a social-networking oriented browser caught my eyes. It is an interesting example to the impact of the competing forces operating within the information revolution, and of the extent to which entrepreneurs are seeking niches. I don't believe in the future of such specialized browsers. In my mind, the all-purpose browsers will remain dominant in the internet surfing business, just the same way the all-purpose car remained dominant in the personal transportation business. I also see this type of development as an indication that the social-networking wave has reached its peak. Don't get me wrong - the social graph is here to stay, and it is very probable that a 100 years from now, teenagers will communicate via a more advanced version of the social networks. But as far as social-networking is a dominant phenomena within the information revolution, i claim that this is the best sign for the peak of its dominance. After the wave has reached the infrastructures, it will be reduced  to more "normal" levels, as far as normality is something to be expected in a revolution....    

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Employees have a right to talk jointly about working conditions using facebook, just like in real life

The National_Labor_Relations_Board  made a clear stand: Employees have a right to talk jointly about working conditions using facebook, just like in real life. The board accused a company which fierd an employee after she criticized her supervisor on facebook, in illegal firing. One has to wonder whether this will hold in courts. In this case, the social-network communication was with co-workers, on a work related issue, and apparantly had some factual basis, as her co-workers agreed with her... The  usage of the digital medium might cross the line and not recieve the protection of the law if the issues discussed do not relate to work, are mainly with people who are not co-workers, or are clearly disloyal (=defamatory and untrue). Seems like the Social network is slowly replacing the coffee corner at work....

If you’re not embarrassed when you ship your first version...

A really cool post by Matt Mullenweg discussing the importance of  being willing to "getting a rudimentary 1.0 out into the world".

He ascribes this policy to Apple and Steve Jobs, and makes a rather convincing case for all Procrastinators and Perfectionists to read and reconsider their ways...

The summary of this recommendation is simple enough: If you’re not embarrassed when you ship your first version you waited too long. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Google Maps caused a border incident between Nicaragua and Costa Rica ?

Nicaraguan army invaded an island which apparently belongs to CostaRica.... and the reason given:  Google Maps, with disagreement to all printed maps, showed an island which was formerly considered to belong to CostaRica, as a Nicaraguan island....  This affair is not yet over, but I suspect its importance is much greater than valued by the media.
If we have come to the point where armies are relying on digital data held by large corporations, it seems like the times when corporations can decide on war and peace has come.
You don't need to fear hackers changing a map for these horrible purposes. All you need, is like the old times when the USSR and the US incited wars in parts of the world, as a part of their cold war,by providing partial or misleading data to one side, about the actions and intentions of another....
Now, a corporation whose interests include a war somewhere, just needs to provide some altered digital information, and even a country that has dismantled its army more than 60 years ago, suddenly finds itself in a military conflict...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Facebook isn’t playing fair

In a rather controversial act, Google has changed its contacts-export API, so that organizations that do not enable a similar action for their user's contacts (i.e and mainly - Facebook), will not be able to use the API for the retrieval of the complete user's contacts from Gmail. Seems like Google is really intimidated from the evolving power of the social graph. Can't really blame them, can you ? and it does seem Facebook isn't fair. The inability to leave with your contacts is a serious lock-in design. Maybe myspace and their like should start legal anti-trust-like actions ?

[update, 9/11/2010: as could have been expected, Facebook has been reported to use Google's regular User Interface to enable a less convenient but still very simple download-upload process of the gmail contacts into facebook. Unlike the writer of the report, I do not think Google will continue to address this issue. I also believe that the slight inconvenience was all Google wanted to achieve, so that Facebook's users will take the minute to think about the fact that they do not know how to extract their contacts from facebook... will it work ? time will tell... and in the meantime, Facebook should work harder, to try and automate the entire process...
or maybe just do the right thing, and add an export-your-contacts button, like a really good sport ?]

[update, 15/11/2010: Techcrunch reports a workaround enabling mass export of your contacts from facebook (So, now there is a way to export your contacts from Facebook to a file. But it is a shame that one can do it only with the help of a 3rd side - Yahoo... ]

[update, 21/11/2010: Now it seems Gmail was removed from Facebook's third-party Email providers, and when one wishes to seek friends, he can no longer use  his Gmail contacts at all, in a direct manner. It might be the best solution, as it reflects the current state of affairs - one has to upload a file, not directly access his gmail account. And yet, one also has to wonder whether people at Facebook shouldn't rethink the direction they have chosen]

[update, 6/7/21011: Facebook appears to be so scared by Google+, it is now blocking a Friends-data-export Chrome extension]
]

Friday, November 5, 2010

Microsoft Kinect is here

Microsoft Kinect, a product I've shared my enthusiasm about in the past, is here, and others seem to agree with me, that it is a part of the moves that will help put Microsoft back on track. I must say, though, that I hate that pun about Kinecting the dots, Kinecting people, etc. Some puns should be left untouched. Have some dignity, people!

[update: mid november 2010 - a press release from microsoft tells that Kinect for Xbox 360 has hit the Million Mark after 10 Days. Microsoft estimates that it will hit 5 million by the end of the year.
A word of warning for anyone seriously considering purchasing this (and I am one of those):  pay attention to this quote from the press release: "Microsoft also recently announced that the more than 25 million Xbox LIVE members have spent more than 1 billion hours on the service a month, an average of over 40 hours per member."
40 hours a month !
oh, well... at least kinect games make people move more than the traditional gaming arenas... ]

Amazon isn't slowing down

An interesting bit I bumped into, while surfing wearing my economy-curious-hat, is analyzing Amazon, and displaying a rather impressive and scary image of this [still] emerging Giant.

One day we will tell our grandchildren we have witnessed the birth and childhood of this company, and they wouldn't believe us.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Don't you hate it when skype changes a webpage and makes it unusable ?

Another one of those things that shouldn't happen to a serious software package (and especially one that plans an IPO soon): As I was browsing this morning, skype decided that a range-link (XXX-YYY) is actually a phone number, and prevented me from choosing the link (instead trying to dial...)

Well, it turned out I wasn't the only one freaking out over this disastrous UI design, and the solution is quite simple in Internet Explorer:
  • go to Tools\Manage Add-ons\
  • locate the Skype section [hint: bottom] 
  • disable the skype Add-on for IE. It will disable the other skype add-on there.
  • There is no need to restart IE. After a refresh, I was able to see the web page as God (more accurately, its creator) had intended.
clarification: this was performed on Internet Explorer 8. The instructions in the link above refer to both IE7 and FF. I still haven't toyed with IE9 but learning from past experience, it would appear the guys at Redmond are no longer changing the interface all over at every chance they have...

and a small remark to the guys at skype: before you run along to the stock market, Pleaeaeaease get those annoying quirks settled.  Afterall, it is probable that your best and brightest will leave soon after the IPO with their vested options, and move on to greener, not-yet-IPO-ed fields... [anybody mentioned FB ?]

Whats going on in Intel ?!?

Intel has allowed access to its production lines to another company, and a startup ?....   Achronix, a manufacturer of chips called FPGAs (programmale  chips), is startup. And one has to wonder what is Intel's angle here... Is it possible that Intel has decided FPGA will be the workaround, preparing for the day Silicon-based processors reach the end of the line for Moore's law ?  

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Facebook finally does something to improve its media sharing capabilities

Facebook, probably the world leader in image sharing, has made a significant step in improving its technical capabilities by purchasing drop.io. How sad for drop.io users... And another step in making life harder for the already lagging competitors. The Like's revolution is making facebook somewhat of an index of the Internet as a whole. But the intertwinement of drop.io into facebook will most probably present facebook as an alternative for all other storage services. The privacy policy chosen in regards to this new service will probably determine the level of acceptance... time will tell, but if I'm youtube (i.e google), I'd start working overtime to prepare for the coming rough months.


[update: another plausible explanation given: Mark Zuckerberg just really, really, really wanted to work with Drop.io's Sam Lessin]

Another Google alumni member joining Facebook

'come hang out with us for a while and we'll see what happens', was the job title Lars Rasmussen was offered by Facebook, or so he tells....  considering Facebook's IPO is probably coming, there is no doubt this is the right time to jump aboard. and thus no one can deny that  Lars Rasmussen demonstrates excellent timing. And let us not forget that for Facebook, the ability to display top notch ex-rival team members, is also an excellet pre-IPO maneuver. The only question that remains is what will he do there ? despite his claims, I tend to believe we will see a similar service to Google Wave evolving within facebook, in the coming 3-5 years, under his leadership.

Microsoft stepping ahead in the field of gestures recognition

Microsoft plans to purchase Canesta for its specialty in gesture-recognition technology. This adds to Microsoft's quite developed capabilites which are currently embodied in its soon-to-be-coming Kinect. Is it possible that despite past indications, Microsoft is a Rolling Stone ?