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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hiring frenzy in California... when is it called a Bubble and when is it a real Growth burst?

LA Times reports a high-tech hiring frenzy in California. As much as one is happy hearing about the signs of economic recovery in the Golden State, one cannot avoid the internal whispering - these were the signs of the last high-tech bubble,  developing .

I can add a personal testimony, from my own experience here in Israel - even though I've been working on a few startups of my own in recent years, and haven't sent my resume to recruiting agencies for quite some time now, I keep getting phone calls with job offers relating to one of my previous IT roles (DBA, Sys Admin, Programmer, etc, etc...)

So, as far as my intuition goes, I suspect (and fear) that the bubble trends of 1997-1999 are back in development.

If only I had a crystal ball and could tell just if it is really a bubble and WHEN will the bubble burst...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Google books ran aground

Just as things seemed to be going nicely for Google Books, came a  New York court and ruled that the deal would "simply go too far", giving Google an unfair competitive advantage. Just like in kindergarten, If Google was less greedy and let others participate in the game, it wouldn't have found itself in this mess.
Looks like it is high time to let others play with the books already scanned, if Google wants to stop this magnificent effort from going to waste... 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

why limitations of the functionality of PCs, mobiles, gadgets & networks are dangerous

Guardian's Cory Doctorow wrote an enlightening piece, analyzing  the risks and cons of the repeated steps made by Software and Hardware vendors around the world aiming to prevent Intellectual property (IP) thefts and other mischiefs. The brings an excellent summary of current and near-future steps which more than assist IP owners, hurt the users of the products. I'll quote the gist immediately, but If you intend to read one article this month about IT, this is the one:

"For reasons good and bad, the things we rely on for our jobs, our political organising, our family affairs, our social lives and our cultural transactions are being rebuilt to control us and spy on us.
For each of these control measures, the question isn't whether they'll fail, but when they will, and who will hijack their capabilities. Virus writers have already noticed that their malicious software can get a free ride if it targets digital rights management technology that hides itself from the operating system. Will it be an identity thief next? A dodgy "private investigator" who wants to read an MP's email over her shoulder? A totalitarian government that wants to broadcast the kill-signal to phones being used to organise mass demonstrations?"

Google's crisis response team - how IT organizations CAN help in disasters

One of the most frustrating things about work at Information Technologies, is that one is mostly  limited to Information services that have little impact in real time crises. The Google Crisis Response Team sets an example of how Information Technologies can really make a difference in the days following huge disasters. A cnn story tells how Google could set a Persons-Finder for the Japanese people a single hour after the Earth Quake. This is also a story about the creation of the response team, a story that can be a lesson to every IT organization in the world. IT is also of  the culture of Google's organization, a culture that can be summarized by Google engineer Prem Ramaswami, initatior and head of Google's crisis response team: 
"I work at a very special place. No manager has ever told me that I had a day job."

the age of pervasive computing is here

The idea of computing becoming interwoven into every aspect of our lives has many names. The first and probably most known name "Ubiquitous Computing" was termed by the late Mark Weiser. Oliver Burkeman of the Guardian wrote a very interesting article dealing with his realization that the age of ubiquitous computing is now, and chose to head it with the catchy and controversial name "the internet is over".

I recommend reading this piece, but have two remarks  - 
  1. I don't think that the age of all-things-computerized has arrived yet. How many people do you know who have computerized chairs ? paintings ? pens ? Only when the vision of the-internet-of-all-things shall be accomplished, can we start talking about life in that age. At the moment we are still dreaming. So Don't worry, the internet as a separate sphere is still not dead. And have no fear - it will not die. It will just engulf more parts of the world, until someday, somehow, the world and the internet shall be perceived as one. (Assuming, naturally, that the age of bow and arrow shall not return first, by man or by nature). 
  2. I think that a better name for the phenomena of all-things-around-us-becoming-computerized is pervasive computing. "Ubiquitous" does not pass the meaning of the process in which our generation, and probably the next one as well, live. "Pervasive" shall lose its relevance if & when then dream of all-things-computerized shall be fulfilled. I feel  that a really good name for the existence of all-things-computerized has not been suggested yet. I guess only the people who will experience life in that age, the ones who will know on their own flesh whether it is a wonderful dream or a nightmare, only they will know enough to choose the right name. 

But it does not mean our generation cannot make some suggestions.... anyone has an idea ? 

an important bit of computing history: the first PageRank patent

You'll need to be both a lover of computing and of history to like this post:
Bill Slawski of SEObyTheSea published a lovely post, which describes the application to the US Patent and Trademark Office for PageRank's first patent and includes a copy of that application.
(PageRank, for those who aren't into Search, is Google's links-importance-assesment-algorithm which is the heart of Google's search engine).
Slawski was kind enough to describe PageRank's path, as other patents were requested along the years since the first one, and gave a quick description of the last patent requested.

Facebook has launched its coupon service

Facebook is reported to have  launched its own coupon service. This is a great opportunity to test Facebook's real power. If this Social web's strength and value is as commonly accepted, then surely facebook will easily take groupon and other coupon players out of the market in a relatively short time. Lets say, one could quite assuredly estimate that one year from today, groupon and friends will either be purchased by Facebook's competitors, or way past their glory (somewhat like myspace, only in a much shorter time frame). If, on the other hand, the Coupon-Group-Organizing internet services shall remain independent and prospering, at least as well as Facebook's new service, people shall have to seriously doubt their assesment of the strengths of the world's largest social network.
Time will tell. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

the darker side of cellphones and the digital age

In a world that is falling in love with location-based services the following critique will probably sound old-fashioned and laughable.

Still, we should all remember that each and everyone of us who carries a cellphone is being tracked constantly by the cellular phone companies. Thanks to NY Times I learned of a great story by Zeit Online, telling of a very nice demonstration given by Malte spitz of the German green party regarding the meaning of meta-data kept by cellular phone operators:


  • This demonstration, "Naturally", required that Spitz had to file a suit against telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom just to get this information... 
  • 35.831 bits of location information have been gathered by the cellular phone company  between  August 2009 and February 2010.   
  • These bits, put together,  provide a clear picture of a person’s habits and preferences.  For example: they tell at what cities he visited and when; whether he  walked  or took a train; when he worked, when he slept and when his phone was unavailable. It shows when he  talked on his phone and when he preferred to send an SMS.... and more.... 
  • When you add this data to the bits of data flowing loose on the internet (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forum posts, news items, etc, etc), You get to know a person's life.


The future is here and now, and I think I'm going to start shutting down my cell phone more often...

[update, 20/4/2011: Techdirt has a story about smart phones apps using the camera and microphone to gather information, without users knowing it. The uses reported appear to be legitimate. The implications are really scary]. 

Facebook rolls out anti-bullying tools

Life in the social network can be rough sometimes, as unpleasant people allow themselves too much under the anonymity veil of the internet. Facebook is taking steps in the right direction with recent announcements off  anti-bullying tools that are being rolled out

Thursday, March 3, 2011

a tale of many windows upgrades

Winrumors points to a cute video displaying a set of upgrades starting with Microsoft Windows 1.01 up to Windows 7. This is definitely one video worth the 10 minutes of watching, if you've  spent time installing more than one version of windows, and you belong to one of us - the geeks who sigh a nostalgic sigh as they view the evolution of Windows and enjoy the running gag of attempting to execute Doom II on each version... 

A small comment: Those with a sharp eye will notice that they guy who did this magnificent piece missed Windows ME. Some claimed it was due to the buggy nature of that Operating system. I do not agree. Such a feat of upgrading from such old operating systems can be done today only via a virtual machine (otherwise the earlier versions, as Windows95, will probably panic meeting the new and alien hardware). As I've had my share of old operating systems installtion in virtual machines (as told about in at least one occasion in this blog), I know that Windows ME gives a really troublesome time to anyone who tries to install it in a virtual machine. I believe it has something to do with the way it handles hardware, but never got to the bottom of this, as ME installation games in virtual environments were more of a doodling around with virtual capabilities than anything someone really needed. I believe the guy who made this video encountered the same problem, and didn't think it worth while. 

is the tablet a pc or something else ?

BusinessInsider reports of Steve Jobs speech in his surprising appearance on the iPad2 event.  declares:  

"Our competitors are looking at this like it's the next PC market. That is not the right approach to this. These are post-PC devices that need to be easier to use than a PC, more intuitive. The hardware and software need to intertwine more than they do on a PC. We think we're on the right path with this."
Two points are clear from this speech and from the evolving Tablet reality: 
  1. Steve Jobs continues Apple's old perception of tight hardware/software relations which requires great control between software and hardware development, and is suitable with Apple's old close-model of software/hardware manufacturing. 
  2. Microsoft and Google, on the other hand continue the old PC model of separation between hardware manufacturers and software developers. The business insider bit tells of Microsoft's effort to transfer the foll Windows 7 to tablets, and of Google's efforts regarding its operating system. 
I personally believe that open approaches beat the close approaches in the long run. This has also been the lesson in the last 40 years of computing. 

Is this Apple repeating its eternal error ? or has the day of Jobs the prophet finally come ? 
Only time will tell. You've got to admit it will be kind of nice to watch, with all those new tablets expected to come out this year...

internal competition costs

An interesting article at arstechnica points the costs of the friction when a company gets so big itself in a position where it suffers from internal conflicting interests. It happened to Microsoft, and now it happens to Apple.