Is it real or is it

Everything here is my personal opinion. I do not speak for my employer.
Back: October 2007
Next: December 2007

2007-11-01 »

Next time you try to tell me garbage collection makes things easier...

...make sure you've read this.

2007-11-02 »

Welcome to November

I'll be spending all my writing energy for this month on NaNoWriMo. But fear not! Using the magic of time-release, I've prepared in advance some postings to keep you busy. You'll hardly know the difference.

2007-11-05 »

Hybrid personality/vocabulary quiz

  1. People most often describe you as:
    a) indefatigable.
    b) defatigable.
    c) fatigable.
  2. Which of the following statements makes you least angry?
    a) Irregardless of the facts, all men were created equal.
    b) Regardless of the facts, black people are dumb.
    c) Irrespective of the facts, all women were created equal.
  3. You are told that a Taiwanese person's aunt, whom you don't know, recently had a headache. But it went away. You:
    a) Couldn't care less; people's feeling are unimportant.
    b) Could care less; you don't know her anyway.
    c) Could probably care less, but you can't really imagine how.

2007-11-06 »

Well, that's disturbing

They've mostly missed the point of my presentation, but okay. It's cool anyway, in an extremely disturbing sort of way.

2007-11-08 »

Apple in the news

Hey, Apple did something cool again. They sure do make nice stuff, but it's a shame they're so evil. Etc.

2007-11-09 »

Alas, poor rich Microsoft

Nobody notices poor Microsoft. It seems they specialize in being highly successful while producing crappy products that everybody hates and then buys anyway (in this case, Vista). If you think back to the 1980's and 90's, it's really been the same story all along.

In 2007, Microsoft revenues grew from $44 billion to $51 billion, with profits of $14 billion. That's more than twice the profit of Apple and Google combined ($6.5 billion). And in actual dollars, that $7 billion revenue increase is much more than Google's $4 billion or so increase. Not bad considering how badly Vista sucks, and that they need to squeeze that increase out of somewhere new considering they already own the entire desktop operating system market.

2007-11-13 »

Hindsight bias

Here's an excellent article about hindsight bias. Don't worry about whether it "devalues science," just read through it and think about the examples, which are very neat.

If you thought that was interesting, check out my earlier notes about selection bias in Linux zealotry and statistical bias when comparing age to productivity.

2007-11-14 »

The Phone Wars

Google is the Microsoft to Apple's Apple.

As PC operating systems slowly become irrelevant, the next battle is for portable computing. Apple is lucky enough to get to play in both battles; and where Microsoft was their competitor last time, people are saying Google will be this time. Google is playing exactly the same strategy with phones that Microsoft did with PC's.

But this time it won't work.

Why?

Because Microsoft has been playing that strategy expertly for 10 years now and has already lost.

Google's only proposed difference is an uncomfortable combination of open source and advertising (what?). So unless the world has somehow changed in ways nobody has yet explained to me, expertly playing the same strategy in the same market will get Google and friends the same results as it got Microsoft.

Here's the thing. Open source is most successful when the stuff it's replacing is crap. For example: Linux. Embedded Linux. GCC. Emacs. Firefox(1). It's not so successful when the thing it's replacing is good. For example: Everyone else's power management. VMware. Video games. PVR's. MacOS. iPod. MP3 itself. ...and iPhone.

That's the thing everybody seems to be missing. Nobody wants something better than an iPhone. All anybody wants is a bloody phone that makes phone calls (!) and plays music and sends email and browses the web. And Apple was there first, and they're kicking ass.

How do you even imagine a phone that users will like better than the iPhone? Because I simply can't. If you can't either, then I'm sorry, but all the open source and all the third-party developers in the world won't save you. You've already lost.

Now go read Inside the Tornado, the sequel to Crossing the Chasm, for all the gory details of what will happen next.

Footnote

(1) Mozilla/Firefox is actually my favourite example, because it has such a long history. But briefly, Netscape was better for a long time, then MSIE got better for a while and killed Netscape, which (as Mozilla) sucked even worse for a very long time until Firefox came along and was marginally better than IE, so a marginal number of people have switched to it. (And it's still getting better, unlike IE, so that fraction might increase.) None of that has anything to do with open source, and everything to do with Microsoft throwing away their huge lead.

2007-11-15 »

Novel writing progress

Phew! This novel writing is hard. I recently passed 25000 words or so.

2007-11-19 »

This just saved me a lot of annoyance

If you use Debian or Ubuntu, do yourself a favour. Run this command:

    apt-get install winbind

Then edit your /etc/nsswitch.conf and change the line that looks like this:

    hosts: files dns

To this:

    hosts: files dns wins

Now even if your computer is on a network with fantastically stupid DNS, you can be happy like Windows users already are: your programs will do broadcast/wins lookups to find a hostname if it's not found in DNS.

(I had a really hard time finding out from google how to do this, so if you'll forgive me some redundancy: winbindd is part of samba. It can use WINS for hostname lookups (to augment or replace DNS). It provides nss_wins (libnss_wins) for NSS. It finds Windows hostnames automatically using samba on your Linux system.)

Lazyweb: anybody know how to do this in MacOS X?

2007-11-20 »

Google pre-announces yet another thing

Despite the fact that most people's Google experience has been essentially unchanged since 2004, and despite the fact that Google has a strict policy against pre-announcing or leaking anything, they sure do have a lot of outsiders pre-announcing stuff based on rumours and gut feelings. Today is no exception.

...

Update 2007/11/20: I wrote this quickie for time-release almost three weeks ago, as a bit of a gag, because Google rumours are always in the news. I'd say the fact that pcolijn reacted to it is a sign that I'm not completely wrong. I found the news link above (weeks ago) by specifically searching for a site that specialized in "google rumours." Then I linked to the main site, not a specific article, to make the link look fresher than my article (and link) actually was. It worked! (My attempt with Apple earlier in the month was less successful.)

Anyway, pcolijn, I wouldn't want to claim that Google is actually pre-announcing anything. But it makes you think: they don't even need to! Just leave enough clues, like patent applications, and the world will pre-announce whatever they want. Yet I could pre-announce Versabanq stuff, and you could start Versabanq rumours as often as you wanted, and nobody would ever care. Google gets to play by different rules, which is why their policy of never pre-announcing actually works for them.

2007-11-26 »

FIXME: don't forget to update this after the weekend, or I'll end up looking silly!

Montreal blitzweekend post-mortem

So, Montreal's Blitzweekend has just passed, and boy, am I tired! There were the usual organizational nitpicks, but overall, it was ____.

A few people there commented that we should have _ instead of _. They have a point, but that's not exactly right either. When we used to do this sort of thing at NITI, what we would do instead was _, which made sure that each person got a turn but didn't waste everyone's time.

There was a bit of a problem with _____. Typical. Well, that's what happens when you don't plan very carefully in advance, in unconference style. It has advantages and disadvantages.

Overall, it was a pretty fun event. I'd definitely do it again. Congratulations to the organizers!

Update: Sigh. These probabilistic pre-posts just don't seem to be working out for me. Blitzweekend was rescheduled to February 2008, thus ruining my joke a bit :)

2007-11-27 »

Billions and billions...

Versabanq was featured on the front page of the Financial Post yesterday. The article is also online, but lacks the cool photo of our boardroom that shows up in the paper version.

(Why is it that online news has fewer pictures? Guys, pixels are cheaper than paper!)

2007-11-28 »

More about installers

I ask you. W...T...F?

And it does! Several minutes! I wrote this blog entry while it was saying that! And that's after I was already bored with waiting! It's still saying it now!

Previous commentary on installers.

2007-11-29 »

Oil prices change again today, potentially disrupting economy

Sigh, here we go again, as predicted. Environmentalists are up in arms, of course. The Canadian dollar predictably rose vs. the U.S. dollar before falling again. And there are rumours that the U.S. Federal Reserve might change their interest rates in response.

I really didn't see this coming. Who knows what will happen next?

Back: October 2007
Next: December 2007

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