Je me souviens
Everything here is my opinion. I do not speak for your employer.
October 2008
December 2008

2008-11-02 »

Fake Steve Jobs book endorsement

I apologize in advance for linking to Guy Kawaski, but the second half of his recent post has an endorsement from Fake Steve Jobs that is totally worth reading. Someday, if I ever write a business book, which you should pray that I don't, I would want it to have a foreword like that.

Yes, I realize that I have now become nothing more than a Guy Kawasaki marketing shill and that his strategy has manipulated me perfectly. I don't care. It's worth it.

(I'm still not buying the book.)

2008-11-04 »

A note on banking software

The warnings were very specific. "Labour - the common lot of mankind - is necessary and honourable; trade is necessary but perilous to the soul; finance, if not immoral, is at best sordid and at worst disreputable."

-- Someone quoting someone from the middle ages, via John Ralston Saul

2008-11-06 »

Another note on banking

Awash in Latin American gold and silver from the sixteenth century on, the Spaniards mistook bullion - money - for wealth, that is, for a form of reality, and so undermined their own economy. Because they had the money, which is normally the outcome of making and trading something, they didn't think they had to bother with the production side of their economy. So once the bullion was spent, there was nothing left. They had mistakenly seen some divine providence in the ease with which so much had fallen into their hands. Here was an early warning of the dangers attached to confusing economics with belief systems. Spain didn't understand tht the only purpose of money was as a grease or glue for reality. Today that Spanish imperial childishness seems very modern.

-- John Ralston Saul in The Collapse of Globalism

2008-11-07 »

See Avery @ CodeRage III on December 4, 2008

My conference presentation about Schemamatic(1) has been accepted for CodeRage III, a virtual conference with virtual presentations put on by the Delphi guys.

I have never been to a virtual conference -- ha ha, I mean, nobody has, but I haven't even watched presentations from one before. The idea is that you make a pre-recorded webcast of your presentation, and then they play it at a particular time while you and your audience all hang out in the same online chat room. The idea is kind of nifty, because you can answer questions about your talk, live, while you seem to be talking.

It seems I've been assigned the crazy timeslot from hell, 7pm PACIFIC time on December 4th. That's 10pm here in Eastern time, which would be ridiculous if it weren't exactly the sort of time I'd be working anyhow. I guess somehow they knew.

Anyway, conference registration is free and you don't have to even go anywhere, so please feel free to sign up by following the link above. I haven't talked about Schemamatic here yet, but it's pretty amazing and this particular version was Translated from The Perl (and then greatly improved) almost entirely by cpirate via a contract to The Navarra Group.

As part of the demo I'll also be presenting my own amazing and life-changing new program, Squel, which you don't know about yet.


(1) I can't reasonably link to Schemamatic yet, because it's an as-yet-undocumented part of Versaplex, which is also undocumented. I guess I'll have to try to sort that out in time for the conference :)

2008-11-08 »

Drag-and-drop auto-install/update component

Hopefully you'll forgive me a bit of self-congratulation:

For the last few nights I stayed up really late working on a drag-and-drop Delphi component that can make pretty much any Delphi application self-installing and self-upgrading, just like AmSchedule Express (AMSE). Of course, it's actually based on the code from AMSE, so you'd think it wouldn't be that much work.

The real work, however, was in generalizing the code to minimize dependencies elsewhere in the program; you can write an install program for any program, but it's harder to write an install program for every program. But at last, (and after some very, very scary things involving locks held during thread termination; don't ask), it seems I've been successful.

As a bonus, I also took anti-Avery's advice and made it download in the background before annoying you about it. It also now verifies the downloaded file's SHA-1 hash, and avoids re-downloading in case you exit the program and run it again.

The bad news: all of this does you no good. We're not releasing this component, at least for now, so only we get to use it in our own apps.


2008-11-10 »

Even more Artemy Lebedev

I'm going to keep linking to him until you subscribe to his RSS feed, you lazy bum.

Time makes things worse, an article about how the young'uns really are doing a worse job than the old timers at various things - in this case, illustrations in medical study guides. Yes, that's right! Human anatomy as an example of reverse evolution!

For me, as someone who is not particularly artistic but tries really hard, the example diagrams and their successes and failings are very instructive. It reminds me a bit of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.

Also, Lebedev's Pyramid, a very... efficient depiction of the social hierarchy at most companies.

2008-11-12 »

Linus Torvalds on Exercise

Sure, some people apparently get a runners high and really enjoy exercise, and they'll say how much people like me are "missing". My dad is apparently one of those freaks, as is my wife.

-- Linus Torvalds

2008-11-14 »

On listening to idiots

Joel Spolsky, via some guy, via Joel Spolsky:

    Spolsky: Well listen, if you're really searching, then search on my name and you'll find all these people complaining about how I interrupt you, and I never listen to what you're saying, and I'm the idiot, and you're the wise one on the show. And that's fine, because what's cool is, the more-- that's just going to make people listen to the podcast more. That's the way it is with podcasts. There is nothing more fun than listening to two people, one of whom you hate, one of them you like. Atwood: That's true. Spolsky: It doesn't matter which is which. It's just so much more fun than if you like them both, or if you're-- there has to be like one guy there that you just want to punch. Or you can't get emotional.

What annoys me is that this is a transcript of a podcast, and there's apparently some interesting discussion there, but there's no way I'm wasting an hour a week listening to a stupid podcast. You can't skim over the boring parts! What was the point of non-text media again?

2008-11-16 »

Reading your email is not a matter of luck

I just got a notification from Air Canada telling me that my flight had been changed. Okay, whatever, flights change sometimes, although I note that Air Canada flights from Toronto to Thunder Bay change a little bit more often than normal levels of sanity might imply.

But what annoyed me about their email was this:

    Unfortunately, replies to this e-mail will not be read.

Oh, really? Unfortunately? It isn't unfortunate at all. Unfortunate is something like this: "Unfortunately, we had to change your flight." You know, to explain away bad luck, whether it be bad luck in flight scheduling technicalities or bad luck in choosing your management team.

What they really mean is, "Because we don't like you and don't care about the quality of our customer service and feel that our emails to you are much more important than the opposite, replies to this email will not be read." It would also be accurate to continue with, "And if you try to contact us by phone, we'll make you wait on hold for half an hour and then, unfortunately, drop the call because we and/or our communications devices are incompetent."

(Every time I complain about Air Canada, I feel bad, because Westjet is much better in every way. I don't know if they read their emails either, but I do know that they answer the phone. Unfortunately, there's no sane way for me to get from London, Ontario, to Thunder Bay, Ontario via Westjet.)


2008-11-18 »

Hard money seminar?

What's with all the new spams trying to get me to go to conferences about "Hard money?"

It used to all be about easy money. That was, frankly, much more my style. How do I unsubscribe again?

2008-11-19 »

Not acquiring Yahoo

So I haven't commented on the Yahoo-Microsoft merger yet, making me probably the very last of an endless horde of clueless people to be talking about it. But the announcement that Jerry Yang will be retiring as CEO reminded me that there is still something important to say.

Quick summary: Yahoo lost the game because Microsoft set the rules.

Until earlier this year when Microsoft proposed to buy Yahoo, nobody but its shareholders had really even noticed that Yahoo was in trouble. Really, Yahoo was just sitting quietly in the background, trying not to get noticed, lest people realize that they were way overvalued and going downhill fast. People blame current CEO Jerry Yang for that situation, but that's ridiculous; there's no sign that anybody could have done any better. Google was eating their lunch; to make Yahoo more successful, they would have had to beat Google. Unlikely.

Microsoft, of course, despite their zillions of dollars selling Windows and Office, was losing the war for Internet search and advertising just as badly as Yahoo. They had plenty of embarrassment to cover.

So what did they do? They chose to be the ones with more power, by framing the situation to make them look good. Brilliantly, they offered to buy Yahoo, even though that obviously made no sense.

From there, the media took over. A few people did notice the offer was dumb; how could Microsoft possibly win by buying up a known-inferior company with a known-inferior search engine? They already had their own inferior ones! But a news article about how Microsoft, which never makes collossally stupid business decisions, was inexplicably doing something collossally stupid, just isn't believable enough. So the story here has to be that Microsoft is smart, and therefore whoever they're dealing with is stupid.

You see, the whole story was written even before Yahoo found out there was an offer to buy them. There were two versions of the story: Yahoo is dumb because it jumped at the first offer (who does that??), or Yahoo is dumb because it refused the first offer (don't they know how desperate they are??).

I imagine the conversation went something like this:

Yang: Wow, Microsoft wants to buy us at a premium over our stock price! And here we were thinking we were over-valued. Let's do it!

Old, Jaded Board Member: You never take the first offer. It makes you look desperate.

Yang: But OJBM, we are desperate! Sure, we might make more money someday, but Google's slowly killing us. There's no guarantee. If we sell out now, we lock in the profits.

OJBM: It's not that easy. You think they just make an offer, and we take it, and that's it? This process will go on for at least a year, and they could back out at any time. We have to play this just right. And I guarantee you, if we accept their first offer, they'll know it's too high and they'll run away fast. The whole world will know we don't have confidence, and our stock price will tank.

Yang: But the offer is already generous. If we don't take it, they might just walk away.

OJBM: Nobody walks away in the first round just because you asked for a higher price. Everybody knows you always ask for a higher price, because the first bid is always low. If they walk away, then they were planning to walk away in any case. So we're better off if they walk away before they send in their "experts" to do their "due diligence" and learn all our company's secrets. Microsoft frequently kills their competitors by offering to buy them.

Yang: So we can't take the deal.

OJBM: Not yet, at least.


And a couple of weeks later, Ballmer "changed his mind" and decided not to buy them after all, at any price. Right.

Microsoft never wanted Yahoo, they just wanted its market share. The fastest, cheapest way to get there: help them die.

Steve Ballmer isn't new to this game, and Microsoft is smart. Scary, but smart.

2008-11-22 »

More Lotus Foundations, formerly Nitix

Lotus preps small biz software appliance. (Thanks to Ian for the link.)

In which they manage to make the new release sound super-secret, even though almost all the software running it has been released and available for months. People have reviewed it and there was a keynote.

And about the web server? "Which one, IBM is not saying." Ooh! Whatever could it be?! An unanswered question that hides huge competitive advantage, no doubt.

They're also raising the price.

Still, it's fun to watch.


October 2008
December 2008

I'm CEO at Tailscale, where we make network problems disappear.

Why would you follow me on twitter? Use RSS.

apenwarr on