Archive for June, 2006
Friday, June 30th, 2006
Kudos the guys at Microsoft working on the RSS Platform. I fired up Daisy today for the first time since upgrading and found I needed to recompile due to changes. I’ve noticed a few really nice things already-
1) The FEEDS_EVENTS_SCOPE.FES_ALL is working for all children on the root folder. I’m not sure if this got fixed in Beta 2 or 3. With Beta 1 I was having to place events on every folder and every feed. (Mass select ugly event code – delete!)
2) Added Feed event delagates on the IFeedFolderEvent object. Man! Sweet! I was able to delete all the IFeedEvents_Event event code and simple set two event watchers – one for feeds, and one for all folders through the root folder object. Glad to see this finally working. This has totally cleaned up my event code. It’s also cleaned up the issuesI was having of file system locks on objects when moving, renaming, and deleting feeds and folders. Without needing to set events on every object in the system, there are no locks to deal with. (Mass select more ugly event code – delete!)
3) The naming conventions on properties are all cleaned up, thanks!
4) Seems like the performance has greatly improved. I’d like to see more work in this area, or possibly a FeedsList class for quick iteration of the feeds in the database. The performance hit Daisy takes when indexing every feed and folder at boot is a bit of a hit.
This weekend I’ll dig a little deeper and see what else has changed. Thanks guys!
Thursday, June 29th, 2006
Fox News with Brit Hume covers Guantanamo, and the New York Times Leak.
CNN with Larry King covers Star Jones.
Is it any wonder why nobody watches CNN anymore? What happened to CNN? It feels like I’ve tuned into Dr Phil. Honestly, I wish I was making this stuff up.
Thursday, June 29th, 2006
My last Google post, if you caught it after I first published it, was a little rough and had some opinion in it I later changed my mind on. This is something I always do and it annoys the hell out of me. I’ve set this mental rule that after writing a post, it has to sit in my drafts folder for at least one hour before I publish. This of course is a pain in the ars, because you have to remember to go back and publish the article. Also, ‘Saving as Draft’ just doesn’t seem to have the same “It’s going to go out to the world” mental weight as ‘Publish’. (And sometimes I just break my own rules.)
I think I finally found a pretty good answer thanks to this blog. Essentially, WordPress allows you to queue a post for publishing using the timestamp information. Now all I have to do is edit my WordPress PHP scripts so that the time displayed as the default timestamp is 1-2 hours ahead of current time and I’m set. Nice!
I also need to figure out how to set things up so that anything I publish on a Friday or Saturday night between the hours of 11p.m. and 4a.m. goes directly into the trash bin.
Thursday, June 29th, 2006
The hype is intense as usual over a new Google feature – Google Checkout. Overall I’m impressed, but also a little bummed, I was hoping for a system that makes the process of selling products simpler. As a part-time shareware developer I’ve stayed away form sites like PayPal for two reasons – One, they require the user to create a PayPal account to make a purchase, and two, the job of integrating a site with PayPal is complex, especially if the resulting purchase requires an email response with a license key. This nixed PayPal for me and Google Checkout as well for this use case.
Aside from this niche case however, Checkout does have some interesting possibilities. First though I’d be interested in knowing how many people actually purchase a product after clicking on an ad in a search engine response. Although the Google Blog seems to claim this is common, personally I’ve never done this myself. People tend to be comparison shoppers, so finding a product by visiting a search engine and clicking on an ad seems a bit of a stretch. I think the big win for a service like Checkout comes from vendors who have products for sale that get indexed in comparative sites like NexTag. If these sites support Checkout this makes it simple for a user to purchase products from these sites. But in this case, is Checkout really a PayPal killer? Given the choice of clicking on a PayPal button and a Google Checkout button when purchasing, I’m at a loss as to why I would sign up for a new service if I already have an account at PayPal. So Google stands to increase it’s Checkout accounts only if the user is signing up for the first time with some sort of payment system. In this case, the better margins are what PayPal should be worried about, since Google has undercut PayPal with a 2.0% vendor surcharge on purchases compared to PayPal’s 2.9%. If PayPal has any brains at all they’ll drop their rate tomorrow, possibly even lower to say 1.9% to compete. After all vendors faced with the task positioning payment buttons on their sites are going to give precedence to the payment service that makes them more money.
The other chance Checkout has is in the case where the vendor only supports Checkout and not PayPal. Although I think the number of vendors doing this voluntarily will be slim, Google can easily write checks to help tip the scales. A good example would be Buy.com, which does not support PayPal. In this case the consumer will choose Buy if they already have an account with that site. If not, it’s a choice between Google and Buy.com. I’m curious if the perception will be that going with Google means your sharing your personal data with two companies? Regardless, I think there will be uptake for Checkout in this case. Personally I would probably go with Google, not knowing much about Buy.com.
Others have also commented that this is an Amazon killer. In general I think this is mostly hype, with no real substance. Sites like Amazon are a first destination for shoppers looking for a particular product because Amazon has already built up consumer confidence in it’s brand. For example when I buy a book, CD, mp3 player, xbox 360, or even my favorite kind of socks, I’m not going to go to a search engine, search for the brand, and click on an ad. I’m going to go directly to amazon.com. In these cases comparison shopping isn’t needed, so I just go directly to the site I trust. Even if I do find a product via a search engine, odds are there will be an Amazon link on the page. With Amazon’s free shipping discounts for mixed orders, I’d still go with Amazon over a smaller vendor.
Beyond the hype, I think Checkout will have reasonable growth. If eBay knows anything about business 101, they’ll know that getting undercut on vendor surcharges needs to be dealt with quickly. Deal with that, and the only thing Google has going for it is a nice button and their name. In this case it comes down to consumers choosing which brand they trust more – PayPal, or Google. Who wins that battle is anybody’s guess, contrary to everything you’ve read today. In time though I imagine consumers may adopt both systems. Then it comes down to who can cut the best deals, and provide the best incentives to sellers. eBay has been king in this business forever, so they haven’t been forced to compete at all. Look for big changes overall in the PayPal system going forward from everything to customer service to seller services to technology. One of the hallmarks of Google is they force positive change, in this case sellers stand to benefit.
Overall, I have to say that this product, without a doubt, is the smartest thing Google has done since Search. Eliminate every crappy product they’ve produced in between except maybe GMail and Maps (good PR plays but lacking in any substantial business model) and you have what appears to be a very smart company. I’m just surprised it took so long.
Wednesday, June 28th, 2006
What’s up with the housing market? I keep reading reports it’s cooling, but since January it looks like it’s heating up. I wonder if this is a solid turn or just a rush of investing at the last minute with buyers locking in lower rates. The graph above could also be due to a bad hurricane season, if so though it didn’t last long. I noticed this on Burbed as well, looks like some parts of California are experiencing the same “bounce”.
Tuesday, June 27th, 2006
I recently formulated an interesting idea for startup. This morning I hit on a really great name for the company. Unfortunately every domain variant related to the word I wanted to use had been purchased and whored out by pay-per-click link farm media companies. These lame link farms are ruining the internets.
I wonder if pay-per-click link farm sites will effect the way people navigate the web in time? Typing a domain you think will get you to the right place is going to loose popularity. Do companies like Google, Yahoo, Overture, and MSN care about this? Probably not. Destroying direct navigation via domains promotes the search engine to a more predominate form of web navigation.
Tuesday, June 27th, 2006
I’ve been experiencing incredibly slow system load times after logging into XP lately. XP has always been pretty snappy in this regard so I went digging for the cause. I found four application launch directives – one service, and three user processes. After eliminating these things went back to normal -
iTunesHelper (iTunesHelper.exe) – Apple Computer
Software that “helps iTunes” do something, although there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on the net of what this process does exactly. Probably the most grievous of all of these processes, this application will slow your logon to a crawl and will suck up a great deal of system resources. Note, as with most Apple software, removing the startup entries for this doesn’t necessarily insure it stays gone as iTunes has the annoying habit of reinstalling the item. To disable simply terminate the exe and search your Program Files folders for the file to rename.
iPodService (iPodService.exe) – Apple Computer
A background service that launches iTunes if you insert your iPod into a USB port. If you don’t mind launching iTunes on your own you can disable this service through the service control manager.
Quicktime Task (qtask.exe) – Apple Computer
Some sort of tray icon app that seems to do very little aside from brand your dekstop with Apple’s Quicktime logo. Quicktime will install this in your startup settings every time the Quicktime player launches. To disable simply terminate the exe and search your Program Files folders for the file to rename.
HP Printer Driver Helper (HPZipm12.exe)
Recently this was added as a system process when I purchased two new HP printers and installed the default HP software for both. The HP web site claims the printers might not work correctly without this process running, but so far I’ve had no trouble printing to both my HP DeskJet and HP Photo printer.
Monday, June 26th, 2006
A lot has been said about Vista’s shifted consumer ship date into 2007. Most seem to think the slip was due to Vista not being stable enough, but since Vista will still ship in November to the enterprise and to OEMs in October, that doesn’t make much sense. I wonder if there was another motivation – xbox 360 sales. This Christmas will obviously be huge for the console market with (barring a surprise announcement from Apple) three new devices on store shelves. I have to wonder if Microsoft decided to pull back the Vista release in an effort to keep consumers from having to choose between a new beefed up PC for the office, and a new, cheap, slick looking Microsoft game console sitting in the living room plugged into the television. I don’t know about the numbers but the order of the rollout seems to make sense. Vista has Media Center built-in, and the 360 is ready to stream the media center interface and content over a wireless network. PC’s in the living room obviously don’t fly, even fanatics like myself absolutely refuse to put a Dell box in my living room. With form factor console media center’s ranging in price from 3K-5K, consumers are not going to adopt that solution either. The 360 on the other hand is cheap, replaces your DVD player and will also be upgradeable to support newer technology like HD-DVD or even Blue Ray. Connected to media center it also easily replaces Tivo, and saves consumers the monthly fees Tivo currently charges. Combining strong 360 sales in December with the assumption that consumers will purchase a new Vista computer for the office later in 2007, I think there’s a good chance that push back might have been due to Microsoft’s interest in extending it’s reach into the living room rather than any presumed instability of the Vista OS.
Monday, June 26th, 2006
HONG KONG AND THE UNITED STATES
According to the latest figures I have, per capita income in Hong Kong is almost identical with that in the United States.
That is close to incredible. Here we are—a country of 260 million people that stretches from sea to shining sea, with enormous resources, and a two-hundred-year background of more or less steady growth, supposedly the strongest and richest country in the world, and yet six million people living on a tiny spit of land with negligible resources manage to produce as high a per capita income. How come?
The explanation is the same as for Britain and Israel. Direct government spending is less than 15 percent of national income in Hong Kong, more than 40 percent in the United States. Indirect government spending via regulations and mandates is negligible in Hong Kong but accounts for around 10 percent of national income in the United States. In both respects, the United States differs from Hong Kong less than either Britain or Israel, both of which have even higher government spending as a fraction of national income and even more intrusive and extensive regulations and mandates, which is presumably why per capita income in the United States is more than a third higher than that in the United Kingdom and nearly 80 percent higher than that in Israel.
We are more productive than Hong Kong. But we have chosen, or been led by the vagaries of politics, to devote roughly half of our resources to activities to which Hong Kong devotes 15 or 20 percent. Our higher productivity means that we can produce with 50 percent of our resources the same per capita income as Hong Kong can produce with 80 to 85 percent of its resources.
The real lesson of Hong Kong for the United States is that we’re using our resources inefficiently. Our government is spending our money to subsidize tobacco and to penalize smoking; to subsidize childbearing and to discourage childbearing; to build new housing and to tear down housing; to subsidize agriculture and to penalize agriculture; and on and on—not to mention converting square miles of forests into billions of paper forms and spending many man-years of labor filling them out and then filing them.
In the process, government tends to neglect its basic functions: as I once put it, “to protect our freedom both from the enemies outside our gates and from our fellow citizens: to preserve law and order, to enforce private contracts, to foster competitive markets.’’
Kudos to Steve for the link.
One of the problems I see with “laissez-faire capitalism” is that people who are phased out by it’s process suffer, so a balance is necessary. I wouldn’t describe our current policies as balanced. George Bush has spent far too much money on everything from war to farming, and democrats like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton seem hell bent on turning the United States into a socialist state. I find myself bending more and more toward a ‘moderate libertarian view’ of things these days (assuming I’m not there already).
Sunday, June 25th, 2006
70 billion dollars and counting. Wouldn’t it be great if other tech and investment luminaries added to the fund.
The longer answer is that over the years I had gotten to know Bill and Melinda Gates well, spent a lot of time with them having fun and, way beyond that, had grown to admire what they were doing with their foundation. I’ve seen them give presentations about its programs, and I’m always amazed at the enthusiasm and passion and energy they’re pouring into their work. They’ve gone at it, you might say, with both head and heart.
Bill reads many thousands of pages annually keeping up with medical advances and means of delivering help. Melinda, often with Bill along, travels the world looking at how well good intentions are being converted into good results. Life has dealt a terrible hand to literally billions of people around the world, and Bill and Melinda are bent on reducing that inequity to the extent they possibly can.
If you think about it – if your goal is to return the money to society by attacking truly major problems that don’t have a commensurate funding base – what could you find that’s better than turning to a couple of people who are young, who are ungodly bright, whose ideas have been proven, who already have shown an ability to scale it up and do it right?
You don’t get an opportunity like that ordinarily. I’m getting two people enormously successful at something, where I’ve had a chance to see what they’ve done, where I know they will keep doing it – where they’ve done it with their own money, so they’re not living in some fantasy world – and where in general I agree with their reasoning. If I’ve found the right vehicle for my goal, there’s no reason to wait.
Compare what I’m doing with them to my situation at Berkshire, where I have talented and proven people in charge of our businesses. They do a much better job than I could in running their operations.
What can be more logical, in whatever you want done, than finding someone better equipped than you are to do it? Who wouldn’t select Tiger Woods to take his place in a high-stakes golf game? That’s how I feel about this decision about my money.