Sunday, March 27, 2005

How can Google beat Microsoft?

Interesting article on competition in the Search Industry. It focuses on Microsoft vs Google and in particular on the need to develop a API for search. It recommends Google go all out to develop and control the platform for search. I think the author presents a very drastic view of competition against Microsoft: Slash and burn your own farms and retreat to the hills kind of mentality.

Some great quotes though ... In all of Microsofts successful battles, it has used the same strategies. It undercuts its competitors in pricing, unifies previously separate markets, provides open but proprietary APIs, and bundles new functions into platforms it already dominates. Once it has acquired control over an industry standard, it invades neighboring markets.

The author contends that because Microsoft controls the browser and the productivity apps, it can easily leverage it to gain dominance of the developers platform for search. While this is possible, he ignores the inroads that open source has made against Microsoft on the desktop. Microsoft certainly has a lot of potential weapons but it could also face attacks on many fronts. So my question comes down to: is Microsoft like the Roman empire or is it more like the Mongol Horde combined with the discpline of the Borg?

Pictures of Asimo

Originally uploaded by phoenixTech.
Took pictures of Asimo when I visited Tokyo recently. He is on display at the 66 building in Roppongi. Also check out a clip of Asimo running.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Remix Culture

Interview with Lawrence Lessig, professor @Stanford, on the concept of remix culture. A culture of modifying and mixing rich media: audio, video or source code; just as we have the freedom to quote and comment on written text.

He compares media companies to the citizens of the country of the blind (from Time Machine) who decide the solution to their blindness is to blind anyone who can see. He also comments on the upcoming Supreme court hearing on Grokster which could end up outlawing P2P.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Barry DIller buys Ask Jeeves?

InterActive in talks to acquire Ask Jeeves for $1.9 billion. Didn't know the butler was so much. InterActive owns Expedia, Ticketmaster and so I guess it makes sense: A butler isn't much use unless he can get the hottest tickets and help you find a date :)

Also, Yahoo to acquire Flickr.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The future of P2P hangs in the balance...

The case between MGM and Grokster is going all the way to the Supreme Court on march 29th. I hope Grokster wins because I am more interested in the legitimate uses of P2P than searching for music, videos. I just used BitTorrent to download Fedora Core because the FTP servers for Suse Linux was way too slow. Distributing Linux Distros, Open Source Software, legal music and videos (like the videos from CeBIT) are a just few examples of legitimate and beneficial uses of P2P.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Video Coverage of CeBIT

Good idea, Charbax has provided video coverage of CeBIT by strapping a camera to his head(?). You can download the videos through torrent. The ones I've downloaded have looked pretty good although, you have to twist your neck to watch it. I don't know if he needed the permission of CeBIT to do this, but I love to see video coverage of other events such as Comdex. Personally, I think the event organizers should be paying him to do it.

Monday, March 07, 2005

European Adopts Software Patents

After quite a fight from anti-patent activists in Europe, the EU has adopted software patents. It came as a surprise because a few countries in Europe still remained opposed to the idea. Earlier, I was thinking that Europe without software patents could become the next hotbed of innovation...

Low Cost 3-D Displays

Nice pictures of the "GeoWall" system, a low cost approach to build large 3-D displays.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Pretty Good Perimeter Security [Originally published Feb 16]

I've been checking out a new security appliance from Novell, that combines a firewall with a virus scanner [btw I don't work for Novell or related companies!]. It comes as a software package, running on Linux, or as a stand-alone appliance. Even before I saw this product (and I think there must be others just like it), I thought that combining a firewall with a virus scanner would be pretty good perimeter security for most office networks. The firewall catches unauthorized traffic and the virus scanner catches email and browser viruses/spyware. As far I can tell, it works by scanning all files that have been downloaded from the Internet through email or through HTTP.

I think any network which doesn't have protection equivalent to a firewall/virus scanner at the perimeter is basically a sitting duck. You can't trust users to scan all of their files, and once they downloaded a piece of malware into your network, your firewall becomes almost useless. Unfortunately securing the network doesn't end there because most software programs contain bugs which make them succeptible through other means.

Spy vs Spy [originally published Feb 19]

Congress is ready to pass a bill banning spyware, phishing and other unwelcome malware, by requiring these programs to display a screen which asks for you consent.before collecting information. There are several problems with the text of this proposed law. The first question is will the law make a difference? I am going to simplify the issue by dividing spyware into 2 categories 1) crap people download voluntarily 2) crap that just shows up on your computer. I would say Kazaa and other p2p programs belong to category 1. People already know that these programs collect information about you but has that stopped millions of people from using them.

The law would make phishing and keystroke-logging malware illegal, but the threat of legal prosecution clearly hasn't stopped spammers and other cyber-pirates. So it makes me wonder if this law will change anything in reality. My second problem is with the clear exception for anti-piracy spyware. Software companies are allowed to discreetly collect information from your computer if it is solely with the intent of fighting piracy. If the purpose of the law is to let users know how companies are collecting information about them, why can't anti-piracy initiatives properly inform the user before doing so? For those who think this lack of discretion would undermine the fight against piracy, I would like to point out most programs today don't have any snooping-based schemes built-in; therefore, we should be carefull before we authorize software companies taking a leap in that direction.

There is a dicussion of the proposed law at TechReview and the full text of the law can be found here.

Reminder to update your passports [originally posted Feb 25]

If you are a citizens of the 27 countries who are allowed to travel to the US visa- free, here's a suggestion renew your passport as soon as possible. After Oct 2005 (?), all new passports from those countries will have to contain a RFID chip. The problem is, there is no plan to implement an encryption scheme so anyone with a RFID reader will be able to read your passport without your knowledge. You could be standing at the check-in counter, showing your passport to the airline staff and someone next to you, sniffs your identity right off the radio waves. While there is some dispute as to how easy this is, it's certainly doesn't sound very safe. So why not renew your passport before your country slaps a RFID on your and send a friendly email to and let them know what you think.

Making a living off AdSense

The author of this blog has revealed that he is making $500 a year off AdSense. According to stats on his website, he gets around 200,000 page views a year so that makes it .25 cents per eyeball. By that estimate, if you were trying to run a self-sufficient website that cost you $20/month in hosting fees, you would need nearly 100,000 page views in a year or 270 page views a day. Some other datapoints: Russell Beattie's weblog and his earnings are around $900 per month off AdSense. Also, aparently communications between Google and Adsense users are supposed to be confidential; I guess even Google can't control everything.

Started Blogging Again

I moved my blog over from Bloglines, it didn't allow comments and other features. It seems there is no easy way to move my blog other than to manually copy the entries. I've added 10 posts from my old blog, they were originally posted back in February.