Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Microsoft's Lack of Innovation

Today an internal memo from Ray Ozzie and email from Bill Gates have leaked onto the internet. The two pieces of information outline Microsoft’s direction for the next 5 years:
It is now 2005, and the environment has changed yet again – this time around services. Computing and communications technologies have dramatically and progressively improved to enable the viability of a services-based model. The ubiquity of broadband and wireless networking has changed the nature of how people interact, and they’re increasingly drawn toward the simplicity of services and service-enabled software that ‘just works’. Businesses are increasingly considering what services-based economics of scale might do to help them reduce infrastructure costs or deploy solutions as-needed and on subscription basis.

The email and memo both make references to Google and many have jumped on the bandwagon of looking at this as a source of explanation for Google-Microsoft relations. I will not concentrate on this, because that is not the most important part of the memo. The most important part is that, once again, Microsoft has no clue what the next jump is. They have jumped onto the existing bandwagon internet services without realizing where the future markets are opening up. Surely, the next year or so will be a hot bed for standard internet services. However, Microsoft has completely missed the next big market.
In the next 5 tears developing nations will become a huge market. Cell phone companies are already realizing the profits that can be made in 3rd world and technologically un-advanced countries through cell phone distribution. Obviously, where cell phones go, computers will follow. India has been a good case of capitalizing on a developing nations need for computer infrastructure, but Microsoft has overlooked their Indian lesson.
Since 1995, inexpensive computing and communications technologies have advanced at a rapid rate that even exceeded our expectations. It’s so very difficult now for us to imagine a world without the PC, the web and the cell phone. In the US, there are more than 100MM broadband users, 190MM mobile phone subscribers, and WiFi networks blanket the urban landscape. This pattern is mirrored in much of the developed world. Computing has become linked to the communications network; when a PC is purchased, it’s assumed that the PC will have high-speed internet connectivity.

Microsoft is intent on being a caterer to the developed world and do not realize how they made their money in the first place. Microsoft became the company that it is by getting in and releasing something when the computer industry was being born. Now that industry is being born in developing countries, and Microsoft is overlooking it. They are continuing to follow what they’ve done before with the GUI interface, internet exposure and more recently, consoles. Microsoft is once again jumping on the bandwagon and hopping that it will get by on its pure brute money.
The biggest market becoming available to the computer world is China. Unlike Google, Microsoft has no prominent Chinese (or Asian) division. In the Microsoft memo, Ray Ozzie states:
Just as in the past, we must reflect upon what’s going on around us, and reflect upon our strengths, weaknesses and industry leadership responsibilities, and respond. As much as ever, it’s clear that if we fail to do so, our business as we know it is at risk. We must respond quickly and decisively.

Yet the company is blind to the development of new markets which it can (for a lack of a better word) exploit. Microsoft is very much at risk if it continues on this trend of bandwagon jumping and lack of innovation.
Microsoft’s number one competitor, Google, has a much better of the emerging market. To take us back to my long standing Google OS debate, if Google releases an OS for free and makes it appealing to the emerging Chinese market (as well as other developing markets) Google can easily rip Microsoft’s dominance from it. Before today’s memo leak, there was still debate about Microsoft’s opportunity in the service market but now it is already that Microsoft will not pull itself up to become a leader in online services or the new business model introduced by Google. To make matters worse, Microsoft is now running of losing even its shrink wrapped products in its failure to recognize the coming markets. Microsoft has exposed itself to competitors like Google and now their fate as an industry leader is in the hands of those companies.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Broke and Happy vs. Rich... and Happier?

Being broke is both a gift and a curse. Well, I guess it’s mostly a curse. Today I had a chance to experience first hand the curse of being broke. I stopped by the corner store after school. There I was, gathering some food, making my way to pay. I whipped out my bank card with confidence of that I was paid recently and therefore I have money. After 3 tries, I realized that I am still as broke as a hobo. I spent all my money in early October buying a present for a friend, and still my bank account is empty.
Originally the gift was going to be expensive for me, but not nearly as much as it turned out. I organized a big gathering with a whole bunch of people and I took pledges from them and they would give me the money later… not too great of a plan. Today I am still broke and a whole lot of people still owe me money. I can not really go and demand my money for to big reasons: it is not nice and I did not write down the names of the few people that paid me. My friends parents offered to cover any expenses that were too great from the gift, but that just is unacceptable. When you make a gift, you make a gift to the whole family and you can not have them pay for parts of their own gift. Hence, I will just have to burden the debt and hopefully 50 cents will get me by.
Normally I would not have a problem with being broke, but my dad is gone until the 14th. I will be out of food tomorrow: that means I need to survive for 5 days on 50 cents.
This raises a question: does money bring happiness? I am broke, and very happy that I gave my friend a good gift. However, I am also going to be hungry for the next 5 days and when I am hungry I am not happy. Also, if you think about it, its money that got the gift and money that made happiness in the first place.
I believe “money does not bring happiness” is a novel idea, but a misleading one. It implies that you can be broke and happy and I think that is very hard in the sort of society we live in. That being said, it does not mean that everyone should just clench their money. I have several friends who have lofty bank accounts to their name and they have no clue what do with them. Still they are scrawny in their spending and very conservative about their money. It might be the remains of my communist roots speaking, but I think that money hording is just wrong. I would understand if that was the basis of Capitalism and thus important to society. But money hording has no place in Capitalism. In Capitalism you float your capital value into all sort of investments, that is how net worth is made.
I do not understand the money horders, and I think I never will. I guess this new discovery has a big effect on the “Got to Love Your Work?” debate. The wind has now changed in favor of making money and then finding happiness. Hopefully, I will be able to make some sort of proper and meditated decisions and I hope that my lack of understanding when it comes to money horders will not damage my adulthood.

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Monday, November 07, 2005

Rotting Our Analytical Minds

Over this past weekend, I downloaded a couple of the Visual Studio 2005 Betas from Microsoft. I am trying to diversify my vocabulary, language base and thought processes in programming. I decided to finish learning C++ and learn J# so I downloaded those two, as well as the Web development tool. I have looked briefly into Visual C++ and J#, but started of mostly in Web development, working on the browser based Wevonger program to work along the same lines as the Delphi written Devonger I have been working on recently. The experience of working in 3 different languages simultaneously opened me up to a lot of thought and arguments in which is better. I work in two radically different assisted languages: Pascal in Delphi and JavaScript/HTML/CSS in Web Development. On the side, for my blog work I work in pure untouched code. The three different programming experiences have really raised questions on which are the most effective.
In assisted languages I can make much more complex programs, much faster. In pure Code I am much more efficient from a resources point of view, as well as the integrity and full knowledge of my code. I came across similar dilemmas when I was experimenting with command line Python, but I only used Python for relatively useless things before looking into GUI interfaces (assistance). In the end I can not come to a good decision over which is more effective. I think it is essential for a program to know both and be adaptable. I think a programmer is marker by his skill of thinking in different ways and his ability to learn quickly, and not his knowledge of syntax. Even with my native tongue of Delphi I still frequent the F1 (help) key, because I see memorization of syntax as useless.
In my quest to enlighten myself on which sort of programming was more appropriate (and to avoid actual work) I scoured the World Wide Web. I soon came across an article with a hopeful title by Chrarles Petzold. I quickly turned to the man with 30 years of coding and programming for advice. After attentively reading the 20 page article and laughing at all the little jokes, only a man who spent 30 years coding could write, I started to form a better opinion of proper programming. Petzold had specialized in Windows Forms and C programming. Now he was over to C# and new his Pascal and C++, but his mother tongue was different from mine. However, I was able to understand his words and feel the feeling that tore him apart. I was able to understand and synthesized with the uncertainty of which was better: human code or computer assisted code. In the end both of us came to few conclusions. The only thing that was really established for me was the true addictiveness of the shortcuts computer assistance gives us.
I recalled the days when I had to make a second form for the first time. Before then Delphi always manufactured my first form for me and when I had to create another one from scratch I was stuck scratching my noggin. In about five minutes I had the code down, but the main thing was that hesitation at first and the lack of proper education in form creation. I realized that having Delphi create my form was bad for my programming mind, and yet I would never get rid of it.
As Petzold wrote in his article, “Does Visual Studio Rot the Mind”:
It is very common for us to say about a piece of consumer technology that “we didn’t know how much we needed it until we had it,” and much of this technology seems targeted not to satisfy a particular need, but to get us hooked on something else we never knew we needed; not to make our lives better, but to tempt us with another designer drug. “I can’t live without my ___________” and you can fill in the blank. This week, I think, it’s the video iPod.

Technology has become a drug that we get hooked on and can never get off. Not only does this apply to IntelliSense in Visual Studio, or auto complete in Delphi and the VS predecessors. The curse of technological addiction also applies to non programmer applications, like MSN, WinAmp…. Spell check. The first two are constantly running on my computer and I do not know what I would do without them. I can not imagine going through hundreds of CDs or records in my player or even listening to the same artist twice in a row. My phone usage is a bare minimum that only sees itself used when someone’s internet goes down, when my computer illiterate mother calls, or when I am just too confused to type. My spelling is probably on the level of a grade school child from around a century ago, because I can always just click F7 and have all the spelling mistakes in this post fixed automatically.
Technology has become both a dream and a curse for not only programmers, but all of its users. Soon we will be hovering around our school hallways saying emotionless ‘lol’s to each other.

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Sunday, November 06, 2005


Mortality is the concept that everyone has to die sometime. We spend our lives dreading and avoiding the topic. We are always immortal until proven otherwise and many never want to be proven wrong. In the end, (if you’re not religious or superstitious) you never will know if you are mortal or not. The only way for us to realize our own mortality is to lose someone we know and love. Today, I realized I am mortal.
Around 3 o’clock my grandmother called, to tell me that my great grandmother has died. It was not a surprising death per say, but it was still shocking. Even when someone is just shy of a century, you still think they will always be around. My great grandmother lived a simple life in a small Russian town. She grew most of her own food; her bread came from one set of neighbors, milk from another. Her son was always close by, living in the same house as her. I did not have particularly close ties to her and in my last visit she could not even distinguish me from my father due to failing health. I can not say I was a particularly wonderful great grandson, having only paid her visits a handful of times in my life. However, I still remember her, I remember her house, I remember how I build little dams on the stream nearby and I remember how we hiked through the woods. I am afraid that those memories will be lost one day, but until then I will cherish them. My great grandmother was a religious woman, and I hope heaven treats her well. Maybe she can see down and see the kind of lives we made for ourselves. I wonder if she would approve of what we have become.
This loss is a first for me in many ways. I have only lost two people to death in my life before today. One was my grandfather and the other was a family friend. My grandfather died from a heart attack before I can remember. Our family friend died on a trip mine after landing a relief plane in some third world country; maybe that’s why I have never been a big fan of “make poverty history” and such aid campaigns. My great grandmother, though, is the first person I knew well and can actually remember, that died. To me this comes as a loss, but not nearly as much of one as it will be to others.
I am worried about my grandmother, aunt and dad. My grandmother was the one that called me and told me the news. She sounded alright, but you could hear sadness deep in her voice. It was the sort of sadness you would expect after someone comes to terms with the loss of their primary caregiver. My great grandfather died in World War II and therefore my grandmother was raised primarily by her mom. I emailed my father with the news in hopes that he would call grandma and talk to her. I understand email is not the best form of communication, but he is in California right now and it was my only way to reach him. My aunt is with my grandma in Novosibirsk right now and hopefully they can handle the events together as a family.
My relatives are probably coping and planning a funeral as you read this. I will not be able to attend the funeral due to expired papers, but I hope it is a nice funeral. I think it would be wonderful if my dad could attend, maybe he can get a plane ticket and fly over after he returns from the States.
For now, I am still in Saskatoon, but now with a better sense of my mortality.

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Why We Hate IE6 Part 2

As Anonymous posted under “Why We Hate IE6”:
Screw IE altogether!
The world's crappriest browser.

I did not believe that at first, but earlier today more bugs came from internet explorer. My blog no longer shows up with IE at all. I will fix the problem as soon as I can. On Macs (when running IE) the blog still shows up but with formatting problems in the right sidebar. I think the errors are from the new Google Maps feature I added, and I will make the feature invisible for IE users as soon as I can.
To make matter worse, my great grandmother died today. This of course is not related to IE at all (or so I hope), but I only found out moments ago as I was writing this post. I hope she is given a nice funeral, I wish I could attend, but my papers are expired and I would not be granted entrance into my mother country.

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