24 Sep

The 300 million PC problem

Rajesh Jain:

"[This] the first big opportunity for Linux and the server-centric computing architecture. Convert these older machines into thin clients (TCs). That eliminates the need for upgrades (forever). It saves organisations money both on hardware and on software (Microsoft XP, other new versions). For a start, organisations should see who needs to run only the base set of applications – browser, email, wordprocessor, spreadsheet, presentation, IM – and switch them over the a Linux TC."

For how long have we been hearing this? Since at least 1995 when Larry Ellison explained the NC would kill the fat PC. Should have been the NS, standing for "No Show." Yes, you can repurpose old PCs as thin clients, though corporations don’t need Linux for that, they can keep their old Windows desktops and serve them with Terminal Services or Citrix.
However, there’s always a limit to what you can do with old PCs, starting with their screens. Five years ago, companies mostly purchased 800×600 15" monitors, while the standard is now at 1024×768 17". And when you go to a higher resolution, you want a faster graphics card.
And then your employees want color printers and CD burners and other stuff that doesn’t work with their current setup, and since the central IT department says it’s not going to happen, people do what first got PCs into offices twenty years ago: they’ll buy the cool gear on departmental budgets. How did the Internet first got into most companies? Not through the LAN and firewall, think instead of good old 56K modems officiously plugged behind someone’s PC.
Take the PC out of the PC, and it’s bound to reappear elsewhere. Moreover, PCs are amortized within two or three years, then they’re out of warranty and after a while they’ll likely cost more to maintain and support than just changing them for new ones. Yes, in some cases, go with Thin Clients, but forget about keeping them "forever."
Here’s an indirectly related fact: Windows has been the fastest-growing server platform in 2001, which is even more meaningful when you take into account that it’s also the volume leader. Windows servers now include terminal services.

24 Sep

Amazon.com: “Share the Love!”

Today at check-out: "Each time you place an order with us, we’ll offer you the chance to participate in the Share the Love program by e-mailing your friends and giving them an additional 10% off the items you bought. (You select which items, of course.) The e-mail we send will explain the discounts and how to apply them. If anyone makes a purchase within a week, you’ll get a credit to use the next time you shop!"
Is this new? Amazon.com turns its customers into instant affiliates paid in discounts on future purchases.

23 Sep

News now part of Google’s tab navbar

See the blank white vertical space on the left of their search result page? Wouldn’t a vertical skyscraper banner fit nicely here? I don’t think keyword-based ads would make sense in news (as opposed to web and Usenet searches) but I don’t expect Google to have gone philanthropic. There’s always the "premium sponsorship" horizontal "text banners" but I don’t see any right now.
Where else is the money? Publishers? Did anyone in the 4,000 sites Google currently queries pay for it? I don’t think so. Intranet portals? Then Google would soup up its current offering and compete with Moreover and Factiva. Not impossible, though Google’s 100% automatic approach make it hard to guarantee the quality level they provide.
Update: Google launching search site for news: "Google is initially offering the news service for free, without any advertising support. It said it plans to see what kind of demand the site generates before it considers possible ways to make money from it." Yeah, right, like they didn’t plan their business model before even allocating money to this service.
10/04/02 update: [Phil Wolff] Premium Google News.

20 Sep

One thing to remember about “broadband”

Once you divide the typical "broadband" cable or DSL bandwidth between two or three family members who use the Internet at the same time, what have you got? That’s right, you’re left with not much more per person than a dial-up single 56K line. Certainly not the order of magnitude faster service we’re being pitched.
France Telecom has the guts to tag their 1024 down/256 up ADSL service as "very high throughput" (tr

19 Sep

Show me some intersection

I’d like to easily know whether some musicians I admire ever collaborated, when I think the combination of their talents would be a good match. Say, did Maceo Parker ever play with Ray Anderson, or Stanley Clarke with Herbie Hancock and Billy Cobham, or what about the five jamming together for chrissakes? If they did, what did they do together?
So I wish Allmusic were as smart as Imdb. Allmusic does have a "worked with" option under its related artists section, but it doesn’t show you what songs/records the artists worked together on. (Though I suspect it doesn’t list all collaborationss by far.)
Contrast that with Imdb and its "look up joint ventures" feature, which makes it easier to play "six degrees of" (you know whom). Too bad Allmusic uses a dll for its search engine while Imdb gets its "joint ventures" through POST forms. If only they used REST (i.e. GET forms), we could link to specific search results (i.e. I can’t point to the result page for, say, Kevin Bacon and Denise Richards.) By the way, these are typical questions *not* to ask Google if you value your time at all. Structured databases still have their place.
Intersection is where things get interesting. I love early 70’s fusion, where Jazz and Funk happily copulated and bore beautiful children. There’s nothing like the sexual humping of Funk mixed with the more cerebral Jazz. Good Jazz-funk gets your brain *and* your body into motion. Brawn and Brains. Earth and Air. Find the allegory that fits you best to celebrate the wholeness of being Human. And to these islamofascists bent on denying us the right to be sensual as well as rational, rot in hell.

19 Sep

Advertising servers should couple with availability web services

Just saw a huge Circuit City ad on this About.com page. I clicked on it by mistake, and here’s what I get:

"We are currently performing scheduled system maintenance Please try again in a few minutes."

Here’s my proposal: have a simple web service that says whether your site is up or not, and require advertising servers (here, the ad is served by DoubleClick) to ping it before they serve the ad. Of course you don’t do it for every single impression, you do it server-to-server every minute. This way, you don’t buy useless ads that ruin your reputation instead of bringing new business. Very simple things such as a web service that says yes or no could improve the web for companies and for users.

19 Sep

Bloglet now supports RSS feeds

OK, it’s been three weeks already, but I hadn’t seen it. Monsur explains that

"Bloglet’s RSS support only fully extends to RSS feeds that support item-level dates. This means your RSS feed needs the pubDate or dc:date tag (if it doesn’t, all the posts in your RSS feed will be sent, which may or may not be what you want). I want to find a way around this. However to sort out a blog’s daily posts when the posts don’t have a publication date can be a formidable task, and one that doesn’t fit into Bloglet’s current programming model."

17 Sep

Cloudmark SpamNet does help fight spam

I’ve been running SpamNet for a few weeks now. It caught 3,827 spams out of 6,029 emails. I just discovered it has a whitelist of addresses it shouldn’t consider as spam (so at not to accidentally list friends as spammers), but its implementation couldn’t be cruder. You have to manually type each address you want to whitelist. This should work right from the inbox (as a third toolbar button), as well as from Outlook contacts. Well, this is still a beta, besides its free.
Can I brag that SpamNet works rather well and this is an idea I pondered more than a year ago, while they still weren’t known from the public nor me?

17 Sep

Just got my MS Office Keyboard

The shortcut buttons on the left – the main reason I bought the keyboard – seem quite handy, though it remains to be seen how much I use them. The very fast task switching is cool (unlike Alt-Tab, there’s no preview), as are the Cancel and Redo keys. My old Natural Keyboard started to show its age, and somehow I hated to still have an ancient PS2 peripheral in my config. It feels weird to get back to a flat keyboard.
Here’s something fun for you. Microsoft added an entirely useless "take me to the MS Office web site" function key, and believe it or not, the redirect it points to is 404!
Microsoft is releasing a new range of keyboards, but my perfect match would be a mix of several models:

  • It should come with the Office Keyboard left and top shortcuts, plus the "multimedia" buttons found on the new blue models, as well as include a wide palm rest.
    • I already miss the curved shape.
    • Throw in a couple of extra USB ports.
    • I like their black and grey new style, it would fit nice with my case.
    • But I don’t want wireless, it’s just too insecure (unless Bluetooth is (going to be) encrypted?)

    So please, release a black Natural Multimedia Office keyboard for me!
    You might wonder why I seem so much obsessed with hardware as of lately. Well, I have to admit I’ve always liked PC gadgets and peripherals. But there’s more to it. When I see how many people neglect their desktop environment and work in awkward positions that strain their body and ruin their experience, I think simple ergonomics – such as what kind of seat you have – would make this whole Internet thing look more natural to the layman. Using computers in a way that feels physically incomfortable and unnatural is maybe why many think being online is "virtual" (of course it’s not, the reality of these words showing on your screen is as strong as your blood pumping in your heart.)
    Kudos to Microsoft for including basic guidelines with their Intellitype software on how to position oneself on one’s desk. Check out these tips too.