Archive for December, 2006

Don’t be a hater

For years now I keep saying that people always hate the No1 and favor the underdog instead — no matter what or who the underdog is. They are always sympathetic to whatever underdog they choose to support. It’s in the very nature of the less-intelligent, miserable people to defend themselves this way — because they think that the No2 will support their interests as it has nothing to lose, but only to gain. They feel more comfortable in this situation and they will fight with all their strength to bring down the current No1. And when the No2 becomes No1, they will fight it too because they can’t get over their FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt in their little world).

In the tech industry in particular, IBM was the big brother in the ’80s. Microsoft followed in the mid-90s. What all these anti-MS opinions over the years failed to explain though is why the transformation of a normal company to an evil company. What changed? Is a XX manager who is responsible for a YY decision now suddenly deemed “evil” just because the company makes more money, while himself might not? And why these people only see “companies” and not individuals? In fact, most of the decisions and things that people hate about Microsoft were decided/executed by lower-level managers rather than Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer themselves. And yet, Gates and Ballmer get all the hate, and Microsoft as a whole too! How can you deem a 40,000 employee company “evil”? They are not evil. They are simply professionals who are trying to do and secure their jobs in an unforgiving market place. But people hate them for simply being successful and they make a big deal about every little thing they do. Sure, sometimes Microsoft screws up too, but this doesn’t make them “evil”. They are simply a successful corporation which must protects its investors. If you don’t like that, write to your congressman to change the US economic system, don’t just hate Microsoft like a crybaby.

Even the iPod franchise is being attacked lately just because it has become so successful!

And now… Yes, you guessed it, it’s Google’s turn! The ever beloved, innovative company that geeks respected for the last 5 years has become so big and powerful, that people are turning their backs to. In the last 3 days I read five new and completely independent articles online about how evil Google is or has become, and that the real enemy was never Microsoft, but Google! Good PR started going sour for Google early this year but in the last few days it is has become more prominent. Now we will have blog posts, comments and articles against every little fart Google will be letting go — just like Microsoft before it. Google will be thinking twice to even breath, because it will be criticized for having a bad breath. Soon enough the hatred towards Google will be an epidemic — just like it was for MS.

It’s pathetic how this world thinks and reacts to other people’s success. It just makes you to not want to win the lottery.

How we consume food

Having dinner every night with the same person makes you notice things that you don’t normally do. Now, I don’t know if the following difference is a cultural difference or a more personal one, but I think it’s the reason why my JBQ rarely eats all his vegetables.

Let’s say that our main entree consists of a meat chunk and some vegetables (e.g. a pork chop and long green beans, or a beef steak and some peas). The way I eat is that I cut a small bit of the meat, I put it in my mouth and immediately I get a forking out of the vegetables and then mix it in my mouth, munching the two items together. I repeat until I finish my plate, and if some salad is around, I might eat some of it in the midst too. I always make sure that at towards the end of my plate, I have as many veggies left as I have meat, so I can eat them in the same number of “forkings”. AFAIK, all the Greeks I know eat the same way too. We mix several flavors in our mouth.

The way JBQ does it, is this: he cuts meat, he eats it and he repeats until about 1/3 of the meat is out. Then, he takes a forking of the vegetables and he eats that. Then, he continues with the rest of the meat until he has eaten about 2/3s of it at which point takes another stub at the vegetables. After he has eaten all the meat, there are plenty of vegetables left in the plate, at which point he usually eats them alone, and sometimes he just goes half way through to them and then he stops eating them and proceeds to the cheese (French people eat green salad and cheese after the main meal).

No, I don’t think that he is trying to avoid the vegetables. I think the key here is the fact that he never mixes flavors and this forces him to eat too many veggies at once at the end (that usually have minimum flavor) and so he bails out on them. He is used to not eat meat together with something else, I just don’t know if this is the way JBQ eats, or a French thing in general…

Leptoprin must die

I am watching a lot of Discovery, Science and NGC channels usually, I find their documentaries educational. However, due to lower volumes of viewers watching these channels, their commercial rates are lower. This invites lots of crappy startups to advertise their shitty products on these TV channels.

One of these commercials is the ad about Leptoprin, a herbal supplement that supposedly helps you lose weight. They have a patent on their $153-per-bottle product, and its patent No is visible in their ad. My JBQ — who can easily read legalese english for some weird reason– visited the US Patents site and read their patent. Basically, this “product” it’s nothing but very strong dosages of caffeine, with some other useless herbal tea chunks in it. Caffeine is known to work as a MILD appetite depressant, but at what cost? Not only you won’t be able to sleep with these pills, but you will be addicted at the end if you get more than one of these pills per day (1 pill == 4 to 5 espressos).

What is this country doing about this? Nothing so far! Having a free market is one thing, but allowing dangerous and deceptive products to be marketed as ‘elixirs of life’ is another. Dear FTC, bring Leptoprin and all other such snake oil companies DOWN.

The Microsoft laptop non-scandal

ArsTechnica is making a hupla-hupla about Microsoft giving away laptops to reviewers. What’s new here? This is how it’s working since the ’80s, when the computer market exploded. I mean, we get (cheaper) freebies at OSNews too to review them, but this does not mean that we are “sold” to whoever gave us the review unit (we also disclose WHO gave it to us). In fact, if you read most of *my* reviews, they usually paint a bleak picture of the product as it lists all faults one by one (because, yes, I am very difficult to please).

It is funny that everyone goes against Microsoft, but no one goes against, let’s say, Nokia. Nokia is known to give away as a loan some of their high-end phones to ~20 bloggers for a period of about 3 months (without full disclosure by the bloggers being necessary as to how they got the gadget), and then they request these devices back! The blogger must write at least 2-3 articles per month about the product (in other words they must do MORE WORK than Microsoft is requesting from its bloggers), and not only that, but they have to give the gadget back!

FYI, I have no such dealings with either Nokia or MS, but even if I had, I don’t see the problem. Review units are ESSENTIAL to write reviews, and these review units are 99% of the time either coming from a big reseller or the manufacturing company itself. That’s how it works, and it needs no disclosure of any sort, because that’s the DEFAULT way of getting hardware or software to review. That’s how C|Net does it, that’s how WSJ does it, that’s how OSNews does it. If that’s not the way ArsTechnica does it, then they are the ones who are losing out. The only thing that the reviewer must do, is to be TRUTHFUL in his review and list the faults he/she finds. And I am personally making sure of that (and it’s in fact one of the reasons that I am hated for, especially for my software-based reviews). Don’t worry, the company who gave you the gadget/software very rarely gets angry with you for writing a potentially negative review. There are no strings attached (or NDAs, or agreements of any sort). In fact, I had more readers being angry at me for being too negative on a review, rather that the companies who gave me the review unit. Only in one instance all these years I had a spat with the manufacturing company over a negative review I wrote. So, what’s Ars’ problem again?

But sure, let’s re-iterate one more time as to how evil Microsoft is. Cause this is a popular thought. We don’t want to be unpopular, now do we?

Silver Surfer on Fantastic Four 2

The teaser for the second Fantastic Four movie was released yesterday and it looks absolutely fabulous. Silver Surfer is one the villains in the sequel, however it is a bit curious how this is going to play out considering that in the comics he eventually becomes a hero when he fights against his former master, Galactus.

What really grabbed my attention though is how close to the original comics his character is portrayed by the computer animators. The movement you see below in my grabbed screenshot is exactly how I remember his character from one of the comics I read when I was 15 0r 16 years old while in Greece (thank my brother for making me a Marvel Comics fan).

Silver Surfer

I think this second installment of the Fantastic Four movies will be really good (the first one was so-so, only Chris Evans excelled). Silver Surfer is one of my favorite Marvel Universe characters ever, along with Hawkeye (who is my No1), NightCrawler, The Vision and Wolverine. Now that I am thinking about it, except Hawkeye who is a really normal guy, all the others in the list are traumatized heroes who have losed their humanity. Hmm…

Nokia N95: a computer?

A new ad, for one of the most advanced smartphones in the market, the Nokia N95, was released today at YouTube. Nokia calls their product “a computer” for the first time, and not a smartphone. I think this is very interesting and a telling clue as to what it’s coming in the future.

OS != Distro

There is nothing better than seeing people “getting it” as they go along. Mark Shuttleworth of Ubuntu is one of these people. In his latest blog post he discusses that projects must co-operate and interoperate with each other, and one first step to do that is to have common release schedules and bugzillas. He is so right about this. The No1 thing that makes GNU/Linux “clunky” and “difficult” is the fact that each project does its own thing, without architecting their software in a way that plays well with a grander scheme — because there is no grand scheme as a whole. This is the reason why Gnome/KDE feel so “cut off” from the underpinnings of the OS they run on. But Mark gets it, and he gets it because he is in the business of the OS desktop. I am sure that Red Hat and Novell people also got that in the past, but their primary business were always the server market, and therefore never cared to comment or pursue a grand plan of transforming a “distro” (as in collection of random software) to an “operating system” (as in one logical entity that was engineered to interoperate perfectly). However, I am sure that when Mark and others in Ubuntu came together to create Ubuntu Linux they didn’t have such ideas but they realized the needs of a modern desktop engineering as they went along.

Testament to this is my personal experience with Bernd Korz, the CEO of YellowTAB. When Bernd first came over for dinner a few years ago, he had just started in the desktop OS market with his Zeta OS. He was over-optimistic, an OS enthusiast. He did not understand basic things about what needs to be done in order to create a desktop OS that “just works” in order to sell. Fast forward two years later. Bernd comes over for dinner again during one of his US visits. This time, I see a changed man. This time, I see a professional who understands the traps, problems and overall machinations that he needs to overcome in order to get such a product out and succeed.

Also, a few years ago I asked my JBQ (who is an ex-Be,Inc. media/kernel engineer) “what made BeOS so good and consistent? It felt that it was a living, breathing life form rather than an OS“. JBQ replied “it was the fact that when I had a problem with my media code or performance, I could just walk down the hall, find the kernel guys Cyril or Travis and talk the problem out in minutes.“. BeOS 5 back in 2001 was delivering the same smooth experience as Mac OS X offers today (as long as you had a compatible PC that is).

Mark started Ubuntu with somewhat idealistic and naive ideas, but as he went along and the users that were coming from Windows demanded this or that, it becomes clear to him now what needs to be done. And what needs to be done is full interoperation, co-ordination and most importantly, a grand plan of architecting the various libraries, kernel, X11, Gnome and the whole shebang. In other words, a modern OS must be developed in a way that it’s well thought as an overall plan, instead of putting individually-developed libraries together afterwards. That’s what’s mainly creates the underwhelming performance and experience of the desktop Linux, and Mark seems to get it. A semi-fork might be in order too (read the last paragraph here to see what I mean by “fork”).

As a sidenote, I had more than three times in the past the experience Mark describes in his blog. I found a bug, and the bug was shared among 3 projects (the latest bug has to do with libtiff, shared-mime-info and Evince). I had to make 3 bugzilla accounts in 3 different places and the bug is still not completely fixed (only Evince fixed it as of yet).

Discovery’s iPod documentary

Today the Discovery Channel aired a documentary about the iPod and its history so far. I found very degrading for Apple to not have any of its execs or engineers appearing in the documentary. Apple obviously refused them to appear, while in the second episode of the series (”the history of the cellphone”) all the orginal AT&T and Motorola players appeared and talked about the early days. Sure, Apple can remain secretive if they must, but there are limits to how you keep your secrets. There is one thing keeping your trade secrets and another thing be a snob and not talk about publicly known things.

Roasted duck

Roasted duck
Our (lonely this year) Christmas lunch, a roasted duck. Happy holidays everyone!

Engadget now is a dictatorship?

While I am waiting for the duck to roast, I am using my powerbook to check Digg. I stumble upon a submission where the author is not happy with Engadget publishing an email address as a means of revenge for the person screwing up their Christmas charity auction. When some readers didn’t like this action by Engadget and became vocal about it, Engadget closed the comments. So the Digger asks: Engadget is now a dictatorship?

Well, let me answer to you: it was never a democracy. Neither OSNews is, neither is Slashdot. You have Engadget trying to do a good thing for Christmas with this charity work, and then you have the idiots shitting all over the good intention. Sorry guys, but editors are people too. They have feelings, they can get pissed off, and “staying professional” (I hate that word) is not always what they want to do (especially blogger-style free-form journalists like OSNews or Engadget).

So, kudos to Engadget for ruling their site with an iron fist. It’s the visitors who must behave themselves, not the other way around. When you visit someone’s blood and tears and hard work, you ought to respect it. Unfortunately, some people think that by visiting one’s web site they can do whatever they want, including vandalizing it. Nope, you can’t and you shouldn’t.