Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ever felt like you needed a drink?

Well, I didn't. That is, until a couple of weeks ago when I finished what may have been considered a brief hazing period if we were pledging to join a fraternity. It was two straight weeks of coding day and night (evening), weekday and weekend, workday and holiday. It was a meaningful, courteous, well-supported haze. Then, we had a party. Then, we had a holiday. Finally, we started working for real, and this really should pre-date my post entitled C++.

The point of this isn't about working, but really drinking and how little of it I do and how the only time I felt like it I was too tired and by myself (adding a last minute feature to our project). Well, this last Saturday, I felt like it was alright to want to have a legal recreational drink in a social environment to celebrate the one year anniversary of the time my friend brought a civil sampling of beers for my 21st birthday. In the end, we didn't end up at a bar and I hadn't brought it up. Maybe it was the organizer of the gathering's aversion to drinking, or maybe it was my own newness to the practice.

That isn't to say it didn't go well. We set out to visit the Cathedrals of Consumer Electronics along Fifth Avenue in NYC but were side-tracked by the promise of free ice skating then by the marble enclosed Dining Concourse of Grand Central Terminal. We skipped the Nintendo Store (as one of us had recently visited it just several hours prior) to try the Sony and Nokia stores. When we made it to the Sony store, the employees were cleaning up behind locked glass through which we beheld several PS3s that were free and open to the air (and presumably not overheated). We kept our spirits high as we pressed on and made it to the Nokia store just as it was closing. One employee stayed behind while we were dazzled by the array of well-crafted phones and asked whether we needed help before we realized how late it was.

It would never be too late for the Apple store, which we saved for last. It was a beacon in the night for weary pilgrims who relied upon its ever present glow.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Google to let employees capitalize on option 'forwarddating'

That's not exactly what's going on, but Google is working with Morgan Stanley to create a market where financial institutions can buy vested options directly from employees via a web-based auction system. The benefit for employees is that they can get more money than they would from exercising the stock on the market as prices will factor in potential growth in the future. Why would banks pay for a premium instead of just buying the stock on the open market?

For one thing, instead of paying say $500 for each share, a bank could just pay $25 on the hopes that in a year, the price will exceed $525. By investing in the options instead of the stock, you increase the potential return because you can buy many more $25 options than $500 stocks. Google explains the bigger picture better in their page "The Market for TSOs" and talks about letting employees capitalize on the time value of their options. Hence, forwarddating as opposed to backdating : ).

The other interesting thing readers of this blog may appreciate is that while Goldman did Google's [last] stock offerings (and I speculated that they handled the YouTube aquisition), Morgan Stanley was picked to handle a technical solution for both their innovative online dutch auction IPO as well as this TSO auction system. [Incidentally, I missed the news that Morgan and CSFB underwrote Google's first secondary offering of (Pi-3)E8 shares.]

SOURCE: Official Google Blog

UPDATED: 12/14/2006 8:06pm EST

Sunday, December 10, 2006


After reading these interviews with Bjarne Stroustrup (I can now spell the name of the inventor of C++), I remembered that I should post about my new job. I'll be starting tomorrow with a team that develops middleware... in C++. This is a fairly large departure from my comfort zone. To be honest, I would not have imagined using C++ prior to the starting our training program, but my fears are being displaced by the anticipation of earning (albeit slowly) the credibility associated with mastering C++. This isn't to say that Java programmers don't deserve respect or that there aren't really bad C++ programmers. It's just that much harder to be good at C++. Whether you have to be is a different story.

A bit on my new job. In that first interview, Stroustrup talks about how most users want stuff fast and cheap--and if they get buggy software, then so be it. Our environment often supports a nicer sounding version of that attitude, but my team gets to do it to a lesser extent because people depend on the quality of what we make. Anyway, I'd like to be more candid about work like coffee cup Mike (I interned at IBM, btw) but it's too early. Plus, I'm not sure how to be both self-deprecating and uplifting at the same time.

SOURCE: Technology Review [via Slashdot]

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pirates of Silicon Valley (the must see classic)

I finally got to watch Pirates of Silicon Valley last week. This and an interview with Guy Kawasaki have vastly improved my opinion of Steve Wozniak. A proper one, unlike the one with Steve Colbert, that interview is both inspiring and humbling by virtue of Wozniak's genius and humanity. Back to the movie, though, you really don't have perspective unless you know the environment under which Wozniak/Jobs and then Gates/Allen won over the industry.

First of all, the Apple I and the II to a lesser extent, were truly revolutionary. Windows is a really direct rip-off from the Macintosh, but the inspiration for that really came from developers at Xerox. Interestingly, the scene where they spill all the beans to Apple engineers shows the Xerox developers really reluctant to share their management-stifled innovations. That leads us to the infamous quote by Bill Gates that Mike shared via a comment:
Get real, would ya? You and I are both like guys who had this rich neighbor - Xerox - who left the door open all the time. And you go sneakin' in to steal a TV set. Only when you get there, you realize that I got there first. I got the loot, Steve! And you're yellin'? 'That's not fair. I wanted to try to steal it first.' You're too late."
The movie starts with Jobs announcing a new partnership with Microsoft after which it goes back to the beginning of why Bill Gates drops out of college and the founding of Apple. It delves deeply into Jobs' personal life (with many scenes of him very much a cult leader) and leads all the way back to the opening scene. Anyhow, the movie is dramatized to the extent that dialogue was imagined and gaps were filled, but as far as I know, those impersonated in the movie don't object to its content.

SOURCES: TUAW [via DIGG] for the Kawasaki interview, DIGG for the Colbert interview

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Revisiting the Rwandan genocide

Is a French court considering the possibility that Tutsi rebels brought a genocide upon their own kind? Supposedly, what triggered the genocide was the death of the former Rwandan president, which the Hutus blamed on the Tutsis. A French judge issued a warrant for the arrest of people in the current Tutsi controlled government relating to his murder.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Not desperate enough

I have been without my iPod for a while and it's taking it's toll. This is not to say my iPod experience is flawless (need better headphones). I'm thinking of getting a shuffle to avoid cleaning my room as there's a small chance it could be somewhere there. Oh, and it also doesn't help that I rely on it to motivate my jogging.

BONUS: Zune is virtually a Windows CE powered portable media center edition that doesn't support Vongo : /

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It's Election Day

Will you express your preference?

If you don't know, check OnTheIssues.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Wow, the bush administration is desperate

Hey, at least people take Kerry seriously (in contrast to when Bush screws up). Sorry for the lack of context, but I'm not sure it's needed.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Google Web Toolkit now for Mac OS X!

Google's java-based AJAX widget framework, the GWT, has a new version:

Mac OS X | gwt-mac-1.2.11.tar.gz | 22 MB | d649c6a6e30d4ba942576fb37b329841


Sunday, October 22, 2006

I have a strange relationship with my conscience

I have a strange relationship with my conscience. I think I ignore it too much because I rely too much on external cues (including physical ones saying eat another cookie!) or momentum in making decisions. Conscience, let's start over.

Friday, October 20, 2006

You can trust me now

I'm free from potential conflicts of interests as I've closed my positions in Apple and Google. Sad, but not a bad time, right. Apple still didn't revise the their earnings to take into account the options irregularities, but oh well. No more silly half-hearted disclosures like "the author of this article owns shares of the aforementioned company".

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A more palatable color

Apple colors its logo for the Fifth Ave Apple Store in Manhattan to promote the (PRODUCT)RED initiative. Plus, more red products on the way?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Behind Google's acquisition of YouTube

You will not get anything out of reading the rest of this post.

Sometimes, the people who don't ask questions know a little something. Following are a list of analysts present during the YouTube acquisition conference call.

Mary Meeker, Morgan Stanley
Imran Khan, JP Morgan
Doug Anmuth, Lehman Brothers
Mark Rowen, Prudential
Justin Post, Merrill Lynch
Kevin Allison, Financial Times
Daniel Arnell[?], ABC News
Victor Anthony, Bear Stearns
Laura Lach[?], Time Magazine

Also, if Goldman handled the acquisition details, why have they been getting more Google business? Was it because they got on Google's good side after hanling their secondary stock offering almost for free?.

SOURCE: Seeking Alpha [via Google]

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Maybe Jobs should pay up...

Whether or not Steve Jobs improperly benefitted from the backdated options really depends on whether Apple restates it's past earnings to account for costless shares (as far as earnings statements go) they gave him in return for him not having gained anything from the options they initially awarded him. It's worthwhile to note that he didn't really receive any other compensation (asides from a private jet, I think).

We'll know by October 18th, hopefully, when they announce their latest quarterly earnings.

SOURCES: Bloomberg [via TUAW], FASB

I currently own some Apple shares, but I probably won't sell them until after the earnings are released for all the stuff I've been posting and even then for some [innocuous] work reasons.

Monday, October 09, 2006

YouTube and Google

That's the way to do it:
It also means that Google just picked up YouTube for about 1 % of its equity. That’s the power of a $125 billion market cap.

SOURCE: DealBreaker

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Former Apple CFO resigns following addition of Schmidt

Apple's former CFO, Fred Anderson resigned from its board of directors at the conclusion of an internal investigation that exonerates the rest of Apple's senior management. This follows the addition of Eric Schmidt to the board, lending credence to the speculation that Apple wanted to reinforce the credibility of it's corporate governance.

It's unclear as to whether this is the end or the end of the beginning of the controversy over it's past practice of options backdating, as it's the SEC's turn to review the findings. Anderson's comments over the situation in the quoted context imply that while he was responsible for the implementation of the practice, he wasn't directly responsible so.

UPDATE 1:46 AM: TUAW reports that two officers no longer with Apple were singled out in the report in relation to options accounting issues.

SOURCE: digg

Saturday, September 30, 2006

A pill

Mohandas K. Gandhi:
Hate the sin, not the sinner.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

On the new iPods

Personality is back in the world of iPod. While some may opine that the iPod is too popular, too conformist and losing appeal, Apple Computer seems to have deliberately let the iPod line run out of steam and flat-line in sales before releasing a revamped version in a variety of colors (5 including the original black and white). This comes after almost 10 months after releasing the original iPod nano.

A common theme with Steve Jobs' marketing strategy is to limit the amount of unecessary choice for the consumer and concentrate marketing efforts. Give them a great product. Differentiate later. This applied to the original iPod (white, then black), the minis (three-then five colors), as well as the original iMacs (one, then many). The original iMac came only in one color.

Finally, I wanted to note that the new shuffle fulfills the promise of an artist's conception of what was to be the budget under $100 iPod that led to some disappointment upon the announcement of what Apple actually released.

SOURCE: Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos meet Ginger via digg, new iPod nanos

Don't judge

While waiting for the bus the other day, I noticed a man wearing his iPod headphones oddly. They didn't protrude properly from his ears. It turns out that he had them switched--the left channel was playing in his right ear and vice-versa. I tried this and found it to enhance the volume of the sound.

Too bad they don't stay in my ears either way. My right-ear is not receptive to earbuds.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Arial vs. Helvetica

I'm on my new iMac 17" and thought the following might be interesting to analyze:

The goal for me is to be able to spot the difference between the classic Helvetica font from the Microsoft version, Arial.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Top 400/600 Image Labeler

A couple days ago, Google launched a beta product called Image Labeler. It asks people to dedicate 1.5 minutes at a time to tagging images so they become easier to find. It's like a game because you work with an arbitrary partner to cooperate on the task. When you both tag the picture with a common keyword, the picture is matched and you get a new picture. The more images you can successfully tag, the more points you get (as you can see here):

The only bummer is that it's hard to find compatible partners. Dead-beats that give up half-way are frustrating to encounter, but it was good partnering with you, nzodd.

added some context 5:15 PM 9/3

Saturday, September 02, 2006

More than speculation

It turns out Schmidt isn't the only one who's cross-directing between Apple and Google. The New York Times also raises a good point (that I heartily agree with) about Schmidt's addition to Apple's board of directors--he's an outsider who can bring an (relatively) independent and trusted mind to a board whose credibility is hurt by the options backdating exposure. Interestingly, he refused the 300,000 options automatically granted directors of the company. That seems more of a gesture than a conservative action.

SOURCE: New York Times and StreetInsider [via digg and digg]

Friday, September 01, 2006

Remake of All the King's Men!

I saw an interesting trailer for a modern remake of All the King's Men! It's based on the story of Huey Long, a fascinating Democratic politician from Louisiana. You can get the old version on Vongo.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Saw my first first run movie

I've been meaning to see The Illusionist for a while since seeing Paul Giamatti on Charlie Rose (fast forward to 47:10 for free). Oddly enough it wasn't playing anywhere near my area, the closest theater showing it being in NYC. Since I am already there on weekdays for work/training, I saw it with a coworker after work.

The movie, starring Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti and Jessica Biel, is set in pre-WWI imperial Austria in a time of industrialism and civil unrest. A brilliant illusionist named Eisenheim (Norton) puts on a show that mystifies Vienna and attracts the attention of the crown prince but the heart of his fiancee Sophie, with whom he renews a youthful romance. The Chief Inspector of Vienna (Giamatti) warns Eisenheim about risking the ire of the tyrannical prince. The serious, but sympathetic admonishment falls on deaf ears because Eduard/Eisenheim embarasses the prince in his palace. In refusing to give up on his childhood love, he sets in motion a series of tragic events.

The Illusionist falls in the category of Drama, Romance, and Fantasy, bringing alive a short story by Steven Millhauser with good 'special effects'. [But don't be fooled, this isn't a movie about magic. They even stay true to the illusions performed in that historical era, in cases even completely avoiding special effects.] The role of the Chief Inspector as a storyteller and is developed in an interesting way and the plot is truly a piece of work made even better in movie form (speculation).

If you do see the movie, I'd like to know which movie, if any, it reminded you of. And about the title, I was confused for the longest time why the movie was playing so few theaters, but I just found out from a friend that today was the last day it was in limited release.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Eric Schmidt joins the Apple BOD

Reinforcement! How could I resist posting about this.

Got carried away truncating the URL.. fixed link.

Monday, August 28, 2006

120 USD for a Mont Blanc Stylus?

An eBayer won an auction for a 14K gold (plated, I suspect) stylus that looks like it fits the Palm V. The seller claimed the item is no longer available and this is partly true. You just have to buy it along with a case now and I've seen it in two separate stores. It no longer makes sense to sell stylii for the Palm V since it doesn't fit in the silos of current PDAs. The eBayer was willing to pay about $120 (but in pounds) not including shipping. I'll admit I bid for a similar item but stopped at around $45. Yes, a Mont Blanc PDA stylus is very cool, but you can now buy this in a store with a leather PDA case in platinum/gold for $200. Below is a picture just for reference (the platinum one).

SOURCE: eBay and for the pic but I doubt he'll take credit. Incidentally, he paid $5 dollars for it!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Google Software Distributed with Thinkpads

Google is partnering with Lenovo (in addition to Dell) to distribute its desktop software. Excellent, because Google's free software is actually good. Not as good as iPhoto (Picasa) + Spotlight (Google Desktop), but good.
Included software (preloaded)
Adobe Reader; Diskeeper Lite; Google: Google Toolbar, Google Desktop, Picasa from Google; Multimedia Center for Think Offerings, including: InterVideo WinDVD (DVD, DVD/CD-RW & DVD-RW models), InterVideo WinDVD Creator (DVD-RW models), Sonic RecordNow & DLA (DVD/CD-RW & DVD-RW models); PC-Doctor; Symantec Client Security (with 90 days of virus definitions); ThinkPad Utilities (Power Manager and Presentation Director); ThinkVantage™ Access Connections; ThinkVantage Fingerprint Software, ThinkVantage Productivity Center with Away Manager; ThinkVantage Rescue and Recovery™; ThinkVantage System Update
ThinkVantage System Migration Assistant

(license–CD not included)
IBM Lotus® SmartSuite,® IBM Lotus Notes® stand-alone client
I'm not looking to upgrade my Dell, in case you were wondering just checking out stuff for my sister. Bonus: If you missed this on slashdot, an 'inside look' into IBM's mainframe sales force.

Reference: Spec sheet for Thinkpad X60 (pdf)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Zune has built-in RDBS! See the manual

Sorry, didn't realize this got slashdotted. I guess this is what happens when you work...

Looks like Microsoft deliberated didn't request confidentiality on this FCC filing so it could get some feedback. If you didn't know, Zune is Microsoft's upcoming Digital Audio Player with video and social sharing features. It's great-looking (much like the iPod 3G) and even has a built in FM tuner with RDBS, which displays track info. Another cool feature is being able to act as a DJ and broadcast your own music over wifi to other devices. Here's the manual.

Thanks: Zune Insider Blog

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

So, as I said... that was pointless

As a followup to the Creative vs. Apple Zen interface patent (Creative pioneered the first hierarchical interface to navigate gigabytes of songs on it's iPod-preceding hard drive-based MP3 player), the two parties have announced a one-time licensing agreement and have settled all of their patent disputes.

Apple is paying Creative $100 million (or about 6% of their 2005 profit) that will ensure Creative's profitability this year along with expected holiday sales. So, how do I feel that Creative's stock price rise in one day eclipses[comes close to matching] my return on Apple stock over the last couple of weeks? Eh... I don't entirely regret my switch, but obviously I would've come out ahead if I did NOTHING. Damn you, Jehangir, you just might be right. Of course, it is after hours trading so we'll see how it goes. At least I am ensured the right to avoid capital gains this year if I hold on to Apple through the holidays (won't realize gains if I don't sell).

BTW, don't get all worried about Apple (no one's really worried), since they have billions in liquid assets (I think around 8?).

SOURCE: Red Herring via Google Finance

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I feel older and more sophisticated already

I feel older and more sophisticated already. After like 5 reminders, I finally signed up for a free trial of emusic. It's the second largest music download service after iTunes targeting (according to USA Today) 'older, sophisticated music fans' not prone to file share. You have several packages to choose from, but I picked the cheapest, or 40 songs for $10 a month. Basically, I was going to buy the Genius Loves Company album featuring Ray Charles collaborations for $9 on Amazon, but I can download it for free under a free trial.

Now, I can also put my songs on my Motorola E815.

Reference: USA Today via TUAW

Monday, August 21, 2006

Second time's a charm

Contrary to the last time I attended a work-related cocktail party, I didn't ask totally dumb questions or whip out my new iPod nano in front of an interviewer the moment it came up in the most tangential of conversation. Tonight, my training class got a chance to meet with alumni and top IT executives. After standing glassless through two toasts, I finally went over to the bar and picked up a plastic glass of white whine. The friendly bartenders introduced me to the concept of wine tasting opportunities (although I should've done my own tasting right there) after I asked about the quality of my woot wine. They also said that if I wanted tickets for Shakespeare in the Park (Merryl Streep is in it this weekend), it was necessary to get in line at 8am.

All in all, I'm having a great time in training (and the technical training hasn't even started) and meeting interesting people, although I have to find time to check and act on my emails. I don't get a personal computer for training because we have workstations... Oh, and I met my first peer advisor and he seems like a nice guy. A superb group of people overall, many with UK accents : )

Fighting a cold so I shouldn't really blog further, but I'll try harder next time.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Is Amazon Prime for you?

If you're considering Amazon Prime's promise of great prices delivered even faster, consider reading this simple analysis. Prime membership costs $80 a year, can be shared with 4 household members (spanning 4 generations, no less), and gives you an upgrade from standard free shipping (but with no minimums) to overnight for $3.99 and two-day at no extra cost.

Tuesday will be the three-month anniversary of my free trial and I'm evaluating whether I should cancel it before it automatically renews. The factors I'm considering include whether my use of the service during the trial justifies the cost, how much accelerated shipping means to me now and in the future and, unfortunately, how much I want Amazon's strategy to succeed.

You're probably thinking, that last part should definitely be struck from the thought process. Don't make this an emotional decision. Ok, you're right, I shouldn't think that way. Limiting myself to either cancelling now or letting it renew is also irrational, since I could easily subscribe the next time I need it (if ever).


I made a total of six orders on using the free two-day shipping each time. While this would've cost me about $75 without the Amazon Prime, I only benefitted (even marginally) from the expedited shipping half the time. This leaves me about $30 in savings since the priority items were books/music.

If I extrapolate my spending over the course of a year, I'd have probably spent $120 on two-day. Subtracting $80 for membership, I would save $40 each year on shipping, or $2 per item.


It's not actually fair to only consider expedited shipping or standard shipping. Say for example, I really wanted to hear an album before a long trip. I could simply purchase the music on iTunes and burn it onto a CD. Or, I could run to the store and pay a couple extra dollars. So, actual savings is the savings on shipping in excess of the bricks and mortar premium. To tip the scales against the favor of Amazon Prime, to actually get the convenience of a local retail store, next-day would cost an additional $4, effectively nullifying the savings.

So, for a casual consumer of books and music (two items or less per month), Amazon Prime is not for you.

The need for speed

A former co-worker (the only Amazon Prime subscriber I know) says the overnight is useful during the holidays. This is especially valuable for procrastinators, especially if you amortize the cost over the rest of your casual purchases.

It's important to ask whether the savings increases my spending. This might be the case for my Amazon spending, but not really for spending in general. That would, of course, explain why it can still be worthwhile for Amazon.


I guess this doesn't conclude much for most people, but if you enjoy finding packages at your doorstep or enjoy shipping them to other people and know a couple of household members who are the same (you can share the membership with 4 others), this might be a good investment. If you're looking for tangible savings, nothing's cheaper than the existing free shipping. Remember that Amazon isn't always cheapest (I always check and, but when it is at least twice a month for you, you'll probably get your money's worth. Just do it for the right reason.

Reference: Amazon's shipping rates schedule

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Dynamic publishing in Blogger beta

No more publishing (for Blogger users, that is). Try switching to the beta after logging in with your Google account. It'll mean the end of publishing and waiting. Unfortunately, labels work with the new layouts, which can't yet be updated at the HTML level [YET].

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Labels are coming...

Blogger's being updated but to see the new interface immediately, you have to start a new test account. Read more about it on blogger buzz.

SOURCE: PC Magazine [via] Google Finance

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The scope has widened

It is not outside the scope of this blog to talk about Dell stuff. I have mentioned my Dell consumption in the past. First, there was my initial purchase of a Dell laptop. Then, I transformed it into a powerbook, then I talked about the wonders of the built-in battery meter.

Now, I will report that my battery has refused to take part in the mass exodus back to Japan. I checked out whether the part was part of Dell's unprecedented recall of 4.1 million batteries made by Sony (poor souls). This accounts for over 16 percent of all batteries shipped between 4/2004 and 7/2006. I'm guessing that most of these were either high capacity or super slim batteries, both not characteristic of my humble 53-Whr clunker.

Check: Identify if your battery is affected<<-digg

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Six more days

Just a bit of notice that my blogging volume will be changing. I'm not sure whether I'll be posting more or less, but I'm starting work next Friday! I think it will be great and I'll definitely be focused since they have fairly strict web usage policies.

The obligatory bad news

Now, I wouldn't want you accusing me of witholding bad news, so... I'll make it brief.

Apple's need to delay it's quarterly SEC filing (to correct past earnings to account for those options grants) resulted in a warning from NASDAQ to the effect that it could be delisted. The good news, is really that this is likely to end up in a hearing and everything will be fine (if Apple's accountants have to work all day and all night, I'm assuming).

LINK: BetaNews

The Phil Morrison Connection

categorized under it's a small world

Whether or not you think those Hi, I'm a Mac commercials were effective, you must admit that they were at least... well-directed. It's with great pleasure that I present the movie Junebug, which is directed by the same guy, Phil Morrison. It was partly to his merit that Justin Long, who plays the Mac, decided to do the commercial despite it being something of a step down from movie acting:
Seriously. I thought that. But I grew up in a house where my mom was a commercial actress; she made a living making commercials, so I recognize the value of them.
He was also a big fan of the movie and the director. What isn't a reason is his love of Macs, since he apparently never owned a computer before shooting the commercial. Also according to the story, there are many more commercials coming.

Totally related, yet not at all (had to throw this in), ad critic Seth Stevenson calls the ads "mean-spirited" and gives the commercials an average score, mostly due to the ineffective message. I'm not sure I agree that every PC user is in the target demographic, but he also liked Junebug.

SOURCE: Not strictly commercial ( [via digg]

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

"Was it good for you, too?"

Forgive me, for I have been unfaithful. No, this isn't about my spirituality. Rather, it's about my violation of what Amber Simmons says is important to be an engaging writer in the online world. Her article Gentle Reader, Stay Awhile. I Will Be Faithful is about how to improve your writing in a way that encourages readers to invest their time and attention, ultimately making it worthwhile for both the writer and the reader.

And, this must be true, because as good as her writing is, I only got to read it now after bookmarking it yesterday. What I'll try to do:
  • Provide more context.
  • Imagine writing for a real person who has questions and limited time/background.
  • Write a better title/intro paragraph.

And this post's headline? It's how every ALA (a list apart) article ends, leading into the comments section. Well, was it?

SOURCE: A List Apart [my cached copy here]

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Exclusive question! What is Steve Jobs holding?

Steve used to use a little blue box as a remote control for advancing slides during presentations. But this year, it's different. I attribute this to the need for more than one. Anyhow, if anyone knows what Steve Jobs and his fellow presenters are holding, I'm curious to know.

I've looked for readily available presentation remotes and slide advancers, but can't seem to find a match. It also looks like a cell phone, so it could be running some sort of software and controlling something via bluetooth. Otherwise, it just might be proprietary related to the venue or custom-hacked.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Post WWDC06 keynote

Come to think of it, typically OS X stuff gets announced at WWDC and not consumer/iPod stuff. Anyhow, OS X Leopard will come in Spring '07. Tiger came out in May '05 I think, but I have a feeling that Leopard will be earlier than May.

In other news, the Mac Pro and Xserve complete the transistion to Intel. I've said before that my next PC will be a Mac, right? I'm not sure I can afford the $2499 base model, but it certainly a good value. I wouldn't mind upgrading to Leopard come Spring.

If you want to see the latest of Apple Keynotes (less Steve), check for the video [via comment by andrewcod on this digg] to be posted later.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Apple's Options Trouble: A Closer Look

Apple announced Thursday that it would have to restate past earnings since September 2002 and delay it’s FY2006 Q4 announcements. As a long-time investor in Apple Computer Inc., I was naturally concerned, especially with a drop in it’s stock price in such proximity to expected product announcements on Monday afternoon at WWDC ’06 (covered live here starting 2PM Pacific10AM PT).

What was wrong? Why was September 2002 significant? What are the possible implications? After digging around, I was able to get a clearer picture of the issue at large. I’m going to try to summarize what matters to investors and Apple enthusiasts, as well as to provide some background on the topic of options and the practice of backdating. If you don’t need the background, simply skip past the following section. What I won’t do is say what you should do with your stock (if you hold any).

What are options?

Options are contracts that allow the holder to purchase or sell an asset (in most cases, stocks) at a specified price until the contract expires. What’s relevant are call (buy) options that are issued as part of a compensation package for a companies employees. There are many reasons why you pay employees with stock options as a complement or alternative to cash. First, you may not have much cash. Startup companies usually can’t afford to acquire and retain talented people with cash, instead offering them partial ownership in the company. This offers as incentive for them to do good work and promises a big reward in the event the company goes public (is put on the market). When this happens, an employee can exercise their options to buy the stock at a price discounted relative to the current market value and then cash them in for money.

So, while Apple has large cash reserves, it’s still a good idea to offer non-cash compensation in the form because they can use these reserves and more effectively reward good employee performance. For example, what’s another couple million dollars to Steve Jobs when you promise him the gains (or losses) he effects in the company’s share price. This is an effective way to award rich executives and keep them working hard.

There is a cost, however. Companies that are already publicly traded have a limit to the number of shares it can issue, and must get approval to increase this amount. This is necessary because although it doesn’t directly cost the company anything to issue new stock, increasing the number of shares dilutes the fractional ownership of each outstanding share. [Giving these shares to employees at a discount costs, on paper, that discount. -updated 10/12/06]

Forbidden fruit

While there’s nothing wrong concerning the practice in general, manipulating the date on which options are issued constitutes fraud. According to Reuters (via the Scotsman), at least 80 companies are suspected of backdating by the SEC. In late June, Apple announced an internal investigation (via an independent party) over options issues occurring between 1997 and 2001, probably hoping to pre-empt action by the SEC. It was during this period of extraordinary growth (bolstered by sales of the original iMac) that tempted executives to risk fraud.

Apple's stock rose tremendously from 1997 until falling precipitously in 2001

But why would anyone commit fraud when they could afford to compensate executives legitimately? Because they didn’t think they could get caught.

Cheating the system

Prior to August 29, 2002, companies didn’t have to immediately report options issued to employees to the SEC. This allowed them to essentially choose whatever date the company’s stock was low and put that down on paper, thereby locking in gains since that date. After Enron and the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, companies were held to higher standards of accounting requiring them to report the “transfer of economic value” (Morningstar: Options Backdating: Will Your Stocks Pay the Price?) as an expense that factors into a company’s earnings.

If companies had to report options grants to the SEC, they would not be able to fraudulently manipulate dates. So if companies only started reporting the transactions in 2002, why does the period between 1997 and 2001 matter? How would anyone know if fraud was committed?

The evidence left behind

In an academic article written in 2005 (Does backdating explain the stock price pattern around executive stock option grants?), Randall A. Heron and Erik Lie demonstrated that one could detect whether a company employed backdating by analyzing past stock performance around the dates options were supposedly granted. If a stock skyrockets exactly after the date options grants were recorded, that was probably a fraudulent date, especially because this behavior only consistently occurred before regulation began.

The article’s abstract:

Extant studies document that stock returns are abnormally negative before executive option grants and abnormally positive afterward. We find that this return pattern is much weaker since August 29, 2002, when the SEC requirement that option grants must be reported within two business days took effect. Furthermore, in those cases in which grants are reported within one day of the grant date, the pattern has completely vanished, but it continues to exist for grants reported with longer lags, and its magnitude tends to increase with the reporting delay. We interpret these findings as evidence that most of the abnormal return pattern around option grants is attributable to backdating of option grant dates.


Summarized from the Morningstar article by Pat Dorsey, the material impact of a confirmed scandal and its fallout would include unpaid taxes, lawsuits from shareholders (of which there are two), accounting, legal and auditing costs, as well as the impact on the company due to stress on executives involved. The one that really concerns Dorsey is the concept of governance and “corporate stewardship”. Backdating seriously calls into question the character of the executives in breaching the most basic corporate responsibility to shareholders. Earnings restatements from companies mired in similar (although maybe darker) waters resulted in $750 million over a two year period. [Restatements typically factor in the opportunity cost of giving employees options versus selling them on the market. -updated 10/12/06]

What about Steve?

In the Reuters article, analysts said the recent news didn’t change their valuation of Apple shares, but declared the dismissal of Steve Jobs as the unlikely, but worst case scenario. [His position on the board of directors also means he's liable.] We know that Steve Jobs was issued options to purchase up to 10 million shares but he could have been saved by the decline of Apple shares since 2001 and cancelled the options in 2003. Instead, he was awarded actual stock (at market value).


The internal origin of the inquiry and apparent non-involvement of CEO Steve Jobs are reasons for optimism, but in my memory, the integrity of Apple’s senior management has never been this deeply called into question. Backdating was by no means uncommon, but the extent to which Apple employed the practice has yet to be uncovered by the investigators. FYI, in case you think I’m shorting the stock, I’m holding onto it until further development and definitely through Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference taking place August 7-11.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Size comparison of upcoming Creative Zen audio players

All of these three players currently have a maximum capacity of 4 GB.

The first two short ones are the Zen V Plus and Zen Neeon 2 with video playback. The nano is the tall one and doesn't. Just an interesting use of Google Sketchup that took way too much time. [This updated picture took like 5 minutes with the useful 'value control' feature in Sketchup.]

With nothing really wrong with it and a classic along-the-side button placement, will the Neeon 2 (the one in middle) be Creative's bittersweet swan song before Apple's torrent of product announcements at the next Jobs keynote?

UPDATED 7:33 PM ET: pic
UPDATED 8/4/06 3:36 PM ET: added alt property for picture with dimensions in mm


Monday, July 31, 2006

It's time to redeploy from Iraq

President Bush has justified our involvement in Iraq by making statements like the following:
"We will defeat the enemy there so we don't have to face them here. And at the same time, we will work to see that Iraq is free."
When I first heard this, I wondered how Iraqis would feel if they heard this. Would they appreciate being the prime battleground for the global War on Terror? It turns out that they figured it out on their own what was really going on. From the New York Times:
Two high-ranking Iraqi government officials said today that their country was fighting international terrorists on its own soil on behalf of other countries and, as a result, should be compensated with economic and military assistance.
I hope they don't want us to foot the bill.[I wonder who they're addressing...] Despite the Bush administration's "best intentions" of fighting the global terror proxy war in Iraq with US and Iraqi troops, the death toll from internal violence (civil war) has exceeded that of terrorism. Our current involvement equates to a disabling of US military force and a depletion of our so called budget (aka, skyrocketing deficits over the past and next couple of years).

At a time attacks are on the rise (doubled from 2004) and our soldiers dying almost as fast as they were two years ago, 100 civilians being killed each day, maybe we should start to consider Congressman Murtha's 10-month-old plan for redeploying our troops from Iraq as the best strategic choice.

[UPDATED 21:45 EST | I recently found out about presidential candidate Mark Warner, who is a seasoned politician and successful businessman. He supports net neutrality and seems to have a good chance without a lot of baggage like Hillary Clinton. According to the linked article at Slate, Warner feels he can compensate for not having much foreign policy experience by leveraging his skills as an executive. Warner doesn't support withdrawal, feeling that it will lead to a collapse of the Iraqi government. I think that we need to start fresh with the right objective, necessary allies, and make sure we're not digging ourselves too deep.]

Source: Strength By Redeployment (statistics),,

Last two days to pre-order the Optimus mini three

If you've heard of the Optimus Keyboard, then you may know of the mini which serves as 3 multi-function shortcut keys with OLED displays. You can write your own plugins, but it looks like they plan to support a bunch of apps including Office, Adobe CS, etc.

optimus mini three-key keyboard

Image used without permission :/

Just a friendly reminder to both you and me, but after Tuesday, August 1, the price jumps 25% from $120 to $160. Windows only at first.

SOURCE: Digg (for the mini), although I believe I was sametimed about the original keyboard.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray

HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray is becoming a classic case of superior implementation vs. superior stats. While Blu-Ray has higher potential capacities, data-rates and greater potential interactivity due to it's Java support, HD-DVD has a simpler web-scripting based technology called iHD, mandatory dual-encoder inclusion, persistent storage, and a network interface.

It really took listening to a podcast from a Microsoft XBOX marketer for half an hour to blow my 'Blu-Ray is technologically better' bubble. The truth is that the Blu-Ray we're expecting is still in the works. Due to it's simplicity, HD-DVD content-providers achieved a lot of its potential advancement in a relatively short time, while Blu-Ray discs have no where approached theirs. Implementation is what really matters. HD-DVD has employed Microsoft's VC-1 compression to overcome Blu-Ray's future capacity advantage, while Blu-Ray discs currently use MPEG-2 (even though H.264 and VC-1 are supported).

Meanwhile, neither camp has settled their respective formats and there is news of HD-DVD discs being incompatible with certain HD-DVD players. Future firmware upgrades will address issues such as these but their presence indicates that it isn't too late for Blu-Ray content-providers to show the market whether their alternate standard is up to snuff.

MORE: XBOX Live's Major Nelson: Show #183 The one about HD-DVD via [Addicted to Digital Media]

edited for clarity

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Settlement approval is good news

Just wondering why Google's stock is down, especially since the 90 million dollar class action settlement, which was originally met with objection and a rush by some advertisers to exit the class in order to be entitled to further compensation has been approved following an independent report by an NYU Information Systems professor. It appears that the terms were fairly beneficial to all parties, seeing that the advertisers who were (at least) originally unsatisfied with Google's attempts to thwart click-fraud get some free advertising and that Google has significantly increased transparency over how it handles click-fraud, first with opening its operations to a suprising level of scrutiny as well as showing AdWords customers how many invalid clicks Google is catching.

SOURCES: Official Google Blog, BetaNews, Download Squad

Monday, July 24, 2006

Two, maybe three, official Zune links

Thanks to CNET's blogma blog, we have two links to official Zune sites. A product information site (sign up for a funny wallpaper plus updates) called and a blog called ZuneInsider authored by Microsoft employees.

Very interesting. [The ComingZune site teases with phrases like "thanks for sharing" and "we're all friends here".] One thing that might play a role in the Zune software is that old Microsoft patent about using software to train users and then letting then describe and categorize music in many new and interesting ways (mood, rhythm, etc.)

SOURCE: Blogma and Techdirt

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I'm giving jogging a shot

So you don't get disappointed [in the least] with [the] Nike+iPod [Sport Kit], here are couple of things you might not have known about it.

First, it has a non-replaceable battery. Second, I couldn't get the sensor and receiver out without damaging the packaging. Third, It doesn't record a heck of a lot of distance vs. time data points as I would've liked. Whether that's enough is another story.

For example, for a 20 minute jog then a 10 minute walk, it graphed about 6 data points. Fourth, a nice thing you can get is a nice long continuous sequence of workout music where a guy talks you through your run. That's extra stuff that you have to pay for.

Asides from those surprises, the Nike+iPod kit was great to use just by sticking it under my laces (I'll probably go the velcro way promoted on digg) and sticking some masking tape over it just to be safe. Even though it runs on batteries, I think as long as you're not moving it, it doesn't consume much and presumably lasts a long time or at least your 30 dollars worth. There is a button underneath that lets you turn it off on an airplane.

Some nice features of the site are the ability to track your last 1000 runs and being able to challenge fellow 'community members' to races and when you dock your score, it'll compare the result with your challengee and declare a winner.

Anyone up for a challenge? A really easy one?

[And, what you probably did know is that it only works with iPod nano and it doesn't do magic. I found that even the power song was unable to keep me from slowing down to a walk as you can see from the chart. I think it's a matter of conditioning.]

Text in brackets added 2:39 AM

Friday, July 21, 2006

Google Inc. doesn't disappoint

I got a lot more information from the Q/A session than from the prepared portion of the Q2 2006 conference call, but the gist is that Google is happy to have done well in what is a "seasonally weak" quarter. They're stock price didn't change too much at the end of the day, which probably means people are not too surprised. That as opposed to Yahoo, who dropped 20 percent cause they waited too long to announce a delay in their service upgrades.

Here's what I thought was worth sharing from the Q/A session:
  • Distribution deals relating to the Google Toolbar (presumably with companies like Adobe) cost Google on the order of 24 million according to a question-asker during the Q/A session.)
  • In response to a question about macroeconomic issues, Google remarks anecdotally that after 9-11, while they thought customers would cut back in spending, they experienced accelerated customer aquisition. They take this as a testament to the cost efficacy and reliability of advertising through Google.
  • Customers have larger budgets than Google can deliver on, so they're working on increasing inventory (more effective ads like video, increasing number of adsense publishers, ad real estate). In otherwords, when a customer says, place 5000 dollars worth of relevant ads and Google can't satisfy demand.
  • Net neutrality: Google doesn't foresee itself being significantly impacted by a compromise of net neutrality. Why? They have good relationships with ISPs and they have good content that is virtually essential. If ISPs were to start charging more for premium content, Google would probably be part of the package. They could probably get into the ISP game themselves in one way or another. They fight for it because it helps internet companies like themselves a couple of years ago (who'll probably be their customers or provide content for them to index). Finally, they mention how while the internet is fast, end-user access is slow and bottlenecked to the point where if ISPs want to upgrade this connectivity for end-users, they'd want to make tons of money from it. However, this seems to only be a problem in the US, as other developed countries don't have that "last mile" bottleneck and don't have an issue with net neutrality. I think that was Sergei talking.
  • Google isn't using Google Checkout to charge advertisers per purchase and before doing so would inform users that their data is being used in such a way. Google has a page that explains Checkout very nicely. In principle, Checkout could help people sell stuff with low processing costs no matter how they market it but there are big pluses for AdWords customers. For example, processing is free/discounted proportional to Adwords spending, etc.

SOURCE: their webcast

Bush finally addresses NAACP

... and doesn't once mention the war on terror. Times coverage and the original speech. Seemed like he did it as a personal favor to the current President of the NAACP.

I'd be curious to know, however, why he pronounced it N A A C P instead of N double-A CP.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Notes from Apple's Q3 2006 webcast

categorized under I'll post good news about CREAF when I find it

Apple always finds some excuse to be conservative in forecasting future profits. Last time, it was delayed purchases for the Intel transition (which was still the case this last quarter with respect to their 'pro' line in anticipation of the new Core 2 Duo-based Mac Pros and the Adobe product suite's transition to Universal binaries that can be natively run on Intel Macs). This time, it's that we can't expect a repeat of the fantastic components market we had last quarter or past Tiger/iLife-driven sales.

But, great news overall. iPod sales were relatively flat, which was expected, but education (highest in 210 years against what was thought to be a shrinking market), back-to-school sales (free iPod nano with Mac purchase), and portable Mac sales (new Macbooks and Pros) were great. Interesting tidbits include:
  • Ninety something percent growth in non-iPod music related revenue (accessories/made-for-iPod licensing program, iTunes (probably less so)
  • Investing heavily in iPod and iTunes (maybe a quote, not sure), very confident in product pipeline.
  • 50% of Mac buyers at retail stores are new to the platform (switchers). I stand corrected on my previous speculation.
  • 12% of portables market share up from 6 according to someone (check webcast), in the course of just 6 months (Jan-June '06) (have to check this out later)
  • Can't forget about the Apple employees selling Macs at Best Buy pilots started not too long ago.
  • [Out there: Possibly working/collaborating on developing better music phones (although at this point, I can't imagine how this could be), saying that phones today don't make the best music players and soon later saying that they're not sitting around doing nothing (I'm not sure this isn't referencing their continued work with Motorola, but this was in response to a question about Sony Ericsson's succees with music phones elsewhere.]

SOURCE: [Apple Computer, Inc.] Conference Call Webcast

Earnings webcasts for Apple and Google

Apple is due to announce their quarterly earnings today at 5PM ET (2PM PT). You can listen to their earnings conference call or catch it later in their earnings podcast. Tomorrow, Google follows suit but a half-hour earlier at 1:30PM PT, so check their page at 4:30PM on Thursday.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Just 6 days ago, we saw on digg that South Korea decided to earmark 150 billion over the next 5 years to enhance their capacity for national defense. That amounts (annually) to more than a 20 percent increase over their estimated military spending for 2005 according to the CIA World Factbook.

China, which already spends in excess of that amount, aims to spend 150 billion over the same time span to address their own pressing problem--no, not North Korea--environmental pollution. Take for example this factoid from the Wall Street Journal, that China dumps 40% of its contaminated water into the river it's spent on the order of 25 billions to dam exacerbating a projected shortage of water for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

SOURCE: digg, wsj asia, [BBC News]

That was rather pointless

Today, I finally caved and sold my Creative stock (x100) and bought some Apple stock (x10) back. I figured, keeping the money in AAPL was probably better. This analysis pretty much sums up what I had been afraid of for a couple of weeks. Apple's quarterly conference call is tomorrow afternoon and today's as good a day as any. Other times I've considered making the switch*:
  • After Microsoft makes their iPod killer announcement.People know about this already and the announcement will probably be after whatever Apple announces at WWDC.
  • After their settlement with Creative.Any settlement is probably good news for both parties.
  • After their earnings are publicized. No... There's been pessimism about Apple lately (iPod delays, Microsoft competition) that's probably, well, not justified. I think people just need to be reassured.
*I didn't really want to add any money to my brokerage account, hence I had to sell Creative before buying AAPL.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Verging on a nightmare

Pirates 2 gave me this weird dream where I refused for the duration of a meal to eat a thumping brain. I ate the accompanying cold-noodles, though.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Not preaching to the choir

I can finally see how those Apple ads may not be as effective as I had thought they would be. I'm not sure who Apple PR was (NOT WERE) targeting, but if they were as obnoxious as this parody (you like I may not have been able to see them before due to high traffic) makes them look, most purchases of new Macs were probably by existing Mac users/iPod snobs like me.

SOURCE: gizmodo and nadyne

Saturday, July 08, 2006

My Inspironic Anatomic Ignorance

Amazing. All this time and I didn't even know about the coolest part of my Dell laptop: the battery has a built in charge meter. Of course, I always saw it but wondered why it never lighted up. Now, I know. I have to push the little circle! It has 5 leds that represent 20% charge a piece. It also shows battery health if you hold down the button. I have 1 led's worth of incremental degradation : /

Go: Dell Battery FAQ: For what use is the strip of LED lights on my battery?

Friday, July 07, 2006

A possible answer to an eternal question

categorized under likely boring

I admit that I often let little things get in the way of big things. I have posted about this before, but recycling poses a big problem for me. It turns out that it's much crazier in Taiwan where you have to recycle all kinds of paper (think of the box that holds your big mac), buy special garbage bags, get fined for not recycling, and bring your trash at specific times to the garbage truck. Regardless of how much easier it is to dispose of trash in the US, I still wonder about whether the little clear windows on envelopes are worth tearing out before recycling.

Behold the possible answer, glassine:

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Friday, June 30, 2006

A baby turtle goes free

The first movie clip I uploaded to Google Video: "At a temple in Nanjing, China, you can pay something like 20 RMB to free a pair of baby turtles into a "spiritual liberation pond (?)" (放生词). "

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

It's got the power

If only I could justify/afford a Tyan personal supercomputer.

I saw a billboard for it in Taipei:

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

One headset to rule them all

UPDATE 6/22/06 12:33 AM GMT +8: The i.Link bluetooth media player headset preceded Motorola's bluetooth stereo headset by 2 years. The S705 connects to multiple bluetooth audio devices (i.e. your phone and your audio player) at the same time wirelessly in contrast to my older i.Link, which connects only to the phone wirelessly. BTW, I got mine for only 220 RMB, which is about 28 USD.

I bought something pretty cool yesterday I'll describe in what I think is my 200th post. It's an i.Tech Bluetooth Media Player Headset that allows you to use one pair of headphones with both your digital audio player and your bluetooth cell phone.

I haven't extensively tested the device but the bluetooth is pretty clear and static-free and the music pass-through doesn't add noise to the sound coming from my iPod. It also doesn't use the AAA battery while in music mode.

The interface is as simple and standard as it gets. One all-purpose button (answering/ending/and I believe placing voice-dialed calls, pairing, on/off), a switch for switching between the bluetooth and music, and a volume button that toggles though about 4 levels.

To use it, you plug in your favorite headphones, pair it with your phone (0000 passkey), and plug in your audio player with the included male-male cable. Switch it to Bluetooth mode and hold down the all-purpose button to turn on the device. Now, switch it to music mode and you'll be able to hear your music. When you get a call (I believe you hear the ring through the headset), just toggle it to Bluetooth mode to answer and toggle back to end the call.

The included alkaline is supposed to last through 10 hours of talk-time, or 500 hours in standby. Also included is a set of both stereo and mono earbuds.

I hope to post some pictures after I get home.

instruction manual

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Into the memory hole

That's certainly an overly dramatic title, but the irony of my blogging situation in China is that I didn't have to use writely to post. I can directly access I don't get to see No matter. I don't need to see what my blog looks like as I'm quite satisfied with my current template.

I can also see comments via the pings I get in email but can't respond to them. I'll leave off with some interesting pictures taken in the Walmart in Nanjing. <overdramatization>It broke my heart</overdramatization> to see the Walmart because in one fell swoop, it might put out of business tons of less efficient small grocers and other business owners. On the other hand, it was remarkable how modern, no... American, everything looked inside, from the familiar Walmart aisles and signs to the slick uniforms the associates had (red polo shirts with jeans and sneakers... most chinese wear actual shoes). Also on the brighter side, if you look past the business practices of Walmart, they certainly were very inspiring with the story of Walmart's success posted on the wall behind the registers, the incredible efficiency and the benefits to the consumer and the reverse pyramid management/leadership heirarchy poster where leaders support and serve associates. I'm not sure if I was just imagining the camraderie of being well-trained efficient synergistic parts of the Walmart family among the many many employees in various departments working inventory or manning the electronics department as many customers sat in folding chairs watching the cup.

Without further ado:

Several things of note:
  • handheld inventory device with network adapter
  • magnetic shopping cart on sloped flat escalator whatever they're called
  • Vendor employees (note the Good Humor logo in one of the pictures) taking an active role in the store (saw several cleaning up demonstrations, a huggies employee walking around and a coke bottling employee stocking a fridge)
  • a 'warehouse' backroom?
  • french fries
  • 16th strongest brand in China

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

This time's more for real

Contrary to what my previous post implied, I did have access to blogger up to and including right now. That was my way was saying that I'll be on vacation in China as I hear blogspot is inaccessible from China. However, as serious readers (?) already know, China's blacklisting, implemented by ISPs, is not consistently enforced. You can post stuff to Blogger through it's API (which is implemented in Writely) and access it via third-party feed aggregators such as Bloglines or Google Reader.

There are many ways of measuring activity during vacation. How many new foods did you try? How many friends did you meet? Insights gained (homogenous vs. multiracial society)? How many whatever. We of course, measure the worth of a vacation by the value of the souvenirs and unfortunately, while it's nice to buy gifts for people at home, I'm regretfully not in the practice of doing it. I only have a few more waking hours in Hong Kong (hello, cogito) so here's what I got for myself:
  • The latest Naruto manga
  • An electric airsoft g36 replica w/ essential accessories
  • Some kubricks I'd been collecting (Special Forces and another part of the evangelion box sets)
  • A naruto character figure (shikimaru)
  • A tiny G3 rifle that dissassembled, fits in a small plastic suitcase
  • 2 tiny gun replicas (beretta with moving slide and removeable magazine on display stand and another one made of metal)
  • The latest Naruto manga

... on a neighbor's generously open wifi network

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Will not have access to blogger for a while

Of course, there are plenty of ways to access Blogger vicariously, but we'll have to see. So long for now.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Fleet Week and another visit to the Apple Store

So some friends and I went to see the visiting navy ships at Pier 88 during Fleetweek yesterday (Memorial Day). There are some comments in the captions to the pictures but some things that weren't captured:
  • The long line starting at 42nd street until 46th that proceeded rather quickly.
  • The geography and number simon games we played
  • Frantic finishing of food before the security checks.
  • A nice submarine (orange) hanging off the back end of the HMS Scott.
  • Pulling the trigger of an M16. Tip: Lean forward when shooting as assault rifle.
We also took the trek over the Apple store, a walk that spanned 7 avenues and 13 streets. When we left, I tried to press the button for the glass elevator that the spiral staircase winds around, but it didn't respond and didn't seem on. Well, here are the people that got stuck in it when it broke. I don't know if it'll be reserved for special needs people in the future, but maybe there should be a person limit enforced.

SOURCE: Trying not to offend via UNEASYsilence via TUAW

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Subscribe to online calendars from MS Office 2007

Since I have my calendar online and published via Google Calendar, I'd like to see it in Outlook. Outlook will default you to a Office online website where you can learn more and subscribe to public calendars, but here's a more direct way:
  1. Go to your calendars box in the left column, click the arrow next to whichever one you'd like to get the web address for and from the pop-up menu, click 'Calendar Settings'.
  2. To get all the appointments, right/ctrl-click the orange-colord button that says ICS and copy the address/shortcut/URL.
  3. Paste the address back into your browser's address bar and replace the protocol prefix from 'http://' to 'webcal://'.
  4. Press enter or GO and choose to open the location with Outlook (or whatever calendar application you prefer).
I think this is more straightforward in iCal and SunBird.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Maybe it's a British/Canadian thing

When I refer to a company or a sports team or a collective group, I (and it seems most people) do it in the singular. The rationale is that Google is an entity, much more than the CEO, his board, and their employees. For example, if Google undergoes a merger with Sun Microsystems (not likely), Google undergoes one. Some people will say "Google undergo merger". That is one of my pet peeves. Now, today I read an article on Cricket in BBC where the West Indies team is mentioned as follows:
West Indies do not have any matches scheduled for the Queen's Park Oval at next year's World Cup.
However, when they refer to Google, they do it in the singular. What do you think? The most frequent annoyance appears in the form of "Microsoft are...".

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The bigger they are the harder they fall

Yeah, you can just ignore this... it's about click fraud.

Before Google can actually become the next Microsoft, it has already become the first choice in criticism in any arena in which it’s ‘big’. As the popular saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. From the perspective of a Google investor, criticisms deserve attention. Obviously, Yahoo, Microsoft, and maybe are viable competitors in the online search/advertising space. How well Google performs has everything to do with expanding advertising opportunities for publishers as well keeping people coming back to, advertising on which nets Google the majority of its revenue. A potentially bigger obstacle (but not one that is unique to Google) comes from the prospect that the recent click fraud settlement of 90 million dollars may not actually settle much. I don’t know who the original plaintiffs were, but companies like web hosting provider AIT are unsatisfied and are withdrawing themselves from the class, hoping to get a larger settlement or a ruling against Google., perhaps the most strident anti-Google blog, apparently has heard from inebriated Silicon Valley sources that the majority of Google's revenue growth is derived from such clicks. While Google takes steps to ban publishers who benefit from click fraud, the suits allege that Google has not been doing enough to stop fraudulent clicking. The blogger there goes as far as to claim that the majority of Google’s revenue growth comes from click fraud, implemented, for example, by bots that spread like viruses or malware. These bots would browse to sites and click on ads shown on the malware beneficiaries’ sites, earning them commission.

Even if Google was good at catching fraud, it’d be difficult if not impossible to detect sparse and distributed fraudulent clicks from bots on ads for expensive keywords like ‘asbestos’ (my friend says law firms buy such ads for as high as $50 a click) or let’s say ‘web hosting’. Since Google prices keywords on an auction system, highly contested ads will naturally be very expensive in order to be given top spots (and get clicks).

Surely, click fraud is nothing new and if anything, online advertising has come a long way in meeting the needs of advertisers. We’ve come a long way to Google’s brand of context relevant ads from the dot-com days of paid advertisement viewing (I got checks in the mail for keeping an ad bar open). I’m not trying to say that Google is blameless (although zombie computer owners surely share a large part of it with the bot writers and beneficiary publishers), but it is a pity that with the great progress we’ve made, Google is coming under fire for small segments of the market (albeit highly profitable).

Currently, advertisers are free to contest clicks and apply for refunds from Google. There is a market for fraud detection tools as well as alternative advertising options such as impression-based ads as opposed to click-based ads. In the end, I think it comes down to a matter of whether or not people believe advertising on Google helps companies achieve their goals and whether advertising in another medium or with another provider like MSN or Yahoo’s Overture is more efficient.

Office Word 2007 beta 2

I’m writing this on the beta version of Office Word 2007 and so far, I’m impressed with the new user interface. They’ve added a feature that I appreciate from OpenOffice that saves space where they show toolbars contextually. For example, if I create a chart, buttons relevant to charting are displayed as long as a chart has focus. They’ve also increased the relevance of the buttons as well as their accessibility with tabbed button panels grouped by function. The context-sensitive options appear as new tabs that have focus.

Microsoft office's table tools

As far as not being able to find features, the most trouble I've had is with finding the file menu, but that has been prominently replaced by the circular office logo in the top left. Also, if you’re wondering where all the menus went, they don’t exist anymore, replaced by tool tray tabs that appear and disappear contextually.

Coolest feature asides from the UI? I’ve spent many hours playing with formatting in Office. First, they added font previews in the font list. Now, they’ve added live previews when you hover over formatting options.

A big annoyance is a strange conflict with Vongo, so if you use Starz's movie download service, you might have to rename the MSOXMLMF.dll file in C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\OFFICE12 just to be able to run it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Free lunches

Posted this a while ago, but decided that it was somewhat weak. I'll post it anyway and see what happens: will people design their own UI elements or will they just use Google's?

In recent history, a number of companies have released free services or products. Google (nothing new) released a free and commercially usable AJAX framework that allows you to code your web-UI in Java (with or without eclipse) and convert it into mutiple browser compatible javascript and html files. Skype made calls to US and CA land and mobile lines free. Napster made its music service free. Each of these acts of generosity was motivated (or at least justified) by a not so obvious strategic decision.
  1. Skype doesn't only charge its users to call out, it offers phone numbers where you can receive calls and accept voicemail. Allowing people to depend on the Skype service will lead to a lot more paying customers for long distance calls and incoming calls.
  2. Google's release of the GWT or the Google Web Toolkit lets people take advantage of many Google web UI widgets. These are just like the kind Google uses and the more widely adopted they are, the easier and more intuitive Google's services (calendar, mail, etc.) that use the GWT become.
  3. The idea for Napster is actually obvious, it's free for the first 6 listens to any song.

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