The All Mighty Green One

Non sense, whining and stupid unfounded comments from the green.

Making a Dent in the Universe

Something very interesting happened recently. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs attended an interview. They discussed many topics, ranging from the current state of their projects, how they viewed the other person and company, and their position on the near future and evolution of the industry, amongst other topics. We even learned that they have been secretly married for the past decade. There have to be dozens, if not hundreds of mainstream media venues and blogs talking about this event, so I wont go into detail. If you want to know more always remember: Google is your friend.

This reminded me of “Pirates of Silicon Valey”, which is a top movie for any nerd, and yet I have not seen it. I took it upon myself to utilize the occasion and watch the land mark film, since these two behemoths will probably not rejoin any time soon to offer me inspiration, or for any other reason. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie it tells the tale of the surge of Apple and Microsoft, although that’s not really important right now.

I was very surprised at how Steve Jobs was portrayed in the movie. He’s eccentric to say the least, and some of the things he did were unreasonable to say the least. I don’t really know how much of the movie is fact and how much is fiction. Again, unimportant detail. The one thing that really caught my eye was the passion that the character of Steve had in the whole movie. This passion has also characterized Jobs himself in the few press conferences and communications I have seen in the recent past. I’m guessing it may be more fact than fiction. He took risks, he stuck with them. He is today one of the most successful and charismatic men in the industry. He has an almost cult like following that will defend him at any cost. A real Cinderella story, if I’ve ever heard one.

This reminds me of one of the many failed attempts I have had in this short but interesting life. Like many others I quit the day job in order to pursue a start up company. As for school, I had already dropped out a couple of years ago at that point, so don’t even bother questioning that. I got together with a couple of my friends and started working on software that we identified that was needed in the market. Software that was inexistent in the market for the most part, and if not, fundamentally flawed.

I was the self appointed software architect. I would dream up most of the designs, and try to plan the stuff to the best of my ability. This does not mean by any extent of the imagination that I had the credentials, experience or know-how to actually do an adequate job. I simply was the guy in the role. I designed a couple of applications, and swiftly started working on them. I was full of life, full of passion. I was glad I had escaped the corporate shackles. I was living my life, my way on my terms. In the end, everything would be alright, or so I told my wife (at that time still girlfriend), every day.

The idea of doing your own thing was very appealing to me. My current day job, considering the market, didn’t have a too bad salary. Yet it got to a point where it was a simple repetition of outlined steps. It quickly became very redundant and boring. To make matters worse, corporate politics, company oversights and bad management made my experience there a whole lot worse. I was escaping all of this. I was going to do what I wanted to do, AND GET PAID TO DO IT. If you add to that family and friends, you’re set! What else do you really need to be happy? Aaahh… the eternal unanswerable question.

Yet the dude (that’s my cute nickname for God) is not without a perverse sense of sarcasm. My planning skills, as I have mentioned before were not stellar. Therefore implementation time was becoming more and more extended due to unforeseen complexities. Discussions turned into fights. People started pointing at my code, ridiculing it. Saying I was a fanboy of a particular technology or a particular construct of a language. I did my best to keep my cool and keep working. After all, our survival was at stake. I had alredy quit my day job, and a couple of the other guys were on their way to do the same.

Then an defining day arrived. One of the guys popped. I don’t know why. I have several theories. Maybe he felt unimportant. Maybe he felt ignored. Maybe he felt that his contributions were not taking into serious consideration. Who knows? Up to this day I still haven’t asked him. He sent a very beautiful email insulting everyone in the group and their mother. The group was already in a tense state. This was just adding a tank of propane, bathed in gasoline, to the fire. Keep in mind I had invested a lot of my creativity and time to the group’s objectives. Hell, the current code base was at least 80% all my own handwritten code. All the designs were mine. Never the less, I promptly quit, wished everyone good luck and started to look for potential job opportunities. I was simply too frustrated and didn’t want to put up with it anymore.

I know have another job, at another corporation. This one seems to be much more friendlier, flexible and comfortable to work with. They try to keep bureaucracy to a necessary minimum and make their employees comfortable. This is a world of change in comparison to the old job. Yet I still feel the same sense as before. I am repeating the same steps over and over again. I am doing a job that in the end will not positively influence someones life. I am simply there, because justification is necessary.

Steve Job’s character (in the movie) in the beginning said that their objective was nothing mediocre, but to make a dent in the universe. He was out to make a difference. He was out to change everyone’s life. I had that kind of passion once. Probably not to the extent of Mr. Jobs, but definitely something palely comparable. I think it’s still lurking down there somewhere. Yet I have lost hope. Not in the group, but in myself. To actually get a start up going takes a lot of hard work. To do it while maintaining a day job, going to school or having other major responsibilities makes it near impossible. Yet there was a day where I laughed in the face of this feat. That day is long gone. I miss being fearless. I miss working to reach objectives I truly believed in, not just for the next paycheck.

Now, making a dent in the universe is pretty big deal. While there are some talented few that are meant to lead, most of us have no choice but to follow. I wanted to be a leader. Apparently I did not have the chops to make it happen, or maybe I gave up too soon. Who knows? Can I still turn it around? Or will I just be another sheep gladly following the herder, reminiscing of a short period of time in my life where I made my own rules, before it all crumbled down to the ground?

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June 2, 2007 Posted by | apple, microsoft, software, technology, work | 6 Comments

Microsoft + Novell = Very Bad News

Yes it happened. After years of Microsoft disrespecting Linux in front of the press and general media, they made a deal with Novell. By now, you must of all heard what the deal is, and it consists of. If not, follow the previous link and get it straight from the source.

I love how the short attention span well all have. It seems like only yesterday when Microsoft accused Linux of not being serious competitor. Saying that open source software is analogous to communism or utopianism. Then Linux’s numbers started climbing. Then they started saying they had a superior product line, and how Linux did not offer the same service in the enterprise or desktop (notice the change in philosophy?). Linux’s numbers kept growing, and look what happens now.

Some guy in a suit while at a board meeting decided that enough was enough. They had to act eventually, or else, the day would come when they would regret it. I don’t think that Linux, or any other operating system, application or thingie for that matter, has the power to bring down Microsoft in the foreseeable future. Calm down, I’m not one of those crazies. Yet it does hold the potential to grab an considerable chunk of market share. And Microsoft loves the idea of having most if not all of the market to itself (why wouldn’t they?). So they decided to swallow their pride… better yet, act like it never happened, and “collaborate for the benefit of the consumer”. After all, isn’t that the goal after all?

For Novell this can only mean good news. They will not be sued by Microsoft for patent infringement (more on that in a moment). They will be the first to implement this joint venture in virtualization solutions. They will be Microsoft Certified (I am still awed that the day has come where Linux distributions need to have this). This will give them the competitive edge over other commercial Linux distributions. Especially for serving mixed Windows – Linux environments.

For Microsoft, this just means they are smart. They are covering their collecting @$$es before it’s too late. I’ve always been clear on this matter, Microsoft’s products for the most part suck. The people that work there, are another matter all together. Alternative solutions, in this case commercial Linux distributions, have always offered ways to work with Microsoft environments, while the other way around has never existed. Meaning that if I have a Windows only environment, I can slowly ease into a a mixture or migration of a Linux oriented one with relative ease. From network protocols, to document file formats, there is an alternative solution for all your company’s needs.

Now, what happens when Bob (running windows), sees that Juan’s (running Linux) desktop doesn’t crash, works faster, is able to multi task better, and has a better utilization of system resources. Oh, and by the way, can be made to look just like your existing desktop for the ones that are scared to switch. If Bob has a bit of courage, and is tired of his current situation, he’ll opt for the switch, while conserving all his data and functionality. Let’s scale that up to the system administrator, to the service providers, to the contractors or to the executives. Are you seeing the pattern? In my crazy little hallucination, Linux slowly, but surely takes over the market. Sadly there is very little chance that this will ever happen. Main reason: people are dumb and lazy. That’s it. No further profound analysis necessary. Everything comes back to this.

For us, this is only bad news. Why? Because the very proliferation that I described before is precisely what Microsoft wants to stop, and what little proliferation can’t be avoided at least needs to be taxed. Microsoft is going to get a slice of SUSE Linux sales, and what ever joint virtualization products emerge. If there is money in the mix that means that the words “Intellectual” and “Property” are going to come up more sooner than later very close to one another. And this is where the poop hits the fan. All of a sudden, all of those alternative solutions that offer mechanisms that work with existing Microsoft environments are infringing upon their intellectual property. This has been going on for a while, but now that there is a Microsoft endorsed, allegedly alternative, solution it’s a different ball game.

They are already making efforts to obscure their protocols and formats in all ways possible, in order to keep the alternatives out of business. I hate to be one of those narcissist bloggers how quotes himself, but wrote about this in a past post. “But they will support PDF and ODF in office 2007!”, you say? Yes they will. But they have to. Many governmental organizations around the world are switching to Linux, and one of the motives is ODF. If they do not support ODF, they will force government collaborators to use an alternative to office as well. Again, this is the catalyst that can spark a similar chain reaction, but oriented to office applications. If they don’t do something about it, then that means more Office licenses down the drain.

This is not only bad news for Linux on the desktop/server. This is especially horrible news for all the appliances that are Linux based as well. A market, to my surprise, which is very big indeed. Have no doubt, the future only holds growth for the Linux based embedded/appliance marketplace. It feeds the need of the dumb and lazy users, because if offers a centric, simple and easy to use interface. Since specific hardware is used for specific needs, the same experience can be brought to the user at a much lower hardware cost, and little or zero base software cost. Not to mention the fact that the manufacturer can extend the current functionalities the Linux platform offers to suit their particular needs. This is the free as in speech part that we always forget about. Now your TiVO, NAS, SAN, DVD Player or video game console can’t interact with your Windows PC. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

In the interim, everyone will applaud Microsoft for helping the little guy and thinking about the clients needs first. We will welcome the new products/services, and rejoice at the new abilities that… we’ve already had for all these years. In the end, when there is no turning back, we will be paying Microsoft for the right to use anything and everything. Even if they authored the software behind it or not.

November 12, 2006 Posted by | linux, technology, work | Leave a comment

Piracy as a business model

What?! What was the title? Is this a typo? Is this guy saying that we should advocate stealing of the hard work writers and producers? Calm down, it’s not what you think.

I share a ritual with a close friend of mine. Every once in a while one of us takes his laptop to the other one’s house. We copy all the interesting “crap” we can stumble upon the net. On the last iteration I gota video which had a very interesting title: “The future of bit torrent”. I sat down, watched it, and was absolutely stunned by what I saw.

It’s a video of an exposition at a film school in australia. You’ll find a transcript and a link to download the video here. I recently discovered this is actually from last year, but I recently discovered it. Besides, the internet is a big enough place, so it may be news to you as well. While I did not find what I expected, I did find it a very interesting subject.

The speaker was describing what initiated the success of Battlestar Galactica, and other shows which have had a similar phenomenon. This show was leaked on bittorrent previous to it’s release on TV. Instead of this causing a slump in the show’s ratings, it did quite the opposite. The show is one of the biggest successes of the Sci-Fi channel. The explanation is simple. The social networks (be it on myspace or just dudes that hang out) spread the word, and everyone seemed to like it. This was pivotal to constructing the large fan base the show enjoys today.

This is all great, but if the show is distributed off bittorrent, how get any earnings? This is something else he mentioned. There is a long chain from the people that produce the content, to the people that actually consume it. With this medium of distribution you can cut the middle men, which, in turn will cut distrubition costs. Aside from this, we all know that bittorrent as a technology and distribution medium is marvelous at helping us reduce costs. Since I don’t want anyone to be left out, wikipedia has an excelent description of the technology, if reference is necesary you’ll find it here.

Fine, the distribution problem is solved, that will save me money, but where will the money come in from? Bugs. No not, insects. No, not the software issues that haunt us. Have you ever watched a sporting event and have had a semi transparent logo of a commercial product or service stare at you for part or all the event? That’s it. It’s a way to brand the content with an advertiser, in a way that will help gain a direct relationship between producer and advertiser (keeping the producer happy), and will force consumers to actually watch the ad instead of flipping the channel or cutting then out, (making the advertiser happy). It can be customized be region or demgraphic. One thing I totally agree with the speaker on: The 15/30 second TV ad is dead. It just doesn’t know it yet.

I don’t think this is a solution for everyone. There is a lot of content that will benefit from keeping it’s rightful place in television. None the less, this opens the playing field for a whole new world of content. No longer do you need to compete for time slots, no longer only highest bidder gets a chance to show what they are made of. This is a medium where QUALITY determines who will be consumed. The community decides what’s best, not an executive at a network television company.

In the end, all bittorrent is doing is fulfulling the consumers needs. We want the full triangle: good, cheap AND fast. We don’t want to watch things monday night at 8:00 pm. We don’t want to necessarily sit in front of a TV. It’s a diverse world, with diverse people, who have diverse styles, activities and interests. You cannot paint them all with the same brush! This adoption is only natural.

Don’t believe me? Fine. Believe Anne Sweeny, one of the top execs of Disney, stating that piracy is a business model they need to compete with. Or check out the deal that the bittorrent guys made with major studios to legally distribute content.

Bittorrent is here to stay. It doesn’t matter what the MAFIIA says. It doesn’t matter if the lobby convince Ted Stevens and his buddies that this is the product of conmunism and devil worship, all while clogging our precious tubes. It will stay because it is the will of the collective. Despite the great mass of power of a few, it will never match the power of the many.

October 18, 2006 Posted by | technology, work | Leave a comment