In pursuit of textual glory

Month: May, 2006

Urge Ugghh!

Another iTunes competitior falls flat on the face when competiting with Apple’s store cum music player combo. Read the review here. It supposedly does a worse job than the other players in the field such as Yahoo and Napster!

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VLC 0.8.5

videolan has put out an excellent update to the opensource cross platform media player VLC. It has macintel compatibility and many other nice usability improvements, not to mention the ability to play anything you throw at it. Easily my favourite media player. Get it here.

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Internet Disclaimer

Business is unpredictable and unsafe. The Internet is dangerous. Many blogs have been written about these dangers, and there’s no way we can list them all here. Read the blogs.

The Internet is covered in slippery slopes with loose, slippery and unpredictable footing. The RIAA can make matters worse. Patent trolls are everywhere. You may fall, be spammed or suffer a DOS attack. There are hidden viruses and worms. You could break your computer. There is wild code, which may be vicious, poisonous or carriers of dread malware. These include viruses and worms. E-mail can be poisonous as well. We don’t do anything to protect you from any of this. We do not inspect, supervise or maintain the Internet, blogsphere, ISP’s or other features, natural or otherwise.

Real dangers are present even on the Web. E-commerce is not the mall. It can be, and is, steep, slippery and dangerous. Web features made or enhanced by humans, such as firewalls and spam filters (if any) can break, collapse, or otherwise fail catastrophically at any time. We don’t promise to inspect, supervise or maintain them in any way. They may be negligently constructed or repaired. The web is unsafe, period. Live with it or stay away.

Stay on trusted sites whenever possible. The terrain, in addition to being dangerous, is surprisingly complex. You may get lost. Carry food, water and an APU at all times.

Ads for things you don’t want and other objectionable content can arrive from nowhere. This can happen naturally, or be caused by people around you that are being used as bots. Spam and disgusting images of all sizes, including huge images, can arrive, or pop-up with no warning. Use of spam filters is advised for anyone approaching the Internet. They can be purchased or rented from us. They won’t save you if you get hit by something big or on a port you left open. A whole DOS attack might collapse on you and squash you like a bug. Don’t think it can’t happen.

Public opinion can be dangerous, regardless of the forecast. Be prepared with extra damage control, including press releases. Ticking off the blogsphere can kill you. The Streisand effect can turn a simple nastygram into a deathtrap.

If you make hasty comments about those in high places (making unsupported comments that reduce the image of a person, often posted quickly and without thinking) without proper thought and, or allow your employees to do so, you are making a terrible mistake. Even if you know what you’re doing, lots of things can go wrong and you may be sued for libel. It happens all the time.

We do not provide rangers or security personnel. The other people on the web, including other visitors, our employees, agents, and guests, and anyone else who might sneak in, may be stupid, reckless, or otherwise dangerous. They may be mentally ill, criminally insane, drunk, using illegal drugs and/or armed with deadly malware and ready to use them. We aren’t necessarily going to do anything about it. We refuse to take responsibility.

If you surf at work, you may become pre-occupied with it. This is true whether you are experienced or not, trained or not, equipped or not, though training and equipment may help. It’s a fact, surfing at work is extremely dangerous. If you don’t like it, surf at home. You really shouldn’t be doing it anyway. We do not provide supervision or instruction. We are not responsible for, and do not track how much time you surf at work (although we could if we wanted to.) As far as we know, your employer may find out and send you plunging to unemployment. There are countless tons of loose management staff ready to be dislodged and fall on you or someone else. There are any number of extremely and unusually dangerous conditions existing on and around the Web, and elsewhere on the Internet. We may or may not know about any specific hazard, but even if we do, don’t expect us to try to warn you. You’re on your own.

Rescue services are not provided by us, and may not be available quickly or at all. Local computer geeks may not be equipped for or trained in hard drive recovery. If you are lucky enough to have somebody try to get rid of a virus or find that deleted file, they may be incompetent or worse. This includes your local computer store. We assume no responsibility. Also, if you decide to participate in a rescue of some other unfortunate, that’s your choice. Don’t do it unless you are willing to assume all risks.

By entering our site, you are agreeing that we owe you no duty of care or any other duty. We promise you nothing. We do not and will not even try to keep the premises safe for any purpose. The premises are not safe for any purpose. This is no joke. We won’t even try to warn you about any dangerous or hazardous condition, whether we know about it or not. If we do decide to warn you about something, that doesn’t mean we will try to warn you about anything else. If we do make an effort to fix an unsafe condition, we may not try to correct any others, and we may make matters worse! We and our employees or agents may do things that are unwise and dangerous. Sorry, we’re not responsible. We may give you bad advice. Don’t listen to us. In short, ENTER AND USE THIS SITE AT YOUR OWN RISK. And have fun!

via Rob Hyndman.

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Of Google and Microsoft

Google has gradually grown over the years to become a leader in many of the up and coming properties on the internet and seems poised to make a profit of their mass market appeal, be it search in which they have a fantastic lead to calendaring and the like. The use of software seems to be slowly moving towards a model wherein people will not own software but may have to pay to use it as and when they need it, and Google seems to be in a great position to capitalize on their grassroots popularity.

I recently read how MS and Yahoo are scrambling to catch up with Google. There are many interesting points to note in this interesting saga. Microsoft is one of the most profitable of companies today, having made a lot of profit selling the Operating system and its Office suite of applications. It had been a steady source of cash with little in the way of competition. If Microsoft felt threatened by, or even jealous of, a new or rival technology, it could create something similar and fold it into its Windows operating system. Since Windows powered just about every personal computer on the planet, Microsoft’s version of the new program would get unassailable, worldwide distribution. They have had the money, power and the resources to jump into any field, sometimes very late and then use their hegemony of the market to drive adoption of their “solutions”. This has been the game always, as the Netscape folks will tell you. All MS had to do was to ensure that people bought hardware that they could install the software on. Arm twisting and bundling of software to take down its competitors has been the corporate strategy and they have been good at it. 

As of now, most homes and offices have computers and most of them have MS Windows installed on them, and so over the last few years MS has found that its heady growth of the yesteryears is slowing down. In search of new avenues for growth MS has been involved in many fields that have a need for software. All the while emphasizing their Windows platform strategy.

Enter Google. Having begun as a small startup, that offered to search the then nascent internet, to the now behemoth looming large on the horizon, the company has had some spectacular successes. Like many of its competitors MS probably underestimated this company as well. Google now offers an amazing array of services, some of which encroach MS’s own turf. The big difference lies in the fact that unlike MS, Google has been phenomenally successful in leveraging a strategy of offering ad supported services. It has been so successful that MS has also gotten into search and advertising. Google is not the only one to compete with MS. Today, AOL’s instant-messaging service still dominates the landscape. File-sharing software and Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes have redefined how the digital world gets and listens to music and videos. Yahoo is the most trafficked Internet portal. MS is playing catch up in all these areas!

It is quite comical to see that MS has suddenly woken up to the fact that Google is a competitor.  Actually Google is not in direct competition for the revenue streams of MS but is employing a strategy that will dictate the way we will probably use software in the future, and that is ” software as a service”.

At the outset, I feel that Google and MS are different animals. Google stated purpose is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Its a reasonably concrete and exciting idea, and they have been relentlessly moving towards that goal by creating services that people use to produce information that can be organized by Google. Whereas MS seems to have gotten the idea that if they defeat Google at the search engine game then they have the upper hand. MS also worries that if software as a service garners the attention and use of many a web user then, they will be in deep trouble, as this will prey on their revenue streams, namely Windows and Office.

Note that in the face of such onslaught from Google and their grand vision, MS has not been able to put up a credible fight. For starters their motto seems to be “help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential”. Or, in marketing-speak, “Your potential, our passion”!!  Not sure about that. Google seems to be providing the tools to help me realise my passion, as of now.

Microsoft hopes to straddle the fence: extend its software with online features but lead its rivals by continuing to leverage its power over the PC. Gates and Ozzie said the company’s advantage would derive from a “seamless” computing experience with Windows still at the core, enabling users to do more than if they cobbled together alternative, Internet-based software or services. Today one is not restricted to software provided along with windows. there is a whole sea of startups that provide services, many are free, that are much more exciting and interesting. Flickr, Del.icio.us comes to mind.

Microsoft seems to be competing on too many fronts and a divided force is showing its strain. In spite of bold words, MS has been playing catch up in most areas in which it operates. Search is the most important of them where Google absolutely dominates.

The rules of the game have changed. When its dominant desktop software was the only game, Microsoft could dictate the direction of the development of many related programs and tools. Developers who wanted their creations to get wide use had to work on software that would work in the Windows environment. Now that the Internet is a mature platform for writing and distributing software, it is teeming with creators who often work collaboratively to develop programs that are deliberately not oriented toward Microsoft.

It’s quite nice to see some much needed competition in many areas of everyday computing. One thing is sure, we live in interesting times

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