Friday May 30
Microsoft Does It Again
Microsoft settled its antitrust lawsuit with AOL for $750 million and the promise of a future technology partnership. [washingtonpost.com] Four years ago AOL bought Netscape for $10 billion. At the time, Microsoft was embroiled in the trial of the U.S. government's monopolization prosecution, and argued that "AOL-Netscape" would be a fierce competitor across the spectrum of software and media. Of course, nothing of the sort transpired. AOL never tried to resuscitate Netscape -- never even replaced Internet Explorer as its default browser -- and now whimpers away with a handful of cash. And pittance it is. Microsoft has $46 billion in cash reserves, so this settlement will not put even a small dent in its monopoly coffers.
Thursday May 29
Convergence Is Not News Anymore
OK, so Sprint has started replacing some of its circuit-switched local loops with newer packet-switching technology, like that used on the Internet. Sprint Begins Converting Network [InformationWeek]. But convergence between telecom and the Internet has been a reality for years. I've been representing clients and speaking on that topic since at least 1996. So there's nothing new here at all. Maybe a little in scale, but hardly a newsworthy event. Reveals the power of the Press Release, apparently.
Wednesday May 28
Where Are the Weapons of Mass Destruction?
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld told the high-powered Council on Foreign Relations yesterday that Iraq "may have" destroyed all its weapons of mass destruction before the war. [Yahoo! News]. So without WMDs or terrorists harbored in Baghdad, what was the war for?
Ted Koppel remarked last night on Nightline that the rationale for the war is looking increasingly shaky in the absence of proof of WMDs or support for Al Qaeda. And as ABC reported several weeks ago, "To build its case for war with Iraq, the Bush administration argued that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but some officials now privately acknowledge the White House had a very different reason for war -- a global show of American power and democracy."
The Bush administration is superb at constantly re-defining reality, but at some point the real world will catch up, and catch on!!
One Month Without Sun
I live in the Washington, DC area, and today marks an important anniversary. It has been one month since there was a sunny day here. On a Clear Day . . . [washingtonpost.com] So this is what it feels like to live in Seattle? No wonder they invented Starbucks.
Tuesday May 27
What Goes Up Must Come Down
The New York Yankees have lost 12 of their last 13 home games -- the worst such streak in the franchise's long history. In contrast, as a group Yankee pitchers began the season 16-0. That pace may have been unsustainable, but since then Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina have each lost three times and 40-year-old David Wells is nursing a leg injury. No sooner did Derek Jeter return from a dislocated shoulder than center fielder Bernie Williams went on the disabled list with a knee injury that could cause him to be out at least a month. Oh, and the Red Sox hammered Clemens to deny him win 300 on Monday. History Not on Side of Yanks, Clemens [washingtonpost.com]. Things are just not right in Yankee-land. Is it time to panic?
From A Hawk To A Dove?
The history of the Arab-Israeli conflict is also a history of leaders moving against the grain and playing against character, like Menachim Begin -- the former terrorist who blew up the King David Hotel in the 1940s' war of Israeli independence -- embracing Anwar Sadat. Now, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who led the settlement movement, spearheded the Israeli offensive into Lebanon and, more broadly, epitomized the transformation of Israel from a besiged small democracy to a facist occupying power, has accepted "the Roadmap" to peace. [BBC News.com]. Including an independent Palestinian state.
For years, Ariel Sharon was adamant that there should be no Palestinian state in the occupied territories. But late in 2001, he quietly announced that he could see some sort of Palestinian state in the future. Now Sharon has persuaded his cabinet to endorse -- with reservations -- a Roadmap which aims to create a viable Palestinian state by the end of 2005. And he indicated a willingness to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza, amazingly describing Israel's military presence in the Palestinian territories as an "occupation."
Leopards can change their spots from time to time politically. See Straight Talk From Ariel Sharon [NYTimes.com]. Whether Sharon has really done so, or whether this is just another ploy to buy time and save face internationally, remains to be seen.
It's gotta be hard to blow through $500 million, but Michael Jackson seems to have done it. E! Online News - King of Pop Going Bust? So he'll have to finance his plastic surgery on credit from now on. It's a shame. And shameful. A waste of what once was a real talent.
Sunday May 25
Fifty years to the day after becoming the first human being to summit Mt. Everest, Edmund Hillary of New Zealand says he is a man "of modest abilities." That once-incredible achievement has becoming less daunting over the years, though, illustrated by this week's firsts. A 15-year old Nepal girl became the youngest person to scale the mountain, and another Sherpa climber, Pemba Dorjie, broke the record for the quickest Everest ascent. [The Observer].
But this fascination with Everest has a cost, especially for the intrepid souls who challenge the world's highest peak. The going rate is UK£29,000 for a 70-day trip. This includes hotel and airport transfer fees, accommodation in Kathmandu, all road transport by private vehicles, camping facilities and meals on Everest, oxygen supply and apparatus, as well as costs for porterage, leaders, guides and Sherpas. And, of course, now there are Everest climbing guides on the Web. As MSNBC says, "Everest has been has been fetishized, commodified and, predictably, trashed."
Saturday May 24
Surfing At the Speed of . . . Whatever's Available
The broadband debate continues, but more recent research suggests that nearly 60% of Americans are satisfied with dial-up modem speeds. And since penetration rates for broadband services are still tiny, what's the fuss all about? The United States is never going to spend tax money to subsidize the build-out of a nationwide broadband network, and there still isn't a "killer app" spurring demand for broadband connections, so the policy arguments are really much ado about nothing. Even if you build it, they will not come.
Friday May 23
McCartney In Red Square
"Sir" Paul McCartney -- still hard to say the full thing -- is finally getting a chance to sing Back In the USSR in Russia. He will be headlining a concert in Red Square that shows just how far the old Soviet Union has come in a mere decade. As the Moscow Times explains:
Update: More than 20,000 people attended the concert, including Russian President Putin.
The PVR Revolution Is Real
When they burst on the scene three years ago, digital video recorders, also known as personal video recorders (PVRs), were a novelty that many said could not last. But now that TiVo has far exceeded market expectations and is aproaching cash-flow positive performance (TiVo Exceeds Estimates as Loss Narrows), there's good reason to believe that a fundamental shift is occuring in entertainment. Just as iTunes and MP3 players have changed audio from an album-based business to a playlist-based business, so too has TiVo made it possible to watch only the shows one wants when one wants to watch them. There's no such thing in a PVR world as "tuning in" to a particular show, as everything you want is on the hard disk. Advertisers say they don't like it, but I think that, like VCRs, this technology will increase viewership by making the broadcast schedule irrelevant. If you watch more shows because you don't need to be tied to the clock, you will inevitably watch more commercials, too.
Thursday May 22
What's In A Name Reprise
Is America the home of the free but not the brie? So asks the Washington Post, observing that WTO is promoting an EU-centric scheme to circumvent trademark laws and enforce national restrictions against use of geographically-derived product names (like "Brie" and "Champagne") outside of the "approved" local area. This may be less important from a civil libertarian perspective than the TIA, but if they're going to be watching my e-mail and bank transactions I damn well want to be able to call whatever I decide to eat by whatever name I want to call it!!
Our Tiny Blue Dot
First Picture of Earth From Mars. Sure makes you humble about one's place in the universe.
The Other Michael
He's led 398 laps in 13 races, the most of any racer, without a victory in the Indianapolis 500. [rpm.espn.com] He's saddled with the famed "Andretti Curse," begun by his father Mario, which mysteriously causes their machines to break -- over and over again -- agonizingly close to the checkered flag while leading. So Michael Andretti's last driving appearance at the Brickyard has got to be an emotional favorite in this weekend's Memorial Day classic. I know I will be cheering for him.
Wednesday May 21
Roger The Rocket
Gotta run to see Roger Clemens of the Yankees claim his place in baseball history. Going for win no. 299 at Fenway Park, with first place at stake, too.
Curing What Ails You
Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman seems a little different than Senator Joe Lieberman. The latter was a paradigm of fiscal responsibility, but the former proposes to spend $150 billion on basic medical research to cure a whole host of diseases, from cancer to AIDS. Lieberman Wants Disease Cures [The Advocate]. Now I am all for subsidizing medical research, but this is a bit too posturing for my taste. As a nation we are spending so much on health care already with Medicare and Medicaid, curing the stuff we already can, that there's no way we can afford any more cures!!
Tuesday May 20
What's In A Name?
The Pentagon has given its controversial, Admiral Poindexter-led "Total Information Awareness" program of electronic eavesdropping a new moniker, "Terrorism Information Awareness." DARPA reported to Congress that the Pentagon "has expressed its full commitment to planning, executing and overseeing the TIA program in a manner that protects privacy and civil liberties." [SpaceWar.com] In a wonderful bit of understatement, DARPA says that the name was changed because it "created in some minds the impression that TIA was a system to be used for developing dossiers on US citizens."
So since the purpose of TIA is to gather everything about everyone before sifting electronic databases for subtle indications of terrorists, isn't that the same thing as creating "dossiers" on ordinary Americans?
Monday May 19
Ferrari's On Fire
Even a pit lane fire, caused by a malfunctioning fuel delivery rig, could not stop Michael Schumacher from notching his third consecutive Formula One victory of the 2003 season yesterday at the A1 Ring in Austria and pulling to within a hair's length of the lead for the World Driving Championship. Headline writers around the world had a field day, but the risk was a lot less than it seemed. Ferrari Fight Flames for Third Win in Row [Guardian Unlimited Sport]
Friday May 16
Standards in technology markets has always been a troublesome issue, as standards both facilitate and constrain competition. Now there's a developing battle not between companies promoting different technologies for standardization, but rather between competing standards-developing organizations. Business Process Spec Handed Off to OASIS, Not W3C.
I don't see any difference here. If members of W3C and OASIS competed with different products in the marketplace, everyone agrees that would be great. So the fact that W3C and OASIS are competing to become the standard is no different than Beta v.VHS, which was clearly a good thing for consumers and competition. In fact, had the technologists and the standards groups gotten their hand on VCRs before the marketplace, they probably would have chosen Beta -- wrong!!
Thursday May 15
Isn't That Special
MSNBC reports that Colin Powell went to Sofia, Bulgaria to "thank Bulgarians for their support on Iraq." America must really must have failed in our efforts to generate international enthusiasm for ousting Saddam Hussein if the Secretary of State makes a special stop in Bulgaria, of all places. With friends like these, no wonder we have so many enemies.
Wednesday May 14
Shooting Iraqi Looters
The new American administrator for postwar Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, announced yesterday that U.S. military troops will be issued revised rules of engagement authorizing execution of looters in Baghdad. New Policy in Iraq to Authorize G.I.'s to Shoot Looters.
A tougher approach over all appears to be at the core of Mr. Bremer's mandate from President Bush to save the victory in Iraq from a descent into anarchy, a possibility feared by some Iraqi political leaders if steps are not taken quickly to check violence and lawlessness. But these guys are making it up as they go along. How can the US come out of this with our interests and reputation enhanced if we cannot deal with the inevitable anarchy that follows the collapse of civilian rule? Seems like the United States government wants to have it both ways -- win the war but stay out of winning the peace. They're either really slow, really dumb or both.
Tuesday May 13
Let's Go Ducks
With Detroit, Colorado and Dallas all eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, I am transferring my loyalties to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Ducks Leave Wild, Lemaire Frustrated Again [SI.com].
Last night, Jean-Sebastian Giguere recorded his second consecutive shutout, fourth this year against the Minnesota Wild, to spearhead the Ducks to a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals. Can you spell i-n-t-i-m-i-d-a-t-i-o-n?
Monday May 12
Why Should We Fix Microsoft’s Messes?
Microsoft has enriched the human experience by adding one more universal excuse to the list that includes “Sorry, I’ve got to wash my hair,” and “I have a headache.” It’s “I’ve got to do my Windows critical updates.” And this one has a higher probability of being true.
As Larry Blasko writes for Associated Press, it's The Never-Ending OS Update:
Plan to Harness Power of Manure Draws Interest [NYTimes.com] Yes, in Chino, California they want to build a plant to convert lots of cow manure into methane and then burn it to make electricity. Makes one reminiscent for the old days of coal tar and gas lights, I guess.
Saturday May 10
The Old Man Is Dead
New Hampshire's "Old Man of the Mountain," the state symbol for hundreds of years, finally succumbed to old age this week [CNN.com], sliding off the face of the White Mountains.
-- Daniel Webster
This was more than just a tourist attraction. It defined that area of New England in a way that few natural wonders ever could. I remember being six years old and seeing the Old Man with my own father on day trips from Boston, and much later doing the same thing on my own while in college. A never-ending source of wonder has ended. Long live the Old Man of the Mountain.
Friday May 9
King Pollin Lays An Egg
Today the Washington Post editorialized that Abe Pollin, owner of the Washington Wizards and until yesterday partners with Michael Jordan, should "emerge from this spat with his reputation intact."
Get real. Pollin tanked Jordan after Michael packed the house for two solid seasons. Jordan hasn't been fired since his (now legendary) high school basketball coach cut him from the freshman squad. You don't fire the best player ever -- much less engage in what the Post admits was a lot of "intriguing, plotting and anonymous badmouthing" by Pollin -- and stay unsullied. This entire sordid episode shows that Pollin and his Wizards are the sorriest franchise in professional sports. Jordan is better off for being released from his imprisonement with those morons.
MailBlocks Tries To Block Spam Blocker Technology
Our patent system is becoming crazy if MailBlocks can stop EarthLink from deploying a challenge-response e-mail system just because it thought of the idea first. EarthLink Is Sued by Holder of Anti-Spam Patents.
You can't patent ideas, only inventions. If someone figures out a way to do something with a different process or using different technology, a patent is not a barrier. So what's the problem, Phil?
The Confederacy Is (Finally) Dead
Fully 140 years after the Civil War, Georgia has finally re-designed its state flag to remove the Confederate emblem. [Washingtonpost.com] Now, I'm obviously not into being PC, but this was a really long time in coming. General Sherman should have done a better job is his march to the sea through Atlanta. But congratulations to Georgians for finally seeing the light.
Wednesday May 7
EarthLink to Offer Anti-Spam E-Mail System [TechNews.com]. This is the MailBlocks system I wrote about last month, and I still think it's both too clunky and aimed at the wrong part of the spam problem. But with EarthLink on board, perhaps the culture of e-mail will change to accomodate a one-time verification by the sender.
Monday May 5
I Luv My Car
BBC Sport - Schumi Grateful for New Car. After winning the Spanish GP, Michael Schumacher sang the praises of the new Ferrai F2003-GA.
Third Fiddle On The Microsoft Case
Bork to Argue Microsoft Antitrust Appeal [washingtonpost.com]. I am described in this article as "working with" Bork and Ken Starr in the appeal of the Microsoft antitrust case. Third string ain't so bad behind those dudes, I guess!
Friday May 2
The Reign In Spain
Ferrari answered any lingering doubts about their new car with a dominant display in Friday qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix. [BBC Sport]. So far in 2003. Michael Schumacher has unexpectedly been eclipsed by Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren, but the tide seems to have turned with Ferrari's introduction of the F2003-GA.
Life Cannot Get Worse in Russia!
Maybe I was wrong about Pravda when I blasted them for pussyfooting around on political assasinations. Wild Wild East. Today, the venerable Russian daily carries an interview with Duma leader Yaroslav Shvyryayev, who says that "I am often asked when life will be better in this country. I think that our life won't get worse, that's for sure." [Pravda.ru]
Beam me down, Scotty, there's intelligent life in Russia!!
Listen To The Lawyers
Rambus Trial Opens With Incriminating Documents. The Federal Trade Commission continues it's long-running antitrust case against Rambus Technologies for "gaming" a standards-setting body into adopting its proprietary technology, without disclosing the underlying Rambus patents. In the trial's first day, FTC lawyers introduced documents showing that Rambus' outside counsel instructed the company to withdraw from the standards group and stop suing other chip manufacturers for infringement.
Hey, not all lawyers are like those clowns who covered up Enron's accounting fraud! Just sometimes we are worth listening to.
Thursday May 1
Four Tracks Per Second
Apple's iTunes Music Store sold 275,000 downloaded songs in its first 18 hours of operations. That's four songs per second. So as Michael Malone of ABC News points out, this suggests that Steve Jobs has done more than create a legal means of distributing "untethered" music online, he's also rung the death knell of the recording industry.
How has the music industry responded to the threat from MP3 and digital distrubution, now estimated at 10 percent of its revenues? Like all dying industries: with more of the same, plus armies of lawyers. They're dinosaurs who just don't realize that the comet has already struck. They're walking extinctions.