Monday, April 30, 2001

The Left screws the worlds poor again For your daily dose of inchoate, priggish ramblings, read The American Prospect argue why allowing poor to own their land will not help make them more rich. This "article" is a "critique" of economist Hernando de Soto who argues that most of the poor's working capital lies idle because they do not own the land they occupy.

Just read the article for yourself. I cannot decide which logical flaw, factual error, semantic posturing, or out-and-out idiocy to ridicule right now. I haven't the strength.

Friday, April 27, 2001

Incohesion of anti-trade demonstrators Here's a screed written by an anti-trade demonstrator. If features a bunch of un-elected idiots complaining that the FTAA's democracy clause is not strong enough. The best line in the whole thing is "Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay really have one major interest in FTAA: exporting wheat, soy and beef to the U.S."

The fiends! The cads! Wanting to sell their stuff to rich folk! Best they all continue to live in abject, grinding poverty. These people make me sick. (Thanks for the pointer, CD).

And on the subject of sickness Dan Gilmore talks about why Congress, in the thrall of Big Media, keeps extending copyright, which now stands at artists lifetime plus 70 years. This is ridiculous. It stifles innovation, and robs the public of intellectual property. The sleaziness of these corrupt yahoos is pretty appalling, slamming Napster on one hand and slamming the people on the other.

And on the subject of sleazy, corrupt, yahoos, we'll see if the judges can find their arses and rule in an intelligent way. Not holding my breath.

Thursday, April 26, 2001

Trade makes the world richer India, as well as China, by embracing trade, has boosted economic growth for much of the world's poorest populations and began to narrow the gap between rich and poor countries. Prof. Brad DeLong analyzes how liberalization in India made it richer.

Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Something a little lighter After all the sturm and drung, why don't you check out this article on why some muslim countries think Pokemon is an evil Jewish conspiracy. Remember folks, either you laugh, or you cry.

Tuesday, April 24, 2001

New York decides to screw poor workers The Nation gets it wrong again. The New York City Council has decided to pass a law against sweat shop labor. It requires apparel manufacturers, both domestic and foreign, to certify that it's wages meet a "standard" or the city will not buy from them. These are the effects it will have:

1) Compliance to the "standards" will become the usual shadow-world of graft, avoidance, intimidation, and exploitation, just as all unenforcable compliance reports become.

2) Local sweatshops (of which Manhattan has *far* too many) with illegal workers will have even more clout to exploit their desperate employees, who will find it harder to scrape together the closest they can get to an honest living.

3) Foreign "sweatshops" will either do what they can to seem to comply, or close down, delivering their desperately impoverished workers to even more unpleasant professions. A similar ordinance against child labor sent thousands of young Bangladeshis into child-prostitution. Chalk one up for grass-roots activism!

4) Unionized textile workers in the United States (probably wealthier and whiter than the average textile worker) will become richer.

5) Government agencies administering this new compliance law will grow fat on the graft.

The idiocy of the Nation in not understanding these simple and well documented consequences leaves me retching. The political left is the very worst enemy of the poor. Thanks to CD for the tip.

Monday, April 23, 2001

Krugman lays down the law As always, Prof. Paul Krugman spells out why opponents of free trade are keeping the poorest people in the world poor. (NY Times, subscription needed).

Idiots are at it again I started this blog five months ago in response to the hypocrisy and idiocy of the Seattle protestors against the WTO. Now, that same biblical evil is at work in Quebec, where wealthy and selfish individuals are agitating to keep the poorest people in the world impoverished.

George Bush Jr., a man I do not respect, has spoken strongly for free trade, and for that he should be commended. I do not beleive that Gore would have taken as principled a stand. As Bush said, free trade is the "best weapon against tyranny and poverty," a fact so profound and true that any one who opposes liberal trade must also take responsibility for furthering tyranny and oppression. Poverty is this centuries flavor of slavery. Free trade makes people rich, and therefore, free.

Friday, April 20, 2001

We missed you Michael! Bond-trader turned sharpest financial journalist on the street Michael Lewis has this to say about laid-off dot-com opportunists painting their "walk on the wild-side" as high adventure.

He also writes about the fall-out and change in the money culture now that the bubble has burst.

Good stuff. If only Slate would bring him back and give him free reign (or is he still having too much fun in Paris?)

Thursday, April 19, 2001

Sad time for music Both Joey Ramone, of the Ramones and Francis Grasso, pioneer disc jockey have passed away.

Engineer culture A good article in the usually excerable Fast Company about the making of the new Kyocera Smartphone. It's interesting because it talks about the emotional challenges and cultural peculiarities of engineers within a corporate environment, something that has had profound implications on how technology is developed (and why most of it is so crap).

Krugman talks about business cycles (NYTimes, subscription needs) and what this means for the upcoming US recession. I personally think he misses the mark here a little -- more transparent information may increase stock price fluctuations, but it should also reduce excess inventory, and so shorten the contraction period of the cycle. Hopefully the poor luck Cisco's had at handling their own inventory is not endemic outside the tech sector. It sounds like poor management to me, not anything undermining the logic of IT powered lean inventory management. Look to Dell in the coming months, I say.

US slaps Israel on the wrist and the butchers move out of Gaza. I'm glad to see that Colin Powell blamed the Palestinians. That'll teach them to steal land and slaughter civilians!

Wednesday, April 18, 2001

The slaughter resumes Sharon raises spectre of wider regional conflict. Even the Israeli cabinet is divided over the timing of the attack on a Syrian target.

US continues to muck up it's cellular telephony spectrum The rollout of advanced mobile data and voice services in the United States suffered a blow on Friday as two government reports detailed the unavailability of spectrum. Good thing the telcos would have wasted the spectrum anyway.

Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Intellectual property and open standards To date, the record companies have been the ones by and large complaining that Napster takes money from artists. This is ironic, since record companies also take money from artists, in the form of various fees and rights. Although there are exceptions to this, (i.e. Metallica etc), most artists get a raw deal in this game as the record companies, controlling the distribution rights, create an arena where only a few artists can make it big. Napster destroys this monopoly over distribution, which is the real reason record companies hate it. Here's a piece that talks about rights in the digital age from an artist's point of view.

Oh, and the WTO is asking telephone companies to liberalize. Telcos are among the most monopolisitic and grasping organizations in the world, bar tin-pot dictatorships, so I would not expect anything to happen on this front anytime soon.

Monday, April 16, 2001

Phone companies ignore their customers Telcos beleive that they own the end customers. Therefore, the services they offer tend to suck. Clay Shirky writes a reasonable, but long winded commentary on why wireless services will not come from telcos,

Tuesday, April 10, 2001

What you own is no longer yours The record industry is trying to get ISPs to block users using Napster. The problem with this is that it requires ISPs to track what people have on their hard discs, an area that used to belong to the individual. If the record industry would have its way, consumers would no longer own anything they bought, be it a record, CD, or computer. This takes copyright protection in the online world way beyond it in the offline world. The madness must be stopped.

Thoughts on P2P Clay Shirky talks about why peer-to-peer is neither a technology nor a business model but instead a mindset.

Why the press will not call lies Article on Slate on why (at least in the US) the press will not call a bald face lie exactly that. Something to do with increasingly screwed up notions of journalistic integrity, I would imagine.

Poor technology design Here's a very old article where Don Norman tried to improve the design of the powerswitch on Apple machines. He fails.

Public interest cited in DVD descrambler appeal About bloody time.

Monday, April 09, 2001

MS proprietary tech undermines HailStorm Microsoft is beginning to exploit its client server base to extend it's .NET initiative. This means that to see a website hosted on a Microsoft server, you better have a Microsoft computer running a Microsoft browser. The lynch pin to all of this is Kerberos, an authenticating protocol that Microsoft has taken proprietary in the past.

Napster: Compensation without control Lawrence Lessig makes a good case for why Congress should step in (just as it has in the past) and create laws which allow artists to be compensated for their work while not allowing the record industry to have a veto over innovation.

Here's some more nonsense from investment bank Goldman Sachs is complaining that new SEC disclosure rules, that require companies to make all public information public at the same time, is "adding to market turmoil." What rubbish. The new rule just means analysts have to rely on something other than insider information to make their calls (which are worthless as a rule). Market turmoil is probably coming from idiot Goldman employees making rash market calls in an effort to sell more IPO deals. How stupid do these morons think we are?

Friday, April 06, 2001

Why Smart Agents Are A Dumb Idea Clay Shirky lays down the law on why smart agents are dumb. Precient, since it was written in 1999 and Microsoft is just about to unleash the paperclip on our inboxes in 2001.

Wireless standards continue to clash In the US, all the cellular carriers use networks that are mutually incompatible. This is one reason why cell phones here suck. Looks like they have decided to continue doing this, and their next generation networks will also be incompatible. Just as well they can't afford them and no one really wants to use them anyway.

Microsoft continues to build in standards that hurt consumers For connectivity of all sorts, Microsoft has decided to use a standard called 1394 (FireWire) which they are going to hook up to various other doodads, which will make it impossible for people to copy commercially produced material, or anything that any industry does not want them to copy.

Just for kicks Here's a very pretty picture of the Internet

Thursday, April 05, 2001

Staggeringly good article from the Economist this week about a way to dramatically enrich and empower the world's poorest people, land rights (subscription needed). As the article argues, poor folk have proporty of value, but cannot put that value to work because there is no legal framework that guarantees it is theirs'. A sensible, insightful view on how the ability to make money is the best chance of empowering the very poor.

Wednesday, April 04, 2001

Uninformed article by Jakob Nielsen Nielsen, the usability guru, recently published this piece about why Microsoft's new HailStorm idea may not be that bad for customers. It also reveals how little he understands about business, competition, and suggests why usability is so looked down upon in the IT field, if it's most visible spokesman makes idiot suggestions like this one.

Nielsen argues that by charging customers for service, Microsoft will be forced to improve its usability. He seems to forget that Microsoft has been charging customers for service for many years now, and the usability of its products has gone down. He also forgets that Microsoft abuses its monopoly power to drive competitors out of the market, which means customers have no alternative than to continue using Microsoft products. He also forgets that through this strategy, most people have no idea what good software should be. People think it's OK if a program crashes several times a day, a level of quality they do not tolerate in anything else, but that Microsoft has successfully established as the norm.

Nielsen does the usability field no good by flouting his ignorance.

The New Macroeconomy Here's a great article by economist J Bradford DeLong that talks about why there really might be a new economy and how it might effect the business cycle. This has important repercussions for how long the current US economic slowdown might last.

In particular, DeLong notes that traditional business cycles have been created by excess inventory. Whatever the Internet may or may not have done, it has reduced the amount of inventory that companies have to carry. Therefore, this low point in the business cycle should be shorter than previous ones.

Additionally, DeLong suggests that there will also be more stock market volatility, and that equities are still over-valued. So, little hope there for investors.

Tuesday, April 03, 2001

Tog on the latest software atrocity As the famous Bruce Tognazzini points out in this column, software companies are comfortable with putting out bug-ridden releases and then extorting upgrade fees for even buggier versions of the same software. Microsoft in particular has raised this protection racket to a fine art. When software starts to be sold on a subscription basis, manufacturer "fixes" will be forced on consumers, whether they want them or not. Imagine the horror when a "fix" removes functionality you thought you had already paid for. Read all about how Replay TV is begging for a lawsuit.

One more thing to calm you down A pointer from my good friend CD, here's the latest FatBoy Slim video, "Weapon of Choice," featuring Christopher Walken dancing for three minutes. 'Nuff said.

Monday, April 02, 2001

Missing the point Here's an extended post by Dan Bricklin on why the PC is not too hard to use after all. Dan argues that just because something needs to be learned, it does not mean it is too hard, and goes on to cite driving, cooking, and reading as important activities that require extensive training yet everyone manages them OK.

It is important to read things like this every so often to be reminded of just how out of touch some people are. Bricklin is right, of course, driving, cooking and reading do require training. However, almost everyone can drive, cook, and read without any problems. Until the advent of the Internet, however, only about 10% of the US population had a PC at home, a figure that has risen to over 50% as half the nation now logs onto AOL and chats. But they don't want a PC, they want AOL chat, and if there was an easier, cheaper way to get that, they would take it.

This history of computers has been one of people putting up with the most horrific devices just because they provide something so useful that folks can't get by without them. This was true for visicalc, then the word processor, and now email/AIM chat. Far from being enrapt by the PC's wonderful flexibility, most folks have lives uninvolved with CPUs and silicon and would rather say hi to granny and then try and get this year's tax return done. They are not, as Bricklin would have us beleive, a-quiver with excitement at adding a CD burner. For most people, the PC is opaque, frustrating, intimidating, and needlessly complex. I stress needlessly, because this is where I beleive Bricklin loses the thread.

I don't ask my PC for much. A little typing, a little Web, a little email. Yet my Vaio cannot turn on, dial-up, open a web browser, and then shut down without crashing. In Microsoft word I am typing a paper when paragraphs start jumping around. Then the paperclip appears and asks if I want help. The new version of Quicken which came with my new computer (and superceded Quicken 98, a lovely program) has hidden all the useful information and replaced the start screen with some impenetrable control panel and a banner ad. A banner ad! Did I not pay for this software? Why is everything digital so pointlessly, needlessly complicated? This is what people mean when they say the PC is too hard to use. Not that they refuse to learn how to use anything, but that technology wastes people's time with it triviality, capriciousness, and general bloody mindedness.

Bricklin is right on one point though, Microsoft's agent idea is only going to make things worse. Intrusive, irritating, and stupid technology cannot be rectified by adding another layer of intrusive, irritating, and stupid technology, whatever Microsoft may think with it's government-supported monopoly on PCs and freedom to abuse that monopoly power in whatever way it deems fit.

Technology needs to be simpler. Less technology will make a PC easier to use.