Sunday, December 30, 2007

Damned If You Sue, Damned If You Don't

The children of James Brown are suing over the validity of their godfather, err... father's will. They're claiming that Brown's lawyers pressured him into setting up trusts from which the lawyers would profit to pay for his grand children's education and for charitable causes, presumably, instead of giving the money to his kids.

Criticizing lawyers is normally a good thing, but don't accuse them of greed, then turn around and ask for money. The last thing they should have done was provide evidence that Brown knew his kids were greedy and decided to do the responsible thing.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Worst user feedback ever

I don't use that title lightly. Over the weekend, I called someone who uses "ring back tones." Instead of hearing a ring, I heard a song. Granted, it's a clever idea, but to replace feedback that has been conditioned into callers for years is insane. Instead of thinking someone will pick up, I wondered if I got the number right, and not even by my own choice, a la ring tones.

Never inflict "nifty" on people at the expense of usability.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

10 traits of successful geeks

Or why Keven Rose didn't start Digg

1. Bad hygiene
Geeks with ideas that can change the world don't have time to change their clothes, let alone shower.

2. Limited wardrobe
People aren't impressed by the way geeks dress, they're impressed by potential profit. Successful geeks stick to the product, and let others do the talking.

3. No Friends/Social life
Be honest, they're not really your friends, they just put up with you, hoping you make it big and are along for the ride. Get them off your metaphorical coattails (See #2) before they drain both time and money.

4. Hair
Facial or cranial, it's an excellent insulator, and gives geeks a certain wisdom that's usually reserved for religious figures.

5. The gut
True geeks can't be bothered with meals. Instead, they use their abdominal energy reserves to press on with their development.

6. The slouch
It effectively doubles screen size, increasing productivity as much as a second monitor.

7. No cooking
One word: ramen.

8. Preference for minimal lighting
Like ditsy blondes, geeks are distracted by shiny things. The fewer distractions, the more work gets done. That, and it hides #1, #2, #4, #5, and #6.

9. Parents' basement
See #8. No rent, free food, free electric, and dark--the perfect environment for geek success.

10. Lack of MMORPG addiction
This is what separates the garden variety geeks from the uber geeks. Success and WoW go together like geeks and girls; it's that bad.

I give you the Alpha Geek:

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Reality Check

Lately, I've been looking for a new job ('bout time), and I've come across some interesting ads. Take this one:

- Amazing coder who takes no prisoners. Master of all things Internet. One of the best coders in existence.
- Learn new languages extremely fast. We use Ruby on Rails … you can pick this up quickly.
- Intensely driven and proactive person.
- Extremely hard working. This is a start-up - team members work long hours.
- Quick learner and real doer. Err on execution over strategy.
- Thrive on working with A-players. Too good to spend long hours with B-players.
- Likeable[sic] person who garners respect on and off the job.
- Thrive on chaos, risk, and uncertainty.
- Should be easy to get along with, nice, fun, smart, ethical, and low-maintenance.
- Strong desire to build a more ethical society.
- Desire to be an early employee and want to be a real owner in Rapleaf’s future.
- Want to work with extremely large datasets and build portable APIs that thousands of other companies can build applications on top of.

Seriously? You think you're going to find that? If you 25% of those qualifications, you're lucky. Requirements like this attract big egos (which the company clearly has enough of, already) and people who will apply for anything. A company with unrealistic expectations of employees probably also has unrealistic expectations for their product; they'll fail as a business in the same way they'll fail in finding the perfect applicant.

Oh, and if you think you really are that good, email, but most importantly, give them my name. They're offering a $10,007[sic] referral award[sic]. For the graphic design nazis out there, check out their logo. Who uses Arial?!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Feature request: hide Facebook App

People over-do things when given the chance. From "Trading Spaces" to MySpace, some people just don't know when to quit, and now, with Facebook Apps, people have one more outlet for their spoiled creative juices.

My request: let me completely block apps I hate. Someone on my friends list has 40 apps. Please Facebook, just let me block every mention of "Zombies," "Superfuck requests," "Gifts" (Facebook or otherwise), and anything else I might feel like never seeing. Let the Facebook whores have their fun, but let the rest of us live our empty online lives.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Review: An Inconvenient Truth

I'm probably one of the few people who watched both "An Inconvenient Truth" and "The Great Global Warming Swindle," so I should have an interesting perspective. Since this blog is dedicated to complaining, I'll save the compliments for the end.

The film's main problem is that it does little beyond presenting a cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Yes, the charts are similar, but that alone doesn't imply correlation, or even which is the cause and which is the effect. As Darnell from My Name is Earl put is, "it's a bit anthropocentric to think humans could have that much effect."

Aside: I won't argue that the increase in atmospheric CO2 us anthropogenic. I'm already convinced that it is.

Often, he presented the idea of global warming, stated a consequence, and then showed examples, but many of these examples lacked historical context.

Take Lake Chad. According to Wikipedia,
Lake Chad is believed to be a remnant of a former inland sea which has grown and shrunk with changes in climate over the past 13,000 years. At its largest, around 4000 BC, this lake is estimated to have covered an area of 400,000 km². Lake sediments appear to indicate dry periods, when the lake nearly dried up, around 8500 BC, 5500 BC, 2000 BC, and 100 BC.

If it last dried up in 100 BC and it continues to follow the cycle, drying up in 2007 is an expected event. The wikipedia article continues, mentioning that the current drying is due to over-farming/water harvesting and, as Al Gore mentioned, change in rain patterns. Lake Chad was a very poor example, and Gore neglected to mention some important facts.

The more disturbing example was Hurricane Katrina. 50 years ago, scientists knew something like that was going to happen; the city's mostly below sea level and in a place that hurricanes frequent. They did even better, though, predicting it would hit within a century. Again, it's a poor example for global warming, but it makes a good rallying cry for his supporters.

The interspersed clips were interesting, but did little to address the point, and give the film a more political tone, despite Gore's claim that is isn't a political issue. Perhaps the most telling part of the film was Gore's line about being elected president. He knows his audience, and this film was targeted towards them.

I finally saw the polar bear that some people were surprised was animated. I wasn't; it looked very animated.

I picked out a few content faults, but for what it was, it was directed and organized well, but not about global warming as much as it was about Al Gore giving a presentation on global warming.

It made me think, but neither side has me convinced.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Facebook whore: Jim Cramer

In a new segment, I'm going to post links to the Facebook profiles of minor celebrities who, honestly, should keep their friend confirmation button closed.

Jim Cramer: 718 friends.

Speaking of Cramer's friends...

Monday, August 20, 2007

I was in a blog!

While editing a wikipedia page today, I searched for a policy on handling . One of the links was a blog entry semi-related to that topic, so I clicked. Someone claimed my company was doing some wikipedia astroturfing. Again, I clicked. It turns out the astroturfing was actually me throwing in my $0.02. Great.

The lessons to learn:
  • Never edit company-related content.
  • Full disclosure. On discussion pages, disclose that you work for them, but are not representing them.
  • Companies should create wikipedia accounts for matters like this. While there may be a conflict of interest, wikipedia allows everyone to participate. Companies should create accounts so that they can show their official position while respecting the process.
  • Wikipedia users apply guidelines when they support their position.

Lucky for me, no one reads blogs (my adsense account can attest to this), and the blog entry never even got close to being news. This is the kind of thing people lose paychecks over.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"Nappy Headed Ho" sues Imus

In other news, nappy headed ho Kia Vaughn is suing D-list former radio personality Don Imus for slander.

"This is about Kia Vaughn's good name..."

Before this story, she had no name--good nor bad. Now, she's defending, and advertising in the process, her name by being a selfish, greedy, whiny ass bitch.

Go ahead, sue me too; I need the page views.

Apes and Typewriters

A followup on the No Touching school, monkeys, and typewriters:

It seems some parents in New Zealand decided to name their baby "4real," sans the obligatory "biach." Stupid? Certainly. A surprise? Nope. Apes are no better. Give six billion apes a typewriter and the job of producing a name, and at least one will get the idea to move his fingers up a row.


The VMWare IPO sold shares at $29. Within an hour, they were selling for $50. In order to participate, most brokers require a $500,000 account.

"If I had more money, I'd be rich."

On Wikipedia

Most content on Wikipedia is crap. When editing, "if in doubt, take it out."

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ideas DOA

As an employee at 90's startup trying desperately to be relevant in the 2000's, I have access to the corporate idea wiki. Most of them are pretty bad ideas. Some people neglect researching their ideas (a protocol like ICPM quench was suggested), some try to port the latest trends to the corporate world. In all these ideas (no comment; proprietary crap is still proprietary), I've noticed three recurring problems with ideas:

Useless technology
Sure you can do it. You can put a "reply to all" button on keyboards, but that doesn't make it a good idea. Before adding the page, make sure people will realistically use the technology.

Intrusive technology
So you're going to immerse users in your beta world. Make sure you have users' interests at heart. Users might not want use all the features in your world, so don't make them jump through hoops there for someone else.

Trendy technology
These ideas are made by people who spent too much time next to the kool aid bowl. They use the latest acronyms and buzzwords, and usually "leverage" the companies latest pet project.

Far from mutually exclusive, these usually go hand-in-hand. These problems aren't unique to large companies, either; even startups need to keep it in mind. If your product isn't the useful, shows copious ads with minimal functionality, or spends more time touting web 2.0, ajax, and xml, you've lost focus on the most important thing: users.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Ergonomics design flaw

At work, today, they decided to round up the conference room chairs that ended up in cubicles because some conference rooms were empty. The also pointed out an ergonomic reason.

Basically, they say sit like the person in the picture, and you won't have back, neck, wrist, or other problems, and they're probably right, but they forgot something: how am I supposed to spend 5 minutes (let alone the 15 minutes between breaks) in the same, perfect position?

Don't tell us the easy parts of ergonomics, then quit, or maybe they're saying a desk job just isn't for me.

Disclosure: I do not have ADHD.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Feature request: a partial solution to phishing

Simple: sign your messages. If eBay, PayPal, CitiBank, and friends just signed their messages, it would be easy to check if it really was sent by and if that link really is to paypal. Additionally, it makes it easier to catch the sender of the messages. It wouldn't be perfect, but it could help.

Phishing aside, start giving me the option to get my emails encrypted. I'd rather not have receipts sent in plain text.

Lindsay Lohan

The Wikipedia article lists Lohan as an actress and pop singer. What's strange is that she doesn't do much acting or singing, these days. She's in the news for drugs more than she's on the radio, and in the courtroom more than in movies. She brings new meaning to "career criminal."

If someone's going to be more known for serial DUIs and rehab than what made her famous in the first place, let's do our job and acknowledge what she's known for: A list addict, C list actress.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Starbucks raises prices, MSN invites users to complain

Starbucks is going to raise their prices about $0.09 per cup. Not letting pageviews slip away, MSN provided a forum for people to debate if it's worth $0.09 more.

Let's say you pay $3.50 for coffee, and the price goes up by $0.09. That's a 3.6% increase. The last price increase was around 9 months ago, so that's 4.8% over a year. Inflation-adjusted, that's 2.1%.

Who cares? Inflation figures are questionable, and the part that wasn't attributed to 2.7% inflation is $0.04. There are economists that claim we'd save money by abandoning the penny. I have better things to worry about.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Clinton, lesbians, and ignorant writers

There's this surprisingly lame viral video going around supporting Clinton for president. They screwed up on so many levels. The lesbian suggestions were too obvious to be clever double entendres, but too subtle to court the lesbian-loving 20-35 male demographic. The, uh, well, umm... OK, that was the only selling point of video.

The writers made a mistake. Clinton is already on Capitol Hill; she serves as a senator.

This clearly wasn't a call for her to spend more time doing her job and less time campaigning. They just got it very wrong.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Props to South Park

I read an article this morning on Priuses. I turns out that 57% of people buy them because it "makes a statement about me." Not the carpool lane or potential savings, but to look like someone who cares.

Props to Trey and Matt. They knew exactly who buys Priuses and why they buy them, and aimed their attack them.

Prius owners: you're on my smack list.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Song rant: "1985"

Back in the '90's, there was a song by SR-71 called "Right Now." No one remembers the name, but it's still a staple in soundtracks for teen movies (e.g. "Harold and Kumar").

The band's a one hit wonder. Normally, I'm fine with that, but they wrote a second hit: "1985," a song made famous by Bowling for Soup.

Most bands never write a hit. A few lucky ones write just one and are labeled one hit wonders. It's sad to see a band get so close to a second hit and remain a one hit wonder.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Song rant: "Working Class Hero"

Forward: I'm not a Lennon fan. I think McCartney is a better song writer.

The song sucks. It's typical of Lennon; it's mostly political, and people appreciated Lennon for that. But Lennon's no Bob Dylan. Dylan's protest songs are catchier, his voice fits them well, and they generally have a more positive outlook. Rolling Stone's list of the top 100 songs supports this. As a solo act, Lennon had one song, Dylan had 4, 5 if you could Hendrix's cover of "All Along the Watchtower."

And how does this apply to Darfur, again? Why a Lennon CD for Darfur? And two covers of "Imagine" on the same compilation?

As a solo act, Lennon's overrated, and the "Instant...Darfur" album is proof.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Feature request: Stop the Flash ads

There are two major crimes of Flash ads on websites: sound and CPU usage. I thought we outgrew sound on web pages. Seriously- having a MIDI on a web page was circa 1996, and we stopped doing it because it was annoying, could cause problems with those nearby, an just in bad tasted. I don't want to mouse-over and hear a sound.

The bigger annoyance, though, is Flash ads on a laptop. Even when my laptop's plugged in, Flash runs Firefox's CPU usage up to 100% and the laptop gets hot. When it's not plugged in, the same thing happens, only now the battery drains in the event I want to whack a mole so I can get a "prize."

I installed the Flash blocker, but I'd websites respect my computer and just simpler ads.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Isn't it cool? Visual effects

Apple has done some very good things for design. Recently, their switch from the rounded clamshell laptops to sleeker designs, and the sleeker design of the iPhone, shows that the novelty novelty of cool looking designs is wearing off.

Isn't this always the case? When something new come out, be it a music genre, visual effect, or construction style, people become obsessed with and blinded by the novelty, oblivious to how riddulous it is. The 80s, a decade known for excess in everything, has many YouTube clips showing this.

Isn't it cool that we've reached the point where we can use visual effects because we want to, and not to show simply them off? They're becoming more artistic and less rubber stamped.

Compare these two videos:

The effects in the Paul McCartney one are more complex technically, but they don't feel forced--effects for the sake of effects--like the second. Confusing fades, pointless zooms, and a complex title animation sequence all feel forced.

Using modern technology can be good, but use it where it's appropriate, not for the sake of using it.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Think Differently: iPhone design mistake?

Watching the iPhone commercial showing off YouTube, I noticed this:
I had my cell phone by me and I realize that the Answer button was on the other side of the phone. Most recent phones follow that standard. A quick look at The New AT&T's offerings confirms this. Blackberry, Motorola, Nokia, and Samsung all seem to use this standard. So why didn't Apple make their interface like everyone else's? Probably either lack of experience in making cell phones, accessability by the right hand, or just Apple thinking different--err, -ly.

Some things never change.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Adsense: smart like a trained monkey

Looking at the front page of my blog, I noticed a bunch of gay (as in of interests to the lgbt community) ads. Clearly, the post about the movie plot caused this.

Google Adsense is like a trained monkey: give him a fruit bowl and he'll hand you a banana. The point wasn't that they were gay, the point was that the premise was flawed.

Maybe that's good. If Google really knew what the post was about, their search function could probably do some very creepy things.

Now what's the monkey further down the page up to, these days?

Feature Requests: email clients

Quick post today:

Attaching forwarded messages is fine, but please display the message in the same window as the one I get. I had to explain to my grandma that she has to click the paperclip, then the message, and if the sender was extra-sloppy, click a different thing at the bottom.

Scale down those huge image attachments. Even when the person has a broadband connection, images from digital cameras (and large images, in general) should be scaled down so I can see the image without excessive scrolling.

While you're at it, unlike IE and Firefox, do a bicubic resize. Don't say no one notices the quality difference--I notice. It's being downloaded; surely a good quality resize is faster than my internet connection.

Include a "shut off HTML formatting" button. The internet's grown up, now; we no longer animate for the sake of animating, color for the sake of color, and use strange fonts because they're there.

And to all the ISPs who feel the need to sign your outgoing emails with their name, spam's already a problem; let's not put it in legitimate message, OK?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Plot devices and B-List movies

I recently saw a commercial for "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry." The premise is that the state challenges the domestic partnership of Chuck and Larry because they're not either gay or in love.

This didn't add up- since when was love required for marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships? Why is "domestic partnership" a euphemism for gay marriage? It's possible that two men live together in just that, a domestic partnership.

Looking this up, it seems that, in the state of California, love, or even being gay is a requirement for domestic partnership. I guess that's not a surprise. A quick look at craigslist can prove that marriage doesn't mean there's love or sex. Why should a domestic partnership mean the same?

(Yes, I know, it's just a plot device.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

No-Touching School

In a policy fitting of a TV Orange County jail, a public middle school recently implemented a no-touching (including hugs and shaking hands) rule.

The MSN poll revealed that most people thought it was crazy to do that, and I have no doubt that the country feels the same way.

While the story might be shocking and absurd, there's a reason it shouldn't be: statistics. They always say that a monkey with sufficient time will reproduce the works of Shakespeare. In the same way, given enough schools, one will surely have the set of administrators and teachers that will accept and implement such a policy.

As with terrorism and the lottery, people are bad at perceiving probabilities. The media know this, and they take advantage of it when they sell news. No one cares about where they might get in a car wreck, but the statistically rare, but predictable school is front page news.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Missing Computer Standard: Internal USB

We all thought SATA would kill the ribbon cable, but here we are with SATA hard drives and ribbon cables going to everything else. There's an easy solution to this, but it isn't used that often: USB.

Optical drives, floppy drives, card readers, zip drives, any almost everything else you can put in a 5 1/4 bay can be found in a different from factor using USB. We had a chance to kill three birds with one stone; the power cable headache could be fixed, devices could be easily hotswapped, and the varying standards would all be unified.

While internal USB is used, the connector is just a pin header--nothing durable, or even keyed.

Computers aren't even close to being truly usable, but we still need to take steps to unify similar systems.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Obligatory iPhone Prediction

Based on the stock price increase since the iPhone was announced, somewhere between 25% and 33% of Apple's stock price is due to speculation on the iPhone. Instead of tradational investors, Apple gets "fanboy" investors; from a tradational investment perspective, it's a horrible investment. It's P/E is high, and they haven't paid a dividend since 1995--it behaves more like a startup than a mature company. Prices this high are due to a combination of investors expecting growth, or investors expecting the next product to drive up the stock price.

So the question is what should Apple be worth? If there's a crash, at what price should it drop to to make it worthwhile? First, if it didn't have such strong growthm, and instead matched the Nasdaq, it's F P/E would be 20.8--a value indicating it's either a little overpriced or moderate growth is expected. For comparison, this is around the average of Microsoft's P/E and F P/E--it's a reasonable value when compared to similar companinies

There are two examples to look at for guessing a reasonable price for Apple: the iPod and the Motorola RAZR (which was interestingly described as the iPod of mobile phones). The forgotten story of the iPod is that it was launched in 2001 as just another mp3 player. It became popular a few years later after 3 generations of hardware fixed the bugs. Apple kept a prices somehwhat high, balancing the phones exclusivity and profits. In contrast, the RAZR was marketed from the beginning as a stylish, exlusive phone. It followed a business model of consistent price drops, eventually leading to the comoditization of the phone. As more and more people obtained RAZRs, profit margins slipped, and Motorola was left looking for the next RAZR. The likely aproach is a phone initially introduced and priced much like the RAZR, at $400-$500, and over time, prices will be reduced, but the phone will always carry at least a $150 price tag. From a business perspective, Apple is in a good position with the product.

But one product, one $30 billion product. According to the F P/E without the recent price increase, Apple needs to increase profit by $1.4 billion per year to keep up with expectations. Apple's current profit is just under $2 billion per year. The iPhone will likely cut into iPod sales. When Motorola released the ROKR, it was rumored the 100 song limit was done by Apple to prevent the ROKR from hurting iPod sales.

The demographics of iPhone buyers probably looks like this: those under 20 probably can't afford it, and those over 35 are in the Blackberry crowd and were skipped over by iPods.

Apple will probably make the profit margin on iPhones steady (unlike Motorola and the RAZR). The 50% rumored profit margin will probably continue. Since I'm after the price Apple should be, I'll look at long term iPhone sales. Due to demographics, of the 200 million cell phone owners in the US, around 25% are in the age group likely to buy iPhones. Around 80 million mp3 players have been sold so 50 million out there, and around 70% are iPods, so that leaves 35 million buyers in the US. At best, that means 20 million iPhones (remembering that the curve representing iPhone buyer distribution is like the iPod one, only lower and narrower). At what will probably work out to $150 profit per unit, or $3 billion. Most of these phones will replace iPods (or cause someone to buy the phone, not the iPod), so the $3 billion is closer to $1.5 billion. The overseas estimate is harder, but the market is probably a lot smaller. Asia and Europe have see far more mobile phones than the US, and they won't be as easily impressed, especially liking smaller designs. If cell phones get replaced every 3 years and overseas sales is the same as US, iPhones will profit $1 Billion per year, the P/E for AAPL.iPhone will be 30. That's very close to the current F P/E.

So that makes the AAPL price apropriate. The problem is that this neglected risk, competition from Motorola, Nokia, and Sony (who knows, maybe Microsoft), and the 10% market share was generous. Since I want to know what price AAPL is actually worth, all I need to do is guess the market share. In reality and in the long term, I think it will be around 4%. I can barely see 1/20 people having one. That makes the P/E for AAPL.iPhone 75.

Going back up to the corrected F P/E, I'd like to see AAPL.iPhone down to either it or the current P/E (20-30). I'll buy AAPL if it dips below 95, presumably after a correction.

The iPhone will migrate users from the lower profit iPod to the iPhone and take another round of money away for them to say cool, but it won't expand Apple's market; it's just an upgrade. Blackberry users need a keyboard, kids need something cheap, and parents don't need the product. The iPod market is almost saturated, and whatever growth is left is already in the high stock price.

The important thing to remember is that reviews and perceptions of the iPhone within the first month will dictate what the market's reaction will be. Apple has an ace up its sleve, here: there's an opening in the market for such a product. There hasn't been a stylish, exlusive phone since the RAZR came out in 2004. It's all left to Apple's execution, though. There was an opening in the market for a similar product, Motorola's ROKR, a phone that could even work with iTunes. Ultimately, both the hardware and software were clunky, turning users off. Apple certainly has the track record to make it work smoothly, provided they get the GSM part right. After all, who wants to pay $600 for bad reception, dropped calls, and music, all in one package?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The little secret of the computer industry: vendors

When most people go to look for a networking device (adapter, switch, access point, etc.), with so many options, they go with a brand they trust, Linksys and Netgear usually ranking at the top. What most people don't know is the difference.

I've been on IRC channels where people ask what's the best switch to get. The little secret I usually tell them is they're all the same. Netgear, DLink, Linksys, even the cheap "Airlink" wired switches we have at work all run on a switch provided by a vendor, usually Marvell or Broadcom. Given that chip, making a switch is little more than a EE senior design project.

But what about more complicated things like routers? Same thing. Look at the OpenWRT table of hardware (OpenWRT is an alternate OS that you can use on a router). Despite all the brands, the chips are almost all made by AMD, TI, Atheros, Mavell, and Broadcom. Routers can be a bit more complicated, but the extra components (CPU, switch, wireless) are still made by the same handful of vendors. The only real differences are in software and how well the parts were put together.

So all Netgear and friends do for routers is buy the same parts their competitors did and connect them. What about network adapters? Same story. It turns out the pretty cover on your Netgear WG311 covers a mini-pci card (this is what goes into laptops, and even some routers) with an Atheros chip. So Netgear does almost no manufacturing on products and just plugs them together, but what about the Cisco Aironet line? This is Cisco, a company aimed at businesses demanding stability. You guessed it, the same Atheros chip as Netgear.

It even goes beyond networking. When Sony laptop batteries started to explode, people quickly learned that Sony laptops weren't the only ones affected; IBM/Lenovo, Dell, and others all bought batteries from their competitors.

Next time you go look for a new TV, LCD TVs will probably be a serious contender for your business. So what brand should you get? Is one better than another? Yes, but not the brands, themselves. There are only a handful of vendors that produce LCDs. Every company that makes TVs or monitors buys from these vendors. Now, the vendors produce different quality products, so that Sony LCD TV will probably look better than the Best Buy store brand Westinghouse, but word is Sony gets their LCDs from Samsung. It isn't quite this straightforward. Many TVs do post processing, so that the compression artifacts you see on a low end TV are blurred by higher end TVs (despite what most people think, neither DVDs nor HD content is perfect. It's compressed, so at certain times, if you know what to look for, you can see compression artifacts. Analog signals are compressed, too, but their artifacts are always present).

Basically, once electronics became commodities and prices fell, a few vendors started making all the parts that go into virtually everything, and most brands just put these parts together.

I was looking for a SATA controller for a friend a while ago. Instead of going for the name brand, I got the generic card with a chipset I recognized. The card was simply a PCB with PCI connections, the chip, a few discrete components, and SATA connectors--nothing special. The card worked, and despite not being a name brand, it even worked in OSes like Linux and FreeBSD. Because it was generic, the chipset had to be widely supported, so almost every OS supports it, without some of the headaches of first party chipsets, a la Promise.

The lesson: all that matters how is how well the package was put together. Is the software user friendly? Did the EEs remember to put a big enough heatsink on the CPU? Is it pretty like an Apple product? These are the things that matter, now. For some things, like network cards, there isn't a UI. The thing to look for here is a common chipset. If lots of brands use it, the drivers will likely be more mature at work better.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Top 100 domains on the Digg front page

This pool of Digg headlines is pretty fun. Here are the top 100 domains that make it to the Digg front page.

Be sure to check out my other lists and statistics on Digg:
Within the next week, I'll try to post the scripts I used and explain how the data were obtained.

Occurrences Domain





































































































Sunday, April 1, 2007

Simple online shopping protection already in place that you don't think about

Or... Worst title ever.

Whenever I have to provide my credit card information, I like seeing the dropdown boxes for the expiration date. While I doubt there's a keylogger on my computer, it gives me a little extra sense of security.

Spaf said that making an online transaction is like giving a bum a quarter and transporting it in an armored truck; the encryption will keep your information safe--the weak points are you and the merchant.

If your computer happened to have a keylogger installed, the thief would be able to easily figure out your credit card number, but tracking mouse movements and clicks, and trying to piece together what month you clicked is much harder. If you change something as simple as the font size, use a different browser, or briefly do something in another window, determining the expiration date is much harder.

Sure, within 50 attempts, the thief could probably guess it, but credit card companies are always looking for fraud, and trying different expiration dates that aren't close to the real one sends up a red flag, hopefully saving you the headache of cleaning up your credit.

Or you can not run that .exe you were emailed: your choice.