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Archive for October, 2007

Heavy laptops: there’s no excuse

Posted in Gadgets, Geek, Hardware on October 30th, 2007 by leodirac – 1 Comment

The way I see it, there’s no compelling reason to buy a heavy laptop. Light laptops are great because they’re portable. Their processors might be a little slower, but local processing power rarely limits what you can do with a computer these days. And unless you get a really tiny laptop they’re hardly slower. If you do get a tiny one then you’re trading reduced HCI-bandwidth for increased access to that bandwidth, which is often worthwhile. Today I’d probably argue that iPhone or iPod Touch is a pareto-optimal choice (sweet-spot) in this trade-off, beating out things like OQO and FlipStart….

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I’m working for Google

Posted in Ego, Google, Personal Growth on October 29th, 2007 by leodirac – 2 Comments

I caved. I took a job with Google as a Product Manager. I start today. I’m down in Mountain View all week to have kool-aid forcibly injected intravenously. Make note of this day and see if you can sense a shift in tone of my posts as time continues. We’ll see when I start thinking and posting about Google in first person. This change is important to you my dear readers for a couple of other reasons. Most significantly is around intellectual property. Google’s IP policy for its employees can be effectively summarized as “All your base are belong to…

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Microsoft buys tiny stake in Facebook: Game on!

Posted in Analysis, Business, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo on October 25th, 2007 by leodirac – 7 Comments

After months of rumors about companies trying to buy Facebook, yesterday a deal was announced. In a sense the deal is quite small because Facebook sold just a 1.6% equity stake to Microsoft. But by paying $240 million, the deal values Facebook at about $15 billion! What’s going on here? This surely can’t be based on rational economics, can it? Let’s analyze how these deals should be valued and take a few steps back through recent internet acquisition history for context. In trying to keep this post focused, I wrote a separate article about why mergers and acquisitions rarely work….

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Mergers: When they can work and why they usually don’t

Posted in Analysis, Business on October 25th, 2007 by leodirac – 2 Comments

When thinking about the recent Microsoft, Facebook deal, I couldn’t help but talk about mergers generally. So are some general thoughts about what makes mergers work or not. Research consistently shows that most corporate mergers are unsuccessful. That is to say, when two companies combine the value of the merged company rarely even equals what the individual companies were doing by themselves. The reasons for this are numerous. Organizations face diseconomies of scale as they grow. A simple example of such a diseconomy of scale is increasing communications overhead — the number of possible communication paths grows as N^2 for…

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Sonos finally adds search!

Posted in Consumer Electronics, Gadgets, Geek, Music, User Experience on October 23rd, 2007 by leodirac – Comments Off on Sonos finally adds search!

At long last, the world’s best digital music system has fixed a glaring UI hole. With today’s release of v2.5 of their software, Sonos controllers (both hardware remotes and PC/Mac based software) can search for music by artist, composer, album, or track. This feature works within your own local library or within music services such as Rhapsody. Up until now if you wanted to listen to an artist in Rhapsody that you hadn’t previously bookmarked, you would need to guess what top-level genre they were categorized under and then scroll through an enormous list to try to find the artist….

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Standards for handling passwords

Posted in Electronic Security, Geek on October 19th, 2007 by leodirac – Comments Off on Standards for handling passwords

Every time we sign up for a new service on the net, we have to make a new account and pick a password to go with this account. We’re going to be stuck like this until something like OpenID becomes dominant which is going to take years. Until then we’re stuck remembering which password goes with which site, which is an age-old problem. I think very few of us actually use a unique password for every account we have. For sanity’s sake, we re-use passwords, or at least password themes. Personally, a couple of times I’ve had throw-away passwords get…

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Google Calendars now partly Gears enabled

Posted in Geek, Google on October 18th, 2007 by leodirac – 2 Comments

I logged onto Google Calendar this evening, and it asked me if I wanted to allow Google gears to access this website. Wow! This is gonna be great. I’m actually not all that excited about offline access, which is valuable but increasingly less important as time goes on. I’m very excited about the faster UI we’ll get from not having to send packets round-trip to Mountain View to make any content changes. I haven’t seen anything work differently yet. But that’s really the way it should be. The Google Reader implementation of gears where you need to explicitly tell it…

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How to stop Verizon from selling your personal call records

Posted in Business, Hacks on October 17th, 2007 by leodirac – Comments Off on How to stop Verizon from selling your personal call records

A warning to Verizon Wireless customers: if you don’t call them to “opt out” they will start selling records of every phone call you make to partners. It looks to me like these “CPNI” data don’t include anything about location, like which tower you were connected to, based on the description that it’s all the information in your phone bill. But it wouldn’t surprise me if they are in fact recording it and selling it too. Location-based advertising is very hot, so these data would be very valuable. In any case, if you’re a Verizon Wireless subscriber and you don’t…

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Floating on a ton of MgSO4

Posted in Hacks, Personal Growth on October 15th, 2007 by leodirac – Comments Off on Floating on a ton of MgSO4

Okay, not quite a full ton. The Lilypod only needs 1,500 lbs of dissolved epsom salt to make the water dense enough that you can float on it. In 250 gallons of water that gives the solution a density of about 1.7, which makes it quite easy to float on. Heat it to about 99 degrees Fahrenheit, put in ear plugs, turn out all the lights, and concentrate on your breathing. It’s a great recipe for some deep relaxation. I’m looking forward to borrowing some time on it, hoping it will be a good way to help focus my mind….

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Economics of Personal Time

Posted in Economics, Personal Growth on October 10th, 2007 by leodirac – 7 Comments

Please excuse a bit of rambling, but I’ve got a seedling of an idea I’d like to publicly explore. The classic definition of economics concerns the allocation of finite resources to unlimited desires. Resources here are physical goods and services that people buy or trade. There’s only so much stuff in the world that people might want. If you add up what everybody wants, it’s more than the amount of stuff available to go around — classically it’s infinite. Economic systems manage this discrepancy. I increasingly find myself facing a related problem: trying to allocate my finite time to seemingly…

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