Economic woes, netbooks, reports from WinHEC and of Windows 7, and what else I’ve read in recent days


On NPR's Planet Money site, a "multimedia team of reporters tracks down the economists, investors and regular folks who are trying to make sense of the rapidly changing global economy," there is an interesting series from Alex Blumberg.  He explained on All Things Considered (October 31, 2008) How Credit Default Swaps Spread Financial Rot (as well as Unregulated Credit Default Swaps Led to Weakness) and how these instruments contributed to our tanking economy.

"It's a fair guess that a couple of months ago, few people outside the financial world had even heard the words "credit default swaps." But now the obscure and unregulated financial instruments are shouldering much of the blame for destabilizing the global financial system.

"Here's how it works. Let's say there's a guy named Frank and he has a life insurance policy. When he dies, the beneficiary gets a million dollars. Now imagine a whole bunch of other people saying, "I want a million dollars if he dies, too." And so they take out life insurance policies on Frank.

Now imagine Frank dies, and all those people bought their policies from the same company. That company, more or less, was AIG." 

Also of interest from NPR (I love the fact that their shows are archived for later listening) is How To Track Music, Scan Bar Codes On A Cell Phone on All Things Considered, which launched a new segment on Mondays called "All Tech Considered."  From November 10, 2008... "With new phones, including the Apple iPhone and the T-Mobile G1, you can do more than call friends. You can find your way home or go bowling without picking up a ball. You can even scan bar codes at the mall and comparison shop. Technology expert Omar Gallaga of the Austin American-Statesman showed NPR's Robert Siegel the software people can download on a few different cell phones. With Shop Savvy, the phone can scan anything from a book to a CD to a bottle of Snapple. It uses the built-in camera to scan the bar code, and up pops the cheapest price on the product as well as reviews from people who have purchased the product."

Top 50 Women to Watch 2008” Wall Street Journal on WSJ.com - "According to a survey by Catalyst, a New York research group, women hold 15.4% of Fortune 500 corporate-officer jobs -- positions of vice president or higher that require board approval. That number has inched down from 16.4% in 2005. One bright spot: More women are in charge of powerful board committees, such as nominating and governance committee chairs. That in turn could mean more women being appointed to key positions down the road." (Merissa Marr)

One of my favourite blogs is gapingvoid: "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards": blue monster: why social objects are the future of marketing.  "As a marketing blogger, I get asked a lot, "What is the future of marketing?" I always answer the same: "The Blue Monster". What's The Blue Monster? A Blue Monster is a Social Object that articulates a Purpose-Idea. What's a Social Object? What's a Purpose-Idea? Sit yourself down, pour yourself another glass of whisky. This might take a while to explain..."

Seven things you may not know about Windows 7 | Beyond Binary - A blog by Ina Fried - CNET News (November 10, 2008).  "While Windows 7 has gotten plenty of attention over the past two weeks, there are some features in there that haven't gotten as much attention. I wrote on Friday about a new programming interface for location-based services. Here are seven more features that caught my eye.

  1. Standard approach to mobile broadband
  2. Help with public Wi-Fi spots.
  3. Windows Troubleshooting
  4. New sensor support
  5. Improved battery life and playback of DVDs
  6. Windows Biometric Framework
  7. Enhancements to Windows Media Center
Mars Phoenix Lander completes its mission | Gaming and Culture - CNET News -- "The last Twitter post said it all: "01010100 01110010 01101001 01110101 01101101 01110000 01101000." For those of you who aren't fluent in binary, the post, from NASA's Mars Phoenix Twitter account, translates as "triumph." According to NASA, the space agency is no longer receiving communications from Phoenix, its Mars lander, after more than five months of operation. The not unexpected event came after the lander moved into an area, NASA said in a release Monday, where "seasonal decline in sunshine at the robot's arctic landing site is not providing enough sunlight for the solar arrays to collect the power necessary to charge batteries that operate the lander's instruments." In other words, Phoenix has run out of gas. But according to NASA, the agency got more out of the lander project than it expected, so it considers--what else would you expect NASA to say at this point--the mission a success."

Brain Power Video - CBSNews.com -- Thanks to Charlie for a link to this clip from CBS News, "one of the most powerful technology stories ever" http://is.gd/5Iok 

Faster horses in the age of co-creation (info blog) -- November 11th, 2008 -- "Four pillars "Henry Ford is credited with saying something along the lines of “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they’d have said ‘faster horses’ “. That particular quotation gets trotted out fairly religiously every time the issue of the innovator’s dilemma comes up, helping to point out the apparent perils of listening to the customer. "Henry Ford is also credited with saying something along the lines of “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black”. Which gives you an idea of where Ford stood in the context of customer voice and choice. "Why am I sharing all this? To make the point that for many years, even for centuries, it was considered normal for customers to have neither voice nor choice. That it was considered normal for one group of people to decide what other groups of people could have, should have, would have."

AmEx Gets Access to Bailout Fund - WSJ.com By ROBIN SIDEL and JON HILSENRATH "American Express Co. won fast approval to become a bank-holding company, helping the credit-card giant gain access to a chunk of the $700 billion in federal funds being pumped into financial firms. The move shows how quickly financial-services firms that have long relied on the capital markets are racing to shore up their funding sources as the credit crisis drags on and economic turmoil spreads around the world."

Anne Kirah: Bringing Humanity to Microsoft at ResearchTalk -- "We like showcasing excellence. So why, you ask, does Anne Kirah deserve this accolade? Because she keeps things simple, she keeps it real. And while that may sound like a cliche, it’s what few clientside researchers do. Yet Anne has managed it at Microsoft. She and her team have got engineers thinking about the people who use their products. One team has even named part of their office Howard’s Corner as a legacy to an octogenarian man who forced them to design products and services for everyday folks and not just the tech savvy. Listen on, it’s inspirational and, as Vinny Jones would say, it’s emotional."

Did You Get the "Don't Be A Bandwidth Pig" Letter From Comcast Yet? - Security Watch -- Larry Seltzer wites (Nov 6, 2008) that "In their attempts to manage network congestion Comcast has gotten into trouble with the FCC in the past. They tried to pick only on the programs that were the main source of abuse, but that didn't fly, so they have a new approach and it's "net neutral:" All users will be limited to a particular (very high) amount of traffic (250 GB) per month. They don't actively monitor that number, but they look for users who are using very high levels over a period of time. If you hit a particular level, your traffic may be "deprioritized," meaning it will slow down until your traffic and traffic on the network in general slow down. See a column I wrote a while ago for more details. Comcast has begun sending out letters to users announcing this policy. It comes with a subject line of "Improving Your Online Experience Through Congestion Management"...

Apple added 8,000 retail employees in fiscal 2008 | Latest Apple Computer News - CNET News -- Apple's retail operation doubled in size during 2008. Todd Bishop's TechFlash noted a paragraph in Apple's 10-K annual filing "that the company now employs 32,000 people on a full-time basis, up from 21,600 at this time last year. Almost 16,000 of those people work in Apple's retail segment, which now has 247 stores. In last year's annual report, Apple said it had almost 8,000 people working in the retail group, which comprised 197 stores. During fiscal 2008, or the period ended in September, the retail segment accounted for $6.3 billion of the $32.4 billion in net sales Apple recorded for the year.

News Flash: Google Was Never Yahoo’s Friend - GigaOM -- Om Malik reports (November 5, 2008 at 8:59 AM PT) that "Perhaps the managerial bankruptcy at Yahoo was what led the beleaguered Internet company to believe that its biggest competitor, Google, would be its savior. Apparently it bought into Google’s spin about “doing no evil.” Well, today Yahoo is learning a lesson that everyone in the technology world needs to learn fast: Google is nobody’s friend. Just like Microsoft wasn’t a charity, Google, too, is capitalistic venture whose first and only goal is to stuff its coffers with cash — never mind what its leaders say publicly. In a blog post, David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, announced today that the company is withdrawing from the so-called Yahoo-Google advertising partnership, mostly because it was getting too much scrutiny from the federal government."

BBC NEWS | Technology | The end of an era - Windows 3.x -- Wednesday, 5 November 2008 By Mark Ward, Technology correspondent, BBC News -- "Windows 3.x established the look of the operating system. "An application has expectedly quit. Windows 3.x has come to the closing moments of its long life. "On 1 November Microsoft stopped issuing licences for the software that made its debut in May 1990 in the US. "The various versions of Windows 3.x (including 3.11) released in the early 1990s, were the first of Microsoft's graphical user interfaces to win huge worldwide success. "They helped Microsoft establish itself and set the trend for how it makes its revenues, and what drives the company until the present day."

Sue Decker’s Memo to the Yahoo Troops - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com (November 5, 2008, 12:53 pm) by Miguel Helft -- "Google decided to end its advertising partnership with Yahoo on Wednesday rather than fight a suit from the Justice Department. Google explained its decision in a blog post penned by David Drummond, its chief legal officer. Meanwhile, Yahoo said it was disappointed with Google’s decision not fight and said it was well positioned to succeed in search and advertising. In a memo to the troops that seeks to put the best face on the unraveling of the deal, President Sue Decker expanded on that idea.The deal with Google, she said, was just one of many efforts to speed up its turnaround strategy."

Microsoft hopes to rebuild trust with Windows 7 | Latest Microsoft News - CNET News - CNET News -- Ina covered WinHEC last week and writes that "In a speech to hardware makers attending the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), Microsoft's Jon DeVaan said that the company is aiming to rebuild trust that Microsoft will deliver products with the promised features and at the promised time. "And Microsoft is also hoping that most partners won't have a lot of work to get ready for Windows 7. "We have the tenet that if something works in Vista it really should work in Windows 7," said DeVaan, senior vice president of Microsoft's Windows core operating system division."

Microsoft shows Windows 7 on Eee PC - TechFlash: Seattle's Technology News Source -- "But today at Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, the company made a point of demonstrating Windows 7 running on an Eee PC, as a result of the improvements made under the hood of the next operating system. The demonstration model had 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of SSD flash storage, and a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom dual-core microprocessor. During the demo, Windows chief Steven Sinofsky and Microsoft's Mike Angiulo took a picture with a digital camera and plugged it into the machine, bringing up Windows 7's centralized "Device Stage" device management area.

Microsoft: We're not jilting Tablet PCs - TechFlash: Seattle's Technology News Source -- "Is Microsoft giving up on the Tablet PC? No way, says Windows chief Steven Sinofsky, who spent part of his time here this morning expressing the company's continued belief in the market. The comments were notable in light of the dust-up over Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie's offhanded remark last week about Tablet PCs being a "niche" product. But will they be enough to placate Tablet PC enthusiasts? Sinofsky raised the subject this morning on stage at the company's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, when discussing the new touch-related features in Windows 7. Here's a link to what he said."

Microsoft: Windows 7 kicks Vista's butt - TechFlash: Seattle's Technology News Source -- Todd Bishop covered WinHEC week and wrote of how "Most companies talk about how much better they are than their competitors. Microsoft this morning kicked off its Windows Hardware Engineering Conference by detailing how much better it believes Windows 7 will be than Windows Vista in areas including boot time, battery life, graphics rendering, reliability and performance. "It was an implicit acknowledgement of Windows Vista's problems. But the company is walking a fine line as it makes the case. On the one hand, it wants to convince PC and device makers that it has its act together this time around. However, with Windows 7 not expected until early 2010, the company also risks hurting Windows Vista's sales in the meantime if it talks about how much better the successor will be."

Microsoft Pri0 | Apple's PC guy John Hodgman takes Microsoft quiz on NPR comedy show | Seattle Times Newspaper Blog by Benjamin J. Romano -- "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me" is a Saturday morning ritual in my house. John Hodgman, the comedian, author and perhaps most famously, "PC guy," in Apple's "Get a Mac" commercials, was the special guest on the show this morning, which I heard on local National Public Radio affiliate KUOW. Hodgman was asked to answer three questions about the history of Microsoft. Here are some excerpts from his 11-minute appearance on "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me." You can also listen to the segment here, here on npr.org.

Incremental Blogger » Blog Archive » Ray Ozzie and the myth of the Tablet PC -- Loren Heiny covered in his blog the TechFlash interview with Ray Ozzie last week during PDC, where "Ozzie talks about some of the great things he sees in Windows 7 including the forthcoming multi-touch features" "Despite the fact that I agree with much of what he’s saying here–in particular, that the iPhone has convinced people of the value of multi-touch and that its value spreads far beyond one platform, I think Ray Ozzie has been drinking the “Tablet PCs are niche koolaid.” I wish Microsoft executives wouldn’t speak this way by using terms like “niche” to describe the Tablet PC market. Talk about trying to put a ceiling on their own products."

Test Center review: MacBook Pro is built to last | InfoWorld | Review | 2008-11-05 | By Tom Yager who writes that "If the unibody MacBook Pro were a car, it would be an eight-cylinder, hybrid, luxury SUV with full body armor." (November 05, 2008) Apple has done a complete and meaningful redesign of its top-selling commercial notebook, the MacBook Pro, for durability, serviceability, energy efficiency, and eco-consciousness. A one-piece, rigid, machined aluminum frame (“unibody”) forms the MacBook Pro’s internal structure, a design feature it shares with the new aluminum MacBook and MacBook Air. As with the MacBook Air, the clamshell laptop that upended the thin-and-light PC notebook market, Apple made some marvelously unorthodox design decisions for the MacBook Pro.

Apple fanboys vs. Microsofties: A scientist's verdict | Technically Incorrect - CNET News from October 30, 2008 10:25 PM PDT posted by Chris Matyszczyk -- "Since embracing Incorrectness, I have noticed that the passion of those who love either Microsoft or Apple seems even to exceed a Goth's passion for black eyeshadow. The more I have come to know the two sides, the more their mutual stand-off resembles the kind of love-hate continuum embraced nightly by those two remarkably large-headed souls, Fox's Bill O'Reilly and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. Now, research led by Professor Semir Zeki of University College London may help to illustrate and explain the inflamed emotions that surround two mere technology brands. It appears that, although love and hate seem to be rather opposing feelings, some of the same nervous circuits in the brain are responsible for both emotions."

SeanDaniel.com - Small Business Server and Other Technology: How to launch a program always elevated under Vista UAC -- This tip comes from our documentation team on how to launch a program that requires the use of some system files. UAC is there for a reason, and I suggest only using this method if you know what you are doing and are ok with lowering the security level of your system!! So now the warnings are out of the way, how do you create a shortcut that doesn't prompt you to run every time? Let's try creating one for the command prompt in Administrator Mode. Although this proceedure can be used for any application that is naughty for writing data into a system location, or that doesn't have a shim built for it to catch the data and write it into a better location. These steps will require you are running as a local admin, with UAC enabled

Windows 7 details galore: interface tweaks, netbook builds, Media Center enhancements - Engadget -- Microsoft's Windows 7 announcement earlier today was followed up by an extensive demo of the new features during the PDC keynote, and since then even more info about the new OS has flooded out, so we thought we'd try to wrap up some of the more important bits here for you. Microsoft seems to have done an impressive job at this early pre-beta stage, folding in next-gen interface ideas like multitouch into the same OS that apparently runs fine on a 1GHz netbook with 1GB of RAM, but we'll see how development goes -- there's still a ways to go.

HP's new Mini 1000 and MIE Linux make netbooks fun again - Engadget -- "We've been struggling to keep awake for the large majority of this year, as netbook after netbook lands in our laps with identical specs, form factors and general shoddiness. No longer. HP is giving the market a shot in the arm with its new "clutch-style" skinny form factors, polished Linux OS and aggressive price points -- even if the specs are about as boring as the Mini-Note 2133. As rumored, HP's new Mini 1000 netbook is ditching VIA and going the Atom route (1.6GHz N270, in case you hadn't guessed). Also new is an option for a 10.2-inch display, though it's a mere 1024 x 600 instead of the 1280 x 768 display on the 2133..."

HD Netflix streaming comes to Xbox 360 first - Engadget -- "It's something you can't get on the Roku. Nor on LG's BD300. Nor on Samsung's P2500 / P2550 Blu-ray players. Nor through Netflix's own "Watch Instantly" portal. It's high-def Netflix streaming, and it's coming first to Microsoft's Xbox 360. Just in case you glossed over this massively huge tidbit when digesting the new dashboard information this morning, we're here to remind you that when the aforesaid dash hits on November 19th, with it will come HD Netflix streaming for (US-based, presumably) Xbox Live Gold members. You should know that this is only a "soft launch" with about 300 titles available for now, and the litany of details you're surely craving simply aren't available at present time."

Samsung NC10 reviewed, trumps competition with 7 hour battery life - Engadget -- "Thus far word on the street about Samsung's NC10 has been good, but not exactly enough to distance it from the crowd. Laptop Magazine's full review of a Korean unit, however, found it to be exemplary, calling it "the most well-rounded 10-inch netbook on the market." The netbook earned high marks thanks to a bright screen, comfortable keyboard, and amazing battery life of 7:34 with WiFi turned on. (That's a bit suspect, though, as on a repeated test with screen brightness raised to 100 percent only 4:48 passed before it all went dark -- another re-test at 50 percent is promised.) The only real complaints were a somewhat dainty touchpad and mediocre disk performance..."

Tags: articles, what I read, Microsoft, blogs

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