Monday, March 30, 2009

Microsoft has a serious problem: tl;dr

What the hell is Windows Live Framework? What is Azure? What is Mesh? What is .NET?

For years, Microsoft has had serious issue with tl;dr (too long; didn’t read). They can’t sum up what advantages (if there are any) we can get by buying one of their products.

By the way, I’ve kind of figured out Azure. And .NET I finally figured out maybe in 2005, but if anyone can explain what Live Framework is, I’d appreciate a shout out in the comments. I spent the last 10 minutes trying to find any good summary of what it does and can't.

I’m a PC, so what?

I liked this new Microsoft ad:

But part of me is just like, “so what?”

I haven’t understood buying a Mac in about a decade.  They’re less functional and more expensive.  Does Microsoft really think that the Apple business is ever going to make inroads into Windows on the desktop?  Mac market share has gone from, what, 4% to 7% market share over the 12 years since Jobs returned?   Wow.  Challenge.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Upcoming Series: 10 things I don’t believe in

I recently thought of a blog series I’d like to do.  “10 things I don’t believe in.”  They’re not going to be traditional ones that won’t surprise you (religion, politics).  I’m coming up with what I think are novel ones.  Stay tuned.

MobileMe vs. MyPhone

I’ve now gotten a chance to try both out quite a bit. 

The two services are  different.  MyPhone is designed to back your phone up.  MobileMe was designed to be the source of all of your information – the Exchange Server, if you will – and is very similar to ActiveSync as a result.  Obviously, Microsoft has had an answer to that for years (it’s called… ActiveSync).  So a comparison is kind of futile, but I live my life in futility.

Therefore, onto the versus. 

First of all, MobileMe just didn’t work when I first started using it.  You can read up on that in my post entitled “MobileMess”.  MyPhone actually worked.  What a concept.

MobileMe is slower and less usable than free offerings from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.  This is true today, 9 months after they launched it.

MobileMe complains it doesn’t support IE when you log into the website.  Still.  In 2009.  You’ve got to be kidding me.

MobileMe has no new features compared to Gmail or Hotmail.  It is bare bones.  MyPhone does novel things like back up my SMS, all files and music from my phone.

MobileMe is completely screwed up on Windows.  If you tried to set it up to sync with Outlook you would get constant errors, duplicate data, etc.  MyPhone doesn’t have this functionality, since ActiveSync is how you would normally do this sort of thing.  Hopefully they will go here in the future and provide ActiveSync from Live Mail/Calendar.

MobileMe is $99 and Apple would not give me a refund when I was dissatisfied.  MyPhone is free and actually works. 

MyPhone allows for multiple phones on the same Windows Live account.  MobileMe does not.

MyPhone has gotten updated within the 2 weeks since I started using it.  MobileMe looks no different than when I joined it 9 months ago.

MobileMe, for some unknown reason, modeled their logo after Windows Me.

I mean, seriously.  The last one is all you need to know.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

U2 Albums Ranked

Ok, apologies for flooding the blog with U2 to those with no interest but this is of grave importance. I just typed “U2 albums ranked” into Google and could not believe some of the rankings I saw. October #1? War #11? This record must be set straight. I will not rank the new album.

#11: Rattle and Hum. This is the album akin to a popular movie having a saturday morning cartoon out of it. Highlight song: “God Part II” Lowlight: “All Along the Watchtower”

#10: October. Has one good song: Gloria.

#9: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Has one good song: Vertigo. I think I’ve listened to this album a total of 5 times. Tops.

#8: Pop. I liked this album when it came out. It just hasn’t stuck with me. “Discotheque”, “Last Night on Earth”, “Playboy Mansion” and “If You Wear That Velvet Dress” are the only songs I can eve stand now. The show was great.

#7: All That You Can’t Leave Behind. A slightly better version of How to Dismantle. The first side (if sides even count anymore), is great. The rest is just boring.

#6: Boy. What more is there to say, the album that launched them has some amazing tunes on it. I’d actually recommend the live album “Under a Blood Red Sky” for the best versions of Electric Co and I Will Follow. It also has 11 O’Clock Tick Tock which was an awesome single released around the same time. Oh, are we still talking about Boy? Check out “Electric Co.”

#5: War. I seriously hate putting this album this low in the list because it’s just awesome. But it’s dated. The album has two legendary songs, a bunch of songs that true U2 fans will love and that’s about it. My favorite song on it is either “Like a Song” or “Drowning Man.” See, you’ve never heard of those songs right? The album doesn’t really live on, just Sunday Bloody Sunday and New Years’ Day.

#4. The Unforgettable Fire. This is Joshua Tree Lite. A very, very good album. Another album where the first side is great, second side, not so much. “Bad” is awesome though.

#3. Zooropa. That’s right you tone deaf morons of the internet! Zooropa is one of the top albums U2 ever put out there. Zooropa, Lemon, Daddy’s Gonna Pay, Some Days Are Better, First Time, Dirty Day, Wanderer (with CASH!). This album is awesome.

#2. Joshua Tree. Yada yada yada. With or Without You. Yada. Exit. Red Hill Mining Town. One Tree Hill. Ho hum. Only one of the greatest collection of songs ever put onto tape is U2’s #2 album.

#1. Achtung Baby. I’m astonished actually at how low this album is on the list of many of the U2 album lists. Shocked and disappointed. Seriously, are you guys tone deaf? This album has ONE on it. You know… ONE? It’s like U2’s best song evarrr? Not to mention “Until the End of the World”, “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses”, “So Cruel”, “The Fly”, “Ultra Violet”. This is the album that almost broke up the band. Those always the best albums for every band, right?

So there you have it, U2’s top albums. Next time, just ask me. Or do I have to spend the rest of my days trying to educate the internet about what’s good in this world?

Top U2 Videos

I’m a huge U2 fan – or at least once was.  I stopped running out to buy their album after All That You Can’t Leave Behind.  Though I do think their best is “Achtung Baby”, so at least I’m not one of those people who sits around wishing they hadn’t lost the angst of albums like Boy and War.

Anyway, I just watched maybe 15 U2 videos on Comcast On Demand because they have a ton on there.  I didn’t watch every one, but here are my favorites, in no particular order except #1:


5) With or Without You.

This might not be the fanciest video ever, but it introduced a generation to U2 because it was huge on MTV.

4) Electrical Storm.

Of all of the U2-Anton Corbijn videos, I pick this one.


3) Walk On

You know, people overcoming the challenges of life, right?  Well, whatever.  The indoor shots of the band play have a very nice quality to the lighting, a side light and fill that work well.  The yellow/orange and green colors used across the video is very aesthetically pleasing to me.  Love the pull outs at the end even if they have a total digital zoom quality to them.



2) Lemon

I’m tempted to not include this one because the closeups of Bono are so unappealing, but otherwise it is such a great concept it must be included.  And is the best song off of Zooropa and one of my favorite acts for that tour and the Pop tour.

1) Even Better Than the Real Thing

No question in my mind this is U2’s best video.  It’s visually addictive and therefore ties in very well to the ZooTV concept.  Love the splicing in of Prince, Johnny Rotten, etc.


Notable not on the list:  One (all 3 videos)… I always remember that Buffalo video when I think of this song, but, in retrospect, this song is too good for a video.   The other is “Where the Streets Have No Name”.  First of all, wow do they look cheesy in that video.  Second of all, the Beatles won the rooftop concert contest.  Can’t put this video here for that fact alone.

Silverlight's H.264 support available

Beta, but I'll port my family site that uses Silverlight for video over to this ASAP.

Hey, anyone know how to convert 3GPP to H.264 without using a mess of tools? Should I just buy Quicktime Pro?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cash and Carry

My great-grandfather didn’t trust banks.  I believe he lived through at least three bank panics in the late 1800s, early 1900s (1907?), and again in the ‘30s of course.  So when he built a house in Florida, he built a secret room to keep cash in (this room subsequently got robbed by one of the contractors – not sure how much was lost).

In any case, one story I heard the other day is that he “accepted a lot of cash” at his practice as a doctor in the Midwest.  Legend has it that his partner who took over the practice once saw my great-grandfather drive off to Florida with a trunk full of cash. 

As you can tell, I love stories about my great-grandfather because he was very prudent (and somewhat hilarious) with regards to money.   I’m sure you can imagine that if he accepted a lot of cash, he also probably didn’t pay a lot of taxes. 

But something else wasn’t happening…. the people he was seeing at his practice weren’t paying him on a credit card.  This was a farm community, so the corn and soybeans they sold gave them money to save for a rainy day, like, for example, having to see my GGF, the town doctor.  Cash, in fact.

A lot of people out there like Mish have been calling for the end of fractional reserve banking.  Others have been calling for a return to the gold standard.  The reality is, we don’t need the gold standard… we just need any standard that requires a physical presence – that includes cash.   So maybe it’s time we instill a little system I like to call cash and carry.

Here’s how it goes:  as a business owner, you require cash.  As a shopper, you pay cash.  How will this fix things?

  • Cash and carry helps to force people to stop living in debt.
  • Cash and carry helps to force people to save.
  • Cash and carry helps to stop banks from irresponsible lending.
  • Best of all, cash and carry is a tax revolt in many ways. 

Right now we are the enablers.  By “we,”  I’m speaking of the legitimate businessmen and savers.  We go to Starbucks and pay a $4 on a credit card for a coffee.  Even if we are the types who never carry a balance on that credit card (I am one of them), we’ve reinforced the system that allows those who don’t have the money to continue purchasing.

We need to start paying cash for these sorts of things.  More importantly, small businesses need to start demanding cash.   If 20% of the businesses you frequented demanded cash, wouldn’t you just start using it more often at the other 80%? 

When enough people and businesses demand cash, it requires that consumers keep more of their money in cash… and banks also have to have cash on hand to distribute.  This means they can no longer count on as much of your money being in their reserves, and their leverage could be reduced.  Furthermore, the income that credit card companies and banks see from credit card usage will be significantly reduced.  Shops pay I think 1-3% per transaction to take a credit card.  This money will be taken off of their books, further reducing the potential leverage they have.  It also means less income overall for the government, since these transactions and income will be much harder to tax.  I’ve never before been in favor of paying employees under the table with cash, but maybe it’s time to do that as a tax revolt.

Lastly, it starts to give back control of our financial system to those who produce.  A person who pays another person with cash pays another person with cash… and so on.  The Federal Reserve and banks have been able to devalue your dollar by using numbers in a computer – i.e. not actual, physical currency.  An economy that forces that system to literally print money, instead of just incrementing numbers in a computer, adds an inefficiency to debt.  It can help take back the debt society we’ve built.

So if you’re a consumer, start taking out hundreds of dollars a week and only spending that way.  If you’re a shopkeeper, consider going “cash only”.  All political roads have been exhausted.  Short of real revolution, this is the only grassroots way we have to take back our economy and stop throwing our money down the governmental drain.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Google Chrome’s problem

It may seem like Google Chrome’s process separation is a good thing, but actually it really hurts the user experience quite a bit.

For the uninclined, here’s a comic book that explains what Chrome is doing under the hood (click for high rez):


The problem with this, which is the default behavior by the way (though you can choose other behaviors), is that it means any tab you might click to will have to swap in to view.  Meaning, the individual tab has been pushed out to virtual memory and needs to be pulled back into RAM.  This is extraordinarily annoying for normal usage.

This begs the question of breaking tabs into processes in the first place.  Why do it?  Well, because web people like to think of websites as “applications”.  My response is:  if they’re applications, wouldn’t the user be better served if those were native applications split into processes on the desktop anyway?  I much prefer a real email reader like (gasp) Outlook to Gmail.  We should be aiming to reduce the number of  layers involved towards providing people with novel networked services, not increasing them.

I understand the ad-based revenue model doesn’t work so hot on the desktop.  And I understand that the cost of entry is higher for desktop applications.  But I think the user loses with this belief that the browser should become the platform upon which all applications  are written in the future.  A friend and I were discussing this yesterday.  Someone he knows wants a custom application to be web based.l  I mentioned that I could bang out that application as .NET desktop client in an afternoon.  Which would better serve the user?  One where they need to set up a web server, with many layers of a web framework, or a simple .NET client/server model?   

In any case, back to Chrome.  I love Chrome’s Javascript speed but the process model hinders its tab performance, even on an 8GB x64 machine.  It ends up having all kinds of odd delays as things page in and out.  I tried setting up my wife with Chrome and she was back to IE7 within an hour due to both its website compatibility and common performance hiccups.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Beginning of the End for the EU

This has been predicted for years – in fact, predicted before the EU even formed by Milton Friedman.  But it’s becoming clearer than ever that the EU will not survive the current crisis.

WSJ: “EU Rejects a Rescue of Faltering East Europe

The Armchair Economist #1: Noe Valley Home Price Prediction

With the upcoming federal and state tax hikes, I’ve done a little math and have concluded that Noe Valley home prices—or any area of the Bay where homes are still priced in the “around a million” range—should drop faster than the rest of the area over the next 24* months. 

The current median asking price in Noe Valley is $1.2m.  Assuming 20% down payment, this requires the home buyer be in the top two tax brackets that the Obama administration is targeting for a tax hike (minimum $208K per year, married filing jointly – but $171K if you were single). 

This alone means less money for mortgage payments.  However,  additionally, the mortgage interest deduction for people in these tax brackets will be limited to 28%.  This is actually to be applied against all itemized deductions for taxpayers in a bracket above 28%, and was called the “hidden $179b revenue raiser” by Forbes

So let’s assume a $1.3m house with a $300K downpayment, earnings of $300K per year in the couple.  This would seem reasonable for the stats of a homebuyer in Noe Valley.   Currently that homebuyer can deduct $28K in mortgage interest in the first year.  This year, under the Obama proposal, they’ll be hit for $4200 of that.  Overall their take home earnings will be reduced by  $9000 from the higher tax bracket.   California is going to take an extra $750, not including the higher state-wide sales and vehicle fees.  Let’s just round the whole number up to $15000 to account for the higher additional CA taxes (vehicle, sales).

The mortgage payment for this house would be $7700.  The affordability for homebuyer should drop by $1250 a month with the new tax laws – meaning a 16% drop.

If we estimate home prices regionally to drop an additional 10%, my approximation is that the median home price in Noe Valley will end up being no higher than $907200 under the new tax plans of California and the Federal government.


* - I think this math is pretty reasonable for the number I came up with, but the timeframe is always hard to call.  I put 24 months because I believe 2010 will have additional foreclosures due to prime ARM and option-a mortgages being reset, or people walking away from their homes due to the extreme price drops nationwide.