Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Re: NYT planning to charge for web access

Interesting. They have been through this so many times. I do think it is probably the right business move. I agree with the hybrid part. Per article charges are a loser. I think they should offer an all-you-can-eat model for $50-100 / year, and a limited but reasonably high number of articles per month for $5/month or $35/year.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pseudo-Cartestian Products

A Cartestian Product is what you get when you (accidentally) don't specify a where clause in the join between two tables in an RDBMS. It is the product of all rows in T1 times all rows in T2. You only get them if you completely forget to join two tables. It happens, but rarely. What is much more common is a flawed join, where you get a product between a subset of rows in each table, because you aren't using enough columns in the join.

We need a term for "imperfect join which results in a large number of rows, some of which are 'synthesized' and carry data which does not actually exist in the base tables".

Saturday, September 26, 2009

T-Mobile Family Allowances

About a year ago, T-Mobile introduced this Family Allowances feature, for $2/month. It lets you control things like how many minutes and texts family members. It was a good start, but needs to be enhanced. In particular, there are only pre-set blocks of time that you can toggle on and off. That just doesn't work, they need an option for arbitrary time blocks (or at least the nearest 1/2 hour). Unfortunately, in 15 months of using it, I have not seen one single, solitary improvement made. I think it falls into the frustrating category of abandoned software, software that never gets improved. T-Mobile hasn't done much to market the feature.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

DirecTV Football Features

Got DirecTV with the HD-DVR a couple of weeks ago. Great for football games. They really need a couple of football-friendly features:

First and foremost, the option to jump ahead in only 15 second increments, instead of the standard 30 (watch the first replay, skip the rest of the huddle).

It would be nice if there were a hack built into the guide/recording interaction, to identify sports events, and let you default to record an extra 30 minutes beyond the scheduled end time. We almost missed the last 4 minutes of a very exciting Monday Night Football game (Colts v Miami). The only thing that saved is that just about the time the recording gave out, we had caught up to real-time.

POSTSCRIPT: It seems like that second feature request exists. I was prompted to extend the recording by 30 minutes. Not sure why I didn't encounter that before.

Android Performance on myTouch - Could Be Better

The lagginess that has developed in my myTouch 3G Android phone is a real disappointment. Most disappointing of all is the fact that the virtual keyboard is often laggy--that is a killer. It seems to me that there are a few things that contribute to the lag that should be fixable:

1. The keyboard should be ultra-optimized

2. Ram Consumed by Installed Apps
The G1 and G2 phones don't have all that much RAM, and installed apps eat into it pretty quickly. I don't know why they can't be installed on the SD card. I do know that is one of the things that rooting your phone allows, so it can't be too much of a showstopper.


3. Multi-tasking

Everybody knows that a great advantage of Android over the iPhone is its ability to multi-task. That's great, I agree, but I think it is being taken too far. Android seems to try to keep open WAY too much stuff. I open the web browser quickly in the morning to check traffic, don't use it again all day, and it is still active 12 hours later. How about dialing back the attempt to keep so many things running, just a little, in favor of performance?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Most Americans Satisfied with Their Health Insurance?!

The claim is being made that most Americans (who have it) are satisfied with their health insurance. I don't buy it. Most people I know are, with each passing year, more unhappy with it. They may be grateful to have it at all, but that is really not the same thing as a collective sense of "my insurance ain't broke, so don't go fixin' it". It's a little bit like me saying that I am satisfied with Minneapolis rush-hour traffic...I really kind of dislike it, but it sure beats Los Angeles.

Slate: The disappearing boundaries of cigarette prohibition

"[If we are going to ban outdoor smoking because we don't want children to even see someone smoking], can we please ban public lotteries? Because I don't like my kids having to watch people gamble, particularly under the auspices of the state. Gambling is addictive and destructive. I want the tickets out of convenience stores and the results off television." Can you say "tyranny of the majority"?


Friday, September 18, 2009

How They Do It At Google, Per Cringely

Google isn’t organized like any tech company I’ve ever worked in, that’s for sure. Peer review seems to be at the heart of nearly everything. Yes, there are executives doing whatever it is that executives do up in the Eric/Larry/Sergeysphere, but down where the bits meet the bus most decisions seem to be reached through a combination of peer review-driven concensus and literal popularity polls.

Interesting.

Monday, September 07, 2009

USPS Scheduled Pick-Ups Are Free

It is a great convenience to be able to print postage online. It is also incredibly convenient to schedule a home pickup. And in this category, the US Post Office has a HUGE advantage over UPS. UPS charges something like $10 for a schedule pick-up. Although understandable, that's more than double the cost of my typical small-box shipment. Whereas the US Post Office charges NOTHING, zero, for a pick up. This obviously exploits the fact that they are going to be stopping at your door every day anyway.

If they were even a remotely entrepreneurial organization, they would be trumpeting this advantage all over their website, and probably in paid advertising.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Blu-Ray May Fail

All the reasons Cringely gives for Blu-Ray's potential failure make sense to me. To me,the bottom-line is that Blu-Ray delivers only incremental improvement. It's a nice increment, sure, but not enough to justify all the costs and headache of a format switch. In contrast, DVD vs. VHS offered improvement on multiple fronts:
  • The primary one of quality--huge. Resolution, audio and, perhaps more importantly, aspect ratio.
  • Functional improvements--random access, higher storage capacity.
  • Physical improvements--much more convenient form-factor.
  • Economic advantages--cheaper to produce, and bonus of backward-compatibility with CD form factor.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Resumes with "Lead" for "Led"

It seems like more resumes than not will include, somewhere, the word "lead" when they really mean "led". It's such a common, easy to make mistake that I don't really hold it against the candidate, but it does amaze me how frequently it occurs.

Android Market

Interesting comments on this post about the lack of profitability in the Android Market. Even though there are several distinct points of view, they are all mostly correct. It does seem like Apple could have an almost unassailable position. It seems to me like their biggest vulnerability is their exclusive tie to AT&T--that is what gives everybody else motivation to fight them. It will be interesting to see when/if other carriers get the iPhone.

Of course, they might learn a lesson from the recording industry, and have a care about letting Apple become too powerful, and become too cozy with their customers.

Tried, Ditched Vonage

I absolutely hate paying $40/month for a landline. At this point, I could even do without Caller ID, but with a family of 5, I just can't risk not having free long distance. As with cell phone minutes, all it takes is one overrun to offset all the savings from a bare bones plan.

So I decided to try Vonage. A very respected geek friend had nothing but good things to say about it. Well that turned out to be a disaster. It was easy enough to set up, but after that, it was all downhill:
  • My first 2 calls over 1 minute dropped 5-10 minutes into call
  • It caused massive bandwidth interference--my cable connection dropped from 10-15 Mbps down to 3 Mbps with a phone off hook. I experienced similar, qualitative symptoms while using VPN and making calls.
  • It also seemed to interfere horribly with VPN, even when not making calls. After losing VPN 5 times in an hour this morning, while working from home, I had to take time out of my workday to disconnect the Vonage box.
  • On top of all that, call quality questionable--not awful, but seemed fairly crackly.
  • Finally, I found it quite inconvenient having the cordless charger in the basement--which is where my inbound cable lives.
So, I am ditching Vonage and heading over to Qwest. I really wanted their $85 bundle, but I also wanted HD and an HD DVR, so they talked me into a $110 bundle (still cheaper than Comcast, though 7 Mbps instead of 15-20) that includes NFL Sunday Ticket. Normally I would never pay for that, but it will be really nice to have.

I will cancel Sunday Ticket after this season. Not sure what I will do about phone service in a year. Maybe by then we will really be ready to ditch landlines. Or maybe Comcast will be trying to lure me back and will treat me as a new customer. (I've been a Comcast customer for 7 years, and they really didn't try very hard to keep me from leaving, even when I told them/threatened them with my plans.