Hot soup in my eye

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Testing testing

Mic check one two

Thursday, May 06, 2010

I'm obviously on a little hiatus

I've been working on other things. Maybe I'll get back to this in a month or two.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

This hopefully is not true

"NHTSA officials told investigators that the agency doesn't employ any electrical engineers or software engineers."

I tried not to get swept up in the whole Toyota recall business, but it's sometimes impossible to avoid. But seriously, this is embarrassing and dangerous, and I seriously hope it's not true (or the people who do QC are contractors or something). I know a modern car feels like a simple, gradual upgrade of the cars I grew up with, but that's simply not true. A car nowadays has millions of lines of code, and plenty of electrical components that are prone to a short circuit or some other type of malfunction.

Well, I guess less government is better, and the market will soon speak and give us a safer mode of transportation all by itself very shortly.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's that time of the year

Unless you've been living without access to a modern source of information, you know that right now is a very special time in sports. The most graceful, refined athletes on the planet are now switching allegiances in a bizarre power play inspired by the NBA trade deadline.

First, I'm a bit sad that one of my favorite franchises (as of late) has been officially dismantled. If you want a few reasons why they've become my favorite, check out this article. Brendan Haywood, a world-class asshole who could defend any center in the league. Caron Butler, aka Tuff Juice, who chewed straws by the truckload and at one point was certifiably addicted to Mountain Dew. Even DeShawn Stevenson, the worst player of the three, managed to get under Lebron's skin for a playoff series and then promptly drop off the face of the earth.

Then today, the other shoe drops. Jamison is also gone. While he may not be as playfully quirky as the others, he's got style all his own. His game features the most unorthodox shots at the basket, like playing against that old guy at the gym who keeps posting you up and then does some kind of behind-the-head whirling dervish move that surprises you every time and you just can't stop it. The one good thing is that he's headed for Cleveland, so I'll get to watch Antawn in the playoffs again, where he belongs.

Oh, and the Wolves traded our own old-guy-at-the-gym, Brian Cardinal, for a player who has already stated he's not going to play in the NBA next year. Not sure what that really does for us, but we get a free look at a guy who couldn't even get played on a bad Knicks team.

As always when I write, I'm kicking myself for posting without proofreading, and I'm kicking myself for not posting more anyway. Just thought I'd let you all know that I'm still following hoops. Even without cable :(

Saturday, January 30, 2010

You talkin' to me?

I'm working on a few drafts of things (which may or may not be published to this blog), but in the spirit of frequent updates, I present a short yet spot-on article about what goes on in a geek's head during a conversation.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More on Google's China decision

Writing about business in a foreign nation is impossible. None of the usual rules apply and none of the typical conclusions can be drawn, but there are a few things that should be said about Google's decision to get out of China.

First, this move is definitely a Good Thing. I'm not ready to declare this a principled stand on Google's part, but rather a calculated cost-benefit analysis. Let's not forget that less "controversial" American internet companies Ebay and Amazon are currently staying away from China. What this market is currently offering Google is simply not worth the cost of implementing whatever filters the Chinese government wants. Creating artificial restrictions on search results is not how Google became a search giant - they became popular because their searches were the most relevant! Baidu, on the other hand, is willing to quickly censor results at the request of the government, and is now essentially the major search engine in China (Yahoo and Bing remain little more than afterthoughts).

The reality is that the size and projected growth of China make it a tempting and difficult market to crack. International trade with China has been going well, as long as you're on the purchasing end of the deal. As for parting the populace from their disposable income, I'm unaware of any non-Chinese company that has moved in and made significant money in China, other than perhaps globally-recognized behemoths like Coke and McDonalds. Any other company that thinks they can sell products in China is facing a state-subsidized competitor with unique knowledge of Chinese culture and government and a disregard for IP law. Until the framework for what Americans call "business" is in place, you can safely ignore modern capitalist economic tendencies ("first-mover advantage" being the important one in this story), and accept that they don't apply here.

Despite what one of Google's legal eagles has to say, I doubt China is going to enter negotiations with Google after this public scolding. There won't be any "negotiations for an unfiltered search engine." I expect Google to keep their offices open, and to continue to invest in R&D in China by hiring homegrown Chinese engineers (unless the Chinese government takes an especially strong stance against Google after this incident). Google will still utilize the local knowledge that Chinese engineers can offer, as well as technical skill.

Also remember that Google means something completely different to Americans than it does to Chinese. The series of well-integrated webapps that Google pushes here in the US have no bearing on the reality of internet culture in China. I could be wrong on this, but I don't think people in China are using blogger, picasa, gmail, google docs, etc. on the same scale that we are in the United States. In the US, Google is nearly synonymous with "the internet" while in China there are plenty of other copycat services to fill the void. A website disappearing in China isn't exactly earth-shattering news, though not many Americans could comprehend an internet without YouTube, Facebook, etc. The Chinese internet has places for social networking and sharing videos, of course, but the companies that run them are willing to remove controversial content at the drop of a hat.

In the end, this event is more about espionage than it is about censorship. Google removing the filters from their search results was just their only retaliation. From additional details today, it sounds like some malware was able to access Google's email intercept systems, which are provided to US law enforcement and contain subject lines and dates (and possibly more). Adobe confirms that this malware may have been installed via a zero-day exploit which took advantage of their PDF Reader software. A zero-day exploit is basically an unpatched vulnerability that allow unauthorized code to be executed on your computer; discovery of a new zero-day exploit on a piece of popular software (like Word, or Adobe Reader) can net a hacker upwards of five figures.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Google Reduces Daily Output of Evil

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China.
Well, this seems to be a bit of a breaking story, so I apologize for the unedited stream-of-consciousness that is to follow.

So Google's Gmail service has been under attack - someone's been attempting to access the email accounts of human rights activists. The attacks were originating in China (probably via botnet), and Google's response was to remove the filters from their search engine at According to wikileaks, China had previously requested the same access that US authorities have over results in the United States. The actual wikileaks site is down right now (for fundraising - so donate if you can, please), which makes any actual documents relating to the hacking attempts hard to find.

Of course, upon hearing this story my cynicism-detector went off the charts, but I think I'm a wee bit more rational now. First of all, Google currently has about a quarter of the search engine marketshare in China. They've only been there for 4 years, so that's some pretty serious progress.

I'm most interested to learn how this story is going to be spun by the Chinese government. I haven't heard anything yet, and I don't even want to really speculate on what the response could be.

Reading between the lines a bit on the above post, notice that Google mentions 20 other companies that were targeted in this attack. There aren't any details on who these companies are (if they are Chinese companies or not), but this is a bit of knowledge that google is going to use as a stick to make these companies "do the right thing."

The crazy thing about attacks like this is that they happen all the time. The problem is that the hacked company has no incentive to report it to the authorities. Unless you've got a miracle-working PR team, the bad press will cost you in the short term. Google could not only force these companies to come forward, but they could also use this knowledge to work themselves into some nice cybersecurity-type contracts. That is all speculation on my part, but this event is a perfect example of the lack of transparency that many publicly-traded companies operate under.

Edit: Additional random thought: China has gotten a bad rep (fairly or not) for being a bit...overbearing when it comes to working with foreign companies. State-sponsored hacking is the kind of ham-fisted tactic that won't win you many friends when dealing with a company that survives on it's ability to transport (and mine) data. That a company like Google has the strength to put China between a rock and a hard place is just another example of the increased power non-state actors have over sovereign nations...