Monthly Archives: August 2005

Movable Type 3.2

…is now installed (after some messing around), and it is a much larger big step forward than the 3.18 to 3.2 decimal increase indicates. The interface is cleaner, a number of bugs are fixed (for the first time for me, Preview works,) there is a facility to choose your own post URLs (thus greatly increasing searchability) and many great features useful for administrators (such as SpamLookup and multi-blog administration) is now available as standard. Highly recommended!

Vacations vs. SUVs

Interesting little discussion of why Europeans have long holidays and Americans not. High tax rates and/or collective bargaining caused it – though that leaves the question of why Europe got into collective bargaining agreements in the first place. And we are back to the fact that America was built by the people who upped sticks and left – largely on their own – whereas industrial Europe was shaped by the people who chose to remain and stick together. And bargain collectively.
Going for longer holidays rather than more pay made people stick together – give people more money and they tend to become individualistic about it, save it or lose it, thus increasing heterogeneity. Mandatory holidays kept the workers together and reduced internal competition, thus preserving the collective mindset.
Anyway, I am rambling. Think I need a vacation. Again.

Crime and speech

Very thorough and interesting paper from Eugene Volokh on Crime-facilitating speech – that is, where (and how) do you draw the line between free speech and speech that should be banned because it facilitates crime. Many examples, from flashing your lights to warn approaching cars about a speed control to publishing nuclear secrets.
I particulary enjoyed the up-to-date references to computer technology and software – there aren’t many law professors (and even fewer regulators) who can discuss law and technology to this level.
An interesting aspect here might be how the revlution in information access changes the rules – since anything published can be instantly found on the Internet (thus removing obscurity as a defence), this would argue for a limitation of certain rights of speech. On the other hand, rapid publishing might be a good defence against evolving crime – such as publishing software insecurities so users can block them, which will also alert criminals and expose the users who don’t block immediately to an increased risk.
Anyway, I never thought I would see the term “script kiddies” in a serious academic paper, especially in law, so this was welcome.
(Via Ed Felten)

Time for a Googleizer?

Everybody is speculating about Google at present, with Sidebar and especially GoogleTalk “pushing the competition towards interoperability” as Bob Cringely phrases it.
I like Google – how can you not, as an academic, like a company that has mission of “organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful.” This is something that a Ph.D. (and that is what they are hiring) can sign up for.
One interesting aspect of Google is that with $6.5b in the bank (assuming their recent drive succeeds) and an economic model with little marketing cost, relatively falling cost of production and a lot of developers who may not all be in it for the money, could actually do this, even if the ad market should tank.
The current stream of innovations from Google are partially driven off network externalities – you need a gmail account to do most things, your online behavior is monitored off that, the results are sold to advertisers, and as long as Google behaves (in the sense that they do not do things that are directly detrimental to their customers’ web experience or gross violations of privacy) they have a nice little business model. (Incidentally, their recent change to having redirecting links rather than letting you copy the clean link directly from the search results may be one instance where the company has sacrifized customer usefulness for improved tracking capability.) Each little piece further entangles us in their net, but since they are useful, we don’t mind and hardly notice.
Google seem to have understood that forcing vertical integration on their customers is counterproductive – hence most of their offerings allow you to swap out pieces for your personal preferences. For instance, you can install a plugin in your browser that gets rid of sponsored links in Google searches and the Adsense ads when you look at other pages. That is not a problem for Google, since very few people bother to install them. If Microsoft should install Google adblockers by default in the next update of Internet Explorer, on the other hand, it would be seen as the conspiracy of the Illuminati by the Slashdot crowd. Which it would be, in a sense. Unless you could turn off ads by other ad engines as well, including MSN.
Another interesting long-term challenge lies in the increased importance of the PageRank algorithm (and whatever permutations and adjustments since) as a driver of economic rent – at some point, Google’s dominant position as status ranker on the web might attract regulators and advocates for open source alike, demanding to know the details of what determines life and death in the Google search hierarchy. In a sense, Google might be Hoovered – their name so synonymous with an activity (net search) that they lose their ownership of their brand. If not in the literal sense, at least in terms of freedom to go whereever they want, also in time of economic need.
As for now, I am waiting to see Microsoft’s reaction to the danger that “Windows is slowly becoming a bunch of device drivers to run Google apps on,” to quote one enthusiast. It better lie in the realms of openness and innovation – or Microsoft could really become another IBM for a few years.
So far, Google does not seem to need a Googleizer the way Microsoft needed Scobleizer. But the demand is building, and a critical or at least unscripted voice from the inside and some statement of long-term direction would be nice now.
Assuming there is anyone in there, of course.

Curious blogspam

I keep getting a lot of blogspam with the email “” and with links to Google’s main site. Normally I would block any link that shows up in a blogspam, but I don’t want to block Google, and there are not other links there.
It is not a huge problem – the comments are forced to moderation by Spamlookup and never show up on the public site, but I wonder what the purpose of this blogspamming is. I doubt that Google would resort or even need to promote themselves by blogspamming, so is this some sort of campaign to block Google links from blog comments or just plain incompetence?

Google Talk continued

John Battelle discusses the importance of Google Talk offering interoperability between AOL IM, MSN, and ICQ, among others.
I have had partial interoperability for a long time, using an IM client called Trillian from Cerulean Studios. Trillian offers the ability to run all the instant messaging services through one client, which is important because people tend to be in different networks (my kids in MSN, former colleagues in ICQ or IM, current colleagues mostly in IM.) What Google Talk would offer in addition, I assume, is the ability to have multi-party chats with people in all those other networks, thus obviating the demand side network externalities which work for whoever has the largest market share (in each sub-segment). Given the trouble that Trillian has had keeping up with changes in the IM services, I have a hard time seeing MS opening up MSN to Google, but if enough people sign up for it, things might work out.
Which goes to show that interoperability forces its way through once enough people start using a service that is offered by several companies. Funny that MS hasn’t offered an MSN client that can talk to anyone a long time ago…..
(Incidentally, my Google Talk handle is, I suppose,

Lensless data projector

The NEC WT610 projector might be just the ticket for the home theatre – or perhaps meeting rooms, coffee areas and other places where heads and lights could get in the way of decent projection. I am sure the price and the size of the thing will go down after a while as well.

What I do wonder, looking into the future a bit, is whether this technology could be embedded in a laptop computer or something similar and become the screen – imagine a laptop smaller than the screen currently defining the clamshell format, which could project an image onto almost anything. Also, could this technology, given the good brightness characteristics, be used to increase resolution so that we could have really large and well defined displays projected onto office walls rather than using LCDs?