Google vs H.264

Google has shown its hand as being evil. A decade ago, the general public felt the same sting from Microsoft which began a slow, painful, tragically pitiful decline from dominance.

The best way to submerge your detractors is to ignore them and keep doing the right thing. Don’t react or be defensive – just behave like what they say isn’t true and everyone should determine that you’re right. This proprietary land grab from Google may die a horrible death taking Google with it. Ironically, Microsoft apparently realizes this as well. They went through the same thing and recognize themselves in Google’s actions.

The greatest irony that could possibly occur is for Apple to partner with Microsoft and jointly release the best cross platform replacement for Flash imaginable using HTML5 and H.264. Let everyone else follow if they dare. Android will shrink in the US, Windows Phone 7 and iOS will flourish.

Besides, Android and Chrome are “open”, right? How long before H.264 is available as a system hook from someone else? Apple should create an H.264 plugin for Chrome and Android. That would fuck Google. How long after that before Google begins electronic warfare against it? How long before Android and Chrome users realize they’re pawns?

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The Adobe-Apple Brouhaha

Let’s start with the punch line: Adobe is about to lose control of the proprietary Flash web Macromedia had quietly introduced over the last decade… and they don’t like it. When Macromedia brought Flash along, it was the best way to add exciting interactivity and graphics to the web. Flash was so benign, it was shipped with 98% of all computers without question. Now, with Adobe driving the bus, Flash has become a hammer.

Adobe would like you to think Flash is about ease of use, creating a media rich environment and boundless interactivity. Wrong. It’s about royalties and leverage. That’s what everything is about.

This should be a very short court case, if it gets that far. How in the world can Adobe force any manufacturer to use their proprietary software? If that’s the case, why doesn’t Apple sue Adobe for not using Cocoa for development? This is competition, guys. Apple is espousing a more open web where anyone can create an HTML5 compliant web experience which should eventually supplant the proprietary Flash environment.

Another point; Adobe has openly proclaimed they will stop working on Apple implementations of Flash and concentrate on everything else. Two things there – Flash doesn’t currently exist for mobile devices anywhere. Why is it supposed to be included on Apple mobile devices if they can’t get it to work well? Not only that, Adobe has just done exactly what Apple doesn’t want to see in the future, namely the “we have already decided to shift our focus away from Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices for both Flash Player and AIR” announcement. I’m glad Adobe said that up front. Lets see, what could that possibly do if this was five years from now? Wipe out half of the App Store if Flash was required? Sounds like a bad idea to play with Flash and Adobe if you ask me.

So, in light of the fact that (1) Flash is proprietary, (2) it doesn’t work on anyone’s mobile device anyway and (3) Adobe has already abandoned the Apple mobile platform, I hear the sound of a gavel.

Case dismissed.

However, here’s what Apple needs to do right away: create the tools required to replace Flash with a robust and open HTML5 environment. Actually, that’s what Adobe needs to do as well. Stop whining and get to work. Flash was a good ride but kiss it goodbye. Make the tools to create HTML5 familiar to Flash developers but write different code in the background. That way, perhaps a lot of Flash developers won’t need to learn to much to get back in the game. Adobe will sell a ton of these tools and we’ll all be better off.

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How To Kill A Company

When people get laid off from a talent driven Company, Management might believe their layoffs walk out the door, lay down and die. While that would be convenient, what actually happens is the skills they possess stay in the market, doing exactly what they did before, servicing the same clients with (more than likely) higher efficiency and less cost. I’ve seen it dozens of times. Companies create their own competition. Good talent gets put on the street and next thing you know, there are fewer clients coming to the Company which laid them off. For many of these skilled individuals, there’s a new focus: they used to have a job. Now, they have a mission.
 
Their mission is to fuel a death spiral for their old Company, a spiral likely brought on by short sighted Management where the staff pays the price of their bad behavior. There’s nothing wrong with cutting Corporate fat, but you have to do it the right way. The behavior of Management often has more to do with why the layoffs occurred than with any market force.
 
The first rule of business, especially in an entrepreneurial startup, is to do good work. Profit is a side effect of doing good work. It also helps to be relevant but if you’re not, you won’t get this far anyway. As a startup grows, the founder’s ability to control everything naturally becomes diluted. The dangerous transition from Entrepreneurial innocence to Corporate grind will set the tone of the Company for the remainder of its existence. Take the wrong path and it’s only a matter of time before the ill effects show themselves.
 
In a down economy, the entrepreneurial spirit of the founder needs to be summoned immediately. Think like a startup because when business is bad, that’s about where you are – a startup. A business unable to capture enough work to remain profitable should welcome deep, honest introspection. What are we doing wrong? Why are we encouraging our clients to go elsewhere? What is so inefficient in our process that we can’t lower our costs? Are we charging clients for our inability to work efficiently [hoping they won't figure that out]? Are we milking obsolete processes instead of replacing them? Are there internal forces acting upon their own agendas destroying morale and the will to think? Is thinking out-of-the-box viewed as a threat to people in command? Is demand for the general business we’re in declining or are we just not doing the work to remain relevant?
 
The responses to these questions will tell you what kind of leadership you have. A growing Company can go two ways; either keep the spirit which encourages contribution and process improvement or go down the path of high controllers. The worst of the latter has a term – “Founder’s Syndrome”. As new talent enters the Company, these fresh eyes will no doubt see ways to improve the business and will seek to influence the decisions made. The founder in turn begins to galvanize their position of dominating the decision making process, often becoming a negative influence. This behavior can be very destructive to the Company’s morale and frustrating for talent looking to do a good job. Worse, the founder will begin to select like-minded individuals for promotion into positions of power. Now, founder’s syndrome has multiplied itself into a suppressive, authoritarian wall. When the entire staff senses that a good ass kissing will get you further than promoting better ideas, the energy and charisma which lifted the Company from nothing has officially died.
 
If your Company’s leadership has the hubris to believe “we can do no wrong”, bringing any of these introspective questions to the table is a big mistake. No high-controlling leadership wants to hear “Turn the fucking wheel, there’s an iceberg ahead!” If you’ve got powerful egos to contend with, all Management has heard is that you’ve just called them idiots. In this situation, the mixture of highly talented staff and authoritarian management will touch off the death spiral. Talent is always thinking of how to solve problems, even if the problem is themselves. All talent wants to do is contribute and Management should listen to them.
 
For egotistical management, the threat of losing control is more powerful than the need to solve the issues. They won’t even look for the iceberg. If anything, you’ll get blamed for allowing the iceberg to drift into place. The hallmark of powerful egos is “I’m in control here, I’ve got everything covered, I’m in charge”… until something goes wrong and they look for someone else to take the bullet.
 
Introspection is dead. Say anything which might tie Management’s behavior to poor performance and they’ll brand you as “negative”, advertising to the rest of the staff that listening to your nonsense will lead to frowns from above. When the axe falls, the squeaky wheel will get replaced. I maintain that not listening to this “nonsense” will lead to financial collapse and many other people losing jobs needlessly.
 
Upper Management needs to have intangible matters tracked and quantified, which is the function of a financial analyst presenting data. If a Company puts financial people in charge of operations, they had better be really smart and have the ability to see beyond the spreadsheet. Many cannot. There’s no “doing good work” entry on the balance sheet and often, there’s no “good business ethics” column either.
 
All it takes to kill a Company is an aggressive middle manager without knowledge of what the Company actually does sitting behind a spreadsheet, particularly if they have personal visions of grandeur. For that reason, Excel is probably the most dangerous tool in business today. The P&L statement becomes a monolithic entity subject to being manipulated to keep the number on the bottom black
 
What suffers is the soul of how good work built the company and the absence of that understanding will eventually start the spiral. The Company needs a leader, not a myopic twit making uninformed decisions, ignoring warnings from others with years of experience. Problem solving needs the entrepreneurial spirit instead of “oh, here’s a big number to eliminate” believing things will take care of themselves. Basically, the founder has to reconnect with their entrepreneurial spirit and turn it around. As long as Upper Management trusts an analyst like this to drive the business, blinding stupidity will take root – with more layoffs of talent instead of deep introspection. Oh, things will take care of themselves alright.
 
Here are some tips for staying ahead of the game, no matter if you’re talent or a Company trying to stay in business:

  • Reinvent yourself all the time. Your most intense competition should be your own next great idea.
  • Think like a client. Check yourself on whether you’d buy your own services.
  • Keep up with technical changes. Old, comfortable ways of doing things become artificial expense.
  • Never fall in love with a Company or Technology. They won’t love you back.
  • Always look for “A Better Way”. If you don’t, someone else will.
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Microsoft must be run by idiots

Unbelievable. Have you seen Microsoft’s advertising campaign? This woman runs around looking for a sub-$1000 17″ laptop – and finds one. A real clunker piece of hardware with two year old technology inside and an operating system that nobody wants. At least it’s better than the Seinfeld-Gates attempt and more human than the “No, I’m a PC” ads.
 
On top of that, Microsoft has the audacity to set up a kiosk right outside of an Apple Store in a mall. Really. The “nanny-nanny-boo-boo” marketing plan from Microsoft. I hope anyone inside is thick skinned.
 
Clearly, Microsoft is trying to pull Apple down into the bottom feeding commoditized market they find themselves in. The message is “see, Macs are really the same as PCs except with a huge premium”. But geez – to compare the HP laptop this lady bought to a MacBook Pro and infer they’re the same? Has anyone else actually compared them? The Mac is like a giant Swiss watch and the HP she picked is the concrete patio tile of laptops. Oh, the screen on the HP is 17″ alright but it only has the same pixel count as a 15″ MacBook Pro.
 
Personally, I think the MacBook Pro could definitely stand to be cheaper but if you compare several similarly outfitted PC laptops to it, you’ll find the MacBook Pro to be on par, or even cheaper, than the PCs. Plus the Mac comes with all this world class software you can’t even get on the PC, including the operating system.
 
I work on mixed Mac/PC networks and fix PCs and Macs for a living (and on the side sometimes). I don’t know how people can put up with PCs. They’re junk. Not that the Mac doesn’t have problems, but not like that. I can point to about 100 people that I’ve introduced to the Mac for the first time and within a year, they’ve all come to the same conclusion – drop kick the home PC.
 
What Microsoft should be concentrating on is getting Mac users to buy a copy of Windows to load up. That’s right, the Mac hardware will also run Windows natively, or concurrently integrated with the Unix goodness of OS X. Wouldn’t that make more sense? Sell more software? Of course, HP, Dell and all the other commodity PC makers would blow a gasket at Microsoft, but at least Microsoft would stop looking like fools. They can do without that right now.

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Bigger Server

You can’t have a big enough server. Mine isn’t. All this is running on a 1GHz Mac G4 DP with Apache, MySQL, PHP5, NetCloak, Mail, WordPress, DNS – for six domains… on a cable modem… under my desk. Talk about shaky. It hasn’t burped in four years but I still get nervous on vacation.

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The Coolant Reservoir

See that little black piece of plastic on top of the coolant reservoir? No, not the cap, the little thing with the wire plugged into it. It’s the coolant level sensor. That is scheduled to blow the connector off the top of the tank and leave the threads in place. I’d pick up a spare and leave it in the car. The plastic is likely fatigued and brittle. You can pick one up from Van Cafe, so get one.

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Metal Fatigue

Vanagons are getting pretty old now. Expect some uncommon issues to crop up, like metal fatigue. Check your alternator bracket and tension arm. Does the alternator shake around a little? It may be cracked or a stud may be broken off, which will eventually crack the bracket. If you don’t address it, eventually you’ll hear a big noise while driving and see a red light come on the dashboard. You might also see a red light in your rear view mirror which would be your engine compartment on fire. The alternator’s power terminal runs straight to the battery and will discharge it through whatever metal the alternator is laying against.┬áSo, check the bracket and studs holding it on.

The tension arm may also be cracked where it meets the engine block. This isn’t as critical but contributes to allowing the alternator to flex the main bracket.

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Say Hi to Technoblather

Technoblather is back on the air after disappearing long ago (1993). What was Technoblather? Working in a large Post Production company, there had to be a way to dish out facility change and upgrade information to lots of people. Technoblather was a printed newsletter from 1988 to 1993. Company messaging and email took that over. Now, I’ve decided to resurrect the old rag in a more public forum, more of a crystal ball and vapor detector. So, here we go!

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