A technology blog for The Economist Group IT team

Friday, January 27, 2006

How to beat the scammers 

Take two Rottweilers....full details here.
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Can Google make money without doing evil? 

The sixth of the 10 things that Google has found to be true may indeed be true, but the wording is clever. It doesn't say that Google will not make money by doing evil and however rationalised the reasons for deploying Google.cn are, the fact remains that profit has come before principles.

The Economist gives a somewhat positive report on the launch, highlighting the drop in share price when Google refused to hand over usage data to the DoJ, but I don't buy it. The simple fact of the matter is that Google wants a site in China that performs well enough for it to be able to maximise revenue from ads and increase market share.

The idea of creating a non-commercial web search engine resurfaced when Google began monetising its service, but that was when Google was good. I wonder if, in five years time, we'll look back at the launch of Google.cn as the beginning of the demise of Google?
The Register has spotted that Google have pulled an FAQ saying that they don't censor serach results.
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Using Wikipedia can lose you your job 

Especially if you're a reporter and you don't attribute your source.
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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

An iPod knows where it's files came from! 

An article on CNET reveals as much about the iPod's disk structure as it could about you! Apparantly the MAC address of the source of files on a disk-based iPod are stored along with the data....
Hi Nice Blog .If you fast forward through your playlist, Ipod batteries will need to fill its cache more frequently, thus accessing the hard drive more often and using more power. This will decrease overall battery life.
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Monday, January 23, 2006

Why do I need Windows Vista? 

Mano's Blog explains all.
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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Moaning and whinging at werk is forbidden 

Wow, why didn't I think of this way of removing negative energy!
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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Third party help for iTunes 

In TCH recently I wondered why no one has come up with a better way of getting stuff onto iPods than iTunes. Well Walt Mossberg outlined a couple of enhancements recently.
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Monday, January 16, 2006

Are cracks appearing at Google? 

As Google stock grows in value, seemingly supported by the endless stream of new product launches, are the first signs of weaknesses appearing? At the announcement of "co-operation" between Sun and Google last year Eric Schmidt said that the indexing of non-web content was a big opportunity for Google. By this I took that he meant that monetisation of search results was not limited to the web.

Google's first forays into growing the universe for (Google) search were the Google Toolbar and Google Desktop Search (GDS). The Google Toolbar started this by taking the search functionality away from individual sites. It did this with the introduction of the Current site drop down - no longer do you need to be able to fathom the quirks of each site's search function. GDS took search into the world of corporate and personal data - allowing first local hard drives, then networked drives to be indexed and searched. All with the familiar Google interface.

Both of these products are now looking like they were rushed out and have holes in them that Google do not admit to (unlike the privacy issue with GDS which was fixed). I've noticed this with both tools and in searching for solutions (yes, using Google) have found that I'm by no means alone. The Google toolbar screws up pages that use CSS so that elements appear in the wrong place on the page. Despite apparantly being reported months ago, no fix has been forthcoming. GDS also has problems - most notably that it regularly takes up 100% of the CPU - when this happens it's pretty difficult to even get to Task Manager to kill the process.

Now I'm not saying that Google is doing evil here, but it does shine some light on their testing process. Google Labs and the extended beta of GMail seem to me to indicate that Joe Public is Google's tester and that even when faults are found, they don't get fixed very quickly. Google needs to learn that rushing out half-finished products to perpetuate the PR flow and thus keep the share price propped up isn't going to last for ever. The sooner it realises this the better for us all.
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Friday, January 13, 2006

London Underground : The Song 

Not very techie, but very funny (also nsfw).London Underground : The Song
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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sell nothing, make $1,000,000 

I can't believe this worked. Alex Tew of Wiltshire, England set up a blank website and charged advertisers $1 per pixel. 1,000,000 pixels and hundreds (thousands?) of ads later, the Million Dollar Homepage was born. Hmmm... does anybody want to buy a bridge?
This insane situation has started a goldrush - check out these current auctions on eBay if you want to start your own version and get a piece of the action.

Something tells me this dotcom bubble will burst pretty quickly.
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Hard Drive Killer? 

Could flash memory someday replace spinning disks in laptops? In about 5 to 6 years says Steve Appleton, CEO of Micron Technology. Flash memory is faster, generates much less heat and its rate of growth is accelerating past Moore's Law. Appleton concedes though that hard disks will still be needed for storage heavy applications.
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Monday, January 09, 2006

Google pack 

I'm sure everyone knows about this, so I won't write much: http://pack.google.com/

The inclusion of anti-virus software with a six month licence is sure to generate considerable downloads. It's got me at home anyhow. Oddly I prefer using Firefox to IE, but had never got round to installing it at home, so I guess the inclusion of the other software works...
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Friday, January 06, 2006


Well that may not be the reason, but the results are the same. Two Japanese investment banks have been stung by typo’s in the last few weeks. The latest was Nikko CitiGroup, a hapless employee decided to buy two shares in Nippon Paper at £2,515 each, unfortunately he got it wrong. He ended up buying 2,000 of them, so £10,000,000 later he ended up owning 0.2% of the company. The internal checks to ensure the employee had enough cash failed, the bank is vowing nobody will be fired for it. The other was slightly larger, an employee of Mizuho Securitees sold 610,000 shares for 1 yen, rather than 1 share at 610,000 yen. Total loss around £200,000,000. Ooops! Get a copy of today’s Times for a better explanation of the events.

Goes to show that typo’s can have serious impact and may not always be spotted until it is far too late. Same applies to IT, how many errors are out there. Nasa say 10-12 per 1,000 lines for software in mission critical system. They got it down to 0.11 per 1,000 for the space shuttle. The cost however was $1,000 per line. So for a 10,000 line system there would be 833 errors. So thought for the day, how many in a non mission critical system? How many erros caused by typo's?

This story has more of an IT slant to it. Fujitsu provide the software that runs the Tokyo Stock Exchange and trading had to be halted for 90 minutes earlier in the year because of a failure.

The Mizuho case highlighted a further problem with the system whereby traders cannot cancel sell orders while the the system is taking buy orders.

In the end, those that commission systems are ultimately responsible and so the President of the exchange and several other members of the board took the rap and resigned.
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Microsoft patch WMF flaw 

MIcrosoft brought out a patch ahead of schedule to fix the WMF flaw that hit the headlines last week.
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BellSouth signals the start of a two tier internet? 

The WSJ (sub. requied) reports that BellSouth is in talks with online movie firms to provide guaranteed delivery of their products over the web. Other telcos are looking at similar deals. Needless to say the likes of Vonage are not keen. Voice telephony is changing, but I'm still not yet convinced it'll all be free.
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