Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Beginnings of Microsoft are little know in post-communist countries, because first PCs became available about 10 years after their introduction in the US.

Microsoft was so successful not because of the quality of its software (Microsoft does not even know what quality means till today), but because they realized the value of monopoly position and how much money you can make if dictate the standards.

They did not start as a company doing something better. They started by lying about their ability to deliver on time. They announced software 2 years before release just to fend off potential competitors. They underpaid all their employees. They cheated and lied to their customers, and general public. The main "goal" was to get the monopoly position, to "kill their competitors", no matter what. (For example, Bill Gates allegedly said "MS-DOS is not done until Lotus stops working". They used secret API, slowed down or prevented competing programs for running. Netscape story is peanuts against everything else that was going on. Their "mascot" was a Borg half-machine, half-humane with the tune "Resistance is futile".

They succeeded and we pay the price till today. There is no operating system worse than Microsoft and none is more expensive. And no producer of OS makes more money.

So far, it might be a story about a few smart thieves, liars and cheaters, who got rich, no harm done. But we all pay for their wealth and it is not a (economically) harmless transfer. We pay by our low productivity, by the need to patch, protect, anti-spam our computers and networks, by significant amounts of time and energy lost in productivity due to their programs that are sometimes intentionally made defective.

Compare this with Google - a company started also by two guys. They did something better than everybody else. They never asked or strive for monopoly position (and they don't have it). Their motive is "Don't do evil", instead of a pure evil symbol from Star Trek.

It boggles my mind how much money have been lost due to Microsoft in the past and how much will be in the future. Because they have their monopoly position and they are not going to give it up. Voluntarily.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Google Sets

Even though it is close to 1st April, this is no joke. New service by Google, Google Sets, is just unbelievable.From even two words in Czech, ie. obscure language spoken by about 10 mil. people, it generates large set of similar, logically related words. I was not able to find an example that would not work (I'm sure there are some).
Apart from Google Translate, this is another step closer to "mechanical understanding" of human language.

It feels comfortable to know that Google's 16000 (give or take a few thousand) work on problem like that, while I enjoy the results for free.

There will be blood

There will be blood is "A story about family, greed, religion, and oil, centered around a turn-of-the-century prospector in the early days of the [oil] business."
I did not expect much, so I was not really disappointed. The movie is certainly not interesting. It is basically story about greed only - in the movie, almost everybody is greedy, including a priest. The story would be significantly more interesting if there was at least one not greedy person. If the main message should be "Everybody is greedy", why do you want to spend more than 2 hours to make your point?

Predicting future

Predicting future is hard, even in the short term. Yet, it is fun to read about old predictions. This one is 40 years old and quite interesting.
It would be great to see how the world will look like in 400 years, but I hope 40 years or so will have to be enough. For this generation

Runaway health care costs

Health care system in the US is extremely expensive. Yet, it seems that quality does not necessarily reflect these costs. For example, it is sometimes argued that incentives are poorly set: doctors do unnecessary test of *insured) patients, who don't have many reasons to care about the costs.
Yet it seems at least possible if not plausible, that the US bears disproportionate share of research costs that lead to (significantly) higher prices of new treatments. I'm not sure how significant this can be, but maybe European systems are cheaper also because these system free-ride. Well, other reason can be that doctors cannot afford a Porsche in Europe (at least in Czech Republic).

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Public Transportation

This is why I like public transportation.