Acquisition Practices: Microsoft vs. Google

Another day, another acquisition, but this time it’s not Google. Microsoft has acquired a service called WebFives, which provides file-sharing for mobile video, photos, audio, and blogs via a Web-based service. The technologies, trademarks, patents (including pending patents), and all other intellectual property of the company, named Vizrea when it was started, will be integrated into Microsoft’s Windows Live offerings. This is no different from what Google does when they acquire a company, except there’s one niggling little difference. Microsoft has granted WebFives a “license” to continue their services through the end of the month. After December 31, 2007, the…

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Views to a Game: Thoughts on Information Display

Last night, I went to a local sports bar with my family to watch the Big Game between Stanford and UC Berkeley. While I’m ecstatic that Stanford won the game (20-13, ha! Take that, Cal!), the network’s information display made it very difficult for me (a very non-sportsy guy) to follow the game. The method used displayed very little game information, and the essentials were sometimes left out in favor of non-essentials. The network was Versus, and it was a big change from the one I’m used to (Big Ten, no pun intended). For starters, the info was confined to…

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And So It Begins… Thoughts on "The Holidays"

Once again, the day of first snowfall has beset this Northern state. Outside my window, I can see flakes falling and beginning to cover the grass outside. It’s the time of year for the Macy’s Parade; the time for Christmas carols; and the time of ringing bells outside department stores. It’s the holiday season. The most wonderful time of the year. Aw, who am I kidding? I’m not that sappy. Strike all that text up there; it’s not me. The holiday season is not the “most wonderful time of the year” to me. There’s so much marketing, commercialization, and downright…

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Either Make It Work or Don’t Offer It, Class.com!

Updated; see end. Time to air another pet peeve of mine, namely applications that don’t do what they’re supposed to do. I have found very few examples recently, in that I can’t remember any other examples than the one I’m about to write about. I know it’s happened before; I just can’t recall at the moment. Anyway, I’m enrolled in an English class in which we read William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and write various reports on each act (that’s just Unit 1). To assist with that endeavor, the course’s publisher, Class.com, provides students with a (not-so; read on) slick little…

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School Policies Should Be Accessible

Remember about school IT (and the )? Well, the saga continues this quarter, when a request to one of my teachers turned into a conversation that got forwarded to the school director. And got a phone call to my mom (even though she already knew). Apparently, using a school email address is a policy, but it’s not written down anywhere on the school website. According to the director (I won’t name names for privacy), it would be unmanageable to write down all the policies and put them on the website. In other words, the student handbook doesn’t tell the full…

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Hallowe’en Bah Humbug

Hallowe’en (yes, it has an apostrophe; get over it) is one of my least favorite holidays. Personally, I find it serves no real purpose other than to sell costumes, candy, and (sometimes) cards. Oh, and don’t forget all the decorations. I’m glad to see Blogger hasn’t modified their logo in any way for Hallowe’en, though the Google search engine, Technorati, and FriendFeed (to name a few; the last one’s a private beta right now) all have Hallowe’en-themed modifications in place right now, to my dismay. So what’s the big deal with this Hallowe’en holiday, anyway? Where did it come from,…

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Badly Designed Websites

After certain recent experiences, I see that the way a website works is quite essential to the visitor experience. Take www.mcool.org as an example. The menus you see (assuming you’re using a JavaScript-enabled browser) are generated by JavaScript, after page load. The data is included in a series of JavaScript functions at the end of the page, the definitions of which are included in the commercial Milonic popup menu script. This could be easily solved by including inline code that is hidden with CSS and displayed using an in-page rule contained in a <noscript> element. However, that’s not the only…

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School IT Strikes Again!

In what looks like a devastating blow to the usability of my school’s already-crippled email system, it looks like the SMTP gateway or another piece of hardware or software downstream from the Ocean Mail Server is blocking all messages trying to get to the outside Internet. The system still says, “Your message was sent successfully,” when you send a message to an external address, but the message is never delivered. For fear of losing all the accommodations I have gleaned in the last month or two, I dare not contact my Draconian IT support department, yet I must needs have…

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Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Advertising?

In this day and age of Web-based services, one must wonder if all the banners, badges, and taglines inserted by modern webapps are worth it. To get a free email account from Hotmail or Yahoo!, for example, the user must accept that their email will have ads appended to the bottom of every message sent out. (Note that Google doesn’t do this…) Creating documents is a mixed bag; Google’s services don’t have these “watermarks” (that I can see), but others might, primarily lesser-known services that want to get the word out. Flowchart apps are especially annoying; both apps I’ve found…

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What Does "Durability" Mean, Exactly?

Has anyone noticed a trend in electronics lately? No, I don’t mean the tendency to make things smaller. No, not the switch from silver to black, or black to white, or whatever. I mean the lack of durability in modern devices. Things today just don’t last as long. Really! Five years ago, one could buy a laptop, for example, and reasonably expect to be using the same laptop, the same way, with the same routine (provided one’s requirements were the same) ten years later. Now? You’re lucky if your laptop lasts a couple of years. Things fall apart all too…

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