Things I Hate About the Net

Seana Mulcahy in today’s MediaPost talked about “Things I Hate on the Net”. Now, she’s not a techgal – she a marketing / branding babe – so among her listed items the usual litany of email scams, popups / popunders, spyware, broken / dead links, site registration, poor integration (what else is new), audio surprises (you know, those suddenly singing or talking little bursts when you’re on a conference call – it’s happened to me), and click-happy sites. Most of these are products of bad site design that are easily remedied – fire the marketing department and get a good designer. But some of these are tech-derived marketing inventions (surprise!) intended to exploit weaknesses and loopholes in our crazy-quilt Internet. We wouldn’t see much of the latter right now if a fundamental issue was resolved. And it’s actually a business mindset, not just a marketing or tech mindset.

So, “What do I hate about the net?” Simple – you can’t evolve anything new or tune something to get around problems, because everyone bets on failure and wants to exploit it for their own private purposes. I hear this all the time from technologists, inventors, and businessmen. “Take no risks”. And it’s betting on failure that spawns all these customer plagues today that Seana so loathes.

Fun Friday: It’s All About Relationships, but Pass the Toilet Tissue

Very funny little item about Friends of Frank and deals in the urinals. Of course, how could I not remark on this amazing way of meeting and greeting – “Urinals”, huh? Well I guess that’s one way to have an all-male “members-only” club. :-)”.

On the German side, a discussion of venture capital in Germany by Dirk Riehle and his concern that Germany is “facing a venture capital deal market failure” reaches a rather startling conclusion: “From the data some of the VCs presented, it seemed clear what’s wrong with Germany, startups, innovation, and venture capital: There are not enough VCs”. Given the terrible IRR’s in recent years, I’m sure that several of the funds could “spare” their nonperforming VCs on a “permanent loan” status, kind of like the way museums get musty old pots out of their basement and off to someone else’s collection.

But to get some balanced feedback, I asked William Jolitz what he thinks about this supposition, since he’s the guy who handles the investment and international business side. “It isn’t a lack of VCs that causes capital to be restricted. It’s because of a lack of capital that there are few early-stage VCs due to the bubble burst – you have to make the dogs invested during the bubble perform before you’re allowed to invest again”.

“There’s no difference between being a VC and a loan shark”, as an east coast CEO likes to tell me, “except for the ties”. 🙂

Come On Charlie Brown, Just Kick the Football

Love the “Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown” quote by Nathan Brookwood in CNET about the Dell / AMD relationship. It always seems so close, and then it slips away. Intel always holds the relationship.

Nathan may be right in saying last year it came the closest ever because of Intel’s slips in so many areas. But instead of running with the ball, AMD fumbled by assuming they could rely solely on their 64-bit advantage for the sale. That isn’t enough I was told. One exec who’s negotiated agreements with Intel and AMD and companies like Dell told me that AMD needs to get “the whiphand” on Intel in some way to get the Dell close. AMD doesn’t have that whiphand. And I know why. It came up chatting with an editor who wanted to know the background on Intel’s preannounced new product. You see, he knew I’d been there, so he wanted the story again. So here it is…

Oh to be a Xorn!

Got around to reading Bill Gurley’s MMPORG article and enjoyed the walk down the Unix role playing game lanes. When I talk to the LA crowd about MMP (Massive Multiplayer) gaming, they always love the connection to Rogue, Adventure, and Zork. In fact, on the Symmetic 375 we have the best versions of rogue, and since the kids now own the machines (20 years old, NS32000 BSD Unix, and work perfectly – I have PCs that have failed in 2 years), they prefer the 375 versions to the “enhanced” ones today (see A Wandering through the Vintage Computer Faire).

I remember telling Jim Anderson (Adventure) years ago about how I was inspired by his invincible thief, so when I was asked to create an arcade game (PackRat) that would appeal to girls in 1982 for Atari Coin-Op, I put in a character of an invicible rat who would pick up the valuables and walk off (the graphic artist took it further and she put the rat in a leather jacket – he was very cool).

A ROSE is a ROSE – Reordering Segment Engine

Ashlee Vance wrote that Intel will be introducting “I/O Acceleration Technology” to “attack greedy TCP/IP stack” consumption – in other words, latency through the stack. “Customers often find that their servers spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with network traffic when they should be hammering away on application data.” This sounds very familiar – we told them years ago that “all processors wait at the same speed”.

Back in 1997, when I filed a provisional patent on just such an approach, I had an interesting meeting with Intel’s processor side. We called the technique ROSE then, for Reordering Segment Engine for a product we envisioned called the Network Accelerator – and yes, this was before Adaptec and Alacritech and all those other TOE guys. It was the first in a series of parallel processing refinements, which dealt with the layer 2-7 issues of TCP/IP (the discussion was under NDA).

Dodging Bullets is a Lot Easier in Silicon Valley After Iraq

I just heard from Rick Bentley, a Berkeley physics alum – he’s back here in the good old Bay Area from Iraq, trying to get back into CEO stuff at his security startup. Talk about “culture shock” – from meditations on bullets and murdered colleagues and finding yourself alone and unarmed on the wrong side of the Green Zone, to Silicon Valley startup and bizplans and product specs. Yet that’s the way it is nowadays – the world is a much smaller place.

I like the weblog he’s done talking about his experiences. So many startup execs today are extremely narrow in their outlook – maybe Stanford biz school and a few preppie connections, or perhaps locked up in an academic lab creating some new RFC. It’s rare to find someone (especially in security) who actually learns what it’s like for most ordinary people to survive in an unsafe world.

Personally, I prefer dealing with people who have developed some empathy for their profession through real-world experience, such as when the doctor for my daughter’s broken wrist talked about his family’s history of scoliosis while he was binding her injury and said “that’s why I became interested in orthopaedic medicine”. It’s living life that matters most.

Fun Friday – Silicon Valley Cowboys a Dying Breed

Wired today laments the lack of women at C-level in Silicon Valley tech companies. After Carly’s ouster lask week, there are only seven women at Fortune 500 companies and none of them are SV companies. Wired printed my response today.

It’s not surprising that Silicon Valley is particularly difficult for women to move up in ranks – the “cowboy” company style isn’t known for consensus management, team players, or progressive initiatives. The thing to remember is that many of the founders and investors in these cowboy companies (e.g. National Semiconductor, Fairchild, Intel, …) are still going strong in Silicon Valley, and the independent gun-slinger executive who they identify with most strongly is also most likely male. Not always though – Carly’s go-it-alone style fits more with cowboys than the older HP way of Hewlett and Packard. Perhaps Carly would have been better shaking up things at Intel or National Semi? She’d fit right in.

If you want to see Silicon Valley change, watch the obits. The fewer cowboys, the less fascination with the old cowboy style and the more interest in global strategy and fast execution. And women will most certainly do well in this new Internet age.

I Spy with My Little X-Eye – But I’m Blind, I’m Blind….

Yes, I know. There are so many much more expensive technically incompetent products I could be writing about right now – in operating systems, networking products, switches, routers, you name it. So why would I nominate the PC CHIPs X-EYE PC Camera (USB 1.1) for “worst product of the year”? Perhaps because it was such a great big lie that it could ever work that even if I was given it for nothing it would still cost too much.

First, it claimed to be 100k pixel resolution (352 (h) x288 (v) max resolution, frame rate – 30 fps at CIF (352×288), color 16.8 million true color (24-bit), software – BMP/AVI/ TWAIN). All you need is a pentium (200 MHz), any Windows system / 32MB ram / 12MB disk. All for $15.99! Seems like a too good to be true deal, and it is.

So, Haven’t Editors Always Been Cannibals?

IMedia conference was last week, and according to Mark Naples of Online Spin, it was a real whinefest – not that I blame them – because the parent print companies believe that their web properties are “cannibalizing” subscribers and robbing them of revenue. As Mark notes “Some of these traditional publishing companies have even been withholding resources from their online counterparts due to this perception, which truly fascinates me”. He’s not alone.

Intercorporate squabbling has always been a part of big congomerates, and media companies are often made up of lots of little print, media, and radio properties who fiercely compete for subscribers. So this isn’t really anything new.

But according to the Wall Street Journal a month back, major advertisers have accelerated their move from print and broadcast TV to online and cable TV advertising, and this is causing real pain. “These sites provide compelling, exclusive content. Some require a subscription. Most provide streaming video. None exploits their users with pop-ups, pop-unders, or other lesser tactics… The problem isn’t that is robbing your local newspaper of readers. The problem is that too many people running these traditional media outlets fail to see the opportunity presented by this change, and how the Web is leading that evolution.”

Fun Friday: What HP needs is Lou Gerstner, but younger and with hair…

Well, the fallout from Carly’s involuntary termination by the BOD of HP is continuing. John Pazkowski in his GMSV blog today quoted many agonized “What will HP do now!!!” analysts acting like the world ended while they bid up the stock at Carly’s ouster. My fav is “They need someone to do what Lou Gerstner did for IBM, but it isn’t obvious who that person is”.

Hey, maybe he’s on to something. What HP really needs is Lou Gerstner, but younger and with hair.