Friday Oct 22, 2004

HP director gives some sauce about Sun

I was interested to read Peter Hall's (a director at HP) comments and Jonathan Schwartz's (heck, you know he is) opinions side-by-side in a Linuxword article. Hall seems to think that Jonathan's public negative analysis of HP's operating system strategy is actually the focus of Sun's energy; very odd notion indeed (or are we to think that HP's internal efforts are focussed on producing Hall's remarks? sounds unlikely).

I would very much like to see Hall actually back-up his random negativity about Sun with a similar depth of analysis, but given that he seems to think that Sun is "shooting at all sorts of strategies", I doubt that will be forthcoming. A brief shopping list of reading material to enable that kind of analysis would have to include at least:

Much as I might like to contine this wholly unnecessary rant about that (in my view) entirely unfounded rant, I think it best to end this brief detour into blogopia and just get back to work - whoo yeah!

Tuesday Oct 12, 2004

we are what we do; aren't we?

If you feel like philosophising today about existence, and action as the central measure of it, you could do a lot worse than to hop over to M. Mortazavi's Weblog and add to the comments there...

Oh you're reading this on and you don't want to lose track of where you are?, Ok, rest easy gentle reader - here's my contributed bit of random-ness...

In response to "The Self As Agent", I can only say that a quantum level, all matter and energy "acts" (or "is an agent")!

From a certain black-box perspective, I agree that we are what we do (existence = actions).

However, I don't believe that action is inevitable or happens "at all costs" in groups; there is clear evidence to the contrary (e.g. the bystander effect, or the paralysis of commitees). Centrality (alignment) of action is desirable to achieve synergy, but it is also not inevitable. It is also questionable if action is inevitable in individuals (is vegetating in front of a TV to be considered action?)

I believe this points to a limitation in using "action" as the unit of analysis; it is essential to look one step back to \*goals\*, and even further back to \*plans\*. The challenge of a group is to construct plans that meet the goals of its members, and to facilitate those individuals to perform appropriate actions. The consideration of \*goals\* explains why we perform actions; we can also determine if they were actually appropriate or sufficient by looking at goals and comparing them to \*results\*.

Sensible individuals gravitate towards organisations that can encompass or align with their personal goals; however there are plenty of frustrated people, so this is also not inevitable (either due to misalignment of goals, or lack of pragmatism).

When we consider organisations as complex as a large company, we must define broader goals which are usually called \*objectives\*, and even further back to \*strategy\* (if the company is prudent, it will consider not merely the sum of it's individuals' goals, but the goals and results required by customers ;)

While action is the immediate result of existence (and at a certain level, even inaction is action - it takes energy to stay still), I believe that goals are a more useful measure of identity (which is for me the central question of human \*existence\*) in individuals, and strategy is the best measure for companies. Goals are also amenable to black-box analysis, provided we are willing to ask people questions and believe the answers ;)

And more important than actions, results are the ultimate measure of our existence; cause and effect, with causes spiralling backward to the big bang, and effects to... who knows ;)

Monday Oct 11, 2004

cure for cancer?

Ohmygosh, let's hope we can develop this to work for humans, and keep the costs down so that everyone can benefit.

And for our next trick, let's tackle AIDS, the CJD prion, global warming, low self-esteem and, umm, rampant greed? No, really.

Saturday Oct 09, 2004

Beauty and the Beholder

I've just realised (late to the party) that I need to add Brian Nitz (aka bnitz) to my BlogRoll; Brian clearly has a real eye for photos (more please, the ones posted so far are beautiful) and I loved his post "This is a Windows town".

The engineer in me is never satisfied to simply respond to beauty or (very occasionally) to create it, but instead wants to be able to explain it; that's why there's something innately appealing about the attempt to tie phi and Fibonacii to beauty, such that music, architecture, nature (also here), or even cosmology respects it's dictates on proportion. Fascinating idea, and it is also possible to explore why it occurs at all. There's beauty even in the possibility of this explanation, which is why I think beauty is ultimately an effective resolution of a set of mathematical forces which the mind can perceive; truly in the mind's eye of the beholder.

Framing - a horrific example

It is with sadness that I read now that the British hostage Ken Bigley has died at the hands of his captors; only those who have experienced loss through violence can really share the grief of his family and friends.

When I saw this tragedy reported on the BBC web-site, I wondered how this single event was reported internationally, for example by CNN.

  • The BBC reported this as a death after an 'escape bid' (their parentheses), while CNN reported that the victim "fled"
  • The BBC reported the statement of Ken's brother who recalled the UN's declaration that the war on Iraq was "illegal" and without foundation, whereas CNN positioned this within it's "Struggle for Iraq" theme

There are other obvious differences between the two reports.

So to my tongue-in-cheek suggestions about how to limit the impact of positioning statements, I add one serious thought: read from multiple sources because the truth usually is out there, you just need to triangulate on it's position.

Frame this! Idea contagion

Simon Phipps makes a valid point about the effectiveness of framing, which is the subtle positioning of a concept so as to make it easy to surreptitiously implant it. It is often used as a propoganda technique, by emitting an eminently repeatable and memorable tagline that negatively labels an enemy. Some political examples include "Kerry flip-flops on key issues" or "axis of evil".

It's rather scary that primitive techniques like this are effective on us rational beings (ha!), but you only have to look at advertising to see that it is astonishingly effective - the only requirement is that the statement is sufficiently provocative or sensational or even ludicrous to grab attention in the first place, and then the steady drip-drip feed will integrate that thought into your forebrain and the primacy effect will cause it to impact your behaviour even if you could remember plenty of counter-evidence if you tried. Oooh, cue Twilight Zone intro ;)

These framing statements are memes, contagious ideas that spread like viruses from person to person. Unfortunately Norton or Kaspersky can't protect you from these viruses.

So what can you do to protect yourself? ;) The advice below is 100%-pure tongue-in-cheek ;)

  • Active reading - permanently engaging your critical faculty can help you toss these framing memes on their heads; reject dud (or fud) memes as mental spam (but it's sadly more fun to consume ideas than to really think about them)
  • Look for the motive - if you think about the interests of the parties involved, you can usually filter or ignore statements that are clearly propogandist (a pretty effective technique as you just have to think who would benefit from having you believe any given idea rather than actually trying to assess the ideas's veracity)
  • Fuzzy logic - life is not black or white, so try to think of all ideas you come across as being possessed of only a certain degree of truth
  • Wait for the technology - anti-spam software today can stop rogue messages from jamming up your input queue; when we finally implement AI like Hal, we can have it filter out propoganda (in the meantime, a pretty good approximation is to recycle your newspaper before you read it or send all of your e-mail to /dev/null ;)

Another analogy: idea-framing is not evidence of any conspiracy; people emit ideas with the same goals and effects as pheromones, except that ideas compete for control of your cerebrum, not your hypothalamus.

Ah blogging; where else could you read such sheer random-ness ;)

Friday Oct 08, 2004

Blogging causes PR U-turn?

I want to believe that blogging has an impact, but when the El Reg vulture's beady eye spotted Ged Carrol's blog and wrote an article that claims that Microsoft has executed a public u-turn, I had to ask myself if this really was a win for blogistan. The reality could not be further from the truth. Here's why:

  • The "apology" comes from MS Customer Service, not from Ballmer or a recognised PR person
  • It apologizes for the lateness of the response, not for Ballmer's remarks
  • It goes on to explain how MS is really trying to help the industry to secure online content (and by implication that iPod and iTunes has not succeeded in doing so even though they are "popular")

So is this a success for blogging? Well, it's certainly a personal victory for Ged, but I don't think it adequately addresses the slur; I guess it's ok for companies to knock each other around a bit in the media, but going after a competitor's user base is crass, not to say stupid.

But to get a rounded view on this, you've got to read the Register's other article on the subject.

And Stevejay has got his iPod working on Solaris 10, while Ghee Teo reminds us about gtkpod. Go iPod!

Wednesday Oct 06, 2004

Horse-based attack on Star Office!

It's not clear which end of the horse is coming to help in the Register's humourously titled article which highlights concerns raised by Microsoft partners at their conference in Europe about public sector losses to StarOffice.

Fortunately it's easy for those folks to compare for themselves by just looking at I would think that the skills developed by a MS Office solutions provider could be readily extended to StarOffice or any other product, especially on Windows ;)

Monday Sep 06, 2004

Just back from Ireland's Atlantic coast

I'm just back from a week's holidaying in the West of Ireland, especially Achill Island and a trail of towns on the Mayo and Sligo coast-line - it's as beautiful as ever and the "hub and gateway" system of road improvement is steadily improving the time to get around. Some linkable highlights include Ceide Fields, Yeats' grave, Kilcullen's seaweed baths; there are no links I can include that can really capture the experience of the wild landscape.

Tuesday Aug 24, 2004

I have no blog and I must scream...

What's this? Well, apologies to Harlan Ellison for mangling the title of one story in his book that has been accurately classified as experimental/psychedelic/impressionistic, which just about sums up my goals for this blog ;) - that, and to avoid the reality tv effect that seems to afflict some blogs ;) but thankfully very few here at bsc.

Why blog?I've thought about blogging for a couple of years, but I always found another way to scratch the itch; I finally decided it was time to blog when a) the barrier to entry dropped even further when Sun created its own blog site and b) I finally realised that blogging was less of a soap-box and more of a staccato dialogue with readers; blog-ality seems to transcend space and time in a way that few other conversations can.

What do I want to blog about? I work in Sun's User Software business unit, based in Dublin, Ireland; currently my main focus is StarOffice/; my work-related interests are collaboration, rich clients, personal & project portals, task-oriented UI's built by end users, federation of all kinds, and managed desktops (whew!) so I'll blog about some of that stuff. Staying with computer science for a bit, I'm also into AI and knowledge representation, and following threads from there into emerging everyday technologies like automatic content-indexing, neural networks, geographic and conceptual map-building and path-finding, and the semantic web.

I'll also share some personal insights on the world going by, and I hope to learn something from each of the comments that people make to my musings.

Thanks for dropping by, more soon.




« July 2016