For Cosma Shalizi, Daniel Davies etc

by Henry on March 26, 2006

Avram Grumer on power law extrapolations and the “Gillette Singularity”:http://agrumer.livejournal.com/414194.html.

(Via “Making Light”:http://www.nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/)

Monopoly and technology

by Henry on March 26, 2006

Something which I hadn’t ever thought of before jumped out when I read this “piece”:http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/27/technology/27soft.html?ei=5094&en=482f269e6e35b1c3&hp=&ex=1143435600&partner=homepage&pagewanted=print/partner/rssnyt in the _New York Times_ on problems with the new version of Windows.

bq. Skeptics like Mr. Cusumano say that fixing the Windows problem will take a more radical approach, a willingness to walk away from its legacy. One instructive example, they say, is what happened at Apple. … The approach was somewhat ungainly, but it allowed Apple to move to a new technology, a more stable, elegantly designed operating system. The one sacrifice was that OS X would not be compatible with old Macintosh programs, a step Microsoft has always refused to take with Windows. “Microsoft feels it can’t get away with breaking compatibility,” said Mendel Rosenblum, a Stanford University computer scientist. “All of their applications must continue to run, and from an architectural point of view that’s a very painful thing.”

Presumably Microsoft doesn’t want to break compatibility because by so doing it might undermine its enduring monopoly – if the mutual lock-in between Microsoft’s operating system and office productivity software is weakened, people might quite possibly move away from both. Apple, not being a monopoly (but having high customer loyalty) was much better placed to make the jump. While in contrast, Microsoft customers can look forward to a piece of bloatware that will be extraordinarily obese even by its previous standards. I suspect I’ll be switching to Mac meself next time I have the chance.

Overheard Conversation

by Jon Mandle on March 26, 2006

The other day I overheard a conversation between two guys in ROTC at my school. They were talking about a public presentation about the war that one of them had been to the day before, where the speaker had asked rhetorically, “When has war ever solved anything?” The ROTC guy was fuming – hadn’t the speaker ever heard of Germany? He continued: “they all say they believe in free speech, but never want to hear opposing views.” This launched an extended whining session between the two of them on this theme, disregarding the salient fact that he hadn’t said anything when he had the chance to ask questions of the speaker.

My first reaction was to be surprised that ROTC guys had to reach back to WWII to find an example of an uncontroversially just war – it occurred nearly half-a-century before either of them was born. I mean, what are they teaching in ROTC these days?

But my second reaction was how easily they slipped into thinking of themselves as oppressed victims. I certainly can imagine that the environment of the presentation had been strongly anti-war, and a defense of the war may well have drawn a heated reaction and maybe even some “boo”s. But I find it impossible to believe that the ROTC guy would have felt seriously threatened in any way. He just didn’t want to risk the possibility of being ridiculed for his support of the war. This is what so much of the right is reduced to: crying that they’re being oppressed – these guys genuinely believed that their rights had been taken away – whenever they don’t find themselves in the majority.