Writing for the Boss

Someday someone I work for will read this. Hopefully they’ll like it, because I’m not stopping.

More of my noodling around, I found a great weblog by a very honest man, who’s boss wanted him to stop writing his weblog.

He said no.

Since someday someone I work for will surely run across this weblog, hopefully they’ll like it, or if not maybe they’ll read Mark’s article, and not ask me to stop writing. This weblog isn’t as interesting, as honest as Mark’s, but I’m working on it. And plan to keep doing so.

Senator Lott in Favor of Vietnam War

Senator Lott seems to be in favor of any war, if the president is leading the charge.

Last week Senator Trent Lott sharply criticized Senator Tom Daschle for asking some uncomfortable questions and wanting answers about the so-called war on terrorism:

In his initial reaction Thursday to Daschle’s questioning of Bush’s strategy, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., had said, “How dare Senator Daschle criticize President Bush while we are fighting our war on terrorism, especially when we have troops in the field? He should not be trying to divide our country while we are united.”

I guess Senator Lott would have been blindly in favor of the Vietnam War, too, and assert that asking questions about it would have been un-American.

I disagree, strongly, with people who say we need to unite unquestioningly behind the current administration’s policies. There’s a lot to question, and a lot that’s being kept secret about the administration’s activities (and not just about the war).

It’s pretty clear our current president likes secrecy and doesn’t like to have to answer uncomfortable questions (probably because he has to think to do so, and he’s not working with a high-horsepower engine).

I think that’s un-American.

Jury Duty Over in 1.5 Hours

My jury “duty” lasted less than 2 hours, and was mostly sitting around in a room with other bored people.

On Wednesday afternoon at 1:30pm I had to report to San Francisco Superior Court to serve the terms of my jury summons. It turned out there was only one case which needed jurors, but they anticipated a difficult selection, and had requested a large pool of potential jurors.

There must have been 200 of us in the room when they started explaining how it would work. They were going to take a first “batch” and keep the rest on reserve, in case they ran through the first group without selecting enough people for the jury.

The first group was called out, my name not among them. At first I thought this was going to be horrible. At least the folks in the first group would have something entertaining to do, i.e., watch the jury selection process. And if you were in the first pool there was the potential to be rejected, and sent home quickly.

The rest of us would have to wait until the first batch was all gone, or the full jury selected, before we could be dismissed. Or so I speculated to Rochelle on my mobile phone around 2:45pm, as we made plans to give the hamburger at Hotel Utah a try for dinner.

Then, not 10 minutes later, another person came over the loudspeaker and explained that the court had notified them that the first batch would be more than enough to keep them occupied for the rest of the day. Since SF has a “one day, one trial” policy for service, we were dismissed, and had fulfilled our duty.

The part I loved was how he put it: “We’re going to have to let you go.” I genuinely got the impression he would much rather have had us sitting around doing nothing all afternoon!

Jury Duty Today

I have to report for jury duty today. It was kind of a surprise.

Over the weekend I finally got around to opening all the mail that accumulated for me while I was in Europe. Among them was a jury summons. Starting the next day.


Fortunately, I wasn’t required to report in on Monday, just phone in. And then the same for Tuesday. But my number came due last night, and I have to report in this afternoon.

I’m actually interested in serving on a jury. It’s a civic duty, and beyond that, if a “jury of peers” is to have any meaning, all citizens need to participate, not just those with nothing better to do.

God knows I have “better” things to do, with a product launch in two weeks. If only I had read my mail sooner, I could have requested a deferral…until the next horrible time to have jury duty.

I think it’s like a bandaid, you need to just do it, suffer a bit, and then get on track again.

Hold on, Please

Three magic words to strike terror in the hearts of telemarketers. Start using them today.

Steve Rubenstein, of the SF Chronicle, has a great suggestion for making the world a little less pleasant for telemarketers, the kind who call you during dinner.

The basic premise is that telemarketing is cost-effective because most people who are going to say no say it in the first 10 seconds of the call. This lets telemarketers dial as many as a couple hundred numbers an hour. If the “Nos” start slowing them down, by taking a couple minutes, the economics of telemarketing stop working.

How do you do this? When you get a telephone solicitation, say “Hold on, please” (or some variation), set the phone down…and let them wait to figure out you’re not coming back.

You’ll find it personally satisfying if you start doing this yourself, but the key to this technique really working, achieving the global aim of cutting down on telemarketing, is for lots of people to do it.

So, pass it on.

Microsoft Sucks, George Bush Swallows

In a shocking, I say shocking development, the Department of “Justice” has completely capitulated on the Microsoft antitrust trial, giving a convicted monopolist a light slap on the wrist. Just another example of George Bush helping the rich get richer.

In a shocking, I say shocking development, the Department of “Justice” has completely capitulated on the Microsoft antitrust trial, giving a convicted monopolist a light slap on the wrist. Just another example of George Bush helping the rich get richer.

A quick recap of history: in 1998, the DoJ sued Microsoft in federal court for alleged antitrust violations. After months of dubious legal strategy, damning evidence, and ludicrous courtroom behavior, Microsoft was in 2000 convicted by a conservative Federal judge of being a monopoly and abuse of monopoly power. Note the word convicted.

In 2001, seven more Federal judges — a full sitting of the appeals court, most of them conservative appointees also — unanimously upheld the bulk of the conviction. Note the word upheld.

Now, after weeks of “negotiation,” the DoJ and Microsoft have arrived at a “settlement” that is so full of ambiguities and loopholes that it’s not clear that it will have any effect on Microsoft behavior, let alone actually restore balance to the technology industry.

The appeals court ruled that any actions taken against Microsoft (a) must restore competition to the affected market, (b) must deprive Microsoft of the “fruits of its illegal conduct,” and (c) must prevent Microsoft from engaging in similar tactics in the future. The settlement fails on every one of these.

I’ve read a few objections to this position, penned by Microsoft apologists, or Microsoft’s buddies at the DoJ, and none of them hold water:

The proposed settlement is strong, and it really will modify Microsoft’s behavior.

No, it’s not. Ralph Nader (a man I’m not fond of) and James Love have written an open letter which details the deep flaws in the settlement far more eloquently than I can manage. Read that for the details.

And even if the agreement somehow managed to stop Microsoft’s current abuses, there are plenty more new abuses that are not even remotely prevented by the agreement. Read Bob Cringely’s latest column for more on that.

That letter assumes the worst about Microsoft’s behavior, but Microsoft is good, the settlement will have a positive effect.

History suggests this is not correct. Inserting weasel words and then using them to studiously adhere to their interpretation of the agreement while flagrantly ignoring the spirit is exactly what Microsoft did to the last consent decree with the DoJ. Certainly, depending on Microsoft to be “good” is a pretty flawed way to approach handling a convicted and unrepentant monopoly abuser.

This antitrust case is all about Microsoft’s rivals complaining, not about real consumer harm.

If that were really true, I doubt if eight (count ’em, eight) Federal judges would have upheld the conviction. It’s not as though they don’t understand the law.

And if that were really true, what’s up with Microsoft raising the prices on their products? The price of the operating system has been steadily creeping upwards. Windows XP is $10 more than the prior upgrade, and Microsoft is currently moving corporate customers onto new support programs which will cost twice as much as the old programs.

Explain to me how paying more for a product is not “consumer harm.”

But Windows XP delivers more value, that’s why it costs more.

Um, no. Look at other parts of the software industry where there is actual competition. Over time you get more value, and you pay the same or less. I’ve been upgrading Quicken for many years, getting lots more value in every release, and the price to upgrade is the same. Quicken has competitors, so Intuit can’t raise the price. Windows does not have competitors, so Microsoft abuses their monopoly power and raises prices.

Microsoft just wants to protect their freedom to innovate.

Aha ha ha ha ha ha! Aha ha ha ha ha ha! That’s a good one! Aha ha ha ha ha ha!

“Innovation” has nothing to do with it. Microsoft wants to protect their freedom to crush their competitors. Microsoft has never had a reputation for innovation, for good reason. They copy the best ideas from their competitors and put those into Windows in such a way to steer consumers towards other Microsoft initiatives (currently that’s MSN and Passport; if you’ve installed Windows XP, you know exactly what I mean).

But if Microsoft can’t integrate functionality into Windows, then consumers won’t get the benefits of that integration. The integration is the innovation.

Integration of extended functionality into a user’s computing environment is certainly desirable. However, that integration can be done in a way that fosters innovation and competition, or it can be done in an exclusionary way. Guess which way Microsoft has been doing things.

The current settlement proposal recognizes and acknowledges this, and is attempting to change Microsoft’s anti-competitive behavior in this area. But the language is so weak and riddled with holes, it depends on Microsoft to be “good,” something they have repeatedly demonstrated they don’t know how to do.

Final note: I’m not talking here about conspiracy theories in the total capitulation of the DoJ. I think it was a perfectly ordinary case of George Bush making sure that rich people can stay rich, by making the world safe for large corporations to do whatever they want.

But I don’t have strong opinions here at all. ;-)