On “Inflection Point”

My comments for the latest I, Cringely column, Inflection Point (May 12, 2005):

Dear Bob,

I really enjoy reading your “Inflection Point” article, but I question
your interpretation about the computing powers it require.. as I understand the Google FAQ for it, it would seem that the Google servers just act as normal proxy servers, with most of the “smarts” being done by the client, running on the user’s computer. The only difference as far as the server is concerned is being able to send only the changed parts of a page instead of the full page – again, this requires processing on the client-side to update the local cache.

As for interactive formats like Flash, rendering them on the server makes no sense – the idea of a Web Accelerator is to decrease latency, not increase it. Running Flash on a Google server would be akin to, say, running a VNC or Apple Remote Desktop session. The bandwith required to transmit at 15 fps, say, the content of the Flash window, plus the computational overhead of doing the video encoding on the fly, plus the lack of responsiveness experienced by the user as any response entered has to travel to the Google server and back, makes this a non-starter.

Very intriguing analysis on the X-box 360 and Yahoo Music Engine; it is quite interesting to see how Microsoft’s OEMs are going to respond to the X-box. Not to mention Intel! There is something worrying about both Google and Yahoo’s recent software releases, though. Google Desktop and Web Accelerator, and Yahoo Music Engine are all Windows/x86 only. Granted that Google Desktop would make no sense on a Mac, but as a Mac+Linux user I am rather concerned by Yahoo’s push. Especially since Real, which according to your analysis stands to lose quite a bit from Yahoo’s push, is the most Linux-friendly of media software providers. One only hope they could avoid Netscape’s fate – the company they seem to parallel closely (both are at some point
much-criticized for bloat, and then announced open-source initiatives) – since at this point, it still takes a stable corporate presence to push video standards..

Regards,


Michel Salim

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UK General Election ’05: The revolution will be blogged

(As posted on LJ, in an attempt to figure out if Technorati has problems with tracking LJ blogs)

Stayed up rather late in the hope that I get to witness the Lib Dems getting their 60th seat in Westminster, but that was not to be.. after wondering whether they’d actually get there, considering a lot of the 20-odd seats left would be in Northern Ireland, which has had an entirely different political map for at least over a century, I woke up late this morning to a nice surprise: Lib Dems are at 62 seats!.

A lot of the gains are taken from Labour, and three of their seats fell back to the Conservatives (but two of those are won at by-elections and one was a Labour defector, so it looks quite good), but the Lib Dems are now in second place in 160 seats, 50 more than before. And they’re doing this despite the reduction in seat allotments north of the border, which on paper should hurt them more since they are historically stronger in Scotland than in England, but turns out Labour losses there more than make up for it.

Students seem to vote disproportionately in their favour, with Bristol West and Cambridge turning yellow, which bodes well for the future. A slight dampener to hopes of a more representative election system (with PR elements, preferably first-past-the-post plus a top-up party list ala the Scottish Parliament) is that apparently some pro-PR Labour MPs lost their seats [This is a low, Guardian blog]. The Lib Dems and smaller parties are currently way under-represented – with their 22.3% share of the vote, in a pure PR system the Lib Dems would have over 140 seats, instead of the current 62 (unlikely to be more than at most 63 or 64 when all dust settles). Meanwhile, Labour has 355 seats to the Conservatives’ 197 despite leading them by less than 3% in the popular vote.

A good analysis of the Lib Dem result here [Markos Moulitsas, Guardian], and thanks to the_wild_iris for linking to a humorous guide [Daily Kos] to the British electoral system. Congrats on Solihull ousting the Cons!

[Update – 1:36PM] It’s amazing how well the exit poll predictions hold up [Scotsman] – Labour majority is now at 65 seats with 5 seats still to declare, compared to the 66 seats predicted yesterday

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SuSE 9.3 Linux fails home-use test

The way Nick Farrell abused the word ‘download’, he’s either doing a very good job at emulating a home user, or he’s way out of his depth:

There are three phases to the installation. The first from the boot-up disk downloads the core components. Then there is a reboot, which if you are not careful and have a Windows partition on the machine, will download the wrong operating system in the middle of your reboot.

If you do get through to the second reboot, and there is no indication which icon you have to press to do that, then Suse will download a list of software which it thinks you will need.

Amazing what Linux Today editors pick as being newsworthy nowadays. The only worthy point in the article is that Beagle is not installed by default, but from past discussions on the kernel’s inotify interface and the memory usage of Beagle itself, perhaps SuSE is making a wise choice for the.. ahem.. ‘home users’.