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Amazon's Tricky App

by @ 9:23 pm
Filed under: business,web — Tags: ,

It doesn't seem to be breaking any laws but it's certainly unfair and anti-competitive. This time Amazon is asking its customers to use its Price Check shopping app on products in retail stores and then turn around and buy the same items from Amazon and receive perks in the forms of discounts and credits. Of course people have the right to shop wherever they want, but asking people to troll stores and then robbing those stores from potential sales seems a bit sleazy

Amazon could argue that people could browse its web site just the same and then shop elsewhere but that is hardly a fair comparison. Amazon's costs are much lower and it's not saddled with collecting sales taxes in many states. A brick and mortar store has a multitude of cost factors to bear in order to accommodate its shoppers. Amazon has only a fraction of such costs in comparison because of its online nature.

Is Amazon's tactic of using the physical stores as showrooms fair? It doesn't seem to me. And if one insists on shopping online, why not use eBay instead? It has more selections, better prices, supports small business much more widely and probably pulls fewer dirty tricks.

Voyager 1 and Earth-like Planet

by @ 11:13 pm
Filed under: space,star trek — Tags: , ,

A pair of interesting space stories today.

Voyager1 launched in 1977 is now 11 billion miles away from earth. It's in an area thought to be the final barrier between the solar system and the inner-stellar space which is outside the sun's sphere of influence. Who knows what sorts of stuff lie beyond the barrier or if the spacecraft will be able to transmit anything once the barrier is crossed.

Also discovery of a new planet was confirmed orbiting its sun in the so-called Goldilocks zone where liquid water and therefore life become possibilities. It's about 600 light-years away which means if we're being observed from there right now, they see the Forbidden City being completed in China and the Ottoman empire in its infancy.

Now just imagine if Voyager ever makes it to this planet and the aliens scratch their heads (if they have fingers or even heads) trying to figure it out. It'll be their version of a UFO I suppose. We'll never know of course. Even if Voyager was headed towards the planet, it'll be some 300,000 years before it'll arrive. By then, humans are either gone as a race or perhaps morphed into different beings.

As a kid I marveled at these types of news, imagining myself aboard a spaceship visiting far-flung worlds. Now that I'm an adult, well, I still imagine myself aboard that spaceship.

Blame it on Star Trek 🙂


Amazon vs. eBay on Tax Collection

by @ 1:59 pm
Filed under: business,internet — Tags: , ,



So after all the bloviating and firing affiliates whose home states wanted to collect sales taxes from Amazon, suddenly it is talking fair taxation.

Where was the fairness when Amazon was (and still is) crushing small business all across the country? I don't like Amazon to begin with anyways, but I hope eBay can push this big bully back a little in defense of the small business.

Amazon, eBay square off over tax collection by small sellers

New Ugly Gmail Look

by @ 9:23 am
Filed under: email,google — Tags: ,

Yesterday I was greeted by an icon in Gmail to try their new look. I clicked, played with the new look for a while and ran right back to the old look. Alas, Google seems determined to push the new Gmail look on users, whether they like it or not, so the classic look may not last much longer.

I had two immediate negative reactions to the new design. The style is plain ugly and it also stinks of social networking. There are no clear cut delineations between the email area, the navigation, the ads, and the buttons. Elements seem to have been randomly placed on the page with very little contrast to differentiate the various areas.

Google will probably deny this but the new design is like Google+ crammed into Gmail. Everything has profile pictures in it and email threads look like wall posting timelines now. You can try the compact mode to squeeze everything together but that doesn’t help much. The elements never quite collapse like the classic version.

When will companies learn? You can't force people to like a product. This is the case of Gmail trying to push Google+ on the users and it doesn't work. The Gmail help forums are already rife with critical messages from disgruntled users. If Gmail wants to give its users new look and feel options, that's fine, but not allowing users to have the classic look is just heavy-handed.

Users can revolt and threaten to leave Gmail and hope Google pulls a BoA in the end. But if Google decides to push forward with the new look, it may be time to ditch Gmail for other services. This may be a golden opportunity for Facebook to beef up its pitiful email platform and steal users away.

Amazon’s Humbling Moment

by @ 5:34 pm
Filed under: financial — Tags:

Two days before amazon announces earnings, it gets glowing remarks from a bunch of analysts with price targets of $280, give or take.


Then amazon announces dismal earnings last night and takes a plunge down to around $200 today. What were these analysts thinking? So they just induce a bunch of people to sink money into amazon only to wake up to heavy losses two days later.

There’s really no need to wonder about where these analysts get their info. The answer is that the good ones throw darts, and the other ones, let’s just say, have other motives.

Amazon Culture

by @ 9:39 am
Filed under: google,web — Tags:

The tech geeks have been abuzz over a critical article written by a Google developer and leaked on Google+ by mistake. In that article, the author criticizes Google for its lack of a coherent platform and its SOA shortcomings as compared to companies such as facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon.

The author has since recanted his claims, calling them an opinionated rant. Surely a desire to remain employed by Google must have been a strong incentive. Never mind the Google critique, what really interested me was his depiction of Amazon. As an ex-employee of Amazon, he would have been in a position to know.

This is one of the passages describing Amazon:

And their operations are a mess; they don't really have SREs and they make engineers pretty much do everything, which leaves almost no time for coding - though again this varies by group, so it's luck of the draw. They don't give a single shit about charity or helping the needy or community contributions or anything like that. Never comes up there, except maybe to laugh about it. Their facilities are dirt-smeared cube farms without a dime spent on decor or common meeting areas.

A comment post from an Amazon ex-employee reads:

Amazon was a purely political environment where, if you weren't watching your back you'd get stabbed and become a rung in someone else's ladder. In our group, the manager had zero engineering experience (literally had gone to college to be a prison guard, somehow ended up "managing" programmers, though barely computer literate.


One might suspect the author has an unjustified grudge against Amazon, but I don't see why the author would trash Amazon when the goal of the article was to pick on Google. Software people generally tell it like it is, so perhaps he just happened to be in bad teams over at Amazon. I give it that at best.

My opinion of Amazon was already low, brought down by their arrogant and unethical behavior, but reading this article gave me more validation for my dislike of this company. I have continued to bypass Amazon and shop elsewhere since my initial disturbing experience with them. It's been most satisfying to deprive Amazon of even a cent of my money.

Dennis Ritchie, Creator of C, Dead at 70

by @ 10:32 pm
Filed under: computers — Tags: , ,

My first programming language exposure was 8088 assembly. Pascal was my second. but my third, C, was the one I absolutely loved.

Today I mostly program in C#, PHP, and JavaScript and I like the fact that they're modeled after C. I don't know what it was about C that intrigued me. Maybe the liberal use of pointers or the concise syntax. Whatever the case, I tip my hat to its creator, Dennis Ritchie. Thanks for such a great gift, sophistication and elegance.

Dennis Ritchie, Creator of C Programming Language, Unix and Inferno OS Dead at 70.

Google Powered by ASP.NET

by @ 10:01 am
Filed under: google,microsoft — Tags: ,

Ok, it's not goggle.com or one of the more well-known google sites but the site survey.googleratings.com is powered by Microsoft's IIS running ASP.NET. I only noticed this after I received an Adsense survey invitation with a link ending in .aspx. I wouldn't be surprised if the survey results are stored in an SQL Server database.

Google is the actual owner of googleratings.com, so one must assume the site is managed by a third party company, keeping the survey operations away from googleplex. I'm pretty certain any google developer who'd even consider using Microsoft products will be severely humiliated by his peers 🙂

Steve Jobs Lessons

by @ 5:12 pm
Filed under: business,computers — Tags: ,

Plenty has been said about the life and legacy of Steve Jobs. I'm no Apple fan but I knew technology lost a leader when Jobs died. His passing reinforced a few truths I believe in life myself and here they are:

- Do what you're passionate about.
- You don't need a lot of people in your team, just the right people.
- Luck is an important determinant of success. Be ready when it comes along.
- Don't be afraid to start all over.
- Don't let success spoil you or failure ruin you.
- You are our own best competitor.
- Life is short and death doesn't discriminate.
- Life goes on after you're gone.

Amazon Fire and Silk

by @ 9:08 pm
Filed under: business,technology,web — Tags: , ,

So amazon finally announced its so-called secret product last week. With much fanfare the world was introduced the new Android-driven tablet called Fire, featuring the Silk browser. Oh, the Kindle is still there too, and at a huge discount to its more glorious days, but who cares about Kindle now.

As usual there has been a self-serving announcement on amazon's homepage alluding to the fact that they work hard to save their customers money via lower prices. Really? If that's the case how come Kindle was going for five times the current price not too long ago. Hate it when businesses pull that phony we-care nonsense when everyone knows money is the main objective and prices are determined based on what the market bears and not some altruistic algorithm. Whatever, amazon.

As for the new keyboard-less tablet, get ready for your every move to be tracked and recorded by amazon. You see, the Silk browser connects to the web via EC2, amazon's vast data network, allegedly to "optimize" user experience. Of course that also means amazon will take a little peep and record what the user does online. What it'll do with that data is yet undetermined.

Note: Author holds a negative bias towards amazon based on previous experience.

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