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Man outsources coding to China

by @ 5:16 pm
Filed under: business,computers — Tags: , ,

Love this story. Software developers are certainly infamous for being lazy. Most of us are, and that drives us to write code to automate things or write utilities to give to others to perform certain tasks. It's all about finding clever ways to make things easier for us and our employers.

But one guy took it one step further and secretly outsourced his coding responsibilities to a Chinese firm paying them a fraction of his salary and spending his own days having fun. His employer was oblivious to this for years until they ran an audit and discovered the scheme.

The blog post below is really about this coder's exploits and a cautionary tale for others to keep tabs on their networks. Still a part of me wants to high-five him for his cleverness right up to the point he was caught.

Verizon Business Security Blog » Blog Archive » Case Study: Pro-active Log Review Might Be A Good Idea.

Citigroup CEO Resigns

by @ 2:41 pm
Filed under: business,web — Tags:

Can't say I'm shocked to get the news of Citibank's Vikram Pandit quitting (Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit resigns | Reuters.) Evidently Citibank's online banking has been an absolute disaster recently. There have been numerous outages, slow response, and unscheduled downtimes.

Telephone customer service and tech support have also been horrendous during these outages. Customers are told that the site would be online shortly only to have no access for entire days. Understandably the service reps are frustrated having to deal with irate customers and they have, in turn, become rude and abusive to the callers.

The CEO's abrupt resignation may not have been directly related to Citibank's online problems, but such prolonged issues are manifestations that the bank is in the state of chaos and disarray and no one is minding the store. That's just a shame as Citibank was a decent bank to do business with at one time.

Too Small to Succeed

by @ 6:06 pm
Filed under: business,internet,web

I used to think that the Internet was the great equalizer in the business world. A small guy with programming skills and a big drive sets up a new site and offers a novel service. The service goes viral and the small guy becomes a small company and builds and expands his way to success. The small guy pulls off an IPO or gets acquired and retires to the tropics. It's a happy ending that some have indeed experienced.

But what I have learned is that without some early connections and some cash infusion the small guy can quickly and quietly wither away, no matter how much effort he puts into his novel idea and no matter how many users he attracts. He's destined for a quick failure unless he gets some serious support behind him and fast.

How do I know this? Having operated this very site for some 12 years has given me plenty of lessons to that end. I operate this site as a hobby from the corner of my condo and while the free utilities offered here have a decent number of users, which I assume find them useful, and while I never looked to this site as a means of financial success, this site is in fact too small to succeed. Take these cases:

  • For a number of years this site was hosted on various web hosting services such as 1&1 and every few months there was a warning to kick me off the service because the site was exceeding usage quotas. So, like a gypsy, I kept moving the site from one hosting company to another. A financially secure company would have had no issues paying for more resources.
  • A couple of years ago Amazon Associates (an Affiliate Network) I was using for this site accused me of cheating and shut down my account, depriving the site from a small stream of revenue. According to Amazon, I had published URL's with my associate account to other sites, violating their terms of service. URL's had in fact been copied to other sites but not by me. Page-scraping and content-stealing robots had done that. A large site most likely would have never been suspended. In my case my appeals of innocence fell on deaf ears in Amazon.
  • A few years ago I operated a URL shortening service much like tinyurl and bitly. One day a spammer used the links in a widespread spamming operation and suddenly the domain registrar, GoDaddy, cut off the domain registration claiming that is was spamvertized. It took over two months to convince GoDaddy of my innocence and get the domain back. I shut off the service promptly. This would have never happen to bit.ly or goo.gl.
  • Recently a service on this site fell victim to a Nigerian phishing operation to collect bank information from unsuspecting victims. For days my ISP hounded me about this, nearly cutting off my services. That would have never happened to a customer with deep pockets, but I ended up discontinuing the service to guard against possible service termination or potential legal consequences.
  • The latest headache came in the form of a DDoS, paralyzing this site. An outside site using one of the widget services from this site came under attack and the attack spilled over to this site causing capacity issues. I had to resort to all sorts of traffic blocking filters to partially mitigate the effects. This would have been a non-event for a larger site, but for this site it meant lengthy periods of slow performance and outages.

The Internet, a great equalizer? Hardly, great ideas can only go so far and without serious financial backing, they are destined for failure and eventual oblivion. I can't imagine how many great innovations have died premature deaths without that all important cash infusion.

Oracle's Java Bet

by @ 6:40 pm
Filed under: business,google,technology — Tags: , , ,

A couple of weeks ago a judge finally ruled that Google hadn't violated any patents when it used the Java programming language in its Android OS. Good, finally someone wasn't intimidated by Larry Ellison and ruled based on logic rather than emotion. Word has it that the judge actually took some time to learn Java to have a better grasp of the dispute, impressive.

Now comes the news that Android has hit 900k activations per day and is well on its way to reach 1m per days. That may be in part due to some confidence that Android is now a safe bet, free from oracle's licensing threats.

In retrospect, it’s easy to see why Oracle acquired Sun and its assets. Even if some of those assets, like Java or MySQL, were under GPL (essentially free to use), that's counter to how Oracle operates. Oracle had hoped, and still does, to start capitalizing on the large market shares of these products. To that end it hasn't been successful, yet.

The latest Java lawsuit outcome is a great boon to developers and users, but one shouldn't bank on Oracle's defeat in Android's case as being the end of such tactics. Undoubtedly Oracle will be back for more. Given its past business history, Oracle is nothing if not undaunted and persistent.

Amazon, a 'Predator'

by @ 4:28 pm
Filed under: business — Tags:

Kudos to this publisher for having the courage and vision to remove its titles from Amazon.com.  This is what the CEO of the publishing company said of Amazon:

Amazon is squeezing everyone out of business. I don’t like that. They’re a predator. We’re better off without them.

Google's mantra of "don't be evil" should really be "don't be like Amazon". It cheats its affiliates, it dodges taxes, it's anti-competitive, it abuses publishers, and it does all that with the attitude of hubris and entitlement.

Amazon wants us to believe that it's all about "out with the old and in with the new." Nice try, it's more like "out with competition and in with monopoly."

Amazon’s E-Book Pricing a Constant Thorn for Publishers - NYTimes.com.

Disclaimer: I have disliked Amazon for some time.

Comcast Raises Rates (on Fixed-Price Contracts!)

by @ 10:42 pm
Filed under: business,internet — Tags:

Sometimes I don't know how companies get away with their sleazy tactics, but I guess it's because they are loaded and consumers have little power to stand up to them.

Q - If you are Comcast how do you make sure your business customers don't leave you?
A - Lock them into long-term, fixed-price service contracts.

Q- How do you raise your prices on them, despite the fixed-price contracts?
A- Force them to use your equipment and then silently raise your monthly equipment fee.

That's exactly what Comcast has done starting in the new year. Brilliant.

Business Class Equipment Fee

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.

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

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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