The day the western democratic culture ran amok

As most people I’ll never forget 9/11, watching the impact of the second plane into the WTC live on TV. Then it was clear that this was no accident but a coordinated attack. Seeing the fate of doom and death of so many people live was for everyone watching an extreme emotional moment.
A lot of 9/11 will remain a mystery for decades (maybe planned by Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh with involvement of ISI, maybe financed by Saudis, maybe executed by some Al-Qaeda branded simpletons, maybe quickly used by the war criminals Dick and Don to establish their idea of an empire and Silverstein by blasting WTC 7 deliberately), the event was ending the post 1989 time as we knew it. The outcome 10 years after was certainly nobody has though of:

  • The US has become a, partially hidden, police state lost most of its high valuable civil liberties (Europe as always not far behind)
  • The US wage 2 large wars, supported by Europe) with hundred thousands of dead civilians, resulting in two failed states, and several small wars fought by SOCOM. The US is now in constant war, no end in sight.
  • The Neo-Conservative empire Dick and Don dreamed of never happened (although they are happy with the money still coming out from their business activities)
  • The “War on Terror” has become the “War for Terror”, spreading terror worldwide.
  • The UN was mocked by Colin Powell and lost credibility worldwide. Torture banned before 9/11 is now widely used and accepted although proved useless.

Interestingly, 2011, seems to be also a year then history changed course. Wikileaks showed that it is still possible to publish the truth. The “Arabic Spring” proves that people have more power for Change as any would-be terrorist, dictator or foreign government ever imagined. Fukushima proved more than Tschernobyl that a nuclear accident is impossible to handle. Anonymous started a valid fight against information control and for lost liberties (with LulzSec making some unnecessary stunts). The Ponzi scheme of the global finance finally seems to toppling over (with the hope to be regulated in the last minute).

So what will we see in 10 years? Strong, proud new democratic states in the Middle East? A self-sufficient Europe supporting its elderly population? A US which regained its liberties and comes back on the path of science and culture? China finally established as the new economic super power with India and Brazil following closely behind? The realization that Climate Change has already started and it is most important so safe millions of people by technology and knowledge? A financial system supporting the economy and not destroying it? Bradley Manning not executed?

We will see …

The Amazon Empire

Got a nice link (thanks @goertsch) for a good presentation covering Amazon’s vast retail empire. Most interesting and always fascinating is that basically Amazon is a classic retail store but was the only one which really understood what eCommerce meant nearly two decades ago. Second, Amazon is focusing on the customer first. I am now more than a decade a very happy customer protected and supported against delivery or quality obstacles by Amazon. Third, Amazon is fully automated with a high profile real-time inventory management, one of the first which worked. Also they secure their customer data with care (Sony, here you can learn how it is done).
Amazon is currently expanding to all forms of digital content, in the media always a bit in the Apple/Google shadow, but will finally come out as winner because producers can earn money and customers by cheaper and in higher quality (compared to iTunes/Google Music & Books).
What I think Amazon may should do in the future is to extend the long tail to small, existing, physical existing stores and help them to sell their products location aware using the Amazon brand. Amazon can provide more services and higher trust and honesty than eBay.

Ps.: And please Amazon, Kindle V4 should have a Mirasol display 😉

Experiences with an iPad 2

Having bought a iPad 2 mostly for the reason to replace the normal printed journals, the experience with an iPad is a mixed one. First the hardware: although the overall build quality is high, the buttons on the sides are looking and feeling cheap. But two other things are really bad from an usability standpoint: one is the highly reflecting surface (whoever “invented” glossy displays should be banned from any product design for life), the other is the bevelled edges which make the socket for the sync/power cable a mechanical nightmare, wondering how long it survives. The display itself suffers a bit from the low resolution; otherwise it is definitely very good. The iPad survives up to 7 hours without recharge, that’s the best I have seen from mobile devices so far (besides all Kindle’s). It is heavy, so not really an eBook reader but this does not matter on the breakfast table.
More important for me in any case are the Apps providing more or less sufficient reading quality for most of the magazines. The ones from the Heise publishing group are working as expected, the only downside so far is that the pages are simple images (no interactive content or links) and that Apps very often have a rendering issues (like not drawing the navigation bar on but instead somewhere near it). Despite the low screen resolution, you can read the page without scrolling (anti-aliasing could be better). Besides Le Monde Diplomatique and Technology Review, which also work with images, all other content is provided via PDF, best viewed for text by Stanza, although GoodReader is a great PDF viewer too (if graphics or images are more complex). Interesting was that Apps, like the one for the magazine Cicero are in the App Store, but you cannot use it any more.
All other news sources like BBC, TED or Al Jazeera have their own Apps which work great. Twitter and my preferred RSS reader Pulse are also available, so no complains here. Most interesting, Microsoft’s Skype has no distinct iPad App so far. The default Calendar was quickly replaced by the MUJI Calendar App. One thing which really provides a lot of value for the iOS devices is if you own a Synology device. For one thing, streaming music is as easy as installing the App, the other big advantage is that your Printer becomes AirPrint capable! Oh, and opening PDFs directly from the Synology NAS makes live a lot easier.
Interesting on a live iOS device is that notifications do not work (most of the time, or only if your App run in the front) and they crash often, very often. If you look into the logs, either because a network issue or low memory (ok, our CMC Markets App is also a bit heavy on this ;-)).
All in all I’m not dissatisfied but I think Apple has to improve hardware and software quickly to keep up with the android developments. And as eBook reader, the Kindle will rule this year too.
Oh, and Internet Radio and iTunes U (best thing Apple has done) become now a lot more comfortable to listen too …

Amazon’s Kindle, after more than a year

Using the Amazon Kindle (2nd generation) now for over a year I must say it was worth the high international shipment price. What’s great:

  • Its great paperback replacement. You read slightly slower than with a real book but it is definitely easier to handle.
  • It’s weight and operation time. This is one of the only electronic devices which need only to be recharged once a week after moderate usage.
  • WhisperNet and the online shop works flawless.
  • The always present dictionary is one of the best ideas so far for eBook readers
  • Text-to-Speech works well and is sometimes useful (if you are too tired to read ;-))

So as replacement for paperbacks, the Kindle is perfect. Yes, the E Ink Display can be better (it is, with the 3rd generation). But the Kindle has also some flaws:

  • The platform remains closed without any good reason (and open it for simple games makes no sense so far)
  • Direct ePub rendering would be fine (but you can always convert any book to the MOBI format with good results, DRM is not an issue any more)
  • The not so good typographic rendering: not the worst for reading, but if you take a higher quality book, you see the difference. Maybe this is a second chance for TeX 😉

This flaws can be solved easily by Amazon but the real problem for all eBook readers are currently the publishers who try to block any success of the platform, especially in Europe:

  • A lot of publications available in US are not available here
  • Several months ago eBooks costs (naturally) less than Hardcovers, now prices are equal or higher (with nearly zero production costs). This is pure greed because the authors are not getting more as they got from a paperback sale …
  • The silly idea of DRMs (which cost two clicks to be removed nowadays)
  • Nearly no German publications in the Amazon Store (but you can buy it on Libri.de or Thalia as ePub and copy it over)

I currently hope the market force of Google, Amazon and Apple combined will derail the current publishers (as they have done with the records industry) so that most books really get available with a reasonable price.
Will be interesting of the new 7” tablets will be finally replace the Kindle, but for now it is definitely the best electronic reading device so far … for the current price it is a certainly bargain.

First impressions of Amazon’s Kindle 2

I have bought the international version of the Kindle 2 last week. So these are my impressions:
– The E Ink display is as expected, as in all current eBook Readers. It has the size of the small paperback book, so nothing for large format publishing products.
– The design of the device itself is great, it is effortless to use because it is slim and the main buttons are on the correct position
– The Amazon Whispernet works as expected, the store is easy to use and the books are delivered in under 60 seconds
– Highlighting and annotations work nicely, the dictionary popup available for every word is very interesting for non-native speakers
– Text-to-Speech actually is a interesting gimmick. It actually sounds not bad, although I am not sure how often I will use it.
– Playing MP3 also works, but this is certainly not the right device for this.
– Converted unprotected ePub books actually work great on the Kindle, PDF converting is only usable for PDFs without graphics. Both formats are not supported directly.
– It is disappointing that RSS feeds are not available currently for the international version; I hope that Amazon will make a better deal with the European carriers in the near future.
– What is really not understandable is that Amazon is not able to provide a lot of books NOT internationally because of greedy publishing companies. Ok, if more would be available I would buy more and maybe never read them … maybe that is not so bad at all 😉 But I hope now with more eBook readers available the pressure will increase (and no, the PEN club is on the wrong side)
– Most books in Kindle format or ePub are DRM protected. I hope that the publishing industry thinks twice about how the music industry has lost the senseless battle of useless copy protections.
So after buying some books, trying out some converting tools, I am starting to use the Kindle. So far I think it will be valuable for me because for now on I have not to carry around a lot of books. But it will certainly not replace all of my monthly bought books …

I have bought the international version of the Kindle 2 last week. So these are my impressions:

  • The E Ink display is as expected, as in all current eBook Readers. It has the size of the small paperback book, so nothing for large format publishing products.
  • The design of the device itself is great, it is effortless to use because it is slim and the main buttons are on the correct position
  • The Amazon Whispernet works as expected, the store is easy to use and the books are delivered in under 60 seconds
  • Highlighting and annotations work nicely, the dictionary popup available for every word is very interesting for non-native speakers
  • Text-to-Speech actually is a interesting gimmick. It actually sounds not bad, although I am not sure how often I will use it
  • Playing MP3 also works, but this is certainly not the right device for this
  • Converted unprotected ePub books actually work great on the Kindle, PDF converting is only usable for PDFs without graphics. Both formats are not supported directly>
  • It is disappointing that RSS feeds are not available currently for the international version; I hope that Amazon will make a better deal with the European carriers in the near future.
  • What is really not understandable is that Amazon is not able to provide a lot of books NOT internationally because of greedy publishing companies. Ok, if more would be available I would buy more and maybe never read them … maybe that is not so bad at all 😉 But I hope now with more eBook readers available the pressure will increase
  • Most books in Kindle format or ePub are DRM protected. I hope that the publishing industry thinks twice about how the music industry has lost the senseless battle of useless copy protections

So after buying some books, trying out some converting tools, I am starting to use the Kindle. So far I think it will be valuable for me because for now on I have not to carry around a lot of books. But it will certainly not replace all of my monthly bought books …

New CEP engines for .Net

Today Microsoft published one interesting part of the upcoming SQL Server 2008 R2: StreamInsight. This is Microsoft’s first step into the area of CEP. After a quick look it seems that is maybe the smallest set on features which you need for a useful stream processing engine. In its core it is a typed continues query engine which is utilizing LINQ for basic operations like projection, joins, ranking and some more. The query will be directly bound to an input and output adapter and then assigned to a named application which is managed by an embeddable execution engine. Event types are simple attributes to POCO object. All events are per definition assigned to a fixed model, like interval, edge (open interval) or point in time. All is assembled programmatically; there is (currently) no support in Visual Studio. Although there is a Offline Debugger which allows it to replay event log traces.
As mentioned, this is a simple engine but interesting because it is easily embeddable and easy to handle so it is ideal for integration into existing applications. Will be interesting to see how well the current runtime actually scales on multi-processor systems.
The second interesting development is that NEsper, the always one-step-behind .Net version of the Java CEP engine Esper, is also available in a new version and now not so far behind of the mature Java version. It provides a lot more on functionality as the small Microsoft engine, although because it is aligned to the Java version, the query language is based on a SQL-related language.
Both engines are interesting because now the .Net world has finally some nice ways to utilize CEP which is more and more becoming a commodity and is drifting out of its niche of expansive but not necessarily more useful commercial CEP application servers.
Would be interesting to test the actual performance of these two new(late)comers because a lot of home grown code can be removed in some applications by using CEP concepts …

Richard Feynman on Video

Sometimes you have to love Bill Gates: With project Tuva the old recordings with Richard Feynman, The Messenger Series from 1964, is presented now online and extended with a lot of additional extras which are linked to the content of the lectures itself. Richard Feynman was one of the best known Scientists of the 20th century and famous for his very well written books and his humour. And yes, he also was one of the greatest physicists of the century.
If there ever was a reason to install Silverlight, this is one (if only it would also be available for Linux).

First impression of VS 2010

Visual Studio 2010 Beta 1 is publically available and besides CLR/.Net 4.0 the IDE itself changes a bit:

  • The Visual Studio Shell 2010 is based on WPF, the first time Microsoft actually is using this in one of its own product.
  • Some features available in R# are now also directly supported by the IDE like symbol navigation and automatic implementation generation.
  • Silverlight and F# are integrated out of the box.
  • Historical debugging is an interesting new concept, the debugger now tracks certain events until you actually hit your break point.
  • Some basic support for UML was added.

All in all the switch to WPF gives the Visual Studio Shell new important graphical possibilities. WPF has also a big downside: it needs a lot more resources as the old forms, so you need a bit more graphical and computational power as with the current version. At least you will know why 2 or 4 cores are useful … The Team Foundation Server functionality will be also extended but as it looks the knew version is no improvement to the current one, which is not worth the money and effort, so it will be easier to invest in a working issue tracker, a build server, a test case management tool and a usable wiki. Integration is overrated if it is not usable in real projects effectively …

Thoughts about Google Wave

Google presented the Wave project this week at its development conference Google I/O 09. A lot of blogs (ok, maybe nearly every one) covered Wave in the last days so I have also to write something about it after watching the presentation:

  • The presentation of an conversation between several participants is very natural: people can enter and leave conversations, no matter if online or offline, add additional information and fork new ones. The features of Mail, IM and Wikis are finally merged.
  • Updates of information snippets work in near real time. This is definitely possible today and will become a lot easier with the availability of Web workers.
  • The conversation stream, called Wave, can be edited concurrently and they are versioned so they can play back in time.
  • Participants in the conversation can not only be persons but also automatons like translation engines and automatic content enrichment. The presentation of Google’s spelling and grammar proofing Robot and the automatic translation engine was awesome.
  • Wave will use important HTML 5 features and will push the evolution of the web browsers massively. Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera are leading here, not only on the desktop but more important on mobile clients (maybe also Palm Pre will be an important platform here?), Microsoft is a generation behind here and maybe will catch up with their completely new browser engine after IE 8.
  • Wave can be federated. This means that you can have your own Wave servers active, participate in open Waves but keep your conversation private.
  • The Wave project will be open sourced, not only the API and the protocol but also the reference implementation. With Google Maps they overlooked how fast and creative the community worldwide reacted now they plan to use this potential directly.

I really was surprised by this presentation; I think nobody has expected something like this. If Google gets this of the ground Wave will have the biggest impact in how we communicate and process information since search engines and Email itself. Because of the openness of the platform and the inherently possibility to federate the infrastructure this concept can work. Something remains me here of Gelernter’s ideas in Mirror Worlds

An Apple hit me

Since two weeks I have besides my main workstation on Vista64 and my Sony TZ with Ubuntu 9.04 also a third system, a 3rd generation Mac.mini. Besides OS X I’m interested in the iPhone development environment and sometimes Keynote is nice to have. I’ve sporadically used a Mac before but this time I can play a bit longer with it. After this short time, I had a mixed experience: On the positive side you get

  • A really nice hardware design. If the thing gets in the future a HDMI port and an BluRay drive it will be the optimal living room system. And it is fast and quiet.
  • The basic configuration is easy to handle for anyone, including WLAN. It just works
  • Dashboard brings a real advantage, more usable than Vistas Sidebar
  • You get the development environment for free (Xcode)
  • You get a lot of good software, like Quicksilver, for OS X besides a lot of normal Linux applications are or can be ported. In general the support of software is better than on Linux.
  • The development environment provides nice utilities like Instruments, all in all it seems that you have a good set of tools to develop software again without Virtual Machines.
  • Thanks Steve, there is a Terminal!

On the down side some things are annoying

  • Who ever has designed the keyboard and the and the “Mighty” mouse has never worked longer than 5 minutes with them
  • The German keyboard layout is simply silly. The English one is better.
  • Although OS X now has a VPN server out of the box, it does not work flawlessly if you use a German keyboard on the client side: as soon as you switch to some applications, like Xcode, the key mapping gets confused and for what ever reason, special characters work except the lower case “b”.
  • Xcode is only a very basic IDE, like Windows Visual Studio before 2003 … really, Eclipse with CTD and KDevelop a bit more up to the task if only they can understand Objective-C.
  • Sometimes configuration is to easy and dangerous: I wanted to share a directory via SMB, OS X shared it and all others on the disk too, But only my original target was protected by my user credentials… not what someone expects.
  • Why the hell is the shell per default case insensitive?!?

May only problem which make the daily work a bit harder as needed is the key mapping problem with VPN and Xcode or better to find a replacement for Xcode (and yes, Emacs can do it but hey I’m a long term IntelliJ and Resharper user …)