Jan 26

There’s an old saying that, “In tough financial times, buy Procter & Gamble stock,” because people will always need toilet paper and laundry detergent.  In recent years this adage seemed to be true with tech companies, because in our new technology-dependent economy, companies will always need computer hardware and software.

But although the global recession took a while to reach Silicon Valley, it’s clear that tough times are in store for the tech industry as well.  This shouldn’t be a surprise, however.  Companies are shedding millions of jobs across the country.  New jobless claims hit 589,000 on January 17, matching a 26-year high reached four weeks ago.  As companies in other industries lose jobs, they find themselves with a glut of extra computers, so hardware spending slows to a crawl.  And as money becomes tight, companies will surely delay upgrades to Windows Vista even longer, many skipping Vista altogether while they wait for Windows 7.

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Jan 22

Software giant Microsoft announced Thursday it will cut 5,000 jobs over the next year and a half.  Microsoft will eliminate 1,400 positions immediately, with the rest cut by June 2010.  The company said it will save $1.5 billion in operating expenses and another $700 million in capital expenses.

Microsoft also posted lower fiscal second-quarter net income of $4.17 billion, down 11% from last year.  The company reported earnings of 47 cents per share, missing analyst estimates of 49 cents.

Microsoft said the job cuts and soft income is the result of “deterioration of global economic conditions.”

Jan 22

We are constantly bombarded with news of stupid software patents, so it’s nice to see the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) actually reject a stupid patent once in a while.

The USPTO rejected all 20 patent claims for Internet subdomains held by the Hoshiko company.  The USPTO ruled that the idea of subdomains — domains hosted within larger domains, such as mail.google.com — is too obvious to patent.  Hoshiko was using the patents to litigate against large web companies like Google and LiveJournal, which hosts more than 3 million personalized subdomains for its users.

The story started in 1999 when the IdeaFlood company applied for a patent on Internet subdomains.  As usual, the USPTO blindly approved the patents in 2004.  IdeaFlood immediately went to court, filing suit against Google and About.com.  The Google case was dismissed, and About.com settled out of court.  IdeaFlood then transferred the patents to Hoshiko.

Since neither Google nor About.com strongly challenged the patent, the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) took up the fight and requested that the patent be re-examined.  The EFF was able to prove that the idea of virtual subdomains was developed long before the patent was filed in 1999.

Jan 15

We all know that today’s software license agreement is a joke.  It’s usually a dozen pages of legaleze that nobody reads and everyone just clicks “Accept” in order to run the software.  The company could be demanding our first born, but we’d be none the wiser.

Turns out that End User License Agreements have been around for a long time.  Here is a “License Agreement” drafted by Thomas Edison for his National Phonograph Company.  Not only does it restrict the product’s use and resale, it also establishes a floor for the market price.  Edison was truly a man before his time.

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Jan 14

Experts from more than 30 U.S. and international cyber-security organizations jointly released a consensus list of the 25 most dangerous programming errors that lead to security bugs and cyber-crime.

The impact of these programming errors is significant.  Just two of these errors resulted in more than 1.5 million website security breaches during 2008.  These breaches allowed malicious software to take control of the computers that visited those web sites, turning their computers into zombies that committed further cyber-crimes.

Shockingly, most programmers do not understand or look for these errors.  Colleges rarely teach programming students how to avoid these errors.  And most software companies don’t explicitly test for these errors before releasing their products.

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Jan 12

FKA200 has compiled a list of the most expensive domain name sales ever.  Many of these sales were completed before the dot-com bust in 2001.  It makes you wonder if the buyers were ever able to recoup their costs.

# Domain Sale Price Sale Date
1 Sex.com $14 million 2006
2 Fund.com $9.9 million 2008
3 Porn.com $9 million 2007
4 Business.com $7.5 million 1999
5 Diamonds.com $7.5 million 2006
6 Beer.com $7 million 2004
7 Casino.com $5.5 million 2003
8 AsSeenOnTV.com $5.1 million 2000
9 Korea.com $5 million 2000
10 SEO.com $5 million 2007

See the rest of the list at FKA200

Jan 09

It appears that Dr. Dobbs Journal is dead.  Beginning in January 2009, Dr. Dobb’s Journal will become “Dr. Dobbs Report — A Special Software Development Monthly Section in InformationWeek magazine.”

According to a posting on the InformationWeek website:

“Led by Dr. Dobb’s Editor-in-Chief Jon Erickson, Dr. Dobb’s Report focuses on the tools, technologies, people, products and services transforming the software development marketplace.  Anchored by new in-depth Analytic Reports the Dobbs editorial team will produce in 2009, Dr. Dobb’s Report highlights the most business-critical perspective and strategies to help the readers of InformationWeek Magazine define and frame software development objectives.”

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Jan 07

Inspired by AngelFire’s gallery of photos for programming language inventors, here is a brief biography of the inventors of major programming languages still in use today:

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Jan 05

Do witches run spell checkers?

Cannot find REALITY.SYS.  Universe halted.

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