Dave Taylor on Why Microsoft Gave Away Laptops Pre-Loaded with Vista

Dave Taylor

In his blog, The Intuitive Life Business Blog, Dave Taylor writes that the ethical non-issue over the Microsoft laptop giveaway is a red herring. By giving away laptops with Vista pre-installed, they do an end-run around two major issues:

  • Installation problems
  • Hardware requirements problems

“That's the only conclusion I can draw,” he writes, “because if it were a breeze to upgrade from WinXP to Windows Vista, with all your apps backwards compatible, all your data intact, and all your files untouched, you'd be happy to install Vista on your existing PC and enjoy the new OS.”

In fact, I had exactly those problems with Release Candidate 1: it took three separate attempts to upgrade my office desktop from XP to Vista, and my upgrade became a full install (complete with the loss of the data on my XP system) since the installer crashed in mid-process. As for performance issues, I've decided to take that desktop back to XP because it feels rather sluggish under Vista. I don't think that the desktop's processor is an issue — it's a 3.2 GHz P4 — but rather than RAM, which is at a half-gig versus the full gig in the Ferrari laptop they sent me.

I think Dave's hit the nail right on the head with his observations.



Playing Windows XP Alerts on the Piano

Joey deVilla on accordion.

You're probably aware — by way of my personal blog — that I am a rock and pop accordion player. It's more than just a muscial instrument to me: it's proven to be a great conversation-starter in all sorts of situations, including tech conferences. One of my favourite memories of those heady days of the Bubble was when I ended up leading a parade of geeks with my accordion up Broadway to the Slashdot/VA Linux funding party, singing The Clash's Should I Stay or Should I Go all along the way. I've come to refer to it as “social hardware”.

It looks as though I can try a new accordion party trick at the next Microsoft event (assuming I ever get invited to them again): playing Windows XP alerts on the accordion. MusicThing has an article with a video of a guy named “TheCanCollector123” who shows how to play XP's musical alerts on a piano keyboard. You'll hear your favourite hits, such as:

  • Chime
  • MSN message received
  • AIM message received
  • GoogleTalk message received
  • Tada

I suppose I could one-up him by demonstrating how to play Vista sounds on a piano keyboard…



Global Nerdy Makes the Evening News

Yesterday, I did an interview with CityNews' Amber MacArthur at the Tucows offices about the Microsoft/Acer/Edleman laptop giveaway, and it was shown on the 6:00 news in Toronto last night. This marks Global Nerdy's first mention on television:

The Global Nerdy site title, as seen on CityNews International.

In case you missed last night's news or don't live within the area served by CityTV, you can still catch the piece. The entire segment was posted on the CityNews International site, and as of this morning, it's still the top story.

The Global Nerdy site title, as seen on CityNews International.

It's always interesting to see the interview get shaved down. Amber and CityNews camera guy Dave were at the office for over an hour, they probably shot about 15 minutes' worth of material (10 of which was the interview) and the final news segment is just under 80 seconds.

The Global Nerdy site title, as seen on CityNews International.

The interview includes some shots of me at my desk, which gives the curious a chance to see the environment in which I work every day. It's a setup that I imagine is typical for a startup veteran: a warehouse converted into an office, a fair bit of desk space with computers, tech books and zines (note the copy of Make magazine) and trinkets galore, especially Squishy Cows:

The Global Nerdy site title, as seen on CityNews International.

If the name CityNews sounds familiar, it's probably because of its association with CityTV, a pioneering independent television station that got its start in Toronto. CityTV got covered in Wired during its more relevant period, way back in 1993.

My thanks to Amber for the interview — you know how much I love doing these things!



Google wins

I'd like to take a moment to thank Rich "Topix" Skrenta for his recent post about Google, and how they've come to rule the web era of computing. Thanks to Rich, I no longer have to fumble my way through my own posts, clumsily attempting to explain why I believe Google will always whip Yahoo!, and all other pretenders. Rich has done it with considerably more clarity and force than I've been able to muster:

Google has won both the online search and advertising markets. They hold a considerable technological lead, both with algorithms as well as their astonishing web-scale computing platform. Beyond this, however, network effects around their industry position and brand will prevent any competitor from capturing market share from them — even if it were possible to match their technology platform.

To paraphrase an old comment about IBM, made during its 30 year dominance of the enterprise mainframe market, Google is not your competition, Google is the environment. Online businesses which struggle against this new reality will pay opportunity costs both in online advertising revenue as well as product success.

Competitors such as Yahoo should quickly move to align themselves with this inevitability. Yahoo could add an extra $1.5B to their revenue overnight by conceding monetization to Google and becoming a distribution partner for Adwords, as Ask Jeeves did.

So, if you find yourself, as I have, temped to explain Google's dominance using phrases like "a broker between users and resources," or "new advertising platform," then do yourself a favor: stop. Just point people to this post and move on.

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Information Architects' 2007 Web Trend Map, Predictions and Analysis of the 50 "Loudest" Websites

Information Architects have come up with a cute little subway map-like chart of the big sites and the web trends they believe they'll define in 2007. I've posted a preview below, and you can click it to see the map at full size:

Preview of Information Architects' '2007 Web Trend Map'.
Information Architects' 2007 Web Trend Map. Click the picture to see the map at full size.

They also make these predictions for the 'net in 2007:

  1. Apple keeps its iPod monopoly and increases its OS 5% market share to 5.1%
  2. Google scores against Microsoft and Yahoo due to its massive marketing data advantage
  3. Blogs bloom, and prepare for the 2008 election
  4. Social networks become a place where members make money
  5. Newspapers open up
  6. Big ad investments start streaming in
  7. New Internet focused ad agencies open up
  8. Viruses and spam become an even bigger hassle
  9. Yet Digital ID initiates a major change that makes the web more reliable, user and investor friendly
  10. All in all 2007 is a preparation for the big infolution in 2008

Also worth looking at is their article The 50 Loudest Websites in 2006 and What Made Them Successful.


2007: A post of a list of web 2.0 companies I couldn't have written this post without

Let me start off the new year by apparently agreeing with Mike "TechCrunch" Arrington that a list is a good, cheap way of banging out a blog post. In fact, I'll go Arrington one better and say that using his list of indispensable Web 2.0 companies is an even better, cheaper way of banging out my inaugural 2007 blog post on Global Nerdy.

A year ago I wrote a post called “Web 2.0 Companies I Couldn’t Live Without” and listed thirteen startups who’s products made a real impact in my life. Those were the products that I loved, and used every day. Seven of the companies are still on the list. Six have dropped off to make room for new products, and I’ve added two more to round out the list to fifteen total products

Arrington then lists his personal creme-de-la-creme-de-la-Ouebbe-Deux-point-Oeuf. I'll start my take on his list by saying that I've never used 800-Free-411 or Amie Street, but they sound interesting enough. Having the customer pay for directory information is all wrong, yet the prices for directory calls seem to be increasing. Glad to see someone try to submarine those fat-and-happy rent-seekers. Amie Street seems less clear-cut to me. I'm not sure why a song's popularity should drive an increase in price—it's not as if supply of that track gets tighter with more downloads. It's an artificially-set reward tied to popularity, not a market-driven price. Whether that's good or bad, I don't know, but it doesn't seem to count to me as an innovative solution to the question of how authors are to be compensated (if at all) for the use of their intellectual property by individuals.

I haven't used BlueDot either. The Flickr-like control over sharing your bookmarks sounds nice but, let's face it, does the world need yet another bookmarking service?

As for the services I have used, I'm 100% with Arrington on the gee-whiz-it's-about-time coolness of Ask City's maps. Frankly, I don't trust any local guides to services, so that doesn't draw me to Ask City, but the ability to annotate and share maps is sorely lacking from Google's and Yahoo!'s offerings here; the nod goes to Ask (for now). I should probably use Flickr more than I currently do, but I never hesitate to recommend the service to friends looking for an easy (and cheap) way to share photos online. I star to wince, however, when I see them add doodads like geotagging; I hope the need to keep pace with all the pretenders to the Flickr crown doesn't hurt their ease of use, as they lard on the latest and greatest feature. Most people with digital cameras, computers, and internet connections don't give a rat's ass about geotagging.

I'm always amazed when I see people using webmail other than Gmail. Why? I've tasted them all; I have Windows Live and Yahoo! webmail accounts, but I'm lucky if I remember to check those things once a week. For me, it's my work email, and Gmail. In fact, I've given over my personal mail management to Google as well, and now Google Apps for Your Domain (GAYD) handles all the mail for A massive mailbox, searchability, available anywhere, plays nice with POP mail and mobile clients, snappy interface…what's not to like?

Newsreading is a chore. NetNewsWire isn't. Like all well-designed Mac software, it simply blows its Windows counterparts away. That said, I don't use NetNewsWire. Work requires that I stay trapped in cross-platform hell, so I can't live my life on a Mac. In the past, I've turned to Bloglines to solve that problem for me, but I think I've hit some kind of mental wall with the two-pane email-style newsreader: I simply can't take the burden of all of those thousands of unread posts in those hundreds of feeds I read. Netvibes has come along at just the right time for me. Starting with decent OPML support, Netvibes' page-and-tile-based UI lets me scan the new stories across more sites at once than I found I could churn through with Bloglines. Even though Bloglines is, in many ways, a very powerful tool, coping with feedglut has become the highest-priority problem my newsreader must solve, and Netvibes does it elegantly.

TechMeme is another tool that helps me prioritize my reading list, along with Megite and TailRank. There is a real danger that TechMeme encourages a tech blogging to become an echo chamber—in observing what's interesting, it also helps define what's interesting—but all I can say is that it currently does a pretty good job of unearthing stuff that I might not have otherwise seen. Although it's more frivolous, Pandora's been equally good at helping me discover new stuff that I actually like, although its success rate feels lower for me than it does for many others. I'll frequently wear out my hourly skips rejecting songs (only to have it retreat to home base and throw some Pixies or Weezer my way, perhaps to appease me).

WordPress is one of those cases where I simply haven't put my money where my mouth is. All things being equal, I'll go with the capable free and open alternative to a proprietary solution. You would think that would mean that I run my blogs off WordPress, but I don't. blogaritaville on is MovableType (and has been for years). Global Nerdy runs on BlogWare (ask Joey). I know full well how capable and powerful WP is, and it's well-supported by its developer community, so why not switch? Speaking for, it's just laziness.

Which leaves YouTube, Flock, Digg, and Skype, four services/applications I don't use and I don't really get.

I'm waiting for the shock and/or horror to set in.

No, I'm not a hater or a Luddite. Let me explain. YouTube has done a lot of things right, especially with the user experience. It's easy to contribute, easy to share, and their use of Flash means you don't need to download a client to play video. Where I get off the YouTube bandwagon is with the whole fascination with video on the web: I just don't dig it that much. Most of my compute time is at work, and I don't work with headphones, so playing video is low on my list of things to do while online. Moreover, I hate the fact that video content is so linear. With text I can skip and skim and still get a reasonable overview of something. Given the choice between video of a news story or a text version, I'll go with text every time. None of this is to say that I don't enjoy the odd YouTube clip sent by friends. Hell, I've looked up commercials from childhood days spent in front of the TV, but I've never spent more than 10 minutes at a time on YouTube.

I've spent even less time on Digg, but that's a whole different story. Digg sucks. It's supposed to surface interesting news items by using the wisdom of the crowd, but I've never found anything really newsworthy. Instead it seems to be a repository for net curios and ephemera. Digg doesn't compete with CNN, it competes with BoingBoing and, unfortunately, it isn't as well written.

Since voice is about the least interesting thing you can do with a network here in the 21st century, Skype bores me from the get go. About the second-least interesting thing you can do with a network is exchange text messages between two computers. Oh boy. The interest in Skype has always mystified me. Perhaps this is a developed-economy, North-American-centric view, but cheap voice and IM don't seem like a big deal. One day, Google's going to flip their switch on Google Talk and we'll all be calling everyone for free, so why bother caring about Skype?

And Flock? Well, Flock, for me, is one of those situations where the problem they're trying to solve—smoothly integrating both the reading and the writing of the web—is a real one, but in their prepackaged solution just doesn't do what I want. As I've said, I need my newsreader online so I can manage my news intake from anywhere (not just places were I can install the Flock browser). Supporting bookmarking to is great, but what if you're like Arrington, and you use BlueDot? I guess you have to turn to a plug-in for that (in which case, aren't you back where you started when you were using Firefox?). Flock's in a tough position in that no matter what they choose to include or exclude from their product, they're liable to piss somebody off, including me.

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The Story Behind Apple's "Command Key"

'Command' key from an Apple keyboard.

[via Reddit] Apple Computers have had a special “Apple” key since the days of the Apple //e and //c, where the “open-apple” key (which had the outline of the Apple logo on it) was the equivalent of pressing the button on paddle 0, while the “closed-apple” key (which had a solid apple logo on it) was the equivalent of pressing the button on paddle 1.

When the Macintosh was being designed, they added the now-familiar “command” symbol to the Apple key, and the story of why is documented on Here's a snippet:

We thought it was important for the user to be able to invoke every menu command directly from the keyboard, so we added a special key to the keyboard to invoke menu commands, just like our predecessor, Lisa. We called it the “Apple key”; when pressed in combination with another key, it selected the corresponding menu command. We displayed a little Apple logo on the right side of every menu item with a keyboard command, to associate the key with the command.

One day, late in the afternoon, Steve Jobs burst into the software fishbowl area in Bandley III, upset about something. This was not unusual. I think he had just seen MacDraw for the first time, which had longer menus than our other applications.

“There are too many Apples on the screen! It's ridiculous! We're taking the Apple logo in vain! We've got to stop doing that!”