Monthly Archive: December 2004

Secure Downloading

There’s a great discussion, entertainly and religiously tempestuous of course, going on over Firefox and Internet Explorer. Not about the browsers, at least not at first, but about whether the Firefox download can be trusted to be secured and the file you receive and install untampered with.

I’m following the comments in the Wizbang post, in which Kevin laughs at the post by a Microsoft employee that started the debate.

If you take it in the spirit of having pointed out a potential problem with Firefox distribution, it’s worth pondering. If you take it as a silly attempt to scare folks away from Firefox, it really is amusing.

In any event, I can’t recommend Firefox highly enough. It saves hours upon hours of work and boatloads of grief associated with malware that Internet Explorer all but invites onto computers. But hey, IE can be downloaded securely, with certainty you are getting the binaries Microsoft intended.

Carnival of the Capitalists

Welcome to this week’s Carnival of the Capitalists, here at XTremeBlog. I hope you’ll be back to visit this place from time to time when there is no carnival to draw your attention. We post about everything from hardcore talk of programming, to basic tips for computer users, to stuff of possible geek interest that isn’t about computers, to discussions of products, business, and the same kinds of computer gripes any of us might have.

The hard-to-fill December 27 edition of Carnival of the Capitalists will be hosted by Dane Carlson of Business Opportunities Weblog, who did a great job on the July 26 edition. Submissions can be e-mailed to cotcmail -at- gmail -dot- com or via the entry form.

My own entry for CotC, The Art of Buzz and Timeliness, notes the spate of posts elsewhere discussing Guy Kawasaki’s The Art Of The Start. From there it discusses one particular bit of advice cited from the book, providing a real life example of why getting a product out the door first and perfecting it later makes sense.

In other recent posts here, Bob discusses Microsoft’s intention to drop support for Windows 2000 next year, and what a strange way that is to treat its customers. Rich gets more technical, talking about upgrading to .NET from VB6, why it’s time for his business to do that, and then how Microsoft could improve the product in the installation department. The first of Rich’s posts is worth reading just to get to read the sentence:

Time for some Nexium and a ham sandwich.

Now, on with the rest of the show…

Mad Anthony posted on a topic I had planned to address, with more similarities than differences in our thoughts. A computer science professor wrote an editorial at WSJ as to why IBM’s sale of the PC division was a bad thing. Mad Anthony thinks he is way off base. Indeed. It may be a mistake for other reasons, but the tricks he wants computers to do and thought IBM could lead in are largely, if not entirely, about software. As Steve Jobs would say (not!), what does it matter who builds the hardware.

Slacker Manager suggests learning SQL as a management tool. Too many managers leave relatively simple database inquiries to IT folks, which cuts down on managerial responsiveness. He provides links to a book and a SQL tool he highly recommends. His idea makes a great deal of sense. As do his cautions. The ability to cut to the chase and work with data as expediently and flexibly as possible is increasingly valuable and, with technology, possible.

Brian Gongol, creator of the handy CotC submission form, notes the irony of China now being the largest source of spam.

Frank Scavo at the Enterprise System Spectator points out how the real loser in Oracle’s acquisition of PeopleSoft is IBM. I wasn’t aware of this aspect of the dealings between the three companies, but it seems the magnitude of business IBM stands to lose makes Frank absolutely right.

Speaking of the tempestuous Oracle acquisition of PeopleSoft, Christine Hurt at Conglomerate notes the last-minute agreement on December 13, 2004 aborted a three-day hearing that would have explored the legitimacy of PeopleSoft’s innovative poison pill, the Customer Assurance Plan. Some commenters had predicted that Vice Chancellor Leo Strine Jr. would have held that the plan was an indefensible board action outside the Business Judgment rule. It would have been interesting to see what came of that decision.

Barry Ritholtz of The Big Picture discusses whether the RIAA is successful or not in their anti-technology copyright landgrab. In some ways, perhaps. In other ways you tend not to hear about, perhaps not so much.

Perhaps it’s just me, being geeky, but every time I hear or see someone say “IP” as an abbreviation for “intellectual property,” I automatically think “internet protocol” first. Then I adjust for context and catch back up with the conversation. At any rate, another post on what might be called a saner form of intellectual property…

At Law & Entrepreneurship News, Marjorie Stern discusses recent developments in patent portfolio building. It’s a link-laden post far more interesting than it might sound from the description. Of particular interest to me was item 4:

Symantec has made a bid to acquire Veritas and create the fourth largest software company in the world. The companies claim the merger is, “a means to remain competitive in a consolidating market.” Veritas is the market leader in data storage software, and Symantec is the market leader in security software.

The combination sounds intriguing. Symantec has done a great job managing not to be trampled by Microsoft. Here they grow and diversify by buying a superior company that is also not direct competition to Microsoft. Veritas rocks for backup software.

Arnold Kling has a post that primarily links two other posts, on the topic of pharmaceutical patents. It doesn’t really meet the criteria of substantive original material. However, it invites comment and in doing so becomes more substantive. He links the Gary Becker and Richard Posner in posts on pharmaceutical industry patents and economics, at The Becker-Posner Blog.

David Jackson at Seeking Alpha discusses the problem of click-fraud, suggesting that it is potentially more serious for small, publicly-traded Internet companies because shareholders may try to impact their financial results by clicking on pay-per-click ads. It suggests that ultimately the search and comparison shopping companies will be incentivized to stop click-fraud, but until that happens businesses – and stocks – could be impacted. I would never have thought of such a possibility, but you never know what people will do.

Is there really a secret to marketing to women online? Yvonne DiVita at Lip-sticking reveals some of those secrets. As she says:

Women are masters at giving and we’re doing more of our researching online– so we can buy online, too! We’ll buy from you…if you make friends with us.

Incidentally… Rocket surgery? I’d never heard that one, and it makes no sense. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for, and “rocket science” will do fine.

Jeff Cornwall at The Entrepreneurial Mind looks at the dramatic change in the impact that web-based marketing is having on small businesses. It seems he is becoming less skeptical.

Coyote Blog ponders whether the web demands new PR technologies, with corporate PR departments left in the dust by the web. The clipping service era is over, but hey, we have the technology. We can replace the clipping service, make it better than it was. Better, more timely, and more comprehensive.

On a similar note of technological and market change, Russell Buckley at Mobile Technology Weblog discusses media fragmentation and the state of denial still prevailing in the advertising industry. Better to take a lesson from those RIAA folks, embracing change and technology, being creative.

First Call has written a series of posts about the consumer electronics market, and the business impact that private label products will have on the key suppliers and retailers. Follow the links for the additional parts of the series when you get there.

Anita Campbell at Small Business Trends talks about “Anti-Trending and Other Trends for 2005.” She says:

Futurist Watts Wacker recently gave me an exclusive interview in which he outlined the 4 major trends that will heat up in 2005 and beyond, and the 6 trends influencing small business. Normally you have to pay to listen to Watts, but at Small Business Trends you can read what he says for free.

While we’re on the topic of predictions, Roger Nusbaum, of Random Roger’s Big Picture, questions the value of stock market predictions and then offers his thoughts on 2005.

Photon Courier talks about stock trades by Board of Directors members as a market indicator. Not to be confused with illegal insider trading.

An unlikely IPO concerns Byrne’s MarketView this week. Byrne says:

“It’s one thing for Goldman to explain that they’ve gone from 50,000-share blocks every month to 500,000-share blocks every week, ergo they need capital or they’ll be swamped; it’s another issue entirely for Lazard to meekly explain that they’ve replaced their Rolodexes with Palm Pilots and could they please have nearly a billion dollars to smooth the transition?” In this post, I complain about the Lazard IPO — and not just because I’m a traditionalist who hates to see a great partnership go public.

Capital Chronicle compares finding bargains while shopping for champagne in France to shopping for value in equity markets. Just know a bargain when you see it.

Continuing on the convergence of alcohol and markets, Adam Crouch at The Raw Prawn tells a tale of vodka arbitrage in two different forms. It’s all about smuggling legal goods to evade tariffs, plus saving money by creatively turning lower end into higher end product.

Roth & Company, which incidentally is an example of superb use of a business-connected blog, discusses year-end tax planning issues connected with at-risk basis and related party loans.

Steve Verdon, writing at Outside the Beltway, analyzes the interrelationship between tax and savings rates.

I had considered chasing down and linking some of the posts that have been out there recently on the topic of social security. For instance, Viking Pundit posted on it here and here and, before the other two, the one that made me think about it as an in-CotC roundup possibility, here.

Well, helped me out with an extensive post that asks the urgent question: Is the Social Security Trust Fund worth less than zero?

Why would anyone get that idea? It has everything to do with the fact that the only place the government is allowed to “invest” to build the “fund” is in its own securities. Financing deficit spending now, which will have to be covered somehow later. Well, I’ll stop and let you read the entry, not my take on the topic.

Speaking of government spending and antics, Interested-Participant points to the oddity of Cleveland, Ohio’s mayor creating a “sustainability programs manager” to educate city employees on environmental sustainability.

Lancelot Finn of Towards a Good Samaritan World has a different, interesting way of looking at the trade deficit. As he says:

One way to look at the trade deficit is as a “hard currency services export industry.” Dollars are useful to foreigners as a unit of account, a medium of exchange, and a store of value. So foreigners are happy to send us goods in exchange for dollars. Since demand for hard currency is likely to keep growing, the trade deficit may be (for better or worse) more sustainable than is usual assumed.

Paul Noonan at The Electric Commentary writes about publicly financed stadium deals, and why he believes many economists argue unfairly against them. It’s an interesting switch from the usual opposition to such deals.

How much attention do I pay to sports? I wasn’t even aware there was an NHL lockout. The Meatriarchy has been paying attention though, and writes about the current labor dispute, “and the feeble attempts by sports media types to paint the players as paragons of the free market.”

I could use some coffee by this point in compiling CotC for posting in the wee hours. I guess a coffee market post will have to do, even if it concerns Starbucks. I find their coffee almost undrinkable, so I get to avoid the silly size designations, and people finding a personality in coffee, shades of You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan.

Over at Catallarchy, Micha Ghertner is on the case of “fair trade coffee” from Starbucks. Mmmm… coffee. That’s better.

James Joyner writes at Outside the Beltway regarding the economics of home ownership, with some links to others on the topic, and commenters contributions. Is there a housing bubble? That question is always of great interest to me, and my thinking tends toward “probably,” yet it hasn’t shown signs of slowing down soon. Will the Fed’s latest moves change that? Guess we’ll find out, but for now it’s always fun to speculate and hypothesize this way and that.

In a rather unusual entry, SMB Trendwire has submitted an audio post (the included link goes to a text post introducing the audio). In it, Dr. Jeff Cornwall discusses his work with entrepreneurs and what he calls the “Five Myths of Entrepreneurism.”

Speaking of Guy Kawasaki reviews, one has been entered this week. Steve Rucinski at Small Business CEO speaks from experience at a failed business when he recommends the book and its advice, especially praising how it is organized.

Wayne Hurlbert, at the always interesting Blog Business World, believes that entrepreneurship should be embraced by bloggers, and that starting a small or micro-business should be among our goals. Sounds reasonable to me. He adds some advice for motivating yourself in that direction.

Finally, I thought I’d add a shout out to various posts that talk about the concept of, opinions about, and issues surrounding minimum wage or living wage laws and proposals. It seems to have been up there with social security problems and reform as a popular topic of late. So here are:
Gut Rumbles
And BusinessPundit, which was the first one I saw mentioning it.

There you have it, another week’s Carnival of the Capitalists. Hope you enjoyed it, and will visit XTremeBlog again. Don’t miss next week’s edition at Business Opportunities Weblog.

The Art of Buzz and Timeliness

There have been a bunch of people reading and reviewing or commenting on a recent book by Guy Kawasaki called The Art Of The Start. I am not one of them.

This is an excellent, concerted exercise in using blogs to build buzz for a product. Based on what I have seen, it’s a good book, and one I’d certainly like to read. Would this work for a lousy book? Depends on the honesty of the reviews and whether people just have to “see for themselves,” as so often happens with films panned by the usual crop of critics.

Just that I know of so far, the book has been mentioned at:
Small Business Trends
Dean’s World
Management Craft
Blogcritics in multiple places, here, here, here, and here.

In Anita Campbell’s review, one paragraph that relayed a snippet of Kawasaki’s advice really grabbed me, as it is advice I give, and advice I have direct experience in my business not following:

Ship, Then Test. What he means is for a startup to get a product out the door and into customer hands as fast as possible. That way the company can start bringing in money and start getting customer feedback. No matter what he talks about, he always comes back to what I call the first rule of startups: cash is king.

This is the Microsoft way. Get version 1.0 on the market, blemishes and all. Flow some revenue, and keep improving the product. To a point, first to market, or building share as soon as possible, beats the initial version being flawed. Make it flawed enough and this could fail, naturally. Microsoft no longer needs to do this, but one of their strengths is to always act like a startup, alwasy act like the next Microsoft is chasing them and could catch up.

Some of us who were working in Visual Basic support for Microsoft saw demand from developers for a product that would easily port data between versions of Access, and other which ways. When we started the business, the objective was to create products to be marketed ourselves or to sell as a completed concept to another company that wanted to run with it. That would be our first product, called Data XChange.

We got it most of the way done. It was pretty slick, and worked with Access, plus anything for which you had an ODBC driver, and most ISAM databases. As far as we knew anyway, and with a few issues such as not working properly with indexes from one particular database type.

I didn’t do the programming, and barely understood how the magic worked that my colleagues were performing. My job was going to be more in the realm of production and marketing, as well as helping with testing and support. I was chomping at the bit, seeing it virtually done. I even had the crazy idea of approaching Microsoft about packaging it with or marketing it to buyers of MSDN and/or Access. Audacious.

We ended up never releasing it. Not my choice, as my advice then was exactly Guy Kawasaki’s advice now. That was back in 1997. It was a combination of influences. One was the “it’s not perfect and we cannot release it until it has no bugs” outlook. Another was the “we didn’t write it using the latest and greatest object oriented programming and give it an SDK engine that can be used directly in programs by developers, so hold everything, I am going to rewrite it.” The rest was interpersonal issues between us, and differences between the “create products” and “provide services” outlooks on what the business ought to do. Multiple lessons in that, like the need for a coherent strategy, and a buck stopper or firm method of deciding on and sticking to direction.

The compromise was to create a free “Lite” version for download on our web site, while waiting for the rewrite. That handled only Access, none of the rest, by having the other options disabled.

The rewrite never happened, the product never got released, and within a few years was largely obsolete. Following the advice of getting the product out the door would have completely changed the course of our business, if only by providing a modest trickle of revenue and an incentive to rewrite or revise the program with corrections and improvements. And most of the problems or things that could have been improved would never have been a factor for most buyers. I consider this one of our biggest, if not the single biggest, mistakes as a business.

It’s good advice. If you have never been there, it may sound strange, or be difficult to accept it as such. I’ll definitely have to read the book sometime, and not just the buzz.

Malware Slayer

Jay Tea describes an experience cleaning up malware, that is, adware and spyware, on an extended family computer. There’s that family tech support thing again. I can’t blame him for feeling dirty, as it was a particularly bad infestation.

He took a somewhat different approach from the hardcore one here and for that matter, here. Yahoo’s toolbar? I’d never have thought to do that.

One thing though; installing Firefox is priceless. It goes most of the way toward preventing the problem from happening again. And again and again and again.

Early Mastered Domains

Via The Trademark Blog, here, a list of the oldest 100 dot com domains. I, too, always assumed was the first, considering their role.

The list of 100 was linked originally in this post at

Another post there links to all domains registered up to December 15, 1987, which is fascinating too. So much of it was dot edu domains, in keeping with the heavy academic associations of the early internet. And finally, a much longer list of all domains registered through February 22, 1994. Seems to me that was around when the rush to grab up names began.

How fun a wayback machine could be, long as we didn’t crush any adversely pivotal butterflies.

Carnival of the Capitalists: There Now Here Then

SamaBlog has the December 13 edition of Carnival of the Capitalists.

I will be hosting it here next week. Obviously you can write about anything business and economics oriented to enter in CotC, but I am encouraging items on technology in business, the business of technology, and naturally anything holiday themed.

The 12/20 edition was originally to be hosted at Peaktalk, a blog well worth checking out if you are not familiar with it. XTremeBlog volunteered to take over when travel plans interceded.

Send your entries to cotcmail -at- gmail -dot- com, or use the CotC submission form supplied by Get them in by eastern time Sunday evening, say, about 6:00 PM to be sure to get in that CotC.