Skip navigation

Personal information on Sidekick mobile phones lost due to server failure

In arguably one of the worst disasters in the history of cloud computing, U.S. mobile phone operator T-Mobile reports that personal information stored on Sidekick mobile phones “almost certainly has been lost as a result of a server failure at Microsoft/Danger.” Danger, a Microsoft subsidiary and the manufacturer of Sidekick, also provides services to store Sidekick users’ personal information including contacts, schedules and photos onto its servers. As it has been revealed that the Danger datacenters did not maintain a backup, the likelihood of recovering lost data is expected to be very low.

Not only this fiasco is a serious blow to the reputation and credibility of both T-Mobile and Microsoft/Danger, it is also likely to discredit the entire cloud computing industry as a whole. If there is a lesson to be learned from this, it may be that any data in any storage facility is prone to hardware failure and therefore can be lost any time unless proper measures are implemented, e.g. making backups.

Infographic: 50 years of Space Exploration. (source: stevey.com)

metavital:

9 critical values regarded important in Netflix, as indicated in the recently revealed internal slides:

Judgment

  • You make wise decisions (people, technical, business, and creative) despite ambiguity
  • You identify root causes, and get beyond treating symptoms
  • You think strategically, and can articulate what you are, and are not, trying to do
  • You smartly separate what must be done well now, and what can be improved later

Communication

  • You listen well, instead of reacting fast, so you can better understand
  • You are concise and articulate in speech and writing
  • You treat people with respect independent of their status or disagreement with you
  • You maintain calm poise in stressful situations

Impact

  • You accomplish amazing amounts of important work
  • You demonstrate consistently strong performance so colleagues can rely upon you
  • You focus on great results rather than on process
  • You exhibit bias-to-action, and avoid analysis-paralysis

Curiosity

  • You learn rapidly and eagerly
  • You seek to understand our strategy, market, subscribers, and suppliers
  • You are broadly knowledgeable about business, technology and entertainment
  • You contribute effectively outside of your specialty

Innovation

  • You re-conceptualize issues to discover practical solutions to hard problems
  • You challenge prevailing assumptions when warranted, and suggest better approaches
  • You create new ideas that prove useful
  • You keep us nimble by minimizing complexity and finding time to simplify

Courage

  • You say what you think even if it is controversial
  • You make tough decisions without excessive agonizing
  • You take smart risks
  • You question actions inconsistent with our values

Passion

  • You inspire others with your thirst for excellence
  • You care intensely about Netflix’ success
  • You celebrate wins
  • You are tenacious

Honesty

  • You are known for candor and directness
  • You are non-political when you disagree with others
  • You only say things about fellow employees you will say to their face
  • You are quick to admit mistakes

Selflessness

  • You seek what is best for Netflix [replace it with your company or organization], rather than best for yourself or your group
  • You are ego-less when searching for the best ideas
  • You make time to help colleagues
  • You share information openly and proactively

How Private Equity Dealmakers Can Win While Their Companies Lose
A multi-faceted video feature from New York Times.

 

This is probably one of the most brilliant political satire, albeit of strong and controversial language, that I have seen on the Web. For those who find from its initial impression that it is downright defamatory, it is necessary to be informed of the context behind this domain. In fact, it is only a replicated version of an Internet meme to satirically portray Glenn Beck (Wikipedia), a well-known (and notorious) conservative political commentator. Please read the following excerpt from the brief of the lawyer who represents the owner of the above web site:

The raw materials of the Glenn Beck Raped and Murdered a Young Girl in 1990 meme (hereinafter, the “Beck Meme”) are twofold. The meme is a parody of from Glenn Beck’s own argumentation style mated with a Gilbert Gottfried routine performed during the Comedy Central Roast of “comedian” Bob Saget. During Gottfried’s speech, he kept repeating (in his trademark nasally voice) that there were rumors that Bob Saget had raped and killed a girl in 1990. Gottfriend admonished listeners to stop spreading this rumor – which had never existed in the first place. As there is no more sure fire way to destroy a joke than to explain it, much less in legal papers, the Panel is asked to view this short video of the performance. The humor equation is simple: (Outrageous Accusation) + (Celebrity) + (Question Why the Celebrity Does Not Deny the Accusation) = (Confirmation of the Falsity of the Accusation + Laughter)

A poignant example of Beck using the Gottfried Technique is this Glenn Beck interview with Congressman Keith Ellison, a Muslim. Beck famously said:

“No offense and I know Muslims, I like Muslims, I’ve been to mosques, I really don’t think Islam is a religion of evil. I think it’s being hijacked, quite frankly. With that being said, you are a Democrat. You are saying let’s cut and run. And I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview because what I feel like saying is, sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies. And I know you’re not. I’m not accusing you of being an enemy. But that’s the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way.”

(……)

The rhetorical style is simple. Beck attacks Ellison by asking Ellison to prove that Ellison is not “working with our enemies,” thus placing the burden upon Ellison to “prove” that the accusation is untrue.

Quite simply, Beck’s shtick is simply a cheap imitation of Gilbert Gottfried, sans the humor.

This kind of behavior led a poster on Fark.com to give the meme wheel a spin on August 31, 2009. On that forum, a user by the name of “oldweevil” gave birth to the Beck Meme at precisely 08:32:26 PM by posting the following comment:

Why haven’t we had an official response to the rumor that Glenn Beck raped and murdered a girl in 1990?

Others joined in the fun, and the internet had its newest meme.

(Glenn Beck v. Isaac Eiland-Hall response brief, pages 6-7)

In other words, Glenn Beck is made fun of by his very own trick of the trade.

HTC Hero is a Google Android smartphone that features HTC Sense, a proprietary widget-based interface which enables personalization with a variety of designs. Walter Mossberg says in his review that it is “the best Android phone I’ve tested, and a worthy competitor to the iPhone, the BlackBerry and the Pre.”

Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz, in a recent interview held during Wall Street Journal’s D: All Things Digital conference, defined her portal as “the place that everyone comes to every day.” It appears a bold statement on a company that has been in the downhill since Google’s leap into the Internet years ago. Yet, it encapsulates what Yahoo! is about, which its founder and former CEO Jerry Yang failed to uphold. Bartz’s perspective is outlined in more detail on her contrast of Yahoo! and Google, as follows:

Google’s a fierce competitor. They’re very good in search, very good in maps. But they don’t have the positioning and reach that we have. We are totally different companies. ……We are a place people come to be informed. Google is a place people go to do search ……We want to be more personal than Google. We are about providing a more integrated experience. We are a different company than Google.

Although it is premature to predict whether Bartz may succeed in restoring Yahoo! to its former glory, I can certainly concur with her view in many points and find that she understands what is wrong with the company. Perhaps launching all-frontal assault in the enemy’s front yard, like Yahoo! trying to catch up Google in the search market, is not an efficient strategy to gain advantage, despite the significance of web search as an everyday service. Yahoo! needs to fight its own war with its own rules. It is about time for it to reflect upon what it is capable of and can do better, or otherwise it shall be rendered insignificant the way its contemporaries AltaVista and Excite ended up.

Identifying one’s key strengths and focusing on those core assets are essential, even if not sufficient, to its success. Even Google, the seemingly-invincible behemoth of the Internet, is incredibly lackluster in areas like social networking; Orkut, Google’s own social networking service, only enjoys success in Brazilian and Indian markets; its microblog Jaiku (acquired in 2007) has been completely eclipsed by the Twitter boom; furthermore, it shut down the mobile service Dodgeball (acquired in 2005) this March. As pathetic as these cases may appear, Google may have ended up a short-lived wonder had it been obsessed with winning in those markets which it could find little strength. It is the sheer attention Google pays to its core services that keeps it ahead of the competition.

A similar principle may apply to Yahoo! as well. Not only does it need to understand its own abilities, it is also required to comprehend what others have in their arsenal. As Sun Tzu professed in The Art of War, “[i]f you know both yourself and your enemy, you can come out of hundreds of battles without danger.”

Some time last week, the iPhone app world has plunged into turmoil when James Montgomerie, the developer of Eucalyptus, an electronic book reader software for Apple’s iPhone/iPod Touch, expressed discontent on his blog, over Apple’s decision to block his software from its App Store. After the initial rejection of Eucalyptus, Montgomerie filed a complaint to Apple, only receiving an ambiguous response that they “cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because it contains inappropriate sexual content”. By “inappropriate sexual content”, the Apple personnel refers to an electronic, text-only copy of Kama Sutra, an ancient Indian literature which partially contains descriptions of human sexual behaviors.

What made Apple’s position in this dispute was twofold: first, Kama Sutra could be accessed through other ebook reader software on the App Store like Stanza ,or even Apple’s own Safari web browser, so only blocking Eucalyptus would appear unfair at the very least; second, even if Eucalyptus were the only app that provided access to Kama Sutra, then Apple would trigger a potential chain of imposing censorship to other literary works as well. Should Apple be eligible to also cut off apps which offer access to, say, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or The Catcher in the Rye because they contain “offensive materials (of any kind!)”? The list of “inappropriate” works could go on and on unless there are clearer, more valid rules to identify the extent to which apps would render inappropriate contents.

As for the sake of Eucalyptus, fortunately, Apple caved in to the criticism and pressure from many external parties and altered its stance, accepting the app to its App Store once again. This kind of incident is bound to reemerge, however, because as I have mentioned in a post earlier this month, Apple has very limited experience to rate and select software that melds with contents. It should accept that catering to professional graphics or video editing software on Macs is a very different game from rating thousands of (sometimes useless) apps on iPhones. Hopefully, parental controls in the next version of iPhone OS would alleviate some of these quirks, but the criteria on rating the apps themselves would likely remain a controversy. Let us just hope that Apple’s inconsistent, often stupid, policies on apps do not further as to alienate the developers.

Check out Obama In Real Time. It is a web page set up by the newest web search venture Collecta to demonstrate its capability to accumulate chunks of data associated with the given search query, simultaneously and up-to-date. There a load of quotes, discussions, or comments mentioning Obama are displayed as soon as they hit the web, whether they are uploaded on news web sites, blogs, Twitter, or other sources. Although it functions just the way I expected upon hearing the term “real-time search,” I am nonetheless impressed and pleased to view the page as the Collecta script summons one result after another onto the screen. There are other “real-time search” web sites such as OneRiot and TweetMeme, but neither offers as dynamic a view as Collecta’s sample page.

Update: I have overlooked another real-time search engine named Scoopler, which not only provides true real-time search results as Collecta does, but also grants a search service (though in beta yet) to any queries. Collecta currently has, by contrast, sample pages on only two popular topics (“Obama” and “swine flu”) so far.

The real-time search may not be the most significant goal right now, but even the big-daddy-of-search Google eyes on it as one of its unsolved problems. Although relevance and accuracy are usually higher regarded goals in search tools, recency is also an important objective, especially considering the nature of information on the web, constantly accelerating and expanding in scope. Even now automated scripts, or “search bots” scour through the web every few hours, if not minutes, collecting every bit of information as far as they can and storing them onto search indexes. The more recent the last search was conducted on a particular item, the less difference there would be between the search result recorded on the index and the actual target. One of the ultimate ambitions of a search engine, therefore, is to minimize the time difference between what is (or is not) on the cache and the actual objects on the Internet. The solution would be to fetch the results for the user, on real-time.

On the other hand, however, keeping search results up-to-date does not always equate to better search results. As TechCrunch points out, an undisputable majority of search results through real-time search queries return from Twitter posts; those 140-character pieces on the microblog are usually unlikely to include meaningful information on the intended subject. Return to Collecta’s real-time search results on Obama and you might see what could be problematic with it. Second after second, you may see a lot of Tweets churning out the door, which either posts links to news articles mentioning Obama or displays some random complaints on the man. The results are aligned chronologically, without any regards to relevance or whatsoever, as expected. Would a search tool like this, other than introducing us to the latest snapshots of what is posted online, contribute to further knowledge of what is on the web? So far, I am pretty much uncertain.

Also, even from the eyes of a computer layman, collecting search results on real-time would be much more resource-consuming than retrieving information on a periodical basis. Querying on a conventional search engine would only stress a one-time return from what has been indexed. The search result would be static, and unless the user decides to reload or retry the search, the job is over for the search engine. A real-time search, however, would require a constantly running process on the search engine, continuously exploring and loading information from the web until the user quits or shuts down the search entirely. Multiply this burden by millions, and it could be hypothesized that this may not be as scalable as the current search model. Correct me if I am thinking wrong, but if a real-time search yields no significant information return than a lagged search performed hourly or two but the former costs and needs many times the resources than the latter, I do not see a reason to favor the former, let alone embrace it as the next big thing, at all.

I just read an article on TechDirt. Danger Mouse, the DJ behind the more famous collaborative duo Gnarls Barkley, is about to sell a new album titled Dark Night Of The Soul, which only comes with a blank CD-R and the album artwork. Yes, that is a recordable compact disc without any contents but just with the cover printed and included. What this implies is that once you have purchased it, you may look for the actual music somewhere else, even from questionable sources to burn onto the CD-R, as the TechDirt article reported. Of course, this is due to Danger Mouse’s ongoing litigation with the power recording label EMI. It sounds like an interesting form of legal disobedience or detour yet remaining legitimate, because there is no law against selling blank CD-Rs anywhere. Danger Mouse’s stance, however, might appear as if he is willing to risk having people pirating and circulating his entire album through obscure corners of the Internet rather than incur one more cause for EMI to pull another injunction against him.

Since I am aware of the details surrounding the legal dispute between Danger Mouse and EMI, I am not at capacity to discuss whose claim would be more valid. Yet the peculiarity of Dark Night Of The Soul, in which the physical album would be sold without actual contents whereas the music itself is likely to be shared across the web, on one hand reveals the frail and dubious state of music as a tangible commodity these days, while on the other hand also exposes a systematic incapability to resolve conflicts surrounding protection of copyrights and creation of derivative artworks. It is certainly not a desirable situation, but no matter you sell CDs with or without contents, a lot of people would nevertheless access your music through even illegitimate means. It would therefore be of little difference if you just put out a blank recordable CD with a cover; the underlying message would be just to download and burn the music onto it, and technically you are listening to the same music, same quality. A music album without the music–who would have thought of it, like, a couple of years ago?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.