Microserfs: revolt or just revolting?


Last week Microsoft Corp. announced that it was cutting medical benefits, stock discounts and parent leave for employees. The medical benefits cut amounted to a measure to encourage them to use generic drugs rather than prescription drugs in order to the help the company conserve its 50 billion USD cash pile.

The chosen few, are not happy according to results of an internal poll obtained by Reuters.

This follows on from changing the stock options structure, allegedly to improve corporate governance and had the effect of making it less likely that their hard work would be converted into the status of a burnt out millionaire. In addition, Bill Gates has become one of the largest investors in the pharmaceutical sector.

I must admit I don’t feel that sorry for them:

– In the case of the prescription drugs cut, why pay more for a brand that only does the same or is worse than a non-label product? Agreed, oh but wait a moment, that disrespects investments made by companies in intellectual property and building a brand, rather like the arguments that Microsoft employs against the open source LAMP cabal? (LAMP is geek marketer speak for Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP)

– It shows that Microsoft is becoming a middle aged and mature business. Therefore there is less likely to be a Windows 95 type cancer spreading through technology. The new new thing is likely to happen elsewhere

– Microserfs are likely to be less committed and work less hours, they will no longer feel that they have everything to play for. That means less products launched, products taking a longer time to get to market and less commitment in marketing the products. This provides other companies and start-ups with a better chance of bringing truly innovative products to market, with less chance of suffering a Netscape-like death

– Nothing loosens tongues like dissatisfaction. It is noticeable that that benefits cuts have been brought in after the company made its peace with the US government, Oracle, Sun Microsystems and AOL. However there is still some outstanding court cases like Microsoft v Burst.com, the EU and South Korea that could benefit from some prime time whistle blowing a la Deep Throat’s role in the Watergate Scandal

– It is a bit of a leveller in the Microsoft class structure. Vested staff (full-time employees) were known to lord it over contract employees wearing pin badges with the message “Fuc* You – I’m Vested”. This message kind of rings hollow now. In addition, it lows the still huge challenge facing those workers who would like union recognition. (Microsoft historically has been an anti-union shop, but treated its serfs well)

– Anybody who has seen the blue screen of death, been stymied by a wizard, irritated by a paper clip, or had a corrupt file with two weeks of work in it would be sitting there wondering why the hell Microserfs deserve more than a McDonalds Happy Meal(TM) and sharp kick in the backside. Guys many of your products lack quality, when they’re good they’re cool (Microsoft Word and Excel on the Mac) but the vast majority of time they are like a sprinkling of hundreds and thousands (marketing and candy coloured graphics) used to hide a manure heap. To paraphase Martin Luther – it doesn’t matter what you cover it with a manure heap is still a manure heap

OK before I get pro-Microsoft hate mail, I have enough respect for some of the decent products they’ve made to give the disgruntled Microserfs some words of wisdom:

– Don’t complete another survey on an internal web site, they can trace you from your IP address or other internal network identifiers. They know who you ‘troublemakers’ are. In fact wait until a colleague leaves their PC and do it on theirs instead, now your job is likely to be more secure because guess whose job is more likely to be offshored now? BOGU (a quaint Microsoft phrase that means ‘bend over and grease up’)

– Read Dilbert and Machiavelli’s The Prince diligently to learn how to survive in the Microserf culture

– Get a life, you aren’t going to make dent in the universe, get out meet people, make someone happy and through that hopefully find your own happiness, volunteer at The Samaritans and try to make more of a difference than just screwing over the same poor saps with a new winkle in the licensing agreement

Bank holiday warning

It’s Whitsun bank holiday in the UK, so things won’t be back to normal until Tuesday.

In the meantime you can enjoy this great skit from The Onion about the offshoring phenomena here.

Phish RIP


Grateful Dead clones Phish are breaking up after the release of their next album. Better known to many people in the UK as the inspiration for Ben & Jerrys Phish Food ice-cream, since both the ice cream company and the band were from the state of Vermont and shared a similar tie-died outlook on life and social responsibility. Phish made their name as a touring band (like Dave Matthews or The Dead).

More details of the break-up can be found at the New York Times and the Phish website.

Hardware Hacking – The new frontier


I have been reading this book for quite a while and since everything is becoming a computer of sorts and computers can run software (even if its saved on flash memory) there seems to be a new wave of tinkerers. In the old days is was mechancial parts in the potting shed like Trevor Bayliss. Now is rewriting the software or improving on it. A great example of this is Bob Cringely’s column this week talking about a Linksys wiresless ASDL router.

While I don’t agree with Bobs model of the people’s ISP, I do believe that hardware hacking will change technology in new and exciting ways. The main thing that worries me is when will I have to run anti-virus software on my washing machine or microwave.

Broadband Stealing Television station’s Lunch


From the pointless surveys department. As media channels have increased viewerships of individual channels have gone down – think the launch of Channel 4 or the rise of Sky. Now Strategy Analytics have have interviewed 800 people to prove the obvious, the choice provided by broadband internet connections in homes is diminishing the amount of time people spend watching television.

Electricnews has a review of the Strategy Analytics report here.

Apple Updates Software


Just a brief one as I am sleepy. Apple has updated OS X to 10.3.4 here

More of us around the Web


George has written a piece in Macworld UK about mobile music and Apple’s position (or lack of it) in the market for downloads of music off mobile networks (subcription required).

I have posted an analysis of the changes taking place at Apple Computer at AlwaysOn. (Registration required).

Mad Up Japanese Car Stereo With Real HIFI Cred

Panasonic claim that they have made the worlds first car stereo with a vacuum tube amplifier. Well despite the fact that that claim could easily be disputed by the likes of Motorola who were making them in the 1920s its a fantastic piece of kit. Now if the Japanese manufacturers started turning out affordable high quality hifi separates like this I would be a happy man. Details on on the Panasonic site here – warning its all in Kanji script Japanese

Good news in tech sector shocker


PalmOne managed to have the Xerox patent covering the Graffiti pen language declared invalid. Hopefully that means they can get rid of the shocking Graffiti II method and go back to the future.

Mixed Crop of Apples

The Good: Apple made a number of improvements to the web design around its .mac services and provided a number of useful features including help with loading up your own html pages to your .mac account rather than having to use a template, better icards and a fancy navigation bar in .mac webmail.

The Bad: Further security flaws discovered in Safari and Internet Explorer browser applications for MacOS X.

The Ugly: Apple is moving its chess pieces around the table. Development of OS X is to slow down according to executives. In addition the iPod has been broken out as a separate division. I personally am not terribly excited by this. The iPod is not built on an Apple platform, is easily replicable and the music industry is fighting against Apple becoming a force in digitial music downloads outside the US. You can read Bob Cringely’s take on it here

U Can’t Touch This

I was down in the local Blockbuster and staring out from one of the DVD covers in his Cazal glasses and sequined aladdin pants was MC Hammer – that late 80’s rap icon. Or rather a look a like actor. It seems the pop rap star has been the subject of a ‘true life’ film.

While not the best rapper, credit were credit is due – the guy introduced a lot straight laced folks to classic funk. Apparently he is now doing well as a TV personality in the States, having survived bankruptcy and sells a small amount of new records, recording on his own label. Oakland in the house!

A Couple of Rockin’ Virals


Hey just a brief post with links to a couple of viral videos. First up is the XXXChurch. XXXChurch is a bunch of evangelical christians based in the San Fernando valley California. For those of you not in the know, the San Fernando valley is to porn, what Silicon Valley is to IT. Their viral is an appeal to people to turn away from jazz mags, dodgy websites and videos. The video is directed by porn director Jimmy Dee. QuickTime is required.

Next up is a video flyer by Manc club promoters Tribal Gathering in the guise of a how to dance video. I have no idea how much drink and drugs had been consumed in the making of the clip, but these guys make Dennis Thatcher look like a temperance man. Windoze Meeja Playa required.

Rootin Tootin’ Smokin’ Goodies

If like me you enjoy hearing about people more down on their luck than you I would heartily recommend The Smoking Gun.

Hot off the press includes:

– Michael ‘Rockin Robin’ Jackson’s remortgaging of his Neverland ranch

– The Vaseline(TM) man who likes a well lubed hotel room

Unfcukingbelievable as our Graham would say!

Such bad language segues me quite neatly on to potty mouthed therapy rant for lyrics Marshall Mathers. The immature Mr Mathers and his management team are attempting to take a bite out of Apple, Viacom and TWBA\Chiat\Day regarding a young child rapping ‘Lose Yourself’ in an iPod advert. Where is gets messy is that Mr Mathers declined permission for use of the lyrics and TWBA\Chiat\Day apparently acknowledged this in an email response. Not good, hopefully Mr Mathers will use his time in court to listen to talented rap artists like Jurassic 5, Chuck D, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and Everlast on his iPod before committing crayon to paper instead sounding like Vanilla Ice with Tourette’s Syndrome.

Dial R for Scandal


A couple of news stories that I wanted to share with you. Firstly another jolt to the Bush government, more powerful than the best cup of hot java. Seymour Hersh, the journalist who broke the Abu Ghriab prisoner abuse story has published a new story that links the abuse far beyond a few bad apples to secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld. Whilst Pentagon spokespeople have denied the allegations made, it will still encourage the senate to look harder at the whole area of defence oversight. Another Watergate or Church Commission in the making?

Secondly in this edition of Good Morning Silicon Valley, RIAA accounting figures are shown to be partly responsible for decling music sales figures. Basically this has to do with the way the RIAA measures a sale, modernisation in music retailing for JIT (just-in-time) ordering systems, has been misinterpreted as piracy. Expect no apologies the war against consumers will continue to be waged with undiminished vigor and a large budget for politicos to anniliate ‘fair use’ provisions in copyright laws worldwide.

Blogging & Mesh


No not some sort of record of a fetish of fishnet tights, but the two main subjects for this entry.

First off, a bit of history. The first film based on a weblog is in the pipeline. Many of you may have read in the news last year about Salam Pax, apparently someone blogging in Baghdad during the last gulf war. The blog despite doubts over its authenticity was turned into a book. Now the film rights of the book have been taken up. Coverage here from the BBC Online.

Friends and journalists who went to Network+InterOp the networking and communications show in Las Vegas have provided some mixed feedback.

– Vendors dwarved the amount of customers at the show. This is being touted as an indication that business customers are not there to buy. I am inclined to think that it is much more of a cultural shift in organisations, when your job could disappear abroad, how can you justify a week long company shopping trip in Las Vegas when you can get the information off the web or by reading journals? Shows have been more of the business culture in the US than in Europe, with the exception of a few events like drupa and CeBIT in Germany

– Lots of people where showing cool technology that will never see the light of day because computer users are in business and the home move at a slower basis than technology advances

– Mesh networks had a higher profile. Mesh is one of them buzzwords that many people have been kicking around for a good while. One way of looking at it is that it allows a number of wireless devices be they a laptop with a wireless card or an airport hub to act as one network. This would allow wireless hotspots to be grown and managed more easily in businesses or in the home. I expect more of a push around this in the next few years, though it would struggle to be used with present technology to distribute high quality video around the home.