Friday, June 20, 2008

Standards are Standards

We all know what standards in the software industry are worth. Some people sit in a room (could be virtual, but most of the time it's a real room), and decide how something should behave. Then, each software company takes the standard spec (or RFC or whatever) and implements it, and then some.

Recently, in the hardware industry, there is a large debate, with accusations and flame-throwing about who should be part of the design of the next USB 3.0 standard. Intel claims that by developing the standard all alone, it actually has a chance to become a standard. Just like the previous USBs. This is my interpretation of things, and you should read about it yourself. We all know what monopolies in the computer industries can cause, if they're wrong, and the standard that's on the topic is closed (that is, only one company controls the spec) or badly designed.

Lets compare it with other industries: Last week we've purchased new curtains for our living room. The "technician" that came to deliver the curtains, said that the bar (or pole) that holds the curtains is too thin, and we need a thicker one. A thicker bar, means a different hooks, which would be able to hold it. We didn't want to replace the hooks, cause we didn't want to drill extra holes in the wall. But when the "technician" realized that this is what is bothering us, he said "what? you don't have to drill new holes, the new hooks uses exactly the same holes as the old ones". This means that the screws would be in exactly the same distance as they were before, and no drilling was required, even though the new bar seems a little bit heavier.

So, now we have new curtains, with new hooks, and I wonder, when and where did the "curtain hanging guild" sat to decide how should the hooks be designed, and how comes they all agreed on the standard. In our (software-) world, that would have never happened.

Same game, different name

Each time there's a soccer tournament, I feel the urge to kicks some virtual balls into virtual goals. Now it's the time of UEFA EURO 2008, so I decided it's time to try EA's FIFA 08 (I just can't seem to like PES over FIFA). FYI, the game sells for 99 NIS in Israel, I guess it has something to do with the fact they're having hard time selling that game, and that it cost them 0$ (or some other small amount of money) to produce.

Why would I say such a thing? Because it's actually FIFA 07, packed in a different box, carrying a different name. The rest of the game is exactly the same. Same graphics, same engine, same sounds, same everything. It's a brave move from EA to release such a game, especially when a competition such as PES exists.

From what I read, the Xbox and PlayStation versions, include a better graphics engine, and better physics. If I stumble upon a PS3 with FIFA 08, I'll give it a try. In the meanwhile, I'm so disappointed. Though I still prefer it over PES.

Friday, June 13, 2008

"Buying" users, for free. Genius

Most people been in the academy, knows the nice trick of major software companies: the "student edition" or "express edition" (sufficient for students requirements) is given for free or a small fee. Later, when the student will be looking for a job, he'll be looking the tools he already knowns. So, if for the entire degree the students uses Visual Studio Express and Office Student Edition, this is what will be written in the resume, and this what the student will be looking for.
This week, something similar (not exactly the same) happened in my university. The university opened "for free" email account for every student (still in pilot, but will eventually cover thousand of students) at Actually, this is live., but login is done through Now, since I was chosen to the pilot, I'm a happy owner of Windows Live Hotmail account. Not sure what am I supposed to do with it, but the university promised it'll work under Firefox and Safari under any OS, so no complaints here. The thing with this account is the fact that it is not limited to the period of time I'll be a student. It's for a life-time, only that after I'll finish my degree, the account would start display ads (which it currently doesn't). So, next year, I'll become a regular user, that sees ads and everything, which makes me a source of income to MS. So thanks to the university, MS could make more money. Just like giving Visual Studio for free, only easier. Come to think about it, only one word comes in mind: Genius.