Link: Why Zuckerberg’s 14-Year Apology Tour Hasn’t Fixed Facebook

“There is no other way to interpret Facebook’s privacy invading moves over the years—even if it’s time to simplify! finally!―as anything other than decisions driven by a combination of self-serving impulses: namely, profit motives, the structural incentives inherent to the company’s business model, and the one-sided ideology of its founders and some executives. All these are forces over which the users themselves have little input, aside from the regular opportunity to grouse through repeated scandals.”
Original source: Why Zuckerberg’s 14-Year Apology Tour Hasn’t Fixed Facebook

Link: How Tech Companies Became a Political Force

“When tech leaders prophesy a utopia of connectedness and freely flowing information, they do so as much out of self-interest as belief. Rather than a decentralized, democratic public square, the internet has given us a surveillance state monopolized by a few big players. That may puzzle technological determinists, who saw in networked communications the promise of a digital agora. But strip away the trappings of Google’s legendary origins or Atari’s madcap office culture, and you have familiar stories of employers versus employees, the maximization of profit, and the pursuit of power. In that way, at least, these tech companies are like so many of the rest.”
Original source: How Tech Companies Became a Political Force

Link: Gin Sling, Recipe and History

‘Gin sling. What a suggestive cocktail name. If it evokes the image of tossing back a drink, you’re not far from the truth, as it has been surmised that the gin sling drink stems from the German verb schlingen. This little story dates far back into American Cocktail History, as an article from the New York Times on July 15, 1883 states: as regards gin sling, if there be any foundation for the supposition that the word “sling” is derived from the German “schlingen,” to gulp or swallow hastily, the transatlantic sling may have originally been a “short” drink or dram.’
Original source: Gin Sling, Recipe and History

Link: Women Once Ruled Computers. When Did the Valley Become Brotopia?

“There is another story to tell: that Google’s success had at least as much to do with women like Wojcicki, Sandberg, and—her controversial tenure as CEO of Yahoo! notwithstanding—Mayer. Each of them brought wider skill sets to the company in its earliest days. If subsequent managers at Google understood this lesson, that might have quieted the grumbling among engineers who had a narrow idea of what characteristics made for an ideal employee. Google’s early success proved that diversity in the workplace needn’t be an act of altruism or an experiment in social engineering. It was simply a good business decision.”
Original source: Women Once Ruled Computers. When Did the Valley Become Brotopia?

Enterprise open source montage

I cut the below montage-y overview of the history of enterprise open source from a Register piece I’m working on. Here it is!

For me, the dawn of enterprise open source was somewhere around 2001 when IBM committed billions of dollars to shoring up Linux. Around this same time, the Eclipse Foundation (also launched by IBM) started it’s IDE market re-rigging, and the Apache Web Server was climbing the hill to market dominance piloting the way for the rest of the Apache Software Foundation.

Java’s history is representative of open source’s involvement with most infrastructure software. Java started as closed source, holding onto that model like a waterlogged man hugging floating detritus. Despite this, in the 2000s Java’s course was changed by the influence of open source with the likes of Fleury’s JBoss crew (how I miss their pirate-like antics!), Apache Tomcat, and the Spring Framework. These and so many other open source projects acted as forcing functions for innovation in Java and still do. Eventually, Sun open sourced Java, both JBoss and Spring were gobbled up by larger companies, and open source became the norm in the Java world.

To top this all off, Microsoft open sourced .Net in 2014 and now supports a wide array of open source software in its Azure cloud. Open source is the de facto standard when it comes to new infrastructure software.

Linux killed Sun?

For the Sun: WTF? files:

Gerstner questioned whether three or four years from now any proprietary version of Unix, such as Sun’s Solaris, will have a leading market position.

One of the more popular theories for the decline of Sun is that they accepted Linux way, way too late. As a counter-example, there’s IBM saying that somewhere around 2006 you’d see the steep decline of the Unix market, including Solaris, of course.

If I ever get around to writing that book on Sun, a chart showing server OS market-share from 2000 to 2016 would pair well with that quote.

If you’ve read Stephen’s fine book, The New Kingmakers, you may recall this relevant passage:

In 2001, IBM publicly committed to spending $1 billion on Linux. To put this in context, that figure represented 1.2% of the company’s revenue that year and a fifth of its entire 2001 R&D spend. Between porting its own applications to Linux and porting Linux to its hardware platforms, IBM, one of the largest commercial technology vendors on the planet, was pouring a billion dollars into the ecosystem around an operating system originally written by a Finnish graduate student that no single entity — not even IBM — could ever own. By the time IBM invested in the technology, Linux was already the product of years of contributions from individual developers and businesses all over the world.

How did this investment pan out? A year later, Bill Zeitler, head of IBM’s server group, claimed that they’d made almost all of that money back. “We’ve recouped most of it in the first year in sales of software and systems. We think it was money well spent. Almost all of it, we got back.”

Source: IBM to spend $1 billion on Linux in 2001 – CNET

The Amdahl Mug, worth $1m in 1989

It’s been a name-your-own-price market for canny buyers of IBM and compatible mainframes for some time now, but according to the Wall Street Journal, Amdahl Corp is making it easy for even the meekest DP manager to turn into a hard bargainer: it is giving big computer buyers an Amdahl coffee mug and telling them it’s worth $1m if they just leave it on their desk when their IBM salesman comes to call.

Source: THE AMDAHL COFFEE MUG EFFECT – Computer Business Review

From toasters to clouds: ARM chips

Today, ARM Holdings is a $1.5 billion company with +15% year-to-year growth, nice financials (such as 96.7% gross margin), and a 46.7% operating margin….

15 billion ARM-based chips for $1.5 billion revenue means that, on average, ARM gets a licensing revenue of 10 cents per chip, and spends a little less than of half of that, 4.7 cents, to generate such revenue. It sure beats today’s Windows PC business and its measly 5% to 7% operating margins in the best of cases.

Source: A company that doesn’t really make chips dethroned Intel with super savvy business moves

Mercury’s decline in HPE

One former Mercury man’s write-up of what went wrong with the high-flying tech company once it was acquired:

In the case of HP and Mercury, the slow-down was particularly unfortunate because the acquisition came just as enterprise application development was moving from proprietary protocols and GUIs to web applications talking HTTP. Mercury’s powerful and extremely customisable products were arguably overkill for simple web applications, and a new generation of tools was beginning to emerge that was dedicated for that purpose. Given its singular focus on testing, and based on what I know of the company culture pre-acquisition, I am quite certain that an independent Mercury would have addressed the challenge head on and remade itself for that new world. After all, Mercury was fully aware of web applications, offering services that would simulate user access from locations around the world to have a continuous view on sites’ performance as experienced around the world.
Continue reading “Mercury’s decline in HPE”

Re: The History of Tech

In Robert Brook”s ever delightful daily newsletter (you should really subscribe – it’s comforting like having some cookies with your favorite aunt or grandma – or, despite suffering through getting up at 4am in the morning, that serene feeling of fishing on a quiet, dusky lake in the early morning) he quotes Dave Winer:

I wonder if Google employs any historians to advise them on strategies tried in the past and how they turned out.

To which I replied, to Robert: hardly anyone tracks the year-to-year history of technology and strategies therein. I find it incredibly annoying. (Part of the problem is that in the past decade, the thing to cover became the web [Google, Facebook, etc.] instead of software itself.) As Dave points out, this results in countless incidents of buffoonery and is the basis for much of the power (older) tech analysts and executives have: since no one documents this history, they have stronger, history-based intuitions about what will work and not work. 

 
For those who are into that whole “reading books” thing:

 
  • In Search of Stupidity is one of the few books on tech history (I read the first edition – there’s been updates).
  • The Business of Software – the first 1/3 or so is mostly just the history of the software industry. One forgets how dominate IBM was and what a massive disruptor Microsoft was.
  • While Accidental Empires isn’t purely software focused, it’s a damn good history of the tech industry up to around 1990.
If you read those three books, or so, you’ll get that same Winer feeling that things just go in infinite loops, turtles all the way down and all that, in the tech world…and, it’ll make you appreciate how damn hard it is to have true, revolutionary successes & shifts like PCs (!), open source, the web, smartphones/tablets…and how easy & common it is to try the same dumb shit over and over.