Scripting News for 1/16/2007

All the cable news networks are covering tonight are the two boys who were kidnapped in Missouri. Meanwhile, 70 people died today in one bombing incident in Baghdad. Barak Obama declared for President. The Scooter Libby trial started in Washington. Bush was interviewed on PBS. 

This post on TPM clearly belongs in the War On Bush link list, which is starting to feel like a blog. 

Scott Rosenberg’s first book, Dreaming in Code, arrived in bookstores today.  

Missing: Microsoft’s iPod platform 

Something that’s remarkable to consider. As closed to developers as Apple is with the iPod and now the iPhone, it’s pretty amazing that Microsoft, a company with a long tradition of offering developer platforms, hasn’t managed to offer a product that’s even worth considering by developers as an alternative to the non-existent option of producing software for Apple’s mobile devices.

It’s even more remarkable if you consider that Apple’s product wasn’t an early product and has been on the market for over five years. Plenty of time to catch up even if Microsoft was caught by surprise. Charles Fitzgerald, one of the few old-timers still at the MS used to say it was a “scrappy” competitor. I wonder what adjective Charles would use for the company today.

Techdirt: “Copying the technology is just one aspect to competing, and if the market is dynamic, by the time you catch up to whoever you’re copying, they’re way ahead of you.”

From the mind of RSS 

I have a strange bug in my CMS, it’s so entertaining that I haven’t wanted to fix it. Every so often it picks a random day and generates my RSS feed as if it were that day.

Today it picked 3/1/00, a day I had lunch with Tim O’Reilly and Dale Dougherty, in San Jose. While we were having lunch, Tim got a call from Jeff Bezos about patents. I even got a picture of Tim’s side of the conversation. Like I said, it’s a strange bug. 🙂

What does it take to get fired? 

Washington Post: “The Pentagon yesterday disavowed a senior official’s remarks suggesting companies boycott law firms that represent detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”

To be clear, what the official did is a breach of everything that we hold sacred in our legal system. It reeks of totalitarianism.

I told you so 

Scoble was wrong, I was right. 🙂

However, the newly announced Netflix service is lame. The same service is already available from Comcast, without the dumb limits, and I never use it.

It’s another example of the movie industry’s lack of will to compete.

Plus, my TV is a Mac, and doesn’t run Windows software and I’m not going to switch when my settop box already does this and as I said, I don’t use it.

However, all that said, Scoble was wrong to predict the death of Netflix. They have a bunch of momentum, and they understand their users, something none of the others, including Apple, can claim.

PS: For all we know Netflix is using the Verisign service that was supposed to, according to Scoble, kill them.

20 responses to this post.

  1. “Netflix service is lame”…”they understand their users”
    Kind of contradictory isn’t it?
    Just wondering.


  2. Posted by Nick on January 16, 2007 at 8:20 am

    Hey Dave,
    I want to start a network of blogs where each one is about a specific “hot button” issue like abortion. Would you be interested in writing for one?


  3. We can fire (by not re-electing) politicians. Our bigger problem is the bureaucrats, next to impossible to fire and they’re everywhere. It’s a sad state of affairs.


  4. PXLated: I believe the Pentagon official in question serves at the pleasure of the president. Thus, if the president is sufficiently embarrassed, or gives a shit about basic judicial rights (OK–no evidence he does, but one can always delude one’s self into hoping), he can fire the SOB.


  5. Why don’t you use the Comcast service? Probably because it always has really lame programs available, and the UI is too much of a pain to wade through to find anything good. I am willing to bet that Netflix will have a massively larger selection of movies available and will take your account history/ratings and serve up movies that you might actually want to see. It will be a far different experience than Comcast OnDemand (which I agree totally sucks and is never used in my house).


  6. Dave,

    you think that story about the Gitmo attorneys is bad? The Administration is apparently firing US Attorneys in the middle of their terms, and replacing them with Republican campaign operatives.

    Talking Points Memo is digging on the story here:


  7. re: You bug. When I picked up in my newsreader that you’d had lunch with Tim O’Reilly, I figured there must be a bug somewhere. ; )


  8. I agree with you politically Dave, haven’t checked out Netflix new thing; but will…

    I’m just wondering how you got your TV turned into a Mac; or to display its contents?

    I tried this by using the S-Video connections (I’m using a windows protable) and it basically was un-readable; no matter what I did. My TV is huge and I thought programming inbetween commercials (switching to a different video out) would make my life easier/funner/happier/etc…

    I’m buying a mac protable when the new OSX comes out in May?



  9. I have a screenshot of your RSS bug from last July

    "We make shitty software... with bugs!"


  10. I like the idea of your Bush site, though I think the “war on” metaphor is flawed (I’m thinking of the other “wars on” we’ve engaged in; where have they gotten us?). I’m as big a Lincoln-phile as anyone, but I also don’t get injecting him into this (unless your intention might be to display a variety of inspirational moments from our past, in which case let me suggest passages from Holmes’s dissent in Abrams v. United States and Brandeis’s in Olmstead).

    I also think you’re misremembering the “war with Nixon.” You could argue that RMN prevailed in that face-off; he “Vietnamized” the war, (slowly) withdrew our ground troops, and neutralized the anti-war movement. Remember how the anti-war candidate fared against him in ’72? Congress never got the gumption to cut off funding for the war — we were still dropping a shitload of ordnance on the place after we declared victory — until Ford was in office.


  11. Have you had many submissions for banner/logos for I have a few ideas.


  12. how about waronbush being an acronym for something?
    I havent come up with the whole thing yet, but let start off with:



  13. darn. cant edit. 😉 or spell 😉


  14. Ummmm no platform?
    What do you call Windows Mobile aka PocketPC aka Windows CE?


  15. Quick comments like that make me wonder what your point is.

    What is your point?

    I don’t want to guess. If I take your question at face value the answer is I don’t know what I call them. I’ve heard those words used together. I’ve never had Microsoft explain what the difference is between those products (assuming they’re actually products) and Zune, which I tried for the first time last week. It’s pretty clear to me that Zune is intended to be their answer to the iPod. But maybe you’re saying that it’s not.

    Look, I get a fair amount of snark here, and I don’t engage with those people. If you have something to add to the conversation, please do so. Thanks.


  16. Dave, et al.,

    I am intrigued by your consistent stand against patents, supported by many of your readers. But I think patents are great – so I must be missing something. Can you and your readers explain it to me?

    Here’s why I love patents.

    After ‘retiring’ from Microsoft in 2000 and relocating my family to the sunny beaches of Australia, I found a way to make music dramatically easier to understand and more emotionally-expressive to perform (also unifying the music theories of many previously-isolated musical cultures, BTW). Experts are telling me that these innovations have the potential to revolutionize the musical instrument and private music lesson industries, which together earn about $30 billion a year worldwide.

    However, without patents, it would be economic suicide for me to invest in bringing these products to market.

    Here’s one example. My new electronic musical instrument, the Thummer (, is a novel combination of familiar user interfaces – the QWERTY keyboard’s button-arrangement and a video game controller’s thumb-controlled joysticks and internal motion sensors – with a concertina keyboard’s note-pattern. It may be the most expressive musical instrument ever – and the easiest to learn. But simplicity is not cheap! Working out the concepts, making & testing prototypes, re-designing the result to be inexpensive to manufacture, etc., has cost me a bundle.

    A Thummer-cloner would not bear any of these expenses. If a consumer electronics factory – say, in China – got a Thummer on Friday, it could reverse-engineer the Thummer over the weekend and start making clones by the thousand on Monday. All they would need is (a) a Thummer to copy and (b) proof of consumer demand. If other people could copy my work and ride my marketing coattails, they could charge lower prices, because they wouldn’t have to recoup my costs. Only by keeping those clones away from my potential customers can I hope to earn high enough margins to recoup my investment in bringing the Thummer to market – and all of my other innovations. Patents, aggressively enforced, let me do that.

    I’m just a little guy, Dave. My Microsoft employee stock options, my house, my kids’ college funds – I’ve invested everything in Thumtronics, because I think it has the potential to make the world a better place and make a buck or two in the process.

    Click to access Business_Overview.pdf

    That’s the American Dream in a nutshell, isn’t it? Only patents (and patent insurance) can turn this dream into reality.

    So, Dave, how can patents be so bad, when without them revolutionary products like the Thummer would never reach the market? How can patents be so bad, when they are the only thing protecting a little guy like me from my huge, established competitors? How can patents be so bad, when they are absolutely necessary to making the American Dream a reality?

    What am I missing here, Dave?

    Thanks! 🙂

    James Plamondon
    CEO, Thumtronics


  17. Posted by Jeremy on January 16, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    I think Ben’s point is clear: Microsoft has produced several mobile platforms to develop for (or, has produced at least one that has gone through various iterations).

    I don’t understand why it is so remarkable that Microsoft has failed to produce a viable iPod alternative as a “developer platform.” It would be remarkable if they had not attempted to compete with the iPod; it is somewhat less remarkable that none of their attempts have had major market success; it does not seem remarkable at all that Microsoft appears not to see a market in producing a mobile media device as a “platform.”

    Does Microsoft really have a “long tradition” of offering hardware devices for developers to write to? What are some examples of this besides the Xbox? What do you envision when you describe a “developer platform?” A device that is straightforward code for? Do not several non-MS options exist? Finally, are there developers out there who would really love to develop for an iPod alternative who are being held back by some barrier I am unaware of? It seems to me that the people writing software to take advantage of these devices (including the non-open iPod) are doing it already. The thing is, it’s not the PC software that people get excited about when it comes to these platforms; it’s the device plugged in to the headphones.


  18. Re: the news:

    It could be worse. Here in Portland, the only thing that’s been on the news (including Breaking News and a ticker at the bottom of prime time shows) is the fact that there’s a few inches of snow on the ground…


  19. Posted by Charles Fitzgerald on January 16, 2007 at 11:42 pm


    Thanks for the “scrappy” attribution. My suggested adjective for today is “persistent”. You know the old joke about it taking three versions for Microsoft to get something right. In some markets it has taken us a decade to become number one, but when we decide to get into a market, we’re generally in it for the long haul. Zune is v1 and no one (at Microsoft anyway) expected to blow away an entrenched and very successful competitor immediately. There is more to come.

    As Jeremy points out above, hardware is relatively new for us and brings some different dynamics, particularly cost of goods sold. You have to balance the economic model with the platform play. The console model is a razors and blades model and you’ll never pay back the subsidized hardware cost if you don’t get the software revenues over time. As Xbox has had more success with the second generation 360, you’ll notice we’re broadening the platform beyond the big game studios with XNA. The goal with XNA is to democratize game development. The platform gene runs deep and just because it isn’t there in v1 doesn’t mean it doesn’t get expressed in the future.

    — Charles


  20. RE James Plamondon’s note:

    My own problem is with patents/copyrights
    on things like mathematical algorithms and biology.
    Seems like a claim of ownership of the sacred
    base of existence. And with the ever-lengthening
    time periods of patents/copyrights.

    — stan


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