Connecting the dots

 I still remember the days when we hook up the Internet at home with a 36.6kbps speed. The dialing of modem which came with buzzing sound indicated that we are connected to the Internet, or not.
  
  Back in the days, Excite was the dominant search engine. It was always Excite until one day when I heard that AltaVista has taken over the reign as the biggest and smartest search engine. It then occurred to me that Excite wasn’t a default page that everyone had to use, there were others equally good or better. Then Yahoo! came around with it’s fancy yellow icon and content-rich page. Yahoo! was not just search, it tried to be different things to different people. It became my source of search and email.
  
  Things took a turn in 2002 when I entered university. People started hearing about this site called Google, or as I would mispronounced it Goggles (for swimming). Google, like Yahoo, was many things to me. It was more than just a distant company as I had the opportunity to mingle with Googlers in both summers of 2006 an 2007. I was selected for their Google Summer of Code program. For a young man from Malaysia, many thousand miles away from Silicon Valley, which despite growing up using Apple computers and IBM PCs had never had the chance to be close to the happenings of Silicon Valley. Being chosen for the program twice meant that I became part of Silicon Valley happenings, albeit very small, and still somewhat very distant.
  
  Spending two summers with the Summer of Code (SoC) program caused a philosophical shift in how I see things. In a developing country where buying an original Windows would cost my dad couple months of salary, it never occurred to me that software costs money. The only thing that did was hardware, and assembling an IBM PC was such fun. Almost as fun as dismantling them. SoC paid twice for me, in 2006 USD4500 and in 2007 USD 2500. USD4500 was equivalent to eight months of salary for a fresh IT graduate in Malaysia, and I did it in two months each in my 3rd and 4th year. It made me realized how the Internet had opened up possibilities. Another shift for me was to support open cause. If I was on the fence between two software or hardware. I would support the one that is more open, because I felt that the money I paid for had a better chance of flowing back to the community and enjoyed by others. Just I did with SoC.
  
  Soon after graduating, I started working as a coder for JotSpots. Working from Malaysia for a startup in the valley, filling up tax return became interesting, and that was when I started visiting the American embassy. I had false pride when I walked through the heavily gated embassy by showing my tax returns forms while other visa applicants wait in a long line. How shallow of me, and I still am. JotSpot later was bought over by Google and renamed Google Sites. This was my second close encounter to Google. I had no part in any stock options or anything as I was only a part time programmer, and being far away from California didn’t help. The funny thing was that it only occurred to me that it was another pride, however false, that I was part of a early team which was bought over by Google.
  
  In 2011 I moved to Beijing from Norway to be closed to the China market. The China market has always been close to my heart, being an ethnic Chinese and an opportunist. The market was opening up and expanding rapidly. I requested a move to Opera China. Google had better services than Baidu. Baidu had to be given credit for operating smarter, and despite being inferior in technology had managed to wrestle a big part of the search share. It was game on and Google came in and started eating up Baidu’s share. It stood at about 30/70 between Google and Baidu when the China gate incident, as I would call it, happened. Whether it was a business decision or a moral decision, the departure of Google from China meant that 30% of the population who uses Google started moving elsewhere, and they mostly ended up with Baidu. Just like Yahoo!, Baidu search ranking could be bought. An entire book can be written about such dealings.
  
  The Google Story was written in 2005 and, despite an update, many things have changed. Android is now the biggest theme. It will be interesting to see how things pan out between Android, Apple iOS and Windows. Microsoft, the goliath for the past century, is not as evil as many have thought while Apple and Google are not saints too. One thing is without doubt. A product of the computing and Internet era, all three are remarkable organizations of our time.

狗屎和杰作

人手一个iphone,就要人手一本乔布斯传?
  
  公司送了这本书,一直摆在家里,选择不看。不知道为什么,一直都抗拒主流媒体追捧的,尤其是盲目追捧的,更是弃之。就这样,一本会看的书,放了许久。
  
  家里的第一台电脑是cubic 99。当时是一家新加坡公司模仿Apple II制造的。在乔布斯的眼里。我家不应该有这台电脑,因为侵权是该被告的。苹果辛辛苦苦研发出来的东西,应该是苹果自己享有的。但要是没有接触这一台电脑,或许也就不会有以后的电脑,更不会有四年四台macbook笔记本的经历。
  
  cubic 99说实话,完全没有印象,年级太小了。反而是第一台8088, 可以玩snake游戏是第一个有印象的电脑,之后买的也都是IBM兼容的PC了,80286,80486, pentium等等等。IBM PC没有正真造就IBM,却造就了Intel和Windows。这个Wintel组合,一个硬件王国,一个软件王国。IBM PC还做了一件事,就是把Macintosh给干掉。开启了不属于IBM的IBM PC王国。
  
  苹果第一个翻身是ipod。ipod风靡了很多人,虽然必须承认,我是迟到08年才拥有第一部ipod。很落后。不知道ipod到底给macbook的销量带来多大帮助。对我自己,至少ipod不是催化购买macbook的动力。反而是Pentium processor。当时苹果决定放弃自己的power pc处理器,和Intel合作。这大大提升了苹果的速度,也让本本变得更轻巧。
  
  可笑的事,在90年代的开源浪潮,linux的开放是大家追捧的,windows的封闭是大家垂泣的。苹果错过了90年代的浪潮,错过了成为被追捧的公司。现在大家不再追捧linux,取而代之的是苹果。但是苹果更封闭,比windows封闭。不过windows还是大家的攻击对象。为什么呢?原来大家不关心开放与否,不关心选择,甚至不关心自由。只关心用户体验。体验好了,其他都可以放弃。随后的产品itunes,appstore,icloud也是这个理念的实践者。
  
  “我们都有个有钱的邻居,叫施乐。我闯进他们家准备偷电视机的时候,发现你已经把它给盗走了” 经典的一句话,bill gates回应乔布斯。微软如果在GUI方面真抄袭了苹果,那苹果也必须承认他们抄袭了Xerox PARC施乐。就是前后问题。微软和苹果之争谁抄谁,谁告谁。只有当事人知。
  
  Bill Gates对乔布斯的认可大过于乔布斯对Gates的认可。Gates因为乔布斯不(那么)会写代码而在尊敬方面打了一些折。乔布斯应该是会写代码的,可能就没有Gates写得好。其实不管是苹果的双人组合,或者是微软的双人组合中,Gates和乔布斯都是里面的生意人。Paul Allen和Steve Wozniak才是正真的技术神。
  
  当然乔布斯的领导魅力是无人能敌的。“你以后是想继续卖糖水,还是想创造电脑帝国” 这句话把百事可乐的老大Sculley给弄来了苹果。“很难想像,一个市值20亿美元,拥有4300名员工的公司,会竞争不过六个穿牛仔裤的人” 不记得他给谁说过的,但是,如果我是团队应该很振奋。当然,认真读过这本书的人,也知道乔布斯同时是一个极权,甚至是摆布人的生意人。苹果的共同创始人Steve Wozniak虽然最终和好,但是Wozniak在离开苹果后也遭到乔布斯的围堵,不让做一些事情。和乔布斯翻脸的苹果CEO,也都被他逼走。
  
  乔布斯对产品的评价,要不是狗屎要不是杰作,很难有中间。大家对他的评价应该也是如此。幸运的是,绝大部分人属于后者。

Places I’ve been to in 2010

New places I’ve been to in 2010.

  • South Korea. Mum, Dad, Sis and I went to Seoul, and Jeju Island for a week where we finally tasted authentic Korean steamboat, and climbed the Halla Mountain.
  • Poland. A week in Krakow and Wrocław where Michal and I took on the Zakopane mountain.
  • Germany. East meets West in Berlin where the berlin wall invoke memories. Hitler’s bunker was totally unconspicously hidden underneath a carpark.
  • GeeksOnTheRoad tour took Shwetank and I to Slovakia, Budapest, Austria and Czech Republic. Best moment? Charles bridge and Viennese architecture.
  • Taiwan. Peko brought Chaals and me to Taipei for a one week developer relations tour. This is the place where the HTML5 Chinese Interest Group started.

2011 is going great as I head to Lagos, Nigeria for a week of Social Innovation Camp.