Chromulated Thoughts

So a friend and I have been batting a few emails back and forth about ChromeOS after I downloaded a disc image and played around with it for about 30 minutes. I also listened to some of Paul Thurrott’s thoughts on it on Windows Weekly and went back to play with it a little more. Generally I found it to be pretty good if a little slow, but this was running on a virtual machine and it is a year away from release.

So here are some chromulated thoughts about why this is a big deal:

  1. This will open up new competition around the OS at the netbook end of the market. The first netbooks shipped with various versions of linux but Microsoft sensed that this was an issue and made sure that Windows XP and then Windows 7 became the dominant OS on those machines by bringing down licensing costs for netbook vendors. ChromeOS will re-open that conversation because it is free and it has Google’s backing. One possible outcome is that Windows will become free on netbooks.
  2. This is one of those rare moments when Microsoft is up against a competitor (Google) that is as motivated and has deep pockets as it does. Motivation and money will enable Google to keep developing and pushing ChromeOS past the point where other might give up. Microsoft is not a stranger to this strategy having been well served by it in the past where products did not hit their stride until the third or fourth version.
  3. Google is being very careful to present ChromeOS as something a user might run on a secondary computer, thereby avoiding directly challenging Microsoft (we all know what happened to the last company who did that!)
  4. Apple will probably not be affected by this since it is not (yet) present at that end of the market. An Apple notebook is not something people looking to buy a netbook will consider.
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Longer Search Strings

I have been involved in search for a while (on quite a while), and first heard about search string lengths at the 1993 SIGIR conference at Pittsburgh. I believe it was Doug Cutting who was presenting some data on that (my memory is hazy here) and how we were slowing getting up to 2 search terms per search. I think this was an ad-hoc presentation so I have no reference for that, but I know that Amanda Spinks has done a number of studies on search lengths (Google search).

Steve Arnold believes the current number to be around 2.5 which I think is on target, and the trend is up.

Steve points to this study on Hitwise which show those trends, though I would have liked more depth to the figures so we could really see the trend.

Which is, in fact, hard to see, because the change is so slowwww.

At Feedster we were seeing around 2 terms per search, and I put in code to boost the relevance of documents where terms were very close together (ie a phrase) to get better results.

Circumvallation

I am have been reading Steve Arnold’s weblog on search, I have known Steve for over ten years now and he likes to challenge the status-quo and pushing people to see beyond the status-quo.

So it was very interesting to read his post about how Google is challenging Reed Elsevier and Thomson by indexing legal texts:

Google has added the full text of US federal cases and state cases. The coverage of the federal cases, district and appellate, is from 1924 to the present. US state cases cover 1950 to the present. Additional content will be added; for example, I have one source that suggested that the Commonwealth of Virginia Supreme Court will provide Google with CD ROMs of cases back to 1924. Google, according to this source, is talking with other sources of US legal information and may provide access to additional legal information as well.

His thesis is that the incumbents are like Vercingetorix stuck in Alesia (1) and that Google is like Ceasar who built two sets of wall around Alesia, one to keep the Gauls in, and the other to keep any relieving force out.

I like the analogy though it is not quite there, Google is not exactly laying siege and they don’t have to defend themselves. On the other hand the incumbents probably feel very much like the Gauls stuck in Alesia.

I was catching up with a long time friend earlier this week (a much smarter person than me), we were talking about lots of thing and one of those things was how particular species will move fluidly from one niche to another as they evolve. My feeling was that sometimes this happens in a fluid fashion without much struggle, but sometimes it can be quite violent resulting in the decimation of one or the other species (2). I wonder if this is closer to what is happening here. Google in moving in on an established market, though not in an explicitly deliberate fashion, and causing discomfort to the incumbents.

Now that a good portion of the data these incumbents charge for is available for free (it always was available for free, but access was difficult), it will likely force them to change their business model if they are to stay relevant. Steve makes that point very explicitly at he end of his post, for example:

Finally, what will be vulnerable to Google disruption will be difficult to use, expensive, and incomplete services. Maybe Reed Elsevier, Thomson Reuters, and Wolters Kluwer should merge. That will give the present crop of senior managers time to cash out. I don’t see an easy, quick, inexpensive, or painless way to prevent the lessons of Alesia being writ large in tomorrow’s digital headlines.

1 – I learned all about the siege of Alesia at when I was at school.

2 – For example, the introduction of Lionfish in the Caribbean is resulting in major population reduction in some indigenous species on the reefs.

Short Battery Life on the Magic Mouse

I got a new Apple Magic Mouse on November 5th, and had to change the batteries in it today, after only 22 days of use.

Chrome OS

I have been snowed under with work lately and was only able to spend a little time playing with Google’s new Chrome OS.

I did find a very good review by Paul Thurrott though, well worth reading.

The Shark Swam Right Over Me

This pictures was not taken by me but by one of the crew on the boat I was on. I was taking pictures of some Nurse Sharks and some Caribbean Reef Sharks which had decided to come and check out the ‘attractor’ we had put out for them.

Interestingly the nurse sharks were the most aggressive ones with the ‘attractor’ trying to suck out the fish skin that was in there. Three nurse sharks had showed up, two smaller ones and a larger pregnant female. Somewhere along the dive I have gotten very close it as it was laying down next to a coral head. But in this part of the dive it was checking out the ‘attractor’.

I tend to get pretty close to sharks (much to the concerns of some) and this was no exception. The larger nurse shark turned away from the ‘attractor’ and swam right over me which was very cool. Unfortunately the picture is a little dark.

There are two other pictures worth checking out, here and here, there are both wide angle shots so the sharks actually look further away from me than they actually are.

While you are at it, you might want to check out my good friend JenFu‘s underwater photographs, he recently took a trip to the Galapagos and to Cozumel.

Fedora 12

Just upgraded to Fedora 12, much nicer than Fedora 11.

And the upgrade process was smooth which was welcome.