Monthly Archive: February 2010

the sanctity of our electronic data…

NB and caveat:  I say “we” a lot in this post.  I do not mean the “we” that is my organization and/or the university at which I work.  I mean academia in general.

There has been a lot of debate – everywhere, but especially in academia – about outsourcing.  Lately, this has been e-mail.  The most notable and commonly used has been Google mail for Education. Their suite of products offers quite a few features but, by a mile, the major feature used is mail.  Integration with existing user accounts, maintaining domain name, etc – Google has done a good job (though I have mentioned before about how I don’t think they’ve done a good job developing their products beyond an initial stage).  Microsoft has entered the fray with their live@edu product, which is obviously aimed at schools.  It integrates well with Active Directory from what I’ve heard, so it’s ready for what many schools are already using for directory management.

However, that’s mostly been just e-mail.  And even then, there is a lot of debate about whether it’s “safe” to have one’s e-mail data off-campus.  There is this opinion that one’s e-mail is apparently too important to outsource.  Now, presuming that FERPA security and privacy rules have been met, it doesn’t make any sense to me.  First, if an accounting or law firm can outsource, then so should a school.

But, fundamentally, what makes our e-mail so special?  What makes our data in general so special?  What’s wrong with outsourcing?  At the very least, we are looking at a less expensive option, with sufficient security (again, presuming that a school’s counsel is comfortable with FERPA compliance), and a whole lot more engineers and system administrators running and maintaining the system.

I have been putting forth an effort to provide substantial network-based, enterprise-level storage for the faculty and staff at the law school.  Of course, I want to work within the university infrastructure first.  But we still run into the same issue – fewer system administrators, fewer people managing the servers.  We have some great staff at the university that are dedicated to their jobs, but you can’t compare the admin to system ratio and economies of scale (in both human and monetary capital) that a big outsourcing company can provide.

This proposal means putting all of one’s data on someone else’s storage solution, off-campus, and in the “cloud.”  In some cases our data might be across the country.

But what’s so wrong with that? Why is our data so important that we can’t accept this as a possibility?

why not blame apple?

This is a post I started…a while ago so it’s sad that I’m only getting to it now.  Anyway…

Over the last few months at the viral and national marketing level, there has been a “war” going on about ATT’s 3G coverage.  This has been fueled mostly by disgruntled iPhone users that aren’t getting the kind of data speeds they want.  ATT’s coverage is spotty, it’s 3G coverage is even spottier, etc.

There have been protests held where users try to overload the ATT network (not best link, but wanted to provide something…) by using a lot of data-intensive apps all at once.  Then Verizon has been attacking ATT’s coverage quite aggressively, with ATT striking back with their own advertising campaign.

The funny thing is…why is no one blaming Apple?

Apple was the one that said that

  • the iPhone would be branded as an Apple product and initially (and for quite a while) sold at Apple stores
  • would not be branded at all as an ATT product
  • advertising for it would be for the phone, not for the carrier
  • Apple would get a big cut of the sale price of each phone

Supposedly, when Apple approached Verizon and it’s huge network about this, Verizon refused.  ATT acquiesced.

So if it’s Apple that forced the iPhone to go to ATT (heck, whatever if it ended up on T-Mobile or Sprint, which has even worse coverage in general?)…why keep blaming the provider?  Why not blame the manufacturer that had such ridiculous stipulations?

Addendum:  PC  World did a test of data transfer speeds of the various carriers, and ATT came out on _top_.  Hm.

I used to day dream

Now I merely fantasize.

No, I don’t mean anything like that.  Get your mind out of the gutter.

Before, I used to day dream, at least occasionally, about other schools calling me up someday asking how we (and, arrogantly, I) had managed to do something really cool.  About being asked to deliver a keynote at a conference.  About being a rockstar…at my job.

No, I just fantasize about stuff like being a professional baseball player or a superhero.  I always day dreamed about that stuff, of course, to some extent, but it seems like I’ve lost the other stuff and all I have is about how I’m saving the world.  So I feel like calling it “day dreaming” isn’t right anymore.  These aren’t dreams.  These are fantasies.

I’m not sure where, over the last couple of years, I lost my ability to day dream about my own ambitions, my own goals.  I do know that I need to get it back.  That I need to have not just aspirational but practical goals of my own that require more than just determination.

People say that if one doesn’t dream when they’re sleeping, they eventually go insane.

What happens when you stop day-dreaming about what you might be one day?

Amazon is dead. Wait. No it’s not.

Amazon’s stronghold on e-book pricing crumbles, will renegotiate with Macmillan and HarperCollins « Boy Genius Report.

There has been so much talk about how the iPad and iBooks store has been destroying Amazon.  Specifically, its ability to negotiate rock-bottom (and below-cost) prices for ebooks because they had such a dominant position in the field with the Kindle.  The link above, from BoyGeniusReport, was one of the first really substantive ones I read.  Another one has come out about the third major publisher, Hanchette – also associated with the iBooks store to come out with the iPad – putting the strong-arm on Amazon.

The main link on this post is rather significant, in that it includes a quote from Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp and in a rather level-headed statement, states that

We don’t like the Amazon model of selling everything at $9.99. They don’t pay us that. They pay us the full wholesale price of $14 or whatever we charge. We think it really devalues books and it hurts all the retailers of the hard cover books

This statement is quite telling.  First, Amazon has been selling Kindle books at below cost.  Presumably, this is some kind of strange reverse complement, “razor-blade” scenario.  The Kindle at a relatively high price, and then the books somehow below cost to help drive the justification of buying a Kingle (you need titles, after all, just like one needs to launch a video game console with lots of games right off the bat).  I’m not sure how Amazon is able to handle that much of a loss per book but let’s look a bit deeper.  It might also be Amazon trying to be a middle-person in a two-sided market, where it heavily subsidizes the cost to the buyer in order to produce enough content to make the whole thing worthwhile.  The “charge” to the publisher is the reduced value.  It’s not quite a perfect fit for what I’m studying right now in class but it’s close enough.

First, all Murdoch wants is to charge end-users the actual cost that Amazon is paying.  Okay, that’s actually not so bad.  Other than deviating from the established norm, Amazon is at least now operating at cost.  And considering how many Kindles are out there, they still have a high user base with books that will likely be no more expensive than those available on the iPad.

Second, the comment about value is intriguing.  Even if the prices are exactly the same on the iPad as the Kindle, then “value” to the end user is about the same.  The only difference will be psychological effect of sunk cost – having already bought the Kindle – or other factors.

One rather significant one is that I can go a month without charging my Kindle.  When’s the last time you’ve done that with anything that involves a backlight, LED or LCD screen?  Even if you turn WiFi, bluetooth, etc off you’re looking at a significant decrease in battery life.  And, let’s not forget that while you’re going to get a HUGE surge in iPad purchases at first and possibly an even bigger dent in Kindle sales, I really wonder whether it will, even over just a few months, level off on both sides.

One thing that will also be interesting is whether users will be “imprisoned” by the iPad once they get it.  Not that I am not committed now to Kindle books since I got one, but once you get an iPad, you are unlikely to go out and buy a Kindle if you think it is a better fit for your reading needs.  Unless you are a voracious reader, and the battery life for the iPad just doesn’t fit your needs.