Free money for everyone.

I’ve seen two federal elections since moving to Canada from Boston a couple of years ago. Oh sure people claim that there isn’t an election going on but it certainly seems like it is.

Elections start without any date having been announced, but it seems that you can tell because all governing Liberal MPs are flying around the country at taxpayer expense giving out money to anyone they can, without any kind of plan. After billions of dollars (yes billions of dollars) have been promised to everyone, then an election date is set and the parties campaign for about a month. For the Liiberals, it’s really impossible to tell campaigning from “before campaigning”.

Both elections were preceded closely by federal budgets, and in both cases promises and funding announcements made during the election campaign bore no relation to the previously announced budget. Amazingly this works because it seems that Canadians’ votes are easily bought with government (read “their own”) money. Though would forgiven if you believed that the money belonged to the Liberal party, given the ease with which they spend it.

For example, their recent four-day tally, from The Globe and Mail:

From Monday until 3 p.m. yesterday, the federal government announced projects, grants and funding for various programs totalling $409,608,979.* Amounts by province or territory:

Quebec                        $48,970,018
Ontario                        $29,498,009
Manitoba                     $12,759,395
Nova Scotia                  $11,109.195
Prince Edward Island      $6,957,819
New Brunswick               $5,760,599
Saskatchewan               $4,663,513
Alberta                        $4,399,627
Yukon                           $1,400,000
British Columbia            $867,365
Newfoundland               $718,000
Northwest Territories      $305,439

-*Included in that total is $282,200,000 in national programs that are not broken down by region.

SOURCE: GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

Actually it isn’t Canadian votes they are after; just Ontario and Quebec, and the spending shows.

Including their little $4.6 billion gift to the NDP, that brings their total new spending this week to about $5 billion. $5 billion that wasn’t important enough to include in the federal budget a couple of months ago, but seems so important that they must fly across the country to announce it. If it was so important, then why not include it in the budget?

The other thing about these federal elections is the fact that the promises sometimes fail to materialize.

The one really strange thing about giving money to Ontario is that you aren’t supposed to ask for it:

Ontario is playing a “dangerous” game and adding fuel to separatist fires by claiming it is treated unfairly by the minority federal government, National Revenue Minister John McCallum said Thursday.

Perhaps that’s because only the federal Liberal party is allowed to use taxpayer money to buy votes.

Just ugly rumors.

This is hilarious!

Om Malik is talking about the rose-colored glasses that some folks seem to be wearing when the discuss VoIP. He points to Lance Ulanoff’s five reasons why he doesn’t have VoIP and the indirectly to Russell Shaw’s rebuttal.

The really funny thing is that Russell responds to most of the concerns by saying that you can just keep your existing landline and use cell backup to avoid the VoIP problems. Wouldn’t the point of switching to VoIP be to not depend on landline or cell backup?

As for the problems of blocking and security, they can certainly be overlooked, but that probably won’t make Lance feel better.

The voip weblog is pretty condescending when it says this:

Now, its Lance Ulanoff of PC Magazine coming up with elaborate, yet mostly fictitious, assertions against broadband VoIP services. I would take the time to deftly counter Lances silly diatribe of half-truths, but it appears Russell Shaw has handily done so.

The can say all they want about fictitious assertions, but Lance’s concerns are real. We have come to depend on a certain level of service from our phones that VoIP does not yet provide. We can choose to overlook those issues and use VoIP anyway, but belittling the real concerns of users does not advance either the technology or its adoption.

We would be better off enumerating the concerns, then prioritizing and resolving them.

Saying that you can use VoIP as long as you have a cell phone just sounds idiotic, especially if we ever hope to get beyond the early adopter stage.

Microsoft can’t find people.

Shelley at Burningbird noted Bill Gates’ comments about hiring:

“Anybody whos got good computer science training, they are not out there unemployed,” Gates said. “Were just not seeing an available labor pool.”

As I mentioned the other day, Microsoft recruitment isn’t all that spectacular.

I’m a degreed engineer who has been developing software (C, C++, Java) for over 20 years with experience in R&D, Marketing, and Field Sales. I have a track record of managing teams to ship products on time and within budget. And I have a history of driving substantial revenue increases in companies I’ve worked for. Yet Microsoft took over six months to get back to me to say they weren’t interested.

Mr. Gates needs to check his facts.

Atlas shrugged.

When I was about 15 or 16 years old I started read the works of Ayn Rand, in which (drastically oversimplifying here) the capitalist heroes fought against the socialists who felt that the heroes only existed to provide for the less fortunate. The meaning of “less fortunate” was defined solely by the socialists.

This particular thinking is exempified by these quotes from Atlas Shrugged:

“A free economy cannot exist without competition. Therefore, men must be forced to compete. Therefore, we must control men in order to force them to be free.”

and:

“…we can’t worry about businessmen at a time like this. What we’ve got to think about is jobs…issue a directive making it compulsory to add, say, one-third more men to every payroll in the country.”

and:

“You boys have no excuse for permitting all that need an misery to spread through the country – so long as there are people who aren’t broke.”

Growing up in Canada, this always seems far too close to home. And Canadian Auto Workers leader Buzz Hargrove always made me think of the bad guys in Ayn Rand’s novels – extracting as much as possible for the “needy” union members from the “rich” companies – even the name sounded right.

The CAW demands have almost crushed the big three North American automakers, especially as productivity has dropped and the Canadian dollar has risen, making it expensive and uncompetitive to do business in Canada.

The final straw for me came today when Andrew Coyne pointed out this article:

Tory Leader Stephen Harper’s hand was forced yesterday by a tentative deal cooked up between Paul Martin and Jack Layton on Sunday night in a suite at the Royal York Hotel. The NDP Leader arrived on the subway; the Prime Minister came by limousine.

Organized labour pushed the deal aggressively, threatening to withdraw its support for the New Democrats if Mr. Layton favoured an early election.

Canadian Auto Workers leader Buzz Hargrove played a key role in the negotiations as a go-between and, in fact, delivered a forceful message at the 11th hour on Tuesday to Mr. Martin.

Realizing my worst fears, we now have the government of Canada being given orders by unelected union bosses; orders to change federal budgets to deal with the “needy” as defined by the unions, with complete disregard for those that create the wealth – the engines of the now slowing economy.

The economy is much like a train engine – the more weight you make it drag, the slower it gets.

The point of Atlas Shrugged is that the “rich”, the engines of the economy, eventually grew tired of being drained and packed up and went away. And since the “needy” don’t create jobs, the economy stopped.

I’m worried.

Hiring is obsolete.

Paul Graham suggests that hiring is obsolete:

Most CS undergrads hope to get a good job when they graduate. But as the age of startup founders creeps downward, I foresee an alternative path for the most ambitious: instead of going to work for Microsoft, start a startup and make Microsoft buy it to get you.

This change will do more than make some young hackers richer. It will fuse recruitment with product development. Instead of applying for a job and then being told what to work on, you join the company as a complete development team, with a beta version. Results: (a) a shift in power from companies to hackers, and (b) an increase in the rate at which new technology gets developed.

Obviously this new model will be a better deal for the best hackers. But I think it will also be better for the Microsofts. The few tens of millions extra that they’ll pay will be a bargain for what they’ll get.

The buyer would get a person who has proven ability to produce – and they get a product as well. This could drastically improve quality of hire, the current key hiring metric.

This would necessitate a change in the recruiting function though. Recruiters would have to become skilled in assessing the value of technology and products, as well as mergers and acquisitions. Hiring companies could even provide some seed funding for people they foresaw as valuable.

Smart companies would create communities of support for these type of people, and provide them highly discounted (or free) software environments, and access to APIs and key product information. These communities would provide the ability to collaborate with key software people on the hiring company’s side, as well as best practices or the company.

This would help the hackers, as Paul calls them, to build products using architectures and tools that will easily integrate into the target hiring company’s environment.

The only problem I can envision would be one of cultural fit, which is also something that the recruiters would need to work on.

(Link from Evhead)

Killing innovation.

Imagine that it’s the turn of the century. The automobile is brand new and horse buggy manufacturers are concerned so they convince the government to levy a tax of $100 per HP on the $700 vehicle.

Or perhaps the concerned candle manufacturers force the levying of a tax on the new electric light bulbs.

These ideas would have chilled the acceptance of innovation and halted the progress of the industrial revolution.

Unfortunately cooler heads are not prevailing these days as the recording industry convinces governments to tax any competing technology as in this case where the Netherlands is considering a tax of $4.30 per gigabyte on all MP3 players sold.

It is unfortunate that the Netherlands, with a great history of innovation including CDs and DVDs and much more, would want to punish users of that new technology in order to protect the status quo. Sad too that it assumes that all MP3 owners are guilty of infringement, in much the same way that Canada already does.

Go big or go home.


The largest passenger airliner ever built, the Airbus 380, took off on its maiden flight today.

The A380 is designed to carry 555 passengers in three classes, but it can be expanded to 800 seats.

No thanks.

Tony Goodson pointed this out, but Cameron Reilly must be kidding when he says this:

As Ive been saying to people for ten years, the Internet as we know it today wouldnt exist without the relentless efforts of Microsoft and their partners in the last 30 years to make computing accessible to the masses.

Unless when he says “the internet as we know it today” he is referring to an avalanche of spam and viruses, buggy software, incompatible software, and endless bills for upgrades.

I even recall that in 1995 Bill Gates said that the internet had no business value at all.

Microsoft software is useful, but they don’t deserve thanks for the internet.

Shrinkage.

Both Om Malik and Mark Evans are talking today about research done by Sandvine that suggests that as of April 5th more than 1,100 VoIP providers.

Sandvine asserts that Quality of Experience (QoE) is critical in the VoIP market:

The battle for market share amongst all these offerings will be fought on the field of quality of experience (QoE), a measure of end-to-end performance that combines reliability, standard quality of service metrics and subjective end-user experiences. The failure or success of VoIP offerings depends on the level of QoE that a service provider can achieve and sustain, so network managers must determine very quickly how QoE can best be quantified and ensured.

I don’t know about QoE, but I’ve often mentioned that reliability and uptime will be a huge factor. I’m not sure how anyone can measure subjective end-user experiences

Sandvine obviously sells technology to improve QoE by providing tiered or priority services, but their customers are likely ISPs that don’t want to improve the experience for an VoIP technology but their own. The end result is likey to be a poorer QoE for many of those 1,100 providers, in much the same way as some ISPs are blocking Vonage.

That doesn’t really matter anyway because, as Om shrewdly points out, there will be some shrinkage:

Given that there are going to be about 3 million VoIP subscribers at the end of 2005, and if you take out nearly 2 million that will be shared by the cable companies and Vonage, well what you are left with is a million subscribers for about 1080 providers. Or about 925 or so per VoIP provider. That cant be a business you can build the next WorldCon on? Can it?

[...]

Aswath, keeps reminding us, isnt this all old wine in a new bottle. Its not different thinking. So prediction – and a full year before Sandvine – by end of this year most of these wannabes gone, VoIP market cleaning up, and handful surviving and thriving. Remember ISPs.