Linux in 2004

LinuxWorld asks Eric Raymond and John Terpstra. Some responses:

Eric Raymond: “2004 [will] *finally* be the year when Linux makes significant in-roads on the desktop…Government adoptions happening in Massachusetts, Brazil, South Africa, and all over the Pacific Rim are driving this trend. There’s a lot happening in the private sector, too, but the adopters there won’t talk about that because thety want to hold on to their advantage over competitors paying the Microsoft tax.”

John Terpstra: “During 2004 there will be significant growth in use of Linux for file and print serving, directory management and serving, and in groupware solutions. These backend (server based) facilities will liberate the desktop and will open the way to greater desktop deployment.”

Managing Time

HBS Working Knowledge writes on managing our most proecious asset:

First Things First defines the four quadrants in such a matrix as:

1. Urgent and important tasks (Quadrant I). For example, dealing with a product recall or completing due diligence before an acquisition can be approved.

2. Not urgent but important tasks (Quadrant II). Examples here include developing key business relationships and drafting a plan for how your company will respond to the changes you foresee taking place in your industry 18 months down the road.

3. Urgent but not important tasks (Quadrant III). Examples of these tasks are taking impromptu phone calls from sales reps or fielding a request from a subordinate to help make arrangements for next week’s unit party.

4. Not urgent and not important tasks (Quadrant IV). For instance, surfing the Internet or gossiping around the water cooler.

The more time you devote to important but not urgent work, the more control you have over your schedule. In particular, the less likely it is that your time will be consumed by putting out fires. This comes as no big surpriseso why is it, then, that people have so much difficulty reducing the time they spend on urgent but unimportant tasks? Stephan Rechtschaffen, author of Timeshifting (Broadway Books, 1996), believes the answer has to do with a process known as entrainment, in which a person becomes almost psychologically addicted to the rhythm of the particular task he’s performing.

When you get to tasks that are not urgent and not important, something really interesting happens,” Rechtschaffen observes. “The ambient rhythm in modern life is so fast that even in our leisure time, instead of relaxing, we tend to take on activities that keep us in this fast rhythm.” Thus, typical Quadrant IV recreational activities tend to be things like watching television (with its fast cuts and high-energy commercials) or playing video games (in which the action moves very rapidly).

“Once you’re in a rhythm, the tendency is to stay in synchronization with that rhythm,” says Rechtschaffen. The result is that “in modern life, Quadrant I, III, and IV activities are all happening at high frequencies. Even though the way to reduce the number of Quadrant I crises in your life is to spend more time in Quadrant II, people resist going there because its rhythm is so different.”

To be able to concentrate on work that is important but not urgent, you have to learn how to gear down. Rechtschaffen recommends scheduling specific times for such tasks. “I set aside time for doing my writing. The ground rule is that although I don’t actually have to be writing during this time, I can’t do anything else. What I’ve found, as I’m sitting there not writing, is that guilt feelings or feelings of inadequacy as a writer come up.

MDGs and Poverty

Atanu Dey writes why the fundamental focus for achieving the UN’s Millenium Development Goals should be on rural poverty:

Poverty is manifested as an interrelated set of problems such as hunger, disease, child mortality, gender bias, and environmental degradation. All of the factors that the MDG seeks to address are causally related.

For instance, hunger is a consequence of poverty because even when the food supply is adequate, the poor suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Hunger and malnutrition is in part responsible for low productivity and low incomes. Low or even negative savings coupled with credit constraints do not allow investment in education. Lack of education leads to poor understanding of hygeine and health care, high birth rate and child mortality, and poor maternal health. Eliminating poverty therefore is a necessary condition for the eradication of the whole set of inter-related effects.

Poverty is the most common characteristic that defines the populations of developing countries. It can be broadly classified as income poverty and non-income poverty. Non-income poverty in terms of education, health-care, access to markets, etc., directly produce the income poverty that traps the average citizen of developing countries.

Thus, income poverty and non-income poverty are closely related. The problem appears almost intractable because the two kinds of poverty are mutually reinforcing. Any solution that does not address both kinds of poverty is unlikely to be successful in poverty alleviation. The question of how to raise huge populations out of this poverty trap is a formidable challenge that governments, multilateral organizations and policy makers face.

Another way of classifying poverty is to distinguish between urban and rural poverty. Urban poverty, to a certain degree, is the result of rural poverty. Often, lacking economic opportunities, rural populations are forced to migrate to urban areas. An excess rural migrant population which cannot be gainfully employed in the urban areas leads to urbanpoverty. Therefore, alleviating rural poverty is a precondition to solving a large part of the urban poverty.

On a related note, I was reading Tracy Kidder’s account of Dr Paul Farmer’s work in Haiti – “Mountains Beyond Mountains.” Farmer makes a similar point in the context of healthcare – one cannot only treat the diseases amongst poor people and not worry about what causes them.

Google’s Challenges

Fortune takes a close, hard look at Google, ahead of its expected IPO:

[T]he worrisome news: Google has grown arrogant, making some of its executives as frustrating to deal with in negotiations as AOL’s cowboy salesmen during the bubble. It has grown so fast that employees and business partners are often confused about who does what. A rise of stock- and option-stoked greed is creating rifts within the company. Employees carp that Google is morphing in strange and nerve-racking ways. And talk swirls over the question of who’s really in charge: CEO Schmidt or co-founders Brin and Page?

There were probably similar questions being asked of Yahoo when it went public (or maybe not – those were the bubble days). I think Google has a very able leadership in Schmidt, Page and Brin – they want to show they can match up to the hoopla, and I am quite confident they will. The big challenges are yet to come. Everyone guns for the leader. Hopefully, Google’s management has learnt some of the lessons from history as it readies to do even greater battle with the likes of Yahoo and Microsoft.

On Outsourcing

VentureBlog has an explanation:

Economically, trade is no different than other technologies. Economist David Friedman of Santa Clara University puts it most succinctly: there are two ways to make a car — you can either make it in Detroit or grow it in Iowa. You already know how to make it in Detroit. You get a bunch of iron ore, smelt it into steel, and have an assembly line of robots and workers shape it into a finished vehicle.

To grow it in Iowa, you plant car seeds in the ground (also known as “wheat”), wait until they sprout, and harvest them. Take the harvest and put it into a big boat marked “to Japan” and let it sail off. A few months later a brand new car comes back.

As far as the economy is concerned, it has exactly the same effect on workers and consumers if we use a boat marked “to Japan” or a fantastic new technology invented in Silicon Valley called the “wheat-to-car-converter”. Either way, if it takes you less effort to grow wheat into a car than it does to make it in Detroit, then you should grow wheat. Either way, jobs in Detroit would be lost, and either way people get cheaper cars. Trade is just another technology.

And now this revolutionary technology of trade is hitting the same Silicon Valley engineers that have revolutionized other industries in America. Every engineer knows a company that is outsourcing engineering work to India or China, and many are wondering if their jobs are next. Engineers in Silicon Valley are now waking up to the same angst that their technologies have caused in workers elsewhere. Silicon Valley, welcome to America.

the Chinese government is not worried that their economy is tanking because manufacturing jobs are vanishing. The Chinese economy is producing 8% more this year than last. The only way to achieve that with a stable population is more efficient use of labor. Being able to produce more with less people means there is more to go around. People are moving from poverty to self-sufficiency at a faster rate in China than anywhere else in the world. All of this management and information technology helping companies become more efficient is good for China. As the economy grows at a rapid clip, people put out of work find other useful things to do.

The same applies to America — more efficiency means more production with the same people, and more to go around. Productivity gains are the source of long term economic growth, and long term income growth for Americans. This economic growth brings with it demand for new services, creating new jobs for Americans.

Kottke’s Blog Redesign

Jason Kottke redesigns his weblog:

If you scroll down the front page of the site, you’ll notice that sprinkled in with the regular posts are remaindered links (the 1-line, 1-link posts that have formerly lived in the sidebar), movie “reviews”, book “reviews”, and excerpts from comments I’ve made on other sites. Five types of content, one list.

A post is a post is a post. The newest content should appear at the top of the list of posts regardless of whether it’s a short movie review, one-line link, latest photo, or any other type of update to your site that doesn’t fit the typical title/text/category weblog paradigm and each type of content should displayed appropriately. And then if you want to view the complete list of movies, books, or all the remaindered links, you can.

What I’ve actually done is created 5 separate weblogs with MT and, using a bunch of MT plugins (MTSQL, Compare, MTAmazon, ExtraFields, etc.), have aggregated the 5 weblogs on the front page of the site. Which sounds complicated (and is!). But only in implementation (due to the limitations of the software). Really it’s just the appropriate data presented with the appropriate design(s) in the appropriate context(s). One site, lots of content, many ways to view it.

That reminds me – I haven’t changed the look of my blog in the 18 months since its been up – perhaps its time to look at a fresh design soon.

TECH TALK: An Entrepreneurs Attributes: Value-Added Aggregation, Knowledge

Value-Added Aggregation Picking the Best

An entrepreneur aggregates best ideas and practices, and adds value in a unique way. While there are breakthroughs in thinking which happen occasionally, more often than not, the entrepreneur picks up seemingly disconnected ideas from different disciplines, connects them together, and comes out with a unique concoction. An entrepreneur always need to be alert and on the lookout for new ideas which can be assimilated into the business.

Value-added aggregation is a way of life for me. I use my reading, blogging and interactions with other people to feed me with ideas. I know my space and my problems, and am constantly looking for ideas which I can apply in my context. I think of a business as a Samachar of Innovations. Let me explain. When we started Samachar as a portal for Indian news, we had two choices – either hire a group of journalists to put the news together, or write an intelligent software which could parse the news headlines from the Indian websites which had the best journalists. No prizes for guessing the path we chose! From then on, I use the word Samachar as a way to describe the value-added aggregation approach. So now, Pragatee and Emergic are the Samachar of Software!

Knowledge Mapping the Space

An entrepreneur needs to have deep personal knowledge about the field of operation. What is needed is a mental map of the space the technologies, the numbers, the companies, the people, the trends. Until a few years ago, this wasnt easy to do. Going to trade shows and conferences was one way to keep abreast of all that was happening. The Internet has changed all this. A few hours of reading on the Internet can provide a nice overview of what is happening across the space. And yet, the irony is, that few entrepreneurs actually do this. Perhaps, it is supreme confidence or maybe, it is just laziness (with the perennial excuse of Oh, there so much to do.) This approach will not get the entrepreneur very far.

Knowledge, along with Passion, must become the entrepreneurs greatest strength. Because of the entrepreneurs personal involvement with customers and most aspects of the business, few will know the business as well as the entrepreneur does. This must show up in meetings and interactions with outsiders they should realise that the entrepreneurs knowledge will keep them ahead of the curve if they choose to do business with the entrepreneurs firm. Knowledge wide and deep is the magical key to open up new doors constantly. What the entrepreneur needs to do is to ensure that this is sustained even as the venture grows. This prevents the organisation becoming blind-sided by trends or developments that may not have been foreseen.

Tomorrow: Inspiration, Networking, Faith in God

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