Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Perking it Up

Be Wary of Tech Firm Perks
There wasn't a whole lot of news last week, which is good because I have a really full plate this week and need to get into the office early tomorrow. I thought I'd kick off things with this article about tech firms trying to outperk one another in the face of a job market where there's a limited supply of talented software engineers. There is a big difference between a software development engineer and someone who learns how to write code from a book. Even with some industry experience, depending on the company/companies they've worked for they're not necessarily going to be so talented and for these companies it's cheaper to beef up the perks to attract top talent than risk cheaper talent that may end up being harder to maintain in the end. It may seem exuberant in a down economy, but that's the way capitalism works. It's all about supply and demand. There is real value to these perks, too, in how people perceive going to the office. A lot of people seem to drudge through their weekdays whereas at a company where getting a quarterly award means a weekend with a Lamborghini is quite a difference.

However, I'm here to warn you about these jobs. I don't want to name names, but there were companies that were offering awesome perks (tempting to me, for sure) that laid off employees last year. Having perks doesn't indicate job security. The sexy jobs aren't necessarily the best horses to bet on. I don't want to discourage folks to take calculated risks in joining startups, but I think it can be misleading to be pitched on all these great benefits only to have them later taken away when the economy goes into another recession. It's important to ask yourself this question: if the only compensation I received at my job was my base salary (with any cash and stock bonuses) and health benefits (I'm including medical, dental, and vision here), would I be happy with what I do? Let's assume that the culture for the most part stayed the same also, you just didn't have free yoga twice a week. Do you do your job for the perks or for the work you actually do? I think if you pick with your heart what you'd really like to do then you're on more solid ground. I think it makes sense to also consider a workplace with job stability if you have a mortgage or a family, too, but I don't think all the recruiter-speak should be what sells you on a job. Now that the CS job market is heating up, caveat emptor is more or less in full effect for those of you looking for a job or looking to switch jobs.

The iPad is Out

The iPad has now been officially released. A few reviews came out last week with one of the most glowing ones coming from PC Magazine. Their review was so positive that it almost seemed like the reviewer was already really positively inclined for the iPad and was willing to belittle some of the big drawbacks. And, granted I'm biased for the Kindle, I thought they were a bit dismissive of the Kindle in the wake of the iPad when the two are completely different devices. I'm sure that it's a great device for what it is, but I think value should be a consideration in a review, as well as the lack of major things like Flash. Still, the mixed reception may indicate that it's not going to be the flop it was predicted to be.

Gizmodo has also been doing its best to review as many apps as it can and it looks like there's some really good stuff out there.

Google Blocked in China

Google's saga with China may have finally met its end. Google stopped censored off and on for the past couple of months in the wake of an attack from a Chinese computer that was at a university but the US government believes was a cover for an implicitly sanctioned cyber attack. Now, the Chinese government has blocked Google's Chinese site and damned Google in the media as being co-conspirators with the US government against China. This was in the wake of Google's announcement to move the site offshore and Google has said that they may have to close their sales offices in China. This is pretty serious for Google employees there who could be considered enemies of the state as a result of their relationship with Google. I wonder if the people there wonder that their government's sudden response to this seems odd like maybe Google isn't the one in the wrong, especially since it was such a strong brand in China. Google is giving up a lot of money and potential business if they don't fight back on this, and they may morally decide that it's not worth the money to get back into China. If they do decide this, then kudos to them for having the moral courage to do that.

4G is About Congestion

Ars Technica has a really great article about 4G being a response not to speeds being super slow on mobile devices, but rather the fact that congestion is killing data availability in areas with perfectly good coverage. It's an important point to be made because I've heard people dismiss 4G because they don't think the speed boost is necessary and may hurt battery life on current generation cell phone technology, but we're outgrowing our 3G networks. AT&T is a prime example of that in some of nation's bigger cities. I may be one of the few people who believe in the future of 4G, but I think there's good reason to hope for the best there. Depending on the implementation, 4G is usually more scalable than today's 3G networks, and that's ultimately what we need to sustain growth in our consumption of data. We shouldn't let infrastructure hold back innovation, especially if there's a need for it. It's hard to consider that when 20 years ago we didn't "need" e-mail on-the-go, but the world is ever-evolving. I'd like to think we're mostly evolving for the better.

Windows 7 Market Share Strong

Windows 7's numbers are out for March and it looks like the young OS already has more than 10% of the market. Though XP is still the biggest piece of the pie, Windows 7 is gaining share much more quickly than Vista did and there may not be an end to this growth for a while.

As great as 7 is for most people, it's not without its flaws. According to data compiled from Microsoft's security bulletins last year, 90% of known vulnerabilities in Windows 7 can be fixed by removing admin rights. Though, to be fair, I don't think any OS has admin rights down quite perfectly yet. It's a tough nut to crack in compromising convenience for security.

Windows 7 being the first solid OS release from Microsoft in quite a while may show a change in the times for Microsoft. They're even experimenting with putting Office Starter on new PCs where Microsoft would make money off of people then upgrading to a paid version. I'm not sure what's gained in the paid version from the Starter, but I think it'll be great for lower income families.

Final Notes

Ok, I dragged on a bit longer than I meant to tonight, so time to wrap up.

CNN has a great article explaining why Internet is faster in South Korea than here. It's partially because of their land being less spread out but it's also a result of intense competition, which doesn't exist so much here since we have so many local monopolies (or small oligopolies).

If you're not concerned about your passwords, then read this explanation from LifeHacker on common cracking techniques and maybe you'll re-think your passwords. The key is to seed them all in a way you can remember them but then add things to them to make them unique in a way that wouldn't be too easy to guess.

Google Chat may soon get file transfer!

PC Mag has a really nice roundup of free software in several categories - it's worth taking a quick look for any needs you don't have met.

Last week, I saw John Mayer and Michael Buble in concert. John Mayer was good, but Michael Buble was incredible and well worth the price of admission. I thought I'd close off by sharing one of my favorite parts of the show: his cover of Billie Jean in homage to one of his main inspirations, Michael Jackson:

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