Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mozilla Extends Lucrative Deal With Google For 3 Years

Mozilla, the organization behind the popular Firefox web browser, has extended its search deal with Google for another three years. In return for setting Google as the default search engine on Firefox, Google pays Mozilla a substantial sum - in 2006 the total amounted to around $57 million, or 85% of the company’s total revenue. The deal was originally going to expire in 2006, but was later extended to 2008 and will now run through 2011.

The deal will ensure that the Mozilla foundation will be able to continue with the development of Firefox, its mail client Thunderbird, and a number of other applications. From Mozilla CEO John Lilly:

“We’re very, very happy about our relationship with Google and this makes sure that Mozilla will be sustainable and thrive for quite a long time to come”.

Mozilla uses the funds to pay staff, support its bandwidth and hardware infrastructure, and to distribute a number of grants. Because the search giant accounts for 85% of its revenues, Mozilla has become almost totally reliant on Google, something that has apparently concerned a number of members in the open source community. But Mozilla maintains that the two organizations operate independently. From its 2006 Financial FAQ:

“We develop our product and technical direction as part of an open process unrelated to the search relationship with Google. We talk to Google about the parts of the product that offer Google services (i.e., the Firefox Start Page) and the services they provide, like anti-phishing. Otherwise Google does not have any special relationship to Mozilla project activities.”

The Mozilla Foundation is a non-profit organization that owns two taxable companies that earmark all profits for the Foundation’s open source projects. You can see the original announcement at Mozilla Chairperson Mitchell Baker’s blog.

3 Things They Should Have Taught In My Computer Science Degree

That’s right only 3 things. Oh, there are plenty of things that I wish I would have learned about at university, but I am well aware that no degree will give you an exhaustive education in your field. A degree is meant to teach you the basics and equip you with skills so that you can learn the rest yourself. However, as I get more experience as a software developer, I find that I am increasingly frustrated about not having been exposed to these three things before I entered the workforce.

I believe that any Computer Science degree can be made a lot more relevant simply by paying more attention to these three points. Had I had more exposure to these things before starting my working life, I believe it would have given me some real world skills that I could have applied straight away, rather than having to scramble to learn everything I needed to know on the job. It would have made me better able to deal with the requirements of my work and would also have made me a better citizen of the IT community.

1. Open Source Development

I found that open source was never really taught. Some students found out on their own and got into it, but the majority didn’t find out at all. At no other time in their lives will students have as much time on their hands to get involved as they do at university; it could truly be a mutually beneficial relationship. Instead, a great opportunity is lost here both for the students and for the open source movement.

I believe most CS subjects should encourage students to either start their own open source projects or preferably participate in existing ones. It should be part of the curriculum and part of the grading process. Open source projects could gain valuable contributions, while students not only gain skills in a real-world setting, but also the use of tools, processes and valuable interpersonal skills that a simulated university environment just can’t provide.

2. An Agile Process (e.g. XP, Scrum)

I’ll amend this; I wish they taught any process to such a degree that people can actually gain at least a passing familiarity with it, even waterfall. I found process was more or less glossed over during my university time. Sure there were a few lectures that mentioned it, but noone really explained the need for process and there was never any practical application of the knowledge. In this case without practical application it is almost impossible to take-in the concepts.

Of course it would have been even better had agile processes been taught since these are a lot more relevant to the industry today. Teaching agile processes to university students is probably one sure-fire way to start changing the software industry for the better. Students would come out with a decent understanding of how software should be built and would be a lot less likely to be brainwashed by companies with outmoded modi operandi (lets face there are still plenty around). Instead students enter the work force completely ignorant about how things should be done and another great opportunity is lost both for the students and for the IT industry in general.

3. Corporate Politics/Building Relationships

It may not seem so to most people, but I believe that this is by far the most important point where my CS degree let me down. So much emphasis is placed on technical subjects that you never get to find out how life really works in the corporate world. Of course this is the hardest to figure out on your own.

As a freshly minted CS grad, you think technology is the most important thing in the world. So, when you find your feet in the corporate world it is a bit of a rude shock how everything seems so dysfunctional and moves at such a glacial pace, until that is you figure out that technology is not the most important thing at all and that corporate politics rules the coop.

Even in high technology companies, politics is king and the cornerstone of politics is relationships. The right relationships can let you get things done, and make your life a lot less difficult. However the concepts around politics and relationships are not well defined, there are no hard and fast rules, everything is very relative and fluffy. Of course for technically minded people this is the most frustrating thing in the world.

It doesn’t have to be like this though, just like everything else, politics and relationship building have basic principles that can be taught, so I fail to see why they are not. Had they been maybe industry wouldn’t crying out anywhere near as much for technical people with great interpersonal skills. Because it is not the interpersonal skills that the grads are lacking (there are plenty of CS grads with great people skills), it is the ability to use these skills to effectively build relationships.

Well that’s, my take on it. It has been a few years since I was at university so maybe in the intervening years things have improved and what I mention above is part of the curriculum (somehow that strikes me as unlikely). Then again perhaps you disagree with me on one or all of the points I mentioned. Do you think there are any other vital subjects that your CS degree should cover? Let me know.

Microsoft readying apps store for Windows Mobile?

It looks as though Microsoft is joining Apple and Google in the mobile "apps store" market.

It appears the software giant expects to launch an applications store called "Skymarket" this fall for its Windows Mobile platform, if a recent job posting spotted by Long Zheng at is accurate. According to the ad posted Sunday on, the Skymarket senior product manager will head a team that will "drive the launch of a v1 marketplace service for Windows Mobile."

(Credit: Microsoft)

Among the key responsibilities, according to the ad:

• Definition of the product offering, pricing, business model and policies that will make the Windows Mobile marketplace "the place to be" for developers wishing to distribute and monetize their Windows Mobile applications

• Responsibility for the business model and key elements that will drive the optimal experience for developers and monetization of the service by Microsoft

• Preparation and driving the cross group collaboration for the initial launch of the marketplace offering to the developer community this fall

• Preparation and driving the cross group collaboration with stakeholders in the commercial launch of the marketplace service with the launch of WM 7

Microsoft representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Windows Mobile is a software operating system used on smartphones. Smartphones, which offer e-mail, Web surfing, music, and other Internet services, are growing in popularity. Smartphone sales increased to 19 percent of all mobile-phone sales in the second quarter, a 9 percent increase from the same period a year ago, the NPD Group reported.

Microsoft has been working hard to cash in on the growing demand for smartphones. Earlier this year, Microsoft released version 6.1 of the Windows Mobile operating system. This version includes an updated browser, which is supposed to make Internet surfing on a mobile phone look and feel like it does on a desktop.

Despite predictions for strong growth, Microsoft still faces tough competition, and it may have a hard time increasing its market share as competition intensifies. Along with its new iPhone 3G, Apple opened its App Store to wild success. Apple raked in about $30 million in sales of iPhone applications in the first month the store was open.

Also, new phones using Google's Android operating system are expected to hit the market soon. Google on Thursday announced Android Market, an online center that will let people find, buy, download, and rate applications and other content for mobile phones equipped with the open-source operating system.

Is Cuil Killing Websites?

An anonymous tipster wrote to us this morning to tell us that Cuil, the ill-fated “Google Killer,” has unleashed its Twiceler indexing bot on websites across the globe and in the process, has brought many sites down.

“I don’t know what spawned it, but when Cuil attempts to index a site, it does so by completely hammering it with traffic,” the tipster wrote. “So much, that it completely brings the site down. We’re 24 hours into this “index” of the site, and I’ve had to restrict traffic to the site down to 2 packets per second, while discarding the rest, or otherwise it makes the site unusable.”

The Admin Zone forums are abuzz over Cuil’s overzealous method for indexing. Countless posters on the site have said that their websites have been brought down because of the Twiceler robot and one user said it “leeched enormous amounts of bandwidth — nearly 2GB this month until it was blocked. It visited nearly 70,000 times!”

Website owners are also saying that the way Cuil indexes sites isn’t scientific in any way and is actually quite “amateurish.” According to those who experienced the Twiceler onslaught, the bot seems to “randomly hit a site and continue to guess and generate pseudo-random URLs in an attempt to find pages that aren’t accessible by links. And by doing this, they completely bring a site down to where it’s not functional.”

Upset site owners contacted Cuil to see why Twiceler was hitting sites so often. James Akers, Cuil’s Operational Engineer responded to the issue by saying that “Twiceler is an experimental crawler that we are developing for our new search engine. It is important to us that it obey robots.txt, and that it not crawl sites that do not wish to be crawled. If you wish I will glad to add your site to our list of sites to exclude, but I need you to tell the site name to block as email return addresses frequently from the domains that wish to be blocked.”

Akers also claims that Cuil has seen a “number of crawlers” that pretend to be Twiceler, and site owners should consult the company’s IP addresses page to determine if it’s really Cuil causing all the trouble.

Cuil has yet to respond to a request for comment, but it doesn’t look like the pelting of sites by the company’s Twiceler bot is an isolated incident. And if it’s true that Twiceler is trying to find pages on sites that don’t even exist to simply increase the index size, Cuil should work quickly to modify the bot before it receives even more negative publicity.

Original here

Limited Atom supply shows strong netbook demand

Intel has been talking up its Atom processor since the beginning of the year, and it has clearly described its vision of a future where all of us are connected through a vast network of Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs). The 45nm Atom processors Intel has launched to date are the first arrivals in a product series the company intends to scale from handhelds to desktops, but current Atom deployment is still significantly bottlenecked.

The problem isn't yield or volume. Intel can currently build about 2,500 Atom processors on a single 300mm wafer, and yields are reportedly quite good. Santa Clara's testing facilities, however, are reportedly saturated at current production levels, and that's not a problem Intel can quickly resolve. There is always the option of converting test lines that are currently validating other CPU solutions over to Atom, but that simply transfers the backlog from one product family over to another. So far, as Infoworld reports, Intel has chosen to keep the majority of its testing capacity focused on products with significantly higher selling prices.

If the netbook market continues to explode, however, Intel may be forced to convert other testing equipment over to Atom or risk losing design wins. Manufacturers have practically fallen over themselves to introduce new netbooks this year; Asus might have broken the mold with the original EEE, but it's impossible to swing a dead cat more than six inches without running into a netbook design from MSI, Acer, Gigabyte, Asus, Dell, HP, Everex, and a half-a-dozen other companies.

Although HP is the only Tier 1 manufacturer to declare for VIA's Nano so far, a continued shortage of Atom chips could lead more manufacturers to consider VIA. Obviously, this isn't going to vault VIA to some position of dominance, but even modest gains would be big news for the smaller company. There are plenty of netbooks or MID devices Nano isn't capable of powering, thanks to its overall power consumption, but there are also plenty of higher-end systems where it could find a ready home.

As for AMD, at present, the company simply isn't focusing on the netbook market. We've heard rumors of an AMD-class netbook processor, and Dirk Meyer has promised to announce a new processor in November, but samples of any such chip shouldn't be expected to pop until mid-2009 at the earliest. Intel's validation constraints should be lifting by then, assuming the company's Vietnam facility comes online as scheduled.

If anyone benefits from Intel's constraint, I'd expect it to be VIA, but I also expect Santa Clara to keep a very close watch over Atom's growth. If the company feels that it is losing important sales due to production constraints, it might very well decide to take a (small) hit in another processor family in order to establish Atom's presence in as many first-generation netbooks as possible.

Thus far, we've discussed Atom's hardware support, but let's shift gears slightly and touch on software development. Linux developer Opened Hand has announced that it has been acquired by Intel and will henceforth be part of the Intel Open Source Technology Center. Opened Hand will focus on development of the Moblin Software Platform, which describes itself as "an open source community for sharing software technologies, ideas, projects, code, and applications to create an untethered computing experience across Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs), Netbooks, and embedded devices." is explicitly focused on developing for Intel's Atom processor, and the "low power, low footprint, high performance, wireless, and graphics" capabilities Intel wants MIDs to offer in the future. Much has been made of Vista's inability to provide a compelling experience on netbook-class hardware, and Intel's purchase of Opened Hand (a company which a great deal of its own experience in Linux handheld development) is a rather clear statement of where Santa Clara thinks the netbook OS world may go.

It's been at least ten years since the technology world began talking about "Linux on the desktop." Now, despite the ongoing presence and popularity of Windows XP, "Linux on the netbook," may be a far more realistic goal.

Hands-on with Hama's iPod nano 4G case at IFA

Our spicy, siesta loving friends over at Engadget Spanish just nabbed a hands-on with Hama's "iPod nano 4G" case on the floor of IFA. The tip came in anonymously about an hour ago and sure enough, there it is, buried in a mountain of iPod accessories and sharing the same smooth arc of the Kevin Rose nano -- as it will from henceforth be known. Hit the read link for all the pics, or check a couple more after the break.