Showing posts from April, 2008

MSFT and Reiser, the OSS bias

I was taken aback by the tone of coverage of news in the OSS community yesterday. It was a sad day for me.

A quick browsing of Slashdot yields the same hatred of Microsoft. It has been a decade. Same violent coverage, same rage. Whatever MSFT does is evil, bad, evil and bad bad bad. The editorial choice of words is always negative, biased and suspicious. The OBSESSION continues. Forget the fact that MSFT has been immensely humbled by Google, Linux and is far from the domineering bully it was 15 years ago. A fringe of the OSS community STILL hates them.

In stark contrast, I was reading the comments on Wired on the coverage of the Reiser trial. For those who haven't followed this modern geek tragedy, here is true evil genius. Reiser is the author of ReiserFS and according to many accounts a typical geek suffering asperger. He was also found guilty of killing his wife. While I empathize with the OCD the man looks guilty as sin. Read the coverage. But the point is that the …

SpringSource's Application Server

A friend sent me the press-release detailing the release of the Spring Source application platform and asked me what I thought.

I had to try hard to come up with something. Truth is, I care a little bit but not a lot. To me this is a VC driven move. Spring is a natural consultancy, being a development framework, but they have been struggling with their sales in the runtime. So voila, we now have a box drawn around an OSGi kernel, the Spring framework and Hibernate/Tomcat, and it has a name: it's an application server. It is the same thing you had yesterday for free, except it is now under the GPL and a proprietary subscription license.

I laugh. SpringSource is trying to monetize its ISV user base. Good for them! I predict this flat-footed license change will have little traction with the ISV community. Why? because getting the ISVs to pay will take more than branding around previously BSD licensed software. Exactly what does an OSGi kernel bring on top of Tomcat? Nothing. Wha…

Gas rationing in the UK, soon the US?

Is it just me or is every pump in my immediate vicinity (Fulton county, Georgia) out of "regular and medium" gas and of course, they apologize for the inconvenience. First the low cost gas station was invaded, a week ago and I didn't think much of it, with waiting lines and all and next, yesterday, high end BP and Shell were out of Gas on the 2 lower lines of product. Then this morning, the Fintag blog reports of shortages and rationing of gas in the UK. It's official over there.

Should I freak out? Or is some company hoarding stash as the price of oil shoots to $120 a barrel? I shouldn't freak out I guess, but at the very least I feel like a dying breed putting gas in my Porsche Turbo. I love the car but it looks like an endangered specie however. I look at the SUV next to me, pumping even more gas in the tank. I see dead cars!

I can't wait for my Tesla Motors car to get here and stay marginally ahead of the curve.

Bring it on!

The Rush to Stem Cells

There is a great rush going on in the Scientific community since the discovery of how to reprogram cells to be stem cells.

This ability, which exists in nature in reptiles regrowing their limbs, is achieved by resetting the expression profile of a cell. A Cell specializes in its function as it derives from stem cells status. But they never really lose the capacity to revert back to a more primary state.

Therefore reprogramming cells, thinking of them as state machines, has become a major thrust in the biological sciences. By applying a distress signal, local skin cells have been show to re-boot themselves as stem cells. They do so by rewiring the expression filters, almost removing them. From there on reprogramming down the tree, a colony of cells can regrow limbs. Which is pretty handy and neat. A new industry of bio-software is being born.

The great rush to the Stem Cells is on!

Walmart restricts rice sales

From BBC.

The world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, is restricting sales of rice at one of its chains - the latest sign of a global shortage of the staple food.

Sam's Club, Wal-Mart's cash-and-carry division, says customers can buy a maximum of four bags per visit.

The limit applies to jasmine, basmati and long grain white rice.

The international price of rice has risen by 68% this year and Wal-Mart said the restrictions were "due to recent supply and demand trends".

Here it is in the US... Food rationing. Whoodathought? In part due to our naive desire for real estate to always go "up up up!"

Speculation and starvation

This morning's FT offers 2 articles in stark contrast of each other.

The first one, written by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, pleads for a global approach to high food prices.

From FT Alphaville

High food prices are today a serious humanitarian concern. They are also a source of macroeconomic instability affecting budgets, trade balances and, of course, incomes almost everywhere in the world.

Global rice prices have increased more than 50 per cent so far this year and most other food prices are up sharply. As the global economy slows, the prices for all kinds of commodities are moving up – the opposite of what we would ordinarily expect. In part this reflects strong demand from emerging markets. But financial turmoil has also increased the attractiveness of commodities as an asset class.

Experts expect short-term commodity prices (including oil and food) to rise even further. The result would be a devastating blow for the world’s poorest, who often spend more than half of their income on f…

Yves Smith on regulation

Yves Smith woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning and starts railing against the banks, calling for their 'beheading'! Essentially he claims "the banks are wards of the state" and it is time we acted accordingly.

From Naked Capitalism:

My short list (some of them cribbed or adapted from a proposal by Amar Bhide) of what to do would be:

1. Force as much OTC activity as has reasonable trading volume onto exchanges. That means at a minimum interest rate swaps, currency swaps, and credit default swaps. Yes, this will require standardization and some buyers will lose access to variants they might have liked. Too bad. Protecting the economy and the taxpayer is more important than indulging every investor's pet need.

This of course will also considerably lower the profitabilty of the industry. Again, too bad. They screwed up and cost the populace a ton of dough. There are consequences for mistakes of that magnitude. They should consider themselves lucky not to h…

Biodiversity indirectly measured through DNA

Invaders are being betrayed by DNA. Frogs that are invading ponds in france are being tracked by the tell-tale traces of DNA in the waters they occupy. By measuring the concentration of mitochondrial DNA that is unique to the species, a group of scientist in france is capable of accurately tracing history of the population by indirect observation. Obviously tagging the frogs is just not an option so this is both cheap efficient and way way way superior. The obvious generalization is biodiversity measures (for species that occupy water at least) on a wide variety of species, which is both new and pretty exciting.

From Science:

Invaders Betrayed by DNA

Scientists have hit upon a way to spy on invasive wetland species without ever having to see them: They simply detect their DNA in the water. The technique worked for bullfrogs, and such DNA scans could eventually be used in rapid surveys of biodiversity.

The North American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) has successfully invaded countries aro…

Should Microsoft buy RHT?

Coming back from the Open Source Goat Rodeo (OSGR) and spending excellent time with old and new friends got me thinking again about this theoretical possibility.

Here are various reasons, some of it serious, some not. It is a somewhat ordered list, but left as an open list to you the reader.

MSFT should buy RHT because:

they can
it's kind of cheap
RHT deserves this fate
my stock in RHT would go up
it would piss off IBM, SUN and LarryE all at the same time, it's beautiful.
they would integrate the business model without skipping a single beat. Contrary to popular belief the RHT model is already a proprietary distribution of OSS.
cloud computing a la Amazon, Google both directly compete, may bypass anti-trust regulation
need for those virtualized runtimes across run-times in windows, Unix. Think VMWare.
could provide basis for a larryE style acquisition of VMWare.
It kind of shocked Matt Asay, who muttered something about not being able to admit to it publicly "because it…

$1 Trillion Here

and one Trillion there and soon enough you have this picture (click on it for full size)

I caught that yesterday through econbrowser and this morning it is on the cover of the FT. It is "AS-OF DATE" report by the IMF on the damage. This morning the econ blogs are discussing the numbers. I find confusion in the coverage.

The chart shows $100-130B CASH on the BANKS. Crisis to date the banks have already declared about 125 of losses. It isn't clear from reading the blogs this morning whether this is a "TO-DATE" or "FINAL" number. From the surface I would say "TO-DATE". The rest of the cash losses would be on the insurance companies, funds and govt agencies. The financial system has disclosed in time.

The majority of the losses ($750) are MARK TO MARKET losses. Meaning losses in the current market that are not REALIZED yet and will not be realized until the assets sell. This reflects extreme illiquidity rather than fundamentals. If you b…

Aztec Arithmetic

Pretty cool paper in this morning's "Science". Basically by surveying Aztec land plots, Geologists believe they have found evidence of an "indigenous arithmetic" in the Aztec DRAWINGS

From Science:

Aztec Arithmetic Revisited: Land-Area Algorithms and Acolhua Congruence Arithmetic
Barbara J. Williams1 and MarĂ­a del Carmen Jorge y Jorge2*

Acolhua-Aztec land records depicting areas and side dimensions of agricultural fields provide insight into Aztec arithmetic. Hypothesizing that recorded areas resulted from indigenous calculation, in a study of sample quadrilateral fields we found that 60% of the area values could be reproduced exactly by computation. In remaining cases, discrepancies between computed and recorded areas were consistently small, suggesting use of an unknown indigenous arithmetic. In revisiting the research, we discovered evidence for the use of congruence principles, based on proportions between the standard linear Acolhua measure and their units of …

Soros on the failure of markets to self-regulate

George Soros decided to respond to my previous post by penning an editorial in today's FT. He is rather sanguine calling the credo that stable equilibrium is a given a "False Ideology at the heart of the financial crisis".

From the FT:

The innovations remained unregulated because authorities believe markets are self-correcting.

Regulators ought to have known better because it was their intervention that prevented the financial system from unravelling on several occasions. Their success has reinforced the misconception that markets are self-correcting. That in turn allowed a bubble of excessive credit to develop, which extended through the entire financial system. When the subprime mortgage crisis erupted it revealed all the weak points.

Soros then rings two alarms: 1/CDS markets 2/jingle mail.

Instead of reshuffling regulatory agencies, the authorities ought to prepare for the next shoes to drop. I shall mention only two. There is an esoteric financial instrument called cre…

Look at the Camel

Hilarious, via Fintag, with the following comment

Well the hedgies are in poor shape. Too much corporate jet champagne, hours spent in HR Owen playing with the knobs of the latest Maserati or living it up with USD5000 call girls [Editor: Steady]. Well reality is finally biting in and a wave of realism is ripping apart the quant models and "it has worked for the last 3 years" trading strategies.

The Hedge Fund industry is being clubbed like a bob of seals. But not to worry, for the mothers (investment banks who nurture the next generation of managers) are producing more offspring that are bigger, stronger and can repel the hunters baseball bats. Capitalism works this way. Unlike the soft and cuddly investment banks that have to cry mummy and suckle on Ben Bernanke's breasts, we are hard, ruthless and adaptable.

It is sad to see colleagues struggle and die but it is for the best. The new generation of hedge funds will really show the prop desks of the socialist incompetent ba…

Dead Mice collateral: the SEC is dead.

I read about people posting dead-mice collateral at the discount window of the FED this morning in the FT and almost choked on my frosted flakes. Paulson warned that

"It would be premature to assume" he said, "these institutions should have permanent access to the discount window and permanent supervision by the FED".

This prompted the commentator to speculate that the FED was tired of taking impaired collateral, including dead-mice, food stamps, and other mortgage securities, and making the taxpayer pay for private sector boo-boos. Many people expect legislation to follow and redefine the role of the SEC to enact surveillance in the shadow banking system.

If counter-party surveillance is not up to the task then a healthy dose of spotlights and "what the fuck is going on in here" may be a good measure. Bear was too big to fail, UBS is too big to fail, which is probably why futures say that in the game of chicken, the govt will do the right thing. It …

UBS and the mother of all write-downs

As Sacha pointed out via comments, this is no time to sleep at the wheel. UBS is the latest casualty in the line of banks that is now in the spotlights as it announces significant write-downs and its CEO resigns.

Oddly enough the markets, who really want to cheer, are cheering this latest bout of horrible news as a reason to rally. You know you are in dire straights, when even news of imploding systems are a reason to cheer. They expect this is the Nadir. The bad news are now reflected in the numbers of, the futures are priced in, bla bla bla. Voila! Hop! Crisis over!

Leading bankers are quick to caution against premature celebration. This is merely an additional $20 on top of 120 looking for 250. Great $20 down $130B to go. Yay!

Technical analysis categorizes "Cheer on bad news" as "STRONG BULL". Others talk more calmly about BEAR MARKET RALLY.

In clear again, no one really knows. Odds are still split, although we are seeing a sentiment rally. In the mean-t…

Hoax or Reality?