Category Archives: Tech world

Job Market for Programming Languages

One consideration when choosing a programming language is the demand in the job market for people who know that language. I did some searches on different job sites to see what skills are in demand. Below are the results from Monster.com for jobs that tagged specific languages as skills. For more information, I created a Google Spreadsheet with job data from different websites.

Java is used extensively in big companies, so it has the most results. Javascript is the only language of front-end development, so it takes the second spot. PHP is clearly less popular than it used to be, while Python and Ruby vary by website.

Startup Ideas

Paul Graham recently wrote a post about How to Get Startup Ideas, so I figured I’d write about a couple of startup ideas. This post list some of them in a couple of words, and later I’ll pick a few to write about in more detail.

Education & Content:
This is an area that many are working on to change (finally), but there’s still a lot that can be done.

  • Platform for creating interactive educational content.
  • New platform for publishing general content
  • Bootcamps for learning technical topics
  • Programming for the masses

Replacing Intermediaries:
Before the internet, it was necessary to have various intermediaries involved in transactions. The internet has changed that for many things (e.g. buying airline tickets), but some areas remain stubborn to change (e.g. cars or houses). There are various ways certain industries can be brought up-to-date with the internet.

Better Search
Everything is search. It’s not what you know, but what you can search for that counts.

  • A Better meta-search?
  • Better Website searches
  • Integrating search and actions within applications
  • Tracking everything you read or learn for later ‘recall’

Ecommerce
The Internet has changed how we buy things, but made everything more complex. People need help getting what’s best for them at the best price.

  • Finding the best deals quickly
  • Reliable data-based reviews
  • Chipping away at Craigslist…
Miscellaneous:
  • Crowd-sourced startups
  • Alternative Wikipedia
  • Lottery-ticket Investing
  • Computer-aided productivity

Google, Wireless & Posting Too Quickly

Yesterday, The Next Web and other tech blogs reported that Google had purchased a Wifi hotspot company for $400 million. I had written previously in SeekingAlpha about how Google might expand into wifi, so I quickly wrote another article on the topic based on the breaking news.  When I finished, I went back to check on updates and it turned out the whole story was false. The tech media wants to get out their story first, so they end up taking a “publish first, ask questions later approach”. I guess I did the same thing by relying on them.

Anyways, most of what I had written is still likely to apply in the future, so I edited my article and re-submitted it to SeekingAlpha. Might be a bit lame, but I think the basic points are true. The Big Cellular Carriers will face increased competition in the future from companies like Google or Dish Networks, and users will have more choice, either through cellular service or even wifi. Click on the article to find out more:

seekingalpha.com/article/1030591-more-wireless-choice-may-affect-the-big-cellular-carriers

 

The Complexity of Online Shopping

Technology can make life easier, but frequently it also makes things more complicated. It is easier to buy things online than going to a store, but one faces a dizzying array of choices. People want quality items at the lowest possible price, but it is hard to figure everything out. Shopping searches return too many results, and Amazon always has thousands of items for every category.

One way to get a smaller subset of lower prices is to check out a deals site like Dealnews or Slickdeal. (Especially around this time of the year.) However, it’s hard to know whether the item is good-quality or whether the “deal” is actually such a great price. Dealnews tries to provide some information about the normal pricing of the item, but it still doesn’t answer whether the price is a good one. It may be that those earphones are normally $20 and are now $10, but it’s not really relevant if I can get better earphones for $5.

It would be pretty useful if a website was able to provide data not just on the price of the item, but on similar items also. If the site could measure in some way the features and quality of an item, it could help users recognize what’s a good deal. For example, if the site was able to say that these type of earphones are hard to get for under $15, one would know $10 is a good deal. The hard part for the site would obviously be getting and analyzing the data in a way that allows these comparisons. A site could use various sources, such as Amazon reviews, but it would need to see what’s really reliable and gives clear information about a product. If a website could do a good job in this area, it could really help people deal with all complexity of online shopping.

Google Listens Again

Google is actually a big reader of the Zappable blog, as evidenced by all the Googlebot visits to my site.~ This helps Google figure out what features to develop for their products.   In the past, Gmail only took one week to implement my suggestions, but this time they took a bit longer. Seven months ago, I posted some Suggestions for Improving Google Products, and Google finally got around to implementing an important one. In June they announced offline Google Docs editing, and they now announced an update to Gmail: A new compose box.  Google’s explanation of the new feature even sounds similar to Zappable’s suggestion:

There are many different tasks people switch between while using email, i.e reading, writing and searching. For example I might be writing an email to someone, and realize I need to do an email search to check a previous email I sent. Gmail should allow people to do these different tasks within one Gmail tab so they do not need to  perform these 3 steps each time: create a new tab, go to Gmail.com, and then go to the task they want. [Zappable]

 

How many times have you been writing an email and had to reference something in another message? Saving a draft, opening the old email, and then reopening your draft wastes valuable minutes. The new compose pops up in a window, just like chats (only larger). This makes it easy to reference any other emails without ever having to close your draft. You can even do a search or keep an eye on new mail as it comes in. [Gmail Blog]

Dwolla, Tesla, Math Education and Earthquake Prediction

Everyone now and then I post a few recent interesting tech links with some comments. Most of the links usually come from Hacker News. Today, I was able to paste in the 4 links quickly due to Email All Tabs, a life-saving (or second-saving) extension. I may be a bit biased about this extension, since I recently made it and submitted it to the Chrome store. Future version of the extension may include more features (such as the ability to include many long links). Anyways here are the links of the day:

blog.dwolla.com/masspay-launces-with-10-new-partners
Dwolla, the practically free payment provider, announces a new product for mass-payments. I always thought the fees Paypal and the credit companies charge seem somewhat high. They often take around 3% + transaction fees just for handling the money. I wonder if money changers in medieval times charged that much for providing a similar service that also included currency conversion:

In the market, most large transactions were done not by cash/coins, but by transfer order of funds on the books kept at the local money changer(s). After a market/fair ended, merchants gathered at the local money changers and withdrew their deposit in their own different currencies. The rate of exchange between different foreign currencies and the local one were fixed between the opening and the closing days of the market.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money_changer

teslamotors.com/blog/tesla-approach-distributing-and-servicing-cars
Tesla Motors does not feel its sufficient to invent a new class of electric cars, they also want to create a new model for selling them. They have managed to completely skip the standard car-dealer controlled sales process. Car dealers have too much legal protection from competition, so it’s nice to see someone challenging them. In this post, Tesla’s CEO diplomatically explains that he understands the protectionist car-dealer laws, but they do not apply to Tesla, which does not deal with car-dealers. 

refsmmat.com/articles/unreasonable-math.html
Obligatory link about math education.~ This somewhat long post says math is about rules that can be used as Lego blocks to build things, while schools just get people to memorize things that have been built. Its true that math education often just consists of memorization, though its often the rules that are memorized. It may be difficult for many people to learn how to wield math, so the educations system just settles on getting them to act like machines (see my early post on this). I think math education needs to be taught in different ways to different people, depending on their aptitude and inclination. 

bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20025626
Italian scientists convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to prison for incorrectly predicting that an earthquake wouldn’t be so bad. Seems pretty crazy, but I didn’t look into the details.

Eric Schmidt on Innovation: Patents, Self-Driving Cars and Education

Last night I attended the AllThingsD interview with Eric Schmidt. Yesterday’s post focused on smartphones, this post will go through the second half of his discussion.

Patents
While Schmidt wasn’t willing to discuss specific patent fights, he did emphasize one point: The patent fights harm little companies the most since they don’t have the resources to fight patent claims. Small companies have created the most jobs and innovation and so patent disputes can cause great harm by harming them.

This seems true, though patent trolls probably only sue companies that have enough money to be able to pay them. Though perhaps large competitors could sue small companies out of existence, but I don’t know if that is too common. No matter what,he current patent system is pretty ridiculous.

Google and Self-Driving Cars
Swisher felt bothered that Google was involved in everything instead of just focusing on organizing information and called Google a Borg. She also said Google Glass is ugly and wasn’t so in to self-driving cars. Schmidt replied that they want to be in the center of the information revolution. But he said they should be celebrating innovation instead of dissing it.
He said that people shouldn’t really be driving cars and that self-driving cars will save many lives. Car companies will be able to implement components of Google’s technology in a few years, but their will still be a driver behind the wheel and a big red button to turn off automated driving. Also, Google Glass will provide new opportunities and experiences for people.

Clearly Google no longer just focuses on making information accessible  but now does all things software. I don’t see any reason to be bothered by that, as they seem to be doing a good job and provide basically everything or free.
Schmidt seemed to imply that humans will need to be monitoring the driving. People have a hard-enough time staying focused on the road now when they are driving, so I doubt they will be able to when the computer is doing it. Though maybe the computer will be able to pause the YouTube video when there’s an issue that require’s human attention.

Innovation & Education
Schmidt said there’s low morale in the US, which is a demographic problem, a global problem, and an automation problem. He seemed to be saying there was low unemployment because software and globalization are taking over jobs, but he felt that more innovation was the solution. He said the platforms created by Google and their competitors can create many job opportunities in the US.
The solution is also to improve education to help innovation. Currently, the gap between the elite and everyone else has widened, but it needs to be closed. Mossberg asked if he things online MOOCs like Udacity are the future even for the elite. Schmidt replied that these new initiatives are just version 1 and that they glimmer with possibility, i.e. yes. He said there has been very little innovation and real competition in education but these new online offering are changing that.

If technology is part of the problem of low-employment, perhaps increased innovation will just make things worse? However, improving technology has not caused long-term unemployment, since it has always created new markets for people to spend their money on. So the online platforms may provide many more new jobs. This type of work is not for everyone though, and better education won’t necessarily help. However, I don’t think there’s an immediate risk of widespread unemployment.
I think Schmidt hit the nail on the head about the potential of online education. Who more than the head of Google recognizes the power of software to revolutionize industries? He stressed often how competition drives innovation and lowers prices. This is something the government-backed system of education sorely lacks, but there is now potential for change.

The overall theme that emerged from this discussion was the power of innovation. By allowing competition that isn’t restricted by unfair patents or over-reaching unions, great things can be developed that will benefit everyone.

Google’s Chairman about Apple, Android and Smartphones

Tonight I attended the AllTHingsD event where Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, was interviewed. An abbreviated transcription is available online. Below I paraphrase Shmidt discussing a few topics and add some comments of my own.

Apple and Google Maps
One of the reasons given for Apple abandoning Google Maps was so Apple could get turn-by-turn navigation. Many people assume that Google wasn’t willing to provide that feature for iOS.
However, when asked about this topic, Schmidt said that Google was willing to negotiate, but that Apple decided a long time ago that they wanted to build their own maps. That’s why Apple purchased a couple of map-related companies, so there wasn’t anything Google could do. Yet Apple didn’t realize that it’s really hard to make good maps.

This means that Apple probably went ahead with their own maps app not for the users’ sake but because  because they  wanted to fight Google. While it may be that they can now provide better integration with the overall OS, it still seems like they made a mistake. However, the main complaints people have is faulty data, so that’s not something that the Apple engineers messed up on, but their data provider. That also means it will take a long time to fix. However, I suspect it’s not actually a big deal for most people in the US and that the Apple Maps app works fine navigating to almost any place.

Android vs iPhone
Schmidt said the Android-Apple fight is “the defining fight in the industry today” and the biggest platform fight ever. When asked about the PC-Mac fight, he said there are many more people than PC users, and the smartphone market will be able to tap into that market. He said 6 Billion people use phones, 1 Billion of which use smartphones, which will grow quickly. The phone or tablet is enough for people who aren’t “information workers” who need access to a keyboard. This is a fight which Google feels they are leading. There are 4 times as many Android devices in use than iPhones and 1.3 Millions new Android activations each day. Schmidt stressed that the intense competition is good for the user and mentioned that it will bring down Apple’s profit margins.

While it may be true that people in poorer countries may just get tablets or phone instead of laptops, I don’t see that happening soon in the western world, where people are used to being able to type stuff. Even if it’s just for email, I assume most people like being able to type, though maybe tablets will soon be good enough at that. What’s interesting about the Apple-Google fight is how Apple makes ridiculous margins selling their devices, while Google doesn’t make money directly from Android, and actually earns more in ads from iPhone users. Now that Apple isn’t using Google for maps, one sees why it helps Google to have their own platform, though they probably wouldn’t have lost Apple if they weren’t such a direct competitor.

Hardware Integration, Motorola & Microsoft
Schmidt stressed how smartphones provide an integrated hardware-software experience that “just works”, as opposed to the PC experience that Microsoft developed. He was generally pretty dismissive of Microsoft, feeling that they haven’t been able to make it the new areas of technology. While Mossberg was all excited by the new tablets that Microsoft is creating (hardware and all), Schmidt didn’t think that they would work well. He also felt it was fine just designing the hardware and letting other companies create it, like Google does with their Nexus tablets. When asked about Motorola, he said Google wouldn’t give them any preference, because they don’t want to harm the overall Android system.

While I trust them when they say they’re keeping Motorola separate, it really raises the issue of why they bought them. They could probably get access to patents without buying an entire company, so what benefit do they get by owning one? It would make sense if they could now integrate devices better, but they say they’re not planning on taking advantage of their ownership of Motorola. Also, couldn’t Google make more money by giving preference to Motorola, even if it would cost them a few Samsung devices? Its not like they make so much money from other Android devices, while selling hardware has been very profitable for Apple and Samsung. Though Google is probably just focused on continuous software revenue rather than hardware revenue.

Stay tuned for the next post about Patents, Education and More!

Brain, Patents and Trading

extremetech.com/extreme/136446-darpa-combines-human-brains-and-120-megapixel-cameras-for-the-ultimate-military-threat-detection-system
Humans are still better than computers at interpreting images, but they’re too slow. So it makes for the Army’s threat-detection system to to use a computer to filter the images to only show the human possible threats.One would think the job would then be for the human to press a button when a threat is detected. However, that’s too slow for the computers, so instead they just use an EEG to read the human’s brain and sense when a threat is detected. So the human is like an advanced motion detector for the machine.

blog.stackoverflow.com/2012/09/askpatents-com-a-stack-exchange-to-prevent-bad-patents/
The Patent office came to StackExchange to ask for help in detecting prior art so patents can be invalidated. If this catches on, it can help reduce some of the rampant patent lawsuit that have been going on. Maybe one day they’ll consider crowd-sourcing the actual granting of patents.

blogmaverick.com/2012/09/21/what-business-is-wall-street-in-3/
Another attack on high-frequency trading, pointing out that they’re just ‘hacking’ the system without providing any benefit to society.