Archives for April 2019

An Open Letter from Steve Jobs to Tim Cook

Time passes quickly and the WiFi is spotty here in Trāyastriṃśaso I apologize for taking so long to check out how you’ve been doing with our company.

Of course, truth be known, Apple was already on that trajectory when I handed you the company, but props anyway.

Beyond that, though, I feel I must ask: Is that ALL you could manage with that money and talent? Seriously?

OK… Let me calm down… Deep breath… Nam Myoho Renge Kyo… Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.. That’s better.

Look, Tim, I don’t want to go all heavy on your case, but here’s what you need to do to make Apple great again:

1. Invest in new technology.

You let our cash on hand get all the way up to $245 billion??? Earning maybe 3% interest? Are you out of your mind?!?!  With those deep pockets, we should be making huge investments and acquisitions in every technology that will comprise the world of the future. You’ve let that upstart Musk make us look like IBM. That’s just plain wrong. 

2. Attack and cripple Google.

Google is our new nemesis, remember? They attacked our core business model with that Android PoC. But, Tim, c’mon… Google is weak. They can’t innovate worth beans and most of their revenue still comes from online ads, which are only valuable because they constantly violate user privacy. You could cut their revenues in half if you added a defaul 100% secure Internet search app to iOS and Mac OS. Spend a few billion and make it faster and better than Google’s ad-laden wide-open nightmare. This isn’t brain surgery.

3. Make the iPad into a PC killer.

WTF? The iPad was supposed to be our big revenge on Microsoft for almost putting us out of business. All it needed was a mouse and could have killed–killed!–laptop sales. Sure, it would have cut into MacBook sales, but that’s the way our industry works. I let the Macintosh kill the Lisa, remember? And the Lisa was my personal pet project. The iPad could have been the next PC… and it still might not be too late.  

4. Give our engineers private offices.

I get it, Tim. You’re not a programmer. You built your career in high tech but it was always in sales and marketing, which are the parts of the business where a lot of talking and socializing make sense. But if you’d ever designed a product, or actually written code, you’d know engineering requires concentration without distractions. Programmers and designers don’t belong in an open plan office. Give them back their private offices before it’s too late.

5. Don’t announce trivial dreck.

A credit card? Seriously? Airbuds with ear-clips? A me-too news service? Is that best you can do? And what was with Oprah And Spielberg at the event? Hey, the year 2007 called and wants its celebrities back. Look, when you gin up the press and the public up for a huge announcement and it’s just meh tweaks to existing products or me-too stuff, it makes us look lame and out of touch. If we don’t have anything world-shaking, don’t have an announcement!

6. Stop pretending we’re cutting edge.

There was a time–I remember it well–when people would line up for hours just to be the first to get our innovative new products. Heck, we even had “evangelists” who promoted our products to our true-believers. But that’s history. Until we come out insanely great new products that inspire that kind of loyalty, dial down the fake enthusiasm. 

7. Make Macs faster, better, cheaper–more quickly.

I’m honestly embarrassed what you’ve done with the Mac. You’ve not released a new design in years. Sure, MacBooks were cool back in the day, but now they’re just average. And where’s our answer to the Surface? Tim, you actually let Microsoft–Microsoft again!–pace us with a mobile product. That’s freakin’ pitiful.

8. Diversify our supply chain out of Asia.

Tim, Tim, Tim…  I love Asia, but you’ve bet our entire company on the belief that there will never be another war (shooting or trade) there. Meanwhile, China has become more aggressive and there’s a madman with nuclear weapons perched a few miles from our main supplier for iPhone parts. Wake up! We need to sourcing our parts in geographical areas where war is less likely.

9. Fix our software, already.

This was the one that surprised me the most. I knew that iTunes, iBooks, Music, and AppStore was a crazyquilt but I figured we could fix that in a future release. But here we are, ten years later, and we’re still asking people to suffer through this counter-intuitive bullsh*t? And what’s with the recent instability with our operating systems? And that wack Facetime security hole? 

10. Make some key management changes.

Delete your account.

Beatifically,

Linux developer abandons VMware lawsuit

techrepublic cheat sheet

In August 2006, well-known Linux developer Christopher Helwig spotted Linux source code being used illegally in the VMware ESX bare-metal virtual machine (VM) hypervisor. Helwig, with the aid of the Software Freedom Conservancy, eventually sued VMware, Now, after the German Hamburg Higher Regional Court dismissed Helwig’s appeal, he has decided that it would be pointless to appeal the decision.

The heart of the lawsuit had been that Hypervisor vSphere VMware ESXi 5.5.0 violated Linux’s copyright. That’s because VMware had not licensed a derivative work from Linux under the GNU General Public License (GPL). True, VMware had disclosed the vmklinux component under the GPL, but not the associated hypervisor components.

Or, as Helwig put it, “VMware uses a badly hacked 2.4 kernel with a big binary blob hooked into it, giving a derived work of the Linux kernel that’s not legally redistributable.”

For several years subsequently, Helwig and the Conservancy tried to convince VMware to either remove the Linux code from its products or open source it under Linux’s GPLv2. They failed.

So, in 2015, Hellweg and the Software Freedom Conservancy sued VMware in the district court of Hamburg in Germany. The Conservancy and Hellwig asserted: “VMware has combined copyrighted Linux code, licensed under GPLv2, with their own proprietary code called ‘vmkernel’ and distributed the entire combined work without providing nor offering complete, corresponding source code for that combined work under terms of the GPLv2.”

Years later, in November 2018, the German court dismissed the case. Helwig appealed and continued the fight. The Conservancy explained: “The lower court dismissed the case as a result of evidentiary rules and likely an incomplete understanding of the documentation of the code in question.”

In this most recent decision, Helwig explained, the Hamburg court “did not deal with the substantive matter of the complaint, but dismissed the appeal just like the first instance because of insufficient proof of the right ownership or the copyright protection capability of the components taken over from Linux. The requirements imposed by the court were extraordinarily high and make it very difficult for individual Free Software developers to assert their rights alone.”

In addition, Helwig thinks the court was influenced by the Linux copyright troll Patrick McHardy case. McHardy sought riches by suing multiple companies for Linux GPLv2 violations. The Linux kernel developer community expressively denied McHardy’s claims. In the Kernel Enforcement Statement, it states:

The community is not out for financial gain when it comes to license issues. … All we want is the modifications to our code to be released back to the public, and for the developers who created that code to become part of our community so that we can continue to create the best software that works well for everyone.

That’s what Helwig wanted, but the court didn’t see the difference between an individual developer who wanted to see the GPL enforced and one who wanted to profit from the GPL by shaking down users.  

So, Helwig has decided “not to lodge a further appeal against the judgment of the Hamburg Higher Regional Court.”  

He’s doing this for several reasons. Not least of these is that “VMware has announced to discontinue the use of Linux code in their hypervisor in the future. Removal of the Linux code from VMware’s proprietary kernel was what both I and Conservancy asked for many times; when VMware takes this action, they will finally comply with the GPL.”

The case has also cost Helwig much time and energy. He’s ready to move on.

Looking ahead, Helwig worries that, “at least in Germany, GPL violations that cannot be resolved out of court will probably require greater involvement of rights holders. If — as is typical with the Linux kernel — numerous rights holders exist, individual developers will find it difficult to go to court alone.”

That said, the Conservancy pointed out, “While we are disappointed that the courts did not take the opportunity to deliver a clear pro-GPL precedent, the implications of the decision are limited. This certainly could proceed differently with different presentation of plaintiffs or in another jurisdiction.”

The Conservancy added, “Compliance with FOSS [Free and open-source] licenses is not optional. Failure to follow the terms of the GPL erodes software freedom and the integrity of our technology. Copyleft is both a legal requirement and an essential community norm that companies must follow if they wish to use GPL’d code. Copyleft assures fair and equal rights that allows both competition in business and an equal playing field for hobbyists.”

For future Linux copyright violations, Helwig recommended programmers use the resources from the Conservancy “GPL Compliance Project For Linux Developers” and the The gpl-violations.org project.

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6 Business Hurdles That Can Be Blessings in Disguise

There are numerous challenges a small business must overcome to remain operational and thrive, from staffing concerns to developing a viable product and more. Many such obstacles may seem impossible to surmount, especially if they appear out of the blue and you are completely unequipped to deal with them.

However, that does not necessarily spell doom and gloom for your business, as some hurdles can turn out to be blessings in disguise. These six entrepreneurs share some of the biggest challenging situations they have faced and how they were able to find the positives in them to protect their businesses and drive future growth.

An Overnight Revenue Drop

“Early in our business, we woke up one morning to find that our ad revenue had fallen by nearly 50 percent. As that was one of our largest revenue sources at the time, we got nervous,” says Justin Faerman, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Conscious Lifestyle Magazine.

The key, according to Faerman, is to keep calm and start working toward a solution right away: “Instead of going into a panic, we actively began looking for new ad providers and found one a few days later — that ended up making us twice as much as we were making before. We learned that every breakdown is a breakthrough in disguise.”

A Three-Year Tax Audit

Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles a small business can face is an unexpected and comprehensive tax audit. “When my small business got a letter from the IRS announcing a three-year audit, I panicked a bit. I had just joined the business and two of the years were before I got there,” says Monica Snyder, CEO of Birdsong.

The situation can feel even more dire if your books are not in order, but that can ultimately serve as a lesson to implement better accounting systems. “We learned that our accountants didn’t fully understand our business models,” she says. “We made it through the audit, replaced the accountants and put much better financial systems in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Unreasonable Employee Demand

Sometimes, the challenge your business is facing comes from within. “We had a manager at the center of a lot of operations at the company who had an unreasonable demand that forced us to part ways,” says Ryan D. Matzner, co-founder of Fueled.

Luckily, the situation helped Fueled rethink some of its operational approaches, which led the company to its strongest period of growth yet. “Don’t let key employees hold you hostage — be willing to charge headfirst into a messy situation,” Matzner advises.

Relying on the ‘Big Whale’

Losing a client, especially a big one, is always devastating for a business — even more so if they accounted for most of your revenue. DevriX CEO Mario Peshev explains: “Early on, we had a client paying 80 percent of our revenue. Needless to say, the business relationship has ended, and we were left high and dry.”

After a tough couple of months, DevriX secured two retainer contracts and has been scaling ever since. “Nowadays, 95 percent of our revenue is retainer-driven and no client represents more than 15 percent of our revenue,” Peshev adds.

A Client Not Paying Their Invoice

While losing a client is difficult, there is almost nothing more frustrating than never being paid for services rendered. “I was stunned when we had our first client that simply didn’t pay their invoice,” says Joel Mathew, CEO and founder of Fortress Consulting. “I was outraged that we had provided a service and they had ignored their end of the deal.”

Mathew used this experience to protect the company against future clients with nefarious intentions: “Getting burned on billing and collections ended up being a good thing for us, as we were able to strengthen our accounts receivable policies along with our legal agreements to make sure it never happened again.”

Working Yourself Too Hard

“Years ago, I was told that the ‘early bird gets the worm’ and ‘the secret to success is to word hard,'” reveals Charles E. Gaudet, CEO and founder of Predictable Profits. “I set my alarm for 3:30 a.m. and worked seven days a week. Eventually, the lack of sleep caught up with me and I ended up in the ER.”

While nearly every startup founder has heard similar advice about working hard, it shouldn’t come at the cost of your health. The key, as Gaudet learned, is to work smarter, not harder: “It forced me to think in terms of optimizing my efforts and building smart systems. In the next 12 months, we hit a new revenue record.”

How Animation Can Transform Your Marketing

From live-action videos to live stories and motion graphics, more brands than ever are relying on video to connect with their audiences. That’s because, as of this year, 80 percent of all web traffic is video. So if you want to go where your audiences are, embracing video is a must.

But just like many marketers and advertisers, you might be stuck in a rut with traditional video formats. You’ve stuck to tried-and-true live-action video, the stuff that cereal and car commercials are made of. You might be worried that a fully animated video, or a live-action video overlaid with animations, might seem too much like a cartoon. But it can be so much more than that.

You might also worry that animated motion graphics aren’t within your budget. However, there are a few things you can do to make sure they’re within your reach. Shorter videos cost less, but aren’t necessarily less effective. Can a 20-second motion graphic get your message across? With the right planning, it probably can.

Animated video and GIFs aren’t right for every brand. But if you’re trying to accomplish one or more of these three goals, it’s time to consider whether animation is right for you:

1. You’re telling a story that live-action video can’t capture.

Perhaps your brand simply doesn’t lend itself to creating compelling live-action video. For manufacturers of computer chips or software designers, this often proves to be the case. Or perhaps the most aspirational aspects of your brand can’t be photographed. If you’re in a medical field that works on the microscopic level, this may be true for you.

Many brands simply can’t tell their whole story with live-action video. But they still want to produce great videos, given just how essential video marketing is for keeping brands relevant today.

That’s where animation comes in. It can visualize abstract concepts, transport viewers to the surface of Mars, and dive down to the atomic level. And animation doesn’t have to be “cartoony.” It can tell every kind of story. Check out NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio for examples of just how essential animation is for telling compelling stories in technical contexts.

2. You want to share compelling information.

Sometimes, live-action video just doesn’t tell the full story. Imagine, for instance, that you’re trying to sell a core processor that boosts computing power and speed. Let’s be honest: it might be exciting, but it doesn’t look exciting. What’s more, looking at it just doesn’t tell the full story.

That’s why, when a company like Intel sells its products, it relies heavily on animation. Intel in particular likes to use live video with text and animation overlaid onto that video. Check out this commercial, which calls out key features like 4K video. You wouldn’t know the video is 4K simply by looking at the computer screen shown in the commercial. Instead, you need some help:

Or look at this Intel commercial, which overlays fun animations indicating the games people are playing and the apps they’re using while they’re sitting at the computer. Without these animations, this would be nothing more than, well, video of people sitting in front of screens. That’s pretty boring. Yet the animations combined with custom music transform this into an exciting, high-energy experience:

3. You’re speaking to a younger demographic.

But animation also appeals to millennials and young adults. In some cases, that’s because it can achieve a fun-loving tone that live-action video just can’t. In other cases, it’s capable of achieving a uniquely aspirational look and feel.

Take, for example, another new campaign from Goldfish’s parent division, Campbell Snacks. This fully animated video for Kettle Chips touts the brand’s dedication to keeping the planet clean with the help of an animated truck that drives around the globe in an instant: