Apr 21

The Smartphone Wars: multicarrier breakout fail

The news is out that Verizon sold 2.2M iPhones in the roughly 60 days from product launch to their quarterly report. I’ll fess up; this is well over what I was expecting, based on the reports of unimpressive first-week sales.

But I also underestimated Android new-unit sales by a larger factor. Even on the very optimistic assumption that Verizon sustains its pace through Q2, Android phones are selling so much faster in aggregate (ratio of about 10:1) that iPhone 4V is barely going to budge the needle on the market share numbers (if that). Focusing too much on the the quarterly numbers is ignoring the forest for the trees.

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Apr 20

Broadening my Deepwater Horizons

I’ve gotten used to being cited in computer science and software engineering papers over the last decade, but here’s a new one. Today I read a draft in which I and the GPSD project get cited a bunch of times and it’s – er – not about open source. It’s about Marine AIS in disaster management. Broadening my deepwater horizons, as it were.

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Apr 19

The Smartphone Wars: Android measured at over 50% U.S. market share

Two consecutive smartphone-wars posts is unusual here, I know, but the latest marketshare news is high-explosive stuff. The Guardian in Great Britain has published data from a European market-research outfit, Kantar WorldPanel Comtech; the article is titled Nokia and RIM bleeding smartphone share while Android cleans up, and includes a very informative table of smartphone share numbers by country. They become even more interesting when set against the ComScore numbers covering Nov 2010 to February 2011, which I previously analyzed in The Smartphone Wars: Almost boring now….

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Apr 18

The Smartphone Wars: The Stages of Apple-Cultist Denial

It has been quite humorous watching the acolytes of the iPhone sink into deeper and deeper denial as Android blows through obstacles at ever-accelerating speed. It would require an epic poet, or perhaps a psychiatrist specializing in religious mania, to do full justice to this topic. But I will attempt a brief tour through the more prominent delusions here.

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Apr 15

rsnapshot: you’re doing it right!

Some years back I wrote a book titled The Art of Unix Programming. My goal in that book was to convey the Zen of Unix to today’s generations of eager young Linux and *BSD programmers. In the spirit of that book, I feel impelled to point out out a program I’ve recently learned as a striking, near-perfect example of Unix style in the modern day. rsnapshot, you’re doing it right!

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Apr 10

Analysis of scaling problems in build systems

My post SCons is full of win today triggered some interesting feedback on scaling problems in SCons. In response to anecdotal assertions that SCons is unusably slow on large projects, I argued that build systems in general must scale poorly if they are to enforce correctness. Subsequently, I received a pointer to a very well executed empirical study of SCons performance to which I replied in the same fashion.

In this post, I intend to conduct a more detailed analysis of algorithmic requirements and complexity in an idealized build system, and demonstrate the implied scaling laws more rigorously. I will also investigate tradeoffs between correctness and performance using the same explanatory framework.

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Apr 07

The Smartphone Wars: Almost boring now…

Ah, yes, I see it’s time for another comScore report and another round of breathless journalism on the state of the U.S. smartphone market. But, you know, these are getting almost boring now. Once again, Android rampages over its competition like Godzilla laying the radioactive smackdown on Tokyo. And once again…everyone acts surprised?

Get with it, people. Some of us (by which, of course, I mean me) predicted this trajectory in the first months after the G-1 launch in November 2008, and have been patiently explaining Google’s grand strategy and the underlying economics ever since. By now this kind of market news should be no surprise to anyone.

Still. This round of alarums and excursions has a few piquant tidbits in it. Let us consider them together.

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Apr 06

Imprimatur me!

In the you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up department, I learned a few minutes ago that I have been quoted, approvingly, in an article published with the imprimatur of the Vatican. This is from a news report that made Slashdot; I have not seen the article itself, which is apparently print-only and is likely in Italian.

OK, yes, I did say, “Hackers build things, crackers break them.” And it’s nice that the author got the distinction right. But as for the rest of the argument…well, since they quoted me to support it, I guess I’m almost obligated to point out that it’s so wrong it’s hilarious.

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Apr 04

Stolen jewels

Our cat, Sugar, is getting old. The final, swift decline one tends to see in aging cats is not yet upon her; she’s still the lovely creature we’ve known for nearly two decades – eyes bright, coat soft and glossy, purr ready and resonant. Our friends marvel at her apparent health at over 18 years…but we know her kidney function is slowly degrading, on bad days days the arthritis makes her walk stiffly and slowly, and some of the wartlike growths beneath that plush fur are becoming disturbingly large.

My wife Cathy and I have been bracing ourselves. We know Sugar can’t have much time left. She’s already beaten the 15-year average for well-cared-for indoor cats by more than three years; if she makes it to 20, that would be statistically quite exceptional. But she could slide into final senescence tomorrow and be dead within a month; on the odds, actually, that should have happened already.

Neither my wife nor I can avert our eyes from these facts. We don’t talk about them much, though. We don’t have to. When Sugar is interacting with both of us, we can see the shadow of anticipated sorrow on each other all too clearly.

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Apr 02

The Four Levels of AFJ Mastery

Once, in a bygone century, in the half-forgotten place called USENET, there were masters of satire and parody who could be an example to us all in these latter days. Among the greatest of their arts was the AFJ – the April Fool’s Joke, yes, but in the hands of these masters the AFJ could become minor epics of elaboration, subtlety, and Zen-like enlightenment.

Today, Grasshopper, we shall speak of the four levels of AFJ mastery, and how the aspiring student may attain them.

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Apr 01

The Smartphone Wars: Microsoft may win after all

By a curiously-timed coincidence, three lines of evidence have combined over the last week to convince me that I have been seriously underestimating Microsoft’s competitive potential in the smartphone market. One is that I actually got my hands on a Windows 7 phone; another is a report from a major market-research outfit that has been reliable in the past; and the third is a revealing report from an informant on the hardware side who I’ll call Deep Chip.

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