Thursday, August 30, 2007

Gödel and Brno

I went to Brno yesterday to meet with Good Data's back-end engineering team. As I was driving past Gödel's childhood home I realized I did not know anything about his life in this city. And here is what I found on Wikipedia:

Kurt Friedrich Gödel was born April 28, 1906, in Brno (German: Brünn), Moravia, Austria-Hungary (now the Czech Republic) into the ethnic German family of Rudolf Gödel, the manager of a textile factory, and Marianne Gödel (born Handschuh). At the time of his birth the town had a slight German-speaking majority and this was the language of his parents.

He automatically became a Czechoslovak citizen at age 12 when the Austro-Hungarian empire broke up at the end of World War I. He later told his biographer John D. Dawson that he felt like an "exiled Austrian in Czechoslovakia" ("ein österreichischer Verbannter in Tschechoslowakien") during this time. He was never able to speak Czech and refused to learn it at school. He became an Austrian citizen by choice at age 23. When Nazi Germany annexed Austria, Gödel automatically became a German citizen at age 32. After World War II, at the age of 42, he became an American citizen.

In his family, young Kurt was known as Der Herr Warum ("Mr. Why") because of his insatiable curiosity. According to his brother Rudolf, at the age of six or seven Kurt suffered from rheumatic fever; he completely recovered, but for the rest of his life he remained convinced that his heart had suffered permanent damage.

He attended German language primary and secondary school in Brno and completed them with honors in 1923. Although Kurt had first excelled in languages, he later became more interested in history and mathematics. His interest in mathematics increased when in 1920 his older brother Rudolf (born 1902) left for Vienna to go to medical school at the University of Vienna (UV). During his teens, Kurt studied Gabelsberger shorthand, Goethe's Theory of Colours and criticisms of Isaac Newton, and the writings of Immanuel Kant.

For those who want to read more about Kurt Gödel I recommend these two books: Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid and A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy Of Godel And Einstein

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Diary of a private investor

Two of Bear Stearns hedge funds filed for bankruptcy protection on August 1st. Goldman Sachs had to put additional $3 billion into their hedge fund on August 12th. This development got me a little worried about my sub-prime loan portfolio. But then in the middle of the financial meltdown, on August 13th, Motor Taxi Service has made a scheduled repayment of $25! So far the sub-prime lending crisis avoided me...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Will I Remember the Milk?

I recently received some vaccination and the vaccine regimen requires re-vaccination in three years' time. I don't want to miss it but how do I schedule a task that is three years out?

I keep my to-do list on Remember The Milk and I am a huge fan of the service. I can access it from my Mac and phone, I get reminders via Skype and my to-do list is integrated with Google Calendar. On the other hand I am fully aware of the limitations of Chatswood, Australia based Remember The Milk Pty Ltd. The company can go out of business or I will switch to better to-do list management service (which is different from calendaring service).

RTM is great for my next week's or next month's tasks but will I trust it with my next vaccination? Given that RTM exists for last three years and they have a great track record so far I think I will take the risk. But will I remember it in three years?

Monday, August 20, 2007

MaaS - Money as a Service

Money as a Service (a.k.a. banks) exists for more than a thousand years but we still experience occasional hiccups like the current credit crunch. And so we should not expect SaaS to be perfect in the first few years of existence. But I believe that it is the right model for software. And as nobody would keep their money at home stuffed in a mattress anymore, I don't expect users to go through the pains of installs, upgrades, re-installs and maintenance of complex software products. And possibly in a near future more companies will operate fully in a cloud. You can read more about the transition to SaaS in this article (free registration required).

Friday, August 3, 2007

Can Google be trusted?

Stefan asked the following question earlier today: "I couldn't imagine keeping my company's internal/confidential information on Google's servers. What are your reasons for not caring about this?"

I do care about confidentiality of our internal information. On the other hand I don't see a big difference between keeping the files securely on our internal servers or with a service provider. In the first case I trust our IT staff not to leave any doors open for hackers or any other intrusion and in the second case I trust Google to deliver the service as specified in the Service Level Agreement. I also read carefully the Google Apps security whitepaper.

But even if our internal systems are completely secure it doesn't prevent information leaks. Here are some Systinet examples:

- within five years of Systinet existence we had more than six notebooks full of confidential information stolen
- most of our internal emails were exchanged at some point with partners, legal counsels and external consultants over unsecured network
- we pitched our business plan and financial information to several VCs who ended up funding competing startups
- the first Systinet CTO came from a large computer company and even bigger software company claimed that our internal emails contain important information relevant to a lawsuit between these two giants. So we ended up printing most of our internal emails and delivering them on a silver plate to our biggest competitors...

PS. Stefan's comment is for some strange reason half blocked by Blogger/Google (see the link). Is it intentional? Can Google really be trusted?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Google Apps for

Here at Good Data we use the premier edition of Google Apps and we get email, calendar, IM, docs and spreadsheets for $50 / user / year. The quality and availability of this software as a service is very good and after being a subject of a large company's crappy rigid IT infrastructure this is a very refreshing experience.

The problem starts when I use Google applications that are NOT provided as part of Google Apps - such as Blogger, Reader, iGoogle or private Gmail. Since Google tries to "personalize my Google experience" it will sign me off automatically from my Good Data account and sign me into my private account with everything that comes with it: private email, files and calendar. Going back to business calendar requires signing back into the business account. Checking blogs will take me back to the private account. And so on and so on...

At one point I got so tired from this "virtual hide and seek" that I decided to use two different browsers - Safari and Firefox - to keep my two work contexts completely isolated. At the same time I hope that Google will work on the account management - it's the only part of Google Apps that I am not happy with.