Fertilizer – that’s all we are

Posted: 10.10.05

I used to think we were in the technology business, and I was proud, first as a young buck engineer, and later as a trying-to-be entrepreneur, to say I was in the technology business. And it is the technology that gets me and a couple of hundred of my friends around the world jumping out of bed in the morning chomping at the bit to get at it. But we're just nitrogen buds for the money machine.

We here at JPR have the great fortune to be in the cross-currents of various markets: handheld devices, the semis and software under them, PCs and all the stuff that makes them sing, TVs, DVDs, and other CE devices, displays for all the above, and game consoles, ah yes, game consoles and their little brothers the dedicated handheld consoles like the PSP I got for my birthday last week. You can't imagine how much fun this is and how exciting it is to work with the various companies as they formulate their plans, develop their products, and then market them. We also get involved really early with start-ups and help sometimes with financing and on occasion work on the very back end when companies sue each other over patents, so we get to see and participate in the whole life stream of the technology and the companies.

And when I pause to reflect on the past week or two, and try to capture my feelings about what I've just seen, I run through these elements. This past week was a good one (there's been damn few bad ones). We were stunned and awed by Apple's massive roll-out of its video iPod, new iMacs, new photo-editing software, and new workstation Power Macs—what the hell will they do for the rest of the year? We're constantly amazed by ATI's and Nvidia's newest offerings, and the component suppliers like Genesis, AMD, VIA, CyberLink, Silicon Motion, Dibcom, and dozens of others.

But what does it all mean? Why are we doing this? What is the driver? And the answer is growth. We are an industry that is addicted to growth. Growth for growth's sake. Nothing old is any good, only new new new. The previous iMac, which Steve Jobs told us was the answer to our dreams and promises, is now on its way to being landfill (minus the toxic materials, of course). Nvidia told us we'd pee our pants with delight when we got a 7800GTX, and some of us did. But that was so, so, June 2005—really, is that the best there is? (And you just be quiet, ATI.)

AMD isn't helping things by driving Intel crazy introducing new technologies and then having the audacity to be successful at it, gaining market share while at the same time suing Intel for unfair practices. (And, BTW, if you'll permit a slight digression, how is Intel going to make their argument about AMD "just wasn't selling good enough" stand up now when AMD has market leadership? It's hard work being a lawyer at Intel these days.)

So we jump out of bed, run to our work places (if you're on one of the freeways or autobahns you don't go quite as fast as you would if you were running), rush into the office, lab, or conference room, grabbing a cup of coffee on the way and any food that's in plain sight, and start the process. Making something new, something smaller, faster, better, cheaper. And we're doing it because... Well, to further technology, to make life better for woman- and mankind, to eradicate disease, to, er, ah, well . . .to grow, to grow. To hell with all that noble crap, who gives a damn about disease, or better life, this is about growth—more, we need more.

Plant foodWell, if you want to grow something you need the seed (idea) and then you need nutrients—fertilizer. And you, brother turd, are the fertilizer. You're making the machine grow, you and your genius are making the company gain market share, or hold on to what it has. And if you're not smart enough or fast enough then you're poor fertilizer and we'll have to look around for a better brand, something richer with more nitrogen in it, and hopefully cheaper—where do you live? If it's west of the Rhine or Danube and east of the California coast then we may not be able to afford you, so you'll have to be really special fertilizer.

We're nutrients of the growth machine. Grow or die. It's true in plants, and it's true in companies. There is no status quo, no resting on your laurels, no free ride, make it grow or go.

Doom, the movie

DoomAnd I did go. I went to a private showing of Doom, the movie last night—what fun, sort of. Fun if you like having your wits scared out of you and watching a hopeless situation grow worse. But aside from the challenges faced by the heroes of the movie, and mounting hopelessness of their situation, it was exciting as hell and I enjoyed every minute of it.

The first movie I can remember scaring the pants off me was the original The Thing. Still gives me shivers to think about it, but I was a little kid then and everything scared me. Then I grew up and was tough and cynical and nothing scared me—till I saw Alien. The big joke here at Mt. Tiburon is how I took my youngest daughter with me to see it and she was nervous and I told her as we walked to the theater, "Now Meredith, you have to remember it's just a movie." And then during the middle of it while I'm gripping the arms of the chair muttering, "God damn it," she turned to me and said, "Now, Dad, it's just a movie."

Well I gripped the arms of the chair in Doom, hugged myself, trembled (yes, trembled), and loved it. It was a combination or The Thing and Alien with a delightful homage to "Dr. Carmac" and the FPS view of the game. And when Sarge gets the BFG, the audience went wild. Go see it, you won't be disappointed.

Jon's big complaint—how come if Microsoft has so many smart people, they're so stupid?

When I came to work this morning, I found that my machine had been restarted. Why? No power failure, we've got everything battery-backed and I'm using a laptop. I have my machine set to do maintenance and backups while I sleep, and if it gets shut off, it might miss an important scheduling. So why was my machine restarted? Because Microsoft sent "an important security update" to me and to install it required a restart (maybe Vista will solve that registry problem, one can only pray). But wait a minute, I have an HDD like everyone else, why can't XP (or Vista) open up task manager, copy the list of programs I have running, recycle the power, and then restore all those programs? How hard would that be to create a cached startup directory?

Of course I could just disable auto update, but I thought it was smart to have it done while I sleep; maybe not. Or, have a precise timer on it so I could schedule it for after I do all my maintenance. How come all those smart programmers in Redmond can't think of stuff like this? I wonder how Apple handles it?