Telecommuting

It looks like everybody has broadband Internet at home these days.

It’s definitely a good thing. However, what I can’t understand in this age of broadband Internent we’re living in today is why so many people still commute to and from the office every day.

I mean, I can understand when it’s some kind of a manufacturing facility where people need to be physically present to oversee the process or even to manually assemble something. There are still plenty of operations like that out there, especially in Russia. But why do office workers still keep sitting in traffic jams every morning and every evening after work? All those sales reps and accountants, why drag them all the way to the office if in today’s connected world they could do their jobs just as well from home or from some cafe that has wi-fi?

The recent leaps and bounds advances in cloud computing mean that these days even the traditional popular ‘tried-and-true’ ERP solutions, like those based on 1C Enterprise are now available in the cloud as a service. You no longer have to buy them, you can pay a monthly subscription fee and have your accountant do everything from home.

The only explanation for this phenomenon I can think of is inertia. People are simply doing what they’ve been doing for years. Technology pulled ahead too fast and most people can’t really appreciate the full potential of cloud computing yet.

In this situation, I think boot-strapped start-ups can really take advantage of cloud computing and achieve savings by dramatically cutting down on office space. Governments are talking about supporting small business by building start-up farms but seriously who needs those farms if you can do everything from home or from wherever you want to be, staying in touch with your colleagues via skype?

People, seriously, the fruit of cloud computing is ripe and hanging really low, all you need to do now is pluck it – ditch that expensive office space, slash your prices and run your competition into the ground, or at least out of their offices. And the best thing about it is that by doing this you’ll also be helping to save the planet because telecomuters don’t drive cars as much.

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the savings bank

March 13, 2012 Leave a comment

I used to have an account at the Savings Bank of Russia, actually I probably still do have that account, I never closed it, it’s just that I haven’t used it in quite a while. For some reason I thought about how it used to be with that account. It was an old style bank account, no plastic card no nothing. I was given a small account book and whenever I wanted to draw money from it I had to go to a Savings Bank office, give my passport and my account book to the teller and tell them how much money I needed, they would enter the transaction on the computer, then given me back my passport and pass my account book to the cashier, I would then be given a plastic or wooden token which I had to take to the cash booth, I would go in there and give the token to the cashier and the cashier would then give me the cash and my account book.

It was a long process. It used to take me between fifteen minutes and one hour to get cash from my account.

These days I carry a plastic card and I either pay for stuff using the card or when I need cash I find an ATM and withdraw as much cash as a need within minutes.

Somehow today I caught myself feeling nostalgic about that old Savings Bank account of mine. Probably because when I first opened it back in 2005 I was a happier person than I am now. 

Categories: Uncategorized

the clock

February 16, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s strange how our mind works. This time last year we’d just had our car for a couple of months and we’d take it out to just drive around the city. We’d go to a cafe and it wasn’t the Double Sun every time. Often it was that Russian themed joint in the former R&D canteen. And back then it was almost invariably to Thom Yorke that we drove. Now whenever I hear songs like the Clock or Analyse and I close my eyes I see myself in that old clunker driving along a night winter street and listening to Thom Yorke.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Internet is no internet without google

December 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Earlier today something went wrong with google in Russia. I’ve no idea what it was, it’s just that for maybe about an hour google and all its services first slowed down to a crawl and then went down completely for maybe 15-30 minutes. Entering google.com in the browser and hitting enter would give you an error message and pinging 8.8.8.8 or 8.8.4.4 would result in one request timed out after another.  I assume it must have been some technical glitch, or possibly the FSB trialling a new firewall and as is the custom with them, failing miserably.

So left without google I felt like I was marooned in a sea of information without rhyme or reason. I went to yahoo and then bing but to my total horror, neither of them allow you to limit your search to content that’s been updated in the last 24 hours, in the last day etc, a feature that’s been part of google for yonks.  It was a harsh reminder of why all the other engines still suck next to google. Even yandex, the Russian ‘yet another index’ that some people prefer for searches in the Russian internet as it supposedly does a better job of finding all possible inflected forms of Russian word, doesn’t seem to have this extremely useful feature and it sucks.

It’s kind of weird but I still have vague memories of the Internet without google. Back in the day everybody was using altavista.com and when I saw google for the first time I was unimpressed. It looked kind of spartan, just a search box. It’s definitely gone a long way from those humble beginnings. Just how much of an integral part of the Internet it has become over the years was made very clear to me today as all of a sudden I couldn’t access it. It felt as if the Internet just stopped making sense, I was lost, totally without direction.  That’s what the power of habit can reduce us to.

At the same time it makes me wonder what the Internet will be like in the future, post-google. After all it’s only a matter of time before google gets overtaken and left in the dust by some other technology.

Categories: IT Tags: , ,

is reprecentative democracy really just a farce

November 25, 2011 Leave a comment

With the upcoming elections to the Russian parliament (the so called doom-ah) just around the corner a lot of people in Russia are sometimes rather heatedly discussing whether or not to participate in the elections. Many believe that the results are a foregone conclusion, United Russia, the ruling party, will be once again pronounced the winner regardless of whether or not the majority of the people that do turn up at the polling stations on Dec 4 actually vote for it. If they don’t, just about everyone in Russia is sure the results will be falsified and United Russia will still be pronounced the winner.

The situation in modern day Russia is unique in that all the drawbacks of representative democracy have been laid bare here. It would appear at first sight that all the necessary institutions are in place, we’ve got a parliament and a president that is elected in a general election and yet we’ve had the exact same group of people in power for more than ten years now and they’ve managed quite successfully to remain in the Kremlin despite the economic crisis of 2008 and the devastating wild fires of 2010.

Do elections get routinely rigged in Russia? I personally don’t know, probably some of them do, however, I don’t think that they necessarily have to be in a representative democracy. Theoretically, for instance, just about anyone can run for president in Russia but in reality most people can’t for the simple reason that they don’t have enough resources to mount a successful presidential campaign. The same applies to parliamentary elections. To get to parliament you need a party but to organize a party you need resources and lots of them. Thus at the end of the day whoever has got the most cash ends up calling all the shots in a representative democracy.

And this doesn’t apply to Russia alone, it’s just that in Russia today the powers that be cannot even be bothered to make the effort to put on an air of legitimacy; their methods are crude and they hardly even try to conceal their machinations. Plus in general the ordinary people in Russia tend to be a bit less gullible than in some other places about these things.

So if what we’ve been taught about representative democracy is a hopelessly idealized model that doesn’t really work in reality, sort of like perfect competition with every decision maker having access to all the information about the market, why do the ruling elites in the world’s most successful countries even bother with this charade. After all, even in the US when push came to shove in the 2000 election, it was the supreme court and not the voters that decided who was going to be the president.

My theory is that enlightened ruling elites use the institutions of representative democracy as a means to gauge the public mood and aspirations. History teaches us that if the ruling elites completely lose touch with the masses things will often get completely out of hand with the masses storming the posh houses and palaces of their rulers and stringing them up on lamp posts or doing some other nasty things to them. The last such major showdown was in Romania where the Ceuacescus were essentially summarily executed after a failed attempt to escape Romania. Before that a similar fate befell the Romanov family in Russia. Imho, the failure of both regimes stemmed from total loss of touch their their people and that’s where representative democracy comes into play.

Its goal is not to empower people to rule themselves but rather to provide the ruling elites with a safety valve and a way to monitor what’s going on in the general population.  However, in Russia, it would appear that our representative democracy is failing miserably in this mission. The prudent course of action at this stage, imho, would be to ditch the Putin-Medvedev tandem as well as the United Russia party and bring to power someone new. If Putin actually remains in power in Russia things might eventually spin out of control, possibly even by 2017.

Would you rather climb a mountain or run a marathon?

November 22, 2011 Leave a comment

between climbing a mountain and running a marathon I would choose climbing a mountain.

Think about it, running a marathon is dull, you just run on and on, after a while you’re so exhausted you stop noticing what’s happening around you and once you cross the finish line you just drop to the ground half dead. With mountains it’s much more interesting, a mountain is always a challenge, even if it’s a small mountain and yet nobody’s rushing you and you can pace yourself, take your time, camp half way up, take in the scenery, take pictures. Then if it’s a really high mountain you can even get to look down at the clouds or get to see snow in the middle of the summer. In short climbing a mountain, imho, is a far more diverse and rewarding experience than simply running like a stupid machine with an Energizer battery up your butt.

Running is too much like the sort of lives we tend to live today, we’re all already running marathons as it is, getting up in the morning, going to work, working, then coming back home, going through the motions, a huge percentage of what we do every day gets done on autopilot we’re not living anymore we’re just going through the motions and running a marathon is very much about going through the motions of moving your legs and arms and running on along. By contrast to successfully climb a mountain you have to think and plan first and then you’ve got to be switched-on all the way to the summit so you can adjust if things change.

In short, we ought all to stop running marathons and try and climb more mountains instead, both literally and metaphorically

Categories: Random thoughts

web sites that go away

November 22, 2011 Leave a comment

the Internet is a-changing. It’s a truism that is true, the only constant online is change and as new websites are popping up into existence old ones are going off-line. It can be quite a shock when a site you’ve come to depend on is suddenly just no there anymore but that the downside of the Internet for you. It’s there today and tomorrow it’s gone, for whatever reason, the owners may have run out of cash or lost interest in the project and puff it’s gone. It can be quite frustrating and sad, online the landscape is changing so fast we can no longer keep pace with it, things are coming and going at such a speed that we no longer even have time to develop any sort of emotional dependence on them. Think about it, a day will eventually come when facebook will go off-line.

Categories: IT, Random thoughts