Author Archives: Peter

Taxes

Here is a nice article on taxes which  touches on two things I always considered important.  First  – when you have certain level of skill and income you can pick almost any place in the world to live.  Moving to different country is not really different than moving to different neighborhood or different state.   Move of course affects your proximity to family, friends, your current work place or principal place of business, things you got use so it is far from simple arithmetic choice.  Still this is just a magnitude difference.

The next data point which I like is “particularly the nearly 50% of eligible voters who pay no federal income tax”.   I’m not sure if numbers are correct but it does not make much difference if it is 50% or 30% – this is a very large group of voters.    This makes benefits paid to no people paying no taxes and a positive externality while it is negative externality for the small group of payers of majority of the taxes.  What we know about externalities is what they do not help with wise and fair decisions.

Fairness is an interesting thing to begin with. When dealing with the crowd  you can convince and rally people around basically any cause.  Lynching would be the good example of  such a “fair” treatment.

Small Airports and Direct Flights is what you want for Travel

Being a frequent business traveler I found I value small airports and direct flights the most, especially for shorter flights.   Going through Oakland Airport instead of San Francisco not only saves me extra 20 miles driving, but also time walking from the parking to the airport, passing through security etc.  Flights are also faster because there is usually no time waiting in the line for take off and the taxing time is shorter.  Flying  to John Wayne airport instead of LAX means  I’m in the cab 10 minutes after landing and it takes another 20 minutes to get to the customer’s office.    LAX would probably take at least 40 minutes to go the same distance at the time of day as there is usually traffic around larger airports.

So for my customer day visit to the Irvine today I got out of home at 5:30 to get my 7:15 Southwest flight from OAK.  I could even leave at 6:00 but I’m always leaving some time for unexpected traffic or other issues. I’m in Orange County by 8:40 and as I have some spare time I can flush emails I replied on the plane and take care of few more urgent ones.  I’m not due onsite until 9:30 anyway.   I take a cab about 9:00 and come to the office some 10 minutes before the time I’m expected.   After work I leave at 5:30  and I’m in the Airport all passed through security by 6.   My flight back is not until 8:10.  This is the downside of smaller airports – flights may not be as frequent as from the larger ones. But at least there is a free wireless internet so I use the spare time to have a dinner and do some more work.   Even as a plane is about 10 minutes late I’m back in Oakland at 9:40 and home about 10:15.

Cell Phones

Recent travels outside of US ignite my hate to cell phone providers yet again.

Going to Canada means you’re going to pay $0.79 per minute and over $15.0 per MB of traffic which with standard iPhone use pattern would run hundreds of dollars a day.   Disabling data roaming makes it stupid brick with even voicemail not working properly.
What I’d like to see is the decoupling the cell phones from the network providers. I would like to pay what device costs with no stupid long term contract with hefty monthly fees.  When I want to be able to register cell phone with number of cell phone providers – same as I can have multiple subscription for WIFI for my laptop.  I would chose to pay monthly fee for unlimited data for some US provider and have reasonable per minute and per MB rates in other countries I visit.  In Canada I’d like to pay same rates as Canadian can pay for pay as you go rates.
For “Data” it is especially simple.  There is no real need for any “roaming” with data, the phone can communicate with local internet gateway.  With   phone number, you could use a portable number which follows you using some service similar to Google Voice (Number of people use Google Voice or Skype already to map their phone number to the cell phone number they carry in the country they travel to) The providers now get “oligopoly” gain by making sure your phone belongs only to one one provider and they may not love such mobility and being commoditized to plain network providers, yet I believe they can be pushed this direction with some open phone platforms. With Android you can already use Google Voice quite conveniently and set things up to use multiple WiFi when available.  It would be just great to add ability to register phone with multiple
providers. The challenge of course is mass distribution channel for such device. Cell phone network providers are not interested in making it easy for you to use other services.  Cell phones they cell are often customized to their content and services even if they are based on open Platform as Android. In US especially there is not a huge market for unlocked phones which can run on any network and which are not customized for the network they run on.   Though this may change and I hope it will change.

What do you think about Discounts ?

We got use to discounts. Many retailers run some form of sale all the time.  This probably works in attracting people, though I personally do not feel very good about it.  Especially I do not like single items discounts, such as Michaels running 50% off any single item.   What does it tell me ?  Well  either they have to sell me that item at loss (hoping I’ll buy more than one), in which case I kind of feel sorry for them, or their profit margins are so high, even 50% discounts allows them to do the good business, in which case I feel “tricked” by their general unfair prices.

I knew one guy who was shipping chairs from China to be sold in Europe.  The math was something like 5$ to produce,  2$ to  ship and there was the list price of  $75 per chair in the shops.  In such cases even 50% discount would allow for pretty good profit both for retailer and wholesaler.

Buying things I really would love to understand the breakdown – how much I’m paying for design, technology, materials and workmanship (which is all what adds up for product value) vs things as advertising, distribution chain etc which allows some people to make a living and do a business but does not provide me with any benefit.  Unfortunately such information is rarely available.

For electronics one way to do “guess” it is to do some shopping on Ebay –  you often can find things to be shipped to you from Hong Kong for such a small fraction of what you can find them in the shops.

People and Percents

Whenever I say something like “you do not need sharding for 95% application” or “You do not need other than Innodb storage engine for 95% of application” I get a lot of feedback, hey it does not apply to my case.  People are passionate in proving me wrong based on the fact it does not apply to their case, and I would guess because it does not apply to a lot of people they know too.

This is a very common trap of extending the facts about world around us to the broader group.   For some of the issues we seems to grasp these facts, for example  the fact 95% people speak English in the neighborhood I live in would not translate to the same amount of people in the world knowing the language.     And yet for other, for example professional questions we may feel the world in whole is similar to world around us. It is not.

Bay Area in particular is a concentration of a lot of very large web sites –  Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter  are all from here.   They employ a lot of staff and so if you’re working professionally in Web space chances are you work on one of these high scale systems or have buddies which work where.

But if you look at number as a whole – there are many millions of small applications out there, such as this web site, many hosted on virtual hosting with very modest  performance needs.

You well might be exceptional groups and your experiences may not translate to world as a whole.  This also means you always have to be careful applying claims to yourself if they apply to large portion of the population.   For example I bet the salary over 95% of people in the world would not go that far in Bay Area 🙂

Ladies and Technologies

Over last few years visiting MySQL Conference and Expo I noticed the number of ladies in audience increasing dramatically.  Few years ago there were just few, besides Sheeri and this year there was a fair amount, though still of course it remained predominantly male event.    My hypothesis around it was ladies do not get involved with bleeding edge technology as frequently and as MySQL matured and started to be more used by Serious (boring?) corporation rather than geeks portion of Ladies increased.    I kind of got a confirmation of this idea attending MongoDB conference in the San Francisco.   MongoDB is bleeding edge technology, probably at similar stage MySQL was in late 90s, and no surprise there were very few ladies in the audience, besides few beautiful ones employed by 10gen.