Monday, November 29, 2004

GBA Havoc (part deux)

So as I'm sitting in my seat playing Advance Wars 2 on my Gameboy while my plane begins to descend towards DTW last night, I spot the flight attendant out of the corner of my eye.

Slowly, he begins to approach.. both of us knowing exactly what's on his mind. Finally, he leans over and asks, "Sir, that's airplane safe, right?".

I gaze back at him with a confused look in my eyes. "Airplane safe? Uh. Sure. Yeah. Of course!"

I hate to beat a dead horse.. but the FAA/airlines really have to get with the times. So you're allowed to use your cell phone when you're taxi'ing now -- even when the aircraft door is shut. Is that their idea of progress?

Oh.. the irony.

On a related note, I recently bought an HTC Blue Angel off Ebay. Even when it's "off", the transmitter remains active unless it is specifically disabled through a "flight mode" setting buried within the device's menu system. My guess is over 90% of consumers don't know this, and are breaking the FAA/airline regulations. Heck, how about the average laptop user who keeps his/her WiFi transmitter enabled during the flight? Is it dangerous?

Finally, how is it that airlines testing in-flight WiFi services aren't affected by the use of electronic devices containing two-way transmitters? Are their flight systems better shielded?

Hmm.. what else..

I played with a Nintendo DS today in my mobile devices class. It was sweeeet. Definitely gotta pick up one of these babies eventually.

Ah, and as for the Blue Angel.. so far I'm lovin' it. It has a German QWERTZ keyboard with a different mapping than the ROM flashed onto it by the Ebay importer. The Y/Z thing isn't as annoying as the constant hunt for which symbol/punctuation is mapped to which key. But I'm starting to get used to it. I bought a 1GB SD card for it. The top 2 items on my PPC wishlist right now would definitely have to be larger SD capacities and integrated GPS.

All in due time, I suppose.. for now, my newfound words of wisdom: "Oh no sir, this device is airplane safe!"

Friday, November 26, 2004

University Recruiting

[I had to wait a few days to post this and the next entry until receiving an official offer from a company. Sometimes best not to show all the cards in your hand. Ah.. the life of a blogger.]

Apologies to my readers for the lack of recent updates. It's currently 5:55am at the Fairfield Inn of beautiful Bellevue, Washington, just minutes away from the Microsoft campus where I spent all day yesterday interviewing.

The last few days have been incredibly intense, with back to back interviews with some of the most competitive companies. I have so much to write that I don't know where to begin. So, I've decided to start at the beginning of my journey as a soon-to-be college graduate looking for a job. Here goes!

University Recruiting - Do or Don't?

University Recruiting is the practice by which various companies make visits to many universities (in my case The University of Michigan) in order to recruit for internships and full-time positions. At U of M, candidates review online lists of positions at companies coming to recruit for which they meet certain eligibility requirements (major, min. gpa, class standing, etc). Candidates submit resumes online to these companies whose recruiters then select out those candidates they wish to interview. It's a very impersonal process, mediated by the University as a 3rd party. Sometimes, candidates aren't even contacted by the companies before their first interview. This is a horrible practice. Most companies begin courting the applicant at the moment he/she has been chosen for an interview. Those that don't, need to take a clue from the rest!

So this past fall, I was very weary of University recruiting. For starters, I'd been through the process while searching for an internship with many of the same companies during the previous semester, and it went horribly. I was selected by about half a dozen companies for internship interviews, and wasn't made a single offer. Even worse, none of the companies that selected me peaked my interest. Who wants to spend the summer in middle of nowhere Ohio as an IT intern for General Electric Aircraft Engines? Well, some people do. I didn't, and shouldn't have submitted my resume in the first place. (Sidenote: I ended up spending the summer bartending and doing some technology consulting on the side. It was a blast.)

Two lessons learned:

1) Unless you're in immediate, dire need of the money, especially for full-time positions, don't submit your resume to companies that definitely don't interest you. Even if it means ending up without getting a job through the university recruiting channels. There are other ways.

2) The search for a full-time job is very different than the search for a summer internship with the same company. The process is longer and more intense, but companies are more flexible and hire more candidates.

This semester, I figured I had nothing to lose, and decided to submit my resume again to various companies -- this time for full-time positions. However, being a busy, stressed-out Computer Science student with 18 credits on my plate, I decided to limit my submissions to companies that truly interested me. They were: Cisco, HP, IBM,, Lockheed Martin, Accenture, Microsoft, Google, and Deloitte.


At this point, my interest had been peaked by several of the above companies. A friend of mine who interned at Microsoft the previous summer was convinced it was the perfect place for me. I wasn't so sure, but gave him the benefit of the doubt and began to read up on the various positions at the company. Program Manager was a fit. I also went to a Microsoft presentation at the University by a guy named Marcus Ash in a mobile devices division. It was awesome. He brought unreleased smartphone toys. My interest was peaked. And this was just the beginning...

Google also gave a few presentations and sent out a few engineers. Their presentations were equally awesome, and I was equally as wood at the time -- if not more (I mean.. who can beat a recruiting event where the company brings their best engineers to talk about the inner workings of the Google search engine!)

Deloitte I met at a recruiting fair at the University. I'm actually generally pretty weary of these events, and generally try to steer clear. Companies generally use them as yet another way to collect as many resumes as possible for later data mining, and rarely as a way to connect with individual candidates. The guys at Deloitte really did peak my interest with a specific security services consultant position they were trying to fill. Microsoft also took notes on my resume about my specific coursework and interests. Accenture was incredibly boring, put my resume on a stack, and gave me a piece of paper telling me to submit another one on their web site. The latter response is typical of most companies at the recruiting fair, in my experience.

Getting My Foot in the Door

So the fun began.. and interview requests started to roll in from many of the companies -- Cisco,, Lockheed Martin, and Deloitte.

At this point, I took a step back, and began to really evaluate the companies I'd submitted my resume to. I knew that several companies I was interested in, namely Microsoft and Google, had started to interview on campus, and that I hadn't received anything from them. HP, IBM, and Accenture I didn't care so much about.. (though I'm sure they're both great companies to work for!)

So I took action. First, my friend Ayush offered to put a good word in for me with the Microsoft regional recruiter. I can't stress how important a reference like this is. If you don't hear from a company you're interested in, seek out someone who knows both you and the company well early in the game. Companies have thousands of college candidates applying for jobs. If an employee or friend of the company can lend creed to your abilities, let them do so! It's not gonna get you the job, but it will often at least get you an interview! It got me one!

Unfortunately, I didn't know anyone who had worked at Google. So, I tried another method. I got to know the engineers they sent out to the University. This wasn't exactly a daunting task. They were all cool people. I spent quite awhile with Lilly, a UI engineer, who came to speak to us on what it's like to work at Google. We totally clicked, and she in-turn introduced me to Jessica, a friend of hers in PM, the area in which I was interested! Lilly later submitted my resume internally with some positive feedback about me. Unfortunately, I never heard back from Google. I have a feeling that Google, like most companies, isn't generally in the practice of hiring PMs straight out of college. They came to U of M to recruit developers this year, and I haven't met any U of M graduates who went to work for Google as a PM, but who knows.. maybe I just didn't have what they were looking for on my resume. Either way, Lilly, Jessica, and the Google team were all awesome. I hope we continue to be friends!

One more quick note here.. going to a company presentation will not get you an interview. Maybe connecting with the presenter will lead to something.. connecting with the recruiter usually will not. It's become obvious to me that companies use these presentations to draw out talented individuals and collect their resumes for the selection process (Microsoft and Google have you put your contact info on forms they use in drawings to give out cool prizes! Count me in!). Some companies (like Google) pass on resumes directly to Engineers who select which candidates they would like interviewed. Throughout this process, there were some companies whose presentations I attended that I never heard from again, and there were some companies whose presentations I didn't attend that went to great lengths to recruit me. It was sad watching companies I wasn't interested in try to recruit me while friends that were extremely interested couldn't even get an interview. I've been in their shoes, they've been in mine. Different companies are looking for different things. The process works well despite this irony.

First Rounds

Cisco,, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Deloitte

And so the list was narrowed to 5 great companies. Each peaked my interest for different reasons, and I'll blog on my experiences with each, in the order in which they occurred...

Deloitte was the first company I interviewed with. The position was a security services consultant within their Enterprise Risk Services division. Security is one of my favorite areas of technology, and consulting is one of my favorite professional roles. I was psyched. With all these interviews coming up, I decided I needed a new suit. The one I had was about 5 years old.. my dad bought it for me for my sister's Bat Mitzvah. Deloitte is business-professional, and the bulky black dinner-party suit just wasn't gonna cut it. Besides, everyone needs a good suit, right? So I went to Nordstrom on Mom & Dad, and dropped a little over a thousand bucks on a suit, some shirts, a pair of shoes, etc. They've been investing in my future through college tuition for 4 years now, so what's an extra thousand bucks, right? (Okay.. I'm a very lucky guy with very supportive parents). But alas, I digress. Deloitte held its interviews at the Marriott Courtyard off-campus. I thought this was rather strange, since there are plenty of places to interview on campus, but went along with it anyway.. When I got to the Courtyard, I was directed to a room full of consultants in suits. They'd been brought in from various Deloitte offices, and I was told to schmooze with them until it was time for my interview. No problem. They were all very nice people. A few minutes later, a few slick lookin' consultants came down and invited me back up to their rooms for interviews. It was strange interviewing in hotel rooms.. but I guess it makes sense, since that's where you're gonna spend 80% of your time living as a consultant. Anyhow.. I had 2 interviews, both were behavioral interviews. Answered lots of questions about my professional experience, what would I do in so-and-so situation, when have I overcome a challenge working with a team, etc. The guys were both very bright. And just about every time I met a Deloitte representative he/she was able to quickly sell me on the company. I walked away wanting the job, and they walked away wanting me. Good times.

Microsoft was next, several weeks later. The single interview lasted about 45 minutes. As I had expected, the interview consisted of one coding and one design question. The coding question was to write a function to determine if two strings are anagrams. The key here was quickly coming up with an O(n) algorithm and not getting sucked into the potentially more-intuitive O(n^2) answer. No problem. The design question was something along the lines of, "As a Program Manager, How would you build a new alarm clock product for Microsoft?". Sounds easy, right? When a Microsoft interviewer asks a design question, he's looking for very specific elements in the answer. Having read much about such questions and what Microsoft is looking for in Program Managers, answering it was a breeze.

It's worth adding some information about the Microsoft 1st round interview process at this point. Before I got to this point, I actually had a great phone conversation with a family friend who works at the company about both the position I was interested in and the interview process in general. He described the first round of campus interviews at Microsoft as something along the lines of "separating the fat from the meat". I'd have to imagine that Microsoft gives thousands of 1st round campus interviews every semester. It's a lot easier for them to identify in 1 interview a candidate that absolutely does not have some qualities they're looking for than to identify which candidates are better than others -- especially since they have the capacity to hire as many qualified candidates as they can find. So to pass the first round of interviews at Microsoft, you need to demonstrate whatever it is they're looking for in 1 45 minute interview. Do not go into a Microsoft interview without first reading How Would You Move Mount Fuji?, a great book all about the Microsoft interview process and puzzle, design, and trick questions in general. If you just don't have what it takes, this book won't help you beyond the 1st interview. But if you do have what it takes, this book will help you express it and understand the motives behind asking each question. If you're applying for a PM position, I'd strongly suggest also reading The Mythical Man-Month, a book all about the process of software engineering. It will save your ass -- potentially in the interview process, and certainly in the real-world. Also remember that the odds are stacked against you as an interviewee. It's a *lot* worse for the company to mistakenly hire someone who isn't qualified than to pass on someone that is. So don't get caught up in the latter situation. Read up, talk to Microsoft employees, find out exactly what they're looking for -- especially in that first round of interviews. P.S. I wore my suit again. Microsoft suggests wearing whatever makes you comfortable. I figured I could handle 45 minutes in a suit. Everyone else tends to wear ‘em to University interviews, and I figure it shows I’m willing to go the extra mile. It probably didn’t matter. was my third interview.’s process is drastically different than Microsoft’s or Deloitte’s. is in the process of doing a nationwide tour to handpick the best of the best in object oriented programming. I didn’t really want to be a developer (though coding is a hobby), but I figured I’d go anyway, attempt to knock their socks off, then ask about positions in other areas like program management. After all, it is one of the most innovative software companies out there… The interview was killer. There were a bunch of in-depth questions about C++ and object oriented programming. “When can’t you inline a function?”, “How could you prevent a class object from being copied?”, etc. The coding question was a bit more difficult as well. “Reverse the order of the words in a string.” I definitely took an ego bruising, and walked out of the interview quite humbled. My ego recovered when they later asked for another round.

Cisco was my fourth interview. I have a bunch of friends that work for Cisco in San Jose. It’s a great company, and networking, their core technology, is another interest of mine. I’ve read a few Cisco Press books for fun, and have a Cisco certification. Before the interview, I attended a Cisco presentation at the University. This was a DISASTER! We were told that the regional recruiter decided to attend an event at the Business School instead, and had asked 2 engineers from the local Ann Arbor Cisco office to do the presentation instead. The engineers sat in front of the room with their heads lowered reading a 20-page script all about why Cisco is a great company. The script accompanied a Powerpoint presentation that looked like it was put together by the company’s Marketing division for a target audience of investors and partners. At one point, the script read something like “Every Cisco employee caries a badge with him at all times on which is printed all of the core values of our company”. The engineer looked up, rolled his eyes, and commented something like “Must’ve left mine at home”. After the presentation, I was still left with a little bit of interest in the company – specifically areas related to client consulting, sales engineering, etc. I sent off an email to the regional recruiter to ask about positions within these areas. She wrote back that they were only hiring software developers. So, I proceeded to interview for the position. The interview was completely behavioral in nature – no technical questions. It went very well. The interviewer was a program manager, and we really seemed to hit it off. He said at that point that they were actually looking to hire for 3 departments – software engineering, quality assurance, and TAC (the support group). TAC seemed like the best fit, and I expressed interest. A few days after the interview, I received an email from the regional recruiter saying that they had found candidates better qualified for the available positions. This led me to believe that either 1) they weren’t hiring for TAC or 2) the areas I was truly interested in just didn’t overlap enough with TAC or any other areas for which they were hiring. Ah well, gave it a shot! It just wasn’t meant to be.

Lockheed Martin was the last company I completed first round interviews with. The position was again one in development. Lockheed does a lot of work with information organization, databases, and data mining – all very interesting areas to me. The interview was again completely behavioral. The interviewer was middle management. He’d been with the company for several decades. Lockheed seems very corporatey. I get the feeling they move at a snail’s pace, and their processes lag behind industry standards by about 5-10 years. The interviewer actually told me about a recent contact they’d lost to a smaller competitor. I got the feeling that Lockheed was the Goliath of military/gov’t contractors, and moves/adjusts accordingly (i.e. slowly). That said, I also got the impression that there are many diverse groups within the company. I imagine each of them operates differently, and many must be innovative. If there was one thing that upset me about the Lockheed interview process it was that in talking to Lockheed, I was not interviewing for an open position (or a set of open positions). I was told that my information would be put in their recruiting database, and if any regional recruiters were interested, I’d be contacted. Well, that was rather unfortunate. Shouldn’t the interview process of an excellent candidate (in general, not talking about myself specifically here) end with a job offer? They had my resume before asking for an interview. They could’ve gaged their regional recruiters’ interests then! Anyhow, I walked out somewhat upset. If every company adopted this practice, it’d mean for a ton of pointless interviews for candidates when there may not even be a job available. That said, I was lucky and got contacted by a regional recruiter in DC several days later. We scheduled another round of interviews at their regional recruiting center in DC.

Final thoughts about 1st round interviews:

They’re a great chance for the company and the candidate to learn more about each other after each has decided that the other meets the requirements on paper. They’re the start of a new relationship between company and recruit. Most of the companies with which my first interviews went well began to bend over backwards to woo me over and accommodate my needs. This process continues until you’re disqualified (at which point you’re kicked to the curb like yesterday’s news) or given an offer to join the team.

As I continue to blog while looking out onto the foggy concourse at the airport in Seattle, my thoughts on the first round companies are as follows:

Cisco – Great company, no chemistry. We were looking for different things in each other.. it just wasn’t meant to be. – Great company, didn’t put what I wanted on the table. 2nd round interviews were even more challenging than 1st round – challenging, but fun. One design/coding question asked me to design a class to operate a restaurant reservation system. Another coding question asked to code a function to remove each occurrence of each character in one string from another string (if s1=”sr” and s2=”stars”, result=”ta”). It was somewhat challenging, but certainly possible, to come up with an O(n) algorithm that was space efficient (all replacement done in-place). The final coding question was to write an algorithm to determine the speeds of cars traversing speedcheck cables lying across a road. This was actually a very challenging problem, and took me quite a bit longer to solve (it was more complex as posed than v=x/t where x is the distance between axles – need to account for cars on both sides of the road!). I later posed the problem to a General Manager at Microsoft with whom I interviewed. He he he. He actually told me that Bill Gates’s first product was the software that goes into the boxes that sit next to the speedcheck cables! I’m not sure if it’s true – factcheck anyone? In any event, I’m not sure whether or not I’ll make it to 3rd round interviews for the programming position, but not exceptionally interested in it at this point either. is looking for a very specific kind of programmer looking for a very specific kind of job. I’m not sure that’s me.

Lockheed Martin – Probably not the best place for me, but at this point, I’m certainly biased having just experienced Microsoft. If I hadn’t ventured out to Seattle, I would’ve given them the benefit of the doubt and made my way out to DC. Canceling the trip will be unfortunate. I feel bad.

Deloitte – I actually completed 1st and 2nd round interviews with Deloitte. The 2nd (and final) round of interviews was great. Got the chance to meet with many people including a partner and founder of the Security Services practice. Deloitte is a consultant’s heaven, and I consulting is something I enjoy and appreciate. Deloitte made me an offer, and it’s one I’m still considering. The downsides are that the work is not the most innovative. Consultants apply existing technology to solve challenges that businesses face. They don’t create new technology that doesn’t yet exist. Additionally, the position is with the Detroit office, and most of my family is far far away in California. Most of my college friends in Michigan will eventually move away. Finally, the offer wasn’t that great. I assume they chose a low number expecting me to negotiate it up (this is a consulting position, after all). But their low number was well below the average salary of the graduating computer science major. Even average would’ve been a hard sell. So, I’m sitting on the offer for now and giving other options the opportunity to play themselves out.

And then there’s Microsoft… ah Microsoft.. another story in and of itself.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Redmond, here I come!

As many of you know, I've interviewed with a handful of companies recently in search of work after school..

... and after a great (though intense) trip to Redmond, Washington..

... the winner is... Microsoft!

(Actually, I think I'm the winner. But either way.. hang on tight Bill.. 'cause here I come!)

Several in-depth blog entries about interviewing -- both in general and as a college student -- to follow.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

GBA Havoc

Would someone please enlighten me as to why I need to stow my Gameboy during takeoff and landing?

I hardly think it's going to interfere with the aircraft's navigation and control systems. If it could, then politely asking people to stow them isn't even a viable solution.

If it has to do with being mobile and responsive in the event of an engine or landing gear failure, I assure you, I'd swiftly pocket the Gameboy -- more quickly than I'd be able to dispose of a hardcover book.

Seriously.. I'd like to know.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Yesterday, The Motion Picture Association of America placed the following full page centerfold ad in the University of Michigan's school newspaper:

(Click image for larger version)

The ad features the usernames and partial IP addresses of peer2peer file sharers, surrounded by bold, red captions reading:




It then proceeds to note that:

Pursuant to the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. Section 504(c)), statutory damages can be as much as $30,000 per motion picture, and up to $150,000 per motion picture if the infringement is willful.


If the MPAA spent as much on developing and advertising their legal movie download services as they're about to spend on ads and lawsuits, maybe people would use them. People use iTunes to buy music. Is it so farfetched?

On the front page of today's Michigan Daily, it was announced that the University is launching a service that will allow students to download music for $2.99 a month. If the MPAA wants to prevent "trafficking in movies" (what is this? the war on drugs?), they too will have to provide and market a legal alternative that appeals to mainstream consumers.

Scare tactics weren't what caused many students to stop illegally downloading music and to start purchasing downloads legally -- even here at the University where student and faculty names were subpoenaed by the RIAA this past May. Rather, it was the emergence of the iTunes music store.

MPAA, don't launch a crusade against the very people you're trying to sell to. They will buy your movies if you make them more accessible. Take the money you're spending on ads and legal fees and reinvest it in your business or pass it on to the consumer. We need it more than you.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Best place to buy books online

AddAll Book Search and Price Comparison

This link actually came from a comment from my good friend Ayush on one of my previous posts. I'm so impressed with the site, that I just had to blog about it myself.

Basically, you enter the title, IBSN, author, or keyword of the book you're searching for along with a shipping destination, US state, and currency, and AddAll searches "40+ sites" (as of today) for the best total price.

This service puts Google's Froogle to shame. AddAll calculates tax and shipping before returning results. The site is clean, intuitive, and add-free. Unlike Froogle and other price comparison sites, the prices are queried and returned instantly -- not added by users or spidered and cached. The site operators make their money through referral fees paid to them when books are purchased by users who click-through their site to order. These referral fees do not increase the price of the book.

The same people that run AddAll also operate the following sites:

A Music Area (music)
A Movie Area (movies)

The questions that come to my mind are:

1) Is Google working on improvements to Froogle that would make it as or more useful as these sites? (Same goes for other Froogle-like operations)

2) If substantially more people actually start using sites like AddAll, online stores will be driven even further into heated price wars. Will they still maintain the referral fees? Will sites like AddAll, with their newly given market power, begin to demand certain referral fees to be included in their listings? Will sites like Froogle that don't take referral fees push sites like AddAll out of the market?

All this said, I still think publishers are missing the boat by not selling directly to consumers through aggregators like Froogle and AddAll and cutting out middle-men like Like airlines, they too can redefine their businesses to profit from new channels of distribution and innovations in search.

Why Blog?

The night before I starting blogging, I found myself in a bar making fun of friends who have blogs. Less than 12 hours later, I started one myself. So naturally, quite a few people wondered why!

Well, that morning, I was up early messing around online.. and came across something quite interesting (see yesterday's post regarding msn search). It was quite relevant to topics we were discussing in one of my courses, so I began to throw together an email on the subject to a few bright classmates. Then I thought.. email is so temporal. I send my message.. maybe one or two courageous people send email replies to the list of recipients they may or may not know.. and it's vanished, never to be read or discussed again.

There are other fundamental problems with using email for generative discussion. What if I wanted to show the conversation to another person or group later? I could potentially forward every email response.. but even then, they couldn't participate in the conversation that had already taken place. Also, how do I know that the people I'm emailing are even slightly interested in what I have to say? Email is a push medium -- you push content out to recipients as opposed to the recipients pulling it from you, the source.

Blogging solves all these problems. It's not perfect by any means. A whole new set of problems arise (getting people to read your blog vs. their email, links breaking over time -- links may be temporal, the blog is not, etc).

I've also made a decision to blog only about a specific subject -- the consumer experience, which may be too broad in and of itself. But I will avoid blogging about my life, my friends, who's sleeping with who, etc. I didn't launch my blog at LiveJournal for a reason. LiveJournal is for people who like to blog about their own lives. It's a community based on person to person relationships. I'd like my blog to eventually gain readership among anybody interested in the subject of my blog -- not a select few interested in my life as a subject.

Even harder will be resisting the temptation to blog about my own political, economic, religious views. I may allow events in my life to briefly surface in my writing.. but they will not become its focus.

Finally, I realize that I'm quite new at this. I consider myself to be a pretty good writer, and a horrible blogger. I hope and think that my blogging skill will improve over time. I've heard it's important to keep the paragraphs short and use proper punctuation & grammar. Hmm...

Saturday, November 13, 2004

amazon vs. walmart

so in my previous post, i referenced a book by name. shortly after posting, i realized it'd be helpful to link to some place where people could get more information on it. i suppose if i were linking to a movie, i would've linked to imdb or rottentomatoes .. is there a similar, unbiased site for books?

i pondered linking to the book's page.. they certainly provide a wealth of information. but is it really unbiased? i also pondered linking to google's new book search. unfortunately, the book hadn't been added yet.

in the end, i decided on froogle (it concerns me linking to a search query, but alas, that's a topic for another entry), bringing me to the point of this post. amazon sells the book online for $18.15. in fact, if you didn't know any better, you might think you were getting a great deal. their low low price is listed in red text under the black, crossed-out list price of $27.50. you save $9.35 (34%)! (also listed in red text).

walmart sells the same book for $16.70. you save $10.80 (39%) -- they use red & crossed-out black text too.

so what.. big deal right? everyone knows that amazon sells their books at a premium of a few dollars.. branding, etc. why trust some no-name fly-by-night company when you can pay $1-2 more and get it from a name you trust? but walmart's not some no-name company.. and while their traditional customer demographic might not fit that of, that might not be the case online. a few weeks ago, the price difference on a book was so great, that i decided to order it from walmart. i didn't have to drive out to the ho-dunk store in ypsilante, michigan.. the buy process was the exact same as with amazon.. as reliable, and cheaper. in fact, i used to read up on the book, then purchased from walmart (sort of how i use orbitz to get flight info, then purchase directly from the airline -- who wants to pay a premium to orbitz?)

anyhow.. this practice really has the potential to kill (or at least severely change) online retail businesses. what if publishers decide to get into the business of selling directly to consumers now that there's an aggregator (froogle).. like the airlines did? then even walmart would be in trouble.

here are some very interesting and relevant links:

New Google Service May Strain Old Ties in Bookselling

South Korean Downloaders Push Music Stores to Brink

i had a job interview last week with, and another round coming up next week. maybe i'll ask them what they think and blog the answers.

by the way.. another great read: 21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ (let them have this purchase.. they deserve it.)

msn search

so it's 6:30am saturday morning.. woke up dehydrated with a bit of a hangover and decided to surf the web a bit while drinking some water to kick it.. i came across some crazy stuff related to msn's new beta search (

so, first thing i did in an effort to gauge msn search's effectiveness was obviously to search for my name, "adam herscher". it came up with MUCH more info than google, including my UM directory listing! msn search actually indexes and caches :,ou=People,dc=umich,dc=edu

finding my cell phone number through google used to be a 2-step process.. maybe you could find my personal engin space, and therefore my uniqname.. and then figure out that UM has a directory.. but now, just pop in my name in quotes and get back my cell phone #! wow. scary, yet somehow not enough to get me to change my directory entry. msn search has a link: feature like google where you can see the link hierarchy that led to the indexing of a page. turns out an ITCS web page links to the "unix admins" directory entry as a resource. i'm a member of that group, and hence, i'm indexed as well (which in turn may lead to the indexing of groups i'm a member of and then to the indexing of other peoples' entries who are in those groups if they are non-private.. hmm!)

ok, so here's another crazy find.. i've known for a long time that there's at least one other "adam herscher" out there. i've seen references to him in google, but he doesn't have much of an online presence (though neither do i really).. so, msn search turned up a page about someone's internship experience in mexico:

the author wrote "I live with Adam Herscher, another IMBA student".. so i figure ok, i'll search for "Adam Herscher IMBA". well, i'm so used to firefox's search box (google), that i forget to use msn search. what does google turn up? THE OTHER ADAM HERSCHER'S SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER!@$!

lots of social security numbers actually. wow. (note: i imagine many of these links will stop functioning over time.)

so.. i start thinking about a few things at this point.. first, msn search doesn't have the same page. maybe it doesn't index excel spreadsheets, and/or maybe the 2 search engines simply index different sets of pages. do i need to start searching multiple search engines now? or use one of those tools that does so automatically? *sigh*

this also gets me thinking more about internet-user-stupidity.. the general public's lack of security knowledge.. people as the weakest links.. it reminds me of kevin mitnick's book "the art of deception: controlling the human element". great read.

and of course, it gets me thinking about the use of social security numbers as identification and authentication. perhaps i'll email those responsible for maintaining the web server publicly hosting all of those social security numbers. but does that really solve, or even make a dent, in the larger issue? aren't there thousands of people who will make the same and similar mistakes for every one i happen to stumble across?

there aren't any revelations to be made about the way in which the internet impacts peoples' privacy, facilitates identity theft, etc.. many have written about it, and i'll probably collect my thoughts on the subject at some point as well.. but it's worth noting that i truly feel we're still at the tip of the iceberg on this one.. to be continued.

sidenote.. this is the first blog entry i've ever written, so comments will make me very happy :-) i will blog on the subject of why i decided to start blogging, later. thanks for reading!