« Disclaimer Stuff | Main | Spam Reduction Practices »

March 4, 2005

What's New?

Well, I'm at a new $Job. More about it in a bit.

My previous contract gig was working on embedded Linux at Wyse. One of the products that the software went on is here. No, I wasn't a major member of the team, there were four others, plus a group overseas. Embedded is a lot of fun, but it really gets infuriating when you realize that a lot of applications coming out these days are very bloated, or require bloated libraries. Try printing without CUPS, and the massive perl layer it requires! The more current printers aren't even supported in anything else - there are as yet no other applications that can effectively parse some of the latest PPDs. Hint to C programmers looking for an app to write: rewrite the CUPs print engine in C, without the bulky GUI. Leave hooks for people to add as much or as little GUI as they need.

Before that I was working for Nuasis. An interesting product, but a disfunctional corporate culture. I'm glad I was contract and paid hourly. I learned a lot, but was glad to leave. They replaced me with two people, possibly three. I know, I interviewed them!

Now, I'm working for A9.com. Yes, folks, a "dot com", and I'm actually mentioning their name, because I'm gonna talk about their stuff and what I think of it. They do enhanced and personalized search. Want to use their site without all of the tracking stuff? Use http://generic.a9.com/. It doesn't track your history or have any "personalization".

One thing that I was very, very concerned about when I interviewed is privacy. You see, A9 is a subsidiary of Amazon. Amazon has gotten a bad rep on SlashDot and other things for privacy. They managed to satify my concerns, which is difficult since I am pretty paranoid. Looking from the inside, but off to the side a bit, Amazon actually is very paranoid about customer data going anywhere it shouldn't. Yes, they track a lot of stuff, partly so they can gauge how well they are doing to serve you, partly so they don't "recommend" to you something that you have no interest in. Now, I still have mixed feelings about Amazon's recommendations engine, but it has improved greatly since I first encountered it several years ago.

What A9 does is search and personalization of search. Their latest releases are the Amazon/A9 "Yellow Pages" (see this search for bread in San Jose, California), and the new version of the A9 toolbar (wherein, IMO, they fixed some really glaring problems.) Yes, the toolbar works with Mozilla and Firefox, not just IE. Amazon.com and A9.com run Linux.

One of the things they've done is Amazon's "Search Inside the Book" feature. See the "Look Inside" on some of results for this Perl Books search? That lets you see if the book has what you need before you buy it. Very useful, IMO.

Oh, BTW, I broke down and joined Amazon's affiliate program. I don't expect to get rich from it, but anything toward my web hosting bill can't hurt... ;-)

I don't think I need to mention, again, that the opinions here are mine, not my employer's, either past or current, but I will. Since I'm not developing product at my current place, I feel a bit more comfortable talking about their released stuff (and my opinion thereof), and have disclosed that I work for them.

Posted by ljl at March 4, 2005 2:6 PM