Jiva Technology

Why did they do that to Skype?

This isn’t really the place to engage in an uncontrolled rant, but I’m going to do it anyway. It seems to me that since Microsoft paid an awful lot of money for Skype in 2011, the company has added zero features to actually help me and a million features that get in the way. The last straw was Saturday evening. My daughter has a new laptop with Windows 8 pre-installed. We hit the Skype button and despite the fact that she already has a Skype ID, Microsoft requires you to register for a Microsoft service that has nothing to do with Skype. OK, it only asks for email and password, but it’s the principle. It FELT like a naked attempt to blackmail me, “you can use Skype. but only if you sign up to this other service”. I don’t want the other service – period. I want to use Skype. Eventually, thanks to the power of the mighty internet, we found a work around, but it involved downloading the old Skype desktop app and you feel it’s only a matter of time before that wormhole is cut off.

So Microsoft, I would ask you this, “why did you do that?”

Tutorhub – new release

A major new release of Tutorhub hit the web today, featuring an all new look, revised (and simplified) navigation and some major technical improvements under the hood. All in all, both an exciting and scary time. Exciting, because it’s the culmination of a lot of hard work and creative energy by Theo, Mike, Jon, Mike and Claire, amongst others. Scary, because it’s the work is judged in a very direct way (it either gets used … or not).

Investing in a house vs investing in the economy

In the past few weeks, all the fevered talk of rising house prices has brought home to me, once again, how obsessed the UK is with house prices, particularly in comparison to … well anyone. It’s all well and good, most nations have their foibles, but some are more harmful than others. In all of the dialogue regarding house prices, there is an implicit message that in the UK, the way to wealth is to buy a house. Not start a company or invest in new (or old) ideas or even to invest in the real economy. Just buy a house. And, of course, rising house prices doesn’t really make the nation richer, except when we sell them people overseas, something which is going on at a rate of knots in London and is akin to sawing off the branch that you’re sitting on in my opinion.

Is it possible that all of this ‘investment’ in the housing market is diverting resources away from investment in the economy? Would you rather invest some of your cash in a start up or a 2 bed in Bermondsey? And what are the implications for our future or even, our children’s future. Is it a coincidence that house prices at the same time as youth unemployment. Investment in the real economy creates jobs for now and the future, buying a 2 bed in Bermondsey doesn’t, especially if that 2 bed was built 30 years ago.

Once again, the law of unintended consequences weaves it’s magic spell.

The greatest challenge

There’s a great piece in the Financial Times today about the need to tackle climate change with a concerted, global research and development effort that comes up with clean energy that is cheaper than fossil fuel energy. Sadly, the article is behind a paywall, because it deserves to be read. The authors, David King (former Chief Scientific Advisor) and Richard Layard (economist and founder of the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance), make a compelling case that as climate change is the biggest problem facing mankind, we should focus our best and brightest minds on coming up with a solution.

One of the saddest things that has happened over the last twenty years is that those ‘best and brightest’ have tended to go into finance, because that’s where the money is. It was brought home to me at a party about 12 months ago where I met a late-20’s engineer who was giving up a promising career in medical device engineering to become a banker. I have nothing against banking per se, but it isn’t going to solve the world’s problems (although it has a reasonable recent track record in creating them).

Layard and King eloquently argue that just as JFK inspired a generation by kicking off the Apolllo Space Programme, we need the US and China to galvanise the next generation. Many of the people who could take part in such a programme might still be at school or university and we need to win hearts and minds, to inspire the next generation to choose to solve real problems over synthetic derivatives.

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