Google Being Evil

December 30, 2006 at 6:09 am | Posted in Software | 1 Comment

I just read a very interesting post written by the author of Firefox, Blake Ross. It is titled Tip: Trust is hard to gain, easy to lose. I strongly recommend you read it.

Basically Google is placing ‘tips’ at the top of its search results. This is all fine, except for Google’s promise not to promote or use any form of unfair advertising throughout its website. Specifically the official line from Google Marketing is:

It’s important to note, however, that our ads are created and managed under the exact same guidelines, principles, practices and algorithms as the ads of any other advertiser…There are no algorithm changes to ’smooth the way’ for Google’s ads.

We’re quite proud of the advertising platform we’ve built and it simply makes sense for us to use it. At the same time, the trust of both our users and our advertisers is of paramount importance. We honor that responsibility, and work hard to earn and keep that trust.

 

I just think it is a bit hypocritical of them to do this. On top of this what’s kinda unfair is that if Microsoft did something like this people will come down on Microsoft very harshly, yet when Google does it, somehow its okay, or people look the other way. To be fair, here is a response from Matt Cutts on the issue.

I think rather than people judging a company based on their reputation, or “coolness” factor, instead you should judge them by their actions. Dare Obasanjo, another Microsoft blogger, also has an interesting post regarding this issue where it seems that Google is artificially placing its own products (such as Gmail) above competitors products (such as Yahoo Mail). The post is called Google’s Strategy Tax- Integrity of Search Results vs. Ads vs. Cross Promotion. In it he uses Google to confirm that there seems to be more links on the web that point to Yahoo Mail, yet Google Mail appears before it in the search results.

It’s interesting and made me wonder, so I thought I’d let you contemplate it too.

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My Music Collection Obsession

December 25, 2006 at 6:33 am | Posted in Personal | 1 Comment

Apparently, I have a pretty strong obsession with my music collection. My wife went to sleep early last night, and for some reason I entered into an OCD-like state to fix the metadata of my music collection.

As I mentioned earlier in my blog, I have a Zune that I love very much. One of the nice features it has, is that when a song is playing it will show me the album art. Well, I had the Zune software automatically detect the albums for most of my songs. But I also had a large Arabic collection which the had no information. I also had some English songs that were lumped in the ‘Unknown Album’ or ‘Unknown Artist’ bucket.

In a fit of rage, I went through and added entire album art and fixed the ID3 tags of most of my English songs (Correcting album names, artists, album year, etc.) I also went through and fixed all of the Arabic too, and added some album art, although that was a MUCH more difficult task. Not many places online have the album art, so I would sometimes just use an artist picture instead. Also some songs I was unable to find an album for them, so I placed them in their own “fake” album.

Last night, I spent 5 continuous hours doing this! I could not believe my obsession with this, and the time went by quite quickly. I am much happier with my Zune now…although one final problem I have is that I don’t believe all the genre’s on the songs are correct. I’m quite bored of working on my music collection, so I will probably fix it some other time.

Power Outage – Crazy, Crazy Weather

December 17, 2006 at 8:01 pm | Posted in Personal, Seattle | 4 Comments

On Thursday night we encountered a severe “storm” in Washington State. I didn’t think much of it at the time, I just heard a lot of whistling and howling outside. There was also a lot of rain, but what’s new here in Seattle 😉

Anyway, half way through watching a DVD with my wife, the power flickered, and then went out. I thought at the time, no big deal, it’ll come back in a few hours. It turned out into a big weekend ordeal.

On Friday, we began to realize the extent of the storm. I was unable to go to work because power was down over there. It was down in all of Redmond, Bellevue, Kirkland, in fact most of King County. So I stayed home on Friday. Keep in mind there is no power anywhere. This means no hot food, no gas for the car, no traffic lights on the street, no power to the refrigerator, etc. One of the first things I did was buy some ice for the refrigerator and freezer, and then we went out to Seattle to have a hot meal. Apparently the 520 (main highway from Redmond to Seattle) was closed, but luckily as soon as we arrived at the closure point, they opened it…so it was no traffic all the way as everyone knew it was closed and turned around 🙂

Anyway, the next day (Saturday) we spent the entire day out…We had breakfast out (apparently everyone else decided to have breakfast out too)…Oh yeah, power came back to certain parts of Redmond, just not out apartment complex. It’s pretty frustrating to see the traffic lights, and gas station right next door having power, but none for us! Anyway, we also had lunch out, and spent the day at Redmond Town Center (we watched two movies at the cinema!) We got home praying that the power was back…but nothing. Plus it was freezing! Our home, by now had lost all of its insulation, and the temperature in Redmond began to go to freezing, so we spent another cold night at home.

Finally, just this morning, the power came back at 11am 🙂 You have no idea how hard it is to live without power until you actually go through it! Especially when its out for several days! I never in my life expected to go through something like this here…it was pretty frustrating, but you just got to learn to deal with it. You could read about the storm here.

So while here I’ve noticed we’ve encountered some of the craziest weather to hit Washington State:

  • November – most rain to hit the Seattle area in one month ever. We broke all records.
  • End of November – snow/ice storm that shuts down a large part of King County.
  • December – the strongest wind storm to hit Seattle in over a decade, downing  a lot of the power grid/network.

So just thought I’d mention what I’ve been going through the past few days. I so wish spring/summer would come now 🙂 Apparently, it’s beautiful here.

Microsoft Interviews (in Egypt)

December 13, 2006 at 5:01 pm | Posted in Egypt, Microsoft | 19 Comments

I know that Microsoft will be interviewing in the next couple of days in Egypt. I believe it will start on Dec 15th.

I want to make my blog more interactive (I love getting comments). So basically, I am requesting comments from anyone who will be a part of it. Post a comment, introduce yourself…tell us how you prepared…ask questions…tell us what you are expecting…

And when you actually have the interview, tell us how it went. Note: This is not a place to discuss interview questions, so please don’t post that kind of information. If you get an offer, also feel free to tell us and tell us what team/position you will be joining.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Microsoft Interview Tips

December 9, 2006 at 8:42 am | Posted in Microsoft | Comments Off on Microsoft Interview Tips

A friend of mine who works here with me at Microsoft (Hany) has posted an article on his blog giving tips for the Microsoft Interview.

Since I know a lot of you are interested in that, and Microsoft will be interviewing in Egypt very soon, I thought you guys would be interested.

Determination, Drive, and Passion

December 9, 2006 at 4:24 am | Posted in Personal | 2 Comments

I’ve been thinking about this over the past few days and weeks. It is something that I see with a lot of my friends and to be honest it disappoints me.

I feel nowadays that not many people have determination to go for things that they want in life. Many people are just content where they are. When they are presented with a setback in life, they just want to give up and go with the status quo. “What’s the solution?” you may ask…My belief is that you should use this set back to drive you to achieve what you weren’t able to.

I’ll give you an example…I know people in Egypt who have a huge desire to leave the country and go work somewhere better. But then, I don’t see them doing anything about it, except maybe sending their CV to one or two companies. I remember when I wanted to leave Egypt, I put in a huge effort to do it. I literally would spend hours everyday searching for jobs that I am qualified for (specifically since I was interested in Microsoft, that’s where I was focusing my efforts). I also looked at Amazon, since my first preference was coming to Washington. I literally applied to hundreds of possible jobs. I would also explore several avenues at going to Microsoft (e.g. microsoft.com/careers, through the JobsBlog, etc.)

While I applied for hundreds of jobs, I got a total of 3 callbacks from Microsoft, and one from Amazon. So if you only end up applying for just a handful of jobs the chances of getting a callback might be a bit slim..but ramp it up to hundreds of jobs your chances do increase, and all you sometimes need is one shot to prove yourself.

Also, if you do suffer form a setback (such as not getting accepted) don’t use this as an excuse to give up. If you give up you are guaranteed to fail. If you prematurely give up the fight, there is no way for you to win or to turn the situation around. You should take any form of setback as a learning opportunity to learn from it. Understand why you were not successful this time around, and then use it to motivate you to succeed next time. In my particular case, if I had not succeeded in my interview with Microsoft (WinSE team), I had another one lined up with the Microsoft Speech Server and another one with Amazon.

My point is, when you want to do something, don’t do it in half-measures. Give it your all. Do your best and remember your ultimate goal. Do anything it takes to achieve it. And if you encounter a setback, don’t let it depress you and put you down. Take it as an opportunity to learn and a challenge for you to succeed next time.

Good Luck.

Microsoft Money 2007 Premium

December 2, 2006 at 8:31 am | Posted in Microsoft, Personal | Comments Off on Microsoft Money 2007 Premium

I just bought Microsoft Money 2007 Premium from the Microsoft Store. This software is great and I have used it before. I decided I want to keep track of my finances to get a better handle on things, plus also its supposed to integrate with my bank and my 401K broker to keep track of things.

It works pretty good and is fun to use. There are some issues though…While the online synchronization is good, it is a bit too confusing. I am not sure if the bank is sending weird data, or MS Money interprets the data incorrectly…but it seems for example for each CC payment I make, it adds a debit and credit for the same amount which nullifies it. I had to manually delete those.

For the 401K, it detected the account fine, but kept everything blank. Somehow I managed to discover a ‘pending action item’ to review my statement, and after I did that it added some ‘buy shares’ actions and showed a (negative) balance on the 401K. After a bit of investigation, it seems that it thought I bought shares, without putting any money in my 401K. There seemed to be no way to add an entry for a deposit or employer contribution. After trying to manually add my own 401K account and trying some operations, I realized that the correct operation I was looking for was ‘Add Shares’. I wish the software had done that automatically, but I won’t blame it on the product, as it could have been just a Fidelity issue (my broker) of sending the wrong data which is more probable.

Another thing I hated is that it shows my two credit cards (one account) as two separate accounts. There was no way to merge them, and no way to delete them. I had to ‘close’ one of the CC accounts to avoid the whole duplication thing. The problem with this though, is that it still appears in reports (but I managed to customize the report to remove it).

Some things that I love though..It automatically categorized around 80% of my transactions into correct categories. Took a lot of the pain out of initial set up of the product. Also, another great feature in the premium package is you get free one year credit monitoring from Experian, which I immediately signed up for. Not only that, but I get to see my credit report anytime for the next year.

There are a lot more features in the product that I haven’t checked out yet. Some features I hope of checking out soon are the tax related features, and the budgeting/planning features.

This product is definitely worth the cost (only $49.99 after a 30$ rebate).

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