Google U: Just $25K for Nine Weeks!

As an industry long-timer (I started covering PCs on June 4, 1984), I well know who Ray Kurzweil is. This pioneer in optical character recognition, text to speech, and synthesizers (where would Yes have been without him?) never stopped inventing. Now Google has tapped Kurzweil to help run a new Google-sponsored university called Singularity.

Only 40 students will be accepted each term, and instead of book-learning, pupils will work on projects that could change the world, like solving food shortages, addressing global warming and fighting disease.

But if you thought Wharton or MIT or Bennington were expensive, get a load of Singularity. It costs a cool $25,000 for nine short weeks.

Out-Googling the Google?
Over the last few years, a few new companies have touted their search engines as superior to Google. I would then perform a simple test: Googling myself. None could match the master.

Now comes a new player: Wolfram. This tool promises the world. It doesn't just return results based on keywords, but shows a deeper understanding, offering answers that would make a Harvard prof proud. A couple of examples in an article from The Independent? It can play a scale based on a search for a note or compare the height of Everest to the Golden Gate Bridge (I don't want to give away the surprise, but apparently the mountain is higher).

This is all well and good, but my sense is the system can't automatically reach all these conclusions, but that vastly more complex tagging will be needed. And if this really is a Google killer, Google will probably just buy it.

Adobe Reader Fix? Just Turn Off What Ails You
How many times have you seen software break and the fix is to shut down some software? It's like telling a guy with no brakes not to push the brake pedal.

Our latest example of this time-honored tradition is Adobe, whose Reader has a hole big enough for hackers to drive a zero-day attack through. The flaw lies with JavaScript and the fix is -- you guessed it -- to turn off JavaScript.

Mailbag: Microsoft Security, Apple Price Tag, More
Microsoft gets a bad rap over security issues, but Dan thinks open source systems shouldn't be left off the hook:

For those who bash the security of Microsoft systems, they might want to subscribe to the National Cyber Alert System from the National Institute of Standards (here's their weekly rundown of "New Vulnerabilities"). Considering that Windows is on 90 percent of desktop systems and that Microsoft spends a lot of time in the cross-hairs of its detractors, I'd say that Microsoft is generally under-representated on this list. The occurence of BIMBO software (Built In My Basement Occasionally) on the list keeps me more afraid of the Linux and open source crowd.

Microsoft isn't perfect, but it tries to fix the vulnerabilities that it has. With each new release of the Windows operating system, Microsoft knows its vulnerabilities and attempts to write the next version better than the previous. Security is a two-edged sword: If it is an easy and flexible environment to program in, then it probably has low security. If it is a more secure environment, then there will be more rules and the violations of those rules will be more severely dealt with. Back in the day, when Big Blue ruled, there was always the "Anything but IBM" crowd. It should have been easy to predict that we'd now have the "Anything but Microsoft" crowd. I guess we'll have to wait longer for the perfect operating system that is piloted by the truly benevolent dictator.

Paul shares his thoughts on why Apple's bottom line, and why its computers are priced the way they are:

Marc said on Friday that "Dell and HP 'take a loss' on those entry-level systems but they make it up on very high volumes." I'm sorry but if I sold one computer and lost $1 and then sold a million computers, I would not make a profit but loose a million dollars. Apple has no intention -- nor has it ever wanted -- to sell a cheap computer. Its last price-competitive computer was in the '70s when it was trying to start up the business. Then it released the Lisa and boy, it has not looked back.

If Apple is so great, why can't it sell a competitive computer? Its computers aren't better so much as they are very controlled for the coolness factor. But I would rather have a less cool-looking computer that works and is affordable (comparable to a Dell) than one that looks cool and costs way too much. I think Microsoft is on target when it points out the cost difference. Now, if it could find a good ad company to come up with an ad that rivals Apple's, it would be set. It's all about branding and Apple does that well.

Readers chime in on their impressions of Windows 7 so far and how it can be improved:

I have "obtained" a copy of Windows 7 RC1. I had a VM of Windows 7 beta 1 running and wasn't all that impressed; it didn't run very fast in my VM compared to the Win XP Pro that was also running in my VM. It also didn't have too many more features than Vista so I chalked up much of the hype to people who never really tried Vista and had a lot of new features when going from XP to Windows 7.

I installed Windows 7 RC1, replacing my copy of beta 1, and I am now a believer! It now runs FASTER than my XP VM, is stable and compatible with all of my software and hardware! It used substantially less resources than Vista and had a better user experience. I swear the development teams at Microsoft like to play little tricks on us every now and again! I always joked about removing Thread.Sleeps in my code to look like a hero late in the development cycle but I was never serious! Anyway, Windows 7 RC1 is so impressive that I am very tempted to install it over my Vista Ultimate x64 on my home PC.

I think it would be of great help to have a Windows 7 migration map from Vista and XP highlighting the process flow, the code input source, the price and the mode to perform it.

Meanwhile, Esteban's having trouble getting the Windows 7 beta in the first place:

I got the Windows 7 beta and installed it on one of my test bed computers and the hard drive crashed. Nothing to do with Windows; the hard drive was ready to go. When I went looking for the Windows 7 media that I had created, the media and ISO mysteriously disappeared from my office. I was not too happy but I didn't want to fight that fight with my guys so I let it go. I called Microsoft to get the download again and guess what: They will not give us the download again. I told them that I was testing this OS and that I have my CD key, etc., but Microsoft in India will not help me get the download.

It is a shame because we have a lot of say on what goes into our clients' machines and without being able to test it, it is hard to give my clients feedback. I have kept them all on XP because Vista is the little brother of Windows ME, in my opinion. Do you happen to know who I can contact so I can get Windows 7 again and we can put this thing through hell and back and see how it works?

Got any tips for Esteban? How about your thoughts on anything covered today? Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected].

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.


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