Yahoo’s earnings rise in Mayer’s debut

The New York Times reported Yahoo doing quite well in this quarter:

For the quarter in which Marissa Mayer came aboard as chief executive, Yahoo reported stronger earnings than a year earlier, but slightly lower revenue.

Yahoo reported Monday that net income in the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30, rose sharply to $3.16 billion, or $2.64 a share, from $298.3 million, or 23 cents a share, in the same quarter a year ago. That included a net gain of $2.8 billion related to the sale of Alibaba shares and restructuring charges of $16 million, net of tax.

Income from operations decreased 14 percent, to $152 million from $177 million in the year earlier period.

The company said revenue fell to $1.2 billion from $1.22 billion in the year earlier quarter.

Mayer continued that Yahoo is well positions in areas such as “checking weather, sports scores, financial information, watching videos sharing photos, getting news and playing games.” The only problem is how to extract money out of these services. It’s not going to be easy and if anything Yahoo is in the bad position to continue providing these services for free.

Degraded performance in Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (N. Virginia) or EC2 is down. This brought down Heroku and Reddit together with many others. It kinda serves as a reminder how reliant companies are on Amazon if anything.

What’s worse is that Amazon EC2 console is down too. Amazon says, “We are experiencing elevated error rates with the EC2 Management Console.”

The North Virginia facility seemed more unreliable than other availability sites. I used to run 2 EC2 instances in Singapore (Asia Pacific) for work and they’re much more reliable than this. There was a case where they had to do some hardware migration but that’s mostly minor.

The chilling effects of success in China

Malcolm Moore of the Telegraph reports on Mo Yan or Guan Moye (管谟业) who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his work as a writer “who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary.” Mo Yan is the first ever resident of mainland China to receive the Nobel Prize.

His village is to be transformed into “Mo Yan Culture Experience Zone” with immediate effect:

One week after Mo Yan became the first Chinese author to win the Nobel prize, proud local officials rushed out a £70 million plan to transform his sleepy village into a “Mo Yan Culture Experience Zone”. On Tuesday, Fan Hui, a local official, paid a visit to Mr Mo’s father to ask him to renovate the family home.

“Your son is no longer your son, and the house is no longer your house,” urged Mr Fan, according to the Beijing News, explaining that the author was now the pride of China. “It does not really matter if you agree or not,” he added.

Mr Fan said the “Red Sorghum Culture and Experience Zone”, which includes the “Red Sorghum Film and Television Exhibition Area”, would see villagers seed 1,600 acres of the crop. “(We need to grow it) even if it means losing money,” he told the Chinese media.

“One visitor dug up a radish [from Mr Mo’s vegetable patch],” reported the Beijing News. “He slipped it into his coat and showed it to villagers afterwards, saying: ‘Mo’s radish! Mo’s radish!’ ”

“A visiting mother picked some yams and told her daughter: ‘I’ll boil them, so you can eat them and win the Nobel prize too!'” Mr Mo’s brother, Guan Moxin, was forced to intervene to stop the family’s corn harvest, which was left lying out in the sun to dry, being swept away by the village tidying committee

Mr Mo himself has been non-commital amid the excitement. Asked by China Central Television whether he was happy, he responded: “I do not know”.

The chilling effects of success in a socialist country. This particular line is scary, “Your son is no longer your son, and the house is no longer your house.”

EA CEO blasts social and mobile gaming

VentureBeat reports John Riccitiello, chief executive of gaming powerhouse Electronic Arts, saying the following:

Just months later, as Zynga’s growth stalled, the press turned ugly. A few short months ago, social gaming CEOs were geniuses. Now they’re viewed as idiots.

“Consumers won’t pay for crap,” he said. “Bad entertainment ultimately will not prevail. Be suspicious of entertainment companies — I lead an entertainment company — that start to talk about themselves on the basis of the terabytes of data they are moving around on the Internet or on the basis of data-driven marketing analytics. I love data-driven marketing analytics. But great gaming starts with a great gaming experience, and if you lose sight of that, you ultimately will not have a business.”

I got tired of social and mobile games very early. There’s been a fatigue since. At some point of time you realize things are meaningless and the game play is too linear. Today the only mobile game I actively play is Blueprint 3D in the iPhone or iOS platform. That game is really creative. I’ll blog more on that in future.

How much is a cleaner paid in Singapore?

ChannelNewsAsia reveals how much cleaners are earning in Singapore.

Cleaners in some sectors can expect to take home a bigger pay packet and enjoy higher starting basic salaries of between S$1,000 and S$1,200, as part of efforts to raise productivity through the Progressive Wage Model (PWM).

They make up more than half of the near 70,000 local and foreign cleaners in the industry here.

Currently, cleaners in these positions earn between S$675 and S$950.

So the answer is about 1000 SGD. Honestly it is hard to survive with a 1000 SGD salary in Singapore. Cost of living is high and with 1000 SGD, you will be deprive of many activities. I shan’t go into that.

Men love shopping online

BusinessWeek reports that men love their shopping as much as women but the departmental stores are women-focus. Men would pay for convenience in their shopping more.

Men who have had to live with department stores designed primarily for women are flocking to websites such as Bonobos and Thrillist that push convenience and a fast shopping experience.

“Men don’t hate fashion, they just hate shopping the way it’s designed for women,” said Ben Lerer, founder of Thrillist, which gives men tips for activities or products and then sells them. “The young generation of guys love to shop, they love to talk about the brands they like and they really care about how they look.”

While women’s share of the online clothing market is still more than double men’s, the men’s market is growing faster, at a 13 percent annual rate compared with 10 percent for women, according to NPD Group, a consumer tracking service.

The market for clothing and accessories is expected to grow 78 percent to $73 billion by 2016, according to EMarketer. That’s faster than categories like electronics or music.

In Singapore there is still a lack of men-focused online stores. A couple of names come up to my mind when it comes to online fashion — ASOS and Zalora. Both ships to Singapore and are popular among online shoppers. Is there any men-focused online stores I have missed? If you have plans to start one, do tell me about it. Hint: I’m a senior software engineer and web developer.

Julia Gillard changes meaning of “misogynists”

This is just hilarious to me. Previously Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard used the word “misogynists” in her speech, and this triggered a change in Australia’s leading dictionary. CNN reports:

Julia Gillard Australia's Prime Minister
Julia Gillard Australia’s Prime Minister

PM’s sexism rant prompts Australian dictionary rewrite

“The leader of the opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office. Well, I hope the leader of the opposition has got a piece of paper and he is writing out his resignation,” Gillard blared.

Abbott’s National-Liberal Coalition took deep offense. Had the prime minister conflated or confused “sexism” and “misogyny,” or worse, deliberately distorted the meaning of misogyny to score a resounding political point? Was Gillard seriously asserting that her opposite number held a pathological hatred of women, as most dictionaries define misogyny?

Into the fray weighed Australia’s leading dictionary.

Editor Sue Butler surprised the nation Wednesday by declaring Macquarie Dictionary would alter its definition of misogyny, closer to the conflated version used by the prime minister.

In its next published edition, the dictionary’s editors said the word would be defined as both the “hatred of women” and “entrenched prejudice against women.”

Butler said Macquarie Dictionary had decided that for the past 20 or 30 years, “misogyny” had taken on wider meaning, particularly in feminist discourse and that with changed usage should come a changed definition.

I totally agree with dictionaries taking this approach, evolving the word based on current usage. But this is just too reactive. I see this as the dictionary’s editor Sue Butler helping Julia Gillard get over a sticky situation.

My odd observation

Well, somewhat coincidentally, all my top visited posts are posts that asks a question in the titles. This could mean either people get attracted to questions basically or this blog is attracting people who wants to learn something. I like to think it is the latter although I wouldn’t say the two are mutually exclusive.

I started this blog to write about what I learn with the hopes that it would benefit some other people as well. It didn’t quite work out as I get lazier to blog and the work start piling up on my table, which, by the way I can no longer see the surface of.

I shall end this post here and get back to clearing my backlogs. I’m a little more inspired than usual. Will keep you updated on stuff. Cheers!

Why does Rails do utf8=✓

I noticed Rails apps always does utf8=✓ in their URLs. Rails at one point of time even placed a snowman unicode glyph. Here’s what Yehuda Katz has to say on this regard:

This parameter was added to forms in order to force Internet Explorer (5, 6, 7 and 8) to encode its parameters as unicode.

Specifically, this bug can be triggered if the user switches the browser’s encoding to Latin-1. To understand why a user would decide to do something seemingly so crazy, check out this google search: http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=diamond+with+a+question+mark+in+it. Once the user has put the web-site into Latin-1 mode, if they use characters that can be understood as both Latin-1 and Unicode (for instance, é or ç, common in names), Internet Explorer will encode them in Latin-1.

This means that if a user searches for “Ché Guevara”, it will come through incorrectly on the server-side. In Ruby 1.9, this will result in an encoding error when the text inevitably makes its way into the regular expression engine. In Ruby 1.8, it will result in broken results for the user.

By creating a parameter that can only be understood by IE as a unicode character, we are forcing IE to look at the accept-charset attribute, which then tells it to encode all of the characters as UTF-8, even ones that can be encoded in Latin-1.

Keep in mind that in Ruby 1.8, it is extremely trivial to get Latin-1 data into your UTF-8 database (since NOTHING in the entire stack checks that the bytes that the user sent at any point are valid UTF-8 characters). As a result, it’s extremely common for Ruby applications (and PHP applications, etc. etc.) to exhibit this user-facing bug, and therefore extremely common for users to try to change the encoding as a palliative measure.

All that said, when I wrote this patch, I didn’t realize that the name of the parameter would ever appear in a user-facing place (it does with forms that use the GET action, such as search forms). Since it does, we will rename this parameter to _e, and use a more innocuous-looking unicode character.

Very funky although this has since become my standard way of determine if the application is running on Ruby on Rails.