Catching Up On Last Week’s News

I hope everyone had a great week! It looks like I missed some interesting / controversial stories in the tech news / blogosphere, the most notable being:

Quick reactions:

Regarding the anti-SQL movement, I would have thought the main complaint would be that SQL is too arcane a language for ordinary users to ever use it directly. Instead, the article discusses developers’ complaints about databases, and these are mostly about price, speed, and scale. Evidently even free, open-source databases like MySQL are losing favor relative to tools like Hadoop and Hypertable that don’t offer support for SQL. Of course, this picture comes from a meetup of 150 people that might not be entirely representative of information technology workers.

I know first-hand from my experience at Endeca that, to quote Michael Stonebraker, the “one size fits all” approach to databases is an idea whose time has come and gone. At Endeca, we have built our own special-purpose database to address information needs ill-served by the available OLTP and OLAP technologies. Still, I think it’s premature to declare the death of SQL or of relational databases. But why let that stand in the way of a good story?

On to the open-source search engine comparison. I won’t rehash the critique of the study, which you can find in the 80+ comments from folks like Jeff Dalton, Bob Carpenter, and Otis Gospodnetic. Perhaps the most salient point is that it’s not clear how much sense it makes to perform “out of the box” evaluations. In any case, my impression is that Lucene is by far the dominant player in the open-source search space; the study, if it has any effect, will only be to reinforce that dominance.

And finally, the big news from the big G: a Google Operating System. Even my mom (who couldn’t name an existing operating system) was asking me about it, so clearly this one has made it into the mainstream media. And yet I don’t see why this is such a big deal. We have netbooks, and we even have Linux-based netbooks. As far as I’ve heard, the latter are popular with geeks and cheapskates, but that’s about it–most people are willing to pony up the few extra dollars for Windows XP. Will Google launching a netbook-oriented OS significantly affect this market? I suspect the only route to success is if they meet non-technical users’ needs (browsing, email, media, light document editing) while minimizing their overhead (maintenance, security, compatibility). Will they be a better Ubuntu? Perhaps, much in the way that Chrome is trying to be a better Firefox. Why Google choose to build its own free, open-source products rather than contribute to mature open-source projects is a mystery to me, but it’s their money and time to spend.

I think that cover’s the week’s big stories–or at least those that matter most to Noisy Channel readers. Somehow I didn’t manage to come up with an IR / HCIR angle on the Michael Jackson story, or perhaps it’s just that Danny Sullivan beat me to it.

Anyway, I’m back in the saddle, and should soon be back to my normal posting volume. Thank you all for being patient.

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.