Soluto Now Fixes PC Crashes and Analyzes Browser Applications

I have used Soluto on my personal computer system for about nine months. The original version only dealt with applications that started in boot, which the user could delay or pause. Soluto analyzed your boot process and then provided a listing of applications that could be delayed or paused to speed up the boot process. The software was so innovative that TechCrunch gave the software founder its annual Disrupt award.

I was honored when I received an invitation to try two new additions that Soluto was adding to their already fine product. The features are PC crashes and how to fix them, plus browser applications that also could be delayed or paused. During the testing process we were asked not to write about the new features until they became public. Yesterday Soluto made the download available to all Soluto users in beta form, which includes the added features.

Notice I said in beta. The software is still in its testing phase and is dependent on users like you and me to test the software. In order for Soluto to be more effective, each phase requires input of data from your system to the Soluto servers in order to analyze and recommend solutions for all users. If you feel uncomfortable with this procedure, this software may not be for you. In my professional opinion you have nothing to be concerned about and I trust the folks at Soluto to only collect information that will improve their software.

The first new feature Soluto added helps to identify applications and toolbars that may be slowing down your browser. In addition, Soluto can identify those toolbars that can hijack your browser and prevent you from selecting your preferred search engine of choice. Soluto also finds add-ons that might be sucking the life out of your browser.

The second new feature is my favorite. It monitors system crashes and attempts to provide a solution for you. The crash report also makes suggestions as to what is causing the crash. If a solution is currently not available, and if a solution is found at a later date, you will be notified.

Take Soluto for a test drive and see what you think.

What is the Right Answer?

Too much pure decision theory gets boring.  That is why I like to intermix it with puzzles and games which are related in some way to decision making and logic.  But making up clever puzzles is difficult, and so I comb the Internet to find good examples.  Today I am taking a slight variation of one of the fine puzzles that can be found here.

The puzzle is deceptively simple.  And I like it because it is presented backward with answers first and question to follow.

The possible answers are:

A.     Answer A

B.     Answer A or B

C.     Answer B or C

where the A, B, and C are self-referential.  That is, If the Answer is A, then the answer is “Answer A.”  Is that confusing?

The puzzle is that this puzzle has one and only one correct answer.  What is it?

I will post the analysis tomorrow, but you can navigate to the originating site and find the analysis now if you are impatient.

The charm for me of this little gem is that either you see it immediately, or you have to work out the logic.  You can get the correct answer either way, but having that sudden flash of insight is special.

After you work it out, go back and look at the post on dice in which A beats B on the average, and B beats C on the average, and C beats A on the average.  How are these two puzzles different?

Google Explains Ranking

Depending on how much you really would like to know, a Google employee explains how Google’s ranking works. Well, not exactly. He actually explains the mechanics on how it works without explaining the secret sauce that goes into the process. But if you would like to read the spec’s from a ranking team member, this article is for you. The article states:

Google ranking is a collection of algorithms used to find the most relevant documents for a user query. We do this for hundreds of millions of queries a day, from a collection of billions and billions of pages. These algorithms are run for every query entered into most of Google’s search services. While our web search is the most used Google search service and the most widely known, the same ranking algorithms are also used – with some modifications – for other Google search services, including Images, News, YouTube, Maps, Product Search, Book Search, and more.

The most common question I get asked about Google’s ranking is “how do you do it?” Of course, there is a lot that goes into building a state-of-the-art ranking system like ours, and I will delve deeper into the technology behind it in a later post. Today, I would like to briefly share the philosophies behind Google ranking:

1) Best locally relevant results served globally.
2) Keep it simple.
3) No manual intervention.

There will be a second installment with a further indepth analysis about ranking and how it is done.

Comments welcome.


Microsoft Bear – So Says A Fool

Every once in awhile you read an article that really stands out at you and so it was when I read The Motley Fool recommendation about Microsoft. Some unkind words are flung at the Redmond giant, some of which have been known for some time. But what is surprising is how TMF accesses Vista & Office and how these products may eventually  may be the achilles heel that brings down the mighty software company. How true is this read? You decide and leave your comments.

Over at the MTF it states:

You don’t need to watch the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercials to see that Microsoft is taking a beating. You see it in the company’s financials where its online unit, incredibly, is operating at a loss; overheating Xbox 360 consoles find the company taking a huge warranty hit for a system losing market share to the Wii; and the upgrade wave of its flagship operating system has been more of a ripple than a tsunami.

That last point is important. This was supposed to be Microsoft’s final feast, the major last hurrah for its Windows Vista operating entry and its Office 2007 suite of applications before the inevitable embrace of cheaper open source operating systems and Web-based apps.

Delays didn’t heighten anticipation. They only let the apathy simmer in a crock pot of interminable indifference. Despite the hubbub over Vista’s features, revenue inched just 15% higher in fiscal 2007. The company is guiding investors to expect a 15% to 17% advance this fiscal year. Then that’s all she wrote — make that all she coded — for Microsoft. Analysts expect the top line to inch just 10% higher next year.

In fact, even Microsoft will tell you that its fortunes peaked several months ago. After a blowout fiscal first quarter (that ends in September for Mr. Softy), the company’s guidance implies a 12% to 14% top-line gain through the final nine months of the current fiscal year.

Forget the fact that it’s Apple‘s (Nasdaq: AAPL) Leopard that is winning the critical praise. Forget the fact that companies like Google and Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE) are jumping into the cloud computing realm where productivity software applications are served on the cheap in cyberspace.

All you really need to ask yourself is why you’re invested in Microsoft in the first place. Is it because the company’s dominance happens to be in the high-margin software space? That palatial estate is toast, my friend. Is it because Microsoft is such a brute that it can make up the distance in emerging growth areas the way it always has with its Web browsers and productivity suites — by simply bundling them in new PCs? Man, that kind of thinking is as outdated as Y2K.

Comments welcome.

Complete article is here.

[tags]microsoft, motley, fool, analysis, bear,  [/tags]

Windows Automatic Update – Settings Changing After Update

Microsoft is reporting they they have been receiving complaints from users, that their settings for Windows Automatic Update, have been changed by what appears to be a previous Windows update. The microsoft team wants your help to try and determine how this is happening, since they are unable to confirm that a update is responsible. On their blog they state:

We have been hearing some questions recently regarding Tuesday’s update release changing automatic updating settings.  We have received some logs from customers, and have so far been able to determine that their AU settings were not changed by any changes to the AU client itself and also not changed by any updates installed by AU.


We are still looking into this to see if another application is making this change during setup with user consent, or if this issue is related to something else.  We are continuing the investigation, and as I have more information I will update this post.


If you are running into this issue, your help would be greatly appreciated.  You can contact support, and they can walk you through the steps necessary to provide logs and other useful data.

They further describe the foloowing as well:


[Updated]  As discussed above, we have been looking into reports of AU settings changing during the recent security release, and here is what we have found:


  • From the customer logs that we received, we found that none of the updates released as part of the October security release have made any changes to users’ AU settings. In fact, in the logs we reviewed, AU in all cases was set to “install updates automatically” prior to the October security release.
  • I want to stress that the Windows Update client does not change AU settings without user’s consent. However, AU settings can be set or changed in the following scenarios:
    • During the installation of Windows Vista, the user chooses one of the first two recommended options in the “Out of Box Experience” and elects to get updates automatically from Windows
    • The user goes to the Windows Update Control Panel and changes the AU setting manually
    • The user goes to Security Center in Windows Vista and changes the AU setting
    • The user chooses to opt in to Microsoft Update from the Microsoft Update web site
    • The user chooses to opt in to Microsoft Update during the installation or the first run experience of another Microsoft application such as Office 2007

 So if you have become a victim of this behavior may I suggest you pass on your problem to Microsoft for analysis.


Complete article here.
 Comments welcome.

[tags]microsoft, windows, update, settings, changes, reports, support, information, analysis, [/tags]

Scot Finnie – June Newsletter – Mac VS PC Analysis

In his June Newsletter Scot Finnie has a very good article on his opinion of the Mac vs PC, and as he states in his opinion, he is in a good position to compare both systems. As I had previously mentioned, Scot has made the switch to a Mac after years of using and writing about a PC. Yes, it was a shock at first reading about his changing over, but I have always respected his reasoning for doing so. In his June newsletter he stated:

The debate about whether — or not — Macs are more expensive than PCs has been raging on the Internet for more than a decade. There are some hard realities about the discussion, and there are also some myths. As a longtime Windows guy who has recently migrated to the Mac, I think I’m in a good position to put this discussion into honest context.

For all those people who have ever bought Packard Bell or eMachines PCs — and who continue to believe that great value in a Windows computer is any model that sells for $600 or less — I agree: Apple doesn’t have an answer for you. In fact, I suggest you skip this article entirely. You’re not going to find anything of interest.

So I stopped reading immediately as per the instructions. My personal opinion is this. Most of us, that being anything over 51% of the population, do not need a $3k machine or higher. Those systems are designed for the real people who actually use their computers for real work. :-) Most people use their computers for checking their email, surfing the web, playing solitaire and writing an occasional letter or two if forced into it.

I always like to compare cars to computers. We have all owned that old vehicle that has nickled us to death. We dumped it not because we wanted to, but because it was not economically wise to keep pumping bucks into the old machine. Same with old computer systems. It is just not a wise decision to sometimes do a costly repairs such as a mobo or cpu replacement when new systems are so inexpensive.

Taking this philosophy one step further, and using the cars vs computers comparison, I can make a case between buying a Mercedes vs a Lexus. I am sure if I worked real hard and added every feature onto the Lexus that I could get the pricing equal or near equal to a Mercedes, than conclude that the Mercedes is a better deal. But the fact remains that the majority of the people do not drive either vehicle, and that there are more sub-$30k vehicles on the roads than the high enders.

Conclusion: The Mac will remain a specialty item as long as Apple is satisfied with a 5% market share. Which I personally believe is just fine. If Mercedes came out with a sub-$20k car to compete against Toyota, Honda or whoever, they would lose their mystic and cheapen their product line. Apple should remain a niche market product that caters to the computer aficionado’s and not us PC peasants. LOL

Besides, us PC users like a road filled with pain and discomfort!

Comments welcome.

Scots newsletter here.

[tags]newsletter, scot finnie, mac, pc, analysis, [/tags]

Lessons Of A Lifetime

A reader of the column I write on tutoring seniors wrote in recently to point out that an incident I described in that column really was an example of how to use (or misuse) rational thought in making decisions. The incident involved installing a wireless repeater in my client’s house so they could get coverage from one end to the other. I have set up several wireless networks, but never had occasion to install a repeater. Getting it working correctly involved a series of decisions that were based on totally inadequate data, but like most decisions, it worked.

The adventure started when they complained about the limited range of their access point, and I had happened to see an advertisement for on off-brand repeater on sale at Fry’s. We discussed possibilities, and they said they would like to try it. So I bought a cheapie unit and, sure enough, the software that came with it was minimal, and the documentation almost written in English. I could not get it to talk to their system. At this point the decision making paradigms come into play. I could have returned it or kept playing with settings. But you have to fold into the decision-making matrix the cost of my time and inconvenience to the clients weighed against such things as my desire to learn how to do what should have been a simple task. Oh, yes, there is also the little matter of not wanting to leave the scene with egg on my face.

I decided that performing a new function in front of customers was an error. We all make that mistake. So to recover, I took the repeater home to try it on my system. That worked. I did everything as I did before, but now it worked. Here is another decision point. Did I do something wrong the first time, or was there a basic incompatibility? At this point, I would have been justified in trying again, but instead of risking further flailing in front of customers, I returned the cheapie unit and purchased a repeater of the same brand as my client’s router.

Having learned my lesson about performing in public, I installed their new repeater on my home system first. This was another decision. What was the rationale for this action? After all, the bad unit worked on my system, so what did I expect of the more expensive one? I buttoned it back up and took it to their house where it came up immediately and everyone seems to be happy.

Why did I exchange units? The replacement one cost almost three times as much. Class costs – right? Well, no. I could give you counter-examples of the lack of correlation between the price of an object and its utility. So cost was a factor, but not a driver. That is, I thought the probability of getting a working unit would correlate with price, but not guarantee success. What really swayed me was the idea of sticking with the same brand. Standard protocols and interchangeability are great ideas, but not all manufacturers stick to the standards. I thought that the probability of units from the same manufacturer being compatible was higher than the probability of compatibility of units from competing manufacturers even though both claim to meet industry standards. This conjecture was partially confirmed at Fry’s when I exchanged units. The salesperson said that even sticking within brands is risky because they tend to be finicky – and this came from a person who was trying to sell a unit! That was more data to feed into my internal decision-making process.

Now throughout this process did I mentally made a decision tree and apply Bayesian theory? Did I make a mental payoff matrix and optimize my return? Of course not. But on a more informal basis, the lessons of a lifetime have been assimilated such that I was indeed considering the various tradeoffs without even bothering. That is one benefit of at least having a nodding acquaintance with the proper way to analyze input.

In response to the interest my original tutorial generated, I have completely rewritten and expanded it. Check out the tutorial availability through Lockergnome. The new version is over 100 pages long with chapters that alternate between discussion of the theoretical aspects and puzzles just for the fun of it. Puzzle lovers will be glad to know that I included an answers section that includes discussions as to why the answer is correct and how it was obtained. Most of the material has appeared in these columns, but some is new. Most of the discussions are expanded compared to what they were in the original column format.

[tags]experience, decision theory, analysis, data[/tags]

Are All Cows In Scotland Black?

In my column on decision theory and statistics in the IT Pro section, I warn about the error of basing a decision on non-random distributions. There is an old story about an engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician hiking on a scenic trail in Scotland. They see a black cow standing on a hill in front of them. “Look,” the engineer says, “I didn’t know that all cows in Scotland are black.”

“What nonsense,” replied the physicist, “You have only seen a sample of one. The best you can say is that some cows in Scotland are black. You would have to make more observations to determine the fraction of the total that are black to some accuracy.”
Continue reading “Are All Cows In Scotland Black?”