Thursday, March 29, 2007


"I'm just a jealous guy". Reading the news about Oracle acquiring Tangosol instantly brought John Lennon's voice in my head. It's Tangosol of course that I'm jealous of. As a matter of fact, I don't know of anyone who would be jealous of Oracle. Larry himself is a different story. He's got that ultra-luxurious feng shui mansion of his that I would die for, but I guess that's what you would expect from a gazillionaire. Tangosol, on the other hand are (or at least were) some regular guys just like me, working their asses off developing software. Except that I'm a software developer of the garden-variety, whereas they're of the genius one.

Still, I don't believe that's the only thing that made them filthy rich. At least I hope they are filthy rich. I don't have any inside information, but from what I've seen on the Net, Cameron Purdy & friends are really nice guys and absolutely deserved to be rewarded like Sultans. Something that cannot be said about other Java celebrities, that are now dancing with their red hats in their own dollar ponds. Anyway. Acquisitions are very hot lately with RedHat acquiring JBoss and Exadel, IONA acquiring C24, BEA acquiring SolarMetric, etc. It appears that the dot-com bust days are behind us for good.

What I particularly like about Tangosol is that they appear to have made it without any VC funding. Hats off to them if that is the case. We've been trying to pull the same lonely stunt where I work and it has been really hard so far. Most people we talk to, consider it a raving success that we're still hanging on our own after seven years, in such a small and distorted market. I mean, yeah, in theory we're doing the right thing, but if you consider the way the IT services sector functions in Greece, it's pretty much a leap of faith. The reasons are manifold:

Small market: many small fish can survive in a big pond, but as the pond gets smaller, the big fish have to eat more than their fair share to survive. And if they ever sense the inner fear of survival, then you can forget about level playing fields and gentle sports. Getting a contract gets ugly.
Cost sensitive market: being the best girl in town isn't as important as being the cheapest. You may be providing cutting-edge technology, state-of-the-art solutions, or the cure to world hunger, but unless you can beat their price, you are irrelevant. This should come as no surprise if one considers the characteristics of Greek economy. Large state sector, small private sector. State is a big spender, but non-deterministic in meeting obligations, payments, even deadlines. On the other hand private companies are obsessed with shrinking costs and conservative spending. It is sad how few companies actually consider Information Technology as something that would significally affect their competitiveness, ergo their bottom line.
Risk-averse VCs: VCs, like everybody else around here, would like to make big bucks without doing anything hard or, heaven forbid, risky. Recently I've heard of a successful Greek startup in microelectronics that failed to attract Greek VC funding, despite the exceptional prospects of their business plan. What the VCs told them, was that they couldn't back them, but if they could find foreign VCs willing to invest, then they would ride along. That's like saying, hey, I'm rather incompetent at evaluating business plans, but if you can find someone who knows this stuff and says it's OK, then I'll join you guys! Yeah, like we'll need your sorry arse then. What a bunch of wimps. From personal experience, when we were presenting our business plan to a local VC once, the guy that would evaluate it was at the same time preparing his proposal on a different business plan, from a local tavern. Judging by his eventual comments on our business plan, he must have had a hard time figuring out which is which.

It's funny, but I can't think of a single acquisition in the IT sector in Greece that was made in order to obtain the valuable IP of the acquired company or to enhance the product or solution portfolio of the acquirer. Here, big companies usually buy smaller ones in order to get a grip on their distribution channels, or to expand their customer base and get some more leads.

Maybe they are right. After all, who ever prospered around here by simply being better? Perhaps only in the souvlaki business.

Lucky bastards those Tangosol guys. The Oracle thing was easy. Pfff. Come and pull this stunt in Greece if you dare!

Monday, March 26, 2007


I've been meaning to start blogging for quite some time now, but I never seemed to make it. Too much real life I guess. It wasn't just thinking about doing it, I even made a list of issues I'd like to talk about and then did some brief outlines, too. I could never find a good first post though that I actually liked. By that I don't mean the very contents of the post. Nah, I don't remember ever liking one single thing I wrote after finishing it. No, I just wanted to write about something that would seem appropriate, you know? Something that would define the posts that would follow, give meaning to the blog, a definitive statement, a raison d' ĂȘtre.

Most people start their blogs by talking about who they are and what they are going to talk about and how they are going to be different from everyone else, like its some kind of audition for a play or something. Or maybe a commercial ("My blog, my world: the hidden treasures. Coming soon in a theater near you"). Well, I suck at advertising, particularly at advertising myself. I suppose it stems from my father, who sucks at it too, although his day job would have you think he didn't. I honestly can't think of a single reason you should read my blog. I probably wouldn't. Chances are I don't read yours, so you don't owe me any favors, either.

Yet, I still feel like blogging, you know? Occasionally. Not always. Sometimes I have some thoughts I'd like to save for posterity. For my daughter, maybe, or her future kids. I know I'd be thrilled if I came across a private journal of my grandfather and actually came to know him in a way I never did before.

So I was planning to start a private blog and keep it hush hush, but this plan went south. My long time friend and avid blogger adamo, tagged me. No, not that old joke we did at school, where we wrote "moron" on a sticker, put it on our palm and pat the victim on the back, I've learned that well by now. Instead, it's a rather girly thing that goes on in the blogosphere, in the spirit of "I'll show you mine, if you show me yours". Anyway, I was never an alpha-male kind of guy anyway, so that girliness didn't bother me at all.

What he did show me and the rest of the Internet, is a list of his favorite movies and asked me to return the favor. Apparently some other bloke tagged him by showing him his list, and passing the torch. Now, of course, I didn't consider to fall for this chain-letter blogging thing, especially in light of the fact I wasn't a blogger. Little did that deter him, though. He suggested that I post a comment on his blog with my list. That's like being the kid outside the tennis court that picks up the balls and throws the champs a towel when they are resting. I ain't no darn kid! Hell, I'm older than he is. I still had no blog though. So, I decided to pretend I didn't hear about it and let it go. Unfortunately, he didn't. I should have known better, the man doesn't let go so easily. He mailed. He phoned. I ran out of excuses. Then it dawned on me: that list would make an excellent first blog post! It is sort of defining, without being very literal, it is something I wanted to save for future reference and it definitely is something I like talking about. Not to mention I would get him off my back.

Not that I will read any of it after I write it. I'll probably puke. But what else is knew, right? At least that's what I figured. I'm probably terribly mistaken here and the white wine in my glass doesn't help either, but anyway here it goes. My very own Favorite Movies List. Not the best movies I've seen, not the most acclaimed ones, definitely not the most entertaining I've ever watched. Just the ones that changed my life. The ones that shaped it, in content and in form. The ones I'd like to take with me in the flaming boat on my way to Valhalla.

I wasn't sure about how many entries I was supposed to put on the list. Adamo had eleven. Go figure. The guy that tagged him had seven. I traced the origin of this meme and the originator had seven as well. So I decided to stick by the rules of Number One. Seven it is. Seven Is The Number And The Number Must Be Seven. Six Will Not Do. Eight Is Out Of The Question. You get the picture. Now, speaking of pictures:

The Age of Innocence

Scorsese's masterpiece. A film about freedom, love and loss, filmed with exceptional craftsmanship. It taught me that one can live a life without the thing he wanted the most and yet have the courage to make his life more than just bearable. Living a pretentious life in a conservative world, but still keeping the fire that burns within. Favorite scene, the mesmerizing beauty of Michelle Pfeiffer fading to red or yellow as a hint of Daniel-Day Lewis's emotions towards her. I've experienced this one myself once. A pair of eyes, a pair of lips, fade to red. Second best, the scene of a dinner, where there is a civil conversation taking place, where few things are being said and much more are being implied. In the course of the dinner, Daniel-Day Lewis's character discovers that he has been isolated from his friends and surrounded by enemies, after a series of vicious insinuations. This is wonderfully underlined by the camera movement, that starts at the table level, presenting regular close ups of the dinner participants, then gradually moves upwards and away from the table to reveal a jail-like room with closed doors and servant-guards all around. I've almost melted a cassette with the film's soundtrack from excessive usage.

Picnic at Hanging Rock

A strong contender for the first spot in my list. This early work by Peter Weir, my favorite film director, appears to be a detective story. But appearances can be deceiving. It is actually a mystery film, full of questions but with only a few (if any) answers. It pictures the everlasting conflict between Nature and Civilization, Freedom and Strictness in a beautifully haunting atmosphere. Perhaps not merely the conflict, but more likely the duality of these concepts, in a sort of Yin-Yang way. Mountains that appear to be alive, girls pictured as paintings. Adolescence, maturation and the long journey in the unknown to adultness.

Anatomy of a Murder

The film that made me love Jazz. James Stewart as s small town lawyer that lives happily, fishing with his pal (Walter Brennan's voice is a classic by itself) and listening to Duke Ellington. The guy is living a quiet but happy life, yet when challenged with a tough murder case, he shows the effectiveness of a big-city lawyer. A hint that living a challenging, high-paced, career-dominated life is not the only way to go. The image that still haunts me goes something like this: an armchair; a fireplace; a bourbon; Duke Ellington in the air; happiness.

The Verdict

Made by a dream team of film makers (Sidney Lumet, David Mamet, Paul Newman, Jack Warden, James Mason), a film without any pretentious artistic value, but soaked in pure soul power. A soul's journey from death to rebirth and an eternal lesson that when you hit rock bottom, things can only get better afterwards. The main theme is a fight of David against Goliath, but with a feverishly cunning Goliath and David having to confront himself first and foremost. Also, a story where love and betrayal serve as a reminder that one can only count on oneself.

Rio Bravo

You'd think that this would be another run-of-the-mill cowboys-on-horses-and-sheriffs-with-badges kind of movie. Well, that would definitely be a way to experience it. In a deeper level though, this film is actually an ode to friendship and a reminder that bravery is pretty much another word for integrity. There are no heroes, just people who stood by their beliefs when the shit hit the fan. Four men stuck inside a jail house, surrounded by hired gunfighters, struggling to hold on until the marshal arrives. The sheriff, a drunk, a cripple and a young gun. The everlasting question: which side are you on? The Easy side or the Right side?

War Games

The film that made me a computer engineer. Artificial Intelligence, computer networking, war dialing, hacking, and the revelation that you can't win at tic-tac-toe. For a young teenager it was definitely the best career advice I could get at the time. Eventually, it even affected my PhD dissertation, but you can't quote me on that. It's funny (or sad) how different things turned out to be when I actually encountered military computer geeks.


A wonderful spy movie and a hint that old-timers like John Frankenheimer can have a refreshing view on a traditional theme. My main interest in the film is the character of Robert De Niro. A former spy, wise but sad at the same time, without the usual glitter and glory, but full of loneliness and repressed desires. I always thought that if I ever made a spy movie, it would feel something like Ronin. Darn. No point in doing it now, I guess.

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