Wednesday, August 31, 2005

IBM publishes Cell processor docs

"Earlier this year, IBM, Sony, and Toshiba disclosed the architectural design of the jointly developed, multi-core 'Cell' processor, described as featuring eight synergistic processors, with supercomputer-like floating-point performance and clock speeds in excess of 4 GHz. At the time, the companies claimed that Cell delivers 'vastly improved, real-time response for entertainment and rich media applications, in many cases 10 times the performance of the latest PC processors.' Examples of anticipated applications include digital televisions, home servers, and supercomputers."

ARRLWeb: Amateur Radio Volunteers Involved in Katrina Recovery

"NEWINGTON, CT, Aug 31, 2005--UPDATED--Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) volunteers in Louisiana are engaged in the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort, and more are waiting in the wings to help as soon as they can enter storm-ravaged zones. Winds and flooding from the huge storm wreaked havoc in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama after Katrina came ashore early Monday, August 29. Louisiana ARES Section Emergency Coordinator Gary Stratton, K5GLS, told ARRL that some 250 ARES members have been working with relief organizations and emergency management agencies. Much of the affected areas remain flooded and dangerous, however. As a result, state officials have not allowed emergency or other units to enter the flooded zones, and there is still no communication with many coastal areas."

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Sun dethroned in Unix market--maybe | CNET

"For Linux servers, Gartner ranked IBM top with $420,000 in sales in a market segment that grew 32 percent to $1.5 billion in the quarter. HP was second with $363,000, and Dell third at $253,000."

CNET regularly misplaces its decimal points. Adding the top three items from a column that adds up to 1.5 billion SHOULD produce a number well over a million, unless that list of Linux suppliers is VERY VERY long.

LXer: 10 Days as a Linux User: A GNU Perspective on things - The Rebuttal

"Do I have contempt for Clarence? Not really. From what I read, I would consider his worldview one that represents decadence. I don't find anything inherently wrong with decadence. But, you won't find much sympathy for his tears in Bangladesh or Bagdad."

Friday, August 26, 2005

Cringely . August 25, 2005 - Has Google Peaked?

"What if Apple introduces OS 10.5, its next super-duper operating system release, and at the same time starts loading FOR FREE the current operating system version -- OS 10.4 -- on every new iPod in a version that runs on generic Intel boxes? What if they also make 10.4 a free download through the iTunes Music Store?"

Seems a bit of a stretch to me. A big one in fact. There is no evidence for Google having peaked. Comparing Apple and Google, just the opposite in fact.

Apple Market Cap: 37.96B

Google Market Cap: 79.19B

Update: Seems Apple has outshone Google lately, despite my expectations. I'll stick by my guess that eventually competition with Dell will not be good for Apple. They will be just another Intel box, and they won't be alone in the online music business for long.

Survey: Apps Availability Drives Choice Between Linux, Windows

"While 92 percent of Rackspace's Linux customers and 60 percent of Rackspace's Windows customers said they feel that Microsoft's operating systems are more vulnerable to security threats, Microsoft remains the fastest growing part of Rackspace's business."


"In the end, however, the company found that Windows ends up costing about 20 percent more because of additional software costs and the need for additional hardware to support the same number of applications."


"Thus, Rackspace found that its clients continue to choose Windows, despite it being more expensive and less secure, because of accessible developer talent and availability of integrated tools.

The buying decision itself was driven at a relatively low level. Application developers and IT departments are still making the operating system choice. "

Which is why the Dilbert cartoon will always be popular. Moronic decisions will continue to be made by incompetent middle managers until the cumulative effect of those decisions eventually overwhelms the bottom line of those (mostly US) companies. That is, unless litigation costs for security issues don't get them first.

DTV Beta: Internet TV On Your Mac


BBC NEWS | Education | 'Men cleverer than women' claim

Oh my. I can feel the good-times grinding to a halt as we speak.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Brigitte Bardot calls for halt to use of puppies as shark bait

"The French Society for the Protection of Animals (SPA) told the daily the dog was the victim of cruel fishermen who attract sharks by throwing puppies or kittens into the water, tied to fishing lines, and wait for the predators to swallow the thrashing animals."

Ooh, another reason to hate the French.

Yahoo Ad System Crashes, Still Down� And Other Things

"Yahoo search spokesperson Gaude Paez told MarketingVOX Wednesday evening that the upgrade caused 'unexpected issues,' and that their engineers were working around the clock to fix the problem. "

I read the other day where people at Yahoo were working under Death-March conditions to compete with Google and this may be one example. I wonder if it is true.

One thing that appears to be different about Google, so far at least, is that people their are NOT working ridiculous hours and killing themselves to "beat" anybody.

They are also regularly releasing new products and features that lead the pundit class to ask: "what is the catch?"

Well, of course the catch is advertising. Google sells, to my knowledge only three things, advertising, the Google box, and items from the gift shop. Clearly the main thrust is the advertising model, unlike Microsoft that makes most of its money, not on selling copies of Windows, but on new PCs being sold with copies of Windows already installed. Unlike Yahoo who has a more mixed bag of advertising, for-pay software, and joint marketing deals.

In a way, Yahoo is in a sweet spot between Google and Microsoft. If the way Microsoft is doing things is right, then at least Yahoo is half-right, and if the Google model makes more long-term sense then Yahoo is far out ahead of Microsoft in making the transition.

Microsoft's biggest concern has to be that the notion of an "Internet Appliance" will catch on in a big way and people will be demanding a turnkey system that cannot be "hacked" and for which they do not have to buy frequent software updates. The jig is up on the unwritten pact between Microsoft and Intel where that latter builds faster and faster hardware as the former build slower and slower software. There is a limit on how bloated you can make a system and still have it behave predictably, and that limit was passed long ago by Windows.

Microsoft has a great deal in place, for as long as it lasts. Other than pleasing stock analysts, I can't see why any of these three companies should be panicked. But rumor has it that Yahoo is.

So, I asked myself, from a management perspective, what it is that Google is doing right with respect to the other two?

I think the answer to this is that they are not asking themselves "what is the catch?" They are not worrying at each stage of development "how does this new product or feature mesh seamlessly with all the others so as to lock users into using only Google products?" To me that is Microsoft's biggest weakness, a well deserved reputation for locking users into their products often quite against their will. Yahoo, as the "in-between" company does a bit of this too. I MUST use a web interface to use Yahoo mail (for free anyway) which means I pretty much must use their address book and calendar too. I'm forced to see the Yahoo ads, but can totally avoid them with at least some of the Google solutions.

As far as software for the PC, Google is releasing everything for Windows first (not a stupid move), but they are also promising Linux and Apple versions, and in a few cases have started to deliver such.

My guess is that nobody at Google is particularly focused on what order their products come out. "When they are finished" is probably as good a strategy as any, whereas in Microsoft's shoes, you don't want similar products stepping on one another's toes, and for maximum lock-in, order of release, and outright product suppression can be important strategies. It must be tough to work your heart out on some new feature at Microsoft and then find that the feature must be held back for marketing rather than technical reasons. I don't think such frustration exists at Google. At Yahoo, however, there is clearly some frustration these days. Why else would a major change to the advertising software go into production without adequate testing?

Self Healing Applications

"This tutorial chronicles the building of an autonomic computing system that monitors a Java application to demonstrate the ability to detect and resolve issues within the system, a problem determination scenario. In the autonomic computing world, a problem determination scenario is one in which you can demonstrate how an overall system can detect, diagnose, and resolve problems. The Problem Determination Scenario, which you can download from the developerWorks Autonomic computing content area, is an example of a system that does just that by showing you how you can use the various pieces of the Autonomic Computing Toolkit together. In this tutorial, you can follow along and create each piece of our own simple problem determination scenario, which will give you an in-depth understanding of key autonomic computing concepts by using the Generic Log Adapter Runtime and Rule sets, the Resource Model Builder, and the Autonomic Management Engine."

US getting fatter, faster

"Overall 64.5 per cent of the country is either overweight or obese. Projections suggest that this figure will rise to 73 per cent in the next three years, the BBC reports. We would have illustrated this with a pie chart, but fear this would only accelerate the crisis."

Yum, pie!

(Free) Upgrade Turns Into (for pay) Release

"The software maker changed course after recognizing that the performance, availability and other improvements it was making to the product 'passed the bar' to move it from service pack to product release, said Zane Adam, a director of marketing in the company's Windows Server division."

What you want to bet that the genesis of this was a memo from the accounting department.

Google Gets Better. What's Up With That? - New York Times

"Its mission, in fact, is far grander. Google Talk aims to end the ridiculous era of proprietary chat networks. At the moment, AOL, MSN and Yahoo each maintain separate, incompatible networks. The big boys each want to be alone in the sandbox, and the losers are their customers."

And you read it here first.

IBM, Sony, Toshiba push Cell chip beyond games

"But the Sony-Toshiba-IBM group has had a difficult time selling Cell outside its own sphere of influence. The triumvirate signed its first outside customer only in June, when Mercury Computer Systems, which makes machines for petroleum companies and defense contractors, said it would adopt the chip for some of its future computers."

Intel Says Forget Megahertz And Gigahertz -

"NEW YORK - In the future, how will geeks brag about their computers to friends? Intel Chief Executive Paul Otellini says megahertz and gigahertz is out, and 'performance per watt' is in. "


Well I like efficient processors. But I think we need a new term. Something nutty, you know like ... Shitzsohertz.

Intel Details New Microprocessors

"The new chips, expected to become available in the second half of 2006, are partly based on the design in the Pentium M the processor component of the company's popular Centrino technology for notebook computers. It also will share some features with the Pentium 4 underlying architecture."

Perry Mason: In point of fact Mr. Intel, isn't it true that your so called "New Architecture" isn't just a souped up version of your old architecture and this is just more marketing hype rather than true innovationn?

Intel: Bu.. but, competition is so fierce right now I... I...

And Intel must be lead from the witness stand in tears after blurting out a confesion of committing MoreOfTheSame.

Perry Mason: I have no further questions your honor.

Viruses: The New Weapon of Choice for Workplace Violence Offenders

"A recent study sponsored by Risk Control Strategies, a threat management and risk assessment firm, found that an overwhelming majority of 223 security and human resources executives who manage between 500 and 900 employees said workplace violence is a bigger problem now than it was two years ago. As a result, 23% said employees have intentionally and maliciously downloaded viruses over the past 12 months. The study found that hitting employees in the pocketbook is prompting the burgeoning retaliation."

So, I wonder what pissed off all those CNN and ABC News employees recently?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Rocketboom goes off the deep end as well

Is it a full moon?

First, they attempt to go "dumpster diving" which Amanda thinks is an acrobatic activity (really now?) Next they sneak into an unused part of a freight yard somewhere and get caught by a security guard. Has the left-wing politics schtick taken them just a bit over the edge maybe?

I know dealing with actual issues, (or even technology, Dan Gillmor) is a lot of work, and we are having some nice sunny weather, but cool it guys, you are making the left seem even loopier than it seemed before, if that's possible.

Hint: Dumpster diving is probably not something best done in New York. But in any locale, a high tech store or high tech office building is where you want to do it. I also think flip-flops are a bad idea. Really, if at all possible I'd find an old NASA space suit, unless you are pretty sure there is no rotting food, rats, and other crawly things in there. Stories of people pulling out fully working PCs, including high-end servers out of those things are interesting, but rare. People going for a meal, well thats just sad, and not something to make light of.

Pat Robertson: Liar, Too | Bayosphere

When he worked for an actual newspaper I USED to think of Dan Gillmor as a tech journalist. Lately he seems to have come unhinged a bit. Did they confiscate his Rollodex when he left the paper? All that's coming out lately is trite politics. Maybe that's all Bayosphere is supposed to be, an extension to maybe? Anyway, it's rapidly losing my interest.

Nasty Games of Hide and Seek in the Registry

"What started like a nice and quiet day ended with the potential for lots of nasty surprises. A reader alerted us to a vulnerability note published by Secunia that on first sight did not appear to be overly scary. Once we started to play with it, though, the nastiness became apparent: An overly long registry entry can be added, but won't be shown by regedit and regedt32. Even better, all registry entries that get added afterward under the same key, even if not overly long, will be hidden as well.

[Pause, to give your wheels some time to spin]

Yes. This allows to add hidden entries under the famous HKLM\Software\MS\Windows\CV\Run. Entries that you can't see with regedit, but that will just as faithfully get run at startup. "

Oh I love the Registry.

Introduced, I think, as early as Windows 95, it had very limited uses, as many programs continued to use the well known, easy to use and understand, and most importantly localized ".ini" files. This old system allowed you to uninstall Windows software by simply deleting the folder it was in! While not perfect, the ".ini" system solves many problem that the far more complicated Registry creates. All the hype over how wonderful the Registry was is what first made me suspicious that there was a screw loose in the Microsoft architecture department (not that they actually have such a thing).

David Card - Pre-emptive IM Strike from MSN

Well, I didn't know that Jupiter Media were shills for Microsoft, but I'll add them to that list...

"MSN called a quick briefing as a preemptive strike against a rumored Google IM announcement. Microsoft exec Blake Irving even admitted that was the reason for the call -- that otherwise, who'd announce a dot release? When have you ever Microsoft say that kind of thing?"

The Geekspeak eludes me here. Is the claim being made that Microsoft never releases beta software? By many accounts the software they SELL is Beta level. Who's he trying to kid?

"Anyway, MSN Messenger 7.5 has improvements in audio, interoperability, safety, and fun stuff."

Well, that's nice. Does it run on Linux too? I rather like the built-in iChat when I'm running OS X and on Linux, nobody beats Gaim. I even HAVE an MSN id on that, but unfortunately, nobody I know has one (any more) so it's not doing me a lot of good. Fortunately Gaim handles lots of IDs with little overhead.

"- Claims a new stack gives better VOIP quality than VOIP."

Translation: We are fixing Windows up to favor our voice enabled tools over anyone else's. Our "open" documentation on these interfaces will be available to other developers in a dozen years or so.

"- 'Interoperability' means the Vodafone connection is rolling out - nothing new on AIM interoperability (the only one that counts)."

Will that be a "dot release"? If MSN and AOL wanted to, they could sit right down and cut a deal to make their two clients interoperate. As it is, Gaim beats them both, even on Windows. Google is offering to make everything work together at the server level, one ID to talk to everyone. That is an i-n-n-o-v-a-t-i-o-n in case you aren't familiar with such things.

"- Safety means you can turn links and file transfers off (it's binary: off or on, no varying for different buddies)."

Well, I don't know what this is about. Some perceived flaw in the Windows client I guess. Nobody REALLY interested in security is using Windows, so it is a moot point. I'm fairly certain that the Google client for Windows will remain a cleaner, less buggy, and safer interface in the long run. Does anyone really have any doubts about that?

"- Fun stuff is animated backgrounds -- good for sponsored promotions."

Again, Google has opened the door for people to talk to its users through whatever interface they choose, even the MSN Messenger. All MS has to do is walk through the door. I'll stick with the no-frills interface. I hate seeing my computer operating at 80 percent CPU when I'm not using it. Call me a kooky energy conservationist.

"Finally, MSN wants to remind everyone that it's got six years of experience in this stuff -- hear that, Sergey? -- and is sticking to its promise of thrice-yearly upgrades, so watch for more goodies in November."

We don't need to be reminded how much experience Microsoft has. Those years are painfully memorable. But we will get over them eventually.

"The upgrades are all fine, but I was actually more impressed by Irving's crisp articulation of the IM Big Picture. MSN is trying to move the conversation away from IM (defined as 'real-time text messaging,' how dull) to 'contacts.' I think they downplay presence management, but that's okay, presence sounds too much like AOL-friendly talk. As does Buddy Lists, but I can't break the habit."

Um. Apple did this already. Surprise!

The problem with the new things at Microsoft that interoperate so well (but only with other Microsoft things) is that most of them suck. Hotmail sucks, MSN Spaces sucks, and I have no need of their address book since it doesn't work with anything but the things that suck. I keep trying though. Every time MS comes out wit something new I try it (I like to try new things) and I'm here to tell you that the new Microsoft Earth thing doesn't suck so bad. They actually have better maps than Google in a few places. This seems to be the only thing in which they are competitive with Google. One to watch.

"Anyway, MSN gets it."

Well, they will soon.

Update: And looky here... only a day later and the same analyst is posting talking points from the MS press release as though he just thought them up. Shame.

Google IM (almost) gets the message, users say (CNET says)

"Google declined to comment. (Google representatives have instituted a policy of not talking with CNET reporters until July 2006 in response to privacy issues raised by a previous story.)"

Apparently CNET is taking it personally too as everything said about the product in this article is either untrue or misleading. Can CNET really hold its breath until it turns blue? Let's watch.

Google Talk

"1. What is 'service choice' and how does Google Talk enable it?

Service choice is something you have with email and, for the most part, with your regular phone service today. This means that regardless of whom you choose as your email service provider (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, your school or ISP, etc), you can email anyone who is using another service provider. The same applies to phone service. You can call someone even if they do not use the same phone company as you do. This allows you to choose your service provider based on other more important factors, such as features, quality of service, and price, while still being able to talk to anyone you want.

Unfortunately, the same is not true with most popular IM and VOIP networks today. If the people you want to talk to are all on different IM/VOIP services, you need to sign up for an account on each service and connect to each service to talk to them.

We plan to partner with other willing service providers to enable federation of our services. This means that a user on one service can communicate with users on another service without needing to sign up for, or sign in with, each service.

2. Whom are you federating with?

As a first step towards fulfilling our commitment to federation, we will federate with EarthLink and Sipphone, service providers who share our belief in enabling user choice and open communications."

Microsoft Monitor: Where's the Hoopla?

"Please tell me I'm not the only person on the planet--perhaps outside Microsoft--that remembers tomorrow, August 24, is the 10th anniversary of the Windows 95 release."

We going to celebrate the plague next?

Sony to launch P2P music swapping network

"Had such a flat fee, 'digital pool' or 'alternative compensation system' (ACS) been implemented in the aftermath of Napster, millions of dollars would have flowed to songwriters and rights holders. Indeed in 2000, Senator Orrin Hatch threatened RIAA members with a compulsory license scheme. However, weighed down by their libertarian baggage, digital rights advocates were slow to warm to the idea: the EFF only accepting the notion in February 2004 - and then only in a voluntary framework."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


"In the rest of the industrialized world, it is assumed that the more equally and widely the burdens of illness are shared, the better off the population as a whole is likely to be. The reason the United States has forty-five million people without coverage is that its health-care policy is in the hands of people who disagree, and who regard health insurance not as the solution but as the problem."

I'm not convinced, but this is one of the best arguments I have seen. I think everyone, including the poor, should have access to SOME sort of medical coverage, even though I don't see it as a Constitutionally guaranteed "right" (I think that word is overused already). Are things REALLY better in other countries? An OPEN examination of that question, unlike the "Hillary-care" fiasco might unambiguously answer that question.

Open Source: It's Still All about Control

"There is this delusion by some open-source opponents that open-source and free software is some kind of wild-eyed, long-haired socialist experiment by neo-hippies who don't bathe, don't have real jobs and sneer at the capitalist, work-a-day world.

The fact that IBM—capitalist company of capitalist companies!—has bet it all on Linux seems to have escaped them.

It's not just IBM though.

Despite the dopes who insist that there's no good reason to switch from Windows to Linux, Microsoft knows better. CEO Steve Ballmer himself counts Linux among the most significant challengers Microsoft faces—not because of anti-Microsoft bigots—but because there is a real business choice between Linux and Windows."

Well, I quoted half the article. But it was worth it...go read the rest! - Verizon, Yahoo to Offer Discounted DSL Service

"Separately, Verizon and Yahoo Inc. are executing a deal announced in January that would allow all of Verizon's broadband customers to access premium Yahoo services, such as digital photo sharing, for free. SBC also has a similar arrangement with Yahoo, which allows subscribers a customized browser and photo storage, among other things."

Oh boy! Another bait and switch Yahoo promotion! I can hardly wait.

I have never signed up for any Yahoo service involving money that didn't rapidly transmogrify into something either significantly useless or significantly more expensive. Oh, that excludes the services that just mysteriously vanished without notice. Their free services, in some cases, are worth about what you pay for them.

The only good thing I can think to say about this is that it must be better than the deal that Verizon made with Microsoft a year or so ago that was amazingly bad from the very beginning. Being offered at a "discount" was an array of service already available for free on the Internet. Plus it had the added bonus that I, a Linux user, had to install Windows on a separate PC just long enough to get my userid and password set up, because that is the only way that was provided (no web interface, you HAD to run a Windows program, sort of obvious what you are up to here isn't it MS?).

What is the deal with these "deals"? Is Verizon too incompetent to provide some of these services so they must rely on some "pros"? Or is money exchanging hands, as in, it's all arranged between the two marketing departments?

Whichever it is, the people responsible at these companies don't have a clue from a technology perspective. From a marketing perspective, they are getting a quick fix to their bottom line (maybe) at the expense of their company's long-term brand association with quality. While I'm a customer of both of these companies (Yahoo and Verizon) it's only while I look for alternatives, and with any luck, those alternatives are coming along nicely.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Mainframe Blog

Well, the article below yielded this interesting new blog about the old ways.

IBM wants to rejuvenate mainframe workforce | | CNET

"IBM and SHARE, a Big Blue user group, announced an effort Monday called zNextGen to train a new crop of mainframe experts. The name is a play on the zSeries name for the mainframe line. In the program, would-be mainframes can take courses at more than 150 universities, win programming prizes, become interns under the tutelage of SHARE members and read a mainframe blog.

IBM and SHARE announced the plan at the 50th anniversary meeting of the user group, which was founded just two years after Big Blue released its first computer. IBM has pledged to help train 20,000 professionals in mainframe operations by 2010."

*Waves old tattered resume*

From everything I've read (including the "new" virtual Intel architecture below) the PC world hasn't invented anything new, and is still busy reinventing everything old anyway. The central mainframe style set-up still makes a lot of sense, and all that's transpired is that we have nice colorful graphics, crappy keyboards, and a mouse.

But I won't hold my breath. People in this country seem hell bent to do nonsensical things and call it inovation. Let them wallow in it. *yawn*

Intel reveals next steps in virtualisation

Yeehaa! Next thing you know they will be calling it VM/370. Hey can you thow in all those mainframe instructions while you're at it? 1970's here we come!

Intel ready to begin Phase II of losing propaganda offensive | The Register

"Over the past two to three years, we've watched as Intel scoffed at the idea of x86-64-bit chips, preferring instead to insist that Itanium wasn't a huge failure. Intel also brushed off the multicore hype from the likes of IBM and Sun Microsystems. All the while, Intel plodded along, upping the GHz of its products and wrapping them with more and more cache. Then, one day, Intel woke up with a fleet of tubby, super-heated antiques on its hands and had to read about AMD signing up IBM, HP and Sun as server customers.

The big dog slipped up and had to change course - quick. Problem is the processor game requires long turnaround times."

Glad to see that this article is making liberal use of quotes when it mentions Intel's "new architecture".

Microsoft Monitor: Google IE

"My two cents: If Google really does turn IE into little more than a rendering engine, Microsoft will only have itself to blame. Wasn't the whole justification for making the browser part of Windows to make the rendering engine a platform, so that developers could make it part of their applications? Looks to me like Google is doing exactly that."

Sunday, August 21, 2005

TypePad - Compare Features, Then Go Use Blogger

I was just reading a blog that had recently gotten popular due to TV exposure (it doesn't matter which one though). One of the recent entries apologized for the site being unavailable for a while as they had exceeded their bandwidth limits. Bandwidth limits?!

With Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and I will stop there but could name dozens more, giving away space and bandwidth for blogs, photos, and even huge video files, how can a company justify charging (yes there is a fee to use this service even at the most basic level) for it and ALSO imposing bandwidth limits?

I have nothing against this outfit, I've even heard good things about their software, but I question whether they have a business model that makes sense any more.

Looking down their features list, yeah, I get most of that for free from Blogger. In fact, prior to using Blogger I was getting all that for free by running my blog on an old PC at home. After doing that for a couple years I decided "why bother?" and switched to Blogger. I now save the electricity cost of running that old laptop as a web server.

I wish these people well, but I also send out my well wishes to those offering such services for free, the longer we can postpone the day when the Internet becomes a pay-for-everything service like cable TV the better.

Second Life Relay For Life


Friday, August 19, 2005

How Microsoft Can Mend Fences

You know, with reference to the article below, I think there may be a way that Microsoft can kiss and make up with that part of the IT world (and I do mean world) who are not so easily swayed by marketing.

I have an old friend that I stay in touch with by e-mail. We were both "in the business"... IT business... for a good while, working together for a dozen years or more. I shared a statistic with him the other day that: a larger percentage of Windows users now feel that Microsoft is at least partially responsible for all the mal-ware we find on the Internet these days. For the first time, he didn't scoff at that notion. Progress. Although I've given up on trying to convince him or anyone else to change browsers, word processing programs, or especially operating systems. After you are identified as a fanatic, you, and everything you say are all the more easily dismissed.

I didn't arrive at my fanaticism overnight. Half of my IT career, though not the most lucrative half, was concerned with PCs, and for half of that half, I was as much fond of Microsoft as the next person. I didn't conclude that Windows was basically unstable by flipping a coin. I WANTED my Windows 95 system to work better. After eagerly abandoning Windows for Workgroups along with everyone else that got the chance I wanted a real operating system and looked for in in the form of Windows 95, and then Windows 98 and then Windows NT, ME, 2000, and that is where I called a halt to it. I've only booted XP one time in my life and that was just prior to reformatting the disk and installing Linux on a new HP computer. For my personal machines I've never gone back, but at work I was forced to use Windows for another couple of years. No more.

Prior to that I figure I may have booted Windows in one form or another 50 thousand times or so and re-installed it 1000 times or so. I was a fanatic about re-installing too. While others might tinker with registry settings and replace individual DLLs on a never ending trial and error basis, I was determined that there MUST be a way to do an initial install of the thing, followed by a few tweaks of course, and then for ever after it would be "just right". That magical moment never happened. I still don't know what happened to Goldie Locks either, but if she is alive she is probably still running Windows and rebooting it regularly.

Now there is some old saying that goes like "you're not paranoid if they are really out to get you" and Windows (reading about other peoples use of Windows that is) brings this saying to mind often. Not only are there a lot of "attacks" going on constantly on the Internet, but even more frequently someone is affected, one way or the other by the fear of such an attack. My non-fanatical friends have installed virus scanners, software firewalls, ad blockers, pop-up blockers. I have none of these things, although I do have a hardware firewall which came with my DSL router.

I don't feel particularly exposed without all these things. Although I've heard that there are Linux and OS X viruses I've had very little luck finding a description of one. They must be pretty well kept secrets. All the virus scanners I've found for those two environments seem to be scanning my machine for Windows viruses. Of course I don't want to pass on some infection, which I could, by forwarding some infected email from my inbox to some poor Windows user. But I rarely forward mail with attachments anyway, and when I do they are almost always Jpeg files. I don't think I represent a threat to society for not first scanning such files.

Call me a bad citizen, but I don't see the wisdom of leaving something running in the background using up CPU cycles looking for something that almost certainly doesn't exist. The fact that most, in fact almost all Windows users routinely do such things without questioning it leads me to think that it is really THEY who are the fanatics. They've long ago stopped questioning the rationality of the position they find themselves in. "Oh, just buy they few extra programs, dedicate an hour or so each day to this maintenance activity, don't look at this type of file or that, and maybe your system will be OK." Maybe.

Yesterday I got an e-mail from my Windows-user buddy. It was about some amusing encounter he had. I sent him a link to an old old web page I knew of with useful information for him. Today he responded that he can't view the page. To do so would require him to disable his pop-up blocker and he dares not do that. I wouldn't dare do it either were I in his position. Even though I know there are no pop-ups on that page, and no malicious software there (on that page). But if I advise him to disable his pop-up blocker, and something is already wrong with his machine, which suddenly gets worse... who is going to get blamed? One thing for sure it will not likely be Bill Gates. Conversation ends.

Conversations end, accusations are made, paranoia strikes deep. One guy I was helping with his computer was showing me something "funny" about his system. I don't even remember what he was trying to show me because I got sidetracked by the fact that his IE browser didn't have an Address bar. You couldn't type in a URL. No way. And I was puzzling about why. But he said never mind that. He didn't WANT an address line. You could get into too much trouble typing those in he said. When he launched Internet Explorer, some page provided by his ISP came up and he would just type in search strings (going to Google or Yahoo or who knows where) to navigate to wherever he wanted (eventually). Somehow, he thought this was safer. And in the cockamamie world of Windows, maybe it is. I had trouble not laughing out loud as I left him to his explorations.

So, I had this idea. I mean really, the people I help with their computers, even the former IT ones. They have no clue about browsers. Microsoft won. They put Netscape out of business, and they are not about to use an alternate browser unless they see Bill Gates shit the CD ROMs out of his own personal ass.

And that, well, not exactly that, but something like that is what I recommend to Microsoft. You don't NEED Internet Explorer any more, nor does anyone else in their right mind. You've got all this crap embedded in Windows that you must now warn people to disable if they are going to be on any kind of network. Do YOU, Microsoft, need that aggravation? Certainly the rest of us on the Internet don't. So don't fix that piece of junk. Jettison it. Make Firefox the default Windows browser. Keep the old IE as part of your Windows "distro" for a while just in case, but warn users to avoid using it at all costs. Maybe the first time they launch it (if they can find it buried down in some "other utilities" section of the menus) it should pop-up a special message that says something like: "Are you SURE you want to use Internet Explorer? It is very insecure and its use could make your system unstable necessitating a full re-install and losing all work you have ever done, forever."

That would be a good first step Microsoft. We would know that you really care about your users, and aren't "out to get" the rest of us on the Information Superhighway. Thanks for thinking of us. Please drive through.

Detente Continues: MS Pitches Joint Research to OSDL

"But, undeterred, Martin Taylor, the architect of Microsoft's 'Get the Facts' campaign and the Redmond, Wash. software firm's general manager of platform strategy, has proposed just that to OSDL CEO Stuart Cohen."

Don't do it Dorothy! Er, Stuart. It's a trap!

Apple extends iMac G5 warranties

"However, Apple notes that 'it is possible that your iMac G5 may exhibit video or power issues that are unrelated to the component failure identified by Apple as part of this program and are not covered under this program'."

Sounds like what they said about my iBook. Fortunately they fixed that, mostly.

Repeat after me:

Apple is a hardware company. Apple doesn't make these machines so has little control over quality. Apple is a hardware company. Apple doesn't make these machines so has little control over quality. Apple is a hardware company. Apple doesn't make these machines so has little control over quality.

Confused yet? I thought so.

The News Show – On the beat. Offbeat.

Interesting site. I went there for a story (on something) and it just started playing. No bandwidth or player selection like a lot of these video sites have recently. I'm not even sure which player it used. I bet it won't sork on Linux, but I'll give it a try later. *Thanking myself for this handy link.*

Firefox writer drops out, follows vision

"At 17, he helped create the Firefox Web browser, which has since grown into the biggest threat to Microsoft's Internet Explorer since the Redmond, Wash., company battled and defeated the Netscape browser for Internet supremacy.

Now three years later, Ross has dropped out of college to build an Internet software company — just as Bill Gates, whom Ross is often compared to, did to start Microsoft Corp. His goal is modest, motivated by his mother and 81-year-old grandfather: to make software less clunky, more people-friendly. And it's clear he possesses at least the vision and technical skill to pull it off."

Rated and Located in Silicon Valley : Linden Lab: The new hotness!

And there is even a Google map (but I couldn't figure out how to do a direct link to that.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is Business as Usual

and Sun is Old and Busted

Sorry Sun.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Award Winning Game Designer Doug Church Judges Second Life's Second Game Developers' Competition

"SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Linden Lab, creator of the acclaimed 3D online world Second Life, today announced the winners of the second annual Game Developer's Competition. Renowned game designer and programmer Doug Church, (currently with Crystal Dynamics) and one of the main developers behind such classic titles as Ultima Underworld, System Shock, and Thief judged the competition."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Moths to the Flame

I got a big chuckle out of this story earlier in the day. Hundreds (or was it thousands?) of people stampeding to get a $50 used Apple laptop.

Since then I noticed that the school system in question is switching to Dell laptops because Dell big $20 lower per laptop for the replacement machines.


For that, in about 3 months time, the replacement machines will be infested with every virus known to man. They will be loaded with games and other non-essential-to-education software. And while I am not a big big fan of Apple hardware in terms of reliability (I think all PCs, Apple or otherwise, are pretty much the same in that regard) their OS, if far far better than Windows in just about every category I can think of (too bad Apple doesn't want to be known as a software company).

I'm looking forward to seeing two stories in the coming months. One will be the SURPRISE! story regarding how much less useful the new Dell laptops are for their intended use, and the other will be how these new $50 laptop users are delighted with all the troubles they are missing on their new machines. I take it for granted that a lot of these $50 are probably close to DOA, but a good many of them are going to be working just fine for several years. I wouldn't mind having one myself.

Companies take divergent paths with mainframe - Computerworld

"Baldor Electric Co. and Welch Foods Inc. have much in common. Both are growing, midsize companies with similar-size IT departments. Each uses packaged ERP applications and is run by IT managers who want complete alignment with the business. But when it comes to the hardware running these systems, the companies are polar opposites."

This is a great story.

IBM invented, or at least adopted the idea BACK IN THE 60s that each user of a computer system should have access to an entire computer rather than have to stand in line with a deck of punched cards as they had done in the past.

When the PC came along a lot of us said "so what... we've been doing this for years" and it has really been pathetic to watch the PC industry re-invent one at a time so many ideas which were well established way back then.

The really sad thing is that we are still not there yet. Where is "there"?

Well, the PC world, among other things has finally re-invented the concept of making several computers look like a single computer. Yes, IBM did that already too, sorry folks. But, they did it in a fairly limited way, and of course the machines were very expensive back then. Most of us these these days are sitting with a single machine of one kind or another within a few feet of our monitor and keyboard. "There" consists of eliminating that cable for many people, and eliminating the idea that there is just one PC as opposed to, for example a dozen, or a hundred, or however many you need to do what you are trying to do.

Businesses, in the process of managing their own affairs (think payroll) of course pay for all of this in a big way and the expenses involved are still significant enough that they continually look for more efficiencies. Part of this evolution though is that business keep doing more and more with computers. If all they were doing was payroll, even the largest of companies could make do with a single ordinary PC. I'm speaking of just that one function here, not all the graphical do-dads on data entry screens, etc. Deep down in side the business processes are still rather simple. It's only after you add graphics, sound, video on the front-end, and weather prediction, physics research and massive databases on the back-end that you seem to need ever growing horsepower keep the whole computing infrastructure from imploding.

The nirvana we approach, exemplified by Beowulf clusters, the Google file system, as well as traditional mainframes that can mimic thousands of individual PCs (and of course the SecondLife grid) is that of not having to care what is going on behind the scenes. The user sees a service, or a collection of services presented on their screens and speakers and controllable with keyboards, mice, joysticks and voice controls. Us 3D folks started calling it the "metaverse" about when the book Snowcrash came out (although I don't remember if the term existed before that).

So "there" (too bad that other company used that name) might well be called the Metaverse, as long as those of us who use that name don't forget that there has to be a lot more to it than just changing the clothes on our avatars and building a pretend dream house. It has to be everything, and ultimately, it has to be EVERYWHERE (link).

Rootkits: Subverting the Windows Kernel

"Install a rootkit on someone’s system, and you own it. Not just now: indefinitely, because rootkits are virtually undetectable. Their power and stealthiness may make them the most dangerous form of malware ever created. You’d think you’d have heard more about them, but very few people really understand rootkit technology. To become one of them, read Rootkits: Subverting the Windows Kernel.

For years, the best way to learn about rootkits has been to take Greg Hoglund and James Butler’s course at Black Hat, the legendary annual hacker event. Now, for those who can’t make it to Vegas, Hoglund and Butler have organized their unique knowledge into this book. Notwithstanding its title, its principles apply to any operating system, including Linux and Unix. The authors focus on kernel rootkits, the hardest kind to detect. While it’s written primarily from an attacker’s perspective, it’ll be valuable to attackers, defenders, and researchers alike."

Turning the Information Superhighway into the Information Trailer Park, one machine at a time since 1980.

Microsoft Monitor: Making Room for My Space

"I would like to see Microsoft take more of this kind of approach, of providing a baseline experience for the greatest number of users while offering the flexibility power users and geeks would want, too. My expectation is that if MSN Spaces is as popular as Microsoft claims, and I have no reason for doubt, the company might just make 'simple' a stronger product development criteria."

Well, I try to keep an open mind about such things (really), but based on my experience so far MSN Spaces sucks.

I mean, if nobody had heard of blogging before. If Blogger and dozens of other such free services didn't already exist, then MSN Spaces would be rather cool. As a "me too" effort I expect more from a company with billions to spend on such things. It will be interesting to watch how they improve the service, and of course they will have millions of users if they do nothing but provide the basics.

As Wilcox says there are people who don't want to edit HTML or edit anything for that matter. Pick a template and go. Both MSN spaces and Blogger now allow you to store 30 megs or so of pictures. Is that enough? For e-mail the battle is measured in Gigs, even though the comparison right now is .25 for MS and 2.5 for Google. Seems like I should at least be able to store 100 megs of pictures on these services, not to mention sound files, videos and so forth. Neither MSN or Google seem to be too aggressive in allowing these other types of data. (Update: I just noticed that Blogger now allows 300M of photos, so I'll be less worried about overloading that feature now.)

Google just outright bought Blogger, rather than develop it from scratch. This is normally the Microsoft approach and it has its advantages and disadvantages. Maybe Blogger needs to be rethought a bit so that novice users are more comfortable with it, maybe MSN Spaces need more "pro" type features. Hopefully there will continue to be a nice selection of such services that are free (because the free services establish the baseline on which the for-pay services build) and fiercely competitive with one another. I've tried many of them and so far I like Blogger the best, in spite of its own limitations.

Now, off to try Yahoo360, or whatever it's called.

PS: Here is one way in which Blogger leads... they have a Word interface before Microsoft does:

Blogger: Download Blogger for Word

Monday, August 15, 2005

Chinese eye $100 wireless laptop

"The HDL that Negroponte posits would bypass three expensive components of conventional laptops - Microsoft Windows, a traditional flat panel screen, and a hard drive. Instead it will be loaded with Linux and other open source software; its display will use either a rear projection screen or a type of electronic ink invented at the MIT Media Lab; and it will store one gigabyte of files in flash memory.

Once turned on, HDLs will automatically connect to one another using a mesh network initially developed at MIT and the Media Lab – a spontaneous, carrierless method of broadband access that is also being worked on by Microsoft and Intel, both eager to see their core technologies being pushed out to the world’s entire population."

Hey Balmer... here is the inexpensive computer you were asking for!

Asian cyberwar to start mid-August (that is, today)

"One person who claims to be a member of the group said it has already chosen three targets in Korea from which to launch the attacks. The servers belong to a Korean gaming company and universities. 'The security level of those servers is lower than expected. So they are thought to be proper for avoiding IP tracking,' he told the newspaper."

And they will depend heavily on Microsoft's buggy code (below) too.

Microsoft rejects Visual Studio delay request

"In the original suggestion, a customer said that Visual Studio 2005, which had a second beta program in April, has too many bugs and performance problems. 'I'd rather have a good product 6 months from now than a mediocre one in 3 months,' wrote Clint Stotesbery last Thursday."

HEY! Get real. It's all about revenue stream. Can't have a bad quarter, what would those investors think?


'Evil Empire' Microsoft warms to open source -or- Has Microsoft Gone Soft?

"'We've certainly recognized that it's a big world. Open-source software is here to stay. Hopefully, commercial software is here to stay, as well,' Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel, said in an interview last week. 'It's important for us to find opportunities both to collaborate and to compete.'"

Wow. That's quite a change in attitude. Hey would someone change this man's drool cup?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Martian Dance Instruction - Intel to Overhaul Chip Architecture

"The company said the new technology will be described by Paul Otellini, Intel's chief executive, later this month in San Francisco during a speech at the company's twice-yearly conference for hardware and software developers."

Well, this headline is two days old but I've been seeing fresh incarnations ever since and I'm a bit tired of it. Everything that claims to be details sounds like longer pipelines, higher densities, and continued compatibility with the dishwasher controller chips of the 70's. More of the same. Hardly an overhaul.

The overhaul has, in the mean time, already happened in the PowerPC, AMD and Transmeta systems two of which have (unfortunately) attempted to embrace and extend the Intel architecture. I'd love nothing more than to see Intel make a fresh start, but this doesn't sound like what's up at Intel. I hope to be surprised.

We need to finally have operating systems that are hardware agnostic. Linux leads the way in this, OS X is trying, Microsoft still doesn't get it, but maybe they will soon. These billion-line OSs have no business coding in machine language (or even assembler) and code that breaks when run on a slightly different configuration that the one it was compiled on is broken to begin with.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Music Industry Worried About CD-Burning - Yahoo! News

"Simon Wright, chief executive of Virgin Entertainment Group International, which oversees the Virgin chain of music stores, said he's in favor of labels releasing more albums in a copy-protected CD format, regardless of the potential for consumer backlash.

'If, particularly, the technology allows two-to-three burns, that's well within acceptable limits and I don't think why consumers should have any complaints,' Wright said."

Of course if these disks don't play on some machines, or don't play well, or the copies are bad, well that's OK too, because F-you Mr. and Mrs. Consumer. We have to put food on the tables of our luxury yachts after all!

Friday, August 12, 2005

The name's BOFH - James BOFH

"'Well it's a complex thing, bypassing Windows security. I mean you'll have to boot from a CD...'

'Yes, and then?'

'That's pretty much it.'"


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Techdirt:Taking Back The Intellectual Property Propaganda

" Back in May we had a post about Microsoft's propaganda campaign/contest, called "Thought Thieves," where they wanted kids to make films about how "intellectual property theft" harms society. Of course, in the film, you cannot use any third party intellectual property (which would be nearly impossible) and, amusingly, once you submit it, all of the intellectual property you created becomes the possession of Microsoft."

The EFF came up with a response:


New Scientist Breaking News - Pocket-sized computer 'soul' developed

Eat your heart out Microsoft. This is what INNOVATION looks like. Something you are pretty much incapable of.

"Personal computers could soon fit entirely on a key ring. Researchers at IBM in New York, US, have developed a way to carry a powerful, personalised virtual computer from one PC to the next, without losing the user's work.

The trick is to store the virtual computer on a USB key, or any portable device with substantial storage space, like an MP3 player."

Computerworld Questions Darl McBride on SCO Future Plans

"Q: What is SCO's strategy until the IBM case goes to trial in February 2007?

A: After the lawsuit was filed, we sat down as a management team almost a year ago and we asked, Where are we trying to go?"

I wonder how many people will notice this admission of incompetence. Wouldn't the time to have this meeting have been before the filing? It's a bit too late to be worrying about SCO's future now. The company has no future as most of the investors that have sold their stocks at a loss and those hanging on are hoping for some sort of miracle (an IBM buyout for example) to make them whole again. Those who sponsored McBride at first have already been ushered from the building and legal actions are pending even within the SCO ownership hierarchy. McBride goes on to say that he doesn't think SCO will be "finished" if they lose the lawsuit even though he admits that he thought so at one time. This is all just wishful thinking. He knows the chances are slim to none, and he also knows his resume is practically worthless at this point. Like many in this day and age this man was raised without the ability to evaluate downside risks. That won't prevent him from having to experience the results or poor risk calculations though. Too bad he dragged so many with him.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Lose the file cabinets

"PDF/A specifies a subset of the PDF file format that is more suitable for long-term preservation than the traditional PDF. For example, the standard will forbid links to outside documents and require fonts to be embedded in documents, making the documents completely independent of outside resources, said Diana Helander, Adobe's business development manager for worldwide standards. The documents must include metadata so that archived documents can be fully searchable, auditable and traceable.

'There's no encryption allowed, so that if Adobe doesn't exist in 200 years, someone can still open the document,' Helander said. 'We expect to see a lot more government agencies adopting PDF/A.'"

Monday, August 08, 2005

Linden Lab Opens Doors to Teen Second Life

My prediction is that within a year they will be making more on the teen grid than the adult. Of course that will be a moving target after a a while as some of the teens will eventually move to the adult grid.

I wonder if they will be publishing any statistics for us.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

He's baaaack: Microsoft Geek Blogger

After a three day snit Scoble is back. As a career bloggist, you can't let your Technorati numbers drop too far after all. From the first batch of postings we've already spotted one mistake. A "honeypot" machine does not consist of a user browsing to virus laden websites. It is a passive server sort of things that APPEAERS to be vulnerable to worms, etc. Also Honeypot systems, nor the related "Sugarcane" set-ups do anything regarding trojen-horse email attacks and the like, which are (I think) the bulk of the vectors targeting Windows.

Secondly I have a suggestion: I have what I think is called a "link-blog" (or maybe I made that word up). It consists of quick links to sites I've visited and found interesting, followed, optionally, by a quick comment about why I am blogging it. Anyone reading such a thing quickly realizes that no fact-checking or deep thought has gone into the thing. Thats what the Scoble blog has looked like recently. Twenty hits a day by someone who can write well and type fast with few errors between the staff meeting and lunch.

There is another type of blog (this one) where the emphasis should be on WHAT YOU THINK or a fact that you have found (usually backed up by links). The two blogs can be interlinked in various ways, or not, depending how much you want your careless "scratchwork" to be visible.

Blogsphere and Open Source, Same Game, Same Outcome

Like the surface of the moon, the blogsphere doesn't have a very smooth surface when viewed up close. Eventually, the blogs, the updates, the comments narrow the distance between themselves and the facts. Like the sausage factory, it looks like messy business.

First there was someting called Laughing Squid who said: "My friend Arno mentioned that Microsoft’s spellcheck dictionary doesn’t contain the word “blog”, so I looked it up using Tiger’s Dictionary app and found out that blogs are actually “run by twenty-something Americans with at least an unhealthy interest in computers”. Ah, that explains it."

I saw the story echoed several places during the day (CNet), finally noticing it in Dan Gilmores blog (frome which I got what appears to be the original reference).

My ire was raised against Apple. Well, raised to a higher level anyway. But then came the updates:

"UPDATE: As some of you have keenly noted, Apple employees did not write the dictionary themselves. They're in the business of defining "cool," granted, but stop short of applying that lexicographical skill to other words. The Tiger definitions are actually provided by Oxford American Dictionaries."

"UPDATE 1: It has been mentioned on our comments as well as those on CNET’s Apple Blog that the source of Apple’s dictionary definitions come from the New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Edition. So if you are a non-American blogger who is not in your twenties and have a healthy interest in the internet, don’t flame Apple for their definition examples since they didn’t write them eventhough they do not cite the source of the definitions they use."

The comments on the blogs pointed out that the offending sentence was a usage example not a definition.

The Blogsphere got it wrong. Terribly wrong in fact. The original story was, really, a non-story. Hardly worthy of mention once you knew all the facts. But how often do you check your newspaper's errors section? Do you even know where it is located? How often does the CBS Evening News carry a correction or update?

The mainstream medias have a great advantage in that they often have field reporters (think "troops") on the ground to cover stories at the White House, Congress disaster scenes, and so, often, the blogsphere can be no better than its sources. Unless of curse the story is happening right outside a bloggers window, or at their place of work. A lot of good information these days is coming from anonymous, or near-anonymous bloggers.

The mainstream media can and does hire people to do fact checking on their stories, although recent evidence is that they don't have enough of them, or they don't do their jobs very thoroughly. But the blogsphere can correct, cross-check, double-check information far faster than any media organization. Think of the comparison between a single monolithic mainframe computer and a large networked cluster of less powerful machines. Given enough network bandwidth and enough nodes, the latter can match and exceed the former in almost all cases.

Survival of mainstream media is in the long term dependent on it finding those niche applications for which it is uniquely suited. The Internet and the Blogsphere is a long way from displacing the mainstream news services, just as it won't replace Hollywood in the near term, and just as Open Source solutions won't put Microsoft out of business any time soon, if ever. The Blogsphere and Open Source can, and may however, continue to render the alternatives less and less relevant, forcing those old institutions to work harder to justify themselves.

The trends are in place, and their direction is clear. That trend favors individual initiative (for now) over entrenched and corporate interests. Changing the Blogsphere, to improve it for example, will be like herding cats, so at best we can watch, and try to predict what the outcome will be. More importantly, the entrenched interests can watch, try to predict, AND act, to preserve themselves. Notice how many of the mainstream media sources, particularly and not surprisingly tech media at this point, are turning their writers loose to do their own blogging. Many of these tech journalists complain of the strain of having to blog and put out regular "official" columns as well. Maybe relief is on the way, as people pay less and less attention to the "official" versions, with their lack of feedback and updates, and rely more on the "unofficial" blog reports, with their greater immediacy and interaction.

The patterns governing the interaction between "News" and blogging parallels that between commercial software and Open Source. Same game, same rules, and probably the same outcome. So what will it be? How soon can we pronounce that a significant change has taken place. Maybe we are there already.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Mac Rumors: Steve Jobs to Keynote Apple Expo?

Mac Rumors: Steve Jobs to Keynote Apple Expo

Based on recent announcements of a switch to Intel processors followed by the introduction of a two-button mouse Jobs is expected to announce that:

Current Apple OS (OS X) will now be known as OS 2005, since Microsoft no longer needs that nomenclature.

Patches to OS 2005 will change the OS so that the normal user is always logged on as "root" so as to be more like Windows. Along the same lines scripting vulnerabilities will be introduced across the entire product line to pave the way for the upcoming Apple Antivirus offering.

The upcoming OS 2006 will introduce further enhancement to compatibility with Windows and Intel systems: "that troublesome 'DOS' box will be eliminated" and users will have to find a GUI way to do everything or resort to the new Apple Registry editor.

Apple declined to respond to rumors that in 2007 all new Intel Apple computers would come pre-installed with Windows so that they "just sorta work".

Hatress 20GB shuffle DAPs (or iAudio M3 clones) 5GB color screen unit

"Release dates? God no. Price levels? Sure, make some up yourselves. Why do we keep posting stuff like this? Because once in a while, some nice stuff actually makes it across the Big Puddles - peer pressure can help in achieving just that. "

And it would help if American consumers would get it through their thick heads that Apple, Dell, HP and so on, no longer invent this stuff. They go shopping on the Pacific Rim, contract with a company to emboss the Apple (or Dell, HP, etc.) logo on and in some cases ship DIRECTLY to the customer. Why slow things down by sending it through Cupertino. Get the picture? Seeing some unnecessary overhead that can be eliminated yet?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Patches on the way for Windows flaws | CNET

In related news it is reported that the sun will set this evening and is expected to rise again tomorrow morning. Details at 11.

Sometimes you think maybe the headline writer is having an off day. This would be one of them.

Microsoft Vista creates DRM insanity

"Wow. If I am running a projector or a TV off video outputs I'll see nothing? If I am lucky enough to have a set that will allow for RGB or DVI I can pay for the privilege of having my 720p or 1080i signal degraded to DVD quality or less? Where do I sign? Paid a premium for a graphics card with component output to reap the rewards of that Hi-Def set? Too bad. Isn't technology wonderful?"

At a time when more people are creating digital content than ever before, and explosion of content in fact, the old guard is more and more convinced of the extreme value of its efforts. In their fantasy, technology serves no better purpose than to allow them to charge ever increasing rates (cable TV being an example of what they have in mind) for ever decreasing content. There is no end-point in their thinking, so ultimately you give them all of your money and they produce nothing. Is it any wonder that people are tuning out in large numbers?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Penguin adds new 64-bit BladeRunners

I was tempted by the AMD 64-bit workstations (with a gig of memory) that I saw when I visited that page. I wonder if the forthcoming Linux version of SL will support these. Say, when is that due anyway?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Second Life In Mono

The Creation Engine: Second Life In Mono


I'm still a bit ambivalent about Mono. I don't know if anyone has ever won an "Embrace and extend" war with Microsoft. But It's probably a good idea that SL use SOME standard as opposed to its own home-grown scripting language.

One notion that I've dredged up from my mainframe background (and I've seen applied in the PC world too) is that of having an API that can be called by several scripting languages. Maybe it's too late in the case of LSL, but ideally it would continue to work (as a deprecated approach) while the new scripting language (or languages) are introduced. Just a thought.

Boycott IE. It's a cancer on the Web

IE 7.0 Technical Changes Leave Web Developers, Users in the Lurch: "My advice is simple: Boycott IE. It's a cancer on the Web that must be stopped. IE isn't secure and isn't standards-compliant, which makes it unworkable both for end users and Web content creators. Because of their user bases, however, Web developers are hamstrung into developing for IE at the expense of established standards that work well in all other browsers. You can turn the tide by demanding more from Microsoft and by using a better alternative Web browser. I recommend and use Mozilla Firefox, but Apple Safari (Macintosh only) and Opera 8 are both worth considering as well."

Scoble should get right on this and err... call him a liar or something. We need to keep this item on the top of the hit charts.

Linux in Government: Jordan - A Surprise in the Middle East

Linux in Government: Jordan - A Surprise in the Middle East | Linux Journal: "Why bring up a reference here to the English East India Company? Possibly because of the parallel to a remarkably politically involved company in the United States that seems content to use federal law enforcement agencies and foreign governments to enforce that company's policies. In fact, that company seems content to take from regions outside the US instead of helping them become more able."

Monday, August 01, 2005


PowerBuilder Is Dead @ POWERBUILDER DEVELOPER'S JOURNAL: "What all of these self-proclaimed PowerBuilder 'replacements' have forgotten is that productivity is king. They and, to a large degree, the developer community have become more enamored with elegance and design than function and delivery. Businesses chose PowerBuilder to get stuff done and make their businesses more successful. That was the only metric that mattered then and that is the only metric that matters now. That's the metric by which any competing tool must be judged and, unfortunately for most available technologies today, that is where they fail."

The annual PB is dead article (funny there haven't been any other PB articles at SYS-Conman for a long time). The author misses the part where the rapidly developed PB applications scramble the database in ways that are not discovered for years. Missing and misplaced data, and point-and-click programmers who don't have the experience or inclination to find it. PowerBuilder absolves the programmer of the need to know what they are doing. Like so many tools of this kind you can slap together an interface that looks fairly good in short order, and blame all the odd things that happen afterward on "some weird computer glitch" AKA those underlying SQL statements that you never quite figured out.

Elegance and design have their place, fortunately, with applications that do important things.

Drinking the Kool-Aid: Apple to add Trusted Computing to the new kernel...

Boing Boing: Apple to add Trusted Computing to the new kernel? Cory Doctorow writes: "So that means that if Apple carries on down this path, I'm going to exercise my market power and switch away, and, for the first time since 1979, I won't use an Apple product as my main computer. I may even have my tattoo removed.

My data is my life, and I won't keep it in a strongbox that someone else has the keys for."

Well, I've only been an Apple customer for a few years, but the switch to Intel itself was enough to lose me as a customer. I drank the original Apple Kool-aid.

The note (or apparent note) from Scoble below, or more accurately my response to it, reminded me of how I drank the marketing Kool-Aid from Microsoft back when it pronounced OS/2 (yes, OS/2) as the next great Microsoft operating system. As soon as it hit the streets I got a copy and installed it on my original IBM AT computer that, at the time I think, had a whopping 8 meg of memory and a few hundred meg hard drive, not to mention a blazing 6Mhz 80286 processor.

Not only did the OS work on my minimalistic (at the time though it was an only slightly out of date system) PC, but it ran pretty well, never crashed, and allowed me to run old Windows programs as well as do some scripting that previously I could only do on a mainframe. It really WAS a better Windows. Much better in fact.

I'll skip the history over why IBM and Microsoft went their separate ways once and for all, other than to say that it was the first time I started thinking of Bill Gates as the spoiled rich kid down the street who takes his baseball equipment home after he is not elected captain of one of the teams. Everything Microsoft has done since can be explained by this metaphor, as well as the results, that, like children, people who should know better have caved in to his demands over the intervening years. I think this is a safe rule: It never pays to give in to extortion.

Well I was happy with OS/2 for a number of years. I upgraded my PC, and also upgraded to the newer version of OS/2 that had been "cleaned up" by IBM. The newer version did everything better than the old and continued to run OLD Windows programs just fine. Windows programs that would crash the whole OS in Windows only crashed the emulation box under OS/2, but it was a lot faster and easier to just restart that one application than to have to reboot your entire machine. What this experience proved was that the programmers at Microsoft were not such unique geniuses after all. Their code was sloppy, not well documented (some would say this was intentional) and not all that well designed. I remember IBM Redbook style papers coming out about the clean-up of the Windows APIs with cover functions that assigned them more meaningful names. There was no doubt in my mind that, absent new developments, OS/2 would remain the OS of choice. There were new developments however. Of the marketing kind.

A few years later when I worked at the Department of Energy I encountered like-minded technologists. They used OS/2 and loved it, and they were accomplishing goals of getting energy related data out to the public in a timely manner at lest in part due to OS/2 (they were still using DOS for much of this work too, and I have serious reservations about their competence in this regard). Without exception though, the user community was happy with OS/2.

What I subsequently learned was that this OS/2 community of which I was a part was a shrinking island within the DOE. We were being encouraged to switch to Windows, at the time the buggy and limited Windows for Workgroups which we all knew to be a tremendous step in the wrong direction from where we were. No effort was made to justify this change based on any technological advantage, because there simply was none. Instead we heard that somehow Microsoft would be GIVING us money, in the form of cheap PCs to make the switch. Put simply, if we ever wanted to upgrade our PCs we had to switch to Windows.

At the time I left DOE it was a done deal. I went to another government agency that was farther behind on the glide-path to selecting the wrong technology for the wrong reasons. I stayed there as long as I could stand it, or perhaps as long as they could stand me. I watched in dismay as they paid big bucks for a study that recommended they recode everything in Java only to have them hush-up the report so that they could stick with Windows and third-party development tools that are all-but unsupported now.

As an outsider I cringed when they formally placed their formerly isolated network on the Internet (something we always recommended they avoid doing at all cost) and not 6 months passed before the system had been compromised. Not only is Windows not fit for Internet use, but the typical practitioner of "network administration" in these organizations does not and will never have the experience needed to secure such "open by default" systems. That these systems survive at all is more a tribute to extensive firewalling than anything else. It only takes one careless user to open that door from the inside though, and eventually they will, if they haven't already.

So, that's my "drank the Kool-Aid" story. I drank the Kool-Aid of Microsoft marketing on OS/2 and was glad of it. They told the truth. It WAS a better Windows than Windows. It's only everything that they have said since then that has proven to be false, or at least misleading. I used Windows NT for a while too. NT 3.51 was almost as stable as OS/2. NT 4.0 was, I think, the most tested version of Windows ever released, with driver support being closely coordinated between Microsoft and many many hardware companies. It has been downhill since, although I haven't used any of it since 2000, and I haven't booted Windows at all for more than a year.

I also drank the Apple Kool-Aid regarding the superiority of the Power-PC processor. Not only that, but that notion is backed up by the convergence of PC and mainframe technologies at IBM, which, unlike Microsoft, actually engages in fundamental computing research. I can't speak to how much fundamental research Apple does, I've always seen them as an integrator, not an innovator. That need to integrate is now taking them in a direction I don't want to go, and 5 years from now I suspect many Apple users will agree. But they are too busy with applications, games, or iPods to see this now. They won't know what hit 'em. As was the case with Microsoft I think the marketing hype was valid at some point, when the focus really was on technology and not some hidden agenda. I won't be consuming any of the latest flavors.

I'll be looking carefully at the new 64-bit AMD chips for my next PC and I won't bother running whatever version of Windows it comes with. It will be re-formatted for Linux just as most of my recent PCs have. I only wish I had done so sooner on my new Powerbook, which now has a lot of data to be transfered and probably some driver issues too.

For Second-Life, I have to wonder what sort of pain-in-the-ass it will be to support two fundamentally different version of the Apple computer. At minimum a re-compile, but I also bet a fair amount of tweaking, and we don't REALLY expect those Windows hardware drivers to work do we? I also wonder how a true 64-bit version of SL might look on the AMD chips running in native Linux mode. Will people in hand cuffs and manacles ever be able to run as fast as those of us that choose to be unencumbered? I don't think so.