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Tue 29th Apr 2008 @ 23:52 2008: OLPC

A recent
with Nicholas Negroponte (OLPC founder) points out that "Microsoft has been working to get a slimmed-down version of Windows to run on XO laptops"

Mako Hill has written an excellent response:

OLPC does not get to choose if educational technology happens. If we work hard at it though we might get to influence the "how" and the "who." Proprietary software vendors like Microsoft want the "who" to be them. With free software, users can be in power.

FSF has a further response

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Tue 29th Apr 2008 @ 13:21 2008: Hans Reiser

Hans Reiser has been found guilty of first-degree murder of his wife, Nina.

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Tue 29th Apr 2008 @ 01:05 2008: os kiddies fighting

I'm sure that at some point, I will want to reference some "typically childish Windows / MacOSX / Linux banter".

If I do (or if you need such a thing), may I suggest the following URL:

"Switching art students to GNU/Linux", dated 2006. Prime fodder. All your favourite cliches are just a click away.

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Mon 28th Apr 2008 @ 01:10 2008: If Ya Wannit ... Come and Geddit

Sun E420R

I have no idea how they ended up being named Victoria and Albert, but Victoria is up for sale on eBay.

She's got 4 x 450MHz USIIi CPUs, 4Gb RAM, 2 x 18Gb SCSI disks, CD-ROM drive, dual PSU, a QFE card in the back, along with the regular SCSI and network ports. She's top totty, and going cheap to a good home.

I should have listed her at a higher price; no bids so far, but there seems to be plenty of interest. Let's hope so - other than some RAM sticks, she's my bid for freedom (or at least to get a "free" server)... once eBay and PayPal take their markup from every transaction, I suspect I'm really just working for them, though...


Sun 27th Apr 2008 @ 00:51 2008: Organic Open Source... Wholemeal, with Extra Wheatgerms?

Ted Ts'o has been talking about Sun and Open Source, and discussing Open Source lately; he has now revisted it.

Hopefully we can omit references to 12-year-old childish reposts to childish posts, and start looking deeper into the issues that Ted raises.

Ted started by asking "what Sun was trying to do with OpenSolaris": "It was never was [sic] Sun’s intention to try to promote a kernel engineering community", but rather that "there is significantly *more* value in having a whole undivided ecosystem based on a compatible set of distributions, where application developers, university students, custom distro builders and users are all able to take advantage of each other’s work." (John Polcher)

So far, this is a fair discussion of a few of the many merits of F/OSS software development.

Ted Ts'o then added the Organic issue - the idea that sponsored F/OSS development is somehow different from purely needs-driven (ESR's "scratch my own itch" model) development. Although Ted doesn't cite ESR directly, the "organic" concept is very reminiscent of the ESR popularisation of FSF, and the subsequent "hijacking" of FSF into "Open Source" as something close to a religion. Ted's involvment in Linux predates pretty much everyone but Linus Torvalds; Ted was one of the initial contributors to Linux, and has been dedicated ever since, so I am not going to attempt to teach my grandmother to suck eggs, nor to tell Ted the history of F/OSS or how Linux - or even Apache or other F/OSS projects came to grow so dramatically in the 1990s.

Nor am I in any technical ability able to correct Ted, given his huge contribution to GNU/Linux and the F/OSS community - so why am I bothering to write this post? How very dare I, indeed?

Ted's idea of Organic F/OSS is that which is developed purely by user demand - as Apache and Linux were developed, as prime examples. Non-Organic F/OSS, by Ted's definition, are things like, MySQL (both currently Sun-Sponsored), and presumably Firefox (still largely ex-Netscape employees?), GNOME and its offshoots (still largely Novell / Ximian / etc history for its developers?)

Does corporate sponsorship somehow tarnish a F/OSS project, Ted?

I really do appreciate the differences between the development of something like Linux, or Apache, and how things such as or OpenSolaris have ended up under the same OSI umbrella. But does it really matter?

Q1: If some crappy piece of software which you don't want to use, happens to be released under a F/OSS license, does it affect you in any way?
A1: No.

Q2: If some crappy piece of software which you are (in some way) obliged to use, is released under a closed-source license, does that affect you?
A2: Potentially, Yes. Possibly not (but don't say that to RMS!)

Q3: If some fantastic piece of software which you don't want to use, happens to be released under a F/OSS license, does it affect you?
A3: No.

Q4: If some fantastic piece of software which you are (in some way) obliged to use, happens to be released under a F/OSS license, does it affect you?
A4: No.

So what is the issue, Ted? The only way in which the F/OSS community is negatively impacted, is if we are obliged to use closed source software. Sun, whatever their motivations, are not obliging you to do that.

Sun bought StarOffice a few years ago - took it, improved it (largely in-house, but with many external contributions) and, I suspect and hope, learned a lot along the way about cooperating with the F/OSS community. I'm on OOo2.4 right now, and whilst it's not perfect, it's pretty darn good as a productivity suite - the best I have used yet (though my latest alternative comparison was the pitiful MS Office, so maybe that's an unequal test). Having one major sponsor doesn't harm the project in any important way; yes, it means that if the sponsor disppeared, or abandoned the project, that the funding would disappear, but assuming that the grass-roots desire for the product existed, then (by the ESR theory) others will appear to fund the development (and, given history - many of the same developers: See the Ximian / SuSE / Novell / migration as an example).

Ted mentions support as an issue; ESR praised it as a benefit of the Open Source licensing model itself: "Sun Salescritters who were sending around TCO analysis comparing 24×7 phone support form Red Hat with Support-by-email from Sun totally missed the point.) What’s important to commercial end users is that they be able to avoid the effects of vendor lock-in, which implies that if all of the developers are employed by one vendor, it doesn’t provide the value the end users were looking for."

If there is a team of developers whose career is based upon their expertise in Apache, MySQL, Linux, Solaris, or any other Open Source technology, then those developers are sure of their ability to work in their chosen field whilst that software is in active use.

It doesn't need to matter to them, who pays the salary, just as it doesn't matter to Linux or Apache developers. Okay, they have a loyalty to their employer, but whilst their employer values their contribution to that project, then the project will thrive.

I doubt that Ted is really calling all F/OSS project development to fall under the Debian model, with a complicated hierarchy of priests, as he ended his second post with this statement:

"So while Linux may not be completely optimized in terms of “less priests” and more inclusion, at least over 1200 developers contributed to 2.6.25 during its development cycle. Compared to that, Open Solaris is positively dominated by “high priests” and with a “you may not touch the holy-of-holies” attitude; heck, they won’t even allow you to compare them to other religions without branding you a heretic and suing you for licensing violations!"

I'm not sure quite what the point is, though. I don't have the figures to hand of how many individuals committed changes to Linux 2.6.25, or Solaris 11.whatever, or who they are employed by (and why), but Ted has provided no evidence for such strong mentions of "branding you a heretic and suing you for licensing violations!"

I strongly prefer to use Free Software. I also think that Sun create particularly good Hardware and Software. The fact that nearly all of their Software stack is now Open Source, brings me back to how proud I am that Sun employed Bill Joy to write vi (I admit - I use vim now) - if they had done nothing else, that would earn them a place in F/OSS history. That Bill was a co-founder gives Sun an even bigger place in F/OSS history.

The F/OSS community is also, largely, based around the concepts of UNIX - *BSD, Linux, UNIX... the technical foundations are all in the same places - (mainly AT&T, MIT and Berkeley, let's admit it).

The whole Organic -vs- Non-Organic issue is not an issue. I have huge respect for Ted Ts'o and his work, but Ted: we're all in same camp, fighting on the same side.


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Sat 26th Apr 2008 @ 23:55 2008: Chinese Spam

I've had two separate spam attacks on the blog today; both from China, but both using different methods.

The first posted about half a dozen posts, apparently manually, answering the (very difficult!) questions to post anonymously.

The second posted a few hundred posts with some automated script.

Both spent half an hour prodding the site to see how the captcha system works. Both used Yahoo's Site Explorer feature (which I hadn't come across before) to search for sites which had previously hosted links to specific domains. In both cases, Yahoo returned results from previous spam attacks, even though their own cache had got newer results (after the cleanup).

One of them had also used Google.CN, though both seemed to use the same technique: Access a URL via Google, but not using the Google cache, just typing the URL into Google, then clicking on the link from Google. That looks rather like misunderstood script-kiddie behaviour trying to view the Google cache of a website.

One pasted some pre-prepared links into the site, the other clearly scripted. Its User-Agent string included the string "QQDownload 1.6; Tencent Traveler"; a quick google suggests that it's not a good thing; spyware at best. It may be worth blocking that User-Agent anyway.

Update 26/05/08: It's happened again, almost exactly one month later, almost exactly the same technique.

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Sat 26th Apr 2008 @ 00:34 2008: Humph

Humphrey LittletonRIP Humphrey Littleton, 1921 - 2008.

From Humphrey's website:

Humph died peacefully with his family and friends around him on April 25th at 7.00pm following surgery.

We would like to thank everyone for their support and express our deep gratitude to the staff of Barnet General for the care that they gave Humph.

ISIHAC won't be the same without him; I don't know if they will even try it without him.

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Fri 25th Apr 2008 @ 01:22 2008: Security by enforcing 8-character passwords (not longer!)

Password security, data safety - A government perspective

So I entered the first eight characters of my password, which was a true work of prose for their standards, at around 20 characters. And it worked.
Now, for bonus points: What do we gather from the fact that the long password works fine in one system, but in another system it only the short version? Why, but of course! I guess the passwords for every economically active Mexican is stored in their master database in plain text. Isn't it just beautiful?

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Thu 24th Apr 2008 @ 21:23 2008: Mosley Exposed

Max Mosley ExposedMosley Exposed

Formula 1 racing boss Max Mosley is in hot water this week as Sniff Petrol has exclusively obtained video footage showing the motorsport supremo engaged in SICK activities including pretending to be IN CHARGE of the FIA.

During the 15 YEAR session captured on tape by our spies, Mosley insists on being referred to as THE PRESIDENT and makes those around him follow STRICT RULES, which he then repeatedly changes.

Amongst the DEPRAVED acts caught on camera, our footage shows the F1 figurehead wantonly PUNISHING McLaren for MONEY. He later SPANKS Renault and, in scenes of unbelievable hypocricy, then KISSES THE ARSE of Ferrari.

The disgraceful footage also shows Mosley, 67, TORTURING Formula 1 fans by introducing HARD to understand development freeze rules and TWEAKS to qualifying.

In some scenes the grey haired racing ring master is even shown HANGING OUT with a DWARF, although this later turned out to be Bernard Ecclestone.

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Wed 23rd Apr 2008 @ 19:26 2008: Facebook

Oh dear...


Tue 22nd Apr 2008 @ 00:13 2008: Armoury

Whilst away with work a couple of weeks ago, I passed this van. It must be the ideal job for any 10-year-old boy to aspire to...


Armoury Robotic Demolition

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Mon 21st Apr 2008 @ 22:41 2008: OOXML: Not OOXML after all

Oh look; Microsoft Office 2007 doesn't comply with the ISO standard it claims to implement. Now there's a surprise.

What this means, is that since the one implementation (MS Office 2007) of the "standard" doesn't conform to the the standard, nobody can interoperate with that software anyway, despite the standard existing. So the standard is a chocolate teapot. MS get to claim standards compliance, customers get hoodwinked into thinking they've got interoperable software and avoided the existing problem of data lock-in, and the customers lose.

The problem in brief? Did it really matter that you don't have an audio cassette deck any more? Or that you threw out the VHS recorder when it broke, instead of replacing it? Probably not, or not much. You could still get some hardware to play them back, if you really needed to. It'll be harder in 10 years time, though.

What about those documents from 10 years ago? I don't really need copies of letters to my bank from my student days, but what about governments, and corporations? Documents tied up in MS Office file formats, require MS Office software (and the associated OS, and hardware). As that becomes obsolete, the documents become unreadable. Therefore, an open, publicly documented standard is required for long-term storage of documents. OOXML claimed to be such a standard, but it is not.

From the article:

"can Microsoft really be trusted to behave? We shall see"

I think we've already seen enough.

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Mon 21st Apr 2008 @ 12:40 2008: Kids' Rock


Welcome to McDonald's,
We've got shakes and fries

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Mon 21st Apr 2008 @ 12:23 2008: John Lewis

John LewisJohn Lewis Toilet Brush

Clever, elegant space-saving design – which doesn`t screw into any walls. In crisp, clean looking white ceramic and chrome.
That's it. Two sentences. Well, how much can be said about a toilet brush? How much needs to be said?

I'd want a pretty good one for a cool £195. No, that's not a typo. I'd want the marketing department to go all-out to try to convince me to part with the best part of two hundred quid on a brush for ... well, we know what it's for.

I wonder if it's just a sociology experiment: "If we can keep a straight face, maybe somebody will convince themselves it's reasonable"?

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Sat 19th Apr 2008 @ 23:27 2008: Virgin Media: BOLLOCKS

Straightforward summary of Virgin Media's view of net neutrality:

chief executive Neil Berkett described net neutrality as "a load of b*llocks"
Net Neutrality is the concept that all internet traffic is treated equally: You can buy your connection to the internet backbone, but you can't buy better treatment on it. Some companies think that they should be able to slow down other websites / applications / services so that their traffic gets through faster. Net Neutrality says that it's up to the end customer how he uses his internet connection, and that the ISP does not have the right to sell their customers to online businesses.

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Sat 19th Apr 2008 @ 00:55 2008: RedHat ... consumer Desktop OS?

The Register have a rather excited article about RedHat abandoning the Desktop.

What they're referring to, is
this - the location in the rather long document is important. The details are somewhat different from the El Reg article:

Considering our goals listed above, our desktop product plans for 2008 and 2009 include:

  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop. This is our fully supported, commercial product. It is 100 percent compatible with the Red Hat Enterprise Linux server products. Its focus is to provide a desktop environment that is secure and easily managed. And it is upgradeable with the Multi-OS option (which provides virtualization support) or the Workstation option (which provides high-end workstation capabilities).
  • Fedora. This is a Red Hat sponsored, fast-growing, free product. While Red Hat doesn’t formally support Fedora, users can turn to a healthy online community to obtain help when they need it.
  • Red Hat Global Desktop (RHGD). Plans for this product were originally announced at the 2007 Summit Conference. It is designed exclusively for small, reseller supplied, deployments in emerging markets (e.g. primarily the BRIC countries), and will be supplied by a number of Intel channel partners.

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Fri 18th Apr 2008 @ 23:37 2008: Windows Vista

I've finally (thanks Andy!) installed Windows Vista Business into a VMWare instance on my laptop. Today, I patched it. It's been an hour, over a 2Mbps connection, and I'd forgotten all about it. It's still going.

How many patches can a 1-yr-old OS need? From what little I've read, I assume that this doesn't include the already (in)famous SP1.

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Thu 17th Apr 2008 @ 23:49 2008: Newsflash: Steve defends Vista

Vista Permissions - You do not have permission to view the current permission settings for Properties, but you can make permission changes

I saw this on, and it is one thing about Vista which does make sense:

You do not have permission to view the current permission settings for Properties, but you can make permission changes

Restricted permissions is a Good Thing. It's not about being in school, where you can do some things, and can't do other things. It's about taming what is an admittedly hard-to-control beast: Microsoft Windows. If you really want to do [X], then you can do, but by default, you cannot. You can go for the "Yes, I want to do this" option, and take the responsibility for doing so, but it's not automatically granted.

I applaud MS, and Vista, for this; I believe that it is a step the online world needs to take - in taking adult responsibility for our actions. As part of that, we need computer systems which don't automatically take that decision-making responsibility away from us.

Just as crossing the street may be a desirable goal, whilst walking under a bus is an undesirable goal, we need to grow up, and learn to take responsibility for our actions. As part of that growing-up process, we need to learn the ability to differentiate between crossing an open road, and walking into the path of a bus.

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Thu 17th Apr 2008 @ 23:00 2008: MS DOS 5 Upgrade

"soothes any memory hogging beast, cos it frees 45kb memory at least... and that's why everyone who's in knows, that it's also the best DOS to run with Windows"

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Wed 16th Apr 2008 @ 23:36 2008: Sinfest cartoon from the end of last year

I'd forgotten this one; just StumbledUpon it. I love sinfest..


The author, Tatsuya Ishida, describes the comic thusly:

I have discovered a way to live life in a state of perpetual orgasmic ecstasy, unbothered by the cruel vagaries of life. It's perfectly legal, no drugs involved, no crazy meditation regimen, no change in diet or beliefs or lifestyle. It's healthy, no side effects, no hangover, just pure bliss round the clock, 24/7. Problem is, I can't articulate the secret method in words. There's no verbal way to demonstrate how I've achieved this state. As much as I'd like to disclose the mystery to you all it resists all known forms of communication. Except one. The comic strip. I can transmit my esoteric knowledge through my comic strip and through my comic strip alone. There's no other way. So you must keep reading, every day, all the time, forever. Buy all the books at least four times. Reminisce on particular strips in your free time, learn punchlines by heart, impress your friends with your knowledge of Sinfest. Whatever you do, you must keep reading. But now for a limited time eligible women can receive my wisdom through special tantric exercises with me as their personal guru. After only ten, twenty sessions of intense hands-on nude full-contact sensual massage therapy you too can experience The Super Duper Tatsuya Joy. Act now! Operators are standing by.

I can't vouch for that, but the cartoon is great.

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Tue 8th Apr 2008 @ 22:56 2008: Standing up to the Church of Scientology

Church of Scientology "bibles" have been put online at Wikileaks, which has had the usual lawyers letters claiming copyright infringement, but apparently Wikileaks has refused to take them down.

Go, Wikileaks! Anonymous has the best chance of standing up to Co$ and their bully-boy tactics. I dare to hope that 2008 could be a turning point which heralds the end of Co$

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Mon 7th Apr 2008 @ 01:12 2008: Child Protection

Sometimes, it may be possible to take child protection a little too far. I was at Spring Harvest last week; it was a wonderful event, about which I may well blather on in (possibly unwanted) detail at a later date.

For now, I'll just mention the kids activities.

All ages are catered for at Spring Harvest, and it's not just a question of "doing childcare" for the adults. From 3 months old and upwards (ISTR someone aged 99 in one All Age Worship session), everybody is taken seriously as a human being.

Of course, for the children, certain security measures have to be in place, these days. For the younger kids, the security seemed to mainly be based on the excellent quality of the carers, who really knew the children they were working with, and got to know the parents well also. Some things there weren't great, which I have raised with Spring Harvest.

When you collect your child, hand this ticket to their group leader, & give your child's full nameFor some of the older kids, this ticket system was in use. (click to enlarge). This seems much better; the ID ("8" in this example) doesn't tell you what child it refers to, so if the ticket is lost, one would not know where to go, or which child to ask for. Holding a ticket, but being unsure of the child's name, would be very likely to raise a red flag, which acts as a great deterrant. Even if you make a lucky guess ("John is a common name"), the requirement of a full name, along with the fact that small groups of children, with great 1:1 contact with the leaders, means that opportunistic abduction is very unlikely to succeed.

How likely opportunistic abduction is, in reality, is hard to determine, but the figures suggest that it is far lower than society currently rates the threat.

Realistically, the real problem with such a policy is in the middle section of the ticket:

Please note: No child will be released from our programme without the production of the correct ticket.

Assuming that their system works, and no children are incorrectly taken out of their "programme", they will inevitably end up with surplus children on their hands, as tickets will inevitably get lost.

Given time, they will end up with a large backlog of unclaimed (and unclaimable) children on their hands.

Okay, that's my pedantry out of the way. They did have a fallback system in place to deal with such an eventuality, but again - security through obscurity ... possibly good enough in this instance - I won't detail it here.

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