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Sunday, December 8th, 2019, 12:00 pm

2 Decades Without Windows

“Windows 98 should have been released for free on Jan. 1, 1996 and titled Windows 95.1. If this were Hollywood, then Windows 98 would be the equivalent of ‘Heaven’s Gate’, ‘Waterworld’ and ‘Godzilla’ rolled into one. A huge, overhyped, bloated, embarrassment.”

Jesse Berst, ZDNet editor

MY GENERATION (I’m 37) grew up on DOS. Not necessarily Microsoft DOS, either. Just DOS. As a kid I used to work from the command line. We, as kids, taught one another new tricks; sometimes an adult would visit to teach us things and copy some programs for us (floppy disks with compressed archives). Various utilities like RAR were useful. Sometimes an infection (malicious program) needed to be removed. That was before the days of Windows 3.x — the days we used ncurses-type interfaces to type documents and send these to printers. Later on I did some programming with batch files and at around age 15 I started with Pascal (quite popular at the time owing to simplicity and relative elegance).

I mostly missed the BBS generation (some friends of mine used it; they’d copy for us files they got from there). When bulletin board systems were still popular many computers did not even have modems (few of my classmates had them, usually because of lack of a technical parent, and only one of them was a GNU/Linux user in the mid/late nineties). I think I got my first modem when I was 14 and IRC was probably the first thing I used “on-line”. After Windows 95, which many people used at that time, I bought my last Windows laptop. Actually, my father bought it. He used it and then passed it to me. It had only 32 MB of RAM and Windows 98. I carried it around and used it in university as an undergraduate student (at the faculty I used GNU/Linux at the time). It retired years later and I’ve not bothered with Windows since then. I wrote a great deal about it in USENET at the time. Memories from these days are mostly gone by now; I barely ever touch Windows and when I do it’s over Remote Desktop, typically to access a client’s network, e.g. to run PuTTY from a remote system. That happens about once a month (patching Debian GNU/Linux servers).

Was Windows 98 a decent operating system? No, it was unreliable, but at least it ran on modest hardware without much RAM. I ran Firefox on it, with a total system capacity of something from the mid-nineties (~400MegaHertZ CPU, 32 MB of RAM). That was before Microsoft added back doors to Windows (this was reportedly done in 1999), before the bloat of NT and before DRM (Vista).

With 3 weeks left before the end of this year (and this decade) I remember not so fondly the 90s, back when I used Windows. In 2000 I moved to GNU/Linux, helped by a Finnish friend, an exchange student at the university. In a sense, next year I become a 20-year GNU/Linux user.

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019, 3:27 am

‘Collateral Damage’ of Aggressive Private Investigators

LONG ago, perhaps as far back as 13 years ago (depending on what key event is evaluated to be a key catalyst), something profoundly disturbing happened in Manchester. I became aware of it because the victim himself told me about it. I spent perhaps 50 hours of my life hearing about it. But I never wrote about it. Never. The matter is confidential as there are court proceedings regarding the situation. Millions of pounds are at stake (in compensation). The defendant (offender) has already spent nearly 200,000 pounds in legal fees.

Yesterday I got some truly amazing information and a story (almost 5 years in the courts). I initially wanted to write about it in Techrights. But I think it better suits my personal site and not Techrights because it does not concern technology. Not at all. One day I will shed light on the specifics of it (I already have documents). I intend to fully explain this case and its ramifications. There will be court documents, too (when it’s safe to publish these). I cannot show them yet not only because they would compromise an ongoing case but because much work is needed sorting our synopses (people don’t tend to bother reading as much as 13,000 words).

I spent about 3 hours yesterday picking witness stories from ~3 people. What could probably be proven, depending on whether the police helps (which I doubt), is rather shocking and can rattle the city’s largest law firm. How aggressive can lawyers get? Would they hire underworld thugs and goons? Ex-police and ex-military men to threaten and spy on victims?

I spoke to some people at the health club yesterday, both staff and members, and it seems very likely a spy\mole\plant\private investigator was there for 2 months under false ID to spy, abuse and threaten everyone to target just one person whom he stalked (and not for a crime but the very opposite if it — for holding criminals accountable). He acted maliciously to discourage response or reactionary interrogation. Got busted at the end. Ex military too, apparently. Days ago he absconded and burned all tracks. The way this was done was extremely suspicious. He left a trail of damaged people. He made threats. He knew what he was doing and caused much harm to a lot of people. Report now filed with the police, which is unlikely to do anything. Because based on the past or from my personal experience they never do… and these firms tend to be connected to the police (private-public sector shuffles).

I realise this may seem vague. I’ve given away only the gender of the victim. I didn’t name places and people. There’s a reason for that and I intend to post updates. I intend to pursue the police over this, politely but insistently if necessary. I’d also encourage the parent company behind the health club to urge our police to advance to a full investigation, knowing people were morally harmed. This likely leads to a large law firm engaging in fraudulent conduct — something it had done before (and court documents prove that). Bullying and intimidation tactics spreading beyond their target — impacting my wife as well — aren’t acceptable. Moreover, to maintain the impression that the health club protects the integrity and safety of members it will definitely have to — sooner or later — do something about it. Had they known that Mafia members were among the club (its clients), surely it would have to do something before it’s too late (becoming a crisis). Looking the other way puts many people at grave risk.

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019, 9:25 am

I Never Had a Machine With More Than 2GB of RAM. But Phoronix Portrays GNU/Linux as Sucking on Memory Management.

The main problem is bloated software, not Linux

LAST night I saw a somewhat ‘trollish’ bunch of reports. I saw Slashdot [1], linking to Phoronix [2] with a grammatical mistake in the headline (“Yes, Linux Does Bad In Low RAM / Memory Pressure Situations On The Desktop”).

Let me first clarify that I’m no kernel guru. Far from it. I’m a programmer, but not an OS programmer or kernel developer.

“Is this accurate?”

That’s what I asked people who may know better. They know kernel developers (and development) better than me.

“Is it true or is Phoronix taking the piss?”

I saw comments on it (almost 100 in Phoronix and 400 in Slashdot), but they’re short and vague. How is Linux doing compared to other OSes?

“ZSWAP makes a huge difference (RAM compression),” one person told me. “GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="zswap.enabled=1 zswap.compressor=lz4 zswap.zpool=z3fold"

“Windows 10 & MacOS & Ubuntu have RAM compression on by default,” he added.

“I’m not sure exactly what they have,” he continued, “but I remember reading about it before. RAM compression isn’t new at all. But it is relatively new (few years) to be on by default.”

Linux kernel space is typically ahead of the curve (compared to the competition); Con Kolivas comes to mind when it comes to claims that it’s optimised for servers but not for desktops (the scheduler, not RAM/swap management).

To check compression status on one’s system:

grep -R . /sys/module/zswap/parameters;sudo dmesg|grep zswap; sudo grep -R . /sys/kernel/debug/zswap;f;sudo sh -c 'cd /sys/kernel/debug/zswap;perl -E "say $(cat stored_pages) * 4096 / $(cat pool_total_size)"' # to check if loaded ; used ; ZswapCompressionRatio

How can one argue that GNU/Linux does worse than counterparts? Slashdot promoted this story with about 400 comments and Phoronix even has a grammatical mistake in its headline (Slashdot corrected it, Michael of Phoronix has not.) It’s an eyesore in a sense; both the message and the English. The headline also states that as fact even though it’s to be attributed to just one developer, Artem S Tashkinov. To an outsider (to kernel development) it may smack of clickbait. It’s stigmatising “Linux” as not successful on “desktop” because of “technical” “issues” (not OEM bribes, ISVs etc.), but if it’s based on purely factual bits, then let it be, I’m fine with it.

My gut feeling was, there’s likely more to the story; can Apple and Microsoft handle compression of RAM for instance? If so, how well? I don’t know people running Apple-branded systems and PCs with Windows on just 2 gigabytes of RAM (which is the most I ever had on any of my systems; same with my wife, who is a GNU/Linux user).

Another person, who is proficient at kernel matters, told me: “I have caused Linux to stall in swap hell many times and there are long list of particular causes of it. facebook made oomd to attempt to deal with it in userspace.”

The first person weighed in again: “they should compare to other distros, and to MacOS/Windows. But the complaint is valid, IMO: that Linux (defaults) *should* be ‘smarter’ when OOM; check what is your vm.vfs_cache_pressure. $ cat /proc/sys/vm/vfs_cache_pressure [...] I have mine set to 50, because this article makes sense to. (but I’m not sure what default is nowadays?)”

A third person wrote: “my Orange Pi with 2 GB of RAM running everything mainline is my main desktop, which runs generally fine with a swapfile of also 2 GB…”

That was in the #techrights IRC channel this morning.

The person added, “the bigger question for me is why applications these days are so heavy and slow…”

That last point is what I too have raised many times before. GNU/Linux is handling reasonably well a complete system with 2GB of RAM (or less). Super-bloated applications is where things start getting trickier.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Linux Performs Poorly In Low RAM / Memory Pressure Situations On The Desktop

    It’s been a gripe for many running Linux on low RAM systems especially is that when the Linux desktop is under memory pressure the performance can be quite brutal with the system barely being responsive. The discussion over that behavior has been reignited this week.

  2. Yes, Linux Does Bad In Low RAM / Memory Pressure Situations On The Desktop

    It’s been a gripe for many running Linux on low RAM systems especially is that when the Linux desktop is under memory pressure the performance can be quite brutal with the system barely being responsive. The discussion over that behavior has been reignited this week.

    Developer Artem S Tashkinov took to the kernel mailing list over the weekend to express his frustration with the kernel’s inability to handle low memory pressure in a graceful manner. If booting a system with just 4GB of RAM available, disabling SWAP to accelerate the impact/behavior, and launching a web browser and opening new web pages / tabs can in a matter of minutes bring the system down to its knees.

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019, 8:51 am

Linux.com is Nowadays Too Much Microsoft Propaganda and Openwashing

This is what the site looks like this morning

Linux.com

Welcome to Linux.com!

Microsoft… is “OPEN SOURCE”!

Sadly, this has become far too common in that site under its new (and sole) editor. Whose interests are served now? Linux Foundation sponsors.

Thursday, July 25th, 2019, 9:30 am

Twitter is Dead to Me

Old Twitter

REMEMBER the minimalism of early/earlier Twitter? Here it is in 2009; Notice how in 2014 it’s already bloated; nowadays it takes up gigabytes of RAM — all this to read SMS-sized blurbs and replies to them. I have to restart my browser just to read notifications. I’ve had enough!

Twitter, the Saudi-owned (partly at least) social control media company (i.e. censorship, a filter of communications whose owners determine what people or speech are permissible), is finished. It’s dying anyway.

Weeks ago it banned, with neither warning nor notice (let alone an explanation), the account that supports Julian Assange. It was terminated despite being professional and polite. It was associated with some very high-profile people, including Julian Assange’s family. Weeks later the account was reinstated (after huge backlash), but other accounts associated with this one remain banned. Everything they’ve ever published got deleted for — possibly at least — being ‘inconvenient’ to the site’s owners, i.e. shareholders who subsidise this company’s losses.

In order to reduce these losses or turn up some temporary profits (for the first time ever!) a year ago Twitter cut off third-party applications. It killed APIs in an effort to impose its surveillance malware (‘app’) on all users and each page was greeted with a pop-up pushing this malicious ‘app’.

Moments ago the site started imposing its utterly disgusting mobile UI on all visitors, even those who do not use a mobile device. This, to me, was the final straw.

I will still have stuff copied onto Twitter (through Diaspora), I will occasionally check replies (perhaps once a day), but for all practical purposes my presence in Twitter will remain mostly a phantom. Later this week I will have posted my 666,666th tweet (special number), but before I get to it I sort of ‘quit’ Twitter. Knowing that many people have no account other than in Twitter I will keep sending copies of my dents/diaspora posts/Pleroma posts/toots into it.

Twitter as a company deserves to collapse. Like Facebook, it has artificially inflated the number of users; it lies to advertisers and gives a false impression/perception of scale. I predict that Twitter won’t last more than a decade (from now). It had lost billions before it began ‘squeezing the goose’ and now the goose is in its deathbed. RIP, Twitter. I won’t miss you when you’re gone.

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019, 11:25 pm

The Linux Foundation Killed Linux.com After Two Decades of News Service

Linux.com

Remember NewsForge? Or Geeknet? Yes, once upon a time Linux.com was a site for geeks; under the Linux Foundation’s ownership it gradually became a site for large corporations, where they could buy puff pieces and interviews (agreed upon in advance, as covered in Techrights). But among those puff pieces and ads one could at least find some journalism.

I’m sad to see, 2 months down the line, that Linux.com is practically dead. Nothing new is being added to it. It’s now a fossil. Eternally? The Foundation has said not a single word about it. So much for openness and transparency, eh?

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019, 11:13 pm

Tux Machines 15th Year Party

Tux Machines birthday

PLANNED for next Friday is a little local party to celebrate the Tux Machines birthday, which is a special one because it’s fifteenth. It’s hard to believe the site started its 16th year earlier this month.

The party will mostly involve some local/personal friends of ours, but if you live near Manchester and wish to join, send me an E-mail.

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