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Archive for September, 2005

SpammerAssassin

Stuffed mailboxes

WHAT we truly need is not SpamAssassin , but a SpammerAssassin [sic]. We have seen controversial cases where spammers got killed, but taking the law into one’s hand is a desperate and poor solution. However, what else can be done when the law in itself is futile and inherently lacking?

Something evil like comment spam gets blocked in the best of circumstances while nothing is done to penalise or catch the spammers themselves. How long must it take before globalised networks begin to hunt down the spammers, backed by excruciating laws to assist the enforcers? Surely not enough is done. In internationalised networks like the Internet, it is sufficient to have few countries (see spam maps) that are apathetic to spam and make havens for illicit traffic to be dispatched.

I recently joined an initiative to combat and ideally eradicate comment spam altogether. With a few tweaks I also found that SpamAssassin filters out my E-mail spam admirably well, separating ham and spam by putting them in separate boxes. Not all is lost as progress is still being made. Unfortunately, spammers get more ‘crafty’, usually keeping abreast of mail prevention methods. It is a never-ending race.

The Age of Personal Homepages

Spinning logo

30 frames, 63 colours, 200 KB in total (source)

IN recent years we have seen the rise of (soon the demise of [2, 3]) blogs, as well as various personal homepages. The curious statistics include myself although I began when I was 15 with admittedly poor content. This dates back to the last century and is hence not considered “recent” either. Homepages used to be common habit among academics who wished to disseminate recent work, openly expressing to peers their research interests and showing (off) a list of publications.

This morning my 9-year-old sister approached me and asked for a personal homepage1. She got envious since her friends have one already. Funny enough, she even wanted her own domain, but I stopped her right there. It was just over a year ago that she asked me to add a photo to a family photos page and I added several albums to the Genealogy section.

Trends appear to evolve and greed mounts enough to justify extending a single page, which soon becomes an independent, stand-alone site. It has become a norm rather than the exception and the ‘entry barrier’ is easier to get by. Several years ago there were only a few ‘brave’ individuals who boasted a page or a blog, but today these are so common that they are merely insignificant. The excess — or the overload as some would prefer to call it — makes visitors less willing to explore. In more and more forms and an increasing number of subscription we are given the input field “homepage” these days. So, individualism it no longer is.

Due to such homepages, it is also easier to access our minds, which as many other things can be used for better or for worse. One thing is for sure: the early years of the 21st century will be remembered as the days when many people began erecting personal, self-centric sites (as opposed to scattered pages). Consequently, freedom of speech was on the rise (or conversely muted) and privacy jeopardised.

1 I am afraid her homepage will remain unindexed by crawlers and accessible only to her friends for the time being.

Linux Tablet and $100 Laptop

Laptop

I am still on vacation, but I would be sad to see the blog remaining static. The following are a few pointers that I have accumulated in recent days:

  • Linux tablet – running fully-featured Linux on a modern tablet PC
  • $100 laptop prototype – a proposal from MIT
  • Why would a Linux device be as capable (or more) as any other platform which is expensive and bound to restrictions? See the Slashdot roundup of Web applications. The collection of links therein is makes an excellent proof of the emergence of AJAX in several major aspects of work, e.g. scheduling and spreadsheets. I mentioned this as a future possibility a few days ago and wrote a long essay about it on the plane just a day before coming across the item from Slashdot.

Did you know there was AJAX word processor, AJAX spreadsheet, AJAX calendar, AJAX presentation-building software, AJAX e-mail client, AJAX note-taking software and some other interesting applications, which, deployed on your local server, do not need installation and “just work” in a browser window?

Autumn Vacation

Spring vacation

LATER this morning I shall be leaving for a 10-day vacation. I will attempt to continue adding content to my blog, though pace will not be comparable with my usual. As I will be getting less input (i.e. reading and conversing), I don’t expect myself to have much to say either.

Shown above is a photo from my last vacation in springtime. A few transformations were applied to the image using the excellent GIMP, just for amusement. Knowing my past experiences, this vacation will only lead to accumulation of work and reslessness. Internet is an addiction to me.

Palm Endow Microsoft with Unjustifiable Flattery

AS Palm form an alliance for their smart phone with their former rival Microsoft, many perceive the step as a damaging one to the Open Source community or advocates of open standards and inter-operability. Microsoft are already strutting about, showing off in their front page a Palm device while labelling it “Windows-powered” (a segment of the image is shown below). This image looks rather offensive since they go a rather long way in order to pass across the message: “the enemy is ours”. Sadly, Palm do similarly in their front page; maybe a reciprocal exchange?

This aggressive attitude is by all means nothing new. It comes after a great deal of trouble and distress at Microsoft. Windows Vista, for example, needed to be-built from scratch and there was recent loss of government support and trust, which in turn opted to move to OpenDocument. So, that “incompetent-at-best” move from Palm gives Microsoft a small victory among the many recent losses, ‘Google threat’ being the most prominent one.

Palm on Windows
How can Palm live with the shame? (from Microsoft’s front page)

In UseNet, several threads come up with misleading subject lines insinuating a complete Palm migration to Windows, which is evidently false. Then again, when will Palm complete their promised move to Linux? Is the recent Access-Palm takeover going to have an effect on strategic alliances? What if Palm carried on with Windows for their smart phones, as well as Linux in tandem, primarily for older-generation devices?

Looking at the users’ side, how would smart phone owners, whose data has been stored in line with Palm’s conventions, synchronise their data with a Mac or a Linux machine? Are they supposed to be swayed to change their desktop environments because of a PDA?

This move by Palm left me bitter and I am not alone in feeling somewhat betrayed. I came to witness a platform which I voluntarily supported (assisting many hundreds, if not thousands, of Palm users in UseNet) as it gave strength to an opponent — an opponent whose purpose is to destroy and cripple anything that is not Microsoft. I am beginning to investigate a migration to the Zaurus after many years of sticking and evangelising Palm. I truly hope that Palm prove that their commitment to Linux is true, thus keeping me ‘on board’. They will need to do that soon enough, or else rumours will grow wings and suggest that Palm(One) have become merely a hardware vendor and that PalmSource are history.

Cited by: PalmAddict

Massachusetts Goes OpenDocument, More to Follow Suit?

Bill Gates
Bill Gates arrested in his younger days (photo in public domain)

As previously discussed, the admirable state of Massachusetts is able to recognise problems with closed applications and proprietary formats. It is now confirmed that Massachusetts will carry on and dispose of Office in a staged migration to OpenDocument, culminating in 2007.

With Microsoft’s OpenOffice XML the loser to OpenDocument in Massachusetts, the war of desktop formats is likely to spread to other governmental bodies, says one participant in the deliberations who sees the decision as a tipping point.

“In many ways it becomes circular,” said Doug Heintzman of IBM in an interview Friday. “It emboldens other entities. We are on the cusp of a big change.”

Immense perseverance at Microsoft did not help avoid this key loss of the Massachusetts ‘flagship’. Awakened interest in Linux recently emerged among African governments as well. Only last week, South Africa wished to ditch proprietary and get rid of hundreds of millions (USD) worth of licences. All the same, it is still worth reading the open letter from the KDE team to Microsoft.

Penguin animation
Is this the beginning of the end for Office proprietary?

Google Make Media Player Inter-operable

PCWORLD.COM are reporting that Google Video, a service that allows users to browse and view a large variety of videos, integrates a media player so that everything can be played in the browser, making it irrespective of the platform.

The service’s videos now play within a Web browser without the need for additional software, says Peter Chane, senior business product manager for Google Video.

Moreover, the previously Windows-only playback service is now available to users whose PCs run the Linux and Mac OS operating systems.

TV X-FilesThe move makes it rather clear why Microsoft are terribly afraid of Google. Proprietary and incompatibilities with competing platforms have thus far been Windows’ major lock-in factor. Google, who are Linux-oriented, appear to open up the Web, media included. Web-based media players mark a beautiful milestone.

Google Video features are also mentioned in today’s item from the official Google Blog

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