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Archive for March, 2006

Microsoft’s Latest Dirty Tactics

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

MICROSOFT embracing aggressive and illegal practices?!?! You don’t say…! As unshocking as it may sound, Microsoft continue to use anti-competitive means to prevent a quicker penetration of GNU/Linux, or Open Source software in general.

One of their methods is to deter OEM‘s from supplying Linux, as recently confirmed in a Novell testimony. So what is involved exactly? The Redmond software maker is apparently allowed to penalise shops for offering a Windows alternative, for merely having it in stock. Put positively (negativity in disguise), Microsoft can always offer ‘benefits’ (a bonus) for supplying an all-Windows range. This can put free software in a position of disadvantage. This rebatement has virtually the same effect as a penalty, a fine. It illustrates the litigious subtleties which Microsoft rides on. When Compaq placed the Netscape icon for Web browsing on the Desktop, Microsoft threatened to break the contract, even though Explorer was right there among the menus (as it “cannot be uninstalled”, of course, as dangerous as it may be).

This leads to another discussion on the issue of bad practices. Back when Microsoft faced court to defend itself against Netscape, it argued that Internet Explorer could not be removed from the operating system. “It was too deeply rooted in the core”, they argued. As it finally turns out, owing to the many security issues, Microsoft have just decided to separate Internet Explorer from Windows Explorer, making it separate from the core. In other words, they lied in court and got away with it.

Lastly, let us consider the endless delays in release of Windows Vista. First, the release date was estimated at 2003, then 2005, then 2006 and now it is said to be February 2007. Similar tactics have been used in the (rather distant) past by IBM, as means to prevent the customer from defecting to competitors. Saying that you are “just there” when clearly you are not, is not just deceitful; it’s irresponsible, selfish and disrespectful.

On some older dirty tactics: Operating System Monoculture, Bill Gates crucified by a lawyer in 1998 (video)

Web Design Courses: You Thought You Had Seen Everything

This is a testimony which I could not help quoting. It speaks of the rotten state of Web design courses.

I asked the teacher to direct me to a real website in the real world that he has developed. He told me his job is to teach, not create a site. I then asked if he could accurately describe the use of the [a href] tag and how to make it open in a new window. Total silence. I then asked if he knew what “CSS” stood for and its place in web design. Once again, silence. I asked what PHP is. I asked about asp and its purpose in web design. Still silence. I was sure he hung up on me, but I was wrong.

After 10 seconds of stammering his way through the css question, he summarized his comments by telling me that CSS is a very specific programming language seldom seen in the real world. He admitted he was not familiar with asp and phc (that’s right, ph”c”). He feels that since it is seldom used, there is no reason to teach it to the students.

Models Hijack the Health Club

Whisper

IT has been a good day at the gym today. A team of dozens of production staff took over the health club for the filming of models. Good-looking women ‘infested’ the place. [smile /]

Previous ‘special guests’ were
Jeff ‘Left hook’ Lacy, a boxing world champion (a fortnight ago), and Justin Timberlake a couple of years. It was just me and him at the gym, but I didn’t recognise him at first. He is unimpressive when faced in person.

Ubuntu with Fluxbox

nUbuntu shells

I have just become aware of yet another Ubuntu-based distribution (Kubuntu and Edubuntu aside). It is currently using the codebase from version 5 to form a derivative. This distribution, which is called nUbuntu, features the beautiful Fluxbox, which is probably the most attractive window manager among Enlightenment, Matacity, WindowMaker and Sawfish in GNOME (KDE uses kwin).

MEPIS have recently made bold move to become a Ubuntu derivative rather than a Debian derivative. Debian is, of course, the father of Ubuntu. It seems apparent from recent surveys that Debian-type distributions outnumber Red Hat- and SuSE-based distributions. Google continue to use Ubuntu in-house, even on the desktop. They call it Goobuntu.

Intellectual Property and its Negative Effects

Orange pillsPatents, copyrights and trademarks serve an important role. They prevent theft of one’s methods and reputations, which often require heavy investment (not necessarily financial). But what about intellectual property which is fuzzy and not concrete? I will use a case study to exemplify this.

Think about the case where Xerox patented the one-stroke Graffiti input, which Palm devices later used for stylus-based input. It is the method by which drawing on a screen is translated into discrete, atomic signals such as letters and numbers. Jotting a line from top to bottom to render a “1″ should not warrant anyone property of such an idea, right? Yet, that’s what Xerox achieved. They ‘invented’ the chalkboard interpretation language and took ownership. Ultimately, as to abstain from paying royalties perhaps, Palm invented “Graffiti 2″, which is a cumbersome method of achieving the very same thing. People’s habits were broken and input made slower just because Xerox ‘owned’ a more efficient input method that involved a single, unambiguous stroke. A common language was actually possessed by one master.

Let that teach us why patents in software are evil and are not accepted in Europe. The case would of course be different in fields like medicine and especially drug discovery.

Atheism from a Scientist’s Perspective

I would like to take a brief moment and speak about my opinion on religion, atheism, creationism, and evolution. I will do not in a nutshell since elaboration tends drive the readers away.

From what I can gather form real-life situations, pious and devout believers confute the evolutions or try to contradict it. It is a matter of perception, which provides nothing but self satisfaction. A beholder always sees beauty in his/her thoughts, tradition and creation. At worse time, he/she even finds shelter in it.

Technology entails enlightenment. More enlightened people remain mantally bendable, which is the reason why this 21st century slowly escapes religion (there are exceptions). Such people are not distracted by the hoi polloi and can form their own opinion and use careful judgment. To religious families, refusal to believe in God is not a million miles away from becoming mischievous, to say the very least. So what gives? In some families this can even entail corporal punishment.

Digressing to discuss the interaction between religion and science, have a look at the following recent article:

On February 20th, the infamously pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute released news that over 500 doctoral scientists had signed its statement “publicly expressing their skepticism about the contemporary theory of Darwinian evolution.”

A day earlier, a newly launched coalition of scientists, educators and clergy members called the Alliance for Science revealed a converse document at the annual meeting of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The Clergy Letter Project snagged the signatures of 10,000 clerics on a document that in part states, “We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests.”

In my humble opinion, society as a whole will sooner or later fend off the trite and reach the inevitable vocation, which is science, spirituality aloof. A whole myriad of miracles and legends will no longer have a mental impact on people. They will find ways to feel elated, other than to pray or rely on an entity of supremacy.

SOS For Commercial Software Vendors

NOW that Windows Vista’s release has been delayed (due to security, drivers, etc.) and a revamped Office has been delayed too, certain predictions seem truer than ever before.

It was only a couple of days ago that Apache’s head permitted 10 years before the complete eclipse, wherein commercial software ceases to exist ‘in the wild’. Essentially, such a scenario would make commercial software (binaries) lose all value. It may serve no purpose as accompanying code will just lodge on the shelves to collect dust. This outlook must be the rationale behind Xara Xtreme going from commercial all the way to the GPL — a complete 180!

It seems ever more evident that any Windows ‘box booter’ and Visual Basic-only programmer could soon become obsolete, unless Open Source skills are quickly acquired. The next couple of years will be rather intersting as they will bring radical changes to the software development market.

Bill Gates recently stated very clearly that the future of computing is in services. This must the reason why many of his executives have already defected to Google and certain governmental departments are migrating to Open Source, which is independent from opaque packages. All that is left, on the face of it, are big budgets for brainwash of businesses and vendors, as well as IT managers and the public.

Related item: Windows Vista is Service Pack III (parody)

Longhorn screenshot
Some argue that this would be the last operating system from Microsoft

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Original styles created by Ian Main (all acknowledgements) • PHP scripts and styles later modified by Roy Schestowitz • Help yourself to a GPL'd copy
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