Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Daily Archives / Wednesday, June 16, 2010

  • Jun 16 / 2010
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technology

ACTA

There is a global movement to legislate and to enforce DRM and other stupidity as a part of ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement). I doubt many would object to cooperation amongst nations to stop illegal copying of trademarks and such but ACTA is being pushed by the same folks who love DRM. These guys want to block access to the Internet for anyone accused of violating whatever and to punish anyone for possession of anything that can break DRM. I am not kidding. This is serious. If you love freedom on the web, you should oppose ACTA. You can by signing a petition. We do not accept padlocks on books or magazines. Why accept locks on digital media?

Even if all you do is backup your CDs/DVDs, the tools you use could be against the law in the regime being contemplated by ACTA. Oppose it. Access to copyright material should not expire when the CD does. The term of copyright is X years, not the life of a disc. Outsiders should not have the right to limit your use of information you acquired legally for your personal use. That other OS endorses DRM, hook, line and sinker. You do not have to accept that. You have a choice to use GNU/Linux which gives you the right to use software on your PC as you wish. Do not let them take that right away from you for any reason.

I have worked in places that had an official policy banning software like ping or nmap. How was I to do my job? This goes way beyond that. CD-ripping, file-sharing (legally), and back-ups, all reasonable uses of IT and the Internet, could be eviscerated by ACTA. Don’t let it happen without a fight. Already there are moves in particular countries to ban tools like bittorrent. Stop the nonsense. One does not ban hammers because they can be used by murderers. One should not ban useful tools of IT because they can be used to do illegal things. Ban the illegal acts, not the tools.

  • Jun 16 / 2010
  • 0
technology

Productivity of Office Suites

… is zero. It’s the people using them that are productive. I noticed a comment about “the ribbon” on ZDnet:

“The productivity boosts my people got from moving from action menu based Office 2003 to process ribbon based Office 2007 was huge and the time saving meant the ROI was only a matter of weeks.

I wonder what kind of sweat shop that guy runs. 10K monkeys working on a novel, perhaps? I don’t know anyone who likes “the ribbon”. I am not alone. I think “the ribbon” was a major boost for OpenOffice.org. I don’t see growth in use of OpenOffice.org slowing but the high price of migrating to Office 2010 may actually accelerate it.

I have had a few encounters with “the ribbon” mostly using others’ PCs and it is horrible if you are unfamiliar with it. What was that the trolls keep saying about business sticking with apps they are used to using? I expect a lot of XP to “7″ migrations will be complicated by trying to avoid Office. If they avoid Office, they are half-way to avoiding that other OS altogether. This looks like a forking operation. Those who wish to be locked in forever will migrate from XP to “7″ and take “the ribbon” and those who want choice will go with GNU/Linux and OpenOffice.org. For the majority of uses of PCs these days that is the crucial choice. We may have to build from source if OpenOffice.org adopts a new interface… OO has more than 100 million downloads now and distros push it so it must be taking a bite out of M$’s share. The new version and its pricing will help advance OO further.

The switching from Vista to “7″ has been dramatic. XP is in a holding pattern while people make up their minds. The country that looks most ready to convert XP machines to GNU/Linux appears to be Uruguay.

  • Jun 16 / 2010
  • 0
technology

Stretching the Truth

M$ has said a billion PCs run Office… Oops, not quite. Further, it is not such a bargain any longer:

“I agree that it seems crazy counter-intuitive that Microsoft isn’t offering its existing Office user base any kind of real deals/incentives to stick with Office in the face of more competition from Google Docs, etc., as well as from the “the Office I have is good enough” syndrome. But that’s what the Softies are doing.”


That’s OK, M$, OpenOffice.org can take up the slack. If you really don’t want to encourage your customers to stick around, others will.

  • Jun 16 / 2010
  • 0
Linux in Education, technology

Government of California Gets FLOSS

“Over time, the open source community has proven to be somewhat self-policing, where the best products get adopted and widely used, while the stuff that doesn’t meet standards gets a well deserved funeral. It seems to me that thousands of developers and hackers beating up on open source code is an efficient and transparent way of identifying software bugs and vulnerabilities. When the code is available to the public and people can identify, comment and document problems, things get fixed more quickly – kind of like software market Darwinism where only the strongest code survives.
There are plenty of arguments against using OSS, including the “there’s no guarantee of future support” hymn, but how many hours have you spent on hold with some clueless support tech trying to translate a script he or she doesn’t understand? At least with the open source community, you have access to worldwide support available almost any time of day and it’s typically free. So while there are some criticisms, there’s also a lot of valid business rationale for using OSS.”


Coming from the Chief Information Security Officer, that’s a strong endorsement.

If such a large organization can see and recommend using FLOSS for important work, so can we all use it with confidence. It is different but it works. For anything resembling typical office work with a browser and office suite, it will do the job. For reliable services on the network, it will do the job. For easily managing all of that, it will do the job. My position is that one should have a very good reason not to use FLOSS. If it does the job and it is less expensive than other solutions, why not? On top of the purely technical decision of whether or not FLOSS can do the job, there are many advantages to FLOSS like the ability to tweak the source code and to have input to the code itself even if you are a smaller player, hiring more people in your locality than where the supplier of that other software dwells, and the ability to use open standards preserving the integrity of data. All over the world, governments and businesses are making similar analyses.

Where I work, it was obvious that other OS could not survive in our environment. It slowed. It picked up malware. It needed anti-malware software just to keep it going longer. It needed periodic re-installation. GNU/Linux was tested at first in the lab with students and one teacher, and then tested by students and teachers in other classrooms. Even the boss tried it. No one found it could not do the job. When they saw the speed on the same hardware where XP struggled the choice was clear. When they saw that the old machines could be used as terminals to new machines to spread the joy no barriers were left except a couple of corner cases of lock-in.

Try it. You will like it even if it is not suitable everywhere. In my organization, there is only one PC that must run that other OS (for an application that uses Java and MySQL, both accessible from GNU/Linux!) out of 80 machines. The position that uses that PC is not staffed at the moment… so for the balance of the school year, at least, I can say that no position in the school needs that other OS. GNU/Linux can do audio, video, browsing, searching, word-processing, maths, services, … Limits on GNU/Linux are limits on imagination. GNU/Linux can permit you to do anything you can do with a PC. I am not talking about features. M$ can add as many weird, unnecessary features as it wants to its software. That does not make its software,magically, necessary. You decide what works best for you and you have choices.

  • Jun 16 / 2010
  • 0
technology

Gobbledy-gook Invented to Impress Customers

I recently came across an article that made no sense to me. The thesis was that FLOSS would fail “in the cloud” because FLOSS web applications could not scale and that they were not “multi-tenant“. Wait for it… It’s an ad sponsored by M$ disguised as an article in Forbes (http://images.forbes.com/ads/BIEB10/120_40_spons.jpg).

For years we have been claiming that that other OS was not a true multi-user OS because it did not scale, each instance of a running process needed another copy of the binary in RAM. M$ and its partners are now trying to claim that FLOSS on servers has the same problem. Last time I checked, I could run a single instance of a server and serve a gazillion simultaneous users ( a few anyway) from the single instance but now they claim the PHP script or other web application AND the database have to be single to deal with any number of users… Isn’t that a security issue? Cross-site scripting comes to mind. Do users of the cloud really want the service provider to see all the data of all their customers at once? Isn’t that a major knock on Google? Data-mining is more convenient with “multi-tenant”. I doubt most users of the cloud would see that as a feature. Files are cached in FLOSS. Scripts are files. PHP scripts are cached. I don’t see how that does not scale except that PHP is interpreted. Compiled PHP does not have that problem and the one instance can interact with lots of users like Wikipedia if you want.

I don’t get the issue. It sounds like gobbledy-gook made up by salesman, lacking much intrinsic value. FLOSS is thriving on the web in spite of this “issue”.

  • Jun 16 / 2010
  • 2
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

Why Schools Should Not Use M$ Office

The Register has a story about M$’s lack of an upgrade path to Office 2010. M$, of course, wants everyone to buy a new licence and are offering no inexpensive upgrade. Read Dave_H’s comment. He points out that schools who use Office will want the latest version so they can process documents from other early adopters, forcing students and parents to pay for a new licence too. Schools should not be marketing “partners” of M$. The role of a school is to prepare students for life and to strengthen our society, not to enslave families. If M$ wants to train people to use their products, let M$ pay for the training. Society should not be working for M$, M$ should be working for us.

A much better alternative for schools is to use OpenOffice.org, a product developed by SUN Microsystems and now owned by Oracle that does more than enough of what schools need students and teachers to do. It is distributed as Free Software so the school does not have to pay more than what it costs to download and to install and students can take it home and install it on a PC for the price of a CD or download. On low-end PCs, AbiWord may be a better option, but it only does word-processing. You can use GNUmeric for spreadsheets on GNU/Linux. OpenOffice.org has a spreadsheet component.

One does not buy a new car annually when a new model comes out. One should not refill M$’s coffers every time they decide to release a new version of their software. Get off the Wintel treadmill, while you are at it. Use GNU/Linux, a cooperative product of the world which works for you, not against you.

Read SJVN’s article on the subject of following M$ like sheep.