Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Monthly Archives / June 2011

  • Jun 30 / 2011
  • 0

Building an Army to Take Tripoli

We have seen what these folks can do with rifles and pickups. There’s nothing like body armor to inspire confidence in troops who are actually being trained and have had experience. If NATO takes care of the artillery/armor of Gaddafi, these folks will have regime-change very soon. I expect that either Tripoli will be isolated or invaded by columns of troops sooner rather than later. The rebels have a priority of securing Libya against Gaddafi. This equipment will allow them to do that promptly. Then it is just a matter of time to decide whether Tripoli should be invaded by land, sea, or air by day or night. I expect plans are being developed now that put to use 10-15000 determined fighters.

Gaddafi still has much armor and manpower but he does not have enough to secure Tripoli. Infiltration can occur, which will draw Gaddafi’s forces to repel invaders whereupon a breakthrough can be made at other points. Once inside Tripoli, Gaddafi’s armor will become impotent if the RPGs work. Then it will be a war of attrition to liberate Tripoli. The rebels have proved they can persist and take ground from Gaddafi without the new toys. Once they taste the sea-air of Tripoli they will advance rapidly.

  • Jun 30 / 2011
  • 8


Probabilities are fun. If some outcome of the chaos around us depends on events A, B and C, the probability of the outcome is the product of the probablities of events A, B, and C happening.
P(X) = P(A) P(B) P(C)

In IT, “the market” is a huge thing with many players and many customers. The probability of any event in the market is between 0 and 1 with 1 being a certainty. Since nothing is a certainty, all these probabilities are less than 1. Some events are very probable with “M$ making $billions” being very near certainty. Other events like “M$ making Phoney “7″ relevant” are much less probable.

Don Reisinger, over at Channel Insider, has identified a number of events upon which M$’s continued dominance of IT depends:

Count Event Pogson’s Estimate of Probability
1 Phoney “7″ works 10%
2 Nokia stays relevant 25%
3 “8″ matters 20%
4 Office suite in the cloud works 30%
5 Threat of Google suppressed 20%
6 Bing grows 50%
7 OEMs love M$ 40%
8 M$ controls tablets 10%
9 Ballmer survives 25%
10 IE remains relevant 30%
Likelihood of M$’s Continued Dominance of IT = half a chance-in-a-million

So, I state with confidence, M$ will no longer dominate IT within a few years the way things are going. We are seeing share of client OS drop rapidly, including smart thingies, and Phoney “7″ and Nokia are on life-support. The last bastion of strength will be clients and servers in business which is seriously locked-in. Business is taking the cloud seriously and will move to thin clients, terminal servers and large numbers will realize they can save a $bundle using GNU/Linux or Android/Linux etc. on clients and that will eliminate the tie-in between client and server that M$ has built. The retail market is moving rapidly to accept Linux and ARM in all its forms. All of this hinges on whether or not M$ can rapidly catch up. It has shown with Vista and Phoney “7″ that it cannot catch up and will soon be well back in the pack. M$ may remain huge for several years, but gone are the days when M$ could dictate to the market. Within a year or two the board of M$ will turn on Ballmer and tell the world some other hero will save M$, but it will be too late. The world can make its own software and will.

see Don Reisinger – Channel Insider – 10 Things Microsoft Must Prove In the Next Year

UPDATE There is breaking news on Ballmer. Defending his record, he let slip a month early some numbers from M$’s bottom line: $69 billion in revenue for the fiscal year. Their last 10-Q gave $52.5 billion for the previous 3 quarters so, presumably, M$ expects to take in $17 billion this quarter. Not bad, but that’s the same as last quarter so where’s the growth when the world of IT is on fire? Revenue was $60 billion back in 2008. Where’s the huge pop from “7″ or Phoney “7″ or Bing? It’s not there. How many quarters of low growth will it take to affect Ballmer’s tenure? How long before M$ gives up on money-losing ventures and sticks to the aged cash-cows?

  • Jun 29 / 2011
  • 0
technology Down for the Count


This site is experiencing technical difficulty. We are aware of the issue and are working as quick as possible to correct the issue. Please try again in a few moments. “

Yeah, right.

Apache is working on having the DNS direct to Apache’s servers.

” We have other goals, as well, which are defined for us by Apache, necessary to graduate from a Podling:

But we need to do the basic transition. It is moving day for OpenOffice!
We need to pack everything from that we want to keep and bring it over to Apache.”

The licence on Apache’s page already shows as ASL.

I expect there will a considerable period of chaos before there will be fresh release, if for no other reason than the licensing needs a thorough check and this transistion of the website has already hit a glitch. It’s not a good sign.

  • Jun 29 / 2011
  • 3

Tidying Up The Desktop

I love messy desktops. I can find anything if I have a search widget and all the current stuff on the top of the piles. The many variations of the GNU/Linux desktop are no problem at all until they become mutually exclusive, locking-in users. We are getting that way with Ubuntu, the most popular distro charging in some direction with its vision of the latest and greatest desktop environment while leaving users to make hard choices: to follow or to leave.

Jack Wallen at Tech Republic has a good article on this subject. see 10 ways the Linux community can fix the mess on the desktop. I don’t think it’s quite as bad as he writes. For instance, I would not agree that Unity should be killed. It is great to have yet another desktop environment. I do think Unity should not be exclusive. Many millions of loyal users of Ubuntu may not want to change desktop environments from GNOME. I think, eventually, Unity may achieve a level of functionality that makes it widely desirable but forcing users to change is undesirable. Users may have to reverse-engineer Ubuntu to put GNOME back or change distros. That is probably a waste of their time, not what IT should be about.

It is quite reasonable to ask all distros to make possible transitions of desktop as smooth as possible. In Debian GNU/Linux, for instance, there are many environments in the repository and all one has to do is choose to make one or the other the default at installation of the distro or any particular environment. The depth of dependencies of Unity make that quite difficult. Should one have to change video drivers to change a GUI, the high-level stuff? I don’t think so.

I am particularly worried about the future of X. X is so useful and flexible that it should not be sidelined. It is important that X runs on good, bad and ugly hardware, something unlikely to work with the latest and greatest video drivers coming down the pipe. A huge fraction of the world’s PCs are able to live on for years thanks to X and GNU/Linux. Change for the sake of the new, rich, commercially current hardware should not be an abuse of the less popular. A desktop ecosystem should not only be judged on how it treats the latest and greatest thing but on how it treats its aged/minority systems.

  • Jun 29 / 2011
  • 0

Oh My! Databases are Wonderful, but you Have to Keep Them Secure, Fellows!

A security vulnerability at Groupon was discovered by a fellow using Google to search for database stuff. People are leaving SQL database dumps where the web servers can share them with the world … Talk about leaving the door open.

If you cannot believe this happens try this search of Google: filetype:sql. 266K results. Sob… One file contains the admin password for a WordPress blog as a hash, permitting cracking by brute force. Others are harmless, containing the same information as visible on a website or as a template to distribute software. Others have already been fixed/taken down.

  • Jun 29 / 2011
  • 0

Hadoop: Making Money From FLOSS

The Apache Hadoop software library is a framework that allows for the distributed processing of large data sets across clusters of computers using a simple programming model. It is designed to scale up from single servers to thousands of machines, each offering local computation and storage. Rather than rely on hardware to deliver high-availability, the library itself is designed to detect and handle failures at the application layer, so delivering a highly-availabile service on top of a cluster of computers, each of which may be prone to failures.”

So, how do you make money giving software away? Ask HortonWorks:
Bearden insists that Hortonworks will not be a Hadoop consultant. It will provide Hadoop training and high-level support. But at least in the beginning, he says, the company’s primary concern will be expanding the Apache Hadoop project. “As we make Hadoop more consumable as a platform, we create a vast ecosystem of companies and individuals that can build applications on it. Initially, we are going to be focused on the ease-of-consumption and productization of Hadoop for both the enterprise and the ecosystem in general.”

Yes, the world can make its own software and share it. Hadoop is already in use by many players on the web, cloud and just data-processing. From a few (Able Grape search engine for wines) to thousands (Yahoo!) of nodes working together can process a lot of data and keep it safe. The software is sufficiently complex and flexible that training/support should be a lucrative business sufficient in itself to justify the investment in Hadoop. At the same time the whole world benefits from the result.

  • Jun 28 / 2011
  • 76

If You Have to Reinstall Your OS to Keep Your PC Running, Install GNU/Linux

If you have to reinstall the OS of your PC to keep it running, consider installing GNU/Linux to stop the foolishness.

Microsoft is advising users to reinstall Windows if they happen to be unfortunate enough to get hit by a particularly vicious rootkit.

There you have it. Anti-malware cannot fix that other OS. You need to re-install/restore from a backup. It’s easier to install GNU/Linux if you don’t have a backup. Check out Debian GNU/Linux or one of my videos:

Just choose “Install” and choose “desktop” and “standard system” when choice of installations comes up. Takes 10-15 minutes from a CD or an hour or less from the web with a broadband connection for a newbie on a newish machine. That other OS can take hours, even on a new machine.

  • Jun 28 / 2011
  • 4

Android/Linux Activations Exceed “7″

We were told that, once upon a time, “7″ was shipped on an average of 7 PCs per second. Growth of “7″ is about 1% per month. On 1400 million PCs, that’s about 14 million PCs shipping with “7″ per month, ~5.4/s per second. Android/Linux is activating 500K per day (500K/86400 = 5.8/s). Further, the growth rate of the growth is 4.4% per week

Andy Rubin, the mobile guy at Google, should know what he writes about. WhooHoo!

With OEMs gearing up to ship Android/Linux on ARMed PCs of all kinds, we will have a happy Christmas. What will the world think in 2012 when M$ finally releases “8″ on ARM and folks figure out that it costs $100 more per small cheap computer than Android/Linux and is no more fun? With no retail monopoly left, M$ will be cut down to size, just another competitor in a large field of competitors.

  • Jun 28 / 2011
  • 3

Security of GNU/Linux Systems

I was surprised to see Brazil in the list of systems compromised by “Anonymous” recently. To demonstrate the compromise, /etc/passwd from some systems was published. GNU/Linux has a simple and reliable system of authentication which should prevent access to that file except by root, the administrative user. The actual passwords are not revealed but the usernames and real names of accounts are in there as well as user and group id numbers and /home directories.

A clue to the nature of the compromise comes from others in the list, Zimbabwe, Anguilla, Mosmon Council in Australia,… The latter included MySQL database dumps from “” and other sites. Mosmon Council also ran Lose 2K until 2008 when they switched to GNU/Linux on web servers. They have announced the breach:
Mosman Council is aware that an organisation has hacked Council’s websites and is making that content available for download.
However, no ratepayer information from Council’s internal systems has been accessed.
The hack was made via an sql injection exploit on a subsidiary website deployed some years ago. The hack was able to initiate a ‘data dump’ of some of our public-facing websites. The information being made available is essentially what you are able to access when browsing our websites. The web editors’ passwords are encrypted, and are now being changed.
There has been no unauthorised access to Council’s internal systems.
. In other words, Anonymous has likely picked some low-hanging fruit on the web. It happens. One weak password is all it takes. One web application allowing in SQL injections is all it takes. One discarded hard drive not properly wiped is all it takes.

That Anonymous had to reach so far to find low-hanging fruit gives us hope that more challenging targets are a lot more challenging. It’s passed the time where everyone has to work towards better security.

  • Jun 28 / 2011
  • 15

Locking-in Wiltshire Council

When a government has to implement a solution from M$ in a hurry, you know something is wrong.

They had to combine all kinds of disparate units into a whole and used facilities in “7″ to do that. They had to reduce the burden of password resets and used facilities in “7″ to do that. They had to implement a VPN and used facilities in “7″ to do that. They plan on saving “£85 million over 25 years” thanks to pouring £millions into M$’s coffers every few years? M$ saw these suckers coming. “Generally speaking, Microsoft’s involvement meant they were writing software amendments for us as needed. They were very committed and very responsive to our needs.” except they could not monitor their systems in real time but only got to see logs from yesterday, in the interests of efficiency…

Twits. They could have done all those things for free using GNU/Linux, the flexible OS.

Instead, by assuming that other OS will be involved, Wiltshire Council nails itself to the cross of M$’s lock-in, making future freedom all the more painful.