Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Daily Archives / Thursday, August 25, 2011

  • Aug 25 / 2011
  • 5

Snipers in Libya

Out of all the chaos of the grim reality that is the fight for freedom in Libya, there is a bit of humour. The word “sniper” occurs repeatedly in news reports and everyone’s talking about “snipers” but what they are talking about is a bullet from unknown sources. These folks are firing all kinds of weapons in all kinds of directions so naturally bullets are going everywhere. In video that I have seen there is rarely an aimed shot. Where are the snipers?

To be true, I have seen a few rifles that looked like tools of a sniper with telescopic sights and a hefty calibre like 7.62X51 NATO which can definitely dispatch anyone sticking head and shoulders around a corner from 900M/1000yards. The vast majority of injuries by bullets seem rather to be inflicted on people in the wrong place at the wrong time without any help of a sniper. Proof is that time and time again we see exchanges of fire on YouTube and no one is hit after hundreds of rounds. A sniper takes only one shot, especially in still air. Combatants are exposing themselves, stationary, in the open and not being hit with regularity. If there were many snipers around, the combatants would soon learn to avoid suicidal behaviour. In the video, no one seems to take cover by entering a building and moving closer to the other side or making a flanking movement. That’s what people would do against snipers. People don’t fire machine guns at snipers. It doesn’t pay to annoy them.

If there were many snipers in Libya, the combatants would call in their pet snipers to deal with the other guys’ snipers. The best tool against snipers is another sniper.

No, what we have in Libya are thousands of poorly trained combatants using spray-and-pray. The AK-47 which is the most common rifle in use is a short-range assault rifle, useless against snipers without getting close. A true sniper will stay out of sight and pick high-value targets from long range. His best weapon will be a scoped rifle designed for the purpose. He will make a kill almost every shot and will not exchange fire with infantry to avoid revealing his location. In hot battles such as we see from Libya, a sniper will separate himself from the melee so that he will not be killed by stray bullets but can be effective. Typically he will be far inside a building so that only a bullet fired from his target could reach him and that won’t happen because the target will be killed on the first shot. He will keep his side if he has one between him and the other side so he cannot easily be flanked.

In the recent taking of Bab Al-Aziziya in Tripoli, many people were “shot by snipers”, hundreds, reportedly, yet no snipers were captured/killed. Most likely, in the confusion of battle, there were many friendly-fire incidents or spray-and-pray got lucky. The compound, described as “square miles” in size, is tiny, about the size of a football field. A park nearby is larger, about one square mile, but neither is a suitable deployment for a sniper with no cover. The wall of the compound prevented snipers outside the compound being effective inside.

Where snipers could be effective in Tripoli, between tall buildings or along a street viewed from a tall building are places where we see people engaged in machine-gun fire. If they were engaging snipers they would enter the building and search it. If they were assaulting a building to enter, there would be no need to elevate those machine-guns 10-15 degrees as we see often.

So, let’s not give the snipers a bad name. There aren’t many there.

  • Aug 25 / 2011
  • 3

Troll v RedHat

This is a strange one. A patent troll has a patent so diffuse that it is almost meaningless and is suing RedHat over it:
“Network Distributed Caches (“NDCs”) (50) permit accessing a named dataset stored at an NDC server terminator site (22) in response to a request submitted to an NDC client terminator site (24) by a client workstation (42). In accessing the dataset, the NDCs (50) form a NDC data conduit (62) that provides an active virtual circuit (“AVC”) from the NDC client site (24) through intermediate NDC sites (26B, 26A) to the NDC server site (22). Through the AVC provided by the conduit (62), the NDC sites (22, 26A and 26B) project an image of the requested portion of the named dataset into the NDC client site (24) where it may be either read or written by the workstation 42. The NDCs (50) maintain absolute consistency between the source dataset and its projections at all NDC client terminator sites (24, 204B and 206) at which client workstations access the dataset. Channels (116) in each NDC (50) accumulate profiling data from the requests to access the dataset for which they have been claimed. The NDCs (50) use the accumulated profile data stored in channels (116) to anticipate future requests to access datasets, and, whenever possible, prevent any delay to client workstations in accessing data by asynchronously pre-fetching the data in advance of receiving a request from a client workstation.

It’s almost gibberish. The nearest I can gather is that they have a patent on the network cache like Squid or nscd. No doubt RedHat uses such things in its clustering setups. Squid was developed around 1996 and the damned patent was “filed” around 1997.

In the patent application itself mention is made of NFS file caching and BSD4.3. The claim is made that the “invention” improves cache coherency although it does not shed much light on how that works. The filing date is also shown as February 26, 1997.

BSD 4.3 was released in 1986, so nothing here looks innovative beyond the state of the art. I expect RedHat will be able to show:

  • the invention is not patentable (obviousness and prior art),
  • the invention does not work as described, for example does not work any better than some prior art,
  • the invention is essentially no different than a mail-server such as sendmail which was developed around 1979-1980. Sendmail caches mail and synchronizes a bunch of clients via SMTP. POP is another mail protocol. The RCEV operation of POP downloads the e-mail but leaves it on the server/cache,
  • the invention is essentially no different than NFS which used a cache even in version 1 from 1989,
  • the inventor invented nothing not already in the prior art:“The threshold question in determining inventorship is who conceived the invention. Unless a person contributes to the conception of the invention, he is not an inventor”,
  • the invention has no written description sufficient to implement the invention. In particular, “projecting an image of data” is not defined (“each NDC site including an NDC that has an NDC buffer, a method for projecting an image of a stored dataset”),
  • RedHat does not use it (the preferred implementation requires multiple daemons, long delays which cannot speed anything up), and
  • since RedHat is FLOSS, the inventor obviously ignored the violation until now, evidence that there is no violation.

I trust the judge will laugh this one out of court and send the troll the bill for cluttering up the court system.

  • Aug 25 / 2011
  • 3

Quitting With No Notice

Apple may or may not change without Steve. Assuming he was OK with suing the world instead of innovating, I won’t miss him. If I were his employer, I would not mind him quitting with no notice. I would say, “Good riddance!” Perhaps his replacement will realize that having half the world hate the company is not good for business. Think of all the people loving Android who see their “fix” in terms of importations from the Far East jeopardized by groundless legal suits. Are they ever going to feel the same about Apple? Nope. Cross Apple off their shopping list forever. How about the suppliers of Android/Linux hardware components? Are they going to want to support Apple when Apple is trying to take away their livelihood? Nope. What about the many distributors of Android/Linux? One even asked the US president to block the ITC on this. What about Google? Is Google ever going to want to cooperate with Apple on anything after 2011? Nope. Apple is sawing off the limb on which it rests, people being comfortable with Apple’s existence.

Apple’s suits are not about hardball or protecting Apple’s rights. The suits are about interfering with the market in which people have grown to appreciate having choices. Apple, wanting to take away choice, has become a Pariah1. Trying to compete in the courtroom instead of the market shows the lack of confidence Apple has in its own products and its greed to rake in short term profits no matter the costs. Apple is an immoral company, not founded on any principle of fair dealing. It’s lawsuits and advertising are based on lies:

  • “If you don’t have an iPhone” you can’t do all kinds of things everyone can do with any networked computer and operating system,
  • “We invented rectangular computers with touch-screens and X stole our idea”,
  • “We own the trademark on App Store”.
  • “Steve Jobs is our Guru from whom all wisdom flows…”, and
  • “We invented the personal computer and GUI”.

See the Telegraph’s take on Apple v Samsung

The court in Germany, which first issued a preliminary injunction banning the importation of Samsung Galaxy tablets revised the injunction to be for Germany only and the court in the Netherlands gave the design patent short shrift.

I am sick of Apple. They were not the first to do anything but exploit the ideas of others. Rather than acknowledge with grace that they “stood on the shoulders of giants” they lie and gullible journalists and consumers accepted the lie. The reality is very different and thank Goodness we have Google, The Open Handset Alliance, FLOSS, and millions of good people willing to do the hard work of making the world a better place one system at a time.

1 Pariah – An outcast; one despised by society.

  • Aug 25 / 2011
  • 25

“8″ Makes Vista Look Good

In the striptease to “8″ M$ lets out that they will create graphs to show how downloads are going. Imagine that. Instead of a few words and numbers they are going to create a data-structure for every transfer and update it periodically and redraw the graphs. That should do a lot to waste resources on ARM, eh? Updating a periodic sample to create a moving average was too easy. Instead they want to make a big deal about a download.

see Microsoft unveils file-move changes in Windows 8

Aims to fix comical download/copy ‘time to go’ estimates

That’s M$ for you. Instead of improving the sampling or revising the algorithm, they are going to rip and replace with a much heavier burden as if we have nothing better to do with our IT.

  • Aug 25 / 2011
  • 0

Tragedy of Shakespearian Proportions in IT

Shakespeare loved to tell tales of big egos brought low by delusions of grandeur. There are several such stories playing out in IT these days:

  • Oracle v Google
  • Apple v World
  • Acer v Acer

The latter is interesting. Acer was the darling of the world selling netbooks with/without GNU/Linux all over the world. They innovated, getting banks and ISP into their sales channels. They reached the #2 spot behind HP briefly. Then smart thingies made a big move and Acer ditched its leader who suggested running with smart thingies. Now Acer has lost growth and is actually losing money as people are grabbing smart thingies instead of notebooks… Talk about chickens coming home to roost and loss of face… and they still don’t get it. The new guy is denying reality, claiming tablets are a flash in the pan (misfire in a flintlock firearm). Others predict a bright future for tablets with or without Acer and M$.