Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Daily Archives / Monday, October 17, 2011

  • Oct 17 / 2011
  • 67

US DOJ v M$ – The Dead Sea Scrolls of IT

Thanks to PJ, some excerpts appeared on GROKLAW today. They are worth remembering since some computer users today were not born in those days or were too young to follow the trial.

“412. Most harmful of all is the message that Microsoft’s actions have conveyed to every enterprise with the potential to innovate in the computer industry. Through its conduct toward Netscape, IBM, Compaq, Intel, and others, Microsoft has demonstrated that it will use its prodigious market power and immense profits to harm any firm that insists on pursuing initiatives that could intensify competition against one of Microsoft’s core products. Microsoft’s past success in hurting such companies and stifling innovation deters investment in technologies and businesses that exhibit the potential to threaten Microsoft. The ultimate result is that some innovations that would truly benefit consumers never occur for the sole reason that they do not coincide with Microsoft’s self-interest.”

Amen. Too many apologists for M$ forget that the harm that was done was not reversed in the “final settlement”. M$ strengthened its monopoly to the point where there were no threats for about a decade. Now that Apple and Android/Linux are taking an important slice of the pie, we might forget that a few ill-gotten $billions in the old days are now tens of $billions because all the exclusive deals that M$ forces on OEMs and retailers are now accepted as normal business practice. The monopoly is dying of old age rather than being executed. The result is that one or two decades of IT have been taxed, innovation has been stifled and now, in its old age, M$ is planning to tax the next generation of IT just because it has money and power.

Remembering the past should help us avoid a repetition. We shall see whether or not the message was learned. It seems the old “partners” of M$ are continuing to go along. It will take the new power houses of Google and Android/Linux to finish the battle between good and evil in IT.

  • Oct 17 / 2011
  • 4

Is Brazil The Most Linux-Friendly Country On Earth?

It must be nearly so. I was reading a post about GNU/Linux in Russia, and in reply to a naysayer, the authour provided a link to Submarino, an on-line seller in Brazil. It’s loaded with many choices of GNU/Linux PCs. Submarino is like the of Brazil. They know how to sell stuff. They have 26 desktop packages with GNU/Linux, 45 notebooks. NB, most of the PCs they sell are MADE IN BRAZIL. What a difference a country and an OS make. They do sell that other OS.

Their best-selling desktop runs GNU/Linux.

That other OS seems to dominate notebooks, however. All of the netbooks they sell run that other OS. Android/Linux dominates the tablets.

Sigh. What a difference compared to Canadian sites.

  • Oct 17 / 2011
  • 0

There’s Life in the Hard Drive Still

A dramatic breakthrough in the density of bits on a platter has come through a small tweak in the process:
“The secret of the research lies in the use of an extremely high-resolution e-beam lithography process that produces super fine nano-sized structures. Dr Yang discovered that by adding sodium chloride to a developer solution used in existing lithography processes, he was able to produce highly defined nanostructures down to 4.5 nm half pitch, without the need for expensive equipment upgrades. This ‘salty developer solution’ method was invented by Dr Yang when he was a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.”

see TFA

This may push manufacturers to increase capacity and throughput of hard drives. The key point of this development is that it does not require new equipment, just a change in how they are used. That should give rapid uptake of the process. In any event, this should keep hard drives relevant for a few years longer while SSDs mature.

  • Oct 17 / 2011
  • 7

Levers of Government

Unlike businesses or consumers of IT, governments often have unique regulations designed to optimize price/performance in purchases. One frequently encountered provision is that purchases over $X must go to public tender spelling out requirements.

We have seen examples where governments tried to skirt their own regulations by dividing up purchases into smaller units, something usually less efficient, and wording tenders so that only a single supplier need apply. The latter was the case in the province of Quebec recently when a raft of computers were purchased that could only be supplied by M$’s “partners”. A FLOSS consultant took the government of Quebec to court and won costs but did not get the tender award reversed because the computers had already been installed. In that case the court ruled the deal had been made “in good faith”. That could be a joke as purchasing departments are supposed to know the rules… They are not supposed to assume stuff.

This is a complex issue. It could be approached differently depending on whether a purchase is for a new installation or a replacement of existing technology. There is an increased cost to change things in either case but in both cases you should consider future costs as well. FLOSS should be the default and have an advantage considering future costs, simply because licensing fees per unit multiplies by units multiplied by infinite upgrades is a huge amount of money to be spent. Locking that in is wrong.

As far as I know the regulations requiring openness in the purchasing process do not require examination of future costs but they should. That was one of the reasons Munich went ahead with migration from that other OS to GNU/Linux. While migrating to GNU/Linux was a similar cost to upgrading to the next step on the Wintel treadmill, the future costs should be much lower.

Let’s work an hypothetical example. Suppose it costs $1000 per unit to take the next step on Wintel’s treadmill and $2000 to convert systems to GNU/Linux, combined with buying newer equipment in both cases. If only the present upgrade is considered it’s no contest. However, if future upgrades do not require additional hardware with GNU/Linux and that other OS does, it’s a simple decision the other way. Even if future upgrades both require new equipment, GNU/Linux should win: $1000 X n ($500 for hardware and $500 for licences) will always be larger than $2000 + $500 X n (added migration cost plus hardware) if you make n (the number of upgrades) large enough, 4, in this case (non-free – free = $500n -$2000). Unless you believe the world ends tomorrow, GNU/Linux should win on costs. I am assuming labour and hardware cost is the same either way and I don’t believe that. GNU/Linux has always been easier to install/maintain in my experience. GNU/Linux gives good performance on lesser hardware, too. If the comparison is between that other OS on thick clients and GNU/Linux on thin clients, n, for break even is 1 or 0.

The reasons maintaining GNU/Linux systems is easier are several:

  • Mo accounting involved in licensing. If you have the software, you have the licence.
  • Far less malware, likely 1000 times less.
  • Better performance in beta and production. Installation/upgrading software is just copying. For large roll-outs to which this post applies, disc imaging is used to the time to copy is less relevant. Both systems will take about the same time to roll out except that that other OS just uses a lot more disc space to get less software on the system.
  • Fewer re-re-reboots which waste time.
  • Easier control of multiple systems in real time. No need for reboot to propagate changes in many cases.
  • Package manager for the system as well as applications.

I believe we are at a stage where governments around the world are going to put aside FUD and look at the facts in choosing/purchasing IT. Any OS can function. GNU/Linux costs less to do the job. The FUD that no applications are available for certain specific tasks is nonsense. Governments are larger than the corporations producing non-free software so they can produce their own software at much lower cost especially if it is shared amongst governments.

  • Oct 17 / 2011
  • 4

LibreOffice Online

In the works is a version of LibreOffice that will run on a web server giving access by web browser. Here’s a demo video. It’s a bit jerky but one can get used to that, I suppose. If it’s jerky on “localhost” it will be jerkier on a remote server. This may be quite useful for people with fast networking connections or in-house collaboration with server on the LAN.

Predicted release time is late 2012 so there is still work to do. This development stems from gtk+broadway which can serve gtk output to the web.