Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Daily Archives / Friday, February 24, 2012

  • Feb 24 / 2012
  • 0


Armageddon Ar`ma*ged”don ([aum]r*m[.a]“j[e^]“d’n), n.
the final, decisive battle between the forces of good and evil, as foretold in the Apocolypse of Saint John.

Amen. I have often pointed out that there is a huge inventory of PCs running XP on still-useful PCs that are not going to migrate to M$’s next-big-thing. Nowadays many businesses have something like one PC per employee and there are just too many to replace all the hardware and buy new licences just because M$ wants to feed its cash-cows.

Jane Silber of Canonical expects the same thing:“What we are seeing there, particularly with enterprise customers with large desktop deployments in the tens of thousands, [is that they are] taking the opportunity to move to Ubuntu at that point, and they are, in some cases, not even evaluating future Windows desktop operating systems.”

Of course, she expects Ubuntu will get the nod but I am not so sure. While Ubuntu has some good features for business, it has a rapid release cycle that may not impress conservative businesses. Debian GNU/Linux, for instance, releases when ready, not on schedule. No one trusts unfinished products. Businesses have been known to wait a year or more before buying the next-big-thing from M$…

What fraction of XP machines will go to GNU/Linux? Probably very few of Mom & Pop businesses unless a son or daughter is into GNU/Linux. Probably quite a few medium to large businesses. I used GNU/Linux in schools and found it fit really well with flexibility, features and performance that worked for everyone. Most estimates are that in any large organization there are about 80% of seats that are very easy to migrate because a lot of applications people use are standard utilities available on just about any OS. That leaves hundreds of millions of seats eligible for GNU/Linux.

When will the onslaught happen? I think it has been happening every since Vista broke the picture of M$ working for business. Businesses started checking out GNU/Linux and now many large businesses are expanding their staffing with expertise in GNU/Linux. Businesses are increasingly virtualizing clients and servers, making the migration easier. Once the servers are virtual, there’s little holding back the clients. GNU/Linux can make really good thin clients at half the cost of that other OS. Web applications are cross-platform, too. Having seen the cost of migrating from one OS after another from M$, businesses and their accountants do see the value in FLOSS without a lot of unproductive licences. Businesses do see the advantage of increasing in-house expertise instead of sending money to M$.

We are about two years from end-of-life for XP so migrations will happen in earnest now, first small tests then large roll-outs. The world will be a very different place in two years. M$ knows that. It’s diversifying as rapidly as they can. Even M$ is getting off the Wintel treadmill before it breaks.

This may be the final crack in the desktop letting GNU/Linux through in business and soon thereafter in retail shelves. The monopoly will be just about gone in two or three years. The businesses that adopt GNU/Linux will have a tough, flexible and inexpensive set of software while those who do not adopt it will have to pay the rising prices that M$ will demand to keep its coffers filled.

  • Feb 24 / 2012
  • 6

Superiority of FLOSS

I have been writing software since 1968. I can remember the day I first wrote a few pages of code that was correct on the first draft. It took years to accomplish that for simple codes. Humans just are prone to errors. We mis-type. We mis-think. We are off by one and in the wrong place and add when we should subtract. That’s reality.

In the world of IT, most users of software rely on someone else to supply software. That makes sense. It’s specialization, one of the greatest inventions of humans, to have experts do what they do best. Naturally, we pay experts well. That applies to programmers and software projects as well. Out of this has grown global mega-corporations supposedly providing good software for everyone to run on their PCs.

The typical model breaks down for several reasons:

  • the larger the organization or the software, the more it is prone to errors/bugs,
  • mega-corporations need to produce large codes simply so they can sell the next big thing once everyone who will buy a copy of the old one has done so,
  • mega-corporations are also run by businessmen, lawyers, accountants, salesmen and not usually by programmers who are busy programming,
  • mega-corporations spend a lot of effort to become monopolies so they don’t have anyone left to compete with them and anything they produce will sell because people need something…,
  • in a monopoly, the supplier can charge whatever he wants with whatever features he wants at any price he wants, and
  • good software requires new ideas from time to time. New ideas rock the boat at mega–corporations and are discouraged.

We’ve been through decades of M$ and its partners pushing really lousey software because they had a monopoly. FLOSS was there all along but it could not succeed in the market because of sweet back-room deals and exclusions and restrictions. FLOSS survives because the world needs software and can make its own.

FLOSS is superior by all measures, too. Bugs per thousand lines of code, for instance. Lines of code per applications, too. Cost per application. FLOSS is good stuff. If you haven’t tried it, get yourself a computer and visit Debian GNU/Linux.

According to the latest survey by Coverity, FLOSS trumps non-free software in code qualty. That’s reality in spite of what some ugly commentators state here. The reasons are obvious to anyone who thinks about it. If your priority is to produce good code, it will happen. FLOSS is not intent on propping up a monopoly, or locking-in customers or making megabucks, just good code.

  • Feb 24 / 2012
  • 27

M$’s Empire – Structural Failure is Imminent

Porting M$’s office suite to ARM is one thing. Porting it to Apple’s iPad is another. Amid accusations of fake images but not outright denials of the existence of a port to iOS, one thing is clear. M$’s empire, like a column under load, has started to crack. In such a situation the strain on the rest of the column increases and collapse follows swiftly. There are two pillars of M$’s monopoly: that other OS and its office suite. Porting the office suite to iPad undermines that other OS and considering that business likes iPad but not the lack of the office suite means that business will increase take-up of iPad and the office suite, sucking the life out of that other OS.

Complicating the situation is that Android/Linux tablets are continuing to sell well and indeed, smart phones are emerging that are large enough to compete as tablets. M$ is under a lot of pressure to supply their office suite to iPad while the blush is on the rose. Waiting may build demand for Android/Linux tablets with M$’s office suite and M$ certainly doesn’t want that to happen.

Without a monopoly OS underneath it will be interesting to see how LibreOffice on smart thingies competes with M$’s office suite on iPad or anywhere else.

I expect market share of that other OS to begin a rapid decline. There is nothing left to sustain it. No solid x86 lock. Weakened support from Intel. No credible tablet OS. No credible phone OS. No credibility.

see The Register – Matt Asay – Death to Office or to Windows – choose wisely, Microsoft

see The Daily Deny M$’s Denial of disaster.

Another sign of cracking is the killing off of the “Windows Live” brand which made no sense and was a waste of pixels. Along with it will go “Home Basic”, “premium” and “ultimate” which also made no sense and offended users. M$ is throwing out the fluff in order to compete on price/performance which won’t be pretty but it is a better way to sell IT.

  • Feb 24 / 2012
  • 1

What To Do About Syria?

There was a lot of political, human and monetary capital expended during the Arab Spring. Now Syria has boiled over. There are few options:

  • ignore Syria,
  • increase sanctions gradually,
  • increase sanctions rapidly,
  • arm the rebels, and
  • support the rebels.

None of the options are easy or sure of any good result. All of them will cost the lives of thousands more human beings in Syria. Are they collateral damage or something important we should protect?

I think part of being human is looking out for humans and watching thousands being slaughtered in a host of ugly ways is unacceptable to me. I think the option that minimizes human casualties is the right one and that involves supporting the rebels. Taking out Assad’s artillery and airforce as necessary is the highest priority. Consider it a sanction with extreme prejudice but the multiplier effect of artillery is too great to ignore. The ugly business of taking back the streets requires equipment and trained people on the ground. Make sure to send in sniper rifles and trainers in how to use them. Then send in food and water and medical help.

The time for more talk is over.

Libya is the closest example of how this can work. The slow process there doubled the number of casualties. Do the same thing but quicker. The cost in capital is trivial compared to the cost in lives. The political fallout is for the Syrians to decide on their own. We should not let fear of political change in Syria prevent action today. Get the violence over quickly so reasonable people can take charge. The longer the violence lasts, the fewer reasonable people will be left.

see BBC – Syria unrest: Opposition seeks arms pledge

  • Feb 24 / 2012
  • 0

Apple: Due Diligence versus Fraud

Apple is not one of my favourite companies. I don’t like their products, their way of doing business and their hype. It’s not the right way to do IT.

Lately, Apple has been suing the world over smart thingies like smart phones and tablets that they consider to be their technology. “He who lives by the sword shall die by it” comes true again as a monitor manufacturer claims, in a US court, that “iPad” was acquired by Apple fraudulently. Proview, a Chinese business, sold the “iPad” trademark to a front set up by Apple in 2009. Proview has had mixed results in blocking use of “iPad” in China and now has swung its axe at the root of the tree.

I am not a lawyer, but balanced between the necessity of any business to do due diligence before a transaction and the duty of a participant in a transaction to be open about material facts affecting the value of a transaction is a wide range of opinion. Usually the onus is on the seller but if Apple disguised itself for the purpose of buying a trademark cheaply I can see an argument. It will be fun to watch.

According to Wikipedia, In criminal law, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual; the related adjective is fraudulent. The specific legal definition varies by legal jurisdiction. Fraud is a crime, and also a civil law violation.

That sounds like what Apple did.

Unfortunately, US practice gives lawyers a lot of “outs”:
Common law fraud has nine elements:

  1. a representation of an existing fact;
  2. its materiality;
  3. its falsity;
  4. the speaker’s knowledge of its falsity;
  5. the speaker’s intent that it shall be acted upon by the plaintiff;
  6. plaintiff’s ignorance of its falsity;
  7. plaintiff’s reliance on the truth of the representation;
  8. plaintiff’s right to rely upon it; and
  9. consequent damages suffered by plaintiff.

It’s not clear that Apple or its agent lied, etc. Perhaps Proview knows better and has documents to prove it. We shall see. It would be very interesting to see what would happen if it were ruled that Apple did not own the iPad trademark. How much money would it take now to remedy that?

  • Feb 24 / 2012
  • 0

Government of Australia Revists Document File Formats

The government of Australia previously expressed a desire to standardize aspects of 250K seats to enhance reliability of IT. They had stated that M$’s OOXML would be the standard file format and received a wave of comments.
Unexpectedly, it resulted in the largest number of comments we have ever received on a single post. The surprise was compounded as we had sought comments on the draft policy twice in the preceding months, to little effect.
They have reopened the debate but refined the background a bit in a post on a blog.
Licensing costs are a small proportion of overall ICT expenditure. Any software change is likely to involve significant cost in installation, training and maintenance.

Clearly, the Australian government cannot do the maths. While changing from previous formats to M$’s 2010 might cost less than changing to ODF, the cost is one time instead of forever treading on the Wintel treadmill. x is less than Ny for reasonable values x and y. Just think of N being 10 or 20 or 30. So cost is always an issue for any change. Small one time is large done enough times. How many times has M$ forced a change in file formats? How many times do you think M$ will change file formats in the future? What will you do when some department starts sending you documents in the next wonderful file format M$ has invented? Why does M$ not follow the OOXML standard that it forced on the world? What about security? (4 million hits for M$ and 700K for

Then, we have the clear and well-documented example of the City of Munich with 15K seats finding migration of the whole environment cost a lot less than expected. They now have lower operating costs forever. Big difference… The reason Munich migrated was M$’s forced change from NT. The cost of migration was estimated to be similar to migrating to XP and it turned out cost of training was less than expected. In the process they did a lot of things right in the migration to modernize the whole system compounding the benefits. Would they have been better off migrating to XP and now migrating to “7″? Can you think double the original cost??? You bet your boots cost matters. Licensing matters.

Clearly, the Australian government, not unlike many others is not high on expertise in IT to even consider taking another step on the Wintel treadmill. They need educating and perhaps this latest round in requests for comments will educate them. We can only hope.

I recommend organizations consider Debian GNU/Linux for their IT. It works for me and it worked for my employers. A migration to the next release is as simple as issuing a single command to all machines in the system. A migration is even easier if thin clients are used. Then one only needs issue the command to the terminal servers.

apt-get update;apt-get dist-upgrade solves a lot of problems. With a good local cache or file-server, the migration can be complete in 20 minutes… That’s far less time that it would take just to do the paperwork to please M$’s licensing dogs. If the network is configured properly one does not have to walk around to do the upgrade. The command can be scripted from a single station securely. Sure, there’s still planning and testing the migration but that’s small when you consider the labour of installing on thousands of seats. Smaller still when you consider all the restrictions M$’s licensing places on the operation. Why should any government be a slave to M$?

  • Feb 24 / 2012
  • 4

Bill G Got One Thing Right

Bill Gates, to his troops, 2001-01-04 -
“Our most potent Operating System competitor is Linux and the phenomena around Open Source and free software. The same phenomena fuels competitors to all of our products. The ease of picking up Linux to learn it or to modify some piece of it is very attractive. The academic community, start up companies, foreign governments and many other constituencies are putting their best work into Linux”

That was written the year after I adopted GNU/Linux and he was right on all those points. I went from being a newbie to being able to do everything a teacher normally would do with that other OS in just a few days. The download took more time, 10 days of nights and weekends on dial-up… I replaced Lose ’95 on five old PCs in my classroom and never looked back. GNU/Linux was clearly superior to the software we were using on Macs and other PCs in the school.

Bill’s troops did respond by producing a better product but it took a decade or so to get “7″ out of the chute while GNU/Linux kept getting better. Since that memo, MacOS and GNU/Linux have taken serious share from that other OS and now Android/Linux is doing even better. It looks like, for the foreseeable future, M$ and that other OS will be swarmed by competitors doing a great job of IT and continuing to take share. I don’t know where it will end but shares will be something like 1/N where N is a few will be the situation in a few years. M$ will have to compete on price/performance as will Apple. It’s all good. The world does not owe big software companies a living and the world can produce its own software with FLOSS.

I recommend Debian GNU/Linux for those who want to escape high licensing fees, slowing down, re-re-reboots, phoning home and malware while doing a better job of IT than Bill and his troops.