Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Monthly Archives / January 2013

  • Jan 31 / 2013
  • 2

Using The Power Of GNU/Linux is Childsplay

It’s pretty easy to set up a desktop system with most distros. I use Debian GNU/Linux because it has been around a while and has a huge repository of software. Let’s look at doing other kinds of things with your PC.

Suppose you are a collector, a hobbyist or small business person. Using IT to hold and to manage your information is priceless. It’s fast and reliable.
Many people buy a licence for some package of software and the cost may be just a few $dollars to $thousands. With GNU/Linux one can do the same work for $0. In addition, you are in total control instead of some distant corporation jerking you around with complex licences, expiry dates and other restrictions. GNU/Linux and many of its applications are shipped with no strings attached. You get to run it on as many systems as you want, examine the code, change it and even distribute it the way you got it. You download stuff for $0 and away you go. Simple. Continue Reading

  • Jan 30 / 2013
  • 5

“RT” Shipments ~2million Sales to End-users ~400K

How the mighty art fallen. M$, one of the richest corporations on the planet brings out a flagship product with reception worse than Raspberry PI (~1million sold, pre-orders sold out in a day by a registered charity.)…

see Windows RT shipments less than half of targets, say Taiwan makers.

It just goes to show that yet another pointless consumer product doesn’t stand a chance against FLOSS on decent hardware unless exclusive deals are made.

  • Jan 30 / 2013
  • 7
firearms, technology

Laws Don’t Control Firearms. They Barely Control People.

The shooting at the school in Newtown, CT may well have happened no matter what laws are on the books. Already there are reports that various nut-cases have been able to pass “background checks” simply because the databases are woefully incomplete. Jurisdictional disputes and resource prevent that from working:
“Hume bought the rifles at the Walmart in Moore, Oklahoma, on September 25. The next day he bought the Glock at Gun World in the nearby town of Dell City, according to Nelson. Both are federally licensed gun dealers that conduct background checks. The checks, in theory, are supposed to stop certain people — including the mentally ill with a history of violence — from buying them.
see How the violent mentally ill can buy guns.

Banning firearms certainly doesn’t work since firearms can be made, stolen, purchased/supplied illegally or smuggled to get around the laws.

Registering firearms doesn’t work because not all get registered and criminals don’t follow the rules anyway.

The only way to protect soft targets like schools is to guard them. Do it. It’s the right thing to do. All this nonsense about legislating the problem away don’t work. In fact local legislation making schools “gun-free zones” is part of the problem. Arm the guards appropriately. I suggest a light-weight accurate rifle much like the gun-grabbers are trying to ban… The .223 Remington ammunition in most of these is far more powerful than needed in the close confines of a school (perhaps not for a school-yard), so I would suggest a firearm shooting accurately something like a pistol-bullet. That was the idea behind the .30 M1 Carbine. A good idea and one that still works. It’s important that guards be elevated too to keep kids out of the line of fire as much as possible and to give the guards good sight-lines.
These kinds of tools in the hands of trained people will do more than any law. With them guards can stop intruders in their tracks and save innocent lives. That’s what we want. Isn’t it? Some parking lots are guarded more closely than schools. That should change.

  • Jan 30 / 2013
  • 2

Revolt of the Retailer

Want a laugh? Visit and look for a tablet PC
“$10 – $20 (1)
$50 – $100 (14)
$100 – $150 (19)
$150 – $200 (15)
$200 – $250 (4)
$250 – $500 (34)
$500 – $750 (33)
$750 – $1,000 (4)
$1,500 – $2,000 (1)”

There are two or more price-bands and guess where M$’s offerings are? Yes. $1500-$2000. There is only one tablet offered with “7″ with “upgrade to “8″”. Yes, this is 2013, months after “8″ was released into the wild. Can we say “token offering” boys and girls? Continue Reading

  • Jan 29 / 2013
  • 11

Syria – TIme To Act

“The conflict in Syria has reached "unprecedented levels of horror", peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has told the UN Security Council.

The UN-Arab League envoy said Syria was being destroyed "bit by bit" with grave consequences for the wider region.”

see BBC News – Syria crisis: Brahimi warns horror is 'unprecedented'.

The world should have branded the current government of Syria criminal and shut them down long ago. Economic sanctions and a trickle of aid to the rebels and refugees is not enough.

  • Shut down Syria’s airforce this week.
  • Bomb Syria with all the small arms and light artillery the rebels can handle. Throw in food and medical supplies, blankets and fuel, while you are at it.
  • Flood the refugee camps with food, water, warm clothing and heaters.
  • Forget about waiting for an opposition government to form. Call a conference for six weeks after the fall of the current regime and get on with it.

To allow the slaughter to continue is hypocritical. Either we are humane or we are not. Humane people protect the weak from bullies. Do it.

  • Jan 29 / 2013
  • 2

Sometimes Old Technology is the Best

From time to time revolutionary ideas emerge in technology that change everything and become indispensible. Think of wheels, axles and hammers. You can tweak the design a bit but the basic idea is still valid and important after thousands of years. In IT we have many such concepts: ICs (integrated circuits – Yes I am old enough to remember how crude things were before ICs…), Moore’s Law, stored programme computers, computer languages, operating systems, drivers, open standards, networking protocols, UNIX-like operating systems… It goes on endlessly.

My point is that we can overdo the extravagantly endless tweaking we do for IT: new PCs every few years, new releases several times per annum, so many “features” in an application that no one knows them all…

A counter-example demonstrating how IT might find more value per dollar for all of us: The brass bottle-necked rifle-cartridge. Check this out… The first such cartridge appeared about 1867 but by 1888, this became state-of-the-art:

8X57JS Cartridge, crimped Berdan primer

8X57JS Cartridge, crimped Berdan primer

Almost all rimless cartridges copied that design to the present day. Sure, there were many changes to the calibre of bullets and a few changes of length but the head of the cartridge, the rimless design and the diameter of the head are common to modern firearms like .308 Winchester and .30-’06 and all derivatives of those.

What made this concept so important was that for relatively little effort a cartridge could:

  • seal high-pressure propellent gases in the breech of a steel barrel,
  • the slight taper permitted easy feeding into the chamber and aligned the bullet with the bore,
  • the springiness of the brass permitted the case to expand momentarily to seal but still slide in and out without binding in a clean chamber,
  • with modern slow-burning propellants, the large volume of powder could maintain a higher pressure longer and obtain much higher velocities than are easily possible with black powder or a much longer cylindrical cartridge, and
  • rifles with short barrels could give velocities similar to longer barrels resulting in lighter (shorter barrels) and more accurate rifles (faster bullets leave sooner).

In effect, there is no downside to the basic good design and there is no reason to change it just for the sake of change. This has the enormous benefit that rifles of more than 100 years of age can still fire modern ammunition (NB the original 1888 rifles fired a .318″ diameter bullet (J) while the modern calibre is .323″ (JS). Some 1888 rifles were rebarreled about 1905 but others were not. You need to measure the bore to be sure. I have seen one with a prominent “S” on the receiver to designate the .323″ bore.). That‘s backward compatibility.

In IT I see a few people foolishly denigrate UNIX-like operating systems merely because some of the basic concepts of the technology are old, dating from the late 1960s but I can tell you a lot that looks new these days is derived from concepts current in those days. I know. I was there… GNU/Linux is the OS I usually use and it works really well. There is no reason at all to replace it with the latest issue from Apple or M$. There would be no benefit and lots of costs. For one they both charge money for the privilege of using hardware that you own, a bizarre concept. For another both restrict the use of their software arbitrarily (not based on technical reasons but marketing) which greatly increases the cost and complexity of IT for no benefit whatsoever. Look at Munich. Because they switched from M$’s OS to GNU/Linux it cost tens of $millions. If they had switched from UNIX to GNU/Linux the cost would have been much less because of many other irrelevant lock-ins that M$ uses to entrap users. With GNU/Linux you get an OS designed from the ground up to work rather than to enrich M$. I recommend Debian GNU/Linux.

  • Jan 29 / 2013
  • 1

Chrome OS Trumps “8″

According to SJVN and some OEMs, Chrome OS trumps “8″ for several reasons:

  • Chrome web browser is much more familiar than “8″‘s UI.
  • Chrome Books are about half the price and that does matter to most of us.
  • It costs OEMs very little to install Chrome OS or any FLOSS OS for that matter.

The last point, in the long run, will be the kicker IMHO. IT has become a very competitive market quite different than it was a decade ago where if you offered something, millions would sell at almost any price. Now, to sell anything you can count on some fraction of rich/foolish buyers and huge masses of people squeezing pennies.

To be a global business you have to sell to the masses. ~$50 per unit for licensing is not on. Wintel is not on. M$ has to become just another supplier to remain global. The high-priced up-selling won’t work in most emerging markets and in large parts of established markets. In the old days only businesses could afford PCs. They just added M$’s tax to their prices and moved on. Now elementary children have smart phones and they and their parents have no interest in being slaves of M$. OEMs see this and are responding.

This year GNU/Linux will replace that other OS in a big way. Canonical says that started for them last year and they will double share this year. Meanwhile M$ increases prices while share decreases. They can do that for a while… and then the bottom will fall out. “8″ is a demonstration of that.

  • Jan 29 / 2013
  • 5

Cringely Retires/Expands His Career/Moves On

“These are the good old days.

And so it is time for me to move forward with my life and my so-called career. As a guy with three sons ages 10, 8, and 6, you see, my devil sperm has provided me the opportunity to work until I die. Or more properly it has determined that I must work until I am at least 76, when my last kid graduates from college. Whichever comes first.
see I, Cringely version 3.01.

That’s the problem with meeting beautiful seductive women after a man’s peaked. He cannot afford to retire… I am retired now at a similar age and my kids are “on their own”. In fact they help us out as much as they can. In a few years their careers will be peaking and the good times will surely reign.

  • Jan 29 / 2013
  • 0

“8″ Fails

Acer knows the PC business. Truer words were never spoken: “Windows 8 itself is still not successful. The whole market didn’t come back to growth after the Windows 8 launch, that’s a simple way to judge if it is successful or not.”

“the Taiwanese PC maker has seen a healthy response to its Chrome-based notebooks. Making up 5 percent to 10 percent of Acer’s U.S. PC shipments, Chromebooks have generated strong sales for the company”

see Acer: Windows 8 still not successful

Meanwhile all things FLOSS and */Linux are thriving, offering everyone great IT at minimal cost. If you haven’t tried FLOSS get an Android/Linux smart thingy or a GNU/Linux PC. You can install the software yourself on existing equipment. They are a $FREE and legal download. The licence comes with the software and it permits running the software any way you like on as many machines as you like. That’s the right way to do IT instead of needing an accountant and a lawyer supervise every instance.

  • Jan 29 / 2013
  • 1

Google Bets $π Million on Chrome OS

"We believe these larger rewards reflect the additional challenge involved with tackling the security defenses of Chrome OS, compared to traditional operating systems"
see Google offers $3.14159 MILLION in prizes for hacking Chrome OS • The Register.

That’s confidence! Google is offering $millions in prizes for cracks of their OS. I wouldn’t bet that much on anything except M$’s eventual/continuing decline in the market for client OS. Thanks, Google. Who says “They don’t give back.”?

  • Jan 28 / 2013
  • 3

M$ Drives More To GNU/Linux and FLOSS

As I predicted ages ago, M$ is raising prices to the severely locked-in as their cash-cow shrinks.
“Here’s the new Office 2013 and Office 365 packaging and pricing information that Microsoft has shared with partners to date. Office 365 Home Premium will cost $8.33 per user per month (or roughly $100 a year).  Office 2013 Home & Student will cost $139 for a one-time purchase and use on a single PC. Home & Business 2013 will cost $219 for use on a single PC.
see Microsoft to launch the new Office commercially on January 29.

News: You can get a great desktop or server operating system for $0 from Debian and a great office suite for $0 from The Document Foundation. Buy pizzas with your savings or whatever you want to boost the economy locally.