Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Posts Tagged / politics

  • Jul 22 / 2014
  • 0

France, Spain And Greece Loosen Their Shackles

You have to admire the bold moves many European governments have made towards using FLOSS to do their IT. More organizations should follow their examples.

France A parliamentary report recommends securing the Internet from attacks by various players and using more FLOSS.
Valencia, Spain Valencia has saved $millions over the years and it’s not about to stop using FLOSS.
Greece Universities have organized a summer course for civil servants and others who need to learn more about FLOSS and how to use it.

The French report pulls no punches:(translation from French)
On FLOSS, among many other advantages, It helps reduce the dependence, strategic and economic, of France vis-a-vis foreign suppliers: “In these lean times we would find many advantages to using open programs like LibreOffice, OpenOffice or FireFox instead of paying a fortune to Microsoft” emphasized Mr. Francesco Ragazzi

My favourite recommendation?
“promote a progressive migration of their IT infrastructure to FLOSS. This can happen, in particular, by a preference for open source software in tendering procedures for public procurement and the imposition of open standards.”

I couldn’t have written it any better than that.

See also, France parliamentary committee: ‘encourage European open source software market’

  • Jul 21 / 2014
  • 46

International Sanctions May Accelerate Adoption Of GNU/Linux In Russia

GNU/Linux has been in the pipe for a while but US sanctions on Russia may“The State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, is drafting a bill to require government agencies and state-run enterprises to give preference to local providers of software and hardware, according to a document from the commission for strategic information systems obtained by Bloomberg News.” bring GNU/Linux to the front burner. I can see them also accelerating trade with China. If China ramps up production of computers with GNU/Linux to serve the Russian market, China will be better positioned to help out every other country squirming under the weight of Wintel and NSA probing the world’s IT.

While I really hate what Russia has done in eastern Europe lately, this could be a silver lining in the whole horrible mess. Eventually, Russia and its neighbours will figure out how to get along and GNU/Linux and open standards could be a tiny part of a brave new world, a beneficial legacy long after Putin and others have left the scene. US sanctions play roles all around the world. I can see countries like Cuba going full speed for GNU/Linux if they see Russia doing that. It’s too bad Putin decided to invade Ukraine and prop up Assad instead of finishing the migration to GNU/Linux sooner but the world is a better place for the job getting done sooner rather than later.

See Russia to Reduce Reliance on Microsoft, IBM After Sanctions.

  • Jul 11 / 2014
  • 1

FSFE On EC Foot-dragging

While the European Commission has decided to investigate use of FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software), according to the Free Software Foundation Europe,“In April, the Commission signed two contracts with Microsoft: An agreement for "high-level services" worth 44 million Euro, and a framework agreement on software licensing conditions. The actual licenses are provided by Hewlett-Packard under a separate contract from 2012, worth 50 million euro. The contracts cover the Commission itself, and 54 other EU organisations.” they have not done enough to escape lock-in by M$ and “partners”. The EC has gone as far as publicly acknowledging they are locked in and can’t find alternatives.

Lock-in is largely a matter of mindset. M$ made sure of that. They have spent almost as much effort on establishing that mindset as they have on developing their OS and applications. Quoting their “Technological Evangelism” programme: “Evangelism’s goal is to put the final nail into the competing technology’s coffin, and bury it in the burning depths of the earth. Ideally, use of the competing technology becomes associated with mental deficiency, as in, “he believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and OS/2.” Just keep rubbing it in, via the press, analysts, newsgroups, whatever. Make the complete failure of the competition’s technology part of the mythology of the computer industry. We want to place selection pressure on those companies and individuals that show a genetic weakness for competitors’ technologies, to make the industry increasingly resistant to such unhealthy strains, over time. “

Whatever effort is required to escape lock-in is worthwhile because lock-in is forever, an infinite sum of costs, hidden and explicit, restrictions on use of IT and literally fees payable for permission to operate the hardware owned by the user. Escaping lock-in is a one-time cost. As time goes on the cost of escaping lock-in is dwarfed by the cost of staying with lock-in. Simple organizations like schools get instant break-even by a sharp drop in the cost of operation or capital cost of new acquisitions. Complex organizations have to rationalize the applications that they use and replace them with FLOSS. It’s not that hard. It’s the capability/limitations of the hardware that matters, not what some application allows the users to do. FLOSS can do anything. It’s just a list of instructions for the hardware.

Want a quick recipe for escaping lock-in? Put everything but the office suite and browser on the server unless you use thin clients. Then put everything on the server… The result is that browsers and other networking will interface to all applications FLOSS or not and the client OS can be GNU/Linux. If any application denies this mode of operation, just quit using it and replace it with suitable web applications. If necessary, write your own or collaborate with others to do that. It costs less to develop an application than paying for lock-in forever.

The EC should be ashamed. They’ve done so much to spread the good word about FLOSS around the world yet they haven’t eaten their own dog-food. That’s hypocrisy. If they want others to use FLOSS, they should use it themselves.

See EC distorts market by refusing to break free from lock-in.

  • Jun 07 / 2014
  • 1

Happiness In Iran

Many years ago I met some Iranian students at the University of Manitoba. They were intense but fine human beings. Today, being happy is a crime in Iran. These performers are being prosecuted for putting on an obscene performance. Shame on the police chief.

It is an ancient tradition in Islam that women should cover up and not go out in public except with their families. Some ancient traditions are just wrong. Being ancient is not a figure of merit.

See Iran ‘releases’ Pharrell Happy tribute video dancers

  • May 12 / 2014
  • 1

Obama’s Words and Actions

I am not a voter in USA. It’s just that my server is there… Still, it’s hard to avoid the destruction wrought by Hurricane Obama:“the true patent approval rates have continued to go up. Basically, in 2013, the true allowance rate for patent applications was 92% (much higher than the USPTO’s officially reported number of 54%). The discrepancy is because the USPTO’s number counts "rejections" for patents as if the patent was truly rejected, and doesn’t look at how many patents actually make it through the full process. Thus, the fact that patent applicants can keep trying and trying until they get approved is massively hidden by the USPTO’s bogus number.”

  • Obama says the right things to get elected but then delivers a substandard healthcare reform act. It’s not his fault alone, the Republicans and many citizens just cannot see the light, that a single-payer healthcare system works by eliminating so much waste/duplication. Fallout includes failure of to work on time and two-year waiting lines at VA hospitals. If healthcare were $free per use by all US citizens, veterans could go where service was available instead of relying on an underfunded monopoly.
  • Obama talks about boosting the middle class but then pours out millions of junk patents including software patents from USPTO so that non-practising patent-trolls can involve productive corporations in endless litigation and concerns about being sued instead of hiring people and getting the job done. The safest way to make money in USA is to invest in foreign corporations working in markets freed from USPTO.
  • Obama talks about deposing the criminal against humanity, Assad, in Syria, and does nothing to prevent the loss of Homs and Allepo to indiscriminate bombing of civilians by chemical and explosive munitions of all kinds. It would have been a modest cost to shut down Assad’s air-power and properly arm the free Syrians but instead we now have Crimea usurped by Putin and Ukraine to follow. Obama knows history but refuses to learn that one doesn’t gain anything by negotiating with tyrants. Force is all they understand. Now, Qatr and Saudi Arabia see Obama as a traitor and unreliable partner and Israel figures they can keep Palestine forever. Way to go, Obama.
  • Obama talks about dealing harshly with “terrorists” but refuses to call Putin’s infiltrators, Boko Haram (murdering bastard scum bandits in Nigeria), and the Israeli government terrorists for all doing the same things: targeting innocent civilians to gain/hold power. The whole world is watching, Obama, and they see you have no clothes.

I’m not angry, really. I’m just disgusted. It is the duty of all humans who have the ability to help the weak and disenfranchised. That’s what humanity is. For more than a decade USA has been terrorizing civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq and actually empowering the terrorists they entered those countries to combat. Every civilian they killed spawned hundreds of recruits to Al Qaida and the Taliban. The thing they sought to contain and extinguish is now more powerful than ever and spreading rapidly. That’s disgusting. Thanks, Obama. You promised to end the stupidity but still prolong it. The troops you tie up in Afghanistan for no purpose could be used in Ukraine to restore order and to keep Putin at bay but, no, you keep messing things up with much help from the Republicans. Rather than supporting the right of Palestinians to claim statehood, you continue to sponsor the illegal occupation by Israel and keep Palestinians imprisoned in refugee camps for generations, spawning counter-terrorism. I guess USAians are getting the government they deserve. Nothing else makes sense of this mess.

See Yes, President Obama's Patent Office Started Approving Basically All Patent Applications Again.

  • May 05 / 2014
  • 6

Sam Varghese Rants On GNOME; So Do I

Change for the sake of change has fired up Sam again…“The GNOME project is almost 17 years old. When will we see some signs of maturity, some signs of stability? It shows that the people at GNOME just want change. Like the good folks at Microsoft who want to change, change, change, until the software becomes utterly unusable, the GNOME developers want to keep changing things too.” I disagree with Sam as often as I agree. He must be close to right most of the time… This time, he is right. When an application is good enough to collect a solid following, why jerk users around with random changes of user-interface?

Further, I think that if an organization wants to deviate radically from the user-interface that folks love, they should fork the project. Whatsit 1.2.3 is a different application than Whatsit 2.0.0 if a user needs to learn some new tricks just to use it. It was years ago I gave up on Kate and Gedit. They were good enough for many purposes. Now I use Vim, Lyx, LibreOffice and Gnumeric. While Sam wanted a simpler application with a kinder face, I wanted powerful apps that worked for me on a desktop that retained a simple/familiar desktop analogy, XFCE4. These can do just about anything I need done and the user-interface has scarcely changed since Day One except to make what works a little better from time to time. If I want to use a different application, a developer should not hold me to follow his random path and he should not expect/demand that.

There are things that need to be changed about applications: performance, reliability, and security are valuable to users. Needing to change how we do things is not. Stand up for users’ right to be left alone by developers. This is akin to why I left the Wintel treadmill years ago. Then, we were constantly changing things so M$ and Intel could rake in big bucks for next to no effort. Is there really any difference being slaves to developers of FLOSS who see themselves as the source of the one true application? Is there really any difference between an application that does something when you click on an icon and an application that does something when you click on a different icon in a different place? Come on, developers, grow up! 1000 monkeys could tweak applications to design random icons in random places but they don’t presume to know more than the users.

See Sam fume at gEdit shows that GNOME wants to drive users away.

  • Apr 15 / 2014
  • 0

GNU/Linux in India

For many years, GNU/Linux on the desktop has been progressing well in government and education. Now that Dell and Canonical have teamed up to sell GNU/Linux widely to consumers, we can really see progress in the web stats. In the last two years, according to StatCounter, GNU/Linux has progressed from ~1.1% to nearly 1.65%. While unit-sales of “PCs” have increased over the past year and consumer-sales of “PCs” have actually declined, this is quite a feat. It does pay to have salesmen.

Top 7 Desktop OSs in India from W15 2012 to W15 2014.

  • Apr 07 / 2014
  • 4

In USA, M$ Was Given A Trademark For “Windows” But Google Is Denied “Glass”

Fairness is supposed to be one of the pillars of democracy that everyone should be treated equally under the law.“In a written letter, a trademark examiner had raised two core objections to the bid. First, the trademark being too similar to other existing or pending computer software trademarks that have the word “glass,” leading to confusion for customers. Secondly, he noted that Glass, even with the unique formatting is ‘merely descriptive’. The reason this is a big issue is because generic terms are not trademark protected under federal law.” In a democracy, ordinary people have a say in how they are governed. Everyone can understand and follow the rules accepted by legislators.

In USA, that applies to most of us, except M$. They get a trademark for “Windows” but Google can’t have one for “Glass”. See the difference? Apparently the USPTO can’t. I think no generic term should be a trademark. That’s what the law says and the law should be applied to M$ as well as Google.

See Google wants to trademark ‘Glass’ but bid stalled.

  • Apr 06 / 2014
  • 3

Search For Malaysian Flight MH370

China has insisted on dealing with the search community around this crash“Reports overnight that the Chinese ship, Haixun 01, has detected electronic pulse signals in the Indian Ocean related to MH370 cannot be verified at this point in time.” by filtering everything through Beijing… Yesterday, Chinese government news stated that a Chinese vessel had detected pings near the search-zones but the Australian coordination centre was neither able to obtain details from Beijing nor make direct communication with the Chinese ship.

Meanwhile, the pinger, if operating, is on its last legs… China, learn cooperation before it’s too late. The pinger is dying. The weather will not wait. If you want your families to learn the fate of their loved ones this year and not next, give the Australians what they need to optimize the search-patterns when they need it, not at your convenience. All the nations searching need to move their politicians out of the way and leave the operation to the perfectly qualified technical people. That would have saved a week at least (Malaysia had the world searching the South China Sea). That would have saved weeks if the geeks had been allowed to broadcast position from the plane. That would have saved a lot of angst as families had to endure the mis-speaking of the politicians which the press further mangled. China, you were critical of Malaysia’s mess but here you are doing the same. Indonesia, where is your radar report??? Is it hidden for reasons of national security or political embarrassment? Australia, what happened to your over-the-horizon radar report?

The search for a missing plane is a technical problem, not a political problem. It’s long past the time where politicians should have removed the obstacles and gotten the Hell out of the way.

See Search and recovery continues for Malaysian flight MH370.

see also MH370: Plane search signal ‘important lead’

See also, Flight 370: Searchers race to try to trace sounds detected in ocean

  • Apr 02 / 2014
  • 3

Let Him In!

Easy problem! Give the guy a visa and revoke it at the airport. “The Obama administration says Iran’s nomination of a former hostage-taker as its ambassador to the United Nations is "extremely troubling".” Charge him with abduction on US territory (the embassy in Iran), put a hood over his head, apply manacles and parade him before the press with lots of public speeches. Does the Lindbergh Law still work? Good. Use it.

See US outrage at Iran's pick of 'hostage-taker' envoy.

  • Mar 26 / 2014
  • 10

Process Of Elimination – The Hunt For MH-370

After many false starts and problems with weather/seas the search is closing in on debris floating in the southern Indian Ocean. Timing and Doppler shifts of handshakes combined with fuel consumption, estimated air-speed, drift measurements and satellite images of the region tell us that the search region is growing tighter. Searching planes have dropped tracking buoys near debris so it is only a matter of time before one of the ships picks up debris. Many difficulties remain like picking up debris from rough seas and using the cumulative information to locate the pingers before they die, but I am confident that this will soon come together to find the wreckage of the MH-370.

I have no doubt that public outrage at the delay in finding the wreck will induce the aviation industry to implement long-suggested real-time tracking and data-recording systems. It’s just silly to spend hundreds of $millions on a plane, fill it with hundreds of people and then to lose it. The present system of pingers and data-recorders was devised decades ago and without the creativity of Inmarsat to use packet-timing for geolocation, this wreck could easily have been lost forever. I expect that airlines who have been rejecting tubes of toothpaste as dangerous goods will come to their senses about shipping pallets of lithium ion batteries too. Maybe they will even check the damned passports. The world can do better.

Search image © Australian Maritime Safety Authority 2014

  • Mar 14 / 2014
  • 19

Malaysian Malaise over Flight MH370

Last I heard, the Malaysian spokesman was denying everything. I think he would have denied reports the sky was blue, instead of reporting clouds…“The analysis used radar data and satellite pings to calculate that the plane diverted to the west, across the Malayan peninsula, and then either flew in a northwest direction toward the Bay of Bengal or southwest into the Indian Ocean.” Anyway, thanks to networking protocols that remained alive when lots of data-sources on the plane were apparently manually disabled, a periodic ping gave a reasonable idea of the final location. “Location” needs to be taken with a grain of salt because it’s a huge area, or rather two large areas of the Indian Ocean. There are two simply because the areas are near the equator where a couple of satellites in geo-stationary orbit gave good guesses as to the circles of constant distance holding the plane. Two circles near the equator intersect in two locations. If more satellites or more radar-stations had been involved there might be a better outcome but as it is we will be lucky to find the pinger on the black boxes before they expire.

It has been embarrassing to watch the Malaysian briefings. Clearly, a politician was not a better spokesman than some engineer/techie. It often seemed the spokesman did not understand the words he was using and the press did not understand the words he was using. Then the leaks began. Folks who knew what was happening could no longer contain themselves… Fortunately, a lot of the tech has connections to US businesses/military, so leaks kind of bypassed Malaysia and got to the people who needed the information. Still, days passed before the US NTSB got involved. They know how to investigate a crash. Last I heard, the Malaysian authorities were guarding the pilots’ homes but had not searched them despite knowledge that one pilot had his own flight-simulator and could easily have left a plan for some initiative in the cockpit. Sigh. It will be major crime if the pingers stop (or worse, people die) before we can locate the wreck just because Malaysia did not pull out all the stops. There are times when parallel processing and thinking outside the box work really well. One of those times is when a problem is huge and difficult. Then, many minds make light work of it.

See CNN Exclusive: Analysis shows Flight 370 crashed in Indian Ocean.

See also, Crash: Malaysia B772 over Gulf of Thailand on Mar 8th 2014, aircraft missing

UPDATE: With a different spokesman comes a much different message. Malaysia is finally looking into passengers and crew. Based on the latest analysis, investigators have tightened the possible terminal locations to a stripe north of Pakistan possibly including northern Thailand or a stripe in the southern Indian Ocean. I would bet those northern regions will have better radar-tracks.