Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Posts Tagged / politics

  • Apr 15 / 2014
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.

  • Mar 12 / 2014
  • 3

Stuff Hits The Fan In USA

First it was the NSA spying on everyone. Now the CIA runs rough-shod over the rights of citizens in USA“Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA’s search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.” by searching and modifying PCs in USA. This is yet another example of absolute power corrupting absolutely. Did they think no one would notice important documents disappearing? In the middle of an investigation into other illegal acts?

It remains to be seen whether this will be hushed up but it’s hard to imagine the press letting this slip from their fangs. The press in USA does care about the constitution even if the current administration does not. It seems it’s time for a third party to come to power in USA. Clearly neither the Democrats nor Republicans are willing to do what is required to restore the constitution to its rightful place. With the gerrymandering of electoral districts, it will take a huge turnout at the next election to make a difference. Let’s see whether or not the press can build a big enough fire in the population. To save themselves, the Democrats will have to swing a double-edged sword through government and the Republicans had better let it happen. The Supremes will no doubt get a call to back legality.

See CIA hacked Senate PCs to delete torture reports. And Senator Feinstein is outraged.

  • Mar 10 / 2014
  • 15

NATO Hovers Around Ukraine

I think a necessary and possibly sufficient action the West can take to restrain Russian involvement“All Awacs [Airborne Warning and Control System] reconnaissance flights will take place solely over alliance territory” in Ukraine is to admit Ukraine into NATO. The first steps appear to be under way and at the same time the Ukrainian government is visiting Washington D.C. Without this measure Putin will be free to advance into Ukraine as far as he wants under the guise of supporting a local uprising of Russian-leaning Ukrainians.

This could be working already as Russians are mining the approach to Crimea and digging in. AWACS, in case anyone does not know is a distributed airborne and land-integrated command and control system able to direct combat air patrol, close air support, interdiction, etc. largely through 360 degree radar coverage of huge areas. These have been deployed all over the world in troubled places. I saw them flying in Saudi Arabia back in the 1980s. They were instrumental in the First Gulf War and other adventures. This may not be a precursor to “boots on the ground”, but integrated with Ukrainian boots and NATO air-power it certainly is a real force-multiplier. Putin knows that. He knows that all his toys on the ground and even his naval forces could be wiped out in a day or two if NATO focusses on Crimea.

This is the kind of diplomacy Putin understands. It’s about time the West got its act together. If I were Obama, I would open up a big base in Ukraine and pull the boys and girls out of Afghanistan where they are not welcome to Ukraine where they will be welcome. You can bet Ukrainian recruits will not be trying to shoot them in the back and they would at last have a place where their armour and helicopters could rip Putin a new one pretty quickly. The “Americans” like a target-rich environment. Putin, for all his bluster, knows he can intimidate small countries but not NATO.

Once Ukraine is a part of NATO, a proper ultimatum can be given to Putin to pull out of Crimea. He denies presence so he cannot object to NATO assisting Ukraine in reasserting authority there. It will be interesting to see what Putin says when badgless citizens are rounded up and imprisoned for taking up arms against Ukraine. Then will they magically be Russian citizens instead of Ukrainian defenders?

See BBC News – Nato jets to monitor Ukraine border.

  • Mar 05 / 2014
  • 5

Wikipedia: Decline Or Maturity?

My recent migration to Debian Jessie, which required fixing my local tweaks for web-applications ended with some examination of Wikipedia, of which I have a snapshot from 2004 or so. I have edited it a lot and customized it for use in the schools where I worked but lately I have not maintained it well. Through various upgrades some links broke and I must have restored a backup that messed up the archive of images. Even damaged it is a huge asset.“The first few edits of these newcomers indicate that they are trying to contribute productively (i.e. acting in good faith) and, therefore, likely will become valuable contributors if they remain in the community. We show empirically that, while the proportion of desirable newcomers who arrive at Wikipedia has been holding steady in recent years, a decreasing fraction of these newcomers survive past their initial contributions. We demonstrate that the decline has been caused, at least in part, by the Wikipedia community’s reactions to the enormous influx of contributors between 2004 and 2007. In order to maintain quality and efficiency during this period, the community’s views toward the goals of the project changed. These new views were instantiated in a set of policies, and a suite of algorithmic tools were developed for enforcement. Over time, these changes resulted in a new Wikipedia, in which newcomers are rudely greeted by automated quality control systems and are overwhelmed by the complexity of the rule system. Since these changes occurred, newcomers – including the crucial, desirable newcomers – have been leaving Wikipedia in droves.” Currently, Wikipedia is one of the world’s great websites, full of information and very accessible. It is somewhat mature in that just about everything has some coverage but more work remains to be done. The question of decline or maturity is about whether or not Wikipedia is less vigorous because the job has been largely done or because changes made years ago have become a millstone, weighing it down.

I will describe some of my contributions over the years. Where I have particular knowledge and I see a gap in some article that I was reading for my own purposes, I have offered edits from time to time. At first, that was that and I went on with life. Then came a time when whatever edits I made were almost certainly rejected by some nameless creatures in the system, rejecting my work sentence by sentence because I did not provide proof of every assertion, almost every sentence or phrase. I kid you not. A paragraph could not be contributed. It had to be a list of sentences with one or more references to the web for each one. Asserting that the sky was blue was unacceptable. One had to prove it. Stating the obvious and how it related to well-known facts and principles, reasoning, was never enough. To me it was as if binary bits were OK if they were copies of stuff elsewhere, but expressing any idea however modest was unacceptable.

Apparently I was not alone in this depressing phase of Wikipedia. According to TFA linked below, thousands of editors have dropped in, contributed, and fled. Wikipedia just isn’t a great place to live any longer.

Don’t believe me. Look at some examples.

GNU/Linux Adoption – when I added this edit,
“There is another reason that web counters are unreliable. Some are clearly connected with use of operating systems in business. For example, when 10000 users at Google’s headquarters moved at once to GNU/Linux in the summer of 2010, [[Net Applications]]’ web stats showed a swing from a few percent to 88% for the city of [[Mountain View, California]]{{cite web|url=|title = Mountain View, California, Penguin Heaven|accessdate = 14 March 2012|last = Pogson|first = Robert|year = 2012|month=March}}, a city of 74000 people, and a swing from 1.87% to 18.69% for [[California]]{{cite web|url=|title = Penguins Seen Over California|accessdate = 14 March 2012|last = Pogson|first = Robert|year = 2012|month=March}}, a state of 37 million people. Clearly, 10000 people is a small change in usage but was over-counted because it was used in business. The fact that Windows is heavily used in business results in low numbers for GNU/Linux. Web-counters can readily select for business usage by counting during hours of business in a location or counting only clients from business Internet domains.” I ran afoul of the “no original research” rule, and my contribution was tagged with a “conflict of interest” because I provided a link to my website. In the discussion of my contribution, you can see the problem:
“NetApplications does not publish the charts, only values month by month and location by location. My blog collects their data. I am not the source. Do I need to cite the URI for each of dozens of datapoints? The paragraph I added is about the change and how and why it happened clearly showing bias in Net Applications numbers. I have a M.Sc. in Nuclear Physics and know how to analyze data. The wide publication of “1%” is clearly wrong information coming form Net Applications and my collection shows that quantitatively. Assume a world using 90% GNU/Linux and Windows adoption at Google. 10K people showing huge adoption that is not valid. Pogson (talk) 13:29, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
Your own blog is not an acceptable reference as per WP:SPS, regardless of what qualifications in stats you have. You can’t cite data points with your own graphs and interpretations about them either as this would be WP:OR and WP:SYNTHESIS and is specifically not allowed on Wikipedia. You need to find proper reliable independent third party refs to retain this text in the article. – Ahunt (talk) 13:45, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
The refs you added do not support the claims you have made in the text, so I restored the “citation needed” tags. Since you removed those again the only choice remaining is to remove the challenged text as per WP:V, which I have done. Please don’t add it back in without proper, reliable refs that actually support the text this time. – Ahunt (talk) 16:30, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
Sounds good, maybe we should archive these older threads as well to stop people adding to discussions from some time ago (hard to follow). IRWolfie- (talk) 09:48, 15 March 2012 (UTC)”
So, how does a contribution to human knowledge make it into Wikipedia? Politics. Popularity. Stuff like that. It’s not enough to be correct or useful, information has to be acceptable to some elite in the organization. Wikipedia has lost its way.

The words that greet me on Wikipedia, “Hello, Pogson! Welcome to Wikipedia! Thank you for your contributions to this free encyclopedia.” are hollow and a sham. If Wikipedia were really free, the powers that be would be all over my contributions improving them rather than deleting them. What does their page say about the reliability of web stats these days? Well, that’s water under the bridge. The Linux Adoption page is quite different now. Just a line or two on the matter but they still cite other’s original research on the topic.

Really, how vital is an organization of house-builders that insist on bull-dozing each other’s work?

See halfaker13rise-preprint.pdf.

  • Mar 03 / 2014
  • 4

EC Doesn’t Plan To Get Off The Wintel Treadmill Soon

“The EC has reassessed its office automation strategy resulting in three ‘tracks’. First, to ensure business continuity, the EC will continue to rely on the same proprietary solutions that it currently uses. Second, the EC will also seek "positive disruption through alternative technologies, solutions and/or delivery models at different levels of the product stack, on a scale to be decided on a case-by-case basis." The third track is "aimed at preparing the ground for the next call for tenders for the office automation platform, which will be carried out in full service mode and will therefore be product-independent."”Better late than never, I guess, but vendor lock-in is like digging a hole. The longer you keep at it the worse the problem gets. Why plan to keep digging deeper??? Clearly the twits running IT in the EC don’t understand the principles. M$ does. By the time the next procurement cycle starts M$ may make the cost of converting all the data and removing all the lock-in many times more difficult. Why give M$ the opportunity to do that? It’s just not a sound defence. M$ is attacking the EC with every means at their disposal. Kill them off and be done with them or they may find a way to make it impossible to escape.

One of the excuses for sticking a while longer with M$’s office suite is support for languages. This is laughable because LibreOffice is superior

It’s not that hard. Dictate that LibreOffice and FireFox be installed next week and you’re almost there. Concentrate on the few remaining problems and then wipe and replace that other OS and run GNU/Linux. Done.

See MEP: 'EC procurement practice blocks European firms' | Joinup.

  • Mar 01 / 2014
  • 13

War In Europe, Again

Damn it! Why in the world do we keep producing megalonmaniacs like Hitler, Stalin and Putin and putting them in charge of armies?

The Russians’ invasion of Ukraine is a calculated gamble risking war for restoration of ancient history. Putin is gambling that USA is so sick of war and the entanglement in Afghanistan and Syria and Palestine that the USA would not bother to take up arms and that all of Europe is incapable of mobilizing against Russia. Russia is playing this as a small thing, just protecting its interests, but that is never the case. Hitler never exhausted his shopping list of countries to invade. Nor did Napoleon or Genghis Kahn. The world is well rid of them and the world needs to be rid of Putin.

Ukraine, Europe, USA, Canada, everyone must mobilize to resist Russian aggression. The UN is paralyzed with Russia on the Security Council. If Russia cannot be expelled for breaking the Charter of the UN, then a new organization will have to deal with Russia with extreme prejudice. It is not enough to talk for months/years while Russia grabs more territories. Russia must be stopped on the first square of the chessboard. I would recommend using air-power to take out every big piece of Russian equipment in Ukraine ASAP. If Russia escalates, the world escalates until they get the message that they cannot rule the world by force of arms. We will always outnumber them. Can these monsters never do that maths?

  • Feb 18 / 2014
  • 0
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

Digital Strategy

In a white paper recommending that organizations large and small have a digital strategy, IBM leads with these ideas:

  • “As of June 30, 2012, more than 2.4 billion people were Internet users.”
  • “By 2017, it is estimated that there will be more than 3.9 billion global mobile subscribers.”
  • “In a Pew Research Center study conducted in August and September 2012, nearly half of American adults (45 percent) and two-thirds of young adults (66 percent) reported that they own a smartphone”

Clearly a big shift is happening rather quickly. The adoption of the legacy PC and the use of legacy PCs to access the Internet were rather tame in comparison as M$ and Intel sought to tax adoption at every stage over decades. They restricted use at first only to business and the wealthy. Now small cheap computers are allowing the next couple of billion humans to become connected in real time in the space of a couple of years. The power of this shift is due to the comparatively low cost of production of ARMed small cheap computers running FLOSS and Moore’s Law bringing the cost of servers and clients down to acceptable levels. There are still billions of humans who cannot yet afford the new technology but it is everywhere so it is at least within reach.

This is all good for humanity. We are stronger and more capable together rather than divided. This is all good for consumers as they get a lot more for their money and investments in hardware and software. This is all good for producers as they don’t have to partner with a powerful monopoly holding them back. Organizations and individuals need to understand the new technology to see how it works for them.

When I was a teacher, I helped schools form a digital strategy limited only by the imaginations of staff and students rather than restrictive EULAs and budgets. Thanks to FLOSS schools were able to use their existing hardware to do far more: databases, internal websites, collaborative tools, search engines and the like, stuff they could not afford from M$’s “partners”. It was all $0 and took just a few minutes to install and an hour or so to configure for real needs. Instead of being a bottleneck and source of frustration the personal computers in the schools became powerful, reliable learning and collaborative tools.

IBM’s vision is much more complex and outward-looking but it’s the same idea. Use software and hardware for maximum benefit, not what M$ and “partners” offer. In this vision, Wintel is just a quaint memory unable to keep up with the pace of development and outrageously expensive.

See IBM Creating a digital strategy to provide exceptional digital experiences.