I know that we geeks tend to laugh at such things but PLEASE REMEMBER that just as many of us can't do open heart surgery or rebuild our car engines, so too is there many that don't have our experience with scams. Currently there are several "$1000 Gift Card" scams that are going around, Best Buy and Walmart are two of the biggest right now. Please warn your less tech savvy friends and family about such things and point out that a REAL winning entry in a contest would be contacted by something other than a txt. I have had to warn several older and less savvy customers in the past few weeks because of this scam so its going around pretty heavily. remember to use your computer savvy for good and help your fellow man keep from being ripped off.
Someone on Slashdot recently claimed I hadn't read Keep the Aspidistra Flying because I thought the ending was depressing. After I finished my PhD in 2007, I've managed to avoid the same fate and have successfully avoided having a real job for almost five years. I've done freelance programming and written four books, and had a lot of time to post on Slashdot (as you can tell from the fact that, so far, I've posted more than anyone else this quarter) and do open source stuff (Ohloh ranks me in the top 2,000 geeks with no life^W^W^W^Wopen source developers).
That's about to change though. I had two interesting job offers recently (I seem to get job offers from banks very often, but I have a very low tolerance for tedium, so I'd probably have been fired around day 3 if I'd taken any of them). One was from Google in Paris (yay!) but working on boring things (boo!). The other was from Cambridge University, which is about as well paid as you expect in academia (aww!) but basically involves working on the same stuff I do for fun (yay!) with some very intelligent people (yay!). Oh, and it's in a city where a quick search found four tango classes (yay!) and property prices not much lower than London (oops!) and which is both small and flat enough that I can cycle everywhere (yay!) and so does everyone else (look out!).
So, in a few weeks I'm moving to Cambridge. I'll miss looking out at the sea, but being able to dance tango more than once a week should be some compensation. There also seems to be a lively salsa scene, although having to learn yet another set of names for the same Rueda steps is going to be a little tiresome...
When I visited, I went for drinks with some of the makerspace guys the night before my interview (I have no idea how much I drank, but it didn't seem to affect my interview performance too badly...) and met someone who worked on the C++11 atomics spec (which I was in the middle of implementing at the time) and someone who had ported 2BSD to a 32-bit PIC with 128KB of RAM, so it definitely seems like a city with no shortage of geeks...
This weekend (I think, maybe earlier), Slashdot published some statistics about the most active people. Apparently I am in the top four most active commenters for the past month and the past quarter. This is quite depressing.
In happier, and unrelated news, my FreeBSD commit bit was approved this weekend, so I can now cause untold destruction on the Internet at large...
My current phone is a Nokia N80. I've had it a few years and I'm reasonably happy with it, but it has a fault with the charging circuit and it's pretty bulky, so I'm thinking about replacing it. Unfortunately, there seem to be about 3,000 different options with no competent way of way of working out which one is sensible.
I mainly use my phone as... a phone. So, the most important feature for me is the ability to make and receive calls. Because I am a cheapskate, this includes SIP (and WiFi), since my SIP provider charges a lot less than my mobile provider when calling landlines. I really like WebOS in terms of UI, but that seems to rule the Pre out because the only WebOS SIP client is alpha quality and doesn't integrate with the address book. This is something that Nokia does really well - the SIP client is fully integrated, so I can just select someone from my address book and select Internet Call to make the call. No extra skill required.
Beyond that, the only thing I really need is to be able to sync contacts via bluetooth and to use it as a modem via bluetooth - both pretty standard features, I'd assume, since my last three phones have had them.
In terms of smartphone features, I'm not that bothered. A programming environment that supports native code so that I can port my ObjC runtime would be nice - I have no interest in VM-based crap - but aside from that I don't have any strong requirements.
I would, however, like decent battery life and a small size, and ideally a nice camera. The bulk and poor battery life of my N80 means that I quite often leave it at home.
So, any suggestions?
All the usual hype is flowing about Vista 8. This mostly means that Vista 7 was a failure, but I decided to log it for laughs. Vista 7 did not sell as well as Vista did and Vista 8 won't sell any better than Vista 7. Vista failure has really killed Microsoft. The upgrade inevitability myth is six feet underground, traditional desktops are becoming a thing of the past and everyone looks to Google, Apple even IBM for cool and reliable computing. Despite that, Microsoft brings out the same old lines and strategies.
- 05/29 - Steve Ballmer tries to freeze the market by announcing an early release date, only to have Micrsoft quietly rebuff him. In reality, OEM outrage at Microsoft's limitations and power grab pushes Vista 8 release out of 2012.
- 06/02 - A fawning article from business insider. We get all the usual BS, "riskiest OS ever," "biggest step forward in more than 20 years, when it pushed Windows as the replacement for DOS", "underneath that layer is the old Windows that users are accustomed to. It will run old Windows apps", Linux and Apple are too jarring, expensive and suck, and so on and so forth.
I have a customer that surfs those "porntube" style sites and I kept getting emails from him consisting of a single link, obviously randomly generated. Now since I had just cleaned this machine and knew it to be good I asked "WTH?" and he swore up and down that the ONLY thing he had done was watch some videos on those porntube sites. So I figured he was probably lying, so I figured "I've just made a disc image, have AV and NoScript, lets experiement". So I went to several porntube style sites, DrTuber,XHamster, etc, just clicking links to bounce from one to the other when sure enough about an hour later I started getting emails from myself along with everyone in my address book!
Now since it was the yahoo account that I only use as a spam dump I didn't care about that, what I DID care about is it looks like every. single. person. that looks at any of the porntube sites is vulnerable to having their Yahoo addresses stolen! I tried Chromium and FF 4, I tried with NoScript enabled, no matter what I did after surfing those sites for an hour or less, even after using CCleaner first to make sure there wasn't any info in the cache, there it was.
Now all I can tell you is that it doesn't seem to affect GMail or Live Mail, just Yahoo, but with Yahoo Mail it seems to be pretty damned consistent no matter what the user does! So has anyone else run into this, know how it works, or know how to stop it? I wish I could tell you the exact site but I was looking for the effect more than the cause, but if you start at DrTuber and XHamster and start clicking on video links leading to affiliates you WILL end up seeing it first hand, just don't use a Yahoo account you care about! Although since I saw the effect WITHOUT logging into Yahoo and WITH private browsing on who knows if you'll be able to stop it? I'm starting to wonder if the new yahoo beta isn't storing your address book unencrypted in the browser somewhere for speed. If it is the case we are talking a serious security flaw here folks!
As the Linux Foundation wins new friends and influences people, sharp reporters at PCWorld notice that Windows sales as a fraction of PCs shipped are in a steep and accelerating decline. Woody Leonhard of Infoworld does the math on Microsoft's numbers,
Between launch and June 30, 2010 -- a period of 251 days -- Microsoft sold 0.78 Windows 7 licenses for each PC sold. Between July 1, 2010, and April 22, 2011 -- a period of 275 days -- Microsoft sold 0.67 Windows 7 licenses for each PC sold: 175 million Windows 7 licenses, and 260 million new PCs. To turn the numbers the other way around, in the past nine months, more than one-third of all new PCs sold didn't have Windows 7.
... it's entirely possible that 40 percent of all new PCs in the past nine months shipped without Windows 7. Maybe more.
So, the Windows 7 PC sales "refresh" is over. Business adoption rates are still under 10%. Kanthryn Noyles of Computer World interprets that as a Win for gnu/linux
I think it's fair to assume that a good number of them are running Linux instead. Preloaded options, after all, are increasingly common, and the reasons to switch are more compelling with each passing Patch Tuesday.
Android/Linux, is another reason for the decline. Why sit around mom's basement with a big, noisy PC when you can drop the net in your pocket? PCs are less important and Windows is downright archaic.
Microsoft's bottom line sags with its cash cow. There was good evidence in 2010 and January of this year that Windows 7 was not driving sales. Roughly Drafted now looks at Microsoft's quarterly report and shows that Windows profits are down since 2008 back when they were trying to sell Vista which many people dumped in less than six months.
Florian Mueller has thrust himself into the news a lot over the last couple of years, mostly to the detriment of Microsoft competitors, and has been particularly successful at getting Slashdot to copy his message. Roy Schestowitz, of Techrights, noticed him early because Boycott Novell was on Florian's journalist mass mailing list. So was Groklaw. Both rejected Florian's message and both are now smeared by him. Techrights has this index and PJ has this about bad behavior in 2005, this, this and more. Florian waged a Twitter/Social Media FUD campaign against both "Groklie" and Techrights in retaliation. Even Slashdot submitters have called Florian a "gadfly" and noticed he's behind anti-Google FUD. All of Florian's media manipulation has earned him special mention by actual lawyers who advise those threatened by lawsuits to ignore him and people like him.
The best way to understand what Florian has been doing is to make a list of it. Here then, is a list of what he's been telling Slashdot readers over the last year or so, with context and links to refutations as time allows.
- Google violated Java patents on purpose (See source article for source of silly opinion. ITWorld should be ashamed.)
- Speculation about why Apple replaced their chief patent lawyer. While Apple is quiet about the change, Florian pretends to be an Apple spokesman and tells us it's all about plans to block Android features.
- Sensationalized Oracle's obnoxious demands for money as something that would "far exceed any money Google has ever earned with Android", Google's no cost, free OS. Groklaw puts things in perspective and lawyers advise people to ignore Florian and people like him.
- Google Loses Bedrock Suit, All Linux May Infringe Florian put his anti-linux spin into CNet, the article source. See refutations, [2 SJVN], [3 PJ].
- A refutation that points to Florian as the source of Android copyright FUD.
- Huffington Post and Florian level copyright charges against Android, call it a "serious problem". Techrights and Groklaw answer these charges and take a careful look at Florian. 
- Google and Microsoft are working to make sofware patents livable
- Backs Google's request to invalidate Oracle VM patents.
- Florian charges Google of copyright violation against Oracle, blames ASF.
- Florian claims Android is doomed by Google's small patent portfolio, so Google had better pay fees to Apple, Microsoft and Oracle.
- Android and iPhone charged with violating media patents
- Counts patents involved in Apple's attack on Android.
- Pumps up Paul Allen's sue everyone lawsuit as trouble for Android.
Red Hat FUD
Novell's Patent Hoard.
- Notices Microsoft, Apple, Oracle and EMC are to receive Novelle's patents and predicts dire results for free software.
Reframes Microsoft's attempt to tax Motorola's use of GNU/Linux and Android.
This issue should not be separated from general anti-Google FUD but Florian does this.
- Compares LG Sony fight to Motorola Microsoft
- Talks about new patent charges by both companies as if they were equals.
- ITC investigates Xbox after Motorola complaint.
That's 16 articles in less than a year and each represents dozens of Microsoft press echos. All of it says something bad about Google, Red Hat, IBM and other free software users. When he's not busy smearing Microsoft competitors, he's telling us that they Love Microsoft and are working with them towards some noble goal.
People speculate that Muelller is fed inside information as part of Microsoft's coordinated campaigns against free software and Microsoft competitors. PJ of Groklaw thinks that Microsoft hoped that a community of deluded coders would form around Florian, but only Novell employees and Mono boosters pal around, while the larger free software community ignores him. His recent praise of the SCO Gang and smears of PJ places him among the most disgusting of Microsoft company.
The sky and smell of the air after a thunderstorm always make me happy... and that those are, today, accompanied by a sky that looks painted by Maxfield Parish just makes joy well up in my belly until I can't help but laugh!
I love the sound, I love the smell, of rain on a thatched roof. I love the way humidity here pervades everything. I even enjoy this kind of loneliness, once in a while.
A little while ago, someone on Slashdot pointed me at the Sale of Goods Act in relation to purchased electronics. The act, for those unfamiliar with it, requires that goods be 'suitable for the purpose for which sold.' This is a fairly broad term, but it basically means that they must be able to do anything that the seller claims that they can do. Under this law, you have 6 years from the date of purchase to file a lawsuit if the item does not match the claims.
This was relevant to me because my MacBook Pro is now out of warranty and the battery is dying. Looking in the System Profiler, its full charge capacity was showing up as 1476mAh after 56 charges. When new, it was 5500mAh. These numbers don't mean anything by themselves, but Apple claims that their batteries retain 80% of their full charge capacity after 300 charge cycles. Claiming this means that a battery that does not retain 4400mAh after 300 charge cycles is not suitable for the purpose for which sold, and they are legally required to refund or replace it (irrespective of the time that has elapsed, although I can only sue them if they don't within 6 years of the time of sale).
I called their support line and was put through to an Indian woman, who explained that the warranty had expired. I quoted the relevant parts of law to her, and (after being kept on hold for a bit), was transferred to someone senior. He very quickly agreed to send out a replacement battery.
Interestingly, he did not ask that the original battery be sent out, nor that I provide a credit card number where I would be billed if the battery turned out not to be defective. I've had two batteries replaced in warranty, and this was standard procedure then, so apparently I get better service out of warranty. I don't have a great deal of use for a battery that only lasts about 35 minutes on a full charge, but I'll probably keep it as a spare.
As always, it pays to know the law. It's a shame that Apple, which claims to be a customer-focussed company, doesn't educate its support team about this though. Possibly the Indian call centre deals with people from everywhere English speaking, while the Irish one only deals with people in the UK and Ireland, so the people there are more familiar with British law, but if I had not quoted the relevant act then I would have been charged Â£99 for a battery, on top of the Â£1.50 it cost to call their support line for half an hour.
I simply can't believe how awful Windows is, and (unfortunately) how gullible I am. [my laptop] came loaded with Vista Business, and a "fallback" DVD for XP Professional. I tried running Vista on it. I really tried, I really wanted it to work, and I said exactly that in my blog here. But it didn't. Every time I tried it, things started out looking promising, and after a month or two it would go belly-up. Three or four times I reloaded Vista from scratch and tried again, hoping that the latest Microsoft Updates would fix it. Eventually I gave up, reloaded one last time with XP Professional, and ran that with no problem for two years.
A month or so ago, through my own carelessness, I wiped the disk on this laptop. I had to reload everything from scratch, so (like a fool) I thought well, Vista SP2 is out, everyone says that it is "all fixed up now and works great, and reliably", so I'll try that again. I loaded Vista from scratch, added all the updates to SP2 and beyond, and I've been running it that way since. Until today.
... Windows is unreliable garbage, it always has been, it always will be, and if you use it you should be willing to accept that risk. I am no longer willing to accept that risk, even part-time as a secondary operating system on this laptop. Windows is gone, it has puked all over its disk for the last time here, and I will not reload it. I am in the process of transferring the data to one of the Linux partitions - yes, Linux is quite happy to read the partition that Windows says is hopelessly corrupted.
Please, PLEASE, unless you want to hear a very long string of words that I learned during my military service, do NOT tell me that the "solution" to this problem is to give Microsoft even more money and "upgrade" to Windows 7.
... if Vista is not stable, or reliable, then Microsoft should withdraw it and either offer a free "upgrade" to Windows 7 or offer a refund of the purchase cost. ... I absolutely don't believe the Windows 7 is any better, any more stable or any more reliable than Vista. They come from Microsoft, they are utter garbage...
Some time around 2005, Slashdot ran an article about a new hosting company, MacMiniColo that was taking advantage of the new machines that Apple had just released to offer cheap hosting. I got in contact with them, and a little while later, I had a Mac Mini, sitting in a rack somewhere, running OpenBSD and acting as my dedicated server. A 1.42GHz G4 CPU, 512MB of RAM, and an 80GB disk was (and still is) more than adequate for my needs. The biggest load on it is eJabberd, and even that only used under 1% of the CPU.
I had really great service from these people. The hard drive failed a little under a year after I bought the Mini, and Apple refused to honour the warranty because they couldn't find the records of the sale (then, a few weeks later, they could, but by then it was out of the warranty period). MacMiniColo replaced the disk for me at their own expense.
After five years with them, however, I had a little look around and noticed that VPS hosting has gone down in price a lot. I've written a book on Xen, so I thought I might try a Xen-based VPS now that FreeBSD has Xen support.
GigaTux only claims to offer Linux, but I dropped them an email and they were happy to install FreeBSD for me. I still haven't tried the Xen-enabled kernel yet; they installed the stock x86-64 kernel in an HVM domain for me and performance has been fantastic.
I'm sharing a server with 64 other guests and in spite of that performance tends to be better than my ageing Mac Mini. I was getting 1000IOPS while untaring the ports tree, which is far more than the Mini's old 2.5" laptop drive could handle, and is amazing considering that it's going via the slow, QEMU-derived, emulated device, rather than the fast PV driver. I've been installing software from ports, so everything is compiled on the machine, and even that has been fast.
And my Mini? They found someone else who wants it, and offered me about a third of what I paid for it originally - not bad depreciation after five years of constant use. Shipping it back to the UK would have cost almost as much as buying one on eBay, so I sold it on. Hopefully someone else will get some good use out of it.
As an aside, I've been really impressed by how well OpenBSD works on Mac/PowerPC hardware. If you've got an old Mac Mini lying around, chuck OpenBSD on it and you've got a reasonable low-volume server. The newer ones, of course, are x86 hardware, so will run just about anything.
There are two reasons why I don't use GNU/Linux: One is GNU, the other is Linux. Of these, the larger reason is GNU, and specifically the glibc part. The most recent reinforcement of this is Ulrich Drepper's inability to read the C specification.
For those not familiar with the C specification, all identifiers that start with an underscore are reserved for the implementation (see section 22.214.171.124.2). You should never use them in your own code, because your compiler is completely free to do whatever it wants with them. By convention, single underscores are used for global non-standard libc extensions and double underscores are used for compiler builtins.
You can find a number of these in existing compiler. Microsoft exposes SEH with keywords like __try. GCC provides __asm for inline assembly, ICC uses __cpuid for accessing the CPUID instruction, and so on. Clang added __block as a type specifier for their variables that are copied to the heap for use by blocks (closures).
Unfortunately, it turns out that the glibc headers use __block as a parameter name. There are several things wrong with this. One is that they use double underscores at all. By convention, these are reserved for the compiler, while single underscores are reserved for the libc. The second is that they used underscores at all in a parameter. Parameter names are not in the global scope, so they can be anything to prevent name clashes.
The result of this is that, if you use glibc, you can't also use blocks. This is a shame, because we (Etoile) were shipping a working blocks implementation six months before Apple. Well, working on *BSD and Solaris (and probably Windows, QNX and Symbian with PIPS, but not tested there). This problem means that it doesn't work on GNU/Linux.
No problem for me. I only use platforms with libc implementations written by people who can read specs. It may be a problem for some of you, if you use a broken platform with a libc maintained by someone who'd rather salvage his ego than fix a problem, and if it is then I'm sorry for you. My suggestion is that you remember that there are other options.
Digitimes has another reason for Windows 7 sales to be low.
PC replacement demand is not driven significantly by the consumer market, but rather enterprise and government purchases
... most enterprises in Europe and North America are expected to start planning annual purchasing budgets for the year in March and April of 2010, actual replacement demand is not expected to spur until the second half of the year.
Companies and government might buy computers next year, but they should already be buying orders placed in March and April of this year. There are already accounts of corporate rejection of Windows 7, so that OS is not likely to have anything to do with corporate buying and government won't be a big market because UAC still does not meet government security standards . Back in January, retailers at CES remembered being "burnt by Vista" and saw nothing to change their minds about the contracting PC market. Perhaps OEMs and retailers could deliver the gnu/linux netbooks and desktops that people actually want to buy.