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Journal Journal: Microsoft is not so bad 1

So, I just finished watching Steve Jobs and Bill Gates sitting down together at D5 - at least a little bit of it since only 2 of 7 segments have been uploaded. Steve Jobs made an impression on me that has changed my whole mindset on Microsoft as a company.

Microsoft has an ultra-competitive force inside it. Microsoft has made a lot of money by doing things that I don't approve of. Microsoft has been one of the primary reasons that the IT industry that I have come to make my living off of exists.

Steve Jobs made the point that at Apple, there was an enormous sense that in order for Apple to succeed, Microsoft had to lose. That was very much not the reality, and in fact the reality was and still is that Microsoft will not lose. Apple, in fact, had/has great interest in the long term success of Microsoft - they are the largest software company for Apple software, they spend a great deal of money on Apple products, and the competitive nature of two companies not faced with direct competition inspires creativity and hard work that would not otherwise be achieved.

Looking at the linux world, much of the same paradigm holds true. Linux will never take over the desktop market - at least not any time in the next decade. Linux based software has in large part been inspired by things that take place at Microsoft or on Microsoft platforms. I think that Beryl is a much better interface than that which Vista provides, but the drive for a better GUI wouldn't have happened without Microsoft and Apple first popularizing GUI platforms in the first place.

Looking at the search engine world - there are three major players - Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. Microsoft's presence is good for the internet as a whole. While Google enjoys a near-monopoly at the moment, they certainly won't hold that title forever. While they are at the top, Yahoo and Microsoft make them better. They keep working hard to maintain their revenue stream and when they do start to make mistakes the factual competition will be there ready to take over.

Competition inspires innovation and hard work. Microsoft is competitive in just about everything these days. They may not be market leaders, but they certainly are competitors. Microsoft hasn't done a lot of creating new markets anytime recently, but they do great work at expanding existing markets well beyond what smaller companies would be able to do, or what other large companies would consider to be too risky. Take the xbox for instance - Microsoft's entrance into the industry expanded the user base as a whole and inspired better products from Sony and Nintendo. Microsoft certainly took their share, but Sony, Nintendo, and an untold amount of other companies made a lot of money based in large part on Microsoft's presence in the market place.

Yes, Microsoft has unethically attacked Linux and open source software in general. Yes, Microsoft is guilty of anti-competitive practices that are unimaginable. Yes, Microsoft has some terrible products that have way too much market share.

But without them - we'd all be poor, working retail, and playing around on hobby computers with less than a megabyte of memory.

I've spent enough time hating them. It feels good to let it go.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Is Microsoft actively astroturfing slashdot? 3

Could Microsoft be actively astroturfing slashdot? When a discussion starts with an offhand comment laughing at an MS Products' supposed security and ends with attacks on Apache and Linux you really start to wonder.

I've always enjoyed excellent Karma because I typically only participate in discussions when I actually have something useful or interesting to say. Not to say that all of my comments are modded +5 insightful or anything like that, but I can't remember the last time I was modded down.

I made a few comments about IIS 6 and was attacked and modded once as a Troll and again as flamebait. My flamebait comment started the whole thing. The article I commented on included the laughable statement

"IIS 6 hasn't had a public remotely exploitable bug in it. Ever."

To which I replied here asking if Microsoft had hired Baghdad Bob as a PR guy. (You remember Baghdad Bob - the Iraqi Information Minister who publicly claimed that the US was not actually closing in on Baghdad the day they took it over) Frankly, I thought it was kind of a funny comment - and given the slashdot community's attitude towards everything microsoft I thought that the comment would be interpereted as such.

The first reply came from a guy asking me to name a vulnerability, as if the thought of IIS actually having a security hole was incredulous... um. OK... so I responded with a google query with 695,000 results for "IIS 6 remote exploit".

Then comes attack #2... I love this guy. He says...

The fact remains, IIS 6 has never had a remotely exploitable hole. Period.


Microsoft learned from their mistakes and are making their software secure, not just by Microsoft standards, but clearly by any standard.

Really? On slashdot, someone making those statements? About Microsoft? Oh come on! So I took a gander at this particular user's comment history and it showed an unhealthy loyalty to Microsoft in defiance of logic. I called him on it. That's when I got modded as a Troll.

He never responded, but I did get a response from an "anonymous coward" asking me

"Wow, why not actually link to an IIS6 exploit meeting the stated criteria, if you're asserting that any exist?"

followed up by another commenter:

Don't redbait. Answer his question. Or continue to look increasingly foolish, I guess.

What is redbait anyways? Probably a typo. At this point I'm committed to the discussion so I decided to simply follow my own google search link to find an example. It took two clicks, so I responded with the actual text of the first exploit I found, along with links to Gartner's denunciation of IIS, a google search showing that Hacking Insurance carries a 15% additional premium for users of IIS, and a cert.org link reminding these people of the damage caused by IIS past vulnerabilities. You'd think the discussion would be over at this point. If nothing else, it's a day AFTER the story hit the front page... wrong!

Dude, are you completely ignorant of basic security terminology? ... Either stop blindly bashing microsoft, or put up and actual code execution hole.

So, I made what I thought was a funny comment, was forced to defend that comment. Then I was "called out" because 695,000 google results weren't enough evidence of an exploit. and now this

So now, because I simply just can't walk away from this, I respond again. This time I basically say piss off - if you consider IIS 6 secure when x,y, and z is public knowledge and the platform itself has a sordid history of being unbelievably insecure then fine, use it at your own risk.

And the responses keep coming...

Is IIS 6 better than a patchy web server?


695,000 results is terrible, but that's nothing when you consider that there's over 1.1 million results for Linux 16 remote exploits

So now this discussion has degraded to blind attacks on Apache and Linux?!? Seriously - I make one funny comment (that apparently wasn't that funny) that laughs at a statement about Microsoft IIS, I get attacked and modded as a flamebating troll, and then Apache and Linux are attacked. The entire thing just doesn't fit the community. I can't actually think of any tech communities that I've been a part of where such a thing would transpire.

I started the discussion, so I can't exactly claim that I was baited into it. I just don't see how this discussion goes the way it does without some astroturfing being involved. Blind loyalty to Microsoft's web server "platform", attacks on linux, apache, and the guy who laughs at the statement that IIS is secure. That's not slashdot. It's the twilight zone.

User Journal

Journal Journal: "Support the troops" really pisses me off. 6

There are 2 types of people who support the troops: Those who are veterans, and those who have bumper stickers. Guess which one actually makes a difference.

If you want to bitch and moan about supporting the troops, and the Democrat's time table, go fight the good fight. There are plenty of recruiters with stacks of signing bonuses just waiting for you to walk in. If you're not willing to put your own neck on the line:

Don't talk about sacrifice until you've lost a loved one.
Don't talk about the importance until you've killed a person.
Don't talk about bravery until you've sat with your wall against a wall while small arms fire was coming in.

There are great people of this nation fighting, dieing, and being physically and mentally maimed for life. And to see a draft-dodging deserter like Bush giving speeches about "winning" the war, about being brave and tough, and about the difficulty of the decisions he makes... it rips my guts out to hear him, of all people, utter that crap. No sane person has ever survived a war and thought that war was a good solution. Sometimes, it is necessary, but the cost is so high, so many lives are lost or shattered, the cost of not going to war has to be huge.

Sorry for the rant, I'm just a bit worked up today and someone posted some inane 'yeah-but I support the troops' crap.


User Journal

Journal Journal: Ringdev's Razor 3

Ringdev's Razor: "When there are two possible explanations for a given situation, one that requires a large amount of knowledge, skill, and luck, and another that requires gross incompetence; go with the incompetence explanation."

User Journal

Journal Journal: A Gem of a quote 1

"Since the dawn of time, the x86 FPU has been organized as a stack

No no no, since the dawn of time, Man has yearned to destroy the Sun!

x86 came much later, right after the COBOL and the other dinosaurs."

Tumbleweed (3706)

User Journal

Journal Journal: A possible MMO contender?

I recently bumped into a game call "The Chronicle" That seems like it might be pretty close to what I was describing. A dynamic world where players build the cities and war with others. NPCs that react to events, and can actually be proactive. An active use skill learning system, no more arbitrary levels. An in depth fame/infamy system. And what looks like it may be a highly impressive crafting economic system (not sure on game play aspect of crafting yet). They also have a very interesting idea on a new way to play.

They have two kinds of characters, Regular, and Main. You get 1 main and 3 regs per server, your regular characters are limited to 70% max skill in any skill line, but they can re spawn when ever they die and work just like any other MMO's characters for the most part. Your Main on the other hand, can hit 100% max skill, can create guilds, and most importantly, is susceptible to Permadeath. Yes, your Main character can die for real. There are some catches to that. Mains have longer 'bleeding out' times. Mains also have the possibility of '2nd chances' where there is a slim possibility that your toon will be saved (whether by local NPCs who drag you to a healer, or by the Gnolls that are taking you back to their cave for a later meal). It also sounds like Mains will have the possibility to effect the world and story line more so then regulars.

This game has everything I was hoping for with one exception. The PvP aspect doesn't sound like it is RvR styled. It sounds much more anything goes shadowbane ish, where anyone can kill anyone. The developers had lots of tricks up their selves to make killing mains much more challenging (only a Main can kill another Main, and all Main avatars look just like regular avatars, and since there are no levels, there is no way to check the 'con' of another player). So it should be pretty intense.

Any ways, it looks like a fun one to keep an eye on.

Role Playing (Games)

Journal Journal: Some MMO ideas... 1

Everyone has ideas for games, and I'm no exception, so here are a few of mine.

I have a few primary goals:
1) A dynamic world. I want to play a game where my guild and I can change the face of the planet.
2) A non-violent option. I want to play a game where my master crafter can be just as renowned as the greatest goblin slayer or war lord
3) A real economy. No more endless camping of critters to get your 10 million gold piece just to see it disappear from the game when you buy a house.

Ideas on achieving this:
The Dynamic World would take a bit of work. First, every server would start with one or two NPC cities. These cities are safe points, no PvE or PvP in the cities. The city would have it's own NPC guards that would ensure the safety of the immediate area surrounding the wall. So if a PKer or a pack of Kobolds where at the gates, the guards would kill them. But the farther from the wall you get, the less protection they offer. But as players branch out from the city they can build houses and forts. These locations they must purchase the land, and have the option of paying 'taxes'. Taxes would go to NPC guards, or two a contracted guild (with NPC augmentation). Each time a new establishment is created, the evil critters are pushed back. But the critters aren't dumb. Goblin after goblin isn't going to grab their life savings and charge the front line, they are going to leave their valuables in safe places. Places for players to track down and raid. Of course that means charging into the center of the local goblin population. And raiding the local population's primary holding may push them back even further, or cause their numbers to join other goblin groups.

Obviously crafting would be extremely important, because the NPCs are all located at the center of the universe and the wars and exploration are happening as the far reaches. NPC items are also of limited use. So crafters become the tool for the front lines. In order for this to work though you need a new crafting system. With this much importance on crafting, a painfully repetitive system (ala: DAoC) will only lead to scripting. No, it would be much better to have a wider range of production with a lot more input from the player. Remember, a character may solely be a crafter, so making an item has to be just as entertaining as killing those goblins. Creating houses, forts, walls, etc... would all be crafting tasks. Sure, a player could pay a large fee for an NPC to do the work, or they could create a layout plan and pay a PC to do the work for less and with a likelihood of higher quality. Crafters will depend on materials though, so there will be another set of specialties for harvesters (lumber jacks, miners, farmers, etc). Balancing the tediousness of harvesting is going to be a challenge, but there are answers. When mining you can pull out different materials, maybe you can find a gold vein and can mine the whole thing, maybe you find a coal deposit, maybe iron. Searching out these different components can be part of it. The same for lumbar, cutting down that pine tree is fast, but it's wood is soft, going for the 200 year old oak will take a lot longer, but will get you a lot more hard wood.

Which reminds me, reputation is every thing. An in game reputation system is extremely important. Group performance, crafting skill, customer approval, etc...

So we know crafters and suppliers are important, what about the people who like hack and slash? I see a few options: Army duty, Adventuring/Exploring, Guard duty. Army duty is for professional soldiers. Eventually, two separate houses far enough away from the city will declare war on each other, or perhaps two cities will expand far enough to encounter each other, or even perhaps some evil entity will generate the numbers require to wage an all out war. In these cases the Lords of the town/house/group has the option of paying players for spending time in their military. You might be on patrol routes, or on a front line, but in any case you will likely be involved with a good number of battles either group vs group or mass vs mass. Adventurers and explorers are the ones who would blaze paths into the unknown. They may find the caves that the Ogres have been raiding from. They may find new resource deposits. They may perform recon for different factions. And finally, guard duty. A guild could elect to take guard duty for a house or fort. A house owner could offer to pay so much gold to a guild for protection. Now paying people to stand in front of a house is boring, so NPC's would be used for most of the time. The NPC's would warn the guild of suspicious activity, and of the money paid by the house owner, the guild would get a % that reflects the % of time they were on the property or in the immediate area. So your guild could perform guard duty for a house for 500g a month, but if you only have someone spend a few hours at the house a month, the pay out will be only a small percent. But if the property is a hot spot and you have guards their through out the day, you would earn much more of the monthly payment.

Additional adventuring locations could be instanced out. Small quests, unique exploration points, and much of the low level content. The act of leveling would be rather short as the fun stuff is out side the static city in the dynamic world. After clearing out the bakers rat infestation and a couple runs through the city's grave yard and catacombs, it's time to set out and make a mark on the world. The other thing I never liked about leveling is well, leveling. I'm a much larger fan of "do it-improve it". If you swing a battle axe for 10 days, you get better at it. If you cast nothing but lightning spells, you get better at lightning spells. My preference is for a maximum number of skill points, say 200. Any skill tops out at 100. So you can put 100 points into sword and 100 points into shield and have yourself a classic tank. Or you could put 100 points into battle axe and 100 points into armour smithing and have yourself a side business. Or you could put 75 in sword, 75 in shield and 50 in lightning element magic and be a slightly weaker tank with a decent ranged magic attack. Obviously there would be a ton of balancing that would have to go into such a system, but I think it would allow people to do what they enjoy and watch their character improve. And you wouldn't need to 'respec', if you want to switch weapons, just switch weapons and your points will start dropping in the old skill you aren't using and go up in the new skill you are using.

Well, that's my idea.



Journal Journal: What we're doing in Iraq 2

I have a theory. This theory was initially stated in late 2001/early 2002 while at a bar with some friends. At that point in time I had just got out of the Marine Corps and 9/11 was a fresh memory. My time line is a bit fuzzy because this was quite a while ago and many of the realization where made while drinking.

One thing I learned while in the military over seas is the drunk military guys f' things up all over the world. We have troops station in South Korea, Australia, Japan, and tons of other places too. And most of the time, everything is good. Then you get some jack ass who gets drunk and runs down the local magistrate's prom queen daughter and the whole region goes up in arms. So anyways, onto the theory.

After 9/11 the US revved up the war machine and laid the smack down on Afghanistan. Funny things about war time media coverage, other minor stories get pushed aside. Two of those stories though caught my eye. First was an announcement that Saudi Arabia was requesting that we remove all military presence from their soil. Not a big shocker, like I said before, drunk military guys do the damndest things, or so I thought at the time. And second, was a story about a Nigeria diplomat who sold documents to an Italian diplomat that showed Saddam trying to buy yellow cake uranium, that story was followed up by a denouncement (the work of Mr. Plane most likely). But it was rather quite and was nothing compared to the war in Afghanistan.

Any time you have large masses of US military stuck in someoneelse's country, the neighbors get nervous. Turkey was having debates on allowing the US troops to stage and using their air space, and Iran, well, they were moving in a radical direction and wound up electing a former hostage taker as their president (My former OIC was one of the Marines held hostage in Lebanon by that guy). The Pakistani board warlords were armed to the teeth. Saudi Arabia booted our troops.

Now the US is left in a rough spot, with a radical government in control of Iran, and no serious staging grounds on the western side of the country. The US needed to get a foot hold in the region to keep pressure on Iran.

Enter Iraq! A weak military, a dictator Americans would love to see brought down, a fortune in oil to socialize (worked in Kuwait!), and the perfect place to make our next permanent middle east forward outpost.

Scrounge up some iffy documentation on Saddam trying to get weapons grade nuclear material (even if it had already been refuted), and market the hell out of it. I felt bad for Collin Powel, he was trying to do the right thing, get into Iraq with the public behind him with out lying. Bush had no such qualms (or intelligence) and Rumsfeld is a war time chief, he's good at it, but even he can't paint a crap log pretty.

It was at about this point in time that I finally put 2 and 2 together. We were going to war. It would be over fast, 2 weeks top. There would be rejoicing. Then there would be death. Another thing I learned in the Marine Corps. Attacking a guerrilla force in an urban environment with current practices results in very heavy casualties. In field exercises a small skilled force could inflict up to 70% casualties before being overrun. And after being overrun skilled independents could still inflict casualties over and over again with minimum risk to themselves. Not only would there be deaths in the cities, but it would be long term. Remember, the whole reason for being there wasn't for oil, or nukes, or a democratic agenda, it was to put a serious military force with in striking distance of Iran.

And here we are, the war was over in a few days with a hand full of casualties. But we stayed, and slowly over time we are taking more and more hits. Bush refuses to set a deadline to bring troops home, because he doesn't intend to. Creating a permanent military installation is the goal. Sure, as things stabilize more and more our numbers will be reduced, but there will always be a solid presence inside Iraq. At least until the politicians boot us out ;)

And I can't say the plan was a bad one. Iran is a significantly larger threat and terrorist backer then Iraq ever was. And with Iran's leadership making rumblings of nuclear power and anti-Israeli sentiment, I have to agree that having a local launch pad is a good thing.

Unfortunately the execution of this plan was about worth bat shit. The war has been mismanaged, underestimated, and poorly handled since day one.

Things that could have been done better:
1) Don't disband the bath party and Iraqi military. The structure was there, use it. Take charge of it. And let the people replace it with a democracy on their own schedule.
2) Policing. The US should have stepped up and stopped the looting, this would have been much easier had the Iraqi army not been disbanded.
3) Get the infrastructure back up ASAP. During the war the first things we took out was power and communications. It's hard as hell to win a war with out them, and it's rough as hell to run a country with out them either.
4) Win the publicity war. I had friends who were building schools, creating new water cleansing plants, rebuilding bridges and playgrounds. But what do we hear? car bombs and casualties.
5) Lock down the boarders. Come hard and fast and with lots of cash. Use the Pakistani War Lords on the board as mercs. They know the terrain and can drastically cut down on the number of foreign combatants. Make it a simple choice, take the money and help, or we find someone who will to replace you.

That's my babble for the day. It is almost all conjecture, and I am no longer in the military or in any way associated or in contact with the government. So I could be completely wrong, but this explanation makes a lot more sense to me then the 'bad intelligence' theory the white house is spitting out, and much more sense then the 'blood for oil' crap from the Micheal Moore camp.


User Journal

Journal Journal: DRM-Soft

After an interesting discussion on the Vista x64 signed drivers debate, BeBoxer convinced me to stop calling my DRM idea a DRM. And I understand where he is comming from. So from now on, I'm going to refer to my vision as 'DRM-Soft'. Hmmm, maybe I should patent this thing. ;)


Journal Journal: My DRM Dream 4

Quite often the topic of DRM's come up, and I often take heat for having a pro-DRM solution. To clarify I would like to say that I think all current DRM solutions are horrendous. They are either intrusive on consumer rights/fair play, lock the user into one system (Apple), create security issues (Sony), or report activity back to a central tracking system (Music leasing systems). I find these options to all be unacceptable. But I also see the importance of DRM's to the digital market. It is for that reason that I figured I post this here, since I wind up posting about it decently often.

My solution would be a hardware integrated system, which means it would be best implemented with a new medium (ie: HD-DVD/Blu-ray, holo disks, what ever comes next). It would also have to be implemented in all new old media players also (so that a new CD player could play content with this DRM). The driver for the hardware would be closed source, but open standard, and the assemblies would have to be available on all industry standard processors (ie x86, arm, etc). The goal there is to make the 'black box' portion of the DRM as widely available and ubiquitous as possible. Proprietary systems from different vendors just screw users(like the Apple lock in). Since we are going for total solution that also means ensuring that the 'black box' MUST work with Linux, albeit as a closed source driver.

The key to me is loosely defining the boarder between legal activity, and illegal. I don't want the DRM to enforce the law, I just want the DRM to make it more cumbersome to break the law. To do this we need an identifier, likely for a person, family, or household. The DRM would allow you to bind your personal/family/household identifiers to the hardware. And by identifiers I just mean some easy to entry code, maybe like 5 digits 1-6 (so even basic car stereos can be easily set up). Now that you have all of your hardware entered with your keys, you can stick your DRM'd content into it. The content, if marked as being just sold, updates it's acceptable key's with those that are on the hardware. You now have a piece of DRM'd content that is associated with all of your gear. You can burn it to CD, copy it, put it on the internet, what ever, but it will have that association to your gear. (Notice that the 5 digit identifier is not going to be an absolute unique identifier, so no one can 'track back' from the internet who gave who what)

But then comes the question about loaning media to a friend? Sure, pop the media in to your player of choice, if the content's key is not listed on the hardware, it just prompts you for it. That way, you can borrow all of your friends music, but mass distribution is significantly less likely because everyone would have to keep lists of their downloaded content and what identifier goes with each piece.

There are a few things that I don't have figured out, like what if you want to resell a piece of content? Do you need to content the original copyright holder to get the key reset? and what's preventing every user in the world from using 55555 as their household key? But if those issues could be figured out, you would have a system that reduces (not prevents!) casual piracy, and doesn't effect the user's rights under fair use.


User Journal

Journal Journal: Stupid comment

It's too bad you can't go back and edit your comments. I've been modded down before, but I just made a really stupid comment I'd like to take back before the rest of the world reads it.... Oh well... I'll have to suffer humiliation now.


Journal Journal: Why the heck not

I've been a slashdotter for years and for some reason I haven't ever gotten around to writing in my Journal. Here is my first... absolutely worthless... Journal Entry.

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