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Microsoft

Journal Journal: Windows 8 falls behind Vista adoption pace at month 2 1

Computerworld's Gregg Keizer reports that based on NetApplications current adoption statistics for Windows 8, the operating system is not achieving market share as fast as Windows Vista. At the 2 month point Vista was at 2.2% of all Windows devices. 2 months past Launch Windows 8 has achieved a share of only 1.6%. In a related note, Fujitsu President Masami Yamamoto has joined the chorus of PC OEM executives complaining of poor sales. Pointedly Yamamoto blames Windows 8 for Fujitsu missing their annual projected sales targets.

User Journal

Journal Journal: voicefive.com is Comscore tracking

The voicefive.com script that's taking forever to load on slashdot these days is used for usage tracking. It's harmless. But the server is so overloaded that it's taking pages forever to load.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Making the turn

It's time to talk about the hard turn.

Change has been in the wind for a while now. The times, they are a-changing. We are going mobile. Windows PCs undersell mobile devices now by a rate of 1:2, and the change is logarithmic. This isn't some fad: real change is happening.

Some have read the weather well. Samsung especially, but Acer, Asus, Philips, Sony and Lenovo too. HP and Dell, not so much.

We're entering a new world now, that doesn't have legacy bindings holding us back. Let us make the most of it.

Android

Journal Journal: The $100 Android tablet

In the run up to Santa season I see dozens of 7-9" Android tablets in the retail market with Android 4.0, capacitive touch screen and decent performance. A lot of them now marked "sold out". I think it's amazing that so much technology can be made so cheaply in such a small package. This is awesome.

Ubuntu

Journal Journal: The End of Ubuntu 4

I have just upgraded my machine from Ubuntu 11.04 to 11.10 and everything is broken.

Everything.

It began with Unity. The horror. If there's a way of finding the main menu, I wasn't able to discover it. Menu bars have entirely disappeared from applications, to be replaced with the mac "menu on top" paradigm, a.k.a. one of the main reasons I've never used a Mac since 1994. You can't even log out of the bloody interface, let alone tweak it. Even the fonts are terrible.

It took me about 15 minutes to figure out how to get rid of Unity and replace it with Gnome 3 and I can't say there's really much of a difference in terms of usability. All of my default Gnome 2 desktop settings have been blown out of the water. Completely. My panels and taskbars and lauchers are either deleted or are all over the place. Even if I wanted to change them back, everything is basically uncustomisable as far as I can tell. You can't move objects around in the taskbars. Yes that's right. You can't move objects around in the taskbars.

Is this what a desktop is supposed to feel like?

I feel like my computer window has been turned into a walled garden, like that on an iDink, which I am permitted to carress and fawn over, but have disallowed from making my own in any way. Will I have to download some kind of "App" from the "Ubuntu App Store" to gain back basic functionality? Do I have to dive into arcane settings and ppa just to get back the system which I had and liked only a few hours ago? Do I have to give up and choose Gnome 3, or move to XFCE, or move everything to the shell, or basically waste the next two weeks getting back what I had?

If that's the price of Ubuntu (and it is) then I am leaving.

Ubuntu and Gnome died the moment they allowed the UI designers to take over. The art students, the inveiglers, the smooth talkers, the wild eyed dreamers, the "visionaries", the people who didn't care what they were doing as long as it made them feel talented and superior. These are the people who have designed unusable,confusing systems and interfaces that delete years of carefully customised menus and discourage serious use of computers.

And as for the "boring" people, the programmers, the testers, the package maintainers, the people who listen to the community, those who put real thought and concern for users into their themes and interfaces, the people who don't go to conferences, who communicate with users directly via forum and newsgroup, who sit at their desks working to make distros better, often for no reward at all; what of them? Are they in charge in this brave new work? No. They are cast down and out, by a brigade of bullshitters too busy bopping on their iPods and blogging than in doing useful work.

If you let the wrong people into an organisation or a community, they can destroy it. Ubuntu and Gnome shows that this can happen to distros and open source projects just as easily and quickly as it has happened in the many industrys, countrys, and economies throughout the word. The destroyers will fail upwards, the blazing heat of their incompetence scortching all new pastures dry. The rest of us will be left behind to pick up the pieces and start again. In 5 years time, Ubuntu may be back on the path to being usable again, but I can't wait that long.

I'm thinking of starting off with Mint.

User Journal

Journal Journal: I want to go on record saying this now: 10

It's time to get rid of the Electoral College.

Based on the results of state vs. national polls, it's looking increasingly likely that Obama may lose the national popular vote but win in the EC. As a nakedly partisan Democrat, would I be pleased with this outcome? Well, I'd be happier about it than I was when Bush lost the popular vote but managed to finagle an EC win, obviously ... but "happier" does not equate in this case to "happy" by any means. Because having someone against whom the majority of Americans vote become (or remain) President should simply never, ever happen.

The EC hasn't served its ostensible purpose, to protect the interests of smaller states against domination by larger ones, for generations, if ever. All it does is focus an unwarranted amount of attention on a few "swing states" every four years, with the effect that the interests of the residents of states that don't fall into this category get no representation at all at the Presidential level. If you live in Texas or California, you might as well not vote at all in the Presidential election; same if you live in Wyoming or Vermont. And that really sucks.

Even "swing states" don't really matter all that much, most of the time, if they're sparsely populated. New Mexico was just as close in 2000 as Florida was, but nobody cared how it went, because whoever got Florida was going to get the White House. (Gore won NM by some incredibly narrow margin; if you'd forgotten that detail, I don't blame you.) What was that about small states, again? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Get rid of the damned thing. This isn't partisanship. It's an acknowledgement of reality.

AMD

Journal Journal: Intel, AMD "Windows only" chips are about software patents 3

Both Intel and AMD came out last week with chips that are focused on "Windows 8 first" and don't even pretend to be openly documented or available to all. That both would so suddenly reverse course on being open was a surprise. There are good reasons why Microsoft needs advanced access to integrate their software with innovative new processor technologies, and why AMD and Intel might be persuaded to cooperate. Together they are defending the "Wintel PC" ecosystem against the world's largest corporation by market capitalization, Apple, who is engaging in "vertical integration" by designing software and processor and other platform technologies together in a way that optimally balances the tradeoffs between what hardware best does and software best does. That is powerful leverage. But for Intel and AMD - and you and I - this is a trap and the consequences of this solution are dire.

It's about software patents. By Microsoft convincing Intel and AMD to focus on Windows only for the launch of these new power technologies, to secretly work with Microsoft on development, Microsoft get a jump start on the software patents. While the hardware interface is obfuscated Microsoft has six months to a year to file for patents on every possible software use of the hardware interfaces they can think of to use it. You can bet they're churning out patents by the hundred as I type this on things anybody reading the plain specifications would find obvious but the patent office will not. Microsoft will own utterly all the software uses of this hardware innovation, and by extension prevent all progress it enables that Microsoft does not control. Because of the ridiculous way patents work, this hands Microsoft complete control not only of these innovations but the entire systems which use them, of which they compose only a miniscule part.

Then when the facilities are openly documented and the open systems come out that leverage these technologies: BAM! Software patent lawsuits out the wazoo, and the Windows monopoly is protected against competition and progress for another human generation - unless Intel and AMD are killed utterly. Much like Samsung makes the touchscreen and owns huge patents on the technology, and then Apple and Microsoft sue Samsung for making devices incorporating touchscreens because they patented software that interprets certain software implementations of swiping and tapping.

As an unintended consequence Intel and AMD -only- get to move forward if Windows moves forward since Microsoft has all the patents on using the technologies they invented. By selling Microsoft this advantage for whatever they got in return, they've mortgaged their future to a single vendor and lost their ability to compete in open systems against ARM and Android. They've sunk their own boat. They can expect that Microsoft will use that lever to best advantage against their "partners" Intel and AMD, as Microsoft never misses a trick in that regard.

Intel has announced that "future platforms" with their technology will be open to Linux. AMD has announced that "Hondo" is being retrofitted with Android. Unfortunately, it is already too late. They have been cooperating with Microsoft secretly for many months before these announcements. The first patent applications on the most obvious uses of this hard-won hardware innovation are almost certainly already filed, with more to follow.

Don't pay to make yourself a victim again. Avoid these chips and anything tainted with this technology. Make AMD and Intel start from scratch, open from the start, if they want your money. At least then the open software implementations have a fair shot at establishing free and open prior art before Microsoft's lawyers have a chance to file their stupid software patents. Only with open hardware with well-documented interfaces available from the start can progress move forward, and even then only if the people who want to do interesting useful stuff step up and publish at least one way to use it before somebody who wants to control it utterly and prevent others from using it can whip up their patent thicket applications and beat them to the patent office.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The die is cast; the Rubicon is crossed.

I just finished submitting revisions on The Paper. Not, you understand, revisions in response to reviewers' comments--we haven't received those yet--but rather revisions made necessary by my discovery, well after submission, of a bug in the code. Fortunately it didn't substantially affect the main results or the conclusions, but it did require revising some of the numbers.

I've never had to do anything like this before, and sincerely hope I never do again. It was a stupid bug, the kind of mistake that anyone can make coding at 2:00 AM on too much caffeine and way too little sleep, and I should damn well have caught it before sending out a paper which will pretty much define my research career to date.

But I'm glad it's done. Because while everyone makes mistakes, and indeed those mistakes are part of the process of science, you have to be honest about them. If you're not honest, then what you're doing isn't science, it's something else (say, politics or religion). There is no capital-T Truth in science, but there is truth, and we must always tell that truth as best we can.

User Journal

Journal Journal: I'm happy about Curiosity. I really am.

But here's the thing. When I was born, my father was working for NASA on the Apollo program. You know, "the Eagle has landed", "one small step," all that. He was one of the (many, many) people who made that happen. He was there, as "there" as it's possible to be without feeling Lunar soil under one's own boots.

When we moved to Denver a couple of years later, he worked for what was then Martin Marietta, on the Viking project among other things. IIRC, he also worked on the early design process for the Shuttle. At that time it was supposed to be fully reusuable, the "big bird little bird" idea that was supposed to make flying into space not a whole lot more complicated than flying across the country.

So I grew up in a house full of space stuff. Giant glossy PR posters, mostly, including one incredibly detailed one about the Apollo missions that covered everything from orbital routes to spacesuit design; also unique memorabilia given only to those who actually worked on the Moon landing, prospectus-type brochures from Martin detailing the kind of stuff they seriously expected to be building within a few years, and--of course--Star Trek stuff. Because that was where we were going, sooner or later. That was the goal.

I grew up with this, waiting each year for it to happen, to start moving forward again. Apollo-Soyuz and Skylab were ... well, they were still something. And surely our retreat from the Moon was temporary, a retrenchment, perhaps an opportunity to do it right the next time by laying the groundwork with a permanent Earth-orbital station that would serve as a dock and transfer point for space-only shuttles between Earth and other destinations. But we weren't going to just give up. Surely not that.

Except we did. Every year, we dropped our expectations a little lower. Even our mass media science fiction reflected the change: from Star Trek and 2001, to Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica. From believable visions of a future that we could really build, to heroic fantasy with a technological gloss.

It wasn't until some time in the late 80s, I think, that I finally accepted it wasn't going to happen. We were not, in my adulthood and probably in my entire life, going to be a truly spacefaring species. We could be by now, you know. We could be living on the Moon and Mars, mining the asteroid belt, colonizing Europa and Titan and maybe figuring out, once and for all, if there are any loopholes in our current understanding of physics that might put the stars within reach. And all the work done by Spirit and Opportunity, and that will be done by Curiosity, could be done in a week by a couple of grad students from Areopolis U.

So you'll understand, I hope, if my happiness at seeing Curiosity's success is a little bittersweet. Not because it's not good and satisfying and important, because it is. It's just not enough.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Your terrifying inability to understand how the world actually works. 3

Morford is guilty here of a sin that might be called metaphoricalism--assuming that because he himself often speaks metaphorically, people who insist on literalism must be fools, ignorami, and/or members of a tiny lunatic fringe.

Yes, of course the ability to interpret metaphor is an important characteristic of the intelligent, educated mind. But most of the time, most people mean exactly what they say, and it's a grave mistake to assume otherwise. He really goes off the rails when he insists that mythology must be interpreted in metaphorical terms. There is no reason to believe--no evidence whatsoever--that the people who originally told the stories of Eve, Paris, or the risen Christ thought they were speaking anything other than literal truth; nor were the monsters lurking in the darkness beyond the campfire anything other than our ancestors' attempts to rationalize (not symbolize) the nasty, brutish, and short nature of life throughout most of human history. A metaphorical interpretation of these myths is more reasonable than a literal one, to be sure. It is also, historically and to a large degree in the modern age, a distinctly minority view.

Your terrifying lack of imagination

(Also: âZ"Science is just mysticism disguised as mathematics," says the guy on the internet.)

The Military

Journal Journal: The Supreme Court strikes down the Stolen Valor Act

Kind of lost in the shuffle over the health care ruling (my opinion, FWIW, is that it's a lousy law, but clearly the best we're going to get in the current political climate, so all in all I'm glad it was upheld; perhaps in another couple of decades, we'll be ready to try again) is this piece of news about another Supreme Court ruling: the court voted 6-3 to strike down the Stolen Valor Act.

I admit to mixed feelings about this. It was clearly the right decision -- any law that limits free speech is prima facie a bad law, and the government's argument that it only restricts "false statements (that) have no value and hence no 1st Amendment protection," to quote the LA Times story, is chilling. We cannot outlaw people telling lies. OTOH, there are a hell of a lot of people using lies about their claimed service for personal advantage (up to and including a certain former President) and this is not only disgusting, it's often outright fraud. The SVA was an exceedingly blunt instrument for a problem that called for a scalpel. I guess the solution I'd like to see is the use of existing criminal fraud statutes for cases where it could be shown that the liar is not just telling stories to impress his buddies at the bar, but actually deriving financial or other measurable gain. Oh yeah, also court-martial for deserters (preceded, where necessary, by other measures such as, oh, say, impeachment, for those whose position places them beyond the usual corrective measures.)

I blame Hollywood, really. At this point they've probably given out more Medals of Honor than have actually been awarded in the entire history of the US military. Lesser decorations have been relegated, in this mindset, to something you get just for showing up. It's not just lazy storytelling; it has a real effect on real people who earn real medals. And no, I'm not saying this should be illegal either, but it should certainly be mocked at every opportunity.

Businesses

Journal Journal: Rhode Island's "Kingdoms of Amular" 5

There's some ugly drama surrounding the collapse of 38 Studios. That has caused baseball's Curt Schilling to walk away from video games and publicly state that it will end up costing him his fortune. Everyone is in a very bad position right now. 38 Studio's top creditor is the state of Rhode Island. Aside from some stranger assets, there is a partially finished MMO called Project Copernicus as well as the source code and artwork for Kingdoms of Amular. So why doesn't Rhode Island seize this source code and artwork? They could auction it or, better yet, give it to the people who paid for it.

Now we all know this isn't going to happen. The source code will be shelved and it is unlikely it ever contribute to society ever again. The people who coded it have been fired and have moved on to the next thing in their lives while the bankruptcy proceedings play out in the news. But if I fail to repay a loan on a car, repossession services come to take the car. If a studio gets $75 million from a state to make a video game, where are the state's repo men to reclaim the video game?

The current situation is unavoidably bad for everyone involved. Schilling is blaming the governor, developers are moving for the second time in two years, gamers are missing out on the sequel to Amular and money is missing everywhere. But most notably each resident of Rhode Island has paid $75 to the video game industry and will likely never see it returned to their pockets. A coworker who thoroughly enjoys the game said that it's RI's fault for investing in such a fickle and risky industry. Maybe he's right? But the game is reasonably entertaining.

So what could a state do with source code and artwork? The obvious thought would be to auction it off and recoup losses. But what company wants to buy up those assets for more than a pittance compared to the loan? The game didn't sell as well as they thought it would, your developers would have to learn thousands of lines of new code, the artists that could expand the art in the same style are thrown to the wind and there's already a polished title out there. To me, the obvious solution would be to instead package Amular and Copernicus (at least the PC versions) as learning software for high schools and universities in RI. Art students could work on reskinning it, developers could work on just getting it built and Rhode Island would at least be able to show its residents something for which they had paid.

Furthermore if RI really wanted to recoup its losses, they could likely make several million back with a Kickstarter project to open source everything from 38 Studios. The only people who might not like this idea are those in the games industry who claim the MMO and RPG markets are already thoroughly saturated. Perhaps the current publisher and those with distribution contracts of Amular would object. But those executives have already taken the citizens of RI and Curt Schilling for a ride so why should RI care? The only downside would be a massive influx of Amular clones on the PSN, XBLA and PC fronts. But this is an opportunity for gamers, Rhode Islanders and open source in general to expand and set precedence that when a company folds all that hard work and late nights with Mountain Dew and pizza should not be wasted and shelved.

You can tell me that this will never happen -- not with Amular, Copernicus or any of the thousands of titles from failed development studios -- because you're right. It hasn't ever happened and it most likely will not. But Rhode Islanders paid for these titles and the repo men should arrive and bring that back for Rhode Island to decide what to do with it. At least those that have paid for it should be able to decide if what their hard earned money paid for should sit collecting dust or live in immortality.
User Journal

Journal Journal: There are no moderate Republicans, part the nth 3

More proof, as if any were needed, that modern conservatism is completely insane.

At this point in the conversation, we're usually treated to a chorus of, "Hey, liberals say crazy things too!" And the answer to that is ... well, yeah, kind of. Which is to say, there are plenty of left-wing lunatics out there, and many of them put their lunacy on display at every opportunity.

The difference is that these left-wing lunatics do not have anywhere near the power or prominence of their right-wing counterparts. They're not hosting nationally syndicated talk shows. They're not parlaying famous last names into political careers. And they are sure as hell not running the Democratic Party, as the right-wing lunatics are clearly running the GOP.

Here's the thing, conservatives. We marginalize and trivialize our extremists. Maybe we shouldn't do that; sometimes the extremists have legitimate grievances. But it's better than what you do with yours. You celebrate and lionize them. It's not just Reagan; it's Limbaugh and Coulter and Savage and Hannity -- and yes, Boehner and Cantor and McConnell, and the current version of Romney (which may of course change next week, or an hour from now, but for now ...) We keep our lunatics locked up. You put yours in charge of the asylum.

So here's my challenge. If you are tired of liberals making hay of every crazy thing some conservative pundit or politician says, do something about it. Point and laugh at your own side's lunatics, as we do. Make us believe that common ground is possible, that you have the same ends for the country that we do even if we disagree about the means. Put your racists and fascists in the same room where we keep our communists and anarchists, and keep them decently out of public view.

Or if you're not willing to do this, understand that we have no choice but to consider you just as bad as the worst of your number, and act accordingly.

Advertising

Journal Journal: Old soldiers never die, nor stop grumbling. 4

Note to copywriters working for the DoD, or trying to appeal to a military audience: "soldier," "sailor," and "airman" are not proper nouns. "Marine" is a proper noun, because it happens to be part of the name of the service, United States Marine Corps. (Or, for that matter, the Royal Marine Corps on which the US version was modeled.) This does not mean that Marines are any more special or heroic or elite than members of the other services. (Marines, of course, will disagree, but that's part of their shtick. The rest of us just smile and nod.) It's an accident of language, no more.

Also not proper nouns: "military" and "veteran." Capitalizing any of these words, when they do not appear at the beginning of a sentence, does not emphasize how Special and Heroic and Elite our Brave Fighting Men And Women are for Making Sacrifices to Defend Our Freedom. It just makes you look illiterate. Now, you may not particularly care about literacy -- you're in the advertising business, after all -- but by God and the Constitution, I fought specially and heroically and elitely to defend your right to speak freely, not to sound like a moron doing so!

Thank You, and Have A Nice Day.

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