Monday, January 31, 2005

Ranger Rick Redux

Tired of Microsoft's pointlessly stupid marketing tactics? Tired of executives and marketing shills spouting things that general public would laugh at?

Microsoft Security -- isn't that a contradiction in terms? Well, not if you're an executive, and that's the only product your company has to offer.

What you do, if you're of that mind-set, might be comical if the damage wasn't so intense (billions of dollars lost every year to Microsoft's careless lack of security concepts in their operating systems).

Here's my take at

Instead of being tired of it, I ran the thing through a reverse marketing mind-set. That's where you take the believable lies about Microsoft products, and make them into truths about Linux. Bonus points are awarded for truths that are funny at the same time.

Some things never change. Maybe they need another "myth" to debunk -- how about that one about the sun setting in the West...

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Latest acquisition: A puppy :)

He's a samoyed (with some collie). 7 Weeks old. I was up most of the night. God I need some rest!

Digital pictures soon -- he's a punkin'

Friday, January 28, 2005

And now for something completely similar...

This article is a new idea to a lot of people. People in the OSS community, however, have discussed the concept before, and I actually wrote (and never received a response back, BTW) Bill Gates about it in something like 1999 to 2000 -- a long long time ago. Fooey on all of the lame press that panders to idiots that think he answers all of his email (or maybe he doesn't like my opinions -- go figure?!?).

Microsoft doesn't get it. They could publish the Windows API right on top of a bunch of OSes, but refuse.

They actually promised to make something similar happen a few years back. They told all of the CAD/CAM vendors that there would be a windows code porting product that would make porting windows apps to Unix extremely easy (remember Mainsoft? It was either something just like it, or it exactly). The kit was announced, and all of the CAD/CAM vendors decided to code for Windows and use the kit for the Unix stuff, rather than maintain two code bases. It was an obvious business decision -- who would pay for two different development trees when you could just have one?

Odd, when the time came to deliver it was something like "oops", we didn't finish that. It's not a priority. This screwed a bunch of CAD vendors that had plans to release their product on multiple platforms, forced customers into purchasing entirely different computing platforms and sealed Microsoft's dominance of the market -- all at the same time.

The main losers were the customers. Gone was any kind of choice. Gone was any kind of stability too. Gone was support for a lot of things -- the ball was totally in their court. The only lost item in the room for Microsoft -- oh, yeah, that thing called the trust. What's a little trust among friends, eh?

The whole portable API thing is kind of like a Chinese puzzle to them. They're so locked into the idea that they have to own everything, that they can't back off a little and continue to own at least the desktop API. They could sell the Windows API on top of a lot of things and continue some dominance -- but it would require relaxing their mental grip.

That will never happen (IMHO).

Here's to me being wrong :-)
--FeriCyde (is on your side)

The usual pre-article insanity

Working on the technical side of things, and a future article that will resemble one of my old lampooning styles on LinuxToady and LinuxPlanet (don't want to give too much away, but the folks at Wagon-Wheel Eggstorm need to set tremble-mode up a notch or two ;).

Someone suggested I turn a post on into an article for another news site, and I'm looking into that as well. I'm going to be on the PC Chat Show. Should be a lot of fun -- I'll keep you posted.

The whole open source thing has heated up to a frenzied action -- IBM and Sun doing the dueling patent thing. Linux making inroads in governments. It's all happening at such a frenzied pace right now and showing literally no signs of abatement. When your Dad calls you to read you an article from Business Week (yeah, I know -- we all got that same article a week ago from the Internet, but you gotta cut him some slack) you know that mainstream Free Software and Linux are making serious inroads.
--FeriCyde (is on your side)

Monday, January 24, 2005

A Dream Come True

It was an idea over 3 years old, but Dean and I finally did it -- Penguin Counter Penguin! That's what the logo below belongs to. Unfortunately astroturf (once again!) reared its ugly head, and some phony poster named "Toadie" posted defamatory talkbacks (and votes) to the article! (Hint, you may spot the astroturfers' "Tracs" through the mud he's raking ;)

Look for one of these every once and a while when Dean and I get the urge...

Yin and the Yang

Hmmm, I wonder what this symbol signifies ;)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Patrick Volkerding still working on his health...

All of you people that need Slack and depend upon Slackware need to listen up -- Patrick Volkerding (the guy that maintains it) needs your prayers. I've met him on a couple of occasions, and he's a terrific person.

Pray for him. See the slackware changelog for more specifics on his heart condition.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

How much time before RSA encryption is obsolete?

Reading this article, I have to wonder at the amount of time we have left before encryption as we know it morphs into something else. We are so heavily reliant upon asymmetric encryption that the effect of it being obsoletes abruptly (not the adjective here) would be something akin to global power failure.

On an unrelated note, Dean Pannell and I are surprisingly quiet in the talkbacks lately on LXer :) Hmmmmm

Sunday, January 16, 2005

When I wake up, some dream I made up, No I guess it's Reality --
Sponge: plowed

The wayback machine gets activated at Groklaw :) Journalism seems to be the hot topic of the day -- yesterday I talk about the melt-down at CBS and today we talk about the ethics of telling the truth while reporting the news. How about all that feedback that you see on the web, and how relevant feedback (honest, relevant feedback) does so much for outing the truth.

Unfortunately, not everyone likes this new order (meet the new boss, same as the old boss). This new order, blogs, public feedback and so on, it's much harder to control (like democracy was when it first emerged). So, say you're some big, bloated monopoly, and you can't stand how easy it is to find the truth on the web. What to do? You hire a PR firm (Wagon-Wheel-Egg-Storm, anyone?) and you pay them to plant bogus feedback in editorial pages, to congressman -- maybe you go a bit further than that. But of course, this stuff is all hard to prove so we don't really know just how much further it has gone.

But we can easily connect the dots now, can't we :)

Regardless, Pamela Jones tells the truth: -- "No, Virginia. Actually, There Is No Santa Claus, 09:19 PM".

Saturday, January 15, 2005

The clue-train manifesto strikes again!

Doc Searls and company are probably smugly smacking themselves on the back after this post by Richard Koman at onlamp. I agree whole-heartedly with Richard, but he should take the wayback to 1999, and read what Doc and company had to say regarding how the Internet is changing marketplaces.

For what it's worth, Doc once chided me (correctly) for not starting a blog. And when I finally got around to be motivated enough to do it, I couldn't. What I have to say is often, um, controversial in some business circles -- I had to get approval from my place of employment. Well, it's here now :), so I guess it all works out in the end.

What Doc and others were was saying in a nutshell back in 1999 was this: The Internet is fundamentally changing markets. Those that don't find a way to interact with the new dynamics of more direct market feedback, spawned by web forums, email and the like, are destined to the scrap heap. Read the article referenced here, and see if it's not saying exactly the same thing (about news reporting).

I recommend you go and buy the book from Amazon -- it's out of print, at the moment, sadly ... You'll have to get a used copy. Don't despair though, Doc's still talking away. Take it from me, he's a terrific person, who will always make you think. I should also note that he was there when it counted at one of the roughest points in my life.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Just when you thought it was safe!

Just after writing the shell script to replace Matt Smith (referenced in the prior post today) I get home and Dave Whitinger (what a guy) writes a php script to replace my insulting style on LXer! Run it here. Darn near pissed myself when I ran this the first time. It made my day! Thanks :)

An Ode to Matt Smith

Matt Smith, how can I describe the guy? There isn't enough space here to describe everything crazy, cool or deliberately annoying about the man, the phenomena, the psychotic legend that he is, and yet, what's mostly amazing is that he's not even 25 yet.

This is kinda impressive, given that his age is not that far from the number of years I've been working in this world. :)

Anyway, I wrote this shell script to replace him, called

# Script to replace the tool
case $(echo ${RANDOM} |cut -c2-2) in
        [1]) echo I\'m all about that! ;;
        [234]) echo You\'re such a tool!;;
        [56]) echo Don\'t be hatin!;;
        [78]) echo I\'m going to beat you!;;
        [90]) echo No!  You\'re the tool!;;
Truth is, though, nothing can really replace the guy. This is meant in jest and simply to be funny, but the truth is that, Matt, we all miss you. I hope those guys at Eaton are taking good care of you!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The fast-forward button is down again

Way, way way too much going on...

Couple of articles in queue. Some potential audio insanity.

Trying to buy a decent digital camera -- can't order it from Office Depot -- their site, even though it's on-line, is infuriating to operate. It asks for your zip code, and then says things like "out of stock in your area". I actually called these people and asked just what the hell was the idea of them having an on-line store-front (I mean, this whole thing with the Internet as a concept has _something_ to do with non-localization -- you can buy things _from_ anywhere and have them ship _to_ anywhere -- anytime -- right?!?!). Not Office Depot. There you have to check local availability, and then it's shipped (if I'm to believe them) from that store's distribution center to you. Right. Maybe they should have you fax your order in instead. Or use a telegraph and Morse code.

Building a PC for a friend -- from walmart on-line. $215 bucks to the door. It has Zandros pre-loaded. I was shocked at how easy it was to setup. The computer itself is actually a steal at that price.

I'll be giving him a used monitor I've had for several years. I'm thinking of just leaving the Zandros -- initially I was going to load Fedora RC3, but I'm wondering now if that's going to be an improvement over what he has, as the closer it is to stock, the easier it will be for him to get support for it if I'm out of town/working/sleeping/eating.

This guy is part of my community, and I've taken up his cause (at least the tech support side :).

And there's more, but no time to tell you about it all. You'll see the results in articles on LXer early next week...

Monday, January 10, 2005

Winning with Style

A recent, well-written article appeared on newsforge that raised some issues about Freedom and Free Software and the context was something to the effect of "What's it worth to you? Are you willing to go through some sacrifices to maintain your Freedom or get it back?"

I think the author is missing a valuable selling tool, one that is long term, and one that GNU/Linux has to offer. I try not to tell people it will be easy to use Free Software, or rather, easier to learn than Microsoft. Truth be known, a bit of time using Windows and beginning users learn (and have to later un-learn) quite a few hard won tricks to get things working. It's an inertia thing -- one that masses of GNU/Linux desktop adopting people will help overcome, when it's time.

I think that time is fast approaching, and have said so on many recent occasions. More important, in other words, than the philosophical constructs of the Free Software movement, in my not so humble opinion, is the context of relevance. What could be more relevant to a user today than things like protection from malware, and the fact that ever-increasing attention is needed to keep a Windows box free (there's that word again) of privacy-threatening compromise.

Don't get me wrong, the concepts presented by members of the Free Software movement are values that are important in the long haul. But we're here, in the moment, at one of the most dangerous times ever to connect a computer to the Internet, and we have the best tools to help secure the connection -- GNU/Linux.

Which do you think matters more to the user? The fact that it's Free (As in Freedom), the fact that it helps them protect their privacy, or possibly the fact that it gives them better odds of keeping the cash that's in their bank account? Maybe 2 years ago, it would be a stretch to get any of these point across, but today, I'll wager that it's easy to sell them on the second or third point easily.

Worrying about whether people will ultimately drop proprietary software for their own good -- and their freedoms -- is a good thing, but it's a distraction in this context.

Free Software, in other words, could not be more relevant than it is now. My point is simple, and I'll end this conversation shortly after: The average computer user simply needs to check their email and surf the web -- and this is no longer a simple venture with Microsoft products.

The usefulness of a typical install today is "good enough" for what most people need to do. If they're a more advanced user, so be it, they can maintain 2 computers, they can see the value, I'll wager, in the long run. A scenario like that is better than shunning them for not holding up to your own high values. I have to work with Windows XP at work -- big fat harry deal! I treat it like an extremely sluggish, buggy device driver for Cygwin, which in the context of the type of work I do, is the cost of doing business.

Anything new -- Longhorn, Service Pack 2 for Windows XP -- heck, even anti-virus software installation, is going to be fraught with new concepts for a user to learn, and software they had to leave behind. Microsoft has just released a new malware scanner. Users are going to leave behind other products to use it. I recently spoke with a PC user that had adopted XP, only to find that all of his old DOS-based games wouldn't work with it ( oh yeah, I did point him to some free alternatives, so he's not totally lost yet -- but the switch happened over a year ago).

This past year, we've seen something like a 38% increase in broadband usage. I've met over a half-dozen people -- some retired -- using broadband and they're suddenly familiar with concepts that I would never have imagined them coming to grips with in the past.

So keep that in mind when you're "selling" GNU/Linux. I reduce the whole Free Software speech to the phrase "It's like democracy for software." and don't get into any philosophical debates -- it's not worth it usually. The users will do the research and find out the fact for themselves. It's my not-so-humble opinion that right now, the political debates are somewhat in the way. Again, that's not to say that they're not important -- they deserve mention -- but that users have real, honest-to-goodness value just from the whole privacy and security dimensions of Free Software. When the come back (after using it, you know they'll be back, right?) you can explain the whole Free as in Freedom thing in more detail.

Keep it simple, stupid! "Yes, this is different, dear new (or potential new) user of GNU/Linux. But it's far safer for your personal data, and that makes it more than worth your while learning some new programs and menus."

Thursday, January 06, 2005

DRM, proprietary file formats, and what to do about it all...

So, you're Microsoft or Apple, and you've decided to implement digital rights management, or proprietary file formats that attempt to lock your clients into solutions that suck(TM) -- either quality or cash.

You can continue to tighten the screws, but here's something maybe you didn't consider. Maybe the folks on the Internet that are tired of your BS will simply peer to peer around your garbage take on it all. Maybe they will set up something like the SETI at home project (Search for extra-terrestrial life -- a distributed screen saver that churned through data looking for intelligence in the noise of it all).

I've got a suggestion for one of these applications -- how about a DRM/proprietary file format buster. It's an application that receives either an entire proprietary file or a DRM-protected chunk of a file, and converts it from its native junk format to one that can be read by anything.

For example, you've just gotten a file in Microsoft Turd(TM) format, and it needs to be converted to something you can read in your word-processor. You don't have Turd(TM), so you send it out to distributed buster, and one of the many clients out there that have the latest version of Turd(TM), loads it and saves it as a non-proprietary file. Or if it's something lame like a windows movie file format, it uses a free application that leverages the player libraries to load and convert the file to some free file format -- and sends it back. Suddenly, the whole "we'll lock you into this for life" thing starts to look a bit lame.

The whole pain of proprietary file formats is the hell it takes to reverse engineer the front end security features -- with something like this, people that have idle computers and broadband join this network and do file conversion. The whole thing is controlled by pay-pal, with people that need the conversion contributing to the people loaning their computers (and the proprietary libraries that are loaded on them).

Any reverse engineering here? Nope, the library calls are direct from the code loaded by the Windows installer when it made its way onto the hard drive. Any rights violated? As long as the peer doesn't keep a copy of the file on it's hard drive when done (oh, that'd never happen), the digital content would still be the possession of the original owner -- just in a different format. The law might still be violated because of the way it is written, regardless. IANAL.

Now the down side to something like this would be the fact that the incoming files might contain some viral code that exploits security holes in said libraries (yeah, like that's going to happen -- we all know how _hard_ Microsoft has been working on their security posture of late).

Given the pay-pal connection, it might be somewhat controllable. In any case, it's an interesting idea.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Browser compatibility Redux...

This story gave me the following brain core dump -- all phishing pages that are written for a particular browser exploit should have graphics like these:
Yeah, I know -- I was bored, ok?!?!

We don't get fooled again...

In response to certain misconceptions about the shell, I've created this article on Joe Brockmeier had some things to say about bash in the cotext of Microsofts' new shell (MSH). While the new shell sounds neat, as usual, Microsoft (and industry people that should know better) are missing the entire point of things like POSIX shell interoperability.

I have a simple suggestion for Microsoft -- how about they join the community and add the new functionality they're planning for MSH into something like Bash? This, instead of attempting to reinvent the wheel (another square wheel is born, my prediction). How many stupid attempts to they have to make at automation, network interoperability and so on before the world catches on to the fact that for enterprise and Microsoft in general, the CLUEMETER is pointing into the sub-zero range?

And this one isn't even off the ground yet -- it's a part of an operating system that's not going to rear it's ugly head for at least 2 years?!?

Nice, I can smell the vapor from here. How about they lay of the smack for a while and join the real world where people are already solving problems with real software, right now? That'd be nice, but I know I'm wishing for big things here.

I want a pony while I'm at it.

Monday, January 03, 2005

I can feel it coming back again ....

Like a rolling thunder chasing the wind, I can feel it coming back again.

There was a time when there was a special site on the web. You could go there and find out all there was to know about Linux and what was going on. A community came there and the security was high (very little in the way of flaming or deception was tolerated).

It was a great place to go and discuss neat ideas -- to feel the pulse of the Linux community -- to just enjoy yourself.

Crazy things went on (I was an instigator of some of them, so I should know), and somehow the sanity and humanity of it all was a beautiful thing to behold.

It's possibly coming back again.

Those of you that don't know what I'm talking about will likely not appreciate, but you should go and take a look anyway if you're into Linux.

Give it more than a cursory glance, and if you have something important to say, especially about Linux, or maybe just some questions -- it's a great place to get aquainted. Sit a spell, because a community is a beautiful thing to behold.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Pundit for a Day returns

It's been a while since I rambled like this:

Over 5 years, actually:

This time, it's more focused upon licensing :) At least, that's one way to describe it.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

The Screen Savers suffers an ethical meltdown...

Looks like Dan Haugh, an intern at Tech TV has suffered some familiar (to me) ethical choices. Good work there Dan, I know how rough it can be to blow the whistle:

Read more:

Happy new year!

Probably I'll be posting a couple of articles soon on LXer. One will be the pundit for a day rant, the other is "a mystery" :) Hope everyone made it home last night without hitting anything or dumping core... --FeriCyde