CyberTech Rambler

March 29, 2006

AntiVirus product not saying what it does on the can: “It does not protect host computer”

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:17 pm

Imagine you install an anti-virus program on your computer. However, the anti-virus program does not actually protect the host computer. Strange, isn't it? Why would one wants to install antivirus program that does not protect host computer you might ask.

The simple answer is to protect other computers on the network. There had been a lot of so-called "anti-virus" product for linux that are not there to protect the host Linux computer, but rather to protect Windows Computer. Does such a piece of software make sense? Colbert Low has a very good arguement on why this make sense.

In other words, these so-called "anti-virus" program simply makes the Linux machine behave like an virus filter between the Wild Wild Web and one's precious Windows computer. In a network configuration, it is no different from server-hosted spam filter, firewall and other protection program.

However, when I say spam filter and firewall, the image that you, my readers, have is normally a server that does the filtering and firewall-ing. This is despite the fact that spam filters are turning up in email client applications like Outlook and Thunderbird, and personal firewall like ZoneAlarm do reside on the computer it is intended to protect. The reason is historically, they are part of the network services provided to downstream computers, the one you and I use.

Similarly, historically, "anti-virus" software have to be hosted on the computer it is designed to protect. It is only relatively recently that these software had migrated to the network as part of the network services. Hence, any mention of "anti-virus" software conjure up an image that the software is for the host computer's benefit.

Thus, I believe to call software that traps and filter viruses for other computers "anti-virus" software where the host computer does not itself benefits from the service it is providing is extremely misleading. That's why I do not like the the term "Anti-virus for Linux". The software does not protect the host computer. It is not that viruses, trojans, worms and other nasties for Linux does not exists, it is simply that at present, it is not worthwhile having a program on the Linux computer to protect it against them as the chances of infection is very low. If the "anti-virus" software on the Linux host is intended to protect other computers, then it is not an "anti-virus" software, because historical association had made the term inaccurately reflecting its function.

May be "Linux Defender for Windows" is a better name…

March 27, 2006

(Plastic) Sable-rattling

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:54 am

It is being reported by PC Pro that UK threaten to cancel order for Join Strike Fighters (JSF, sometimes known as F35) unless it gets the full source code to the planes. I can understand why UK, or any other advanced countries for that matter, wants the source code for the JSF if they buy them, but I am wondering whether is  this a "reaction" to Bush canceling a new Rolls-Royles contract for the fighter? (BBC's coverage on the cancellation)

While I understands that program code are increasingly important in weapons and their delivery platforms, most of the world's Defence Forces had been using foreign-made weapons/platforms without access to the source code/program.

Are there cases where a foreign supplier can "switch-off" one's weapon? There is a long but unsubstanciated claim that the French can switch off Exocets. Perhaps a better (substantiated) example is that the UK's 'independent' Nuclear Deterrence, during its early deployment, actually cannot launch without US permission as it relies on US's satellite navigation system (not the GPS) back in the early 1980s. (Note: I cannot find any link to the latter on the internet, but it was well known that the Ministry of Defence was trying to gags journalists who caught wind of this 'adnormaly')

The US government might have problems supplying the 'full' source code. First of all, it is difficult to get all subcontractors to yield the source code. Some contractors might not even be Americans. Secondly, it is a legitimate concern that the UK companies can gain access to competators' secrets, thus giving them an "unfair" advantage. 

I think is more a political gesturing that it is not happy with the cancellation of Rolls Royle's Contract. UK will still buy JSFs because they have more to lose than to gain. U.S. Department of Defence is UK's defence companies' biggest customer, its purchase dwarf that of Ministry of Defence UK. Even when your biggest customer play nasty, one still have to keep it sweet. That's business.

March 22, 2006

Microsoft playing tricks to slow adoption of ODF by ISO? I do not think they dare (Updated 2x)

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:49 pm

An interesting development on the proposal of OpenDocumentFormat (ODF) to ISO, Microsoft got itself signed on to the committee that vet the proposal before it goes to ISO. To put it briefly, Microsoft is on the committee that has the task of combing through comments/disagreements submitted by interested parties before ISO adopt ODF as a standard. The article linked above, by Andy Updegrove, will give you a more detail explaination.

PJ of groklaw is worried that Micrsoft might use its membership of the subcommittee to sabotage the adoption of ODF by ISO. Given the stake involved, especially when it comes to $$$, that is certainly a possibility. If everything is done behind close door, the risk that this happens increased. However, I hope that the committee proceedings are transparent enough to stop this type of things.

If the proceedings are transparent enough, these few factors will make Microsoft think twice before putting the spanner in the wheel:

  1. They are on the record saying that the reason they did not join the OASIS committee for ODF, and the reason that they are submitting their Office XML format to ECMA, is that the OASIS committee did not focus on the needs and constrains of their customers. Any attempt to even slow down the approval on the complains of Microsoft's customers will immediately hit back on Microsoft, for "not adequately representing their customers' interest in the ODF committee while they could had influence the outcome", for "retrospectively attempting to modify a standard, one that they choose not to participate" and for "unjustly slowing down the process".
  2. The fact that Microsoft has a rival proposal, i.e. the parallel track on Office XML in ECMA makes it clear that there are "conflicts of interest" for Microsoft. They know that people are watching. Hence any attempt to promote the interest of Office XML in the committee will probably backfire badly.
  3. If they did actually impeed the process, it will be very bad PR for Microsoft. Trust on Microsoft is already very low, that will push it even lower. In business, if I cannot trust you, there is no business. Most importantly, there will be payback on other , mostly unexpected and not-yet-conceived, occassions.

Moreover, if Microsoft is seen to be impeding the progress of the committee, what is there to stop others from doing the same to Office XML standard when it becomes a proposal for ISO standard. Sure, the same arguments is very likely to apply to Office XML detractor, but they have the high ground of saying "I did what you did and nothing more" and it is "an eye for an eye".

(Update 24th March) According to this article, the reason why Microsoft join the subcommittee is in preparation for its Office XML Standard going through the subcommittee. They will not participate in the ODF adoption process. I hope they are telling the truth here. If Office XML Standard have to go through the same subcommittee, presumably later than ODF, chances of Microsoft mischieving has just become lower. Other member in the subcommittee, in particular, SUN, can give it a taste of its own medicine.

(Updated 30 March) Looks like IBM is joining into the fun. Officially, Bob Sutor of IBM says IBM thinks it is a good idea to join the committee. May be it is true. Also highly possible is that IBM had made up its mind in joining it long ago, after ODF becomes a OASIS Standard. For me, the crucial thing is this will keep Microsoft's evil plans (if any) in check. The dates of both Microsoft's and IBM's joining is so close to each other that they will both acquire the same standing rights at practically the same time. This means the effect of any Microsoft's evil tactics will be diluted. Moreover, Microsoft's own Open Office XML standardization process through the same committee will be even more seriously affected by dirty tricks should Microsoft choose to do it to ODF. The odds is slowly turning against Microsoft employing dirty tricks.

March 21, 2006

Evolution of Office Application UI

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:48 am

There are some screenshots available of Office 12 UI. In it, the biggest breakthrough that was highlighted is Contexture Tab. If I understand it correctly, it means your menu items (or tabs) changes with every click of the mouse, i.e., as and when you select different items. Anyway, if it does not, I am still taking about the ever changing menu that seems to me will change according to what one’s mouse do.

Good concept, but it is going to cause a lot of support problem as I no longer know where the menu items are. With Office 12, my menu items (OK, OK, tabs) is going to depend on what Office guess my usage is. What if it guessed wrongly? I hope my menu items are not depending on the breadcrumb trail I left behind as I click, or otherwise I will be having bigger problem with menu. In other words, with a changing menu, the learning curve just got a lot more steeper.

All in all, PJ is right, we need to relearn the UI again. I think this is part of the problem that Microsoft is facing from competition from OpenOffice.org. As retraining is necessary to use Office 12, why not take the plunge and try out OpenOffice.org instead?

Since this post is about evolution of Office Application UI, I need to talk about what I think is in store for new office applications and my excitment about it. The KOffice has just announced its winner of the KOffice UI Compeition. The winning entry is indeed a revolutionary way of looking at document creation. It lays bare the document creation process. If it can be turned into a useable interface, it will really change the way people thinks about creating documents, allowing novices to quickly create and customize Table of Contents, Index etc.

I am going to assume that by clicking on the individual “papers” in the UI, I can get to the specific pages.

The beauty with this UI layout is that I can stick “post-it” notes for other authors or myself, and the UI can present me with instructions and “HowTo”s unobstrusively and elegantly. I cannot wait to see the end of “Callout” boxes for comments or separate window for Help pages. Even better if the KOffice team can make “Helps” and “HowTo” simply justanother “post-it” notes.
I would love to see the UI implemented. This is a much better concept than Contextual Tabs. Nonetheless, we must realize that Contexture Tabs is a reality, while the UI winning entry is still in concept stage.

I think we are indeed seeing a gigantic shift in Open Source Office Applications. They had all matured nicely and no longer playing catch-up to mainstream Office Applications. The necessary basic works had completed. As such, they are thinking boldly about redesigning the application itself. I think we are indeed going to see an revolution in office software in the next few years. I cannot wait!

March 20, 2006

Interesting FUD from …. Microsoft Malaysia

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:46 am

LinuxToday have this really great analysis of FUD from Microsoft. This time, from MS branch in my home country Malaysia. Go to LinuxToday for the full analysis, but the most important thing to note is:

In the late 1990’s, the company opted to install OpenOffice …” — from the FUD article

The problem is, as Mr Proffitt points out, is that OpenOffice.org is only available circa 2000!

The article has so many inaccurate information in it.

One might think that since the MS FUD article was last updated in May 2004, to evaluate it, one must go down the memory lane and look at the state of OpenOffice.org at the time. However, that does not seems to be necessary. Timeline are historical fact and remain the same whatever time you look at it. My trip down memory lane suggest to me that OpenOffice.org has been usesable since 2003, although the “wow” factor only kicks in with OpenOffice.org 2.0. The reason why the company is experiencing problems, as Mr Proffitt points out, and I agree, that it is using a late 1990 version of StarOffice, or an extremely early version of OpenOffice.org. Even if I give them this benefit-of-doubt, lets not forget that at the time, around 2000, StarOffice/OpenOffice.org was one of the better converter programs for MSOffice documents.
The article is so full with inaccuracy that if this reflects the “Malaysia Boleh” (Malaysia can) spirit, Mahathir (ex-Prime Minister) will be fuming BIG!
And by the way, I haven’t heard of or seen the Jukebox company store before. May be the shops are trading under a different name. Can someone in Malaysia point me to a few stores, in Klang Valley if possible?

March 17, 2006

Fighting in Eclipse Community

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:35 pm

It may be a journalist overblowing the situation, but are we starting to see fighting in the Eclipse Software spilling over to IT Press?

This fight involves different view on Software-Oriented Architecture. What makes it to the headline is that we have a case of heavy weights align themselves to different camps. Also, there is a lot of money at stake. The mud-slinging looks more like fighting between different corporations rather than differrence within Eclipse Community/Foundation.

I am not surprise that infighting happens coz it happens everywhere. And when an organization get large, with several heavy-weights in it, infighting is going to be more pronounced and gets more attention. The more mature an organization, the more infightings to be witnessed. The fact that this infighting is judged to be worth reporting shows that Eclipse is getting mature and large.

I won’t mind some infighting in Eclipse. It is bound to happen sooner or later, what I do not want to see is severe split of Eclipse into two, one promoting SOA system 1 and another SOA system 2. If this happens, it is worst than SWT versus Swing arguments. At least in the later there are technical reasons, with SOA 1 and 2 it seems to be simply a corporate fight for dominance and not in the interest of the community.

Interestingly, this has nothing to do with open source vs proprietary software. Rather, it is about which programming models to use.

March 16, 2006

Gates mocks MIT $100 PC coz he was not invited to play!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 6:38 pm

News that Bill Gates pour cold water on MIT’s $100 PC has been circulating around the net, including this one. As the world’s richest man, he is not that stupid that

  • He cannot see that a lot of the points he raised are plainly absurb, e.g.

“The last thing you want to do for a shared use computer is have it be something without a disk …and with a tiny little screenor”

    • It is not a shared use computer. Project name is “One Laptop Per Child”
    • As for computer without a disk, they do use flash memory and it might just be big enough for their purpose. Not having disk is likely not going to be a big problem for future computers.
    • With reference to tiny screenor, does Bill rather deny kids access to computer simply because they are looking at tiny screenor?
  • He makes the point that hardware is only a small part of the cost equation. The majority of the cost is software, support and networking the computers. Here I believe he deliberately forgotten the fact that without hardware, its useless to start any discussion about the others. Hence, the current priority must be to get the hardware to the market first.
  • Problems with software and support costs can be overcomed. New software can be developed, perhaps indigeniously and this might be cheaply via volunteers contribution. I especially like the indigineous development part, coz it is empowering the child who choose to develop the software. One can build community support for these computers hence support cost can be distributed, rather than having a costly centralized support centre.
  • $100 PC managers are aware of the need for Networking. For a lot of their targetted audience, a simple network infrastructure may not even exists, hence they choose the “Mesh” network approach where the network rely on no infrastructure.
  • “…,get a decent computer where you can actually read the text and you’re not sitting there cranking the thing while you’re trying to type”

Prototypes may be available but I doubt Mr Gate saw them. Moreover, remember back in 1990s everyone is using rather small screen on the laptop? Hence, reading the text is not a problem and I don’t mind cranking the thing while I type because without the computer, I have nothing to type on!

Before I get comments telling me that Mr Gate is just mocking the project, I know.

What do I think is the reason for this outburst, he did not get to play! He realise that if this project is successful, his brainchild, Microsoft, might have another competitor to compete against.

His non-support of the project speak volumes, remember what Mohandas Ghanhi says: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Guess we are at stage 2 now!

March 15, 2006

PS3 Delay … and Vaio’s declining style factor

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 10:04 am

It is official, PS3 is “delayed“. I used delayed in quotation marks because Sony although the launch is pushed back from Spring (Northern Hemisphere of course) to November, they are still in time for the important “Christmas Rush”, and that it is going to be a simulteneous launch in US/Europe/Japan, rather than a staged launch with Europe last.

The reason for the delay, as expected, is the Digital Restriction Management (DRM) cannot be ready in time for the original launch date. As a opponent of DRM, it will come as no surprise for my readers that I think this is not a technical issue because it is a man-made issue. Sony might lose market share to XBox360 because of this avoidable delay.

Is this another chapter in Sony’s decline when it comes to high-tech gadgets? I do not buy gadgets, but I do keep tracks on computer-related stuff, for example, Sony Vaio Notebook and Games Console. For Vaio, you pay a premium because it is for a Sony, i.e., for the style. However, unlike Vaios two years ago, Vaios seems to be loosing its’ edge in Style. If my memory serve me correct, Vaios casing are carbon-composite or carbon fiber (I cannot remember which). Technology-wise, it is much more “high tech” than Apple’s aluminium casing. But unfortunately the newer models make it looks more like cheap plastics. Moreover, stripped of style,  Vaio is simply a off-the-shelf notebook because Vaio lacks distinctive that Apple have. For example, on technology front, Apple has back-lit keyboard and on MacBook Pros, MagSafe adaptor and slick remote control. On software front, Apple has the distinctive and easy to use iLife, iWork and other softwares. What do you get on a Sony that you cannot get from other manufacturers?

Sony Vaio notebook lacks distinction from others beyond the name and style. There are rumours on the net (may be planted by pro-Microsofties, may be it is the truth) that PS3’s capability is not much better than Xbox360. If so, Sony will have a problem. People normally would not mind waiting for a better product, but if the “better product” is not that much better, they will switch very quickly.

As far as financial bottom line, I think PSP will pull Sony out of any disaster, but the let down in PS3 delay will cost them.

March 13, 2006

Some thoughts : Linux Forum – OpenOffice.org vs Microsoft

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 2:39 pm

In the recent Linux Forum in Denmark, in the customary “us vs them” style fashion, we have a “OpenOffice.org vs Microsoft” panel. You can find the video here. There is no point going into the debate points put forwards by the panelists as they are well covered elsewhere and there is no new points raised. Rather, lets concentrate on some sidelines issues.

Around 25:36, Anne Grete Holmsgaard of Denmark’s Parliament note that Anders Nørskov, Director of politics and strategy, Microsoft Denmark, has been using “Our [Microsoft's] Customer”, rather than “the users”. I thought this is a really interesting point. Up to that point, I did not take note that in this and other panels about Document Format, while others are focusing on “users”, Microsoft’s presentation is concentrated on its “customer”.

Groklaw’s Elhaard thinks that Microsoft sent the wrong guy to the Forum, PJ thinks Mr Norskov did well with what he had to work with. She says and I quote, “the problem isn’t that Microsoft keeps sending the wrong guy. The problem is they are in an untenable position.”

Mr Norskov did well because he managed to put forward all major Microsoft’s arguements, the ones prepared for him and the ones I expects him to say. Where he fails is his knowledge of the subject, especially considering the fact he knows other panellists are going to be hostile (I think he is the only one arguing for Microsoft in the panel). He was demolished by other panellists, who seems to know more about Microsoft’s position than he do. It is his inability to go beyond Microsoft’s “canned” response, to argue with other panellists and quote facts/evidence to support his points that lets Microsoft down.

Did PJ gets it right when she says that he “fails to argue properly ” because Microsoft’s position was untenable? I do not think so. There is a lot of arguments that can be put to other panellists to support their case, but the opportunity was missed because every argument put forward seems to be problems specific to Microsoft and are Microsoft’s problem, not problems with the doument standard. Once in a while, “our customers” enters the scene but it is Microsoft’s view of “what their customer might want” (not what their customers really want) that rules these statements. Backward compatibility problem for example, is said to be something their customers want. However, everytime a new version of Office is out, customers do have to deal with Backward compatibility problem. Microsoft fails to demonstrate how OpenDocumentFormat will make this problem worse than what customers expect with new version of Office.

From ignoring Linux-based even in not-so-distance past, Microsoft did well to turn up on these panels. We should applaud their courage. Nobody, or companies for that matter, wants to turn up on panels after panels knowing that they are facing a lot of hostile co-panelists. However, they still have to learn that these panels are not a platform where you simply present your PR material and that’s it. You must be prepare to answer questions and argue for your position. Sending someone knowledgeable, or prepare someone sufficiently to tackle hostile panellists is necessary. They have to learn that.

My take home lessons from this panel is “Stop thinking about oneself in panel discussion, think about others” and “to be prepared for the discussion, especially supporting one’s arguments”.

March 9, 2006

Market reality is going to hit Google

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:30 pm

The latest episode of Google share saga should be a wake-up call for Google that it cannot bark the market trend by being so-sceretive and ask everyone to adopt the “Trust me (Google)” policy.
The latest salvo is an article on Times suggesting that market participants are going to ask Google to provide earning guidance, like other companies do. While it is true that when Google was “the hottest thing”, he can do whatever he wants, when the excitment dies down, in this case, when Google is just viewed as “any company to invest in”, Google is expected to perform just like any other business, one of which is to make money for its investers.
This necessary goal was imposed on Google when it receives its first venture capital funding, exacebated when it goes for IPO (Initial Public Offerring). Google is feeling the heat of balancing making money with “Do no evil”. There are signs that, like other companies, Google has problems striking a balance between $$$ making and its “Do no evil” principle, the most glaring example that Google Search kowtow to Chinese Government for internet searches originating in China.
Google must find the balance for itself. I use Google Mail (GMail) and Google Search everyday. I am expecting the current high quality of these services to be degraded because Google has to make a bob. I am just another internet user who will switch providers when a better service is offerred. Google knows this and thus have to tread very carefully on this issue.

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