CyberTech Rambler

January 29, 2009

Stupid, narrow-minded question attracting a snub

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 5:19 pm

When I heard  Michael Dell’s question to Putin and Putin snub reply on TV, it reminds me of what happens in conference during Q&A when you have one person who ask a question the “wrong way” and the presenter hit backs ungraciously. Silly for both person to do it in the public.

Perhaps, in this case, we should had expected such a reply from Putin, given we know how pricky he is and the shear silliness of the question that Michael Dell asked.

What was Michael Dell thinking? That type of question, if it was in private at a side meeting it would be fine, not on stage and in front of the main stream media. Why? That type of question is designed to probe Putin to find out how Dell can advance its own interest in Russia and you don’t ask these type of petty question when the particular session is about bigger global economy.

Michael Dell deserve the snub. Putin was not gracious enough to let it slip. What a shame!


January 19, 2009

Wish I were there …

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 5:56 pm

I did wish I was there when Mr Lawrence Crumpton of Microsoft gave his presentation at LCA2009 about Microsoft’s Open Source effort. According to the article, he was effectively drown out. He know he is in hostile territory, after all, he was at Australia Linux Conference. However, I did not think he was expecting to be drown out.

Before I forget, I need to congratulate him for keeping his calm. Otherwise, knowing how over passionate his opposition could be, we would have a shouting match which is ugly. I am glad he had chosen not to confront the crowd.

His first mistake was to underestimate the knowledge of his crowd: They know the subject matter “Microsoft and open source; did hell freeze over?” better than him. Given his job title, platform strategy manager, he will be more concerned with implementing HQ’s strategy and make business decisions for which the topic he is speaking on is only a sideline. His crowd is in the trenches where they are dealing with the subject matter day-to-day.

Being a senior manager, he is more used to giving presentation to business people. Here lies  his second mistake: Try to preach Microsoft official open source line to the technical crowd. Business people will swallow it. There may be one-or-two that disagree with him strongly and give him a good fight but he can easily brush them off as the opposition.

Etiquette dictates that although we disagree with the speaker, we need to give him a chance to express his view. Unless, of course, he is way off course and start spreading lies. Then Ettiquette requires us to call him out. I am categorically saying that Mr Crumpton did not lie, but he might be economical with the truth, or, if he was just parroting a presentation from Microsoft, is guity of spreading the distorted reality Microsoft thinks it is in.

I do not know Andrew Trigell. However, from tracking his past works he does not sound to me like someone with an axe to grind and will give his opposition space to express his view. To cut into someone’s presentation with an opposite view is generally regarded as rude. To have him interrupt the presentation must means he was rubbed up the wrong way and he thinks the presenter must be corrected. Moreover, I am sure when he interject the speech, he is knowingly putting his reputation into bear.

Am I surprise the whole thing degenerated into disarray? No. I was half-expecting that. Partly the crowd is hostile and it takes only a few troublemakers send the presentation into chaos. To have it started by someone with a strong reputation such as Trigell was unexpected.

What I can say is Mr Crumpton squandered the chance to reach out and practice what Microsoft says it is doing. He was presenting at a Linux conference. The program committee gave him a golden chance. Instead, he throw it away by preaching the official line. I know of other Microsoft employees who were send to a hostile conference and come back smelling of roses. They did not manage to change the conference participants view, but they did make them understand their company’s view.

I wish I was there to see the whole thing for myself …

European Commission investigating Microsoft practices … again

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:11 pm

A feeling of deja vu, twice actually. First, EC is investigating Microsoft practices again (scroll down to Microsoft and click the one with ECIS) ; Second, it are covering the familiar ground of Internet Explorer again.

To be fair to the EU, it is looking at two separate complaints. The first is about interoperability of .NET and OOXML. The second is about tying IE with Windows, and as part of the second complaint, IE not respecting open web standard. It is, however, the second complaint that is making the rounds in the grapevine.

In all cases, Microsoft will claim it is taking steps to change the nature the product, no doubt OOXML farcical ISO standardization, Mono project and changes in IE8 will feature prominently. Nonetheless, in all cases, EC, as the competition authority, will still have to decide on the following

  1. Was there a violation of competition law?
  2. If so, there should be punishment, regardless of the “changed” nature of the market today. It may be inconsequential today that I stole a loaf of bread from you a year ago, but you will still want to see me punished.
  3. Is the current remedy that Microsoft is undertaking sufficient, or it needs to do more, or it needs to do it quicker?

For the browser part, I hope it is not what Mary Jo Foley thinks it might be: a rehash of Microsoft IE trouble in US. It may be true that whatever happens in US does not naturally translate to the EU, and Microsoft deserves to be punish for committing the same crime in EU, if it was found guity of. If it is simply about EU having its say, it is a waste of tax payers money.

I hope the tying is restricted being a small part of the  complaint. EC has the duty to investigate it and punish Microsoft if it is indeed guilty. I would love that EC concentrates on IE’s failure since the US case. If you like, an update of the US case. The two big questions I can think of currently is

  1. If a company sign up to a standard, e.g. promise to implement the standard and/or help to create the standard, what is its obligation. If I remember correctly, part of Opera’s complain is about Microsoft paying lip service
  2. If any company has a dominant market position, what is its responsibility in implementing the commonly found standards in that area, whether or not it signs up to the standard. This is a rehash of Opera’s complain that Microsoft did not implement open web standards in IE.

EC is full of technocrats and I meant it as a compliment. Just look at its 2004 Microsoft decision. Compare to its US case where the whole prosecution case, defense case and judgement which is vague and looks as if it was written by a layman, the EC case is full of competent technical analysis of both the technology field AND antitrust laws. If EC takes up the two questions, it will be a piece of work that everyone interested can follow and use as guidance.

January 16, 2009

Do defendents really need access to breathalyzer’s source code?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:44 pm

I don’t know whether I should cry or laugh, but it appears that a few DUI drivers might get of the hook because the court thinks that they should be able to get an expert to examine the source code for the breathalyzer and the manufacturer refuse to provide them.

Do we really need the source code? I don’t know. I do think a black-box testing would had been suffice. After all, all they do is to measure breathe alcohol level. That should be easy to determine by putting the device through its pace using real breathe samples with known alcohol level.

I am pretty sure things are more complicated or otherwise the Appeal Judge would not had upheld the lower court ruling. Of course I agree that manufacturer must prove in court that their equipment do what it does. If they cannot, then the equipment’s finding cannot be admitted. Otherwise, anyone wants my supercool breathalyzer? Trade secret: random generator.

Happy Ending …

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:26 pm

Yesterday,  one news making the rounds over at slashdot and other technology sites is the story of one unfortunate woman complain that Ubuntu cannot get her on to her ISP’s internet and that forced her to quit college (Original WKOW 27 news story, WKOW 27 update on the story). Luckily for her, her ISP and college are trying their utmost to help her. Although the news story exposed her ignorant of technology, I think you will agree with me that it is one of her better decision given the outcome. The other major party in the story is Dell who had not responded yet. That is not really surprising because they probably has the most investigation to do on what went wrong.

I don’t think condone the hate message and rant we internet user post to WKOW 27. It is shooting the messanger. So far, the best response I had seen is from Carla Shroder of LinuxToday. She outlined the problems people faced when trying to use non-windows to access educational content.

January 14, 2009

Wrong headline

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:52 pm

At Recording Industry vs The People blog, a new post highlight that RIAA decided to drop the case against John Does. Given RIAA’s tactics, it would had been a big news. Unfortunately, RIAA decided that it will not persue individuals in court in December. I note that it violated its own declaration once, but that may be the results of bureaucratic delay in passing the information to its lawyers, or that it decides to continue on lawsuits already in preparation.

The real news, to me, is that they “workaround” the problem of naming all unrelated defendents on one suite by bypassing Austin, Texas, the jurisdiction that ordered it to stop. It obviously violated a court order. Is there any repercussion? Or will it get away with it, now that it drops the suit?

A simple court order to change it to “withdrawal with prejudice” will be suffice as punishment. The only people to benefit is the 22 John Does. On the bigger picture, it is just a small interesting news in the bigger copyright litigation picture and  will be business as usual for all. That makes it a fitting, propotional and reasonable punishment.

January 13, 2009

Can anyone actually satisfy a sudden surge of demands without living someone out to dry?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 10:24 am

Something is only to be expected, i.e., the fact that there is a sudden surge in request for Windows 7 Beta that Microsoft were unable to satisfy. Should we have higher expectation, i.e., that providers must be able to satisfy this surge as it is a predictable one? I think we should.

There are a few things where a surge in request can be expected: new Microsoft Windows, new Microsoft Office, new Eclipse distribution and new Ubuntu distribution. Eclipse had this problems once. I know, I was one of those who tried to download Eclipse as soon as it was released and after 2 hours, still cannot get a complete distribution. [I have a 1GBit internet connection at work, so normally I expects Eclipse to download in 3 minutes] However, they took steps to increase the number of worldwide servers available and had solved this problem at least two major distribution ago. Yes, if you download on the day of first release, it is going to be slower, much slower. There is probably nothing anyone can do about that. The point here is you get your download in reasonable time.

Ubuntu download is also reasonable on the day of release. However, with Eclipse and Ubuntu, I always download them 24 hours after the actual release time. By then, the surge would had reduced to very high demand. Waiting for 24 hours is worth the wait for me.

Can Microsoft emulate what Eclipse and Ubuntu has done? I think so. They have the money, and keeping keen Microsoft users happy always goes a very very long way. I hope they do it.

I leave it to Microsoft to decide whether they should or not. If they want to, the first thing I will say is to get rid of the notion that they are only going to serve the first XXX customers. One important reason why I decided to get Eclipse and Ubuntu a day later is it does not make a difference to me. I am sure a lot of other people have the same thoughts as me. With download limits I would be forced to try to be in the front of the queue, and beat the queue if I can by initiating multiple download requests. This make the situation worse. I can tell you that those people who are keen to get their hands on the latest Microsoft Windows/Office built knows how to initiate multiple download requests. Getting rid of the quota reduces the surge volume and make the experience better for everyone, Microsoft technicians included. The end results is the same since Microsoft had to get rid of the quota to keep its users happy. Does it makes business sense to impose a quota? Not much. If you think that any PR is good then I suppose creating an artificial shortage to get on to BBC News website is good. From other perspective, it’s dubious:   restricting distribution to prevent drop in sales later just simply does not add up since the beta has an expiry date; Stopping piracy? There is at least one pirate who will get to download before the quota is reached; Creating excitment among user community? Is it worth making them angry because they cannot get their hands on for a reason that they attribute to be your fault?

January 9, 2009

Apple dealt the final nail into DRM

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:42 am

I never like DRM on music, I call them Digital Restriction Management. Nowadays, I think I will call it Digital Restriction Mismanagement.

Apple dealt the final nail for DRM  (the type that stop you from using “unapproved” devices to play your music) when it annonuced that iTune music store will be DRM free (details). I know Zune still uses DRM but it will be a matter of time that this competitive disadvantage will get Zune to do without it. Anyway, I know what you are thinking : Zune? What the hell it is? 😉

Apple cannot take credit for doing away with DRM. Its hand was forced when Amazon and others starts offering non-DRM music tracks. However, it is fair to give it credit for dealting music vendors the final defeat using the shear weight of iTune mustic store. Once those vendors capitulate to iTune, they cannot say no to others, including Zune.

The compromise? iTune store now have 3 level of pricing, instead of one. I think it is more a face-saving measure rather than a real compromise.

What I learn from this sorry DRM saga is that low price does not even give DRM a fighting chance to survive. A few years back I was wondering whether low price will be DRM saviour, i.e., carve out a market where you compromise by accepting DRM for lower prices. Looks like comsumers do not want it, or the music vendors executed the plan wrongly.

Either way, I am glad that DRM for music is dead.


After the euphoria, let’s get down to business. There are two types of DRM, the other type I am referring to is those that will allow you to play music on any devices, but use watermark or other technique that will identify the person who bought the track. If Apple change to this system, I will say DRM is still alive.

January 5, 2009

TheRegister’s “Windows for Warships” campaign update

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 6:44 pm

TheRegister updated their “Windows for Warship” campaign news, saying that Windows is making its way into the command and control system of surface warships as well as underwater ones. For TheRegister’s regular standard, it is surprisingly pro-Windows. Since I know the difference between a western style of military equipment (bleeding edge but very fragile) compared to the Communist bloc’s style (high tech but sturdy) from my work experience with a aircraft instrument repair company, I totally understand and agree with Page’s sentiment.

What surprised me is we are looking at a mixture of XP and Windows 2000. I tought we will be looking at only one edition of Windows only. On second thought, it might be a good idea to have two systems: If one got compromised and you have a duplicate on another, then the damage is limited. Even if you do not, at least the risk of 100% system failure is reduced.

One reason for using older software is the software is well understood. However, only time will tell if Windows XP is too well understood. Is there any bugs/viruses/vulnerability that we don’t know about that will now be upgraded to weapon grade by hostile country to cripple the Royal Navy? I hope MoD remembered to ask BillyG for the source code, since when XP goes out of maintenance, and that is sooner if BillyG gets his way, BillyG is not going to provide patches anymore and MoD is on its own.

Pages gets one thing right: Unlike us, MoD’s supply of XP is not going to be cut off anytime soon. 😉

News about RIAA

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 6:30 pm

At the end of last year we heard news that RIAA was dropping its strategy of filing lawsuit against individuals. I am sure a lot of individuals will breath a sigh of relief. Me? No. Not because I am a file sharer, but I do not know what is RIAA’s next move.

If RIAA abandon plan A, then it must put into action plan B. They might already have plan B ready before the abandon plan A, but they might still be formulating it. Whatever the case, I do not like the rumoured plan B, i.e., working with ISP to cut file-sharers out of the internet. Why? The plan as it stands is  too harsh, it lacks the proper check and balance. It has to be refined further before I will say whether the plan is a potentially good one, or too one-sided. The “Three strikes and you are out” sounds fair, but the only problem is what constitute a strike? RIAA’s record in the lawsuit litigations does not inspire confidence.

Sarah McBride, the same author of the above link, brought us another piece of news saying RIAA is dropping MediaSentry. It should not surprise anyone. If one is to name a party that contributed most to RIAA’s bad reputation, MediaSentry will be top of the candidate list. [The other will be RIAA’s own litigation lawyers, for dragging their legs and pursuing lawsuits that should had ended much earlier]. While Ray Beckerman of the Recording Industry vs. the People blog fame, claims that MediaSentry’s technique to catch file sharer means  “…MediaSentry couldn’t prove defendants had shared their files with anyone other than MediaSentry investigators.” is technically true, I do not think this is the major cause to accuse MediaSentry of bad practices. For one this argument will not fly in court. MediaSentry’s problem is it cannot even prove conclusively that when they accuse someone of offering pirate music, it cannot prove that it got the pirated music from the accuser! That’s bad practice in anyone’s book. Of course, the accusation that they do not even bother to make sure they are properly licensed to conduct their investigation does not help.

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