CyberTech Rambler

November 24, 2009

Google Chrome OS

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 6:42 pm

I finally have a chance of looking at the Chrome OS preview demo. Here are my two cents:

  • Microsoft will be breathing a sigh of relief: It is not about to challenge Microsoft’s netbook position anytime soon. The presenter got it right: The demo might not tell us how Chrome OS will turn out, but it give us a pretty good idea on what Google’s aim for it is. Looking at the aim, Microsoft’s netbook OS and indeed other OS for netbook still have quite a lot of mileage before Chrome OS is going to challenge them. The one advantage they have over Chrome OS: Storing data and program on the device itself. Chrome OS threatening Windows and Office monopoly? At least three years away. Furthermore, Andriod is a much bigger threat than Chrome OS.
  • The serious shortcoming in Chrome OS is it depends heavily on the internet. With this, invariably it means you must have wireless connection (and maintain it throughout your computing session). No internet, no data or program and what you have is a slab of silicon in your bag.
  • The world is not ready for Chrome OS. One, I still don’t trust the cloud enough to put my data there. Two, most importantly, the pervasiveness of wireless services is not good enough for me to be able to access my data anywhere I want. Sure, if I pay for a coffee Starbuck will give me access to their wireless. But it will cost me some money, and then the coverage of Starbuck’s wireless is limited. Wireless need to be cheaper or more pervasive for Chromium OS to survive.
  • Can the problems with Chrome OS be overcome? If the price is right, I might just trust the cloud to store my data. Pervasiveness of wireless is going to increase, so connectivity might not be a problem in the future. In short. Yes.
  • Delaying Chrome OS for a year is a smart move! The necessary pervasiveness of Wireless which is still not here today is likely to be there this time next year. That to me is a precondition for Chrome OS.

And finally…

  • Can someone give the presenter a microphone to hold please? He is clutching the bottle of mineral bottle as if it is a bottle of formaldehyde with his pickled balls in it.
  • Note that all laptops on the front table are Macintosh. Where is Windows?

November 23, 2009

Murdoch put his money where his mouth is.

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:09 pm

You got to hand it to Mr Murdoch. He is a businessman through and through. Never one to make fake threat.

A while ago I was challenging him to take his content off Google. It appears he certainly had that in mind. Reports are coming in that Murdoch is exploring a deal to take Murdoch’s news site off Google. Good luck to him.

It might be that this is just a rumour to “soften Google up” for any potential deal. It might just be a real deal in the working. Reports simply says that the deal is about Murdoch will be paid to take content off Google, not an exclusive deal to have content available only through Microsoft’s search engine. That sounds a bit strange to me. We all know that exclusivity deals are legal. However, I do not think a deal specifically to exclude a competitor is legal. I doubt Reuters will make a mistake by calling an exclusive deal to Microsoft a deal to exclude Google.

I can see the advantage to Microsoft for excluding Google and Google alone, i.e., lower fees.  However, I can see problems ahead. If Google judge it worthwhile, I can see Google suing Microsoft and Murdoch to get the deal declared illegal. That is when things get interesting. That lawsuit does not necessarily need to run to its logical conclusion. Deals can be made to settle the lawsuit. This type of lawsuits are less about the principle, more about business positioning for a better deal. In fact, this might be what Murdoch wants in the first place.

A deal to specifically exclude Google is also a potential suicide for Murdoch. If he do, he is putting all his eggs in a basket for a reasonably long time. What if the deal did not deliver what he wants? He will be locked in to a bad deal for a considerable time. Having said that, if I can see it, Murdoch can. He is smarter, much smarter than me. His lawyer might put in some get out clause into the deal.

What I think it is possible that a group will be setup to license the content. Microsoft will join now. Google can join later if they want.

The deal negotiation, if true, means I have to give it to Microsoft for stopping at nothing to improve its share of search. Who knows, this might just be the ticket.

Will this soften up Google for any potential deal? I do not know. What I know is it definitely gets Google attention, if Google haven’t been paying attention to what Murdoch said already. I can imagine people in Google searching through the records working out how much losing Murdoch’s sites will mean to Google. Murdoch obviously think it can be a big enough dent, but only Google will know whether it is true.

On the broader picture, this looks like an attempt to fragment the internet into walled gardens. For this reason alone, I hope this type of deals will turn out to be not worthwhile for all the participants.

November 19, 2009

TheRegister paint a bleak picture of IE9 standard compliance

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 10:34 pm

TheRegister painted very bleak picture of IE9 development team’s plan for standard compliance.

I have no problems with Microsoft pursuing its own technology. After all, virtually all technologies we use today started with someone pursuing it by extending existing offering first. Firefox’s successful Extension mechanism is an example of extending the web browser. Not to mention Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight technology.

The only thing I object to is Microsoft not implementing standardized technology and use its own technology in place of those standardized technology. The argument of complexity is disingenious. Microsoft is the biggest company/organization in the browser business. If smaller, much smaller player like Opera can navigate and implements the standard, why cann’t Microsoft?

Any hope? May be. Let’s see what the next European Commissioner for Competition thinks about it.

Interesting titbits about Windows 7

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:05 am

TheRegister is reporting that Microsoft is spilling the beans on Windows 7 innard. To tell the truth, you must be in the software business or otherwise you will not be interested in the subject.

What you see is historical burden that Microsoft has to live with, and is trying to unentangle. On the layering issue for example, I do not think it is fair to say that Microsoft did not follow the layering advise serious programmers/developers now insist on.

On the optimization side it is good to see Microsoft trying to push the optimization to the limit on stuff that users use very frequently.

The main decision to go ahead with “UAC” and “MinWin” was not what we expected. Interesting. Although I do not think the reason for “UAC” is correct, because it introduce a second problem which is worse: It lure users into a false sense of security, as they think Windows is protected but it is not.

I, however, do not like the decision to use “Fault Tolerant Heap”. I think it is bad,very bad. It encourage sloppy programming practice and make bugs difficult to spot. The so-called “compromise” where FTH will not be turned on when you are debugging is useless. People like me for example, do not necessary use an IDE which offers debug mode. We tend to use the program itself, inserting printf() statements to trace the program. The reason we use it is preciesely because we know debugging mode software behave differently from running mode. If we do it on Windows 7, our bug will not be caught. Finally, it makes it difficult to write cross-platform software.

You need a license to access your computer memory!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:52 am

Interesting revealation! Windows has code that check that you have the appropriate “license” to access your memory. This means if you are having the wrong license, Windows will restrict the maximum memory available to you.

Surprised? No. We all know whichever edition of Windows you are using, the base code is the same. If Windows Starter Edition can restrict you to running three applications at once only, that means it is doing some sort of checking in the background to decide what to do? Whatever you choose to call this process, it is licensing check.

On NetBooks, there are restriction on what type of processor you are using. How does windows know? Again, some sort of licensing check.

Getting back to the point: On netbooks, one of the requirement is you cannot have more than 2GB of memory. How does windows know? You guess it, a license check that will not allow you to use more than 2GB.

What is interesting here is not there is a license enforcement, but Microsoft choose to call it “license”.

As for asking (or shaming) Microsoft to allow your 32bit operating system to work with more than 4GB? Dream on.

Part of the reason is technical. The article by Mark Russinovich quoted in the article I am referring you to alone is good enough reason for me not to allow Windows XP to access more than 4GB of memory. Developers, working on that you cannot access more than 4GB of memory, might had taken shortcut. Allowing more than 4GB memory access now will just break the software. In the software business, developers like me will say a program that goes wrong silently is worst than a program that crash. At least with programs that crash you know something is wrong.

Looking ahead, I do not see the license going away. It might not be something open source software do, but Microsoft is free to choose to impose this limit on its users. What do they say when you say you don’t like it?  I know: Tough.

With Windows XP, no way.

November 15, 2009

Microsoft release GPLv2 offending tool in GPLv2

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 8:17 pm

That is really very quick reaction. In record time, Microsoft admitted GPLv2 violation and released the tool under GPLv2.

What does that tell me? Microsoft works very fast? No. Microsoft already know that the tool violated GPLv2 and went into plan B, i.e. going into compliance? No. Big companies like Microsoft, who built their company on IP will not knowingly violate an IP license.

What it says is Microsoft modification to the source code is minimal. So small, that there is no IP worth protecting under a proprietary license, and the time take to clear the IP through the legal department etc is really quick. That’s the reason for the quick reaction. Of course, the fact that the omission of the tool do make a dent (not a big one though) on online sales helps to speed up the process.

The only thing still leave a bitter taste in the mouth is Microsoft’s source code clearing process. Compared to other big companies such as HP, Dell and IBM, that process is not good enough.  We do not really hear a lot of license violation (GPL or otherwise) from other  big companies that make a living on software, but the occurance for Microsoft (See this TheRegister’s article)  this year alone is too high. It is not befitting of a big company.

November 13, 2009

Microsoft blocks xbox modders

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:38 pm

News is in that Microsoft is cleaning out unauthorized modification of Xbox by blocking them permanently from Xbox Live.

If they are using pirated software? Block them.

If they simply modify the box with a bigger hard disk, then the case is not that clear cut.

Even with users of pirated software, I think it is too harsh to block the console permanently. A few months ban will do the trick just as nicely.

Moreover, it is just a matter of time someone find a way around the block. Let’s not forget people who modify the Xbox either is more technically savvy than joe average users, or have access to one.

There will be fall out. The biggest threat I see is those blocked Xbox are dumped onto unsuspecting buyers. Regardless of the fact that this is sololy a matter between the buyer and the seller, the XBox brand will be tarnished. At the worst the Xbox second hand market become non existance, and this can make it more difficult for Microsoft to sell their next generation console when it is time to produce it.

Bing teaming up with Wolfram Alpha: Act of desperation

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:26 pm

Is it Microsoft’s act of desperation when it says it is teaming up with Wolfram Alpha?

Both Bing and Wolfram Alpha was hailed as “the next big thing in search”. Both fizzled after the initial publicity blizz as internet users go back to Google’s bossom. Google? Nobody is aware that Google has been modifying their search engine. It did make announcement about changes to its search engine. However, we do not see any publicity blizz over the modification, simply a PR statement understating the importance of the changes. For example, announcement such as “search engine now indexing PDF documents” is big. Don’t you agree?

We have so many Microsoft search engine revamps. All, Bing included, announced to the public as nothing but “improved search”. All, again Bing included, are received by users as not offering enough difference to Google to justify the switch. So one has to wonder, is Microsoft desperate now that it is willing to try just about everything and anything in the hope the next one will be the one.

For Wolfram Alpha, I can see the upside. More cash to compile the information for the search engine. More high profile publicity. All good. The trouble with Wolfram Alpha is it is a curated search engine with a lot of (expensive) human input that had to be paid for, and severely limits the scope of the engine. I can see the promise: An authoritative results on the subject. However, it is still a web directory service, similar to Yahoo in the early days. Yes, it revamp web directory because it does not only classify pages blindly, but score the reliability of the information. It has potential.

November 12, 2009

Microsoft’s Windows Tool contaminated with GPL-ed code? Is it really a great deal?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 2:08 am

The news yesterday is Microsoft has to pull a tool from Microsoft Store because some preliminary (and cursory) analysis by Within Windows suggests it may be contaminated with GPL-ed code. Slashdot has a field day over this story as usual. While the hot heads are calling for Microsoft to open source the tool in question, cool heads are cautioning that this is NOT confirmation that the tool contained GPL-ed code. It is simply a precaution that reputable vendor takes when there is a potential copyright infringement claim.

What I will like to add is Microsoft has behaved very responsiblely. While Microsoft’s mouth need to be washed in strong detergent, their actions when dealing with license infringement is very reputable. For a company chunking out hundred thousands if not millions line of code every day, occassionally license infringement can occur. Not by design but the probability is against them. The trouble that Microsoft is facing is a result of them not being able to control what their mouth says, so any infringement is picked up and amplified a thousand times then a similar news from another company.

I do not believe Microsoft did this intentionally. For those who is gunning for Microsoft paying a heavy price for this act, even if you can prove that this is intentional, they can continue to dream on. The normal penalty is to stop distributing the infringing code, and may be a monetary compensation for past infringement. In this case it appears an alternative is available, i.e., locating and negotiating a license from the author. The fact that the tool was pulled suggest to me that internal audits had revealed that they did not have a license from the author. As some slashdot posters points out, it is the author who can pursue infringement. He can decide to grant a separate license to Microsoft that will “cure” the GPL infringement.

For those saying that Microsoft shold now open the source code to the Window tool, I must respectfully disagree. I believe this penalty is only appropriate as the ultimate sanction if one can prove that Microsoft did this intentionally. Any unintentional infringement should be dealt with by not distributing the code anymore, and the infringer replacing the code or removing the code from any computer with the infringing code.

We must not treat Microsoft differently from other companies. One of FOSS biggest philosophy is equal in dignity before software. It is our duty as advocate of FOSS to make sure we treat Microsoft just like anyone else.

November 10, 2009

Challenging Rupert Murdoch to go ahead and block Google Search

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:41 pm

Rupert Murdoch is simply looking for publicity when he says he ‘may’ want to block Google search. We all know he do not want to. This is because unless he has an extremely incompetent IT department (which he don’t), they will tell him inserting a simple robot.txt will do the trick. Google (and Microsoft and Yahoo and other reputable search engine had been honouring robot.txt file for ages.

We all know he don’t want to block Google. What he wants is Google to index his site, then  pay him a fee for directing traffic to his site. In essence, it is “AdWord” in reverse. Rather than paying Google, he is now demanding a fee. Asking Google to pay for directing traffic to news site is not something new and it is a known sore point between search engines and content provider, in particular news provider. It has been bubbling for sometime now. This finally come to a head since Mr Murdoch wants to make his news site a pay-for service.

I don’t care about the argument that Murdoch is trying to build a walled garden. My philosophy is if someone do not want me to view his  content, even if it is free, I will avoid his site. Moreover, it is a capitalist world. He is free to do that.

Precisely because it is a capitalist world, I am issuing a challenge to Mr Murdoch: Take the plunge, setup your robot.txt file to block Google. If your wall garden is so good that Google cannot do without, Google will come to the negotiating table to hammer out a deal. At that time, you can name your price. A more likely situation is Google feels that it can benefit from linking to your site. If so, then we have a negotiation.

Let me tell you what I think is most likely to happen: Murdoch’s site become less popular and probably fall out of the sky… and he cannot bear it.

Someone, I think it is Murdoch, says the only way to break search engine dominant in news stories is for all news site to stop supplying news stories for search engine to index. The person who says this is correct. That is one of the best strategy to bring search engines into the negotiating table. Reversing a trend for free news, I am seeing more sites that start to experiment with charging.

The charging model can work. See Malaysiakini for a good example. They are doing reasonably well because they deliver something others cannot. Can Murdoch do this? I am sure he can. Let the market determines whether it is worthwhile.

Rupert Murdoch’s ploy to get Google to pay him  is like asking Tourist Information to pay an attraction for directing a tourist to them. Quite why the attraction wants to is not my concern. However, let’s not forget, the Tourist Information can choose not to direct any tourist to them as well.

As for his interpretation of “Fair Use” doctrine and that Google breach it? I think it is time for a law court to clarify it. I will love it if Murdoch mount a challenge.

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