Thursday, 24 February 2005

Surely some Microsoft marketing guru needs to be shot for this Microsoft Windows Licensing advert. What next? Maybe a picture of a turd with a cross through it, and the caption 'Windows Longhorn: not as bad as the old Windows'.

Wednesday, 23 February 2005

adaptive path � ajax: a new approach to web applications. Google maps is an excellent example of this. I suspect it has more application for graphics programming than anything else, but it's nice to see the web finally getting smoother.

Tuesday, 22 February 2005

Free Mojtaba and Arash Day. There, I've said it. Democracy has a global voice, and, sorry technophobes, but it is blogging. Economist use the concept of 'perfect competition' to describe basic economic rules. As economists strive for perfect competition, shouldn't politicians and governments strive for perfect information?

Friday, 18 February 2005

Xen lures big-name endorsements | CNET what's Xen? Well, it allows you to run several OSes on the same machine. Very handy for those Linux buffs who have to contend with Windowsland. And possibly quite handy for those tentative people who may just want to see what the penguin is all about without leaving the safety (but not security) of Windowsland. So this endorsement is not only massive, but very healthy.

Some would argue that the OS market should not really be a competitive market (linux people, mainly) because all the OS should really do is allow application software to talk to hardware. Indeed Linux, like unix, differentiates between the core OS kernel and the window (UI) system - you can get different 'windows' for linux: KDE, Gnome, or even good old xwin. Microsoft doesn't differentiate the two in Windows because it would clearly reduce dependency on Windows. I'd argue that their punishment for monopolistic practices should be exactly that: split the kernel from the GUI (rather than the favoured option of splitting the OS division from the apps division). That would expose the real value discrepancy in their product: that they value the kernel, but the majority of their customers value the GUI (and only then through familiarity).

Tuesday, 15 February 2005

PalmSource's sideways shuffle to Linux | The Register. Well, at least the company are finally doing something forward-thinking. Being a long-term Palm user, my main criticism of the devices is the software. Sure, its simplicity is what got them to the forefront of the market, but hardware has evolved significantly. Yet Palmsource's development path has been pedestrian, with over-simplistic PIM software and ropey sync software. Hopefully, with a more opensource approach, they can leapfrog back into the game.

Now this (Wired News) is a good Valentines day prank. Female UK police chief sends valentines cards to suspected burglars which are coated in a unique liquid which coats their hands and is virtually impossible to remove. So the next time they nick something, there's more than a fingerprint's chance of catching them. Assuming they're not wearing gloves, that is...

Monday, 14 February 2005

The next generation of computing? Here are two articles from the Economist, the first is about the new cell chip, and the second is about a new, faster access form of data storage. I can't help thinking that the combination of these two technologies will lead to the next surge in multimedia evolution. It makes me ponder the possibility that, in terms of the technology of digital information, we are on a par with the early commoditisation of electricity: it's widely adopted, but non-standard, barely reliable and barely understood. Yet the possibilities will extend far beyond the pioneers' imaginings.

Thursday, 10 February 2005

Tablet flaw hard to swallow (ZDNet UK News)... basically using the pen on any tablet PC leaks memory, so every day your memory fills up forcing you to reboot. Every day. This is a product that's worth at least $1000. In any other industry such a flaw would be grounds for a recall, compensation, lawsuits etc. But in software, it's a corporate 'oops! Please hold while we figure out how to fix it'.
Why do we tolerate this? How long must we tolerate this for?

Surely the strongest argument for open source is that it is ethically more balanced with the standard EULA offered by most 'professional' software. Currently, when you buy most software, you indemnify the vendor from just about any fault with their software. And if you want fault resolution, you pay extra for it. If they won't take responsibility for their software, why should they be entitled ownership? In open source, the positions are clear and more even-handed: no ownership, no responsibility - just pay for the service.

How-To: Podcasting (aka How to get Podcasts and also make your own) (Engadget)... well, it seems to be a how-to day today. Just need to find a decent podcast search tool... and maybe try to persuade the BBC to adopt it for their radio shows - subscription/license fee only, of course.
Two great thinkers of our time discuss the profound (Neal Stephenson's Past, Present and Future) and the bizarre (William Gibson's blog) follow the link in the birds and bees entry in the latter.
Decent article on secure connections on Mac OS X -- here's a useful, comprehensive blog article about using secure sockets (SSH) in OSX. It explains the rationale for using it, as well as the techie stuff in layman's terms. Also recommends a handy config product: SSH Tunnel Manager.

Monday, 7 February 2005

Slashdot | Grand Unified Theory of SIMD. Wha...? Well, here's one for those who think that graphics people only prefer macs because they look nicer. Single Instruction, Multiple Data (SIMD) is an essential part of graphic manipulation, and is yet another one of the hidden wonders of Apple's OSX. Have a look at the comments below the article for explanations and other good links.

Also, the cell chip, mentioned in the article, is due for launch today. Touted for the PS3, it is supposed to be supercomputer fast (16 teraflops in a blade is one quote I've read). Wonder if it will fit into a Powerbook...? | The economics of sharing. This is one subject area I've been pondering for a while: how can open-source development work, economically, and can it be applied in other areas/industries? As ever, the Economist does the thinking for you, while at the same time provoking more thought. The essence of the first part of the question is the "non-rival" nature of such goods (your use doesn't interfere with my use) and their network effect benefits (the more use, the better).

The second part is harder because there is another key to open-source sharing: the cost of distribution, which is negligible. Clearly, for physical goods there will always be a non-trivial cost component. However, there are still plenty of semi-virtual goods out there that could work, including radio frequencies, computer processing and bandwidth (eg. SETI).

Key quote in all of this: “Social sharing [represents] a third mode of organising economic production, alongside markets and the state.” | Computer circuits: Barred and latched. Here we have it: the missing piece of nano-circuitry. They had already sussed the basic gates (AND, OR etc.) on the nanoscale, but not transistors. Enter the new nano-transistor, a breakthrough that some electronics genius with no sense of marketing decided to call the "crossbar latch". Great stuff, can't wait for my first Crossbar Latch Radio..!
... and so it came to pass that Microsoft was based on unix all along. While this isn't exactly news, it is a useful reminder of the reality behind Microsoft's version of history. They started out as opportunistic as some of their latter day competitors, so their implication that the fragmentation of unix was a bad thing, not to be repeated, and implying that they are merely custodians of some OS standard that must be preserved is rich, to say the least. As is Gate's comment about AT&T not realising what they had (in unix) and be very hard to deal with. Sound familiar? Although I think this time round it is worse: the protagonist knows exactly what it has, and is willing to fight, fair or foul, to keep it... even to the extent that it has created a nemesis that is essentially a guerilla movement: amateur idealists giving their software away for free: Linux. And what is this software based on...?

UPDATE: just saw this (ZDNet) containing an analyst's response to Bill Gates' complete misunderstanding of open source. He cites another interesting reason for not having interoperability problems: less incentive to fork.

Friday, 4 February 2005

The Story of the PING Program In many ways, this is open source before open source, in that it's one guy with an idea who sits down one evening and changes the world in a small but significant way. That, to me, is the real revolution of the internet. Sure, you can buy stuff online, you can download stuff (pirated or otherwise), you can even make cheap calls, but the crux of the medium is the sharing of ideas. It is an incredible, unfathomable medium for ideas, be they bits of code, songs, films, discussions, or documents of trade, business or research.

Another fine example of this is Bram Cohen's BitTorrent, which is nicely covered in an article here.