* Posts by Flocke Kroes

1368 posts • joined 19 Oct 2007

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Microsoft kills its Euro pane in the a**: The 'would you prefer Chrome?' window

Flocke Kroes
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Europeans got their money back

Step into the TARDIS and revisit the era this decision came from. Last millennium phones were for talking to people and they had physical buttons with numbers on for sending text messages. Apple had a small niche market and Linux was less famous than the BSD Unixes are today. If a techy searched really hard, he could buy a desktop PC with freedos, but everyone else (and anyone buying a laptop) had to buy Windows. By itself, having a monopoly is not illegal. Using a monopoly in one field (ie Operating systems) to gain a monopoly in another (like web browsers) is illegal.

The wheels of justice grind at the speed of a doped two legged donkey. By the time the EU even noticed, Netscape Navigator as a commercial product was already dying. The actual complaints were about media streaming and network file systems. People were using cheap ARM CPUs and SAMBA for NAS instead of power hog Intel CPUs and and expensive NT server licenses. Microsoft fiddled with the protocol to break SAMBA and require people to use Windows. After years of delaying tactics from Microsoft, the EU fined Microsoft €497 million and ordered them to document the SMB protocol (now called CIFS). Again Microsoft took their time, and were fined an addition €1.5 million per day for 187 days before they made the documentation available for purchase (the fine was about to go up to €3 million per day).

That €777 + 80% of the EU's legal expanses were tax revenue that Europeans did not have to pay. It would be nice to claim that Europeans made of profit on the deal, but clearly breaking the law was benefiting Microsoft (and costing Europeans) between 1.5 and 3 million Euros per day.

SAMBA was not made using Microsoft's documentation, which apart from being years later and expensive, was incomplete and inaccurate. SAMBA was in fact made by bugging the network connection between and Windows sever and client, guessing what the packets meant and trying them out to see what the server or client did in response (the result was more reliable than Windows - perhaps because SAMBA devs did not rely on defective docuementation). It would be nice to say that your NAS does not require a €599 Windows server license because of the EU court order, but that would be stretching the truth. Windows licenses prices are kept below €999 per CPU core because Microsoft has to compete with Linux (if they didn't, home users would still be using a descendent of ME). The European Court of Justice are certainly too little and far to late, but they do pay for themselves many times over.

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Flocke Kroes
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@LDS

Concerning your comments about iOS: Apple can bundle whatever they want and restrict what is installed because I can buy something else.

Concerning your comments about Android: AFAIK, Google do not charge money for Android. If you choose to buy and Android phone, one of the things you are buying is the manufacturer's extensions to Android. I would be happier if you had a choice about that.

All of this stuff about IE was for desktop computers, where customers are required to buy Windows whether they want it or not. If seems that unlike me, LDS and Neil B are happy to pay for software they will never use. I would like the pair of them to put their money where their mouths are and contribute to some open source projects.

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Flocke Kroes
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Most people never had a choice . . .

So you decide you want to use Midori web browser on you new computer. That is fine, but you have to buy IE because it comes bundled with all new computers. You decide you want to use Vi/Emacs. That is fine, but you have to buy notepad because it is bundled with all new computers. The same used to be true with media players, until an EU court ruled otherwise (Microsoft was required to release an EU version of Windows without a bundled media player. Anyone know if the EU version was cheaper, or if Europeans were still paying for the Microsoft media player that wasn't installed?).

Microsoft required manufacturers to install Windows and a pile of Microsoft software on all new PCs. The famous way to avoid getting caught was to sell Windows at a high price, but offer to pay 'Marketing expenses' to manufacturers that pre-installed Microsoft's software on all new PC's. (Do not bet on this being legal. Intel did the same thing, and had to buy a get out of jail card from AMD for $1billion in cash + buying AMD's old foundries for $1billion over the market value.)

Netscape used to sell Netscape Navigator and had 90% market share. A few years after IE was bundled with all new computers, Navigator's market share fell to 1% - even though the price fell all the way to zero. Navigator was released as open source software in the hope that it would receive development work that Netscape could not pay for. Netscape was bought by AOL, who later ceased all work on Navigator.

These days, the situation is hardly any better. Dell will sell you a Linux PC - if you know it is an option, hunt it down and insist you do not want Windows. It has been a long time since I looked at Dell's web site, but the Linux machines they sold had cheaper hardware than Windows machines the same price. It looked suspiciously like you were still paying for a Windows license, but not actually getting the software. Other PC retailers either did the same, or did not have secret a Linux option at all.

Telecom companies understand how toxic Microsoft made the PC market. Part of the success of Apple and Android was that the networks wanted ABM.

One day, ordinary people might be able to select which OSes are pre-installed, and only pay for their selection. Today, only Techies have a choice.

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Judge spanks SCO in ancient ownership of Unix lawsuit

Flocke Kroes
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TSG is not SCO

Everyone and his Penguin called the Santa Cruz Operation "SCO", but its name was the Santa Cruz Operation. That 'SCO' bought the right to collect license fees for SVRx Unix (and derivatives) from Novell (who retained the copyright). They also distributed a Linux based operating system (which did not inherit source code from SVRx).

SCO sold its Unix business to a new company and changed its name to Tarantella. The new company changed its name to The SCO Group, and (with some success) got people to call it SCO. TSG is not the Santa Cruz Operation. TSG try to claim Santa Cruz Operation's work on SVR4 code as their own, but the are not the same company, and did not buy the source code because the Santa Cruz Operation never bought it. They were supposed to collect Novell's licence fees, hand over all of Novell's money to Novell and in return Novell would hand back 5% commission.

Novell bought SVRx from Unix Systems Laboratories. USL was created inside AT&T because AT&T were forbidden from distributing an OS because of an anti-trust ruling against them. AT&T transferred SVRx to USL who promptly sued the regents of the university of Berkeley for copyright infringement of SVRx. Berkeley Software Distribution (who are not the same as the regents of the university of Berkeley) distributed a version of Unix that was not derived from SVR4 (or its predecessors). USL did so badly in court the they paid the regents legal fees in return for the regent's silence. It turns out that Unix was originally distributed in source code form without any copyright notices. Patches were sent back to AT&T again without copyright notices or licensing agreements. Some of those patches were incorporated back into AT&T's Unix.

So, TSG (not SGO) threatened to sue everyone and his penguin for using SVR4 code that they did not own and wasn't in Linux. Even if there was some code that TSG owned, it was released under the GPL by SCO anyway when they distributed Linux. TSG did this despite USL's failure to do substantially the same thing. They sued IBM, who are famous for their ability to blacken the sky with lawyers, and they did so when Novell told them not to (Novell had the contractual right to prevent SCO and successors from engaging in litigation related to Novell's SVRx source code).

Now who gets the award for idiocy:

A) Darl McBride who was in charge of TSG, and kept making false statements to the press that were immediately debunked by a horde of penguinistas.

B) David Boies who said his law firm would do all the legal representation for a share of the profits.

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V. R. R. Stob's magnificent saga A Game Of Dog-and-Bones

Flocke Kroes
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If there had been patents of litigation ...

...would the lawyers have been riding skinned dire wolves? After all, "A barrister always flays his pets."

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ESA: Venus probe doomed to fiery death on weird planet's surface

Flocke Kroes
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Can't you tell it is a real photo?

I borrowed the space shuttle Atlantis from the visitor complex at Cape Kennedy and deployed an orbital sun screen to darken Venus express. That is why the stars and the space ship are visible in the same photo. Ivan borrowed the Бура́н prototype from the Technik Museum. He followed behind Venus Express with a big lamp so the back of the communications dish is not completely black.

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Flocke Kroes
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No artificial gravity

The fuel isn't being pulled to the bottom of the tank. There is some spin to point the instruments at Venus, and some rotation to point the comms at Earth, but surface tension is stronger. Until the engine fires, the fuel is probably in a blob somewhere inconvenient for starting the engine. Even when the engine is firing, the fuel sloshes about in a determined effort to avoid being measured.

The 'fuel gauge' works by firing the engine and measuring how much the mass of the fuel reduces the acceleration of the spacecraft. As the spacecraft has been repeated tearing through the top of a corrosive atmosphere it is surprising that any fuel was still inside the tank.

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'Turn to nuclear power to save planetary ecology from renewable BLIGHT'

Flocke Kroes
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20 loony greens in a room with 19 bullets

I was looking for the productivity ratio for modern chemical fuelled agriculture compared to dark age rotation of crops. The closest I could find are the number of man hours required to make a chicken for the last hundred years, and wheat yields in developing countries over fifty years.

IIRC, agriculture backed by a modern technology is 20 times more efficient than peasant power. (The graphs I found are 5 or 6 to 1, but do not measure a switch to 'sustainable' agriculture.) If 20 loony greens can agree on which 19 of them are going to commit suicide then I am happy for the last man standing to inherit the resources of the others so he can lead a tech free life style. This is to include manky fruit during the winter (no refrigeration or intercontinental shipping), no modern medicine and a good risk of starving to death if the crops fail.

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We are never getting back to... Samsung's baking Apple's 14nm 'A9' chips?

Flocke Kroes
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Samsung licenses ARM too

Anyone want to look up which out of Samsung and Apple designed an ARM based SOC first?

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Flocke Kroes
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Yes, of course they would

Apple negotiates very hard on price. So hard that careless manufacturers make a loss - on a huge scale - and go bankrupt. Sometimes Apple picks up the pieces for a pittance. Samsung have more brains than that and would happily tell Apple to get their displays elsewhere if Samsung does not like the price.

I am sure the price of these CPU's includes the cost of being sued again - after all, Apple needs to keep finding ways of diverting money from share dividends to their lawyers.

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Finland ditches copyright levy on digital kit, pays artists directly

Flocke Kroes
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Three distribution models:

If format shifting is legal: I buy a CD, format shift it and listen to the music with whatever device is convenient.

If format shifting is not legal: I don't bother to buy the CD because I cannot listen to the music on whatever device is convenient.

Now can someone explain to me how the manufacturers of MP3 players are reducing music industry revenues?

(I would rather buy a license to listen to music from the performer, and download the data from a pirate site - that way the performer gets all the money without having to pay anything for distribution. For some reason, the distributors are not entirely keen on this business model.)

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Cisco: Think we're a lawsuit-hurling villain? 'Complete garbage'

Flocke Kroes
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With similar logic ...

... I am the handsomest prince in all the land because I have a bicycle.

They say the last time they sued was eleven years ago. We have no idea how often they threatened to sue, or how may products were never developed because Cisco would either sue or require royalties big enough to make a new product uncompetitive.

If Cisco had 0% market share, then this lawsuit could not be about protecting market share. Having 80% is not evidence that is is not about protecting market share.

If Cisco had shut up, the only 'evidence' would have been the rantings of a defendant in legal trouble. As Cisco needed to prove they are not a patent bully with defective logic, they have convinced me that Arista's claims have some merit. Also I think the only thing that having 13,000 patents proves is that the patent system is badly broken.

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Firms will have to report OWN diverted profits under 'Google Tax' law

Flocke Kroes
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It is only a draft law

On the day a finished law is actually passed, the accountants will know precisely how to avoid the new tax.

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Flocke Kroes
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552 pages for the draft bill + 126 pages of explanatory notes

That puts this law well beyond the comprehension of 99% of politicians, and they are going to vote on this.

I can see this law making money for lawyers to argue about it, but the projected revenues must be like 84.7% of statistics: made up on the spot.

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It's nearly 2015 – and your Windows PC can still be owned by a Visual Basic script

Flocke Kroes
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It could be worse

Most (almost all?) browser exploits depend on javascript for their operation. The current POODLE for TLS requires javascript. Plenty of sites - like this one - do not require javascript. I do almost all of my web browsing with javascript disabled.

Imagine how bad it would be if banking and commerce sites required javascript ...

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Flocke Kroes
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Accountability

A quick web search for "microsoft sued for security flaws" shows several people/organisations have tried. I would like to draw your attention to the instructions for using the GNU GPL, which includes the following:

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

That is in just about every piece of software I write. I can hardly blame Microsoft for including something similar in their EULAs. Every time Microsoft avoids massive fines for security flaws I get some more confidence that it is not my turn next. IFAIK, there is no legal requirement that Microsoft has to find flaws, create patches and distribute them for free. For really old pieces of software like DOS and Windows 95, Microsoft do not provide patches just like there are no security patches for ancient Linux Kernels.

There are plenty of things I blame Microsoft for, and would be happy for the courts to do something about if they could. Bashing them for providing security patches for free is not one of them.

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EU law bods: New eCall crash system WON'T TRACK YOU. Really

Flocke Kroes
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Re: "basic details such as..."

Records from the finger print scanners used to open the door, the facial recognition camera used to start the engine. Reaching for controls must cause at least one accident per decade, so we need a microphone for voice activated windscreen washers.

If the vehicle stops in a deserted location and starts rocking then GCHQ should consider this evidence of a possible accident and activate all the on-board cameras and microphones.

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Furious GTA V gamers seek similar ban on violent, misogynistic title: the Holy Bible

Flocke Kroes
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One name, two companies

The Target corporation is a US based retail chain that got hacked.

Target Australia is not associated the the Target corporation.

By all means be peeved at both, but do not blame each for the other's behaviour.

(I know GTA only by reputation, and it is high on the list of games I do not intend to buy. I will not stop anyone else from buying it. I do not blame Target Australia listening to their customers, but their customers has wildly different opinions. They are going to have to disappoint at least one group. Perhaps this response will give them something to point at when one group tries to impose their beliefs on another.)

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The internet is less free than last year. Thanks a bunch, Snowden

Flocke Kroes
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Re: passing laws...

Some old roman noticed the same thing: "The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws."

How many laws to we have in the UK?

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UK slaps 25 per cent 'Google Tax' on tech multinationals

Flocke Kroes
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Shiny bling with patents

Four rows of icons was invented in Luxembourg. Got to pay royalties to the the Luxembourg division.

Glass to the edge of the device was invented in Ireland. Got to pay royalties to the Irish division.

The colour black was invented in the Caymen Islands. Got to pay royalties to the Caymen Islands division.

Any competent tech multinational can move profits anywhere they want - and there is a tax cut for paying and for receiving patent royalties.

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Is EU right to expand 'right to be forgotten' to Google.com?

Flocke Kroes
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Re: Hold the bandwagon, I can't find my pitchfork...

I can type a name into Google, discover that this person fell behind with his mortgage payments over twenty years ago, but has not made the news since.

I can type a name into Google find nothing and wonder what guilty secrets this person has had removed from the search results.

If Google delete all their records about me today, their spider will recreate them all tomorrow because it has no record telling it not to. Creating a new record that says 'do not show a link to this particular page when someone in Europe does a web search for Flocke Kroes' is a new concept.

Google can - and probably do - keep a record of every search I make using their site. They do not - as far as I know - make a record of every search I make using Bing. I have a choice about who keeps data on me - except for the NSA and GCHG.

If I have always had the right to be forgotten, what happens if I ask the NSA / GCHQ to forget about me? Years ago, I searched for 'linux tails', which back then (and possibly still today), put me on their (really big) shit list. The telcos are required to keep track of which web sites I visit - so GCHQ can effectively conduct the war against terrorism. What happened when you asked for that data about yourself to be deleted?

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Flocke Kroes
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It doesn't matter what this is about

What matters is what the law says and how it will be abused.

In theory Google could be made to tow the line financially. In practice, governments have demonstrated their inability to create laws that tax big multinationals. In theory, the right to be forgotten might be a good idea. In practice I have confidence that our government will create multiple train wrecks while failing to create laws that result in an effective way to hide old embarrassing web pages.

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Flocke Kroes
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Re: Please start thinking

So Google deletes all references to RaumKraut on their servers. Their spider finds the offensive web page with your name in it again, and because all instructions to the contrary have been deleted, it puts an entry in Google's index linking your name to the web page you do not like. Next time someone searches for RaumKraut, that page is top of the list - unless of course you do something even more silly that gets linked to from more sites.

By all means, insist that Google maintain a list of accurate web pages about you that you do not want others to find from your name, but how about using democracy to decide whether such results should be be listed:

All those who think the 'right to be forgotten laws' are a good idea, point your browser's search box at google.eu

Everyone else use google.com or duckduckgo.com or baidu, bing, ¡Yahoo!, AOL, ask, wow, webcrawler, infospace, blekko, contenko, dogpile, alhea, ...

If democracy is not for you, then lets put google's expensively maintained list to wider use: Google should be required to publish the list of names with associated embarrassing links so all the other search engines can rectify their results too.

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Flocke Kroes
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Please start thinking

The offensive material is not on a website controlled or owned by Google. They cannot delete it. What they are required to do is not show links to particular web pages when someone in the EU does a web search for a particular name. For that to work, Google have to maintain a list of names with URLs of the most embarrassing web pages for each name.

It could be worse. Imagine if you had to provide proof of identity and written proof that the embarrassing web page really refers you and not some other Raumkraut...

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Flocke Kroes
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Where the browser is ...

So I secure shell into some remote machine and start a browser. ssh forwards a connection to my local X server so the remote browser appears on my local display. Anyone would think these laws are being made up and interpreted by people who are clueless about technology.

Whatever the government does, sane people wish they would do it to someone else. If Google wish to protest about vague and nonsensical restrictions and requirements imposed on them, they have to find some legal way to do it. Obeying the restrictions to the letter in a way that is contrary to to your interpretation is legal and creates a (partially misinformed) backlash against the people creating the restrictions. The Streisand effect shows how unpopular all forms of censorship are. If Google meekly complies with government censorship then people will pick a different search engine.

It is remotely possible that Google's protest will result in clearer and more even handed laws. A quick look at our tax laws show it is far more possible that we can get rid of our cars and ride home on unicorns.

If a politician does not like what someone says about him on a website, he can have Winston Smith rectify the article itself. There is no need to require one search engine provider to fund a bureaucracy that vets search result hiding demands.

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Top Apple exec: 'I knew [ebook] prices were going to go up – hell, the whole world knew'

Flocke Kroes
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Evidence please

If Cue wants to accuse publishers, that is fine - if he provides sufficient evidence for a conviction. Without that, he shouldn't complain that Apple was u̲̲n̲̲f̲̲a̲̲i̲̲r̲̲l̲̲y̲̲ singled out. Nothing prevented Apple from going to authors directly and offering a deal that is fair to authors and customers, like Baen or they could have tried something really innovative like unglue.it.

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Orion: To Mars, the Moon and beyond... but first, a TEST FLIGHT through Van Allen belt

Flocke Kroes
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The reason Orion was nearly scrapped ...

... the uncompetitive price.

Privately funded space programs were going to achieve the same goals, and could be bought for far less than the anticipated cost of Orion - even without government funding for Orion's R&D and the inevitable cost overruns.

Buying those votes caused the budget axe to fall elsewhere in the space program, just like the ISS chomps through funding that could be spent on more interesting space missions.

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One year on, Windows 8.1 hits milestone, nudges past XP

Flocke Kroes
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Real argument backed by some actual facts

I do not like Microsoft's licenses.

With GPL & BSD I can install all the software I want on any number of computers for free. I can move software from one computer to another without having to ask permission or having to buy another license. If I want the software to work differently, I have the source code. If someone has not already made the change I want, I can change it myself or hire any competent programmer to make the change. I do not have to beg a monopoly to make the change and accept whatever price the choose to charge for it along with any other 'improvements' they decide to bundle with it. My data is in documented standards compliant formats implemented royalty free by multiple suppliers.

I know Microsoft despises the GPL and would rather juggle porcupines than release software under that license. They keep telling me that BSD is 'business friendly', so when they release Windows with a BSD license I will take a look at it.

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systemd row ends with Debian getting forked

Flocke Kroes
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Where is the off switch?

When making changes, the first thing to do is make an off switch. Set the default position to off, and check that the off switch works. After that, no matter how badly you screw up, people can always get their kit working again by using the off switch.

Network manager configures devices by name, which is a problem because the name depends on which device was attached first. Network manager requires devices run a DHCP server, which is not always possible and is certainly not desirable because the device would need to know which network it is connecting to before it can connect to the network. Network manager detects correctly configured interfaces and messes with them. Luckily network manager's documentation includes an off switch. The bad news is it doesn't work.

I kill network manager, instruct sysvinit to never restart it. I gave each device a unique MAC address, and used /etc/network/interfaces to configure devices based on MAC address. Now devices are correctly configured depending on which computer they are connected to. Fixed and working because of an off-switch... in sysvinit.

I have seen this problem before with KDE desktop search. I anticipate the problem, and configure nepomuk not to index video files, and not to index the disks full of video files. The system locks up because nepomuk has four maximum priority threads indexing the video files on the video disks. I use its off switch, but it doesn't work - next day nepomuk uses four maximum priority threads to index an SSD. The system is thrashes so badly that I have to use the power switch. I am greatly indebted to Dovydas and his instructions for killing Nepomuk with minimal swearing.

To be fair to systemd, it ended up on a machine with an old kernel that lacked features it required. I could not ssh in. Luckily the device has a keyboard, but I could not log in either. I had to pull the SDHC card, plug it into a different computer and chroot in to fix it.

Like KDE, if systemd is still around next decade, I will take another look at it.

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Euro Parliament VOTES to BREAK UP GOOGLE. Er, OK then

Flocke Kroes
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I am a bit confused

Sometimes I use Google search, but I am not required to use their other services to get search results. Sometimes I use a different search engine, but that does not prevent me from using Google's other services. How are they bundled?

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Musicians sue UK.gov over 'zero pay' copyright fix

Flocke Kroes
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Stop being reasonable - this has nothing to do with reason

I could by a DVD, or I could pay 'extra' (currently often £0) for a DVD with Ultraviolet. If I can legally rip my DVD's to my local NAS for free, there is no reason for paying extra for Ultraviolet, and a company whose service I will never want will disappear.

I am avoiding Ultraviolet because every view is a download that will quickly surpass my ISP's limits and will almost certainly get bumpy when other people are watching Ultraviolet. With no recurring income, Ultraviolet's servers will die from lack of budget, and I will get the choice of pay per view, or my investment in Ultraviolet evaporating.

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Flocke Kroes
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IIRC: The UK does not have a blank media levy

Several other countries do have a blank media levy, along with arguments about who gets paid, how the money is distributed, and what to do about people creating their own content to store on their devices. The arguments are a big waste of time as the real beneficiaries are usually the people who administer the fund.

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Flocke Kroes
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Please explain ...

Plan A: I buy a CD, illegally rip it to my mp3 player and listen to it through headphones. The RIAA could sue me to bankruptcy and pay the musicians only the royalty on the CD (minus expenses) because the contract does not include revenue from fines (which would be completely eaten by legal fees anyway). Instead, the RIAA don't sue me because of the public outrage it would cause.

Plan B: I buy a CD, legally rip it to my mp3 player and listen to it through headphones. The RIAA do not sue me because I have not broken UK law, even though UK law is not consistent with EU law.

Plan C: I buy a CD, legally rip it to my mp3 player and listen to it through headphones. The government gives a contribution to some revenue distribution company as required by EU law. The distribution company sits on the money until they have spent it all on administration.

How have musicians lost out because I ripped my CD to an mp3 player, listened to it on headphones and the govenment did not pay the compensation required by EU law?

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I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations

Flocke Kroes
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A consistent sequence of events

Imagine a snooker table where anything that falls into the right pocket jumped out of the left pocket a little earlier. If you hit the white ball from one end of the table to the other, that could be all that happens. Another possibility is you hit the white ball, it jumped out of the left pocket, knocks its earlier self into the right pocket and continues down the length of the table. Next time, you hit the white ball, jump over to the left pocket ready to snatch the white ball as it jumps out, but it doesn't (If you succeed, your cat will jump onto the table and bat the younger ball into the right pocket). In each case the sequence of events is consistent.

Marty McFly can watch Emmett get shot by the Lybians, warn him in the past, get back a few minutes ago, watch Emmett get shot again and see him survive because he had a bullet proof vest. What he cannot do is see bully Biff getting his dad's dented car towed home, go back to 1955 and get George to stand up to Biff then return to 1985 and find Biff has been polishing Marty's car that Marty knew nothing about. That kind of adventure requires parallel universes - Marty(A)'s father got bumped by Sam Baines's car in 1985(A). Marty(A) goes to 1985(B) that is not his own past, does not change anything because in 1985(B), George gets pushed out of danger by a time traveller from a parallel universe. Later Marty(A) returns to 2015(B) where Biff polishes cars for a living. Marty(B) really wants to return to 2015(C) because 2015(A) is a horrible universe for the McFly family.

The snooker table resembles what happens on the quantum scale, but embiggened to the point where it is almost certainly fantasy. Parallel universes are a huge cop-out in an attempt to preserve the possibility of time travel despite the fact that no time travellers turned up to Stephen Hawking's party even though he sent them invitations after the event. Magically changing family photos, faxes and newspaper articles are plot devices used by writers of entertaining fiction because they know sticking to known physics would make a dull film.

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Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers

Flocke Kroes
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@Eric Olson

Imagine how bad it would be if you tried going for hardly any to more than the rest of the world combined with wind turbines. Too late - the wreckage of that policy has already given us hefty electricity bills.

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Flocke Kroes
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Re: On the bright side

That sounds like usual government policy. The last time we had conservatives in power, they decided to reduce cycling accidents by making cycling more dangerous. Decide for yourself whether this was to work by discouraging cyclists or killing them. A year later they decided they needed to do some greenwashing, so they promoted cycling as a way to reduce carbon emissions. I asked for more cycle paths, but they must have heard psychopaths because they reduced the capacity of mental institutions in favour of 'care in the community'.

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Flocke Kroes
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The biggest killer per kWH generated is ...

... solar. (Incompetent installers fall of the roof.)

The obvious way to deal with those hippiespeople is to send them some DIY install solar panels.

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Flocke Kroes
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Tiny heat:

A square meter orbiting the sun at the same distance as Earth gets 1.362 kW of solar radiation (source). The radius of the Earth is about 6300km, so the Earth gets 1.7x10¹⁷W. As the Earth is not heating up quickly, it must radiate heat into space at about the same rate. To make comparisons difficult, large amounts of power are given in TWHour/Year. 1.7x10¹⁷W = 1,500,000,000TWHour/Year.

You can find figures for world energy use here. In 2008, the world used 143,851TWHours, or about 0.01% of the energy that the Earth radiates into space every year.

While looking this up, I came across an interesting couple of numbers. On average, fossil fuel generators are 38% efficient. The most modern fossil fuel generators are 55% efficient. Upgrading old fossil fuel plants with modern equipment would get at extra 52376TWHour/Year of capacity without increasing carbon emissions (2008 figures). The total power output of renewables in 2008 was only 18,492TWHour/Year, so replacing all renewables projects with a fossil fuel upgrade program would have reduced carbon emissions.

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SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS

Flocke Kroes
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Re: Sealguins or Pengseals

If hybrids were named consistently like Tigons and Ligers then the offspring would be a Sealguin. A Pengseal would have a penguin father. At a brief glance, the names are not consistent for example the offspring of a male sheep and female goat is a geep. That could be an exception because shoat is another word for piglet.

I am not expecting sealguins to hatch any time soon because seals and penguins are not in the same class, let alone species. Despite a certain Elephant's best efforts, an Elerhino is not likely either.

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VXers Shellshocking embedded BusyBox boxen

Flocke Kroes
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Bash + Busybox

Putting both on an embedded system would be surprising, but not difficult. Busybox is a single program containing cut down versions of commands you select from an extensive list that includes alternatives to bash. It can be static linked, which saves space when there are only one or two separate programs. Bash has lots of handy features that were added for people's convenience without worrying much about how much space they require.

Storage is so cheap that using bash + coreutils + the full version of anything in crammed into busybox + all the required shared libraries will still fit into a really cheap flash chip. Despite that, I found no copies of bash on any embedded system I use.

The ease of exploitation and the damage an embedded system can do make it worth checking to see if any use bash. If you find one, please speak up. Somewhere on this planet there must be at least one embedded system vulnerable to shellshock. A vPint to the fellow commentard who finds it.

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UK PM Cameron says Internet must not 'be an ungoverned space'

Flocke Kroes
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Back in the days of SCO vs Linux ...

Penguinistas wanted SCO's website up and running so they could put links in debunking pages to prove SCO really were making ridiculous claims.

If David Cameron wants to create debunking pages at his own expense, then he is welcome to get on with it at his own expense. If, on the other hand, he wants people to hunt down certain websites and believe the contents, then banning is an excellent way to start.

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Got a STRAP-ON? Remember to TAKE IT OFF at WORK

Flocke Kroes
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Try looking at the real world ...

Unfortunately, I am really good at breaking watches. My personal record is under an hour. After that event, I tried a new trick: looking at walls. Lots of rooms have clocks in - many of them even show a similar time. With a little practice, looking at a clock when you walk past it becomes automatic. The next trick is remembering what time you saw on a clock two minutes ago. Very few shops have clocks in (you might realise you are late and stop buying things). Lots of shops print the time on receipts. If you are feeling brave, you could try information point at a bus station. Judging by the BSODs, these run Windows, and judging by the time they give, they do not have an NTP client installed.

Anyway, all the problems associated with wearable tech can be fixed with a Google/Facebook/Twitter/Whatever wall mounted clock. Now that it is attached to the wall, it can be plugged in, and does not need batteries and recharging. Free/unsecured wifi is all over the place, so such a clock should always be able to show the right time. Add a camera, and Google/Facebook should be able to work out who is looking at it and display an inappropriate advert - especially if they did a web search for strap-ons as research for their weekend article.

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Why solid-state disks are winning the argument

Flocke Kroes
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Like I said

Put the cat videos on a NAS spinning disk.

What is left is usually tiny. I keep seeing computers with ½TB drives that are least 90% empty space. Give it a year, and I will see more 1TB drives that are 95% empty. Perhaps you really do need to carry the complete Debian archive around with you (source code and binaries for 16 architectures is 1TB). That makes you unusual. Last time I looked at laptops, SSDs were not even an option. It would be nice to have the choice.

BTW - I bet half the reliability problems people experience from USB and SDHC cards comes from buying from a supermarket. The buyers there can get you a crate of fish with a good sell-by date and evidence that the fish have been stored and transported at the right temperature. The same people are less good at spotting the difference between real branded flash and flash made by the same people after hours with recycled half-capacity components and lying firmware. It is worth waiting a couple of days for delivery from a computing specialist - and cheaper.

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Flocke Kroes
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SSDs became cheaper over a year ago

Put your DVD collection on mirrored spinning rust so any Pi in the house can deliver a film without you having to find the DVD, insert it into a player and wait through five minutes for unskippable adverts. Now that the bulk of your data is dealt with take a look at what is left: If found 36GB (mostly cruft) on my laptop. Choices:

Store's own brand 160GB 5400rpm drive for £23.99

Intel 40GB SSD for £24.98

Store's own brand gets me 124GB of wasted space. I thought 160GB spinning disks ceased manufacture years ago. If I am being optimistic, I would expect this drive has spent over a year gathering dust on a shelf. The pessimist in me thinks it is second hand, refurbished and then spent a year on the shelf gathering dust.

An extra £0.99 gets me 4GB of wasted space on an SSD. 40GB sounds sufficiently old that I would wonder about this being a second hand drive. I bet Intel would send a bus full of lawyers to any retailer trying to sell second hand Intel SSDs as new.

The cheapest spinning disk that a manufacturer would put his name on was £34.98 with 464GB of wasted space. I have a choice of 60+GB SSDs for less money leaving me plenty of space for a sack full of new kitten pictures.

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Flocke Kroes
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SSD can increase power use of a laptop

The CPU spends less time waiting for the disk to spin and more time doing something useful.

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Microsoft tells resellers to use Office 365 as loss leader

Flocke Kroes
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Re: loss leader ?

I thought they were asking resellers to work for less than nothing.

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Shellshock over SMTP attacks mean you can now ignore your email

Flocke Kroes
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501 Syntactically invalid HELO argument(s)

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Flocke Kroes
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Mutt gets so close that I decided to check

Mutt does almost everything by delegating the task to some other program selected in the ~/.muttrc file. For example, sending and email is controlled by a setting like this:

set sendmail=“/usr/sbin/sendmail -oem -oi”

man muttrc for the sendmail variable says:

"Mutt expects that the specified program interprets additional arguments as recipient addresses."

When you reply to an email, mutt creates a string by appending the recipient addresses to the sendmail variable, then getting the user's shell (probably bash) to interpret the result.

I tried changing the reply address in an email to things like $(hostname)@localhost and replying. Mutt kept sanitizing the reply address so bash never saw anything dangerous.

I had to hunt through muttrc's man page for about quarter of an hour before I found a way to get the reply address into a command line. Mutt lets you put all sorts of things into command lines, for example %h is replaced by the local hostname. The list of substitutions is different for each variable. I did not find any remotely generated strings available as substitutions in shell commands. Someone thought carefully about blocking advanced users so they cannot accidently reconfigure remote execution flaws into their mail reader.

I was surprised to find mutt was using bash. I expected it to use the 'system' function which calls /bin/sh which (on Debian systems) is a link to dash, not bash. It probably found bash in the SHELL environment variable, which defaults to bash on most Linux distributions.

Linux is covered in places where every detail can be reconfigured with a shell script. The mail system is often extremely flexible, with support for different delivery and transport agents, and multiple spam and virus checkers on incoming, outgoing and forwarded messages. I am not surprised that crackers are looking weaknesses here. There might even be one to exploit (on systems where a half-competent sysadmin has failed to do something clever).

Updating to a recent bash will block this exploit search, so if you haven't already, do it now.

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Computer misuse: Brits could face LIFE IN PRISON for serious hacking offences

Flocke Kroes
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Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges

How many laws have we got already?

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Back to the ... drawing board: 'Hoverboard' will disappoint Marty McFly wannabes

Flocke Kroes
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Saw this type of mag lev in action in 1985

Take a big coil of thick copper wire, plug it into the mains and drop it on a thick sheet of aluminium. The coil will hover and try to fall off the edge of the sheet. If you drill a hole in the sheet, the coil will hover over the hole because moving away takes it further from an edge. With two sheets, you can pretend your coil is a train, and the gap between the sheets is the track. Turn it off before the insulation on your copper wire melts. Afterwards, you can wonder why your train ticket, credit card and floppy disks (1985-style data storage device) don't work.

If you are going to try this on a copper plated surface, be sure to film it. The huge currents in a thin layer of copper will heat things up fast. What happens next depends on what you copper plated. You can get a nice bubbly effect by vaporising the resin in fibreglass. The bumps will break the copper into flakes, which will be scattered by the alternating magnetic field. Your expensive board will then drop onto the hot fibreglass resin.

Control circuits that keep the board level would have been difficult to fit on a board in 1985. Control circuits that keep the board from zooming off the edge of the conductor and the 7 minute battery life are impressive now.

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