* Posts by Jeff Dickey

70 posts • joined 18 Dec 2007

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Microsoft promises IE web-standards love

Jeff Dickey
Boffin

@Kanhef, @rw

Their corporate culture - specifically, their defence against their own corporate culture - make it impossible for them to ship "amazing, innovative, high-quality" software. Go read Steve McConnell's "Code Complete" if you're in the mood for horror. All important decisions are made and cast in lead very early in the project. The initial implementation of a feature is (almost always) the one that ships. Every time I've been in or dealt with MS developers, Agile development, or even research via prototyping, is almost a foreign concept. ("That's what MS Research does.")

It doesn't matter how good the folks in the trenches are - and MS *do* have some of the best, along with too many who should be digging ditches instead - the process is guaranteed to fail if the objective is to ship "amazing, innovative, high-quality" software. On the other hand, the process DOES guarantee them a "theoretically shippable product" very early in the development cycle, and that was the nail they thought they needed a hammer for. Now, they're using that hammer to beat themselves - and us - silly.

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VMware's one-trick pony: Destined to be a platform?

Jeff Dickey

If it works.... the good news is the bad news is the good news...

@Robert Amleth: Yes, I think so, too; VMWare DO "want to own everything." And so do Microsoft. And so do most of the "bigs"; they don't know how to grow in an open, openly-competitive market ecosystem. VMWare, at least, have told themselves that they do know - and that is the root cause of the "comeback".

Thinking about the "one-throat-to-choke" "nirvana"... experienced managers with an appreciation for history may recall that, in the times when Microsoft and, earlier, IBM big iron ruled their respective worlds, the throat that was most often and severely choked was the customer's. Do we as an industry really want to go down that road again? One definition of insanity, after all, is repeating the same actions over and over, in the firm expectation of differing results...

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Spinning the war on the UK's sex trade

Jeff Dickey
Boffin

"Liberal", "Conservative" and the second dimension

People are missing the point, as intended by those making the point.

For thirty years now, we've seen the authentic conservative movement supplanted and suborned by the "Reagan/Thatcher 'conservatives'", who don't actually fit into the traditional conservative (or liberal) queues; they're something quite different.

Radical authoritarians and narcissists. They have successfully used propaganda and the power of the overweening State (anathema to true conservatives) to instigate the most massive transfer of wealth in human history, to the (now-)richest of the rich. Even when they are seen to publicly stumble, as in the current financial crisis, only the lower-level munchkins, 'ordinary people', get whacked - at least without an extremely generous platinum parachute. (Because 'golden' just isn't enough anymore.)

This isn't a 'left'/'right' issue; that's a wedge that's been used to drive propaganda. That tactic has to have been more successful than any of those pushing the buttons in the beginning would have dared imagine: anybody now who suggests that the middle and lower classes should not actively damage their own best interests is loudly shouted down - by the same people who are on the vanishingly-short end of the economic stick. And the real beauty of the system is - the people who attract the most public anger (e.g., the Bushes), while not in any sense blameless, are hardly the greatest beneficiaries of the new regime.

We can't solve the problem until we get sufficiently broad agreement on the real problem.

Where's the IT angle? Everywhere. This agglomeration of wealth, this concentration of power, this emasculation of individual liberties, would hardly have been possible without massive, state-of-the-art IT systems. C4I (command, communication, control, computers and intelligence) applied not by an answerable Government against a military opponent, but by the omipresent, omnipotent State against its own citizens. Those of us who've taken the attitude that "it's jusrt a job" or "it's a neat problem to solve" have lost sight of the effects of our actions just as surely as a bunch of hooligans shooting off firecrackers in a shopping mall to see people run.

And yes, I dealt with some "interesting problems" in my day.

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AMD releases 'world's fastest' graphics card

Jeff Dickey
Joke

@Neil...

That's right... but wait until they roll out the blazing 6MHz clock... I hear you'll actually have a 24 BIT address space with that sucker! Woohoo!

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Greene-free VMware joins Linux club

Jeff Dickey

@Kim Covil

If you're a pure-Linux shop, hopefully you've moved onto other, more clueful vendors for your virtualization tech by now. It will be nice when/if ESX has a native Linux version, interoperable with its existing/up-revved brethren of course; but I don't see too many people holding their breath waiting for it to happen. As you noted, those who absolutely insist on the VMWare route have bit the bullet and sunk money into (hopefully) limited, controlled CP/M 2008 systems; the rest of us just have to find other ways to make do. Life sucks when other companies control your business execution...

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US customs: Yes, we can seize your laptop, iPod

Jeff Dickey
Flame

@AC "All Pre-Planned"

Name me one government that has NOT been "owned and run on behalf of the rich elites." The current problem with the former Constitutional republic once known as the "United States of America" is that the elites currently running the show have overreached so far that, now, everybody sees the "man behind the curtain in Oz" for what he really is. Lord Acton might have had the fictional legal "people" (corporations) which tell Shrub what to pretend to think in mind when he said "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

And for those who are holding out hope that, after 20 January 2009, the Democratic Wing of the Corporate Party will do any better...dream on. All you need to remember on that score is how much of the transition from "rule of law" to "rule BY law" occurred on the watch of President Blowjob (the DMCA is a shining example) and just how close he and his wife/partner came to resuming power this time 'round, until they finally endorsed Bush's Third Term via McCain. 2012 awaits.

As for where all this is going to lead... I'm presently living in a functional one-party state with pretensions of democracy, where those who dare less-than-stellar thoughts about the Great Leader, Father of the Nation, or his Son, the Dear Leader and current Prime Minister, can be made extremely unpleasant. The US Navy is a regular visitor here for shore leave... it has occurred to many expats here that this might well be a model for where the US and UK are headed. If so, then Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Wentworth and the lot made much ado over nothing, and we are much the poorer for it.

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K Desktop Environment 4.1 lands

Jeff Dickey
Coat

@Paul

Paul, you're right about English as the main language... especially for Americans under a certain age (mid-40s or thereabouts). The lengths to which people have been educated to avoid fluency and literacy never continues to boggle the mind. And, sadly, our fellow tech folks are leading the charge.

Mine's the one with the "Dictionaries Aren't for Doorstops" button...

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Apple account hijacks spread to developers

Jeff Dickey
Boffin

@Goat Jam

iTunes is how *everything* from Apple gets distributed; apps, webcasts, etc. In theory, that's because every Mac has iTunes and it's easy to use the system to push out updates and such (that remain separate from the 'Software Update' under the Apple menu).

Several developers have had various gripes about the mechanism, but AFAIK it's always been seen as satisfactory - assuming Apple maintain control and adequate security. Seems that those assumptions may need a refresh.

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Fujitsu intros half-a-tera pocket drive

Jeff Dickey

Fujitsu v. LaCie

If you go over and read the comments on the linked story about the LaCie drive, you'll find a lot of people kvetching about drive reliability. I myself have had two DeathStars; never again. On the other hand, I've a five-year-old Fujitsu that gets knocked about on a daily basis and just works - on a daily basis.

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Vista woes fuel Mac sales surge - analyst

Jeff Dickey
Happy

They've got my money, too - they earned it

I am the pleased-beyond-words owner of a 24" iMac 3.06 Core 2 Duo system for approximately the last six weeks. I have been a professional software developer for nearly 30 years, on everything from microocontrollers to mainframes. I have been developing for Windows from early in the 1.0 prerelease timeframe up until Windows Server 2008. I also have over ten years in Linux; the system to my immediate right is an Acer notebook with Ubuntu, which was my daily muse for over 18 months. I've powered it up exactly nine times in the last six weeks - each of those to transfer files to the Mac.

I briefly dabbled with the Mac in the 1984-1987 time frame, and later got a PowerTower Pro 225 (a 64-bit data path system, I might add) when those were new and shiny. It finally gave up the ghost two years ago; MacOS 8.1 had its fair share of problems, but got the job done nicely; Windows, in comparison, has finally reached across-the-board parity (with 8.1) in this user's and developer's opinion.

What I like about the new system is that it does what Macs have by and large always done: given me what I need in order to accomplish something, and then not yank me out of my concentration zone while I'm doing it. In the early 2000s, I was doing IT support for a (large) mixed Windows/Mac shop in the northwestern US. We had hard data going back over four years that showed, on average, a 74% average productivity improvement by Mac users as compared to Windows usees. We spent an incredible amount of money on the Windows side to try to close that gap, but couldn't. Finally, this company's IT division adjusted chargebacks to reflect the difference in actual support costs and business value. New Mac orders tripled in the first six months of that policy, and tripled again in the next six months. The Windows support people worked like slaves, with massive overtime and heroic effort that often came to naught. This company's Mac support people had not billed a SINGLE hour of overtime - ever - and had user-satisfaction ratings consistently above 90%.

Why am I still excited every time I sit down in front of this Mac, much more so than I have ever been six weeks into a new Windows PC? As my former support colleague used to say, "the difference between a Windows PC and a Mac is.... a Windows [person] tells you everything he had to do to get his work done. A Mac user shows you all the great work she got done. Simple as that."

When I was young and geeky, I enjoyed fiddling with every last bit of software on the system, tweaking that extra 1% of 1% of 1% of "performance" out of it. Now that I've grown up enough to appreciate life away from the keyboard (I'm closer to 50 than 40), I like being able to use a computer the same way I was taught that guys do their shopping:

* Figure out what you want,

* Accomplish the mission,

* Get out and on to the next thing, without any casualties.

I HAD to continually tweak Windows to do anything beyond the basics. I had to regularly tweak Linux so that it could live well in a Windows-dominated world. Other than installing software (a breeze by comparison) and tweaking a (very few) UI preferences, I haven't NEEDED to get greasy with the Mac in order to do anything I've yet set out to. Add to that a startup and shutdown time each well under 15 seconds, and it's clear that Apple appreciates my time. Does Windows?

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File system killer Reiser rejected 3-year sentence

Jeff Dickey
Unhappy

Pissed beyond belief

First, as the earlier poster noted, that he was such an insufferably arrogant ass the entire time up to the Moment of Truth™; he dragged both families through months of needless hell, he caused a great deal of taxpayer money to be spent that could have been saved by a little honesty and humility, and he led a whole lot of Slashdotters and similar folk to question how/why all this was being done - and, by implication, to question the system itself.

He also trashed a nice piece of work that he and quite a few others had put man-years of work into; ReiserFS in any version is moot until and unless someone creates a derivative that is sufficiently different not to be tagged with the original name. While the self-styled hacker counterculture may decide that morbidity is "kewl", those of us who are actually trying to get mainstream businesses to see new ways of doing things can't touch it with a 10-mile pole. Which is too effing bad.

I'll be Googling for any sort of trust fund for the children or memorial for Mrs Reiser that has been set up. I think any of us could forgo a couple of weeks of lattes for a good cause, yes?

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Mystery over Verisign boss' shock exit

Jeff Dickey

Root certificates? What root certificates?

We're talking about Verisign; the only root *anything* they're associated with is the perpetual root-canal-without-anaesthetic they give their paying victims^H^H^H^H^H^H^Husees...

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The gold standard in data storage?

Jeff Dickey
Boffin

Armageddon tired of this sort of thing...

Being able to predict MTTF for a lot of things is (reasonably) straightforward. Publishing the relevant data so that others can do the calculations themselves would seriously improve the believability of marketing claims such as this. But... in the absence of historical data (since we don't have 200 years' experience with BD) and without any way to verify the reasonableness of the claim, it's just counterproductive hype. 'Counterproductive' because it lends the prospective customer to disbelieve the claim, to distrust the company making the claim, and (by extension) to distrust other companies, *regardless of merit*, making what seem to be similar claims.

The ONE medium we can be quite sure will last 200 years is parchment vellum, properly stored and cared for. We *do* have experience with that medium; unfortunately, it's not generally compatible with computer printers. ;-)

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Intel says 'no' to Windows Vista

Jeff Dickey
Happy

@pctechxp et al

There is no point whatever in downgrading to Vista, unless your company derives the majority of its income from very long-term investment in MSFT or CNET (though that last might have been a challenge when it went from $60 to $0.85... now remember: who's been MSFT's biggest fan and how have they been rewarded?)

Vista has been the best thing that ever happened to my business (which revolves around transforming IT to support business processes rather than the usual other way round). I have hard data from several clients showing that per-user costs for Vista for the first year are over ten times the costs for Mac OS X, and six to eight times those for Linux in an office environment. (One of these companies also says that Mac people are 74% more productive than Windows usees.) People buy PCs preloaded with Vista, find it sucks with a perfect vacuum, can't always get XP upgrades supported (less available in Asia than North America), and get VERY hot under the collar. XP was the third and last great OS that MSFT ever put out (the first two being NT 3.51 and W2K), and not being able to get it is starting to give the competition significant traction. I've got systems here running XP, Vista, three Linuxes and an iMac; the latter is what I spend 90% of my own time on. It's even a much better XP machine than my year-old Acer laptop (which I otherwise think is a fine machine).

Between Vista and Office 2007, Microsoft have a lot of urgent damage control to deal with, and throwing chairs and spreading FUD are proven counterproductive methods of dealing with same. I've got a soft spot in my heart for MS; they were good for my career for 25 years... but to tie yourself to the boiler aboard Titanic requires a soft spot in the head, and I hope I don't have any of those in stock. Maybe MSFT have a SKU for it...

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Dell coughs to second Vostro laptop keyboard cock-up

Jeff Dickey
Coat

Dude, you're getting a WHAT?!?

SurfDude: Dude, you're getting a Dell!

Joe6Pack: Oh, shit!

SD: No, dude, seriously, you're getting a Dell!!

J6P: Can I have a root canal instead? Much less painful....

SD: You don't want a classic, all-American computer?

J6P: Not when I am understanding the excellent support gentleman not at all...

SD: OK, how about a Vostro?

J6P: Huh? 'Vosotros' is archaic second-person plural in Spanish....

Dell are a lot like Microsoft. When they started out, you were rooting for them and (usually) enjoyed dealing with them... but now...

Show me a company in any other industry that could repeatedly, knowingly ship defective product and still be near the top in their industry. Only in PCs do we routinely accept such mind-blowingly negligent garbage.

(Mine's the dental coat with the huge bloodstain... Thanks)

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Windows Vista has been battered, says Wall Street fan

Jeff Dickey
Coat

I just want to thank Microsoft for Vista...

...because if it wasn't such an offal POS, I wouldn't have bought my shiny new iMac (even if the shop did throw in MS Office for a song; Office:Mac is a completely different animal than Office/Windows...)

First Mac I've had since my late lamented PowerTower 225 died a while back. I've been using and developing for Windows as long as the brand has existed. I have been noticing a funny thing.... nearly everything about MacOS has been improved, but what I remember from the Victorian Age still works or is easily adaptable. I had need to work with a client's Win95 PC last week (note to self: next time, bill 5x); it's amazing how /little/ of what you think you remember a) works the same as it does in Vista or b) is recoverably discoverable when done wrong the first time.

Mine's the one with the 'Friends don't let friends get used by Windows' button on the lapel....

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Apple mega update strikes out calendar bug

Jeff Dickey
Thumb Up

Just did the update today, and...

... speaking as one who has a brand-spanking-new (3-day-old) iMac, replacing a PowerTower 225 from the Pleistocene, I can say I've seen a heck of a lot worse upgrade/update behaviour, both in Windows and Linux (along with the aforementioned prehistoric relic). I started the update and left it to its own devices for a few hours to go do other things; came back to find the system had gone to sleep. Powered back up, still had the spinning beach ball... time to Force Quit on Finder (which had hung). After that, update took <5 minutes before prompting for a reboot and bringing me a newly-bumped OS release number.

18 hours later, still enjoying the new system; found some neat new and/or updated tools that have (what would be 'remarkably' on other systems) little learning cliff once you're up to speed on any of them; already 'feeling' more productive than on Ubuntu (and don't even /think/ about Vista). Set up some 'simulated' security attacks from other systems on my network and was very happy with the results so far.

Overall, a much, MUCH less painful experience than, say, XP SP3.

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W3C 'clarifies' HTML 5 v XHTML

Jeff Dickey
Boffin

Organic/inorganic standards

If people care enough about Web development in a cooperative, interoperable environment, they'll support XHTML; it *can* be extended in lots of interesting ways without breaking what makes it interoperable; in a word, it's extensible.

HTML 5 likely appeals to you if you thought the recent ISO "standardization" of "OOXML" was well-run and had a positive outcome.

As TFA said, appealing to two different, mutually exclusive audiences.

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Windows XP SP3 blame game begins

Jeff Dickey
Boffin

@Elrond

I use Linux - I'm typing this on an Ubuntu 7.10 system (test system updated to 8.04 yesterday)... but I still use a Mac and am required to support XP as well.... fortunately, none of my clients have drunk the Vista purple Kool-Aid yet (possibly contributing to Vista's purple screen of death? You be the judge...)

I can tolerate XPSP2; it's the closest Microsoft will ever again get to NT 3.51, which for my money was the best OS they ever shipped. I have not upgraded my XP systems to SP3 yet and have recommended to any who ask that they hold of until this shitstorm dies down... which I suspect will be sometime in the SP5 timeframe, if the company survives that long.

To say that Microsoft's best years are behind them, and receding at high warp, is to state the bluntly obvious. If they continue along the arc (death spiral) that they are presently on, sooner or later businesses will start questioning how they can get work done with systems that they have no realistic hope of supporting adequately, let alone improving. For the Linux folks (or the Mac folks) to say "Leave the Dark Side! Come use what we use!' is less than helpful, because, for better or worse, nothing else out there does what Windows does /IN THE WAY WINDOWS DOES IT/. There are millions of "support" techs, "certified" this-or-that, and managers who have drank the MS Kool-Aid for decades, have built their careers and political fortunes on being reflexively Microsoftian... and the cognitive dissonance between political survival and business necessity is going to make Y2K look like a cakewalk. The lesson we'll be able to look back on all this and understand in ten or 20 years' time is obviously "don't use single-vendor proprietary kit for critical stuff that should be standardised" - but we're VERY early in the "fear, anger, denial, bargaining, acceptance" curve.

The other part of this story, as several people have alluded to, is the rapidly, shockingly deteriorating standard of quality at Microsoft. Microsoft has always had defective software - their "Code Complete" process guarantees it - but the last five years have been stunningly inept even by Microsoft standards. Some people blame it on Microsoft's new-found process religion; others blame it on the quality of the H1-Bs they're bringing over. My strong suspicion is that they're both right - but they're both like the blind men trying to figure out the elephant by touching one small part right in front of them. The only people who can see the whole picture are in Redmond - and they're bailing. It's going to be an interesting next few years...

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DoJ beats up tech firm for H-1B only job ads

Jeff Dickey
Boffin

Yes and no...

First off, as an American who has spent 30 years in IT, 10 of those in the US working with H-1B visa holders and the last 5 working in or managing development teams in East Asia, I have to agree fully with "Systematic Erosion" up above. As far as the Count of Monte Cristo comment by Solomon Grundy - I feel your pain, but that pain isn't nearly as bad as what lots of people are feeling. Fully 95% of my American contacts with more than ten years experience and/or born before 1970 have been unemployed for at least five out of the last eight years. This includes a guy with an MBA and a P. Eng., who routinely is told he either a) has too high a rate, b) isn't credible when he says he'll work for a lower rate, and/or c) never gets called by the "recruiters" who use "grep" as a primary resume-filtering tool.

Out of some 55 projects I have worked on and/or observed with significant numbers of H-1Bs in the US, 49 have failed. Of the 15 I have worked in since arriving in East Asia, the only one that failed did so - according to the client - because the infrastructure developed for the project by a large, well-known South Asian outsourcing firm was not fit for purpose, and the budget could not support the level of rework needed....even at "bargain basement" prices.

You really do have to pay for what you get - directly or otherwise. The problem in IT for the last 20 years or so is that we haven't been getting what we've thought - and mediocrity is the new standard of excellence. TANSTAAFL? Must be a technical term - no marketroid, HR bot or CxO has ever thought the concept through.

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No-fly list grounds US Air Marshals

Jeff Dickey
Alert

@Stu Reeves

The race is already over.

"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator" - G. W. Bush, on CNN, 18 December 2000. http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0012/18/nd.01.html

Everything that's happened since has been consistent with publicly-stated policy. in olden days, the "Free World" was basically everyplace outside the USSR. Come the Bushit Revolution (remember, the 'll' is always silent), the "Free World" now comprises all areas outside what once was a Constitutional republic called the United States of America (1789-1992).

Not bothering to AC since 1) I emigrated almost 5 years ago and b) so long as the UK security agencies are so tightly knit to the ex-US insecurity agencies, this is just another corroborating data point.

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US Department of Justice banned from Wikipedia

Jeff Dickey
Boffin

@Tom

'Intifada' originally meant 'uprising', or 'struggle'; it became linked with 'terrorism' only to the degree that the Israeli occupation defines any act of resistance or asymmetric warfare as 'terror'. Have you ever been IN the Occupied Territories - in a role other than as the 1984esque euphemistic 'settler'?

For NPOV to work, all sides have to agree to it. The marvel of Wikipedia is that, on so many topics, people have routinely performed acts of breathtaking sanity and humanity. Injecting those values into BOTH SIDES of the struggle in Palestine would go a long way towards resolving the problems there - and the blowback suffered by outside countries intimately tied to the struggle.

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Judge muzzles Sequoia e-voting attack dogs

Jeff Dickey
Unhappy

Public policy and confidence

The PROMISE of electronic voting is that it can be used as part of a framework to make elections more free, fair, accessible and efficient (in that order of prioritisation). Indeed, several countries around the world have positive experience with this. It is truly ironic that we Americans now look to /other countries/ as the "Free World".

For e-voting to work, it has to be part of a framework as I indicated; it's not a magic bullet. It also has to be implemented and operated in a fully transparent manner, open to public scrutiny and responsive to public criticism and suggestion. Failing that, it turns the table turtle instead of levelling it.

For companies such as Diebold and Sequoia to hold these systems as proprietary, covered by trade-secret law and the DMCA and not subject in any way to public scrutiny or oversight, is appalling. To then have such companies engage in openly partisan activities, favouring candidates who themselves have questions of legitimacy and transparency attached to them, is nothing short of treasonous.

I am an American citizen, born in California. I have lived in or visited more than a dozen other countries, including the Soviet Union, China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Palestine. i find it absolutely outrageous that in each of those countries save one, I felt significantly more free from surveillance and harassment than in the former self-styled 'land of the free and home of the brave'. That what once was a decent-enough constitutional republic called the United States is becoming more like that one country every day is readily apparent to everyone outside its borders, and, fortunately, an increasing number within.

For some time late last year and early this year, it looked like the demand for change was so overwhelming that no amount of skulduggery-as-usual could stop it. That 'danger' appears to be receding; people's votes in the last few primaries have closely tracked the way they've been told to vote by the media, and Tuesday looks fair to be the finale of what was shaping up to be a true danger to the powers-that-be.

But what are we to expect? The US was, after all, the first country to declare that fictional legal persons (known as 'corporations') have greater and more important rights under the law than natural human persons. So long as that remains the case, you can file 'freedom' under that other F-word: 'fiction'.

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Developer leads buff the Ruby slippers

Jeff Dickey
Coat

@AC Noise

First off, I'd point out that I like Ruby - as long as it has nothing to do with Rails. RoR is to Ruby as J2EE is to Java - a vehicle to boost egos, fix what isn't broken and pulverise down to quarks what is.

Secondly, have you looked at the comparative figures between, say, Toyota, General Motors and Rolls Royce? Just because a market is specialized does NOT mean it can't support an ecosystem that can give its participants a very nice lifestyle, thank you very much.

Mine's the one with "Certified Studebaker and Trabant Mechanic" on the back... :-P

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CodeGear's Delphi PHP suite gets nip and tuck job

Jeff Dickey
Boffin

A Craftsman hammer vs. a Stanley hammer

...either will still pound nails; it's just a question of which one feels better in your hand.

The point is...we're still in a <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craft">craft-work</a>, solidly pre-engineering phase of development. The software for the Jules Verne ATV or the Boeing 787 Dreamliner may be the most complex, needful-of-near-perfection software we have yet created; amazing achievements - but still, a monumental achievement in the literal sense, on the order of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reims_Cathedral">the cathedral at Reims</a>, where major features were over-engineered by now-seemingly "ridiculous" levels because structural and materials knowledge at the time was not in any way up to today's levels.

All the "patterns" and "best practices" and so on that have yet become reasonably widespread in our craft do not yet combine to form a body of knowledge on the same level as, say, a civil engineer's ability to predict how a dam built of certain materials to certain dimensions and located on a specific place on a river will hold back that river's water. In other words, we haven't yet met the definition of "engineering" as "using a known process to take sufficiently known inputs and produce a sufficiently knowable product, by individuals whose knowledge and/or education meets an industry-wide set of standards."

"Software is different," you say. "Anybody can learn to do it, and we don't need no stinkin' gubbamint regulation." The first part is (technically) true, as long as quality of resulting work is ignored. As for the second.... imagine a failure scenario such as this: a "market-leading" spreadsheet, used to build the software that presents information to millions of small/midsize businesses around the world, ships an update that includes a subtle, seemingly intermittent defect. That bug happens to get exercised in complex calculations across multiple pages of a spreadsheet - say, the kind of thing that these companies use to plan and track some budgetary areas. As a result of the problem, errors are introduced into these calculations that cause American businesses collectively to "lose" billions of dollars, often going bankrupt in the process. Does anybody seriously believe that the government wouldn't - or shouldn't - intervene <em>once it were shown that the defect was a root cause of the fault</em>?

"Poppycock", you say (if not something less printable). "THEY wouldn't ever screw up that badly." To which I have two, engineering-related, responses. First, remember the FDIV bug. Then think about pumps and dikes in New Orleans - a very engineering-aware failure.

Finally...consider this: At what point does a recently-widespread technology or practice (such as software construction) acquire sufficient impact on and importance to public policy, safety, health and welfare that any government that fails to at least actively monitor its development and use becomes negligent in its duties? Would you want to drive a car built by home hobbyists that lacked sealed headlamps, seat belts or safety glass? Would you, as a member of the motoring public who saw that others were driving such a car, feel safe and unaffected?

Is a world largely dependent upon a single vendor's software which exercises no effective oversight or regulation of that software, or the dependencies being built on it, truly sane? Or has it degenerated into a miasma of Randian "individualistic" groupthink that may well cost it dearly later on?

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Network Solutions hijacks customer sub-domains for ad fest

Jeff Dickey
Unhappy

Those who see ethics as obsolete and as a liability...

deserve to get shafted as badly as the sum total of what they've dished out to others. With interest. I will never again do business with Network Solutions, Inc, nor with any known subsidiaries, successors or assigns. Two of the first questions I ask any Web-development client prospects are "who is your hosting provider? who is your registrar?" If either of those come back "NetSol" or "I don't know" (depressingly common for registrars), I show them a whois on their domain along with the first few pages of search-engine results for "network solutions" and several 'colorful metaphors' such as those expressed above. You'd be amazed at the cluelessness; some of these people wouldn't know a cluetrain if it ran them over whilst they were tied to the rails.

@John Lodge: "a touch unethical"? is that like "a little bit pregnant" or "slightly evil"? Details (off-list, natch) would be highly appreciated; ay and all available weapons we can use to beat these fraudsters and those who would willingly become victims into a bloody pulp with only subatomic cohesion are, in my view, a Very Good Thing.

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HTC Touch Dual smartphone

Jeff Dickey
Coat

I'm trying really, REALLY hard...

to want to be an HTC user. On pixels, they have fantastic stuff until you look at the fine print (what's 'acceleration'? or this 'Wi-Fi' thingie that we've *already got hardware support for*'? No standard headphone jack? What are you supposed to use, a Bluetooth stereo headset? There goes the battery life downwards, never to come within hailing distance of 'adequate' again...)

When I'd started looking at them after deciding to ditch my (original) Nokia N70, they looked good...but having been burnt by too-new, unreliable crap-mislabeled-as-software, I decided to wait. Now, one of the (apparently few) happy Motorola customers thinking about a more bling-y set, I'm left scratching my head. Prices here in Singapore - compared to the Moto V9 or even the Nokia latest - are high enough that you really wonder what you're getting for the money. A better 3G experience? Doubtful. More capable/stable software? It's Windows Mobile (né WinCE; correctly pronounced 'wince' after the most common user action). 'Nuff said about that...

Mine's the one with the 'I just want to get stuff *DONE*' button on the lapel...

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Jules Verne mates with ISS

Jeff Dickey

Of course it's disposable...

...and not recyclable. The so-far ultimate expression of our consume-everything society-that-calls-itself-a-civilisation.

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Lieberman's campaign to blame for website crash

Jeff Dickey
Coat

Can a politician of Likudman's "quality" make an "honest mistake"?

Didn't think so. And I'm not hiding behind an AC.

Mine's the one with the "No Fox News Guarding the Henhouse" button.

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Hackers target outsourced app development

Jeff Dickey
Flame

All too true...

In close to two decades working on both sides of the outsourcing/offshoring suicide pact, the next project I see that comes in under 150% of budget OR 200% of schedule with 70% or more of requirements met with properly audited, documented code will be the first.

I believe it's possible - just not with the current set of providers or with the currently-fashionable customer priorities. Two real quotes get the point across: an outsourcing client was once heard to say "We will spare no expense to cut costs." They went out of business less than two years later. One outsourcing provider, when asked about the (truly execrable) quality of their documentation and business communication, replied, "We're paid to write Java, not English. We are having people here with excellent credentials to do our writings for us." We declined to retain them on any future projects; I wish I could say that they crashed and burned too, but P. T. Barnum might as well be technology and trade minister for Karnataka state.

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Ohio voting machines confiscated in criminal investigation

Jeff Dickey
Flame

Here's one...

Several places in the Free World already basically do it this way:

1) Voter uses machine to enter votes. Machine is in a

2) Voting machine spits out a human- and machine-readable paper with votes tallied on it. Machine displays summary of entered votes and maybe an image of what the printout should look like. Voter inspects and verifies his ballot.

3) If the voter decides that the ballot isn't correct, he puts it into another slot in the voting machine, where it is cross-cut shredded and the voter tries again.

4) If the voter approves the ballot, he takes it to the pollworkers' table. There he signs a form declaring that he has inspected and approved the ballot that is about to be put into the ballot box. He keeps one part of the form; the other is put into a box separate from the ballot box (where it can be counted later, to make sure that the number of affidavits and ballots match). There is an ID number on both parts of the form, but that does NOT match or get correlated with any information on the ballot proper....it's just an auditing check.

5) After the polls close, both sealed boxes (ballots and affidavits) get sent to the central counting location, where they are unsealed, counted, and the number of ballots matched against the number of affidavits.

Known issues:

1) If the number of ballots and affidavits for a precinct did NOT match, resolution would be difficult. Even if an electronic record were made by each voting machine as to how many votes had been cast, discrepancies would still risk endangering confidence in the election's integrity.

2) Manual recounts would be entirely practical, though difficult to match against voting-machine electronic records unless identifying/correlating information were added during the counting process - which would have its own set of problems.

I don't think anyone's yet come up with a plan for electronic or electronic-assisted voting thats sufficiently fraudproof and sufficiently idiotproof to trust a real election to it. Americans have learned not to trust "black boxes" in the voting booth, with good reason. While I wouldn't go quite so far as rd232, I am quite confident that highly motivated individuals and organizations are working to perfect his theory. At which point, comparing the US to a third-world banana republic would be even more egregiously unfair than it is already - to the third-world country in question. If we do not have transparent, straightforward, trustable elections, then nobody will trust them - not only the wingnuts on all sides, *everybody*. When that happens -- and if we keep going as we are, it IS 'when', not 'if' -- then the 'great experiment in democracy' will have been conclusively, objectively proven to have failed. Not that the theory is invalid - but in practice, the price of freedom IS eternal vigilance, and what was once the United States of America has been distracted, triangulated, hyperbolized and otherwise marginalized for a generation.

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Intel's first quad-core mobile aimed at gamers

Jeff Dickey
Boffin

@Monkey

Simple - for those living in cramped quarters (most of the urbanized world), laptops take less storage/usage space than desktops do. I can set up three laptops on a desk which is barely big enough for a "mini-tower" desktop and its paraphernalia; two are in near-constant use.

There's also the "SUV factor" to think about. Just as carmakers make a lot more profit on SUVs than they do on generic sedans, PC makers can sell laptops at a significant premium over similarly-equipped desktops. Look for that quad-core mobile laptop to debut at 30%-60% more than a comparable desktop system - and to fly off the shelves.

Apple, of course, is a different situation entirely. As the CEO of Rolex was famously quoted as saying, "I'm not in the watch business. I'm in the luxury business." It's still a good decade to be an Apple shareowner. Much better, in fact, than owning (never mind licensing) Microsoft.

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Nokia N96 to land in August

Jeff Dickey
Unhappy

@Rus

The TyTN was something I'd been drooling over for some time; was just about to put my money down when I came across things like http://htcclassaction.org/ - if a tenth of what they and sites like them say is true of the typical HTC user experience and the company's attitudes towards it's customers... I'd rather do business with a less unethical company, thanks Neither Apple nor Nokia have shown me exactly what I want in a phone - I love the IDEA of the TyTN Dual - at least they're both companies that I've been dealing with for years (read "known quantities") that have, in their variously dunderheaded ways, at least tried.

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10 ways to improve your code

Jeff Dickey
Boffin

@AC ("Maybe, maybe not")

I think the point is to avoid writing more code than is needed Right Now; the old Einstein-attributed "solutions should be as simple as possible but no simpler" applies just as much as common sense does. "Common sense", as AC indicated, is to have some sense of the entire life cycle of the code you're working on; if you have good reason to believe that Feature X will need to be added at some point but a) it's not needed now, b) taking what will be needed to support Feature X into consideration during the current design is cheaper than refactoring later, and incidentally c) thinking ahead doesn't introduce negatives like dead code or performance penalties into the current system, then go for it. If any of these preconditions doesn't apply, then keep your eyes on the ball that's being pitched at you now and refactor later.

As somebody else noted, 'wisdom of the ancients'. One thing I like about the whole TDD/XP way of doing things is that it reinforces a lot of the habits us OldTimers(TM)(R)(LSMFT) built up back in the day, that whippersnappers with their "Don't Worry, Be Crappy" attitude tried to throw under the wheels.

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Apple fans roast Apple fans

Jeff Dickey
Flame

Those who do not remember history...

...never had Thin Macs, over which, as a stunt, I once demonstrated the art of roasting marshmallows through advanced technology. Yes, it did get that hot.

One of the reasons I was so happy to get my PowerTower Pro 250 was that I didn't need to sit in the middle of an industrial refrigeration unit while using it (to keep from overheating either the Mac or myself). That system still works; how many 12-year-old Windows PCs can be used today?

I've been developing for Windows as long as there's *been* a Windows, and for the Mac since 1985. Given a choice, I'd never do battle with Windows again. But at least, recent graphics cards excepted, I don't fear waking up to a puddle of molten plastic and metal if I leave a Windows PC on overnight.

Flame icon in keeping with the metaphor...I could have taken my coat, but they don't sell asbestos ones anymore...

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Google takes a swipe at OOXML

Jeff Dickey
Black Helicopters

It's called "Office Open XML" for a reason.

JohnQPublic: How can you say with a straight face that it's open?

SteveB: It's open because "we" say it is. And "we" also get to say what the meaning of "open" is. And what the meaning of "is" is.

JohnQPublic: But will I still be able to use my old documents in the future? After all, with Office 2007, I can't open files from 15 years ago.

SteveB: We will continue to exercise leadership over the Office Open XML format to leverage increased profitability for our company and, by exercising control over the entire document creation, revision and access process, simplify the consumer experience.

JohnQPublic: You didn't answer my question!

SteveB: Thank you for your time. The $250 fee for high-level interaction will be deducted from your registered bank account for each of the next 36 months.

[SteveB has left the conversation]

From the Approved Dictionary, 1984-Centennial Edition:

free-dom (ˈfrē-dəm), n. (obs.): A mythological basis for Government, briefly popular as feudalism transitioned to modern fascist kleptocracy.

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Microsoft's LAMP answer arrives in pieces

Jeff Dickey
Boffin

It's like politics, see....

The battle used to be between conservatives (mainframes), moderates (minicomputers like the HP 3000) and liberals (PCs), who were ridiculed by the first two groups as childish and naive.

Now, just as in politics, IT has turned 90 degrees so that the most visibly important split is between authoritarians (symbolized perfectly by MS and MISS/WISH) and libertarians (open source proponents, e.g., LAMP developers/deployers). In both worlds, "you're either for us or against us" and the One who crowed about being "a uniter, not a divider" until gaining Absolute Power has led to the most poisonous divide in recent history, risking their entire enterprise's future on actions that it can't rationally justify.

@Dave Lawless et al: The point of LAMP is that I can go to any vendor for any part. I can rip out any piece of my stack and replace it. Hitting some wall with Linux? Several BSDs and Open or closed Solaris give me options that simply don't exist in the Microsoft continuum. Have a great new idea for a business that requires a customized server-side database engine? Open source like MySQL lets *me* decide what IS is in my context. Have a skunkworks project that a ragtag team will build but which could scale up to illions of euros of revenue? I'd have to pay at least a few of those illions to Microsoft ust to get my idea off the ground, more illions to the regiments of 'support' people who keep things from falling apart as fast as they wold otherwise, and forego more illions in opportunity cost because my MS-based system is slow, late, defective and fails to deliver value to the customer. (How can it deliver more value than my competition to the customer, since the 'technology' used to build it doesn't deliver as much value to me as the stack my competitor uses delivers to him?)

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Comcast pays Americans to oppose net neutrality

Jeff Dickey

Obvious business opportunity

GOOG or somebody who can get the bandwidth should start up a Free Speech Internet service where, for a few bucks a month, they offer you an encrypted SSH-style tunnel to their random (non-US) peering connections ("multi-Sagan bandwidth" to you non-telecom types), decrypt the packets and put them out on the backbone. Of course it's more complicated than that, but as some of my other geek friends would say, that's what makes it interesting.Your local ISP would just see a lot of encrypted traffic on a port they're unlikely to shape (because their business customers would scream bloody murder), and hey presto! No more (local) corporate sniffing of your underdrawers.

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Ubuntu chief ushers in the age of Intrepid Ibex

Jeff Dickey
Coat

Don't talk back to Ubuntu 15.10

With apologies to The Coasters.

(Mine's the leather one, signed by Dub Jones and Carl Gardner)

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Star Trek XI release knocked back to 2009

Jeff Dickey
Black Helicopters

The only canon dealt with in ST XI

will be the cannon aimed at the suckers^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hfans. The good news: they got rid of Braga and Berman. The bad news: they hired P.T. Barnum and a greedy accountant.

They let on like they didn't learn their lesson from Enterprise. Since that lesson would have required a maximum of five brain cells working together, and since you don't get to spend large amounts of OPM twice if you've demonstrated yourself to be pathologically unintelligent on the first round, the motive here has to be something other than continuing "the voyages of the Enterprise" and cashing the checks.

Methinks Paramount want to "move on"; if the movie bombs at least as badly as current information and expressed attitudes indicate that it should, then the beancounters will be able to put Star Trek (and, more generally, any non-fantasy, 'human' SF) into cold storage for a generation. We'll get more sword-and-sorcery epics, more 'cute robots' doing what 50 years ago were called 'cute baby' films, and so on. Look at it this way: most of the people making the real business decisions (and that's really what we're talking about here) are under 55, and the American educational system has been systematically dismantled over the last 35. The *LAST* thing these people - or the ones writing the checks - want is a new generation of young people inspired by possibilities and challenging the status quo. Star Trek, especially the TOS variety, did that much more than the PTB these days are comfortable with.

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Comcast cops to BitTorrent busting

Jeff Dickey
Flame

@Brent Gardner

Of course they're operationally ignorant. Name one corporate monopoly that actually *satisfies* its victims (no, then they'd be 'customers') as a matter of course, and doesn't spend millions of its victims' payment dollars on The Best Congress Money Can Buy. If they need to buy more Congresscritters, they just up the subscription rates - it's not like they have to worry about competitors. Sort of like Congress... though I'm not quite clear on who learned that trick from whom. But the point is, Comacast et al are spending money and time (money again) on this sort of BS when they could be at least marginaly keeping up with what residential customers in the Free World consider marginally acceptable Net access (like the 10 Mbps down/2 up that is mid-range in Singapore, or the 1 Gbps being rolled out in Korea. Think about that for a minute, and then go back to your 1.5 Mbps 'high-speed' connection.)

If there was ever a poster child for striking down the whole concept of corporate personhood (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_Personhood_Debate for a discussion) and the century-plus of Really Bad Law based on it, Comcast and the other megacomms would be on the *very* short list.

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Tools vendors stuck on UML and agility

Jeff Dickey
Alert

We need to be agile, come UML or high water

Do any of you other old-timers feel like UML exists mainly to sell CASE tools and consulting time? I've seen God-knows-how-many projects where everyone was *required* to know, say, Rational Rose, but there was absolutely no requirement that the project have anybody who used it particularly well. Kind of like MS Project or it's much better, more upscale distant cousin, Primavera. If you see MS Project on every screen, you know the project's in trouble; if you see Primavera on a few top managers' screens, and nobody else diddles with it, you start thinking that "maybe this project has a chance".

Or have I been wrong for the last few years, and Agile wasn't primarily a defiant scream of independence from just such mind-rot?

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Microsoft acquires Sidekick designer

Jeff Dickey
Alert

@AC ("Desperate or what!")

Exactly. They're acting like a more paranoid Borg on steroids, but they're trying to project "We Are The World" to the buying sheeple. It will be interesting to see how long they can keep that schizophrenia "working"...

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Comcast: Our BitTorrent busting is 'best in class'

Jeff Dickey
Flame

Yet aother reason not to move back...

Here in Singapore, I'm paying for a 10 Mb/sec connection which, in eight months' service thus far, I've never seen drop below 12 (between me and their edge router; they've got two internal routers with all the stability of nitroglycerin in an Oklahoma tornado during a 12.0 earthquake, but that's another story.) It's costing me less than US$50 a month, even though we essentially only have one DSL provider (SingTel) and one cable provider (StarHub, who presently max out at 100 MB/sec for US$88 - with unlimited VOIP thrown into the package). From evverything I've been able to see and read, these service levels and price points don't exist anyplace in the former USA, let alone in the large-ish California city my folks live in (which has two "competing" monopoly providers: one cable, one DSL). The difference seems to be... on this side of the Pacific, monopolies are regulated with a view towards actually providing service to the public, and in the States, monopolies are viewed as the absolute monarchs of their fiefs, with the peasants kept firmly in line. Until Americans collectively decide that we want to be citizens of a functional republic again rather than mere consumers in the worst Jerry Michalski tradition, this will not change; the US will continue to become an island of technological Sopwith Camels in a world moving at TGV speeds. Instead, people are repeatedly hoodwinked into acting against their own self-evident interests, and shouting down anybody who has the temerity to point this out.

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EFF and chums sue Feds over border laptop inspections

Jeff Dickey
Flame

@Paul Murray

TOUS les Américains sont pas monolingues bêtement; seulement celles qui sont en cours d'exécution ("execution" en anglais aussi) du pays. J'ai étudié le français sept ans dans école et uni. On me dit que j'ai un léger accent de Montréal - peut-être parce que j'ai survécu deux hivers y sont stationnés par ma société à l'époque.

For the other Americans:

Not ALL Americans are stupidly monolingual, only the ones in charge of running ("exécution" in French, "execution" is an apt English word) of the country. J studied French for seven years in school and uni. I'm told that I have a slight Montréal accent - possibly because I survived two winters while stationed there by my company at the time. (Unneeded by anybody who knows, but in that part of Canada it's apparently not unusual for winters to get to -40 or below... -40 is where F and C scales cross. You California kids can't even imagine it.)

Satan will be building igloo skyscrapers before I so much as transit the former US with personal data unencrypted and visible. Two quotes come to mind: the John Perry Barlow quote about private keys, and Thomas Jefferson's "tree of liberty." Jefferson's America no longer exists.

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Ruby project yields to Microsoft

Jeff Dickey
Go

Might be a Good Thing

Folks know I'm no Borg apologist - I make a good chunk of my living moving people *off* Microsoft - but I think we (FLOSS folks and Ruby developers) are going to be better off because of it.

We get one first-class Ruby implementations instead of two B-level efforts, sooner than either would have been 'ready' otherwise. And for those who really, viscerally can't stand anything Microsoft touches.... since the whole point is to bring a toolchain that is already running quite well, thank you, on FLOSS systems to the Dot-Nyet platform... you're shooting yourselves and everybody else in the short and curlies, since we're talking about a platform that Microsoft already *own*.

Of course there's going to be "proprietary" ".Net-only" changes and "extensions". That was a given on both efforts as I understood them pretty much from the get-go; there *had* to be, to work effectively with .NET. The Microsoft cheerleaders will see this (rightly enough) as another feather in their cap; the users who want to use IronRuby as a "stepping stone" to eventually transition off .NET know that they're going to have to rewrite some code, and the free-at-any-cost true-GNUers probably were never targeting Ruby-on-.NET anyway.

@Lance: speaking as a long-time true-GNUer, it's time to take your meds now.

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US Army struggles with Windows to Linux overhaul

Jeff Dickey
Boffin

Re: Frenching Connections

@Nigee: They'd be even denser than their usual neutronium-headed worst if they don't have a few boffins actually looking at it and evaluating a fork.

@AC re @Austin: Damn you, sir! You're going to have me laughing randomly for the next four hours as one or another of your alternative titles pops into mind. Definitely time to grab your coat, go home to the missus and have a well-deserved pint!

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MiYahoo's future rests with open source and courage

Jeff Dickey
Thumb Down

Dog food

What is the end result when dogs like Microsoft eat their own food?

Precisely. The difference, of course, is that 'real' processed dog food has/can have biologically useful effects (fertilizer). I don't see any such benefits from the Microsoft rape of Yahoo!.

'Peaceful coexistence' only works if you're not trying to kill each other off. That pretty much eliminates Microsoft coexisting with anybody. 'Productively consuming' only works if the consumer's biochemistry is compatible with the consumee's. With the very definition of the Cathedral against the bazaar, that doesn't seem very likely, either.

Hey, Steve! If you're throwing money into the fire, sleip a billion or so my way...I can obviously use it a hell of a lot more productively than you can!

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US navy electro-cannon test successful

Jeff Dickey

Bits and pieces

@Vladimir...

Isn't it obvious? Those tiny, overheated fragments were the remains of the budget busted to build the BFG in the first place!

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Secret bidder delivers 'open access' to US airwaves

Jeff Dickey
Coat

What's the line from "About Schmidt"?

....where Jack Nicholson, whose character is a retiring insurance exec, says (IIRC) "Tell me a man's age, race, marital status, where he lives and works and what he does for a living, and I can tell you with great certainty how long that man will live." Hasn't that been true of actuarial science for some time now? If you have enough of the right statistics to back you up, you can predict almost anything - though "enough of the right statistics" can be a HUGE cliff to climb in practice!

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