* Posts by Greg Fawcett

27 posts • joined 14 Feb 2008

Androids in celluloid – which machine deserves the ULTIMATE MOVIE ROBOT title?

Greg Fawcett
Terminator

I'll be baaaack

Can't take this seriously without the terminators.

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Microsoft's Azure goes TITSUP PLANET-WIDE AGAIN in cloud FAIL

Greg Fawcett

Depends on the cloud. We've used Appengine for more and more of our business over five years, and it's been more reliable than our own servers for the last three.

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Soylent Corporation prepares to DEFEAT FOOD

Greg Fawcett
Facepalm

Is May 21st the new April 1st?

Anyone calling a nutritional drink "Soylent" is either having a lark; depending on very twisted viral marketing; or is in for a nasty surprise when they google their product's name for the first time.

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I am NOT a PC repair man. I will NOT get your iPad working

Greg Fawcett
Linux

Finally the true reason I use Linux emerges...

I switched to Linux years ago, and tell everyone I don't know how Windows works any more. Works a treat.

Occasionally someone calls my bluff and gets me to install Ubuntu, but even then the support calls are few and far between.

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Microsoft to end Windows 8 discounts on January 31

Greg Fawcett
FAIL

Or get a chromebook

I bought one of Google's $249 chromebooks for evaluation. If I was a diligent IT manager, I'd be very tempted to buy everyone one and finally ditch MS - along with all the SQL, Outlook and Sharepoint servers, Office licences, virus defences and backup facilities. Users would be happy to get a sexy new laptop, and it would decimate support costs.

But most IT managers will rail against Chromebooks, because their departments, budgets and influence will shrink.

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Thanks ever so much Java, for that biz-wide rootkit infection

Greg Fawcett
Facepalm

Diversity is the answer

Malware depends on an ecosystem, and at the moment Windows is so pervasive that it is an easy target. Given the move to browser-based apps, surely it would make sense for companies to split their desktops into three types - Linux, Windows and MacOS. Then any malware infection will only affect a third of their operation.

If everyone did this, then malware would have a much harder time, just as real infections struggle to spread if much of the population is immunised.

As a side issue it would also finally put those eternal questions about relative vulnerability and TCO to rest - just imagine all the real life comparisons free of sales/fanboi spin.

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Windows 8: Download it, then speak YOUR brains

Greg Fawcett
Big Brother

Try a REALLY new OS

import Ballmer

Ballmer.emit("This version of Windows is the most %s Microsoft has ever released" % random.choice("important", "innovative", "valuable", "incredible"))

Ballmer.think(random.choice("for my stock options", "forces a wacky UI on users", "making customers pay all over again", "that loyal customers put up with being treated as thieving bastards")

Our company escaped the MS ecosystem five years ago, and have never looked back. Apart from their complete lack of ethics, the level of control MS insists on just keeps escalating. Your PC? Har har... you may have paid for it, but MS owns it.

Our PCs use 100% of their power doing what we need them to do. Windows PCs spend most of their resources checking you haven't pirated anything, that every action you take isn't infecting it, reporting back to Redmond, and popping up annoying windows when anything slightly unusual happens so MS can cover their bums by saying "well you agreed to that so don't blame us for allowing a rootkit to install itself". We're way more productive, and spend much less on hardware, support and licensing.

So rather than download Win8, why not download and try a really revolutionary operating system? The only thing you have to lose is your shackles.

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Amazon cloud knocked out by violent storms in Virginia

Greg Fawcett
Facepalm

Glad we chose Appengine...

We build our apps on Google's Appengine. We monitor every five minutes, and have not detected a single outage in over a year (since we switched to their high replication datastore). I know AWS outages only affect limited sets of their customers, but they seem to happen fairly frequently.

Appengine did require a mind-shift and some re-engineering of our APIs. But on the credit side of the ledger it also removed a lot of sysadmin work because it is a platform rather than raw infrastructure. Which also reduces the chances of outages due to someone munting your database/web/mail server configuration.

Of course, now I've mentioned this, Appengine will suffer a global failure in 3... 2... 1...

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Google's Facebook: It rocks, but who cares?

Greg Fawcett
Mushroom

Google+ will explode when they open to under 18s

My two sons lied about their age to sign up. Since then they've spent literally hours using Hangout to video chat with their mates. This is the killer app - Facebook's hurriedly bolted on skype client only does two-party video chat, and doesn't cut it.

I think that Hangouts plus all the other facebook fuctionality done right will get Google significant market share.

Explosion because that's what'll happen to our bandwidth when everyone's kids are hangouts 24/7.

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Let the Cloud Developer Wars begin

Greg Fawcett
Go

App Engine is Ready for Business

I run my business on Appengine - with a standard account. The business account is really only necessary if you need HTTPS or cannot easily translate your SQL data to the datastore.

Appengine has been running for several years now, and I think it's fair to say that most of the kinks have been ironed out now. I couldn't in good conscience advise anyone to use the other PaaS offerings unitl they've been battle-hardened for a couple of years.

I'll bet it was a sysadmin who said "Being master of your own destiny is priceless". We can't afford to hire sysadmins as good as Google's, so when something breaks I'm comfortable that Google will fix it faster than anyone we could have hired. And things don't break that often either - I can't remember the last unscheduled outage that affected our service on Appengine.

The other huge benefit with PaaS is scalablility. I'd love to hear what the master of his own destiny says when his site gets mentioned on Oprah! An Appengine user showed a graph the other day of their traffic spiking from 5 to to 900MBs for ten minutes, with Appengine automatically spinning up extra instances to handle it. The best part is he only paid for the extra instances for those ten minutes.

So unless you are the stock exchange, you'll probably be quite happy with the uptime - and even happier with what you're paying for an infinitely scalable service.

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Microsoft: 'No one cares about Google's dev cloud'

Greg Fawcett
FAIL

All Talk

It's not what you say, it's what you do. My company has been using Appengine for several production applications for two years, while Azure is still basically a technology preview.

But let's suspend disbelief, and ignore Appengine's superior maturity, stability and cost because some guy who doesn't wear a jacket says appengine is "almost non-existent". Microsoft are still going to find the institutional memory of how they treated their customers in the bad old monopoly days very hard to shift. It would be a foolhardy CTO who'd surrender his company's web infrastructure to Microsoft's tender mercies.

You might argue that the same CTO would be just as foolhardy to trust in Google's tender mercies, to which I'd make two points. First, Google's track record might not be the unblemished non-evilness they'd like you to believe, but compared to Microsoft's satanic reign of dirty tricks and exploitation, they are choirboys. Secondly, Appengine provides easy access to your data, and sponsors a project that makes a stand-alone version of appengine that you can pretty much drop your code and data into. So if Google do leave the choir stall, our apps can leave Google.

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Windows Phone 7 gets 'goodie' update

Greg Fawcett
Joke

It's RIDICULE, not hate.

MS have to update their updater before they can do any updates? Lame...

But the big one is that Android updates itself - you don't need a PC. Given that their phone is the ONLY computer that the majority of mobile users have (think developing countries), isn't it a wee bit short-sighted to have updates only possible through a PC? This kneecaps both WP7 and iPhone in the biggest markets in the world.

You'd expect these sorts of glitches from the first device in a space, but when you're trying to enter a market four years after the leader, and two years after a massively popular (and free) alternative, you'd better have ironed all the glitches out out of your product. And if you haven't, and you're a multinational that thinks it's the pinnacle of software development, prepare to be ridiculed!

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Memo to Microsoft: don't bet against Amazon

Greg Fawcett
Pint

And Google's Appengine?

You might want to add Appengine to the mix. Granted, it is different from most of the others in that it is a totally managed environment, but this means it abstracts the sysadmin as well as the hardware. This allows developers to concentrate on the application, instead of whether they've patched whatever the vulnerability du jour is.

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PARIS in 89,000 ft climax

Greg Fawcett
Thumb Up

Accidentally Perfect Release

If you think about it, you actually WANT to release when the balloon pops - the maximum possible altitude. If there is going to be a next time, I'd work on this.

Also like the idea of releasing from the tail - a small wire hook there would be far better than the long wire in the current design, and less chance of icing up.

Congratulations - awesomely silly project, but all the more fun because of it.

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Screwpop Tool

Greg Fawcett
Thumb Down

Bye bye credit cards...

... if that nice strong magnet gets anywhere near your wallet.

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Carrier apathy depresses Google Phone outlook

Greg Fawcett
Thumb Up

Marketing is King

I got a Nexus sent over to NZ for much less than the cost of an Iphone, and pay NZ$30/month to run it (voice+3G data). It is simply AWESOME - if I had a magic wand, the only thing I'd change would be a battery that lasts forever. Everything else is that good.

Which just goes to show that marketing now rules our world. You can build the perfect phone, and no-one will buy it because they aren't instructed to by flashy adverts. Sad.

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New trial means Unix ownership still up for debate

Greg Fawcett
Linux

Actual Position

The judgement did two things:

1. It said that there was a tiny possibility that SCO could win a jury trial for the copyrights, so the summary judgement that they were Novell's was overturned.

2. It confirmed that SCO owes Novel more money than it has, for license payments they didn't make.

So although the media is painting this as a "OMG SCO Rises From the Dead" story, it isn't. A third factor is that SCO is now in Chapter 11, with a trustee about to be appointed to take over running of the company. The litigious idiots who ran SCO into the ground are packing their belongings into boxes, and the trustee is likely to declare Chapter 7 after a few days of looking at the books.

This isn't ideal - it would have been nice to have the copyright issue finally laid to rest rather than being buried with the rotten corpse. There is a chance that another litigious idiot will buy the law suit, but it is very unlikely that they would prevail. They would have to first win a thousand to one jury trial against Novel (including upsetting a central plank of US contract law in the process) to take ownership of the UNIX copyrights. Then they'd have to prove significant copying from their code to linux, and so far they haven't been able to show a single valid example in 6 years. Then they'd have to somehow get around the fact they they themselves released a linux distribution under the GPL, in effect liberating anything they could possible claim copyright on.

So a more accurate assessment would actually be that SCO was back at square minus 3 - where they started, with no money left, serious doubt over whether they own the copyrights at all, and management being evicted.

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Shuttleworth: standards and open source against 'gross' cloud lock-in

Greg Fawcett

...or Google Appengine

Google's Appengine is a different type of cloud - a lot higher level, so you don't have to worry about the OS - which is good if you believe Google's sysadmins are better than you, and bad if you want to do low-level tinkering (using any port but http, for instance).

Standardising this would be a very different exercise, requiring standardised APIs rather than standardised machine image management.

We need a finer definition of cloud services - maybe "Cumulus cloud" for low level Amazon-style clouds, and "Cirrus clouds" for high level Appengine-style offerings.

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Mathematica man brews 'AI' Google Killer™

Greg Fawcett

I did read NKS... it's laughable.

There is a reason for peer review, and NKS is the perfect demonstration. I am not a genius, but I found several places where Wolfram claimed supernatural properties for automata, but which were very ordinary artifacts of simple number theory.

Add in the unfettered "I'm such a stunningly clever bastard" subtext that not-so-subtly underlies every paragraph, and it quickly becomes a sickening experience. "If you focus your attention and listen closely, you can hear his ego approaching critical mass, preparing to implode on itself" - right on the nose.

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Microsoft boffins devise 'secure' Gazelle browser

Greg Fawcett

Firefox doesn't warrant a mention?

So it's more secure than IE (well blow me down with a feather) and Chrome... but what about the world's second most popular browser?

Surely MS boffins are aware of Firefox, and would love to tell the world that their new browser is better than it too. Which leads one to conclude that Firefox already beats the best they can do.

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Any clouds in your sky?

Greg Fawcett
Thumb Up

Compelling Platform

I'm another Appengine Kool-Aid drinker, but I'm still very much alive. My company has provided web apps on it's own Linux servers for years, and I know the cost of scaling a popular app - in terms of dollars, stress and customer dissatisfaction.

So when one of the more reputable (well last year, anyway!) online giants offers to host my apps on a platform with scalablilty and redundancy I can only dream of, and at a cost far less than hosting it on a single server, I give it a whirl. There are definitely challenges in moving from an RDBMS to Google's data store, but so far they have been surmountable, and still easier than designing an app for a scalable database system.

Python, once you've taken the plunge, is excellent. Efficient, logical, concise and readable - the code is practically self-documenting, reducing costs and making maintenance a pleasure.

We are currently completing testing of our first major appengine application, which has gone well - the platform has performed perfectly. We expect this one to be fairly big, generating most of the revenue for our company next year, and for once there is no trepidation about how fast it grows.

We have some gripes - currently there is a quota system in place which limits resource usage, effectively cancelling the scalability benefits. This should disappear when the billing system arrives, which hopefully will be in the next couple of months. If something goes seriously wrong, it will be very frustrating that the only support is a user group, hopefully Google will provide better support for paying customers.

As far as fears about giving your data to Google, I'm fairly sure the only access they will have (or want to have) is via the good old Googlebot, checking our public pages. It's a little like the phone company - we all know they could listen to our calls, but anyone who has worked for a telco knows that they can't be bothered - the value of any information they could reap is far out-weighed by the cost of gathering it.

Only time will tell, but to date the Kool-Aid tastes very refreshing.

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History shaped Google's Trojan Horse

Greg Fawcett

Single Point of Failure

"When there's one computer serving the planet - even if it's Google's - that's a single point of failure."

I take your point, but you could argue that what made Google great was tying thousands of cheap computers together to appear like one. The best search algorithm in the world is no use if it hasn't got an easily scalable, highly available system to run on, and Google were the first to do this. So it's not just "one computer", and although I concede that no system can be 100% reliable, Google are pretty good. I doubt there are many sysadmins on the planet who would sneer at Google search's availability.

Another plank in their strategy is AppEngine - it gives every wannabe web developer an easily scalable highly available system to play on for free - just as the original PC gave every wannabe computer programmer a system to play on for much less than ever before. I expect most new web applications to be born on AppEngine from now on. Why go to all the hassle of building or renting your own server, let alone a scalable redundant system of servers, when you can use Google's for free?

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Cloud computing: A catchphrase in puberty

Greg Fawcett
Pirate

1 out of 10

The mindless profanity lost you 3 points - occasionally clever use of mild obscenities can add personality to a piece, but if this is your personality, I'm out of here.

You lost the rest of the points for short sightedness and lack of imagination - I'm sure you'd have heaped even more sh*t and f*cks on most of the other paradigm shifts we have experienced.

Not overplaying the power of developers, but they do tend to seek out the future. The PC took off because it included a programming language, and those so inclined could easily develop interesting and useful applications.

Then Microsoft stopped shipping a programming environment with their OS, and Linux springs into life. Coincidence? It's easy for developers to do stuff on Linux, so suddenly that's where the exciting stuff is.

Cloud computing may be nebulous (ha!), but it makes life easy for developers - particularly App Engine, where you don't need to be an accomplished sysadmin to get your app onto the web.

Watch this space, and be prepared to eat your (filthy) words.

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Ballmer and Gates defend Vista, drop Windows 7 hints

Greg Fawcett
Linux

JUST DO IT

Having switched to Ubuntu a year ago, I'm non-plussed by the anguish everyone seems to have over Vista. Just pop in an Ubuntu live disk, and be done with it. No viruses (or processor-hogging-monthly-subscription-virus-monitors); perfectly good MS office format compatiblility; click-install-run just about any sort of software you could want (mind-mapping? video editing? sudoku? There are several alternatives for all of them); WINE for any special Windows programs you can't find a replacement for... the list goes on.

Best of all, you get your PC back. You can set it up the way you want, and there's no "we won't let you do this because it might hurt someone's commercial interests even though it's legal in your country". And none of the silly hoops the more computer literate jump through to gain a bit of control back.. Once you've tasted this freedom, you'll start to wonder why everyone else is angsting about the latest version of Windows, instead of just popping in an Ubuntu live disk...

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Your personal data just got permanently cached at the US border

Greg Fawcett
Alert

Leave 1 MP3 and set the RIAA on them

I'd leave one legally acquired mp3 on my PC, and then inform the RIAA that the border protection goons were flagrantly flouting copyright laws. That'd make for an interesting lawsuit.

Demanding your data before letting you pass is almost exactly the same as the old highway robbers, except the US government is doing it. I already shun the US when travelling, but this puts me off even more.

This could be a great opportunity for Canadian and Mexican airports - a good ad campaign should see their share of the transit market soar.

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Cut to the Web Server Core: Windows Server 2008

Greg Fawcett
Stop

Give up and get with the program, MS

So MS has taken 5 years to make their server OS a little more like Linux?

Why don't they go the whole hog, and build a Microsoft distribution of Linux. They can charge the same as they do now - the "Microsoft Shop" customers who haven't migrated to Linux already will continue to pay them (the GPL says you have to provide source code, not that you can't charge for it), and the customers will get a mature and stable platform. Oh wait... silly me, it's not about the customers, is it?

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Back to basics for SQL Server 2008

Greg Fawcett

PostgreSQL+PostGIS?

I guess you're a a Microsoft shop, but I wonder if PostgreSQL with the PostGIS spatial data add-on (http://postgis.refractions.net/) could have met your requirements?

If so, you have a valuable backup strategy if MS suddenly drop spatial data to get it out the door on time. Possibly worth some research while you wait for MS to get to the party?

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