* Posts by Paul Stimpson

60 posts • joined 30 Apr 2007

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Linus Torvalds drops F-bomb on NVIDIA

Paul Stimpson

I can only speak for myself here. Having been a Windows administrator for nearly 20 years and a Linux admin for around 10, I switched my small business from Windows to Linux several years ago.

My experience has been that, in our applications, Linux takes much less looking after than Windows and we get to spend more time doing things that make us money. In addition, there's no need to spend money on anti-virus products. We now use one OS across all our desktops and data centre servers. I even have Linux on my mother's home PC and she gets on fine with it.

The largest thorns in our side are the closed source programs we deploy: The binary nVidia drivers and Flash are implicated in over 90% of desktop crashes we experience. We consider the nVidia driver to be one of the most unreliable pieces of software we have and it's been our experience that it tends to fail under heavy load, particularly if Flash is in use. I don't remember the last time one of our ATI desktops crashed. Unfortunately, my main machine is a desktop-replacement and doesn't have a removable GPU otherwise that nVidia card would have come out a long time ago. We now consider "nVidia inside" as a negative when making purchase decisions.

I do care about the about the freedom of the source, not from an ideological point of view but because I think it makes better sense to work with software which lets me contact the developers, look at it myself or pay someone else to than with programs that are closed and I am at the mercy of a development team. As I said, we are a small business, yet I've had many productive interactions with the developers of the software we use that have made a positive difference to us. In contrast, my largest customer has tens of thousands of Windows licenses and even they can't get hold of the team that developed the code or feed in change requests.

We do have one Windows machine left (a dual boot with Linux) for dealing with firmware updaters for some of our customer hardware. This machine was recently updated to Windows 7 and, in my opinion, 7 is the best desktop version of Windows to date. However, the Linux desktop experience is now so good that we're not tempted to switch back at this time. I'm not saying that Linux is the right choice for everyone but I still believe it was, and still is, the right one for us.

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Lesser-spotted Raspberry Pi FINALLY dished up

Paul Stimpson
Happy

Multi-player Elite

The closest thing I've seen to Elite on a modern platform is Vendetta Online. It's pay to play. It's multiplayer and it is what I wish Elite had been :)

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Trustwave to escape 'death penalty' for SSL skeleton key

Paul Stimpson
Boffin

This kind of thing has been going on for a while

Two years ago, when I was on Blackberry, I stayed at a cheap hotel, owned by a well-known chain, in Southampton. I connected my Blackberry to the free wifi offering and it instantly popped up a whole-screen critical security warning that that SSL fingerprint of the Blackberry server didn't match the certificate RIM had issued and warned me that all my traffic was at risk of interception if I allowed the connection.

I don't know if a regular browser would have picked up this MitM attack as I don't know who the signer of the bogus certificate was. I really think Mozilla and Chrome need plugins to detect dodgy/changed certificates.

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BlackBerry stumbles to feet, full of apologies

Paul Stimpson
FAIL

I'm a mobile worker and for a lot of the day, my mobile device is my office. I know things go wrong and I don't hold that against anyone. The thing I'm unhappy with is that their failover didn't function and they didn't have a working disaster recovery plan.

"Although the system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested." From this I would infer that one or more of the following could be true: 1) The testing wasn't adequate. 2) RIM's change control isn't being properly enforced, somebody changed something after the tests and didn't retest. 3) Some resource the failover required failed, their monitoring wasn't up to the job and they didn't notice until it was too late.

I don't really care which of the above is true; Whichever it is, it makes me question the quality of their systems and procedures. The lack of a prompt and efficient DR plan kicking in negates the trust RIM had built up with me over the last 4 years.

I came out of contract last week and I'm due a device upgrade. The Blackberry Torch just got removed from the short list. I'm just hanging on for the HTC Sensation Beats Edition to become available on my carrier. If that isn't going to happen, I will either go for the regular Sensation or the Samsung Galaxy S2.

So long RIM and thanks for all the fish.

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BlackBerry BBM, email downed in epic FAIL

Paul Stimpson
Facepalm

Unimpressive performance from RIM

@David 155: Most traffic from my Blackberry proxies via their server. On the up side I believe this means that everything I do is protected by their encryption if I'm on public wifi or a dodgy mobile network. On the down side, it means I suffer a greater impact if they stuff their server or network infrastructure.

"... due to the upgrade of the BBM backend to handle external Android apps in a few months time..."

Please tell me they didn't... A wise man once told me of system maintenance and DIY, always do major work on Friday night or Saturday morning as you've got the whole weekend to fix it before Monday morning if it all goes horribly wrong.

Does anyone know if this affected BES (Enterprise) customers (who have their own servers) too or was it just BIS (the general public running on RIM's own servers) that got the shaft?

In light of this and other things RIM have done recently... My next stop will be Android.

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Windows 8 secure boot would 'exclude' Linux

Paul Stimpson

Apple have messed with their firmware for a long time to prevent stuff they don't like running. With them, however, it's old versions of their own OS that are the enemy. Every time a new version of OS-X comes out a few months later boxes leaving the factory come with new firmware that won't let you install any OS-X older than the current version.The first Macs that will only run Lion and higher have just been spotted in the wild.

I'm a certified engineer for the Avid professional video editing platform. Avid is engineered and tested to provide guaranteed performance and due to the level of testing, Lion isn't a certified platform to run it on yet. Not-certified = no support from Avid if it doesn't work. This is a royal pain in the arse for the Avid channel as there's at least a month every time a new OS-X appears when it's not possible to buy hardware that can be used for a certified install until Avid's testing program and any bug fixes catch up.

So far, I've not found a competent Windows PE environment that MS roll (all our PE discs are from 3rd parties [thanks BART] so won't be signed). We use PE and Linux discs extensively in preparation, imaging and fault finding/disaster recovery of machines. To lose those would be a real blow to us. I assume this would also mean it wouldn't be possible to slipstream drivers into older Windows CDs any more (like I've done to help my friends upgrade from Vista to XP) when the XP CD suffered some fatal exception, like not being able to see the HDD controller or drives.

I don't think MS are that worried about people like me running Linux on premium hardware. What I think they would like is to make it difficult for the Linux community to install it on ordinary people's budget machines and thus slow down its spread. We've already seen this kind of behaviour with Windows Vista and 7 putting the immovable MFT right at the end of the boot drive so Windows can't shrink the boot partition to create a dual boot and if a 3rd party tool is used Windows becomes unbootable and needs repair

Another possibility is that this is politics in the mould of Britain's New Labour: They suggest something so bad that everybody is up in arms then they offer a "compromise" (read "what they really wanted to do in the first place but would have been unpopular.") People are so relieved the first proposal has gone they swallow the new one without a big fight and the proposer gets what they really wanted. If this is the case, what are they really up to?

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Dropbox security fubar infuriates customers

Paul Stimpson
Coat

Failbox

First they admit their staff can access our files (but won't because the rules say not... honest) and now they open password-free access to my data for a night. I'm off...

...Mine's the one with the Spideroak logo on the pocket.

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Movie-goer punts 3D-to-2D cinema specs

Paul Stimpson
Thumb Up

Great for special needs

My kids have autism and the family is active in the local Autistic Society. A fair number of the children can't cope with 3D movies but some others can. I was about to make a pair of these glasses for someone to try and fix the problem that one of their kids wants to see 3D and the other doesn't. Their whole family will be able to go and see the same film.

I agree it's not for everyone but this does solve a real problem we have.

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TomTom sorry for giving customer driving data to cops

Paul Stimpson

The TomTom "Live" experience

TomTom collect anonymous data about the speed of users of their "Live" online navigation products. IIRC I was asked by the device for consent for this the first time I used it. Older devices will do this through a Bluetooth tether to the user's phone and the new, higher-end devices have a mobile data module and SIM card inside and don't need a phone.

If you have one of the "Live" devices, the data collected from other users provides you with a number of benefits:

1) "IQ Routes" (what happened in the past). Route planning is done using historical data of drivers' speeds on these roads at this time of day rather than the posted speed limit. This means my TomTom knows, for example, that using Hanger Lane to get to Park Royal is a good idea at 1900 on Saturday but a really dumb idea at 0800 on Monday.

2) "HD Traffic" (what is happening now). If a user is travelling at significantly less than the speed limit on a stretch of road that stretch is automatically added to the traffic information as a delay and propagated to other users so their units can replan round the hold up. If I drive through an area with a hold up marked and I make good time, that delay is automatically deleted from the traffic information. This information also serves to provide more accurate arrival time estimates ("There's nothing we want to call a traffic jam but your journey is going to take 4 minutes longer than it would on clear roads.)

Overall I believe these are positive things for me.

The allegation here I believe is that TomTom sold the HD Traffic data to a party involved in law enforcement who used it to work out where people tend to do more than the speed limit so they could put speed traps there, not to point the finger at individual users. This still makes me think badly of TomTom and I hope they won't repeat this behaviour or will modify the data so any readings above the speed limit will report at the speed limit (so if someone does 80 on the motorway the speed will be reported as 70)

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Cute download Firefox, 'treat a cub' vid downed by IE glitch

Paul Stimpson
Badgers

Sounds like an IP camera

I work with IP cameras from the likes of Axis and Sanyo and most of them use IE ActiveX controls to control the camera and render the video. I'm guessing the cameras in the enclosure are from a manufacturer that works in this way and they've been forced to use IE to get the video into a PC then have re-encoded it for distribution.

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Microsoft sends IE9 'do-not-track' tech to W3C

Paul Stimpson
Boffin

Will any of these approaches make a real difference?

I think savvy users with strong opinions on tracking will generally find ways to stop it with whatever combination of settings and plugins they find effective. My first impression is that the downsides of these mechanisms will be felt by people like my mum.

My mum likes the Internet and has absorbed enough to know not to click links in emails or download software from pop-ups on web pages. I've moved her over to Firefox but would never dream of switching cookie control to "Ask me". She doesn't understand the technology well enough for me to explain when to say "allow", "allow for session" or "block" and I'm sure it wouldn't be long before I got a call saying X website doesn't work any more because she's said "block" to some cookie it needed. She will be at the mercy of the default (or my) settings. If I didn't tell her then I doubt she would come across the "click here to enable" button for do-not-track.

I don't think any of these approaches is perfect. Google's seems to rely of the advertiser being a member of one of the self-regulation schemes (I'm sure every advertiser has joined... not). Mozilla's tells everyone but I'm not holding my breath for offshore advertising networks to take any notice. Microsoft's system relies on block lists (of which I'm sure the majority of users will just go with the MS default). I can just imagine all the pressure from large MS customers saying "We're reputable advertisers and our model isn't strictly 'behavioural'; We shouldn't be on the default list. BTW, have you met Lisa? She's in charge of our Linux server evaluation project. We're deciding on which OS to use for our next generation platform."

Will these new rules apply if a US company uses an advertising network based in Guatemala? If a US brand outsources its website to another company incorporated in the Camens? To visitors to US websites if their IP address geolocates outside the USA?

I'm just asking questions. I don't pretend to have the answers.

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BA slams stupid security checks

Paul Stimpson

Consistency would be nice...

@Owen Sweeney

I can better that...

I had 3 boxes of batteries confiscated at an airport on the Indian Subcontinent on the grounds that they could be used to power a bomb. The security screener told me I could keep all the rechargeable batteries I had because they were too expensive and he wasn't allowed to confiscate them. I guess they haven't thought of terrorists using NiMH/phone/laptop batteries...

At a Middle-Eastern airport a screener took the Kensington lock for my laptop off me on the grounds I could use it as a noose. I kicked up a stink and he said it was the airline's policy, not the airports. I persuaded him to give it to the flight crew so I could collect it from them when I got off the plane. After a long flight I forgot the lock. I put in a lost property report to the airline and was told they had it. I was flying the next week and they said they would return it to me at the airport. I called and a nice guy brought it to the terminal and proceeded to hand it over to me at the airside customer service desk. This kind of makes a nonsense of the airline saying I shouldn't have it on the plane.

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Want to use WD diagnostics? Buy Windows

Paul Stimpson
Badgers

It's not about being a fanboi

I run Linux and WIndows and I'm quite happy with the diagnostic tools I have. I'm not asking any hard drive manufacturer to produce a specific utility for "my" OS. I don't think Keith was either.

The problem I have here is that WD are choosing not to make an OS-independent bootable disc that can do low level diagnostics on a drive and tell me whether it's sick or not. I don't care what the codebase of such a disc is as long as it's consistent and reliable. I'd rather not have to have a machine with any OS on it as a prerequisite of doing a test.

So are WD saying I need to buy another drive so I can install an OS on it in order to run the diagnostics on this one? If a machine is new are we supposed to waste time building an OS on it then run the utilty only to find out the drive is suspect and we need to do it all again? Isn't boot CD, test, pass then install the OS more sensible?

I won't be buying WD again until they provide me with the means to test the drive I buy on a new machine before using it. I can't think of another manufacturer that doesn't give me this.

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RIM Blackberry Bold 9000

Paul Stimpson
Happy

First impressions of the Bold

I got a pair of Bolds 3 days ago on Vodafone for my business with their branded version of the 4.6.0.126 firmware. It is my first BlackBerry handset and I love it. Every day I find something new and cool it can do. I've used the iPhone too and I wouldn't even be tempted to do a swap if someone offered me one.

I run Facebook and JiveTalk IM on my handset and use it as a phone quite heavily. Network coverage isn't excellent where I live (despite what Vodafone tell you). The reception is better than my Nokia but I leave 3G enabled as the 3G is marginally better than the 2G coverage. I have WiFi switched on and most of the email and IM is done over it when I'm in my home/office. I'm just about getting a day out of it (much less than the 216 hours promised in the brochure.)

I'm wondering if battery life is related to firmware. I would find it interesting if the posters above, both good and bad, would post again with which network they use. I wouldn't be surprised if a pattern emerges between the network and firmware version and who gets decent battery life.

The stills camera is pretty good for a 2mp but when using it for video I found the artifacts to be very unpleasant, totally chalk and cheese with the included sample videos that looked great.

The most disappointing thing about the Bold for me is the Blackberry Desktop Manager Windows software. I find it brain damaged in comparison with the software for my old Nokia 9300i. It can backup and restore, install/remove applications and sync with Outlook but not much else. The Nokia software could send and view my messages, edit my contacts and ringtones... Enough things that I never used them all.

I also find the Desktop Manager software very unreliable at the things it does do. I've had to reboot my Windows PC on a daily basis to get it working when it decides it won't recognise the handset. The main OS in my business is Linux and I run Windows XP SP3 virtualized with Virtualbox on my main machine. The Blackberry software sees the handset in this environment but won't play nice and hangs up whenever I attempt any transfer of data to/from the handset. I've found many reports on the net that it doesn't work with virtualized Windows on other virtualization platforms either. I'm going to take a look at Linux software projects for it.

On the subject of email privacy, I don't have any particular problem with RIM checking my mail for me. I don't think anything really bad is going to happen (if RIM got a reputation for that then it would be very bad for their business.) If it's the spooks you're worried about then if the US or Canada want to read my mail I'm sure the UK Security Services would go to my ISP who would just hand it over so I don't think I've really lost anything.

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Skype ignores PayPal siphoning hijack scheme

Paul Stimpson
Pirate

Paypal protection

I recently received some good advice never to use debit cards with a Paypal account. In the UK the Consumer Credia Act protects you if you use a credit card and your card company must refund any fraudulent transactions. Debit cards do not enjoy this protection and if your PayPal account or something linked to it gets compromised and your debit card gets raped the cash has already gone, your bank does not have to refund you and your only remedy is to try and get the money back from whoever took it.

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Swiss start-up re-broadcasting UK TV channels

Paul Stimpson
Thumb Down

I tried Zattoo

I just tried Zattoo on the road. The quality and robustness was quite good and, to their credit, I could download client software for both Linux and Windows and it all worked.

Unfortunately I found the "Zattoo experience" not to be worthwhile overall. They use IP-geolocation to determine which programs you should be allowed to watch in a very simplistic manner. As their FAQ says, "You can only watch Zattoo in countries that have already been opened for service. Also, in these countries you can only watch the channels that have been cleared for these countries." I am currently in German working and this policy means that all I could watch on Zattoo was exactly the same channel line up I have on my hotel TV (in a language I don't speak well enough to watch TV in.) If I go to a country that isn't cleared (or in the case I have here, the IP-geolocation of my address is wrong and it says I'm in an uncleared country) then I can't watch anything on it al all.

My main reason for wanting Zattoo was that I hoped I would be able to watch TV from my registered country wherever I was, in addition to local TV for the country I was in. I would have been really happy if I had been geolocated when I registered to determine my home and that used to set my entitlement to my home TV. I still pay my TV license when travelling so why shouldn't I be able to take my TV channels with me? I travel frequently and spend a lot of time outside cleared Zattooo areas and therefore will either have exactly the same TV I can already get or (more often) nothing at all and no TV from home. Their service is therefore about a much use to me as a chocolate teapot.

It's a real shame as the actual application works really well.

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Welsh student exposed to nude webcam operators

Paul Stimpson
Flame

Grow up!

Dear Ms. Ellis-Jones,

Sex Worker is a job title, not a character flaw. I find it offensive that your attitude seems to denigrate all the honest people working in adult industries worldwide. Should everyone, female and male, not have the right to decide how they wish to express their sexuality? Why are you seeking to take their rights away from them? Please be an adult. If you don't like the idea of sex work then don't apply for the job but don't try to take the opportunity away from others just because it's not right for you.

The advert clearly states that the position is not open to under 18s. Your statement about this being a child protection issue is therefore just plain wrong. Can I take from it that you think all sexually explicit material should be banned to protect children? People have sex and many of them enjoy it. A healthy and honest attitude towards sex important for individuals' development, mental well-being and to protect them from exploitation.How many children have been abused for years because they thought sex was dirty and that they couldn't tell? May I suggest you develop a more grown-up attitude towards sex?

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In-flight calling given lukewarm reception

Paul Stimpson
Thumb Down

Call quality

It's not much wonder the call quality sucks. The hardware on the plane will probably be using the Inmarsat M1 (Mini-M) network or the M1 codec on one of the other products. "Mini-M quality" voice calls run at 2400bps and sound just about OK (=better than nothing) but the codec interacts very badly with the standard GSM codec (twice if you call another GSM phone.)

So it may be the skimping on bandwidth that saves us from having to listen to people shouting into their phones.

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Miserly marks get smart to UK phishing fraudsters

Paul Stimpson
Paris Hilton

Banking security

My bank used to have the best anti-phishing protection going. You could only pay money to people or companies you'd already set up. If you wanted to pay money to someone you'd never paid before you had to ring up and talk to a person to set it up.

Now "for our convenience" (more likely to save them money) they've made it so we can set up new payments ourselves. Now any phisher logged in from abroad can set up a payment to one of his mules easily and quickly. The bank don't seem to understand that this has actually harmed security.

My ex-credit card company is worse. I tried to place an order at a big-name website. They declined it on a whim because it might be fraudulent. I then got a phone call from a computer telling me "This is not a marketing call, it's an important call from your bank." The recorded message asked me to enter my card number, dates and the 3 digit number off the back. I didn't and called the bank to report a potential fraud. The person in the fraud department berated me for not answering the computer's questions, was rude, patronising and couldn't understand why I wouldn't enter my details to an unsolicited phone call from a computer when the bank had told me never to give them out in case of fraud. She also told me I was being unreasonable to be angry because the the item I'd ordered was low on stock and the last one had gone when by the time I realised my bank had declined the transaction.

I'm just waiting for someone to download the sample transaction recordings from the company that makes the computer that called me (they are on their website) and write a piece of voip-phishing software using the real voice.

These people wonder why their customers are becoming the victims of fraud...

Paris, because she knows more about security than these people.

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American ISPs already sharing data with outside ad firms

Paul Stimpson
Thumb Up

@Alex

There are still good ISPs out there who will provide a premium service with no traffic management for a fair price rather than cutting the monthly price so low they have to resort to things like throttling and Phorm to stay in business. I'm with IDNet and I'm happy. I pay a bit more a month than I did with my old ISP but I get what I pay for.

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BT and Phorm secretly tracked 18,000 customers in 2006

Paul Stimpson
Coat

Spin, spin, spin...

"The current version, being promoted to BT, Virgin Media, and Carphone Warehouse customers as "Webwise", does not use JavaScript in this way. BT's report identified that it makes consumers more likely to be aware that they are being profiled as they browse."

Why would it be a problem that users could detect that they were being profiled if Phorm is an opt-in system? They agreed to it; They already know. It would however make it simple to stop the system from working by disabling JavaScript.

"121Media [Phorm] will take action (both technical and public relations) to avoid any perception that their system is a virus, malware or spyware and to show that in effect it is a positive web development,"

'In effect'... That does tend to imply that isn't the purpose of it.

"BT also refused to reveal where in the national broadband network the thousands of guinea pigs were sourced from."

No **** they wouldn't! In order for someone to bring a criminal complaint someone has to be able to prove they have been the victim of a crime and when that crime occurred. BT and Phorm are relying on people not being able to bring complaints because they can't prove they were victims. The last thing they'll do is hand 28,000 (assuming the 2006 and 2007 victims were different people and every account was only one victim) the bullet to shoot them in the a*** with.

"...owing to the legal position, direct cookie dropping could not be trialed and should be verified once the legal position is clearer." = We know what we're doing is dodgy and could land us in a world of trouble.

Watkin wrote:"Targeted online advertising services should be provided with the explicit consent of ISPs' users or by the acceptance of the ISP terms and conditions." = We don't give a flying **** about the privacy of the public. Just send out a 4 page update to your Ts&Cs (which most ordinary people can't/don't have the time to read and understand), hide it in there and we won't touch you. In fact we may even want to buy the data in future to help us identify terrorists/kiddie fiddlers or anyone else that we may decide is undesirable or might stop us getting re-elected.

"We think it is unethical of the Register..."

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." –Mahatma Gandhi. Looks like El Reg is progressing nicely down that path then,

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Creative threatens developer over home-brewed Vista drivers

Paul Stimpson
Thumb Down

Who next?

I too have used Creative cards on and off for over 20 years. My first ever soundcard was a genuine Soundblaster.

This guy _may_ have used code from an official driver, he _may_ not have.If he didn't and Creative regard the method of communicating with their hardware as their "property" how long will it be before they start looking at Linux and BSD drivers as "infringing" products? How much of this is due to their desire to conform to Vista DRM and not have their card "cracked" into working as the user wants?

I use Linux for almost all my machines and I'm not prepared to take the risk that a card I paid good money for will suddenly become useless because Creative decide to attack the driver developer. Two fingers to Creative; I'm not going to be buying another card from them unless they apologise to this guy and start appreciating their community. The easiest way to protect my investment is to just not play.

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Reviewer puts prototype Nokia N96 to test

Paul Stimpson
Thumb Down

Battery guys...

Unfortunately Nokia don't seem to have fixed the one thing about the N95 that really needs fixing: the battery. The N95 is a great phone but the battery life is abysmal. If you use the camera or music player as well as the phone it's very rare, in my experience, that the battery will last the whole day. If I don't charge it every night and I might get a call then I don't dare use it on the second day so the battery might last until I get home.

I don't give a flying about DVB-H or the bigger screen. Nokia, please give me an N95 with a decent amount of flash, a card slot, buttons I can fit my fingers on and a battery that lasts me at least 3 days of reasonable use including a few photos and some music for on the train.

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Hannaford cc data thieves planted malware on 300 servers

Paul Stimpson
Boffin

Tunnelling data

Unless they were very careful with their security or have a shit-hot IDS firewall access would not be a definite requirement for this hack. The data could have been smuggled out of the company using a technique like DNS tunnelling.

Terminal sends off a set of carefully crafted DNS queries that contain the data to be smuggled encoded into the hostname. The hostname isn't found in the local DNS cache so the resolver goes back to the authoritative DNS server for the domain, which stores the query for decoding. No reply is necessary so even if the company have used something like DNS resolving on the proxy for the public internet the data will still get through.

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Adobe to remove Photoshop pic pimping clause

Paul Stimpson
Coat

@Morely is going?

"No more bullshit postings about how linux is ready for the average users desktop with no support and you NEVER have to drop to a command line"

What do you mean "no support" please? I've had some of the best support experiences of my career with Linux products. Please show me a how, as a small user, I can get hold of the developers of part of Windows and discuss a bug with them or how it could better meet my needs. We're talking about the company the majority of whose OS installs are shipped with a note that basically says "If it doesn't work go to the people that sold it to you as we won't support it." Since the vendor didn't write Windows their ability to support it is limited and if they can't fix whatever is broken quickly you'll probably get told to reimage the machine from the original discs (if they actually gave you any.) The majority of support for both OSes comes from the communities.

Bugs can creep into anything. As a user, it's getting those bugs acknowledged, taken seriously and fixed that's important to me.

"NEVER have to drop to a command line..." Of course, Windows users never need the command line. All that time I've spent having to use it to scrape malware off my customers' fully-patched Windows desktops was clearly a figment of my imagination.

To continue your example, I'd love to know who thought the Windows registry was a good idea. "Let's roll up all configuration data into a monolithic mass, the corruption of which is likely to cause mass system breakages. Let's make it so the system will parse a key with a null in it but make the editor unable to change it and make it non-human-readable so if something gets broken it can't be checked and fixed by hand."

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Caribbean firm circumvents BD+ copy protection

Paul Stimpson
Stop

Region coding is racism

If I opened a DVD shop and put up a sign that read "DVDs - £10 (American customers), £20 (Europeans), Africans and Asians £30 come back in 6 months." I would, quite rightly be prosecuted for racism if I hadn't been lynched by the public first. Why should large companies be able to do this if we can't? Not only are they allowed to but this racism is protected by law and we can be prosecuted for fighting it.

This geographical racism has no place in the modern, connected world. It's time we stood up, named and shamed these big corporations for their racist behaviour.

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Phorm agrees to independent inspection of data pimping code

Paul Stimpson
Go

@Well VirginMedia.....

Please will you describe the tests you did so I can replicate them before making a formal complaint?

Thanks.

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Scotland Yard criminologist: DNA-print troublemaker kids

Paul Stimpson
Coat

@Gregg Iceton

Dear Gregg,

Do you habitually offer over-simplistic opinions based on a 5-second scan of the paper without thinking them through?

"As for those who will bleat about invasions of privacy, you haven't got a point. How is someone knowing the structure of your DNA invading your ability to maintain a private life?"

OK, we all get sampled and out on the database. At some time the profiles should become available to the medical profession to help in our treatment. Researchers start to analyse the data and find certain patterns. Let's say:

A pattern is found that suggests paedophiles are 9 times more likely to have a certain gene variant. You have this gene variant but you're one of the 10% that's not a paedophile. If you get barred from ever working with children and have any kids you have forcibly adopted at birth that would be OK as long as one child is saved, right?

They find another gene with a high correlation to cancer. As part of applying for life insurance the company you have to sign a waiver that your insurance company can make enquiries into your medical records (fairly standard now.) They discover you have the cancer gene and have 19 times the normal chance of suffering from cancer. You now can't get life insurance or it costs £1000 a month instead of £50. The reason you wanted the life insurance was that you were buying a house and needed it for the mortgage. Guess you won't ever be buying a house now. You die in your 70s of a heart attack, in bed in your rented accommodation because you could never buy.

Researchers discover a "thief gene." Having it makes you vastly more likely to be dishonest. You're one of the percentage that has it but has worked hard to lead an honest life. You have to waive access to your medical records as well as take a mandatory drug test to get a job. I hope you didn't want that job in the Police or that bank.

@Mark

"Is Tony's DNA on the database?" - Yes, he made a public gesture of voluntarily submitting it to show that he has nothing to fear cos the police would never dare come after him.

Everybody that has spoken in favour of this idea has made one important, but possibly flawed assumption: That this only affects "them" and there's nothing in _your_ DNA that would ever have you discriminated against. Of course there isn't. I mean, only poor people have the thief gene, right? Please forgive me in advance when I laugh if I meet you at the bus stop one day and you're complaining you can't have a car as you can't get insurance because you have the thief gene and are an "unacceptable insurance risk" and "something must be done about it."

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0

BT admits misleading customers over Phorm experiments

Paul Stimpson
Thumb Down

Cookie sham

Opt-out cookies are a sham anyway. Sure it would be trivial for the cookie to be read by the ad server and for it then not to serve ads or, more likely, not targeted ones.

In order for the cookie to be read when the information is gathered something is going to have to be sitting in the middle of all connections, editing the HTML to query the cookie then deciding whether to profile the page. Unless, of course, the ISP and Phorm think it would just be easier to profile everything then sort it out later. Forgive me for not believing that "opting-out" will stop Phorm from seeing my data and IP address.

Nine more days until my new IDNet broadband goes in. Virgin, I'm going to miss you like a hole in the head.

0
0

Confidential Home Office data turns up in laptop on eBay

Paul Stimpson
Happy

Unless of course...

... The CD contained a backup of the encryption software and the keys for what was on the laptop HD.

Could a user be this stupid? Er.... yes.

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0

ISP data deal with former 'spyware' boss triggers privacy fears

Paul Stimpson
Coat

Three strikes

Premium rate support number to report faults to an offshore call center muppet who reads a script without understanding a thing - Strike one!

Traffic shaping - Strike two!

All my proxy logs are belong to a scummy adware company - Strike three!

Virgin, you're out of here! Please leave your contact details in the bin on the way out.

Of course, these logs are now advertising data and not communications data so any agency will be able to hoover them up and de-anomimize them without warrants or oversight. That VPN to Relakks in Sweden is looking more attractive by the day.

Pass my coat. It's the one with "You can only shaft me so many times without giving me a reach around" on the back.

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0

GCap reaches for DAB off switch

Paul Stimpson
Coat

Voting with their ears

> Fru Hazlitt said in a presentation that "listeners were not voting with their ears"

On the contrary, listeners ARE voting with their ears. OFCom have completely failed to impose any meaningful bitrate requirement on DAB broadcasters. GCap's stuff may be OK but the majority of DAB stations have gone so far down the quantity over quality path that FM sounds better.

OFCom have such a hard-on over mobile Internet that they seem to think of terrestrial broadcasting as a nuisance and want it to stop.

Why should listeners pay a premium for a digital receiver when it fails to deliver the quality the marketers have told them they should expect from something that is "digital" and is often worse than what they already have?

0
0

Teen hacker re-unlocks Apple's iPhone

Paul Stimpson
Paris Hilton

Time for the iPhone Pro?

One of my friends has an iPhone and, to be honest, I like the UI. I would quite like to have one but I won't because it won't install apps that aren't Apple-approved, I can't get it on the network I use for my business and it doesn't have 3G. OK, I could live without the 3G...

Apple, why don't you bring out another model, say the "iPhone Pro" ? Add a couple of hundred Dollars to the price, make it work with any network, untie the apps and make an SDK available to start a developer community and add 3G if you can shoe-horn it into the box. I'd buy one. Alternatively have a mechanism I can use to pay and get a code to unlock the phone honestly with no fear ti will get bricked on a future update, just like Orange do.

Paris, cos she unlocked her phone for everyone.

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0

RIAA chief calls for copyright filters on PCs

Paul Stimpson
Pirate

It will all happen by stealth

Our governments will love this one... ISPs required to only pass signed packets so only signed "legitimate" apps can communicate over the Internet. It's perfect: No more terrorists or kiddiefiddlers using encryption or darknets. People can write whatever software they like but unless they're "legitimate" (that word again) corporations they won't be able to afford to pay for their code to be examined by a trusted (by the government) testing lab to get it signed so it won't be able to communicate anyway. Just think of all the commercial secrets MS could learn if they ran a signing service and smaller companies and individuals had to submit their code to be audited. If they didn't go that far it would make the spooks' jobs easier as they would know what app generated every packed and which ones need to be deep scanned.

Go ahead, write "Son of Bittorrent." You won't be able to use it to transfer information outside of your house unless you get it signed. I'm sure that any such signing mechanism would also allow keys to be revoked so the threat of "turning off" an application could be used against any developer in order to make them self-censor/include code to ensure "children are protected" or "copyrights are respected" (insert excuse of the week here.)

MIcrosoft and Apple will love this one too. It will effectively be impossible to have a piece of open source software communicate oner the net (or to ensure that any such software has its output examined) as it's not signed. Since the signing will cost money the distribution of software for no cost will be severely hampered (of course MS and Apple will have the right to self-sign so they're going to be OK.) Further more the code behind this will be covered by NDAs so publishing the source will be forbidden.

MS and Apple also get protection from antitrust lawsuits over this. "It was a legal requirement. You can't sue us for implementing it."

ISPs will love it. Let signed traffic through. Anything unsigned either gets blocked or throttled. No need to play cat and mouse with P2P developers who try to hide their traffic to prevent "management." You can tell that no web browser generated that fake SSL data. It's "future-proof" as new things that will eat bandwidth doing "illegal" things just never get signed or will get identified and turned off when the music/movie industry persuade the government that they're bad. The application that generated a packet can be immediately identified from the signature so prioritising traffic from people you like / throttling things you don't becomes easy with no need to decrypt data. The whole process becomes "noddy" when Cisco implement it in their routers.

Far more likely, this will all be introduced by stealth. There will be no big switch thrown that will lead to howls of protest from Linux users or anyone else. It will all begin innocently enough. iTunes suddenly starts working faster than it used to, nobody complains. Applications from big companies enjoy the benefits of prioritisation. Nothing gets blocked but the bandwidth pool available to unsigned apps gets smaller and smaller (or at least doesn't grow with demand) until transferring a file with an unsigned program becomes so slow that people stop and buy "all new FileFlash MegaPro" (which in reality is just an FTP or Bittorrent client that checks the files aren't "bad" and signs its packets so it gets to play in the fast lane).

Then there's some terrible crime committed and some politician starts banging on about kiddiefiddlers and terrorists using these unsigned apps and a law (sorry "voluntary agreement") gets passed requiring ISPs to block them in return for immunity from prosecution/lawsuits. This one may not happen but if the transfer rates on unsigned apps suck so bad that they're unusable people will use what works. In fact I'm surprised the R.I.Ass.A. hasn't already mounted a publicity offensive or leak alleging that Al Qaida are hiding coded messages from Osama bin Laden to terror cells (Yes, OMG, there may be one in YOUR town! Ban it quick!) in music/movie torrents in order to make banning them more wholesome and urgent. "When you use Bittorrent you are helping terrorists kill children!"

The spooks also love it because everything that's not "kosher" (in their eyes) gets blocked, flagged or throttled so the volume of data they need to examine is kept to a minimum.

Go on, You know it makes sense...

@Missing the point - You're bang on the money my friend.

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0

Pipex Business calls in the strategy boutique

Paul Stimpson
Coat

Horrible name

Sounds just like a nasty sexually-transmitted disease.

"Doc, Can I have some Penicillin please? I've got a dose of Vialtus."

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0

Ryanair battles ASA over 'saucy schoolgirl' ad

Paul Stimpson
Thumb Up

Good for them

There is no way any reasonable person would look at this model and believe she is under 18. This is not kiddie pron and doesn't encourage anybody over or underage to commit any crime. What boundary does this push that hasn't been pushed multiple times before?

Good on Ryanair for standing up to the ASA and the anti-pedo hysteria brigade.

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Growing virus production taxes security firms

Paul Stimpson
Boffin

Enough is enough

I think we desperately need to reduce the number and complexity of questions users get asked. Most average PC users get bombarded by so many messages that they just click "OK" without understanding them, often without even trying to. If you put up a fake Windows security warning saying "You are in danger of not receiving pop-up adverts. Click OK to install adware now" I reckon a sizable portion of the population would click "OK." Warnings need to be infrequent enough and clearly worded enough that they make people stop and take notice.

I changed my business over to Linux because I was sick of wasting time cleaning up spyware and adware infections on fully patched systems running up-to-date antivirus products from well known vendors. I was also sick of paying for these antivirus "solutions" when they failed to identify let alone solve 90% of the programs that were installing without our consent. Don't get me started on my feelings about Windows seeming to allow almost any piece of scumware to elevate a restricted user to an administrator and install itself in the first place.

I'm not trying to MS bash on this occasion but they desperately need to do something to stop these privilege escalations and to make most users run as limited unless they are actually doing something that requires admin ability. I wouldn't have changed platform or be advising most of my friends who ask what computer they should buy to get a Mac or try Linux if these had been fixed. And yes, I do make these recommendations for selfish reasons: I don't want to have to go round cleaning my friends computers every other week when they get broken. I want to have a good time with my friends and not be their private malware removal service.

MS are in an awful position here: They have a massive user base and there are countless applications on their platform. Many of these applications were written with the assumption that the user has administrator rights. As we've seen with Vista, taking these rights away from people causes a lot of pain. The question is do they have the will to bite the bullet and just do it?

IMHO Window's problem has always been that, in most cases, each version was built on a previous platform and was how it was because its ancestor was how it was. Vista started as such a great idea. A complete fresh start with none of the historical vulnerabilities. However then came the problem of application back compatibility and the fresh start got watered down again and again because this or that app wouldn't work unless this or that was how it used to be.

I would encourage MS to make a clean break, like Apple did with OS:X; A complete new-apps-only start designed for the modern world. Use this as an opportunity to release a "revolutionary new OS" that's light, lean, fast and low on bloat. I want a system that I don't need to pay extra for antivirus or antimalware programs to keep it working uninfected for more than 20 minutes; I want it to be designed secure and right.

I would then suggest providing a virtualised XP-in-a-window that could be used to run legacy apps. Make it work but don't make the performance stellar to encourage people to use apps for the new platform and for god's sake sandbox it so it can't screw with the base OS. Phase out developer support for XP to encourage software vendors to switch but do it over a reasonable time frame so developers have time to prepare stable, quality products.

MS, I know you want to be richer and more powerful by being the DRM gatekeepers of the world and I don't blame you for wanting that. I would find it a tempting prospect too but all this checking 15 times a second and tilt-bit crap to see if I'm a filthy thieving scumbag is weighing systems down like a set of cement overshoes. My friend's brand new Sony 2.2GHz 2GB RAM laptop running Vista shouldn't be slower than my 3 year old 1.5GHz single core (with a half speed FSB) 1GB running Ubuntu. Not only that but the insane amount of CPU usage on DRM and the 3D processing applied to a 2D desktop is increasing the power consumption of machines and consequently pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere. Please think of the planet every time you think of your bank balance. Your new OS can be a "revolutionary, high-performance, green OS" too and think of the savings your customers will be able to make on hardware and electricity costs. We all win.

</rant>

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Computer system suspected in Heathrow 777 crash

Paul Stimpson
Black Helicopters

Specifications and voting

Systems from different vendors and voting are all well and good but do nothing if the original design specification is flawed since all the vendors will have been working from the same spec document.

I have a problem with formal specification methods. That problem is that if the specification is wrong the fact that formal methods and testing have been used gives mistaken confidence in the system's ability to perform. This tends to reduce contingency planning for failure as the software has been "proved" not to have any bugs.

Formal testing proves no such thing. All it proves is that the program written carries out the functions laid out in the spec. It does not prove that the spec completely and accurately reflects the task the system is to perform.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to land at London Heathrow Airport. Thank you for flying with... Oh bugger! That isn't supposed to happen..."

Unfortunately the fine print of the spec may say that it is supposed to happen in whatever set of circumstances happened to arise at that time. If so Boeing will probably be very keen on keeping that quiet.

@ So... did the computers do the RIGHT thing???

No. If a computer was to make a decision that required a pilot to land a plane in an abnormal manner it would need to communicate that requirement in a prompt, clear and unambiguous manner to the pilot. The pilot was clearly not aware of any such requirement.

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0

Citizen's panels to put DNA database under microscope

Paul Stimpson
Dead Vulture

Here we go again...

Another "consultation" which came into being so quietly that we didn't notice. "Ordinary" people selected and no chance for anyone with an interest to be involved (after all, they're activists or anarchists and probably wouldn't vote in the "right" way.) The panels "educated" on the issues before reaching a conclusion.

If the result doesn't go the Government's way then do you really expect them to honour it? They know better and will act for "our own good." My friend was part of an environmental consultation the almost-unanimous conclusion of which was that the growing or release of GM crops should be totally banned. We all know how much the Government listened to that one...

Just more fake "democracy"

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0

Man uses mobe as modem, rings up £27k phone bill

Paul Stimpson
Flame

How much per meg?!!!

I believe another problem with users misunderstanding what is allowed/included is the way many non-technical news publications refer to the whole Internet as "the web." Like when talking about illegal pron on filesharing networks and saying they will get this stuff "off the web." This probably leads to the average person thinking that a "web" tariff includes all the other protocols too.

I just worked out that if I use all my cap allowance on my home broadband I pay 0.06p a meg. Last time I looked, my mobile phone provider was charging £1.80 a meg (yes... that's 3000 times the price I'm paying at home). Therefore would argue that since they are both retail prices I would be paying my mobile provider £1.7994 of each £1.80 I spend for them to deliver the data to me. I expect to pay a small premium for this service (I would be happy with double and might even go as far as ten times what I pay per meg at home) but 3000 times is clearly (insert expletive here) outrageous.

Then there is the matter of the stingy limits on mobile packages. The only reason I limit data rates on networks I operate is if the networking technology or the links that feed it are unable to cope with more. The 3G networks have relatively few users now. If operators feel the need to limit bandwidth that severely in order to keep their networks running with few users then how the hell are they going to cope when we're all forced onto 3G? My conclusion from this is that 3G itself and/or the operators' distribution networks must probably suck. Yes, there is also the possibility that they are just thieving, arm-twisting *******s and want to charge us as much as possible for as little as possible.

All my mobile devices are data capable but I don't use it. Not because I don't want to but because I'm scared of the size of the bill I could run up without warning (or the bill spammers and virus-infected email could run up.) There's no mechanism for my phone to give me a running total in money for my usage or for me to be sent a text message every so many pounds of spend. I would consider myself insane to put myself in a situation where I could be subject to penalties for quite minor over-usage that are so high. I will start using mobile data when for less than £50 ($100) fixed payment a month I can turn my laptop on and do whatever I would do with it at home without having to worry about how much data I'm shifting.

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Confused BBC tech chief: Only 600 Linux users visit our website

Paul Stimpson
Boffin

Or is that...

Could it be that the BBC stats system only counts users that accept cookies? All the Linux browsers I use make cookie control very easy and most of the Linux users I know are quite aggressive with their cookie refusal.

Just a thought...

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Jailed terror student 'hid' files in the wrong Windows folder

Paul Stimpson
Coat

@ Ferry Boat

> errr.... just wondering, but where would you put your Jihad stuff on a Linux box?

/usr/share/doc/Windows_Vista

Who the **** would ever go in there ;)

Taxi already called...

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0

Comcast busted for bagging BitTorrents (again)

Paul Stimpson
Boffin

Do the math

I just want ISPs to advertise their products truthfully and then give me what I pay for. With my current provider I have a 4Mbps connection contended 30:1 :

4Mbps/8 bits = 0.5MBps (neglecting overheads)

Daily maxed-out traffic would be 0.5*60(secs)*60(mins)*24(hours) = 43200 MB

43200MB = a little over 42GB.

So on a 30 day month total download potential is 42*30=1260GB

When I signed up I accepted a 30:1 contention ratio so in my head I should on average have a 1/30 share of the maxed-out pipe over a month:

1260GB / 30 = back to 42GB again.

I get a monthly allowance of 40GB so not too much robbery there then. It seems like my ISP is being fair. At this point I consider it none of their damn business what I do with that pipe. If I detect any deliberate interference with any of the protocols I use then I would consider that to be grounds for leaving them.

Do the sums for your provider. If the monthly limit is significantly less than your contention share of the whole pipe you are being ripped off. If they are interfering with your traffic then that is unacceptable and you should go elsewhere. I'm just waiting for the RIAA/MPAA to take an ISP to court because some piece of kit they have bought could potentially throttle illegal downloads to nothing but they "choose" not to. I wonder if any of this kit will generate possible legal liability for them down the line.

I was in Germany recently and I stayed in a hotel. That hotel had wireless operated by a company called M3Connect. I was getting decent web, FTP and VOIP rates but a torrent I started downloading ran far below what I expected. I opened the VPN into my office and tried it again. My transfer rate doubled. IMHO this is fairly conclusive evidence of throttling as the rate really should have gone down due to my office modem only having a 256kbps upload and the packets now having to dance a merry, encrypted dance. At least my ISP at home doesn't do that.

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Ships pollute more than planes

Paul Stimpson
Coat

@Danny Thompson

Whether or not we believe in the "religion" of global warming it seems only sensible to minimise our consumption of oil:

* Many things that benefit us are made from oil.

* There's only so much oil in the world.

* When it's gone, it's gone. There won't be any more just round the corner.

* If we waste it then the oil will run out quicker.

So in the absence of new breakthrough materials to replace oil-based plastics we really shouldn't be hosing the oil about like it doesn't matter.

Just my 2p...

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0

Erratic fleshies sabotage, wreck innocent flying robot

Paul Stimpson
Black Helicopters

Sign me up!

Damn. I've got to get a job designing stuff like this for a defence contractor! You build a UI that allows a console to change role in an under-pressure situation ("The ground's coming up to say hello. Do something quick!") that invites the operator to do the first thing that he thinks will work rather than going through a 2 page (hypothetically) checklist which will take more time than the operator has before losing the vehicle. That is assuming that said checklist is within arms reach and isn't locked up with other sensitive documents in the safe. The customer then either ignores the shortcomings or pays you even more to fix them rather than giving you the sound kicking you deserve. Get me some of that!

I have no conceptual objection to a control console being multi-role as long as the role change is simple to perform and there is an unambiguous indication that not even a trained monkey could ignore as to which role it is currently in. My personal preference for a console would be to use relative encoder controls with continuous motion and an LED column showing the current absolute position of that control input. You take control and the control state of the console should take the state of the vehicle, not the other way round. You can then immediately roll controls to make changes to the state.

I do wonder, however, whether the crappy interface is the fault of the design team or if they were given a tight spec from the customer and told "build that and don't argue." Also don't forget that the original military customer would have put this system through extensive acceptance testing (as should the DHS) before forking out that much cash per unit and must have signed off on the control interface being acceptable.

Is that an icon of a UAV heading towards the ground rapidly?

0
0

No-humping 20mph limit for London

Paul Stimpson

Follow the money (if you can drive fast enough)

Would the terrorist plod happen to have to pay Ken for access to the data from these and the congestion cameras? If so then I suggest there lies the reason for his enthusiasm...

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Ballmer: All open source dev should happen on Windows

Paul Stimpson

Why does my business use Linux?

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

- Mahatma Gandhi

Looks like things are moving along nicely for RedHat then...

Dear Mr Ballmer,

I have a business. It's only small but it's growing and I'm proud of it. Almost every mission-critical activity within my business takes place on Linux. In fact we only have one Windows machine and that is because of a particular user's preference. Even then that machine runs the Windows versions of the OSS software the rest of the business uses.

Why? Is it because this businessman is against companies making money or being successful? No. I like making money just as much as the next guy. Is it because I'm a commie pinko or an America-hater? No, I like making money just like the next guy and 90% of my custom comes from the USA.

The reasons I use Linux are quite simple: It enables me to deliver a quality service to my customers because, once it's setup to my liking, it just carries on working. I don't have to spend my profits on anti-virus software to try to keep it healthy or waste time I could be using to earn money scraping adware and malware off it. I've never had to reinstall it because it broke beyond being fixable. In fact I can't remember the last time it broke. I'm more productive using it as it's quicker on my hardware and just lets me get on with the things I need to do without thinking it knows what I want better than I do. It doesn't reboot my workstation in the middle of the night, even though I've set the preferences not to automatically install updates, losing the big number crunching job I'd left running overnight.

I have 2 hard drives and when I want to upgrade to a new distribution I swap them then do a clean install on the other drive and finally copy my user files across. This works well for me as I can always put the old drive back in and be back where I was in under 2 minutes. It takes me under 2 hours to install from scratch, update and get things just how I want them. Reinstalling Windows, my software and doing all the updates, if I want a dual boot, takes me almost a whole day.

In short, your software conspicuously fails to deliver the performance, stability, security, maintainability and quality that I need to keep my promises to my customers. That is why I don't use it for mission-critical applications any more. If you want my business back then stop spending your time trying to beat your competitors by badmouthing them and invest it in improving the quality of your own product. If Windows met my needs better than Linux then I would use it.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Stimpson.

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0

DRM on steroids controls backfires on Blu-ray

Paul Stimpson
Dead Vulture

Who thought this one up?

Assuming this is true then BD is a joke. Graham Lockley is right on the money. Early DB adopters are likely to be tech savvy but do Sony really expect the average consumer to understand what firmware is and to update it? It's not going to happen. We all know that firmware updating is not a risk-free process. Will I get my player fixed for free if an update goes wrong and bricks it? What happens if a firmware/DRM update renders some of my existing discs unplayable?

Sony's rootkit last year phoned home every time you played a disc. Do/can BD movies do that? I bet they could as there is a VM and arbitrary software can be included on the discs. I'm not connecting my player to the internet if it's going to do that. What I watch in the privacy of my own home is my business.

I can't be the only one that thinks I would be insane to buy a top-price player when I don't know if it will play any new disc that comes out and if it can't how long I will have to wait before it might, if it ever does. Manufacturers can't test their firmware against every disc. Eventually an update will render a player unable to play one or more discs it used to play fine. I'm not even prepared to consider spending over £500 ($1000) on a player and £25 ($50) a disc if there's even the remotest possibility this might happen.

This is another case of the content providers using a new format to add "bonus" material so they can increase the "value" of media and jack the price up. They did the same when DVD was new. I have some bad news for them. I've never watched the special features on 99% of my discs and I regard the new interactive pop-up junk as an annoyance. I bought that disc because I wanted to watch the movie, plain and simple.

0
0

French court says non to pre-loaded Windows on Acer laptop

Paul Stimpson

To each his own

"Why is it that almost every person that's commented on this story has gone on about Microsoft and so on?"

Erm... Because this is an article about the compulsory bundling of MS software on retail computers.

"Surely if the man was told that he'd get loads of rubbish when he bought the product then that's his problem?"

Daniel, do you really not get it or have you got into an argument and don't want to back down? Let's go back to the car analogy... Let's say Ford do a deal with a baby seat manufacturer and the deal requires Ford pay for a seat for every car they produce whether or not the customer takes the seat. Ford raise the price of all their cars by $50, include a baby seat and the brochure gets changed to read "includes a baby seat." The conditions of sale also prevent me from selling or giving the baby seat to someone who actually does want it or from using it in my other car. I do not have a baby and have no intent of having one within the time I will own this new car. Why should I be forced to give $50 (less Ford's and the retailer's cuts) to the baby seat company when I'm never going to use their product? That's the first point.

I get my new car and unwanted baby seat. I see a sticker on the box the baby seat comes in (stuck there by the manufacturer) that includes a promise (amongst all the other instructions and warnings) that says that if I don't agree with the warnings or don't want the seat I can return it unopened to the retailer for a refund of my $50. I go back to the dealer, box in hand, and try to return it and get my money. Neither the dealer nor Ford get their share of the $50 back from the baby seat company so they do everything they can to avoid paying me. That was the second problem in this case. The terms of the deal between Ford and the baby seat company should be irrelevant to me (why should I care if they were stupid enough to sign a crappy deal?) but clearly have a huge bearing on Ford's and the dealer's behaviour after the fact. IMHO this deal that obliges vendor refunds without compensation from MS are unfair and this needs to be addressed for the good of the consumer.

Thinking about it differently the PC retailers are actually getting ripped off here too. MS are prepared to sell HP copies of Windows for $30 (or whatever it costs) but won't sell it to the retailers for anything near that price.

These problems could be addressed quite simply. Take the $30 off the price of the machines and sell them bare. Give the retailer nice slim packs of bootable Ghost discs with COA stickers inside. When I hand over my credit card I get asked "Would you like Windows with that, Sir?" If I say "yes" I get charged the $30 for these discs and am given them. Since they are image discs the customer doesn't need to install Windows and make any more difficult choices than they do now. They just put the first disc in and turn the machine on. It boots from the disc and splats the hard drive with the same pre-installed stuff it would have had if it had been imaged in the factory. This disc could be BIOS locked to a particular manufacturer's hardware to reduce piracy (just like the Ghost discs that came in the box with my current machine.) The manufacturer supports it, the same as they do now. No problem, you get what you want, I get what I want. The retailer could even have a second set of Windows image discs with Office preloaded and charge more for them if that's what the customer wants.

Windows is a negative value to my business. Having it obliges me to spend further cash on antivirus subscriptions and plough man hours into supporting it to keep it working. Vista would make me prematurely replace otherwise perfectly good hardware at my cost. XP and Vista are simply not the right choices for us.

"Any before I get flamed by the linux fanboys..I've installed ubuntu on about 10 machines before setting them loose on ebay - I just wanted a laptop that I knew would work and I didn't have the time fiddling to get it up and running.."

You seem to have a preconception that Linux is an inferior product. Good enough for a machine you're selling but not good enough for you. These days I install Ubuntu because I want a machine that works and I don't have to wipe its ass continuously. I can't remember the last time I had to go into serious surgery on a Linux box because the OS broke and I've never had a spyware or virus infecton on one. I can install my Laptop with Kubuntu from fresh, update it and get it just how I want it in under 2 hours. To get a machine from a vanilla XP SP2 install to the same state takes me most of a day and yes, I am an experienced Windows admin too. Our experiences clearly differ.

PCs are a tool for my business and not the reason for its existence. I want PCs to enhance its productivity and not be a drain on its resources. Put simply, I just want to get the job done. There is no reason correctly configured images can't be made of any OS for easy customer deployment.

I do have XP on dual boot on one machine for a couple of customer applications that won't run under WINE. I use it less than once a month now. On my hardware it's slower and less productive as well as being more expensive and harder to maintain.

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SCO faces financial crunch after Unix defeat

Paul Stimpson

Unfinished business

As much as I detest SCO's behaviour and the effects it's had on the industry and am glad to see the back of them, in one way I think it is a shame that the matter of infringement was never settled in court. The result wasn't that "Linux doesn't infringe" it was "you can't sue for infringement because you don't actually own the thing you claim was infringed."

Because the SCO claims were never refuted we now seem to be in a situation where Linux _may_ still infringe but the party that may have been injured is Novell. I hope Novell will "do the right thing" and issue a promise that it will never bring similar claims against anyone for using the current GNU/Linux code in future. Hopefully such a promise could be made in a way that would also be binding on any company that may purchase the Unix rights from Novell in the future. I would hate to see Novell become "the Microsoft of Linux" and use these rights for the advancement of SuSE.

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