Tuesday, July 31, 2007

None so deaf

There are none so deaf as those who will not hear.

Acer may have ears in the UK but it puts fingers in them and shouts LA LA LA very loudly when anyone mentions Linux, which leads us to:

Acer: 'No UK demand' for Linux laptops - ZDNet UK

No demand? Don't be silly.

Monday, July 30, 2007

BBC spins iPlayer

Here we go. The BBC is starting to spin the iPlayer stories and give itself a big pat on the back:

BBC NEWS | Technology | Cautious welcome for BBC iPlayer

"Cautious welcome"? Well perhaps from those who are able to use it and know no better. It's a rather self-selecting population, though.

Back in the real world, one still has to wonder what on earth the BBC were thinking. Perhaps a number of high ranking BBC (ex-Microsoft) executives might just have something to do with it?

Let's stop this nonsense before more people are harmed through lock-in. If you have not already done so, please sign the petition on the PMs web site here.

Friday, July 27, 2007

BBC distorts the IT market

The BBC requires that people give Microsoft money in order to use their new iPlayer:

BBC NEWS | Technology | BBC online video service launches

I am staggered that a UK funded public entity is making content available exclusively on a Microsoft platform using a Microsoft file format.

The influence of the BBC is huge. The worst part of this iPlayer mess is the distorting effect it will have on the market. People who want to be able to watch their favourite BBC show will get a Windows box rather than a Mac or a Linux machine.

Microsoft are laughing all the way to the bank with this one.

Oh, but the BBC will review this every 6 months. That's all right then.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Shock! Copyrights do expire

The UK government has quite rightly, IMO, refused to extend the copyright term for recorded performances. The reaction from the recording artists is predictable:

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Copyright ruling angers artists

I agree completely with Mr. Daltrey that people should be rewarded for their creative work, and indeed people like Mr. Daltrey have been rewarded. What Mr. Daltrey et al want is more money ... but in return for what? More creativity? Nope, just more money for what was done over 50 years ago.

Copyrights do expire, but there is no limit at all on creating new works.

The UK stops digging

It seems that the copyright hole is not getting bigger in the UK, for now anyway:

Slashdot | UK Rejects Extending Music Copyright

Resisting demands to continue the extension of copyright terms is a good start. The next step should be to review why we have copyrights in the first place because while I think copyrights are useful it seems to me that the legislators have lost sight of why we need them and what benefits they offer to society and it follows that the law makers have not been able to introduce useful legislation in this space.

So, good that the UK has stopped digging. Now to start filling in the hole.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

BBC iPlayer - letting the side down

The BBC have developed a media viewer called iPlayer that will only run on Microsoft Windows. What were they thinking?

This petition on the Prime Ministers web site is proposing that the BBC should be required to hold off on releasing iPlayer until they can get it to work on all platforms.

I would like to suggest that you sign the petition if you are a UK citizen or UK resident.

In their usual schizophrenic style in matters such as this, the BBC have an article about the iPlayer and the petition:

BBC NEWS | Technology | iPlayer faces petition pressure

I confess that apart from the platform support issue I am very disappointed with the BBC for having selected a closed, Microsoft controlled, media file format. The BBC claim that this is because of Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) issues, but that seems a very weak argument for giving such a boon to Microsoft Inc. and in so doing putting in place non-trivial barriers for legitimate access to BBC content.

Not cricket, BBC. You are letting the side down rather badly here. Please think again.

Just give me IP

Are there any pure-play IP providers out there?

I don't want any add-ons with my IP service. No disk space. No email. No DNS. No content. No filtering. No phone. No games. No address book. No calendar. No SMS. No free modem. No free computer. Just IP. I just want the IP packets that I create to be sent to the right place and I'd like to have all packets addressed to my IP address sent to me. That's all.

When choosing an IP service I want to know what bandwidth and latency combinations are on offer, and I would like to know if any limits, ceilings, profiling or filtering could be applied. And I want to know the price.

I don't mind what the physical infrastructure is as long as it follows an open standard I can buy the hardware from any one of a number of vendors.

I would like there to be some competition.

Is there any?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Location Tree: crud OK, now for search

The SkillsBase location tree work is coming along nicely. We have the crud part going so that the location tree can be maintained and people can attach locations to their resume in the various ways I discussed before.

It has been quite good fun because the location tree needs to be handled in much the same way as the skills tree already is, so a great deal of use was made of the mighty refactoring browser to create abstract tree and node classes that both the skill and location classes could hang off. With a sprinkling of new code to give skills and locations unique character, away we go.

Anyway, I "just" need to modify the SkillsBase search facility to be location tree aware and we should be able to get this new version out there.

What fun :-)

Friday, July 20, 2007

PostgreSQL: Fast enough?

The message I get from the recent benchmark tests pitting PostgreSQL against Oracle ...

Open Source PostgreSQL Trails Oracle In Benchmark, But Not By Much

... is that PostgreSQL is quite fast enough for any application except in the most extreme situations. So, design your schema and build your system and deploy it on PostgreSQL. If your application turns out to have one of the less than 1% of all databases that need the kind of performance provided by an Oracle (or a DB2) you can take your SQL and run it on Oracle instead, once you have parted with a large wad of cash that is.

I reckon paying for a DBMS license is one of the most common and expensive forms of premature optimisation in the IT industry today.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Oyster says "talk to the hand"

The Oyster saga continues.

TfL (Transport for London) run the Oyster card system. They also run the London Underground system. In march this year, the Oyster card system failed which led to my wife being detained (physically) and assaulted (verbally) by TfL a staff member.

After months of interacting with Oyster "Help" (ha ha) we have been refunded the money that was taken from us in error. We were overcharged by £10 and the TfL cheque was for £40 and I thanked them for the £30 gesture. But the money was the smaller part of this incident. The larger part was the actions of the TfL staff member at the time of the incident.

Having issued the cheque (drawn on a TfL account, of course), the Oyster "Help" people now tell me that to deal with the detainment and assault part I will need to write a letter to ... TfL. But a different department, of course.

I wrote back saying that this was not acceptable. The response I got from them was essentially 'talk to the hand'. The other hand. The left hand of TfL that clearly does not know what the right hand is doing.

TfL has known of this incident since March in all it's sordid detail. To suggest that we have to start a new process from scratch is, to say the least, frustrating.

In my initial post about this saga I wondered how the matter would be handled. The answer is not well. Not well at all.

Microsoft devalues standards process

More on Microsoft's maneuvers to get their own document specification adopted as a standard ...

It would be good if Microsoft would compete in the market place on the merit of their products. Instead we see the company rely more on marketing and politics. Microsoft have completely devalued the word "innovation", they have devalued individual standards through "embrace, extend and extinguish" and now they are devaluing the standards process itself:

Groklaw - Notes from Portugal on the July 16th Meeting on Ecma-376

With behavior like this Microsoft should be limited to making written submissions to standards meetings.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

OOXML is not even a specification!

Sorry to bang on the Microsoft OOXML but the idea of this document being adopted as a standard is so bizarre that it's kind of morbidly fascinating. It is also scary because Microsoft may have the power to make it happen.

This post highlights a number of things that should get OOXML swept off the standards table:

TalkBack: Um... | reader response on| CNET News.com

... and from that the thing that strikes me as the most obvious reason why OOXML can not be a standard is that it is not even a complete specification!

Here are two quotes from OOXML:

" autoSpaceLikeWord95 (Emulate Word 95 Full-Width Character Spacing)

This element specifies that applications shall emulate the behavior of a previously existing word processing application (Microsoft Word 95) when determining the spacing between full-width East Asian characters in a document?s content."

" footnoteLayoutLikeWW8 (Emulate Word 6.x/95/97 Footnote Placement)

This element specifies that applications shall emulate the behavior of a previously existing word processing application (Microsoft Word 6.x/95/97) when determining the placement of the contents of footnotes relative to the page on which the footnote reference occurs. This emulation typically involves some and/or all of the footnote being inappropriately placed on the page following the footnote reference."

By referring to an external reference, i.e. the implementation of various versions of Word, the specification becomes un-implementable. What are the chances of Microsoft giving the world access the the source code of their Word program? Right. And even if they did, a pile of source code does not constitute a specification.

Buy your standards here

Microsoft desperately want their proprietary document file format to be adopted as a "standard". Here we read that Microsoft have been buying seats on a decision making panel in the US:

An Antic Disposition: OOXML Fails to Gain Approval in US

I hope the executive review mentioned in this piece will view the remarkable boost in the popularity of the Microsoft format with suspicion.

I also hope that the decision making bodies in the UK and the rest of the EU can resist Microsoft's money plays, and can keep the interests of the market and the public in mind.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Software Idea Patents: only the lawyers win

The following article supports the view that the only people to benefit from software idea patents are lawyers:

A Patent Is Worth Having, Right? Well, Maybe Not - New York Times

It seems from the article that large companies make a significant loss on software idea patent administration and litigation. The money ends up in the lawyers pockets.

I don't agree with the suggestion in the article that small companies and individuals are helped by these patents. Rather I believe that individuals and small companies who can't afford to pay the lawyers, or can't pay them enough, have their creativity stifled.

Patents on software ideas serve no public good at all. Software ideas simply should not be patentable ... unless the aim really is to generate revenue for lawyers.

Friday, July 13, 2007

EU Patents - the tide turns?

It looks like the people who love software idea patents are now viewing the status quo as their best bet in Europe:

Slashdot | Software Patent Debate Over in Europe For Now?

Fairly recently the fans of software idea patents were trying to revise EU statute law to include some case law which resulted from blunders made by the European Patent Office that let some software idea patents slip through. The argument then was that the law (statute + case) already supported software idea patents. This met some stiff opposition and thankfully the good guys won and the broken case law from the EPO was left flapping in the wind. Still dangerous, but not rolled into statute law.

Now the tide seems to have turned. The pro software idea patent people are now worried that if the issues are debated again the blunders of the EPO will be reversed and we will be left with statue law that clearly states that software is not patentable (i.e. back where we were several years ago). The result of their fear is a new found love for the status quo and a desire to suppress any further legislative moves.

Of course, the bad guys will be looking for any chance to start moving things back their way, so this is no time for complacency on the part of the good guys.

Software idea patents are a really bad idea. Statute law should clearly express that software can not be patented at all. EU law should be revised to make it clear that the EPO blundered in allowing even a whiff of software idea patents.

So, dear MEP, please don't let this matter drop.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Airports: more pain == good security?

It seems that when the UK government looks at border "security" the emphasis is on making it look serious by inflicting misery upon the typical traveler.

It further seems that so much effort has been expended on appearing to be secure that actual security is being ignored:

BBC NEWS | UK | UK defends its border procedures

Note the weasel words from the Home Office: their staff are "aware" of the Interpol list. Clearly they don't actually use it, though, because if they did the Home Office would have been saying that very loudly indeed.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Butrint, Albania

What a coincidence. We have just returned from a trip celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary and one of the place we visited was Butrint in Albania. I could describe it (the word remarkable would come up quite a bit), but I don't have to because just two days after we got home the BBC posted this:

BBC NEWS | Programmes | From Our Own Correspondent | Albania's long-lost Roman city

Butrint is really well worth a visit.