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Microsoft Lobby Denies the State of Chile Access To Free Software

Dr_Barnowl Re:Chilean Software Industry (134 comments)

I consider doing this even here in the UK sometimes.

My office shelled out, I estimate, around €30,000 for WinRAR licenses. Looking at the report justifying it's purchase, it's clear that 7-zip beats it out in basically every category of functionality that they assessed it on... but no-one sells 7-zip so you have no-one to point the finger at if it fails.

A small company selling support for F/OSS packages could really clean up (and probably not have to do very much real work), just by tendering prices a little under the "market leader" for F/OSS programs that occupy a commodity niche.

3 hours ago
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Microsoft Lobby Denies the State of Chile Access To Free Software

Dr_Barnowl Re:Microsoft cannot compete in the marketplace... (134 comments)

running the stuff people want .... Windows does so, Linux doesn't.

Depends on the people, depends on what they want.

You could invert that sentence and swap "Mac" for "Linux" for many audiences ; particularly creative types that have specialist apps that only run on one platform.

For simple uses... there's no problem. Linux has browsers, email clients, and LibreOffice. For business purposes, anything written in Java or one of the other virtual runtimes should be easy to port to Linux, or run right out of the box.

For complex uses... it depends on the niche. Certainly for software development, Linux wins for basically everything except native and .NET Windows apps. For other uses, I will grant you, the professional-grade applications are not available (even if they run in Wine). But I'm not an artist. I'm a developer.

Gaming is one of the things that keeps Windows on my hard drive, but Valve are trying their darndest to make this irrelevant. I'm watching with interest, but Windows won't be going away just yet....

But that's it. All my real work is done on Linux. Windows has been relegated to the status of a toy for me. I find it frustrating and clumsy to work with - even more so once the IT department has shackled the vast suite of corporate malware they deem necessary to the chain around it's neck. The software I produce is a mixture of server processes and client tools that run on both Windows and Linux. I even *gasp* pay for software to run on Linux.

I agree there is a vast technical debt built up apps written on platform-specific toolkits, but they become obsolete eventually and there's no excuse for porting them to another platform-locked toolkit any more.

3 hours ago
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Microsoft Lobby Denies the State of Chile Access To Free Software

Dr_Barnowl Re:Microsoft cannot compete in the marketplace... (134 comments)

It's really that most people have more experience of Windows.

I'd argue it's not actually any easier. Both have their quirks and complexities. I have a lot of experience with both ; I find Linux far easier than Windows.

My Mother had limited experience with both ; she finds Linux just as difficult as Windows, but I find it easier to support her on Linux. All things being equal she uses the same apps (Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice), I'd rather she was on a platform I can support easily and is somewhat robust against security risks.

Microsoft know this ; which is why they are so aggressive about making sure that people's early experience of computers is with Windows - cheap deals for students and schools, etc.

3 hours ago
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Microsoft Lobby Denies the State of Chile Access To Free Software

Dr_Barnowl Re:Publicly Funded Governments (134 comments)

This is true, but all things being equal, much of the data is held to ransom behind proprietary format at present.

"Open" implies that the format is accessible without prejudice ; beyond eliminating the need for a computer altogether (which is impractical), that means it should be accessible on the three big desktop platforms, probably the web as well.

Totally agree that for simple data like character delimited text tables it's not a problem, and Open Data should tend toward the simplest format practical to convey the information. But for complex things like office documents, there should be a F/OSS choice for the format chosen, because it's just not practical to ask people to code up their own viewer / editor for a given format.

And if there are F/OSS tools for your selected format, it would seem to be the logical choice to use them in public office, given that they are all about saving money, unless there are compelling reasons to use the proprietary software. And for open formats... there are usually compelling reasons NOT to use the proprietary software, because much of it almost seems designed to break open formats. (viz : all versions of Excel I've used have a tendency to completely ruin ODS workbooks containing formulas).

3 hours ago
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UK Police Warn Sharing James Foley Killing Video Is a Crime

Dr_Barnowl Re:Thoughtcrime (255 comments)

Making it should be illegal. Viewing it arguably does no additional harm (if you presume that anyone who would view it it willingly is already irreversibly fucked up, and people who aren't fucked up are appropriately digusted).

Viewing it is illegal in my jurisdiction. Which paradoxically makes it impossible to report if you stumble upon it in a place where you didn't expect (or want) to find it, because if you do so you're now confessing to a crime. This arguably means that kiddy porn remains available for longer than it otherwise would.

It should certainly be illegal to make it. And illegal to knowingly distribute it. And illegal to pay for it (directly - paying for a service that happens to unintentionally host kiddy porn shouldn't count, paying for a service devoted to kiddy porn should). But making it illegal to view or possess means that if you accidentally stumble upon it, you both viewed it, and because your computer cached it, possessed it, which means that people are far less likely to report it for fear of incriminating themselves.

4 hours ago
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If Fusion Is the Answer, We Need To Do It Quickly

Dr_Barnowl Re:Ready in 30 years (298 comments)

Deuterium and tritium are *rare*, and their main sources are oil wells.

You're mixing them up with helium, which is extracted from a fraction of natural gas.

Deuterium is very common, it just requires effort to extract.

Tritium is the rare one. Less than 300kg of it has ever been made. It's radioactive, so it disappears. There's probably less than 100kg of it in the world now.

yesterday
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Hemp Fibers Make Better Supercapacitors Than Graphene

Dr_Barnowl Re:not superconducting (178 comments)

It's the dielectric that needs to be an insulator ; these are electrode materials, which you want to be good conductors.

about a week ago
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Hemp Fibers Make Better Supercapacitors Than Graphene

Dr_Barnowl Re:suitable for home use? (178 comments)

Asbestos is just silicate rock. Structure makes a difference..

Graphene is just a sheet of carbon, but it's structure gives it novel properties - it wouldn't be a super-material if it didn't, just because it's all cool and awesome doesn't mean it's also inert and harmless.

about a week ago
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Hemp Fibers Make Better Supercapacitors Than Graphene

Dr_Barnowl Re:suitable for home use? (178 comments)

There's another approach to this, but it's gone a bit quiet ; they use a novel dielecric and claim that they can get incredibly high voltages out of it which makes for high energy storage.

EEStor

Since the dielectric is one part and the electrode another, I wonder what kind of advantages you'd get from combining the two? (Not sure if hemp electrodes would be compatible with their manufacturing process which uses metal foils as electrodes at the moment, as per traditional capaciptors).

about a week ago
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Point-and-Shoot: TrackingPoint's New Linux-Controlled AR-15s

Dr_Barnowl Re:Now do that with an AA-12 (219 comments)

It is. And the license explicitly permits it. Any kind of restriction on it's use and it's not Free Software.

about two weeks ago
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Study: Firmware Plagued By Poor Encryption and Backdoors

Dr_Barnowl Re:Of course (141 comments)

> Who's going to hack your fridge?

If your fridge is tied into your grocery shopping (which would seem to be a major reason to have a smart fridge... really, a dumb fridge is just fine at turning the compressor on and off), then you might be able to hack it and buy neat stuff and get it delivered to a drop location (even the owners own driveway ... "Yeah, I'll be out, drop it behind the paper recycling bin...").

about two weeks ago
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Study: Firmware Plagued By Poor Encryption and Backdoors

Dr_Barnowl Re: Of course (141 comments)

Yeah, they really are more short sighted, they only want *this* sale, which is the reason they cut the quality of things.

Of course, people feed this tendency by buying crappy products. Which sadly, makes the good quality products even more expensive because they can't benefit from the same economies of scale.

Keyboards, for example. When PCs cost $2000 (and $2000 meant something), $40 on a keyboard was barely noticeable.

Now the standard keyboard cost $5 and it shows. Issuing these keyboards to people expected to use a computer professionally is in my opinion, almost criminal, as they contribute to RSI and finger joint arthritis. A decent keyboard now costs even less than it did back then (in adjusted dollars) but they still ship the crap ones because they have to meet that price point.

about two weeks ago
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"Secret Serum" Used To Treat Americans With Ebola

Dr_Barnowl Re:Expert:Ebola Vaccine At Least 50 White People A (390 comments)

It's also shit like taking colchicine, which has been cheap and generic for years, doing a little extra research (which arguably was useful) and then using that status to bump the price up by 15 times.

Those people taking the drug couldn't give a shit about the research - they take the pills, their gout gets better, that's their own personal research right there. What sticks in their craw is that their pills now cost $5 apiece.

That and the systematic hiding of research that is negative or equivocal, the deliberate creation of medicines that are just a couple of atoms different from an existing one, not because they'll be better but because they'll be on patent, etc, etc.

Big pharma does a lot of good, but it's kind of like picking gold coins out of a midden.

about two weeks ago
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"Secret Serum" Used To Treat Americans With Ebola

Dr_Barnowl Re:Expert:Ebola Vaccine At Least 50 White People A (390 comments)

Not for much longer, after the slimy corporate toady bastard Conservative party wankers we have in power executed laws that absolve the state of their responsibility to provide healthcare and break up our NHS (our public property, bought and paid for by our taxes) for the purchase of their moneyed mates, so they can get some of the crumbs from their table.

about two weeks ago
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Lots Of People Really Want Slideout-Keyboard Phones: Where Are They?

Dr_Barnowl Re:Just get a case (544 comments)

The voice reco right now uploads your voice sample to Google's server farm where they apply the very best processing they can to it. And it still sucks balls.

It's become clear that it's going to take some kind of revolutionary breakthrough to make voice recognition actually good.

I compose my thoughts better when usnig a keyboard than when speaking as well. I can pause for thought and and change things.

I like the swipe functionality that comes with the standard Google keyboard now, but even that isn't perfect.

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Preparing an Android Tablet For Resale?

Dr_Barnowl Re:To answer the question directly (113 comments)

"Funny" doesn't count towards your karma score, so some people like to reward otherwise funny posts with ratings that do grant karma.

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Where Can I Find Resources On Programming For Palm OS 5?

Dr_Barnowl Re:Dear Slashdot (170 comments)

I would really have liked a PalmOS cart for my Nintendo DS ; the form factor would have made it an awesome little organizer, it had a touch screen, etc, and the CPU power would probably have been good enough to run the original OS ROMs in an emu.

There were rumours of it happening (maybe I even started them by discussing it on BBs...) but alas, it never came to be.

One thing I really liked about the PalmOS stuff, which other software suites took ages to catch up with, was the way they all integrated. Some of the things that make me go "Oh, cool!" in Android apps now are the sort of things that PalmOS had 16 years ago.

about three weeks ago
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Ebola Outbreak Continues To Expand

Dr_Barnowl Re:Scale? (170 comments)

Seems to be working just fine...

Syphilis does better, as a disease, than Ebola for the same reasons you win at Pandemic-type games - the slow progression, the low-profile.

Ebola doesn't spread nearly as much, because it's non-airborne and rapidly fatal to a large number of people who contract it. This is why it stays confined to the butt-end of civilization.

Syphilis does more harm overall because it has numbers in it's favour.

People tend to focus more on Ebola because of the high mortaility rate. It has a couple of pretty horrible "What if?"s - principally, what if it goes airborne? I'm not sure a virus with such a high mortaility rate that's been around so long would actually ever go airborne though - from an evolutionary perspective it's a terrible combination.

A virus with high mortaility and rapid spread will rapidly kill all susceptible individuals within it's catchment area, so it's likely that such things have never really gotten off the evolutionary drawing board. The last thing that came close was the Spanish Flu, which was a more fatal mutation of a fairly innocuous airborne pathogen, rather than a more mobile mutation of something unpleasantly fatal like Ebola.

Of course, the above is true of a pre-air-travel world, because rapid spread would kill off everything in the travel radius - because the travel radius was dictated by walking pace, or driving pace... or the speed of ocean liners. In this day and age, it would be much easier for such a thing to have a serious impact.

about a month ago
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UK Cabinet Office Adopts ODF As Exclusive Standard For Sharable Documents

Dr_Barnowl Re:MS Office will still reign supreme (164 comments)

He is a fuckwit that raises the point ; what if this is just a dastardly plan to get public orgs to pay for an upgrade to Office 2013? It could be regarded as the low-risk option - and lower versions do not support ODF 1.2.

about a month ago

Submissions

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Eric Schmidt urges regulation of mini-drones

Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  about a year ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The BBC reports that the CEO of Google thinks that drones should be regulated. Drones are certainly a hot topic, with appearances on both side of the divide in Cory Doctorow's novel Homeland — with the authorities using them to distribute riot gas, and the noble hackers using them to post the video of them doing it. Is Eric really concerned over how the public will use drones against each other, or is he more concerned that they might eat into Google's pie somehow?"
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UK Government - "Pay a £20 fee to acquit yourself of file-sharing (maybe)"

Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The BBC reports that the UK government plans to introduce a £20 fee if you wish to appeal against an allegation of copyright infringement, within 20 days of your accusation. Note that this doesn't guarantee acquittal, as only "excuses" covered in the Digital Economy Act will be valid even for consideration. This scheme could be in place as early as 2014, so John Smith, General Secretary of the Musicians' Union says "We urge ISPs to begin building their systems now and to work constructively with rights holders, Ofcom and government to get notice-sending up and running as soon as possible,". What are the thoughts of Slashdot?"
Link to Original Source
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EU Proposes HFT Transaction Tax

Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The BBC reports that the UK opposes a proposed new tax on transactions with at least one end Europe. Why is this "News for Nerds"? The proposal includes tax on derivatives, an instrument the High Frequency Trading stories we've been chowing down on recently. With the proposed tax being 0.1% or 0.01% for derivatives, the story highlights the sheer volumes involved — it's speculated that the tax would earn some €57B a year ($78B), around 80% of it from the City of London. A transaction tax like this is something frequently proposed in Slashdot HFT discussions. The UK says that it will veto the tax "unless it was imposed globally" — should the USA follow suit and impose a similar levy targeted at the trading desks of the NYSE?"
Link to Original Source
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Sony to convert online bookstore to open format

Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  about 5 years ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The BBC reports that Sony are to convert their online bookstore to the EPUB format.

While this format still supports DRM, it's supported on a much wider variety of readers. Is this a challenge to Kindle? It's nice to see Sony opening up to the idea of open standards ; even if you still have reservations about buying a Sony device, you might be able to patronise their bookstore sometime soon."
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Google to release another open-source OS

Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The BBC reports that Google are planning to release another operating system : Google Chrome OS.

This is apparently going to consist of the Google Chrome browser, running in "a new windowing system". The browser is the platform, much like it is in the Palm Pre smartphone, part of the intention being to provide a fast boot time.

They are setting their sights first on the growing market for netbooks, with ARM and x86 compatibility planned out of the starting gate.

A "browser OS" would probably do just fine for the majority of users, but I don't think I'm ready to give up my heavy client-side platforms just yet. What will be interesting to see is the Microsoft response to this — they have enjoyed an alleged "96%" share of the netbook market OS recently, so anything designed to eat into that will not be popular in the Redmond boardroom."
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EA releases license deactivation management tool.

Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "Electronic Arts have posted a link to a SecuROM De-authorization management tool. Once downloaded, the tool will search your drives for EA games infested with the draconian online DRM system, and help you download their respective individual de-activation tools.

This isn't a perfect solution, since it's still possible to run out of activations in the event of hardware failure or other source of data loss, but since the announcement that this particular DRM system will be dropped for The Sims 3 , it would seem that EA has had a minor epiphany about DRM."

Link to Original Source
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British IRS loses database of every child in UK.

Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "News breaking in the UK is that the HM Revenue & Customs (the UK version of the IRS) has lost in the post discs containing the entire Child Benefit database. Every child in the UK is entitled to receive Child Benefit, so this covers some 25M people (out of the UK population of some 60M), 7.25M families, and contains names, addresses, dates of birth, bank account numbers and national insurance number (aka SSN).

The lost data has failed to turn up under a search by HM Customs (famous for rooting contraband out of tight spaces) and the UK police.

This is data loss on an unprecedented scale. Many of the people questioning the Chancellor of the Exchequer at this moment are using the issue to raise questions about the UK government plans for a national ID database.

The data was apparently "password protected". The word "encryption" has also been used, but not in connection to the data, so it could well be something as simple as a passworded ZIP archive. The data was placed onto a couple of optical media and sent to another government office, for audit purposes, via the internal post system provided by a third party courier. This was not the first occurrence of the database being transferred in this way.

While there is no evidence so far that the data is being put to nefarious uses, this will cause total chaos in the UK banking system ; affected accounts are being flagged and mothers across the country will be phoning their bank in a panic."

Link to Original Source
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Swedish company trials peer-to-peer cellphones

Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "TerraNet is trialling a p2p based mobile telephony system. Phones are used to route calls onto other phones, constructing mesh networks of "up to 20km".

The BBC reports the natural tendency of the big telecoms providers to want to squash this. I can see other problems though. The advantages in an environment with sparse cell coverage are obvious, but network effects mean that the number of connections in a heavily populated mesh grow exponentially. What happens to your battery life when your phone becomes a node? And while the company is optimistic that they have a viable technology model from IP licensing, the demand for devices supporting this is going to be proportional to the number of devices that it can connect you to.

On the plus side, it would provide some great experience with mesh networks."

Link to Original Source
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Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The BBC reports in prose and in video that Robert Soloway, an alleged user of zombie spamming networks, has been arrested in Seattle. He will be charged with aggravated identity theft, the first such charge since the relevant law was passed in 2003.

While it's highly encouraging to see spammers brought to book, the spam level has not noticeably decreased since his arrest, testimony to the more prevalent spam output of eastern European and Asian sources."

Link to Original Source
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Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The CEO of Sun Microsystems blogs that "no amount of fear can stop the rise of [...] free software". While he avoids specifically mentioning a certain software company by name, he links directly to the interview in Fortune that started all this brouhaha.

He makes a special point that Sun "... decided to innovate, not litigate."

You have to wonder who else from the corporate world may pitch in at this point."

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