Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dell should be punished!

When I read the, once "Highly Confidential" - but now public (as a result of the Iowa anti-trust case), email thread from Redmond, it just cracked me up.

Sounding much like a bunch of kids fighting over who's daddy is better, this is further proof that M$ is so damn uncertain of its self.

Here are some funny moments from the memo:


"This is just life. I am not giving up. I don't have a penguin in my basement. I LOVE windows which is why I want us to face this so we can figure it out."


"Did Russ Holt know you were there, I can't imagine he would be this blatant against us if he knew you were there. "


"I was sitting right across the panel from him. We waved at each other briefly before the panel started."


"I want them to think very, very carefully about when and which forums they decide to push Linux very, very hard. Today, they do not. When they do, you can bet, behaviour will evolve."


"He said Windows three times during the whole discussion (it was a Linux panel tho) and then proceeded to push Linux very hard, never mentioning Windows."


You can read the memo here.

Interestingly this comes at a time, where Dell is currently conducting a brainstorming survey from their customers whom which the majority is asking for GNU/Linux pre installed on Dell desktops and notebooks. This is followed by other requests including having OpenOffice pre installed.

Check out the results of the survey.

It is yet to be seen if Dell can stand up to the bully and deliver what consumers want.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Darker side of Vista...

There is a darker side to Vista, one that far exceeds, beyond the dark theme that greets you after login in!

Vista has taken, "Restricting the user's rights to do what they can", to an unparallel level, never seen under any previous OS to date.

Most of these restrictions, were designed to set the stage for the inevitable, widespread adoption of technologies such as HD content that are currently at a bleeding edge state, thus expensive and not widely used.

As a result, for many of the early users of Vista, these defective restrictions are likely to go ununnoticed and then it will be too late... for all of us.

What am I talking about? you ask? Is it about activation thats got a number of tries attached to it? Or the fact that you can't change your motherboard without Vista considering the license invalid? Or perhaps the fact that you no longer can install Vista inside a virtualized platform such VMware or Xen?

While all of the above restrictions can be thought of as being somewhat annoying, especially when you've paid a considerable amount to acquire the OS, what I am talking about is an even darker monster - called DRM.

DRM = Digital Rights Management

Such a beautiful name for such a Cruel Intention! While it sounds like a party line from a Digital Rights activist group, DRM actually is trying to do the exact opposite - take away your right to the media you purchased. In the olden days, you could play a cassette you bought on any cassette player, such as your Hi-Fi or walkman and also make a personal backup just in case it got damaged. Well those days are going to be in the history books if RIAA/MPAA has it their way.

In a nutshell, the Vista DRM issue is that Microsoft has gone in to great lengths to architect Vista in such a way that it mandates a certain commitment from hardware vendors, just so that it fulfills the fantasies of the Record and Movie companies, thus undermining the users, hardware vendors, and ofcourse the single most important thing that made Microsoft the biggest OS vendor - the Open Personal Computer (PC) platform.

It is unacceptable to argue (see Microsoft's response url below), that because protected HD specifications require these stringent regulations inorder to play protected HD content Vista had no choice but to implement them. In other words, loosing your flexibility and freedom to tinker with an open PC platform by locking it down both in terms of hardware and software is worth it because otherwise we can't watch HD movies!

"The Vista Content Protection specification could very well constitute the longest suicide note in history"

"...in order to work, Vista's content protection must be able to violate the laws of physics, something that's unlikely to happen no matter how much the content industry wishes that it were possible"

- Peter Gutman


A recent paper by security expert Peter Gutman, titled "A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection", examines the technical issues behind Microsoft's DRM fantasies and why its not even technically feasible in the long run.

Microsoft's (unofficial) blog post response to this article didn't seem to go down so well (read through the comments). After reading it what I felt it boiled down to was - "Well thats the cost of doing business with RIAA/MPA. XP and ME had some of this already so don't sweat, its no big deal!".

As primarily a non Windows user, my initial reaction was, "I could careless, about Windows issues!". But this DRM issue has the potential to impact the PC itself as a result of Microsoft's dominance of the desktop market. The result is a tight grip on all the major hardware vendors where its easy to dictate terms and conditions and they are forced to follow through or face consequences (e.g: Dell almost got punished for distributing GNU/Linux).

Since most of the DRM technologies are based on keeping secrets (keys,obsfucating code), the result is that user's of Free Operating Systems such as GNU/Linux and BSD will not be able to play HD quality content that they have legitimately purchased. Worse yet is the possibility that as a result of these restriction, the device may not function at all or quite poorly with limited features because the hardware vendor will be forced to do their utmost to protect the DRM secrets making it extremely difficult to reverse engineer an Open Source driver. When taken in to account the insane DCMA, there is no way to legally use such hardware, because the mere act of even attempting to reverse engineer (even using a clean room method) will be considered illegal!

It's bad enough we have a screwed up software patent system. Now thanks to Vista selling out to DRM, it will only get crazier and crazier. If we're lucky, we will see that suicide note realize, or Vista somehow undoing this mess with a service pack before its too late.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Sleeping on the net

Well, I can finally fall asleep, (in bed) while browsing the net on my PSP over wireless. Thats right ADSL has finally come home. I was waiting for it to come to our neighborhood for the past two years or so. For those can recall would know that I had to go through several painful temporary solutions with nothing much to settle on. At last now, I can finally disconnect that CDMA piece of crap!

Getting the ADSL connection wasn't painless either. Since it was my dad who owned the phone line, I had to get him to sign the forms and even submit a photo copy of his ID since he couldn't be there in person.

The real problem was that I only got to know about it, only after trying to handover the filled form. So I had to make two trips over two days just for them to accept the application. But that wasn't the end of it.

I initially handed over the form to the WTC Teleshop, and waited for about a week before calling to check on progress. Thats when I realized what seemed to have been a lost application in transit - from WTC to the Kotte exchange.

I wasn't in the mood for a miracle, so instead decided to fill in another form and to take my dad along to the Kotte exchange, this time around. We hit another snag when they said that according to their computer system, we hadn't paid the last phone bill, despite my dad remembering it was paid a little over 3 weeks earlier. It turns out that when you pay bills through the bank it can take some time. Since the system didn't allow our application to be entered with an outstanding balance, and since we hadn't brought our receipt, we decided to repay the last bill with the understanding it will be adjusted in the next bill. Fortunately they did let me add the ADSL connection fees on credit to the next bill as opposed to paying it then and there.

If all this wasn't enough, I later came to learn that our home address was somewhat outdated on the SLT database. Basically we used to use a different house number (Don't ask me why) to the one we use now. This resulted in another request to fax a letter signed by my dad explaining it.

But finally when all of that was sorted out, I did get the connection in just two days. So if I hadn't gone to the WTC teleshop and instead gone direct to the Kotte exchange and didn't have the address issue - so in an ideal world, I would have got it in just two days, which in itself is pretty amazing (considering what they tell you its gonna be). I am yet to officially be notified of my connection though.

For anyone is wondering about ADSL, head on over to http://www.slt.lk/data/forhome/106adsl_areas.asp and wonder no more.