An omnibus of tech posts by s Futurologist on software development
Thursday, 31 January 2008
Firefox addon unsigned security issue!
Currently addons.mozilla.org does not offer signed addon extensions, so if some unscrupulous person wrote a key-logger they could quite easily get people using their addon as everyone would trust the source. I'm surprised this hasn't happened yet actually.
Firefox as other security issues too, like even when I disable an addon Firefox still runs it upon startup! (Filterset.G. Updater for example). So you really have to uninstall the addons if you don't want them to run!
ASA also investigate junk mail and spam !
Noticed on the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) website
that they also now will deal with complaints from people who:
"want to stop direct mail from companies sent either by post, fax, text message or e-mail."
yay, another organisation dealing with this.. on top of the existing two: Information Commissioner
.. I wonder if ASA has more powers than the existing two do?
Tuesday, 29 January 2008
No more Apple iTunes excuses
I've long argued against using Apple's proprietary DRM beast that is iTunes, but I still know people who put up with the DRM and other problems because they like the UI. Now we have Miro
, the free software media player which is fortunately a Joost killer. Also we have Songbird
, this will suit those still using Apple's iTunes.
A few years ago i saw that VLC was popular, but not mainstream in the way that Firefox had become. We've needed a media player which can complete for a long time, and now we have two! What's a shame is that they both advocate Adobe's Flash format on their screencast pages here
, that's a bit bad form after your great effort guys!
I myself am still using XMMS, loads in under 1 sec and doesn't take up much screen space. I'd give KDE's Amarok a go, but it takes 6 secs to load! eek.
Labels: Apple, Future, Music, Tech
3D on the web (VRML, X3D and COLLADA)
3D on the web is one area that is still absent, I'd like to see that change over the next couple of years, especially as the tech has been around since the 90s. We've got the open format VMRL
So to pull it all together browsers really need to add native support for these formats. While their are "plugins" such as the excellent OpenVRML
that is still just a plugin, and not an integrated component of the browser like SVG or HTML. Perhaps someone at an innovative net business would be what's needed now to get things rolling.
Labels: Firefox, GNU-Linux, Tech, Web
Security updates from day1 with Kubuntu
I thought GNU+Linux was meant to be more secure than Apple and Microsoft's offerings.. you'd be fooled by the number of security updates needed on a clean Kubuntu 7.10 install. Everything from printing (CUPS), e2fsprogs, ghostscript, libflac, libpng, libxfont, mysql-common, openssh-common, openssl, perl, pidgin, samba and xserver-xorg-core need updating! already! at least they have fixed all these flaws since last September.. but why were there so many in the first place?
Saturday, 26 January 2008
VC-2 could be Dirac!
Interesting post On the road to a Dirac standard
, will be great if it does get accepted as VC-2. Then we'll just need some hardware accelerated implementations in consumer devices.
There is an interesting graph
on the BBC site at present. It shows the FTSE index over the last 20 years. You can see it has grown 3500 points over this period, which in the two year intervals on the graph is 175 points per year on average. If we take that increase and draw a diagonal line we can see the index is roughly on track at its correct value at present.
I've prepared an estimation of what it could be over the next four years if it actually stuck to this average increase rate (picture right).
No we all know from looking at the BBC graph that it doesn't follow the trend.. However, the key thing to remember is that, if we buy when the index is below the current trend line then we are sure to make more than we would if bought when above the line over a long term investment period.
So.. I'll be waiting for the next dip below the trend before I get an ISA index tracker! Personally I think the index will drop to around 4,500 over the next 12-18 months. Happy investments!
Labels: StockMarket, UK
Thursday, 24 January 2008
Kubuntu 7.10 Japanese environment disappointment
Just installed Kubuntu 7.10 on a 16GB Corsair I bought. A few problems came up in the boot after install, notably although I'd got it to manually install GRUB on my /dev/sdb drive (which GRUB c confusingly calls hd1), when Kubuntu booted it could not find the partition mapped as the root (hd1,0).. this it turns out is because the numbering changes depending on what was booted.. and as I selected USB boot from BIOS menu.. my /dev/sdb translated into being hd0. I change the root line in GRUB's edit mode to be hd(0,1) and it successfully booted though!
When I logged in, I noticed that although I had done a Japanese install (completely translated as Japanese during the install etc too), KDE was still in US English, and Japanese input did not even work! (Shift+Space is the usual combo to change into Japanese input). Alas, I've not figured out what is wrong with the install, and when I tried to get help online with Konversation that actually crashed:
#6 0xb71f09a3 in QGArray::duplicate () from /usr/lib/libqt-mt.so.3
#7 0xb6e28a33 in QMemArray::duplicate () from /usr/lib/libqt-mt.so.3
#8 0xb6e28a70 in QCString::operator= () from /usr/lib/libqt-mt.so.3
#9 0xb72070ea in QLocalePrivate::systemLocaleName ()
#10 0xb72071a2 in QLocale::system () from /usr/lib/libqt-mt.so.3
the rest of the back-trace was missing.. as Ubuntu still doesn't ship or automatically download symbols when it gets crashes..
Performance is a bit sluggish off this USBstick unfortunately, so I'm going to give try a differnet approach of just having the /boot on the USB stick, and then use an external drive for /, /home and swap!!
Labels: GNU-Linux, Ubuntu
Monday, 21 January 2008
Free SAP competitor?
Anyone know of a free software SAP
competitor? It's a big marketplace.
Labels: FreeSoftware, UK
GMail search improvement request
Advance the search functionality, so it is as good as google.co.uk. Including "did you mean" and other neat additions. For instance, I type "chamnix" and "No messages matched your search", even "broadening my search" didn't pick up on any with the correct Chamonix spelling. Using the "Advanced" search doesn't come up with any either.
The search is just too basic for my needs presently! ;)
Labels: Future, Google
Sunday, 20 January 2008
GMail scans for viruses after we open the email?
This seems a bit odd, I send an email with GMail, I go into my Sent folder 5 hours later and open the email. Then GMail says "Scanning for viruses ..." before I can download the attachments... surely it should just scan and store a flag that it has been checked? Instead I'm kept waiting 5 secs per attachments before I can download them!
Apple Milking Europe with 20% higher prices
has posted some US figures
to go with my Apple Macbook Vs Dell Laptop comparison
Looks better, only a $180 US difference, which translates in to UK pounds as:
- Apple Macbook - £778
- Dell M1330 - £686
I wonder why Apple have such different prices in the states, 20% more expensive! The Dell is only £33 (5%) more than in the UK! Apple milking it's European "fan base" ?
Labels: Apple, UK
Saturday, 19 January 2008
Apple MacBook Vs Dell Laptop price comparison
A year or so I calculated it was about £50 more expensive to buy a Apple MacBook than the equivalent spec Dell Laptop. Now I thought I would do the comparison again and see what had changed in the last 12 months.
- CPU: 2.2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
- RAM: 2 GB
- HD: 160 GB
- Screen: 33cm (13") diagonal
- Optical Drive: 8x DVD+/RW
The Dell HD was 7200rpm and the Apple was 5400rpm.
Both include free delivery.
Neither includes a carry case.
The MacBook does not include a 2MP web-camera.
- Apple MacBook (white): £969.01
- Dell XPS M1330 (N01X3303): £718.99
Dell comes in £250.02 cheaper! That is a lot of money for an Apple logo, the Apple banding price has leapt £200 higher than my comparison 12 months ago! I recall my comparison previously had the Apple around 800, so it looks like Apple is not passing on the savings Dell has found in cheaper parts 12 months on, and then is charging a bigger margin on the higher-spec components it us using this year!
AOL moving to Jabber (XMMP)
Looks like AOL has seen the writing on the wall and is experimenting with XMPP
for it's instant messaging services (ICQ and AIM). Check out this post
with more info. This is great news for the users still on their networks (many switched to MSN), the rest of us went straight to a jabber.org account, or a GoogleTalk as that is already XMPP.
So finally it looks like IM is converging on a decent open standard. Better than a fractured proprietary system with each vendor hoping for a monopoly (like Betamax!). Now all we need is for MSN to addopt XMPP, or maybe all the users will just ditch it and use GoogleTalk or Facebook when they switch to Ubuntu? ;)
Labels: Future, Tech, XMPP
Friday, 18 January 2008
GRUB not ready for public use
Most GNU+Linux OSs now come with only GRUB available as part of the setup. So after the last incident
with Ubuntu breaking my laptop MBR, I decided to approach it differently. I found a USB stick which I could use as my "boot" drive, I created the ext3 /boot partition on it, and installed GRUB onto hd3 as part of the install (which I am guessing correlates with /dev/sdc, although that was not explained anywhere in Ubuntu).
So when I rebooted and expected it to work.. the GRUB screen appeared, with my menu choices. However.. none of them worked, not even my "Microsoft Windows" one, which should have surely just been hooked into the MBR or Bootsector of my C drive (sda/hd0)!? The Kubuntu menu items just said kernel not found.
What is really odd is that GRUB is so anti-user-friendliness. It says "Error 17" whatever that means, could they really not have included a few words to explain the problem? I typed "help" and was presented with some commands, but no interactive help, I don't know what order to specify root/boot/chainload?? etc, and I could not even view the available discs/partitions that were available!
GRUB is sorely missing a simple menu which lets users select drive (MBR) or a partition (Bootsector) from which to load. I have to say I am disappointed it is so poor currently.
After formatting as FAT32 my /dev/sdc2 partition, my USB stick no longer even has a working GRUB menu, so I'm presuming it wasn't storing its data on the /boot partition afterall..!?
Looked at "grub-floppy", it is just a warning saying it doesn't work and maintainers need to fix it. So that option is not available either now.
Boost min wage to reduce inequality
The BBC are covering today
research which shows the top 10% of earners are accelerating away from the population as a whole. If those 10% were taxed more this wouldn't be so bad under the last 10 years of Labour government.
The top 10% do not really matter that much, it's the average of the population that has to be improved. If the minimum wage was increased above 20% per annum this wouldn't be so pronounced after 10 years. Currently the min wage is £5.52, if increased at 20% for the next too years that would take it up to £7.94 per hour, taking the lowest salary up to £16,000.
Labels: Politics, UK
Thursday, 17 January 2008
Open platform GNU+Linux beat Microsoft
The open hardware platform that is the x86, SATA, DDR2, PCI-X etc is the reason GNU+Linux will win in the end. Microsoft do not control the platform like Apple do with their Digital Restrictions Chip, so they are destined to ultimately loose control of the software market.
Wednesday, 16 January 2008
Apple Mac OS X software refunds
Apple's new "Air
" laptop looks sweet! ..but they're not selling it with a GNU+Linux install yet.. :( So looks like I would need to buy a standard model, then disagree with the software license terms and return that part of a refund. The Apple Mac OS X License terms
seem to allow for a refund in the following ways:
- "IF YOU DO NOT AGREE TO THE TERMS OF THIS LICENSE, DO NOT USE THE SOFTWARE AND (IF APPLICABLE) RETURN THE APPLE SOFTWARE TO THE PLACE WHERE YOU OBTAINED IT FOR A REFUND OR, IF THE SOFTWARE WAS ACCESSED ELECTRONICALLY, CLICK “DISAGREE/DECLINE”."
- "Apple warrants the media on which the Apple Software is recorded and delivered by Apple to be free from defects in materials and workmanship under normal use for a period of ninety (90) days from the date of original retail purchase. Your exclusive remedy under this Section shall be, at Apple’s option, a refund of the purchase price of the product containing the Apple Software or replacement of the Apple Software which is returned to Apple or an Apple authorized representative with a copy of the receipt."
I wonder if they would try and get around it by only giving me a £1 refund or something for the OS software? After all it didn't cost them more than £1 to copy the install CD as it didn't take anything from the original version of the disc.
Check out this Air review
, it rightly points out that the Sony X505
is also good, and it even has about 500g mass less than Apple's Cyclops beast with only one USB port!
Labels: Apple, GNU-Linux
Friday, 11 January 2008
While I prefer my Sony Ericsson to a solely music player with Digital Restrictions like Apple's ipod... I still find the song on the ipod advert quite catchy. If you want to buy it too, it's by a band called Feist
, and the track is called 1234, get it from the hype machine
Labels: Music, UK
Warning - MPS Junk mail opt out only lasts 5 years!
Having just registered with the UK's MPS
(Marketing Preference Service) to stop getting junk mail I got a confirmation letter warning that it will expire in 5 years, and that it will take them up to 4 months to stop their marketing association members from junk mailing me. Not very effective+efficient is it.!? Why can't it last for ever?
Labels: DataProtection, UK
Thursday, 10 January 2008
Not exactly 20 years ago today.. but this UoSAT-2 video
is pretty cool anyway. Check out the BBC-B in the video!. The Major Tom sound track is pretty ace too :)
Labels: Tech, UK
Tuesday, 8 January 2008
The political revival of the Welsh language
It's a shame how things have gone in the last 10yrs regarding Welsh, from being a dead language only spoken by a few in the North West of the country (Snowdonia etc) it has had the political bellows firmly wedged into it, and they have managed to keep the embers burning at great cost to the UK and to the people of Wales.
The economic cost is plain:
- There is no economic benefit to speaking welsh when everyone in Wales speaks English.
- It costs the UK millions and millions to translate all official documents and leaflets into Welsh, when they are already struggling to assist "genuine" non-native English speakers to understand the paperwork they need to complete.
The strategy which should have been fostered:
- Assistance provided to the elderly generation who live in the North regions which don't have English as their first language.
- All schools teaching pupils in English.
- Encourage take up of a "genuine" foreign language in school, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese etc
- After the benefits of a workforce fluent in an international standard language and an equally useful second language are realised, phase out Welsh completely. Leaving Welsh like Cornish and Gaelic, Scots and Latin.
My welsh friends all broadly see Welsh as a waste of learning time when we live in such a connected world where English and another international language would be very useful.
The economic benefits of a workforce which can live and work in other areas of the UK and the world are a key point. I've seen no evidence to support teaching Welsh and reviving it further, everything points to it just being a nationalist political exercise which will do Wales no long term good. Will the Nationalists have the last laugh? or the citizens?
Labels: Politics, UK
Jobs for all - Conservatives
The BBC are covering an interesting policy
by the Conservatives. Something I have been saying for quite a while, paying someone £60 a week to spend very little time job hunting is a farce. A claimant literally has to write down the newspaper, agency and website they have looked at to prove they have been searching. it would be far better to enrol them in a community work programme for 3 days a week to give them something productive to do with the remainder of their time while they are job hunting.
With most streets suffering from litter and overgrown paths, there is always work available at the local level. If on placement in a community centre that might even open a door to a permanent job!
Monday, 7 January 2008
Popularity vs Freedom
Someone on fsf-uk posted a link to this Popularity Versus Freedom
article which was published four years ago. I only just read it, a good read. My personal view is that you can use certain components like nVidia's linux kernel driver in the short term, but the long-term goal is to use all free software packages, nVidia's driver only being a temporary solution as part of an overall migration strategy! People install Apple iTunes when they could be supporting a free replacement with the cover-flick feature that is actually all that they like! ... so uninstall iTunes
if you've got it ;)
nVidia and other companies are sure to soon realise they can "dump" their code in the public domain and get it maintained for free eventually, the cost for them to keep maintaining it themselves must be extraordinary. The argument for not publishing the source code is typically patents these days, as source code may make accidental infringement visible!
What policies should prevent companies sending spam in the UK?
I guess I am fortunate that my BSc Computer Science degree included a module on Computing in Society. I was able to watch the Data Protection Act 1998
come into force (replacing the 1984 act). then in 2003 we received the the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations
thanks to the EC!
Both of these laws prevent companies adding our personal information to marketing databases without our express consent and knowledge. There cannot be a default "opt-in" too. The Information Commissioner
(formally the Data Protection Commissioner) deals with any requests for assessments when an individual needs to involve his office because the Data Controller in an organisation is not resolving an issue. Companies also need to register their use of our personal data, and provide a way to unsubscribe at the bottom of each marketing email etc.
Also register with the MPS
to take away another excuse for companies sending direct marketing!
If any company breaks the rules, take them to task and get them to delete your personal details, ask for compensation if it's wasted some of your time too!
Labels: DataProtection, DigitalRights
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