Monday, July 31, 2006

A Simple solution for Vista upgrade and WGA woes

I've Just read 2 articles. The first describes the "upgrade matrix" for Vista options. One of my machines runs XP Pro 64. The only option there is a clean install. That was quite a surprise! A clean install and re-install of main software takes 1.5 to 2 chargeable person days. It really is quite expensive and a last resort action.

My Tablet will only go to Vista Business or Enterprise, and the M$ pricing history for Business software has always been pretty aggressive. The other XP Pro machines also can only go to Business or Enterprise. I want to keep one environment M$ to ensure client compatibility, so that will mean one machine with Vista Business and the new Office. That won't be cheap, and therefore I really do not want to buy any more copies than I have to. I'm identifying the Windows software that I just "can't" do without and moving it to one of two machines - a laptop for mobile work, and a desktop/server for static development.

Every utility I use is re-evaluated - is it multi-platform? If not, is there a multi-platform alternative? Although functionality, not price, is the main requirement, the answer is usually in the open source arena. This is a trend that will impact software suppliers. The assumption that customers will automatically move to Vista has a questionmark over it. I've been using Open Office as my main work platform for some time to ease the transition and test for compatibility issues. I'm ready for Vista conversion and the following linked article just confirms my "Vista upgrade" strategy.

WGA and Activation Failures Don’t Faze Redmond at American McGee’s Blog
A few days ago Windows XP on my primary work computer decided that it wasn’t a legal copy. Strange since the copy running on there was pre-installed at the time that the machine was built by Alienware. There used to be a Windows serial number on the back of the machine, but the sticker has since fallen off. What’s worse, as soon as I started receiving the dreaded, “You may be a victim of software piracy…” notices, I also started noticing increased system instability. All of this culminated in what I can only assume was some form of malware infection, a hardware crash (related to my soundcard), and a pretty complete system failure.

I was angry for a moment, but then I realized: I don’t much like Windows anyway. So I wiped the offending garbage from my machine and installed Ubuntu Linux. All in all a painless process.

The truth is, Ubuntu “out of the box” is a little lacking (can’t play proprietary video formats, run PC apps, is missing much needed apps, etc), but with the use of an installer script called Automatix, I now have a free, highly functional, and stable OS. And it’s pretty to boot.

Matthew Newton from PC World has an article on installing and using Automatix at

Free Agent: Ubuntu's Missing Batteries Automatix makes supercharging Ubuntu Linux as easy as point and click.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Apple doubles laptop market share in a quarter

I don't want to keep blogging about Apple - I haven't owned one since Apple II (and it was a Medfly - a clone, actually) but changes in trend - inflexion points - are always interesting - and I think we are seeing such a change right now.

TMO Reports - Apple Laptops take 12 Percent of the Market || The Mac Observer
The MacBook and MacBook Pro are selling well enough to push Apple's take of the U.S. portable computer market in June up to 12 percent. During Apple's second quarter earnings report, the company noted that its laptop marketshare was at 6 percent in January.

Mac and Open Source

Mac support for multiple OS's is starting to generate some serious "wind beneath its wings". Reports are starting to trickle in on the iPod generation going straight to Apple for the college computer. Odd things are happening as the changes ripple through with early adopters giving way to more mainstream users using Macs for Mac and Linux.

O'Reilly Network -- How Does Open Source Software Stack Up on the Mac?
Recently on the O'Reilly Radar, it was noted that several well-known Mac folks are switching to Ubuntu Linux. One of them, Mark Pilgrim, directly juxtaposed several of Apple's stock apps to open source software (OSS) alternatives on his blog, and this got me pondering how well Apple's stock apps really stand up to some of the alternatives out there--especially from the OSS community. For that matter, how many high quality OSS alternatives are there for Mac users?

It turns out that OSS is doing amazingly well for the most part. As might be expected, there are still some gaping holes to be filled, but in many others, Apple would do well to start taking notes. I'm going to take a brief look at the landscape for some of the most common stock apps and assign each of those application categories some health grades. The more high-quality alternatives to Apple's stock apps there are, the higher we'll grade the category's health, and vice versa.

The Technology is just the Tool (Repeat)

Successful human facing systems are all about people issues, and not primarily the technology. Obviously there is the discipline of getting the technology to work underneath the covers, but that will benefit none, if the human aspects and the business issues are ignored or poorly handled.

Tonio Loewald's Blog
One of the best stories I've heard about Apple's history concerns Ellen Hancock, whom Gil Amelio brought into Apple as Chief Technology Officer. Her role is pretty much overlooked these days, but she is responsible for pulling the plug on Copland, looking for a viable replacement, and -- ultimately -- acquiring NeXT, Steve Jobs, and Avie Tevanian (her successor).

Anyway, back to the story which I am reciting from memory. Ellen Hancock comes in to work and she is the most senior woman -- ever -- at Apple, surrounded by a lot of cocksure guys. She holds a meeting with her key reports and during the meeting utters the following statement. "One of the things that's always puzzled me about Macs is why when I have a Windows .exe file on my desktop and I double-click it, it doesn't just work." The reaction is one of utter consternation. How could anyone working at Apple, let alone its new Chief Techology Officer, be so utterly clueless. And then it starts to dawn on them:

1) She has a PhD in Maths.

2) She has done serious shit at IBM.

3) She's right.

Not long after this, Virtual PC added a feature which actually allowed .exe files to "just work" if you double-clicked them.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

DMCA and Copyright affects Design Decisions

I've just been asked for a design recommendation. The problem: with an education/repository product a user can link to an external image. If the site is a secure site, and the image comes from a normal unsecured site, then IE will present a message warning that secured and unsecured items are mixed. Users can select this message so that it doesn't repeat. So far, one would think there is no problem - all the software (even IE) works as designed.

However, the client feels that this is not user friendly and wants to ensure that the message does not appear. While I am sympathetic, complaining about the way IE works is a little like complaining about the weather - we may be sympathetic, but doing anything about it involves building expensive structures.

One option considered, and quickly dismissed, was to hobble the editor so that images from non-secure sites could not be displayed. This is not acceptable for an educational community where resources may be found anywhere.

The major alternative was to set the editor up to copy the image automatically from the originating site onto the educational site so it is published from a secure server. I didn't like this option either, but the clarity of definition only fell into place when I watched Episode 17 of cranky geeks. Professor Larry Lessig, Stanford Law School, discussed the legality of external links to images versus taking a copy of the image.

The summary is that, (in the absence of explicit permission) while the law may be murky about the legality of linking to an image on another site even with attribution, taking a copy and putting it on your own site without permission is clearly on the wrong side of the law. Therefore, setting up an editor to automatically copy an image from any target site (therefore bypassing checks for permission) will create sites that will almost certainly infringe the rights of others. The user of such a system, and possibly the developers, will have difficulty framing a defence.

The unconsidered option is education. If users must belong to a secure server, they need to understand the reasons, and the likely occurences. The oldest rule of software design is to use software as it is designed, and not to artificially constrain it, when a litte user education may be a lot less complex.

Why do Cars have brakes? Why do Systems have Security?

Sun published this interview with a challenging take on Identity Management and Security - opening up the system!

EDGE - Identity Management - An Interview with Sara Gates
A contrarian view on cars, brakes and Identity Management - An interview with Sara Gates

Named as one of the top three most important people in the identity space by Eric Norlin of Digital ID World, Sun's Vice President of Identity Management, Sara Gates recently spoke with Laurie Wong, Sun's Software Product Manager about how organisations can drive business value through Identity Management.

Q. During your last visit to Australia, your keynote was a stand-out success. Everyone that attended still recalls your question, "Why do cars have brakes?" as well as your contrarian, not so obvious, answer. So can you tell us why cars have brakes and what this has to do with identity management?

A. Absolutely, and let me start by saying I look forward to visiting Australia again very soon. So I posed the question, 'Why do cars have brakes?'. Well cars have brakes so they can go fast!

There are some fundamental changes happening in our industry. Security is now about opening up businesses. In the past security was all about closing the business down, locking it up. Increasingly security is what will let us open things up and do it in a way that's good for customers and good for the business with an appropriate level of risk.

Cars have brakes so that they can go fast, and Identity Management is, we believe, the brakes on the car of the network that will let you go fast.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Bringing Systems Management to Smaller Clients through Open Source

Start-ups team to push open-source boundaries | CNET
The Open Management Consortium, founded in May, is a grouping of small companies seeking to bring open-source business models to systems management, an area dominated by larger companies.
High Impact
What's new:

A consortium of small vendors have attracted entrenched enterprise systems management vendors which are expected to join the open-source standardization effort.
Bottom line:

The creation of the consortium highlights how open-source business models are starting to influence the stodgy world of enterprise systems management.