* Posts by Brett Brennan

189 publicly visible posts • joined 21 Apr 2007


A reading from the second book of Codh

Brett Brennan

aManfromMars - meet aWomanfromMars

Well, at least they weren't bought by CA!

Boffins sound exam cheat warning on brain enhancing pills

Brett Brennan


So, does this mean we're going to end up with Mentats? And a Butlerian Jihad?

Airbus jets could be converted to fuel-cell propulsion

Brett Brennan

Airlines already doing part of this

Delta, Northwest, American all - I believe - require pilots to only start one engine at the gate for taxi and start the second (third, fourth, etc.) engine(s) when they reach the end of their taxi prior to take-off. The reverse is done on landing: only one engine is left on once the aircraft is on the taxiway.

The reason for this - and, at least Delta, has been doing this for well over 8 years - is, as Jim points out above, taxiing IS horrendously expensive in a limited sort of way. Delta started this procedure back in the late '90's to reduce the amount of fuel used. Even a few minutes of jet operation adds up over hundreds of aircraft each day.

American cable giant joins data pimping club

Brett Brennan

Easy way to stop this nonsense

This isn't rocket science. The only way an ISP benefits from doing this monitoring is if they can sell it to someone. And companies will only buy if they see measurable value in it.

So, solving this is really simple. Never respond to the adverts. Ever.

When advertisers discover that the click-through rate is decreasing, they will stop paying for the service. When this happens enough, the ISP will stop using the equipment, as this is a cost that they can't pay for.

If you can't see 'em, you can't click 'em: Using a local hosts file (like the one available from http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm) helps prevent "the usual suspects" from delivering adverts to your computer. This works about 99% of the time.

In addition, things like NOSCRIPT or other advert blockers will also prevent the adverts from being displayed.

ON THE OTHER HAND...most computer users are so stupid that they would complain to the ISP if adverts STOPPED taking over their browser.

I don't know why I bother writing these things...it really doesn't matter, does it?

Brett Brennan
Paris Hilton

And how quickly will this get p0wnd?

Here's another thought: get a bot on a lot of PCs that keeps sending search requests for big todgers, pairs hilton, etc. so that some poor schmuck ends up with all their "targeted" adverts being the same as their spam?

Hey, that'd work pretty well, wouldn't it?

Netezza buys analytics mystery house

Brett Brennan

All that data and no where to go...

Building a data warehouse is pretty easy, really. You capture a whole big pot of detail data (register scan data, inventory item data, individual banking transaction data, etc.) and keep it in a big online storage heap. It's all there.

Now, all you have to do is make sense out of it. And that's the tough part.

Most businesses don't have a clue as to what all that data means. Really. They know that they sell widgets like there's no tomorrow, but they don't know WHY people are buying the crap out of their widgets all of a sudden. And the reason is that they have very little idea of how their products or services are actually perceived at the sale point, or how the sales relate back to the way the rest of the business operates.

With a data warehouse, you have all the little detail pieces - like having hundreds of hours of video from surveillance cameras all over the factory. Unfortunately you can't watch everything at once, and it just looks like random motion.

Now, add a model for the business (and most businesses don't have a model that reflects their actual operations) that is realistic, and suddenly all those little random bits of data start making sense. Add in some external event data, like holiday schedules, demographic data, customer detail data, supplier data, transportation data, and the driving events that cause customers to rush in and buy plywood just before a hurricane hits start coming together.

And...the key tools for doing this are complex analytical programs that can troll all those random bits and start determining patterns. Once the patterns and relationships start emerging, you can go back to your business model and make the changes that bring it into line with reality. And, of course, once you get the reality check thing working, you can now start "tweaking" your business processes and see meaningful results from the tweaks. Not necessarily always positive changes, but now you're not guessing as to what caused the increase in sales of beer and diapers and why putting them together on the shelf did nothing to improve the sales further.

So, this is why Netezza is buying NuTech Solutions. Selling cheap boxes to replace stuff like Teradata and DB2 is only part of the picture - and a small, low-margin part at that. Being able to deliver the on-going BPR and analysis consulting is where the REAL bucks are, and, unfortunately for Netezza, the tools that Teradata and IBM have worked generations developing to support their customers data warehouse use are NOT transferable to the Netezza solution, and using off-the-shelf tools like Microstrategy or Hyperion provide the pretty pictures, but do little to actually automate the BPR analysis. That's still the task of high-dollar analysts and their proprietary tools and captive stables of mathematicians.

All in all, a good move for Netezza. Maybe now they'll get some real traction against the incumbent DW vendors.

Oh, and by the way: you're wondering what HP is doing buying EDS? This is the same situation as Netezza, only multiplied by all the other parts of business operations: data center optimization, workflow optimization, NeoView data warehouse (almost enough by itself to justify the EDS buy), ERP integration...the list goes on.

In both cases it's a cheap way to jump-start what would normally be 10 years of internal development and experience. Think about it.

FBI probe discovers counterfeit kit in US military networks

Brett Brennan
Black Helicopters

The next frontier for Phishing

Unfortunately, this is "the next frontier" for phishing and other criminal data theft schemes. As countermeasures become more effective in blocking and stopping botnets and the usual means of capturing financial information (except in the jolly old UK, where "falling off the back of a lorry" is still the preferred method), "man in the middle" diversion of data streams will become more important. Fake hardware delivered to ISPs or even surreptitiously replaced in remote locations to divert specific addresses to phishing sites will become more important. Yes, it will be easy to find...once the problem is recognized - and that might take a while, given that the average ISP's attitude is "not my problem" when confronted with a security issue.

Even the technology isn't as difficult to create, as most devices would only need a change to the firmware to institute the diversion. Sophisticated stealth to match hashes and checksums isn't that hard, and programming can even reset to "factory" on power failure to prevent further snooping if the problem is detected.

No, laddies, THIS is the attack I'm afraid of. With the power of the information Mafia behind it, this could be happening even now and no one is the wiser for it...

Microsoft walks away from Yahoo!

Brett Brennan
Gates Horns

So they really wanted the sawdust, not the wheelbarrow

All along commentary to the MicroHoo! merger has talked about the boost that getting Yahoo! developers into Microsoft's online technology groups would make. Mr. Balmer has today put that concept to bed once and for all. In bed with the fishes, that is.

This latest missive from the Rampage of Redmond shows that Mr. Yang may be right in his intransigence to complete the merger. If MS was interested in the core technology, a higher price MIGHT be worthwhile, based on future value derived from leveraging Yahoo's greater technical knowledge across many of MS's faltering web initiatives. However, Mr. Balmer has clearly indicated that all they wanted to do was buy out the Yahoo! brand, most likely to simply grab its existing customer base and its valuable co-branding with products from many ISPs world-wide. Clearly an attempt to get past the revulsion that much of the world feels for the Microsoft brand in direct competition without having to do anything to earn it.

If MS were to absorb Yahoo! the ISPs that use Yahoo! for providing their customers a portal and web services (email, spam protection, online tools) would be faced with a very unsavory set of choices: keep Microhoo! as their portal and service provider; get Google as a replacement for these services; or create their own portal and tools environment. Expensive solutions all the way around for Yahoo's customer base, not what these clients need right now with other wolves howling at their doors (ie, regulatory oversight, customer dissatisfaction and all the expenses already in place to compete in the Web 2.0 marketplace).

I'm certainly glad now that I did not buy a few thousand shares of Yahoo! to reap a MS takeover windfall. And maybe it's for the best: maybe the ISPs and end users will realize how close to being p0wned by MS they came and start doing real work to insure that they don't get fooled by this type of move again.

Done. Or, as they say in the news business...


DoJ beats up tech firm for H-1B only job ads

Brett Brennan

It's a small world, after all

Yes, the H1-B workers are taking jobs away from American native workers. But, hey, it's GLOBAL economy and a GLOBAL job market.

My family emigrated from Eastern and Western Europe to America to escape famine and religious persecution. In their day, THEY were the H1-B workers, forced to take any job, live in dangerous places and try to raise a family on what were then starvation wages. Hell, America was FOUNDED on the idea of "wage slaves": what do you think all the indentured workers that came to the American Colonies were?

BTW, even the executive ranks of these big companies are feeling the pressure from off-shore workers. Check the senior technical management ranks of places like Microsoft, Google, AT&T, etc. Those names up there aren't exactly the usual suspects from middle America - they're all first or second generation immigrants that came here to have a better life (or at least a better paying life) and were cheaper AND more productive than the middle American competitors.

"Market Forces" are EXACTLY what we need right now - the kind of market that forces old line companies out of business with new ideas and technology. Protecting jobs from competition does nothing but entrench old skill sets. To counteract the influx of cheap labor, American workers need to fight back, not with laws but by bypassing the old skills, old technologies and old companies and take the fight TO the World Market.

I personally "compete" with very skilled people from all over the world every day, many of whom are H1-B workers. To be truthful, I'd rather work with most of the H1-B folks than their American counterparts: they work up to MY standards. I even help train them in new skills, effectively making MORE competition for me. Funny thing, though: as these "kids" (they're all half my age) get better at their jobs, they start demanding higher wages and higher positions. And the funniest thing is that MY value goes up with theirs, because the better they become, the better I become from TEACHING them. It's a vicious circle where when they win, I win.

If this doesn't make sense to you, go think about it for a while. Then quit whining and start winning.

Microsoft and Yahoo! renew their marriage talks

Brett Brennan
Dead Vulture

This will only work if...

...Microsoft defies traditional business logic and does the following:

Kills Yahoo! as an independent entity dead immediately;

Take the hit for a year and break out / re-purpose all the core parts of Yahoo! into existing and new Microsoft business units;

Create a new "leap forward" vision of information technology that gets them ahead of everyone else - including Google and the Open Source crowd.

My bet is that they do the obvious - apply EVA accounting to Yahoo!, meaning that it has to "pay its own way" while it gets integrated into the MS behemoth. Meaning that it will never get integrated and never go away...and never make any money.

Just like AOL did to Time-Warner...

(dead bird because that's what this deal is...)

HD media future may be Blu, but it's not rosy

Brett Brennan

The other shoe has to fall...

The issue with true HD content is not the availability of BluRay players, but the lack of penetration of 1080p displays. In the US, most HD displays being sold are 720p devices, either smaller LCD displays or plasma televisions. The difference in experience of "the main event" - the movie - on these devices is not really perceptible to the average punter compared to a standard DVD played through a up-converting DVD player.

Most "big box" retailers display the different devices in different areas of the video department. Plasma devices are all in one section, the "large" screen 1080p LCDs in another and the "budget" 720p devices in a third section, allowing "apples to apples" comparisons, but making the real difference between 720p and 1080p harder to see. And since most retailers push the pricey but lower-resolution plasma units ahead of the comparably priced 1080p LCD screens, consumers are just not seeing the advantage to BD investment when comparing display devices.

Until there is greater penetration of "true" HD displays, most consumers will not feel the need to upgrade their player and collection. This, combined with the cost differential of BD titles and hardware, will keep the sales at low levels for the near future.

Anti-virus hacking contest polarizes vendors

Brett Brennan

Anything that doesn't kill you makes you stronger

Current AV vendors complain that these hacking "contests" are taking them away from their "mission" of stopping attacks out in "the wild". Unfortunately the AV vendors, for the most part, accept some losses on the part of their user community as key to their detection strategy. "Hey, aren't there some sheep missing down in the south forty? Maybe we better go look for a wolf there..."

Signature based protection is going the same way DRM for music is going: we all know it ultimately doesn't work, but there is a huge industry based on it and it will go kicking and screaming all the way to the point where it is over run by attacks before admitting that it's not working. If DEFCON can make a positive statement that signature based detection is really failing across the board, especially with rapidly spreading widely based zero day attacks, then some good may come of this exercise.

Linux guru Hans Reiser convicted of first-degree murder

Brett Brennan

Resier FS already gone...

I run SuSE, and for the past two releases, the default FS is now EXT3. SuSE changed to EXT3 not long after the arrest of Hans, probably because Namesys, his company to develop and promote the Reiser file system, went out of business shortly after his arrest.

After reading the WIRED articles on the case, Hans didn't do himself any favors during the trial. While circumstantial evidence doesn't usually make a prima facia case for murder, given his various testimonies, contradictions and just odd-ball actions it could certainly have done so here. Regardless of his guilt, he certainly did not paint the best possible picture for a jury.

Unfortunately, when a case goes to jury trial in the US, it is usually either (a) the accused is not bright and wants "his day in court" regardless of the evidence or (more likely)(b): the evidence is so fubared already that there is no clear-cut case one way or another. Having sat on a number of juries myself, every case I heard in trial was of the latter type - and the real conviction or acquittal comes down to how the defendant and prosecution "look" to the jury.

Build a 14.5 watt data center in a shoebox

Brett Brennan


VIA VT-310DP - $250

3Ware 9500-12 RAID - $600

12 WD 320 disks - $1000

3U case - $150

Running the entire system from 12VDC in a motor home (caravan) ...priceless!

Total power consumption is around 120W at full load - for a 3TB RAID 5 server with hot spares spinning. If I upgrade to 1TB disks...

US watchdogs threaten vanity gene testers

Brett Brennan

@ Brian, H and Odin

The suggestion I made is actually a revamp of what Lloyds offers their customers. (I know: I recently checked at Lloyds for a car insurance policy for my vintage 1956 MGA.)

You offer, essentially, a risk pool that is very narrow and has well calculated actuarial statistics about when the policy is likely to be used. The pricing is like that Lloyds offers: the closer to the probable time the policy will be used invokes a higher price. If you find out about a pre-disposition to, let's say, testicular cancer when you are in your early 20's, and the disease is most likely to occur in your 50's, if you take a long-term policy the payments collected over the time of the policy are smaller, with the value of the policy being maximized 30 years in the future. If you take a short-term policy at age 20, say for 5 years, the payments would be minimal, as the risk associated with an incident of cancer is much lower.

Actually any individual can do this for themselves: you can identify the risks associated with your genetics, life-style, etc. and create a hedge fund for yourself that will accumulate value over time to meet the expected costs of these possible problems. This has to be done early in life and be kept up to date rigorously, but such planning can significantly reduce your personal exposure to anticipated risks in the future.

Used to be that's what mutual insurance groups were all about: individuals pooling their resources in order to insure capital to meets anticipated risks in the future. The only REAL problem with insurance companies today is that they have diversified into OTHER businesses that detract from their ability to offer risk management products effectively.

I'm hoping that "vanity DNA testing" becomes a tool to stop the insurance behemoths from this practice and instead forces them back to their original purpose - as a risk manager for YOU!

Brett Brennan

I smell an insurance company...

This sounds like the big insurance companies are pressuring governments to insure that they have access to the results of "unauthorized" genetic testing. Or, rather, the insurance companies want to make sure that YOU don't learn anything about your potential health problems before THEY do.

Insurance companies would LOVE to get hold of your genetic material and subject it to the same tests that these various "unlicensed" companies do in order to deny or restrict coverage of potential future problems. This makes sense, as placing a blanket restriction on all policies isn't the best PR for business. ("You are not covered for: cancer, diabetes, heart disease, mental illness, pregnancy complications...etc.")

As long as these companies don't release your data to anyone but you, are audited by some reasonable authority (not necessarily government) as to the accuracy of their testing, and provide the appropriate disclaimers for the accuracy of their results, I personally see no problem here. They are offering a service that lets you get one step ahead of the insurance companies, which levels the playing field for consumers.

The APPROPRIATE response would be to establish an oversight body for these testing companies - AND - tell the insurance companies to start providing "riders" to cover specific gene-identified illness at competitive rates. In other words you can still get cheap coverage for your usual day-to-day illnesses, and specific coverage for possible illnesses that you might develop in the future.

Here's another thought: if you subscribed early to a future disease policy, the initial costs would be low, with value building over time. Furthermore, as progress is made in treatment over the years, the cost to USE the policy would decrease. After all, this is what actuarial analysis is all about...

Finally, in order to get insurance companies to do their job - hedging against future risk - rather than just raking in profit, these testing companies could "pull a Google" and, if requested, send you HUNDREDS of possible insurers information so you could comparison shop the rider policies for your potential illness. Wow, what a concept: let the market sort out the price through competition!

My nickel's worth. Leaving now.

ISP typo pimping exposes users to fraudulent web pages

Brett Brennan

OpenDNS hijacked too?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if an ISP sees DNS requests to someone elses DNS server, couldn't they just "hijack" these requests - sending them back to the ISP DNS server?

I mean, how hard would that be, compared to validating then spoofing and sub-domain?

Windows Server 2008 is better than Vista, but why?

Brett Brennan

The difference between Vista and Server 2008

It's real simple.

The OEM version of Vista Ultimate is US$189 at a major online computer retailer.

The OEM version of Server 2008 Standard is US$699 at the same retailer.

Server 2008 retail is really Vista for Power Users - meaning anyone that wants to use Windows, have the cool graphics of Vista, but actually get WORK done.

So, Microsoft marketing did a FANTASTIC job with this one. Release a shoddy, substandard product to all the OEMs so that every new machine gets stuck with it, THEN release the REAL cool product for triple the price, and everyone will flock to buy it at RETAIL prices to get away from the shoddy original product.

And MS makes out by (1) selling copies of the original shoddy OS to everyone the first year and (2) selling them ANOTHER OS a year later for three times the price!

God, I love their marketing guys!

Mystery HDD maker orders kit to build monster-capacity drives

Brett Brennan

@Carl - how many feet of memory?

Yes, I too remember measuring storage in feet - the number of feet of equivalent paper tape that a CNC machine tool would have to equal the storage of a bubble memory card.

My wife and I used to torment our IT friends by discussing the various bargain disk drives at the Egghead outlet store in terms of price per foot of capacity. Nearly as mind-bending as the El Reg standards of measure.

Mine's the one with hydraulic fluid stains on the cuffs and metal shavings on the collar...

Google sneaks under standards radar

Brett Brennan

So long as it's an open standard

The entire point of OOXML is/was that it is NOT an open standard. It requires a legal "promise" from Microsoft to allow third parties to develop applications that use it.

I have not read the Google "standard" for KML; however, I'm assuming that the lack of massive backlash to it means that it is relatively clean.

Also, to the first-post AC: you've hit the mark there. The world of GIS experts is a very small one, with one company - ESRI - the true dominant player in the industry. Google is really a user of the raw data collected an correlated by ESRI and a few other companies, making this more a case of the 600 pound gorilla standing on the bank of the river shouting at the 400 pound alligator. As long as the gorilla eats bananas and throws raw chickens and lawyers into the river, the alligator really doesn't care what the gorilla does on land...

IBM wants to get youngsters hooked on Power

Brett Brennan

An Easy Way To Win The Hip Crowd

Back to the Future!

All IBM has to do to get the great WEB 2.0 mass following is go back to Steve Jobs, offer some cash to do co-branding, and - VIOLA! - the Mac Power Classic Server is born! Again!

As silly as an Apple-IBM axis might sound, it could be an interesting partnership to really clobber the MS-Intel krew. Imagine what amazing stuff a Power/Cell server backended by AIX and running OSX as a service could do?

Shit, I just gave away THE business concept of the year: thin-client Apple utility servers for the kidz at home! Throw away those old Windows PCs, sign up for Apple ease from your local AT&T network. No more Vista Voodoo - just plug in your way cool iCloud terminal and Bob's your uncle!

Seriously though, IBM's play into this space is really targeted at this type of thinking. And I really don't think that anyone - even IBM - realizes how powerful something like the Power/Cell platform really is or what it can provide in the mass entertainment market as a "cloud" computing resource. And with IBM to help handle the IP licensing for users, this could be a major break into the Google-Microhoo! dominated marketplace.

(Sorry, Ashley: I read the article but I'm caffeine-challenged right now...)

Craigslist and eBay: Terrorist arms bazaars of DEATH

Brett Brennan
Paris Hilton

Devil you know and all that...

What would scare me much more than seeing a few random bits and bobs of war-surplus kit showing up on eBay: seeing new, improved COPIES of these aircraft parts being offered for sale by Iran or North Korea, etc.

These are NOT stupid countries, as is evidenced by their ability to develop nuclear weapons programs, medium range ballistic missiles and other knowledge-intensive weapons systems. Should they set their minds to it, they could easily reverse-engineer their aging aircraft fleets and start manufacturing parts locally.

Actually, THAT may be the reason so few parts are found on eBay or craigslist: there's no market for them, as the effected countries are already manufacturing the parts themselves. (Hey, didn't this happen with South Africa back in the 1980's: we cut them off and they developed their own weapons programs? Now we buy weapons from THEM, because they're cheaper and better...)

What would really worry me is to suddenly see Predator-like weapons that use cell phones for communications suddenly start to attack places all over the world. THAT would certainly teach the cellcos a lesson or two, eh?

(Paris, because she KNOWS ALL about cell phones...)

Malware still malingering for up-to-date anti-virus users

Brett Brennan


The Active Scan testing only checks Windows for vulnerabilities! Wow, I'm shocked, SHOCKED, you hear!

So, the other 28% of the business users that aren't infected must be using UNIX or Linux or MAC OSX, since Panda doesn't even bother to check them, eh?


Network Solutions hijacks customer sub-domains for ad fest

Brett Brennan

Like this is unexpected from NS

Read Kieren McCarthy's "SEX.COM" to see how Network Solutions has worked the EULA pretty much from day 1. Bastards.

Fresh blood - the new fight for open source

Brett Brennan
Thumb Up

OSS and User Groups

Maybe this issue is simply one of perspective. Commercial software companies have their user groups - with the attendant meetings and parties - that allow the exchange of what may be "proprietary" ideas and solutions with both allies and competitors. OSS code return can be viewed in the same context as a user's group meeting where common problems and ideas are exchanged.

Many of the large OSS projects have gotten to the size that a true "users group" exists, holds annual meetings and builds a lot of "networking" between the client base. It should be possible for other projects to grow toward this goal as well.

Maybe it's a "maturity" thing: as a product/project ages and gains credibility with customers, the need to establish planning for their entire user community becomes a necessity. Contributed feature/function is easier when there is a working group set up as part of the user's group to address specific changes and feature extensions.

So the solution may be as simple as establishing a more formal "feature forum" as part of a project and manage coordinated contributions via a working group model. That way there is a public acknowledgment of the feature/fix without running the risk of either compromising an internal advantage or being burdened with all the support.

Yeah, I know this is how and OSS project is SUPPOSED to work from the get-go, but larger companies are more at ease with vendor-based models for collaboration. Maybe aping some of their features will help get more commitment.

Only one man can save Motorola

Brett Brennan

Maybe it's just Schaumberg, Illinois...

Maybe Schaumberg is just the black hole of corporate America. What ever happened to Motorola's neighbor, US Robotics? OOPS! Or Sears? (Well, they're out in Hoffman Estates, but it's pretty close...) It seems like any company that sets up HQ in that part of Chicago suburbia ends up as a gray-tone image of its former self.

EMC whisks Iomega away from Chinese suitor

Brett Brennan


Me bad - didn't have a disk in front of me, so I chose the frontal lobotomy! They were the 100MB disks. But, you gotta admit, it's not often that you find products in IT that are still compatible and working after 10 years.

Thanx for the correction!

Brett Brennan

If only other technology vendors would learn from IOmega

A month ago I bought a brand new IOmega ZIP drive to recover data I'd backed up onto 10GB ZIP disks back in 1997. Those ZIP disks were banging around a dirty, damp compartment in my motor home (caravan for the Queen's subjects) for the past 11 years. I wiped the crud off of them (15 in total) and stuck them into the new USB ZIP drive - and PRESTO! every disk was completely readable. No data loss.

Try THAT stunt with 11 year old EMC tape backups...IF you can find an 8mm tape drive!

Mine's the one with the ciggys in one pocket and the ZIP disks in the other...

Microsoft preaches togetherness for online security

Brett Brennan

I can see the future now...

Microsoft will be proposing another ISO standard through ECMA, this time to instantiate Windows Live OneCare as the "interoperability standard" for system security.

Queue up to the right for reaming with a "jimmy hat" (the IP protection racket "promise"), to the left without...

IBM smacks rivals with 5.0GHz Power6 beast

Brett Brennan

But the Vista Experience is only 3...

due to no drivers being available to use the whopping huge hot cores for VGA video output. So the entire system will still take 2-3 hours to copy a 4.7GB DVD image from one 500 drive array to another...

Mine's the one with a VIA Eden system in the pocket running off of 8 "C" cell batteries...

MokaFive pumps virtual PCs through the cloud

Brett Brennan

Quite interesting for SMBs...

Yeah, you can do the same thing with a "real" VMWare license, but MokaFive is providing the proverbial "point-and-click" management interface that small-time CIOs (like me) need to manage a portable, virtualized environment for "clean" client environments.

Small-Medium Businesses (SMBs) may find this to be an excellent starting point to be able to provide their employees a quick, easy VM environment. This is especially true for being able to create a VM container for working in a customer's environment that allows isolation of their work from your own.

The "bare metal" implementation is a very nice concept: this would allow slapping a ready-to-work environment onto any reasonable X86 platform, something that is more and more of an issue when working inside a corporate network with locked-down machines but needing a set of tools that can't be loaded by the customer IT department (usually because they're too busy or too stupid...)

I think I'll play in this sandbox for a bit. If it's good, I hope the price for a "real" subscription isn't too prohibitive - and that it'll work with a Linux host...

Android alternative delivers partial Linux package

Brett Brennan

How is this different from what we have today?

In the world of mobile handsets, there are MANY different implementations today, all with different foundations, features and availability. It doesn't really matter WHAT the underlying platform is: the resulting utility to the end user is what sells a platform.

As far as I can tell, it's not so much the underlying platform that determines what a mobile device can do, but the hardware limitations. Small screens, limited input devices, cost to consumer are all far more important in device limitations that the underlying software. And the carrier/vendor desires for profit and option sell-through are a much bigger factor in determining exactly what is delivered to customers than any software limitation.

A Linux solution is desirable for all parties involved (well, except for Microsoft) because it makes the cost of feature-function addition much lower than a proprietary solution. And, as Dr. Mouse points out above, regardless of the underlying distro, porting an application from one distro to another is usually much easier than creating it anew.

Unfortunately, the most important missing piece is the ability to take *ANY* handset and use it on *ANY* network. (Don't worry: I know why this is a problem - has nothing to do with Linux.) Europeans are fortunate in that nearly all the subscriber networks are GSM-based, allowing for far more devices to connect to them than us Yanks with our fragmented GSM/CDMA/iDEN networks. But, regardless, it's all about getting a device certified and accepted by a carrier - and THAT problem hasn't even begun to raise it's head. Consider the issues that terrestrial comms have with the BBC iPlayer and its traffic, or BitTorrent traffic in the US. Each application, regardless of platform, will be a determining factor for acceptance, not the underlying OS or feature set.

Personally, I'm looking forward to the day when I can get a radio "lump" that simply acts as a voice call interface, modem and router and can dangle from my keys, then have specific other devices (like a Bluetooth headset or a Nokia 770) to perform the functions of interfaces to me as a human.

(Steps off fruit crate, picks up crate and walks off.)

How BA handles lost luggage complaints: Shock picture

Brett Brennan

Amazon KNOWS airports...

While checking amazon.com US for said Playmobil Security Check-In, the following items were also found in the related search ("Playmobil Security"):

Web "security" cameras

Playmobil Airport Terminal

Playmobil Safecrackers

Playmobil Police Checkpoint

Playmobil Rescue Police Station with Jail Cell

Playmobil Hazmat Team

Child's Pimp Costume

Weener Cleaner Soap

Beaver Finger Puppet

The 2007-2012 Outlook for Bathroom Toilet Brushes and Holders in Greater China

About the only thing missing was a case of mini-bottle Scotch. Kids can certainly learn what a trip to the Philippines is all about from THIS list

EC probes OOXML standards-setting process

Brett Brennan

Really simple solution

Microsoft will raise the retail and OEM built-in price of Office 2007 and subsequent versions by 15%, then give every government a free unlimited use license for the product. However, they will still need to purchase Windows at the regular retail price to qualify...

How an app called WarmTouch nailed a grenade-stockpiling cyber extortionist

Brett Brennan

It's a TOOL fer Christ's sake!


The assistance is appropriate: The part has formed, once an affected task/role either the role are simpler or, because of somebody, has not used ability, or ability laying aside something work regarding this manual implementation task/role. IWenn you Rohrleitungschlüssel the use, the nail injunction, have adopted the ViceGrips (r) general key words, or the position angle makes the winning bid this screwdriver to start you to use Philip to live the type, WarmTouch fehl.anwenden.

came from this:

协助是合适的: 部件形成了,一旦一个感动的任务或角色是更加简单的或,因为某人,没有使用能力,或者能力放置某事工作对此手工实施任务。 IWenn您Rohrleitungschlüssel使用,钉子嘱咐,采取了ViceGrips (r)通用关键字,或者位角落盘该螺丝刀开始您使用菲利普居住类型, WarmTouch fehl.anwenden。

which came from this:

L'aide est juste : L'unité a formé une fois une tâche passionnée/rôle d'être plus simple ou a causé quelqu'un, n'a pas utilisé la capacité, ou le pouvoir met quelque chose en oeuvre mettre manuellement la tâche en oeuvre. Des IWenn vous un Rohrleitungschlüssel utilisent, le clou exhorte, a pris le ViceGrips (R) la clé générale, ou celui tournevis de bit Quoin plats vous commence à utiliser les Philip vis le type, WarmTouch fehl.anwenden.

which came from this:

Das Hilfsmittel ist gerecht: Die Einheit bildete einmal eine eifrige Aufgabe/eine Rolle, einfacher zu sein oder verursachte jemand, verwendete nicht die Fähigkeit, oder die Stärke führt etwas durch, die Aufgabe manuell durchzuführen. Wenn Sie einen Rohrleitungschlüssel verwenden, der Nagel antreibt, nahm das ViceGrips (R) den allgemeinen Schlüssel, oder der flache Bitschraubenzieher Quoin fängt an, die Philip Schraube zu verwenden der Typ, Sie fehl.anwenden WarmTouch.

which came from this:

工具是正义的: 设备曾经使一项艰巨任务更加简单,或者使某人,不用技能或力量手工执行某事完成任务。 如果您是使用一把管道扳手驾驶钉子, ViceGrips (r)作为通用扳手或平面刀片螺丝刀的角落启用菲利普螺丝的类型,您误用WarmTouch。

Which started as:

A tool is just that: a device used to make an arduous task simpler, or to enable someone without the skill/strength to do something manually to accomplish the task themselves. If you're the type that uses a pipe spanner to drive nails, ViceGrips (r) as the Universal spanner or the corner of a flat-blade screwdriver to turn Phillips screws, you're going to misuse WarmTouch as well.

'Nuff said.

(Thanks to Babblefish.com and SYSTRAN)

Only Ubuntu left standing, as Flash vuln fells Vista in Pwn2Own hacking contest

Brett Brennan

How about some servers next time?

Although this competition does have some interesting and useful points - and a largely unnoticed one is that "new and shiny" doesn't always equate to "safe and sound" (pricey new hardware and OS often are "protected" for a while by their scarcity on the ground) - it pretty much sews up what most IT professionals have known for years: a "home" platform, regardless of its merits, will fall to a determined hack when it is attacked. This is why major ISPs are removing as much damaging capability on their consumer networks as quickly as possible. Reduce the attack surface from the little farmers with their pitchforks and torches, and everyone can sleep tonight.

Hence the topic: what about a serious server pwn2own contest? Get three major server vendors - like IBM, HP, Sun, etc. - to provide a nice mid-class server platform configured for a "typical" firewall task. A web server, mail server, ecommerce server, etc. Three different OS and hardware platforms (Power/AIX, Intel/Windows, SPARC/Solaris), also patched and configured by the vendors to spec. Then let the games begin: whoever can get the target server to spew unauthorized scripting (should be a suitably innocuous script provided as the test piece by the event organizers) wins. Get the vendors to kick into the kitty for a prize (most competitors won't REALLY want a blade server and disk farm to take home, will they?) and see what come out of this.

I think this would be an important twist in that we'd see what the world would look like if it were reduced to a Utility Computing cloud, with end-users effectively defanged and all work housed inside the Fortress Data Center. I'm sure the result would show the World is not safer in the castle than it is in its huts today. But the lesson needs to go on record just the same.

Mine's the delivery order with 2 pizzas and a twelver of stout, wrapped in the thermal blanket...

Best Buy calls copper on unsatisfied shopper

Brett Brennan

Fair and balanced report

OK, this WAS over-the-top, even for "Wurst Buy" as we call 'em. I often do the same thing when visiting the Wurst Buy near me (where ever I am - sometimes you just NEED a LAN cable at 20:30, and "Wally-World" is too much hassle...) and - USUALLY - the store geek is standing there with the customer asking questions as well.

To be "fair and balanced": Best Buy has, in my experience, improved considerably over the past two years, at least at those stores I've visited in the midwest and south. While not "rocket scientists" by any stretch of the imagination, the floor geeks are usually conversant with their products, and, when I've gotten lost looking for something, have kindly escorted me to the correct department, located another reasonably competent associate and done a clean turn-over. Better than nearly any other store I've been to. And they're always willing to listen to my "real-world" experience with specific products, and usually ask intelligent questions indicating that they're at least somewhat interested in bettering their knowledge. I've often had one of the geeks I've talked to previously accost me at a later visit and thank me for pointing them to newegg.com or another web site where they've learned more about a product and the open-market price.

Now, they're not perfect. When I found a real deal on a new receiver at one store, I had to be firm with the manager about their price as posted versus what the web site and sale said it should be. But he gave me the item at the marked price after verifying that I wasn't making the mis-mark up, and took the time to ask me about how it was working the next time I was in the store.

I realize that this isn't much - the type of knowledge and courtesy that I grew up with in the 1950's and 1960's - but in today's world, it's as good as you'll get at a big-box retailer.

Now, if only Fry's - other than the store in Indianapolis - would get to this point...

Microsoft makes final heroic grab for OOXML votes

Brett Brennan

Does it really matter in the end?

Regardless of the ISO vote, OOXML will become the defacto standard for document formatting in the near future. Period. Either OOXML will become a "separate but equal" standard ratified by the ISO and implemented - albeit with commercial license shackles attached - by any party that wants to interact with document formats, or it will become the same "standard" that Microsoft Office document formats (.doc, .xls, .ppt, etc.) have become today.

The ONLY thing that OOXML as a standard does is allow Microsoft to bid on some government contracts in the short term. In the long run, Microsoft will eventually prevail on these contracts, as, over time, more and more government offices discover that they can't exchange documents created in ODF with Office reliably, and, for legal reasons, they MUST adopt the formats and tools of their constituents in order to avoid liability.

THIS is the elephant that's been standing in the room that everyone has been pretending isn't there. I do hope that the inevitability of OOXML is acknowledged by the ISO and Microsoft, and this standard business gets settled once and for all.

(BTW - I am an OpenOffice user and have been for years. The only MS product I own is on my phone - and I'm getting rid of that ASAP. Having vitriolic hatred of Microsoft doesn't change the facts, however: OOXML will win the "document wars" just as surely as Internet Explorer won the "browser wars". I will not use OOXML, but in that commitment I acknowledge that I will only be able to exchange the barest minimum of format with anyone else - and, possibly, lose opportunities to earn a living in the process. That is my choice, and I accept the consequences without objection.

All the fan boys and legal beagles are absolutely right in their assertion "You don't have to USE the product if you don't want to". Unlike most people out there, I understand and accept the terms of THAT EULA - and its consequences.)

BT 'security upgrade' causes email headaches

Brett Brennan
Dead Vulture

See the other El Reg article on US problems

The same sort of thing has happened over the weekend to at&t email filters in the US. See El Reg article


for this side of the pond's response...

(Dead vulture, 'cause that's what my domains look like today...)

AT&T and Verizon thrash rivals with $16bn spectrum swipe

Brett Brennan

Sprint's Salvation

It seems that Sprint may have known something was brewing when it started back-peddling on WiMAX. With the C block going to "the usual suspects", all Sprint has to do is use the 2.5GHz slots to "match" whatever at&t and Verizon do. Which is, most likely, to provide backhaul rather than lots of new services.

Face it: US$9B or US$6B is a LOT of cash, but, compared to having to build out FTTH or other "brick and mortar" technology, it's cheap. Or at least cost-neutral. So Verizon and at&t could use this to simply support their existing infrastructure, drain some more profit out of their sunk costs, and wait for something really new and pressing to come along.

Sprint, on the other hand, is kind of happily fence-sitting. If Verizon or at&t challenge them, they can deliver WiMAX at the drop of a hat - faster than the block C could be built out by the other cellcos. If the others decide to do backhaul only, well, that's kinda what Sprint was think about anyway, so once again, they're covered. And if Verizon and at&t don't do jack with the new spectrum...well, Sprint can do what ever they want.

It's funny: I've been a Nextel/Sprint customer for well over a decade. Now, I DO have telco operations experience - days spent at BellSouth, AT&T, and even some brief time at Sprint - so I can actually help the CSR when they're having problems getting an account set up. This has proven to be a god-send to them when things were quite pear-shaped last year. I also am lucky to be switching from Nextel to Sprint, and therefore get the Nextel support team first, rather than Sprint. Nextel staff has proven to be professional, very concerned and quite willing to listen to me when I make suggestions - unlike the Sprint folks. (Indeed, I've actually had a second-line supervisor on the phone for over three hours tracking down an issue - something you've NOT going to get from at&t without a pot-full more lines than I have!) All in all my experience here has been excellent: I might be the ONLY satisfied customer in the world, but by God, I AM satisfied.

That's my nickel's worth. I'm probably wrong from square zero, but you never can tell...

Video conferencing gets cheaper, nastier easier

Brett Brennan
Dead Vulture

@Joe K

Ah, yes: settling intra-office dynamics in a "gentlemanly" fashion! What a trip! Back in my younger "cruiser-weight" days, we often settled software design disputes - literally - in the parking lot - with fisticuffs! There were days when the entire system software team looked like they were extras from "Fight Club"! (BTW, I lost ALL my matches, but got respect for being the only QA guy that was willing to "step out". And I'm still close friends with all the members of that bank's "Fight Club"...)

More seriously, I've been testing video conferencing systems for the past 15 years, and still have yet to find one (including the Cisco and HP offerings) that truly add value to an organization. However, what I have discovered it that a decent voice conference call setup with the ability to quickly exchange documents and including a "virtual white board" works for nearly all situations that I need to discuss things with remote colleagues. It's the white board capability that is the biggest problem: I use an old NEC tablet PC to sketch things out in real-time, but folks trapped with a desktop or laptop and a mouse are at a significant disadvantage.

Microsoft is probably furthest along the "right" road here with SharePoint services, but eventually the approach will end up with something like a custom MMRP game server that implements the white board or, even simpler, a WEB 2.0 application that allows direct interaction on a shared page. This is outside of my expertise, but should be straight-forward (if not especially easy) to do.

(The dead vulture to commemorate what I looked like after a "design meeting"...)

Russian serfs paid $3 a day to break CAPTCHAs

Brett Brennan
Dead Vulture

Charge 'em, Danno!

The quickest solution to this problem is for the major mail ISPs to start charging a fee for a mail account. This does not have to be an on-going monthly charge (although it will probably end up that way) but a sign-up fee would go a long way to eliminate SPAM accounts. If the price is more than the potential profit from accounts, the SPAM generators will quickly abandon this practice and go back to hacking existing accounts. Not like they've stopped that anyway, but it would eliminate one more vector for their infections.

I'd like to suggest charging per email message as well - but that gets into other economic areas, opening up a bigger land-fill of worms, so to speak. How to reimburse honest (but stupid) people that get compromised for excessive mail bills, saving "our children" from developing economically crippling "email addiction", the discrimination against the poor who will be priced out of receiving email, the discrimination against the stoopid for getting us into this in the first place, the -- AAACCCK! ARRRGHHH!....

(Senators Obama and Clinton silence this commentator, each pulling one end of his neck tie in different directions - hard...)

Windows better off closed, says Microsoft

Brett Brennan

You have three choices

(1) You provide documentation on ALL the APIs, libraries, applications, etc. that are in your product to allow other developers to create a working interoperability with your product;

(2) You provide the source code to permit anyone to reverse-engineer the documentation as needed;

(3) You provide a "closed" product that cannot be interfaced except as you specifically allow.

The problems with these choices:

(3) - You severely limit the market for your product. Unless you hold a de-facto monopoly position, this generally results in a competitive product displacing you simply by allowing a larger cadre of symbiotic products to work with it. IBM learned this lesson the hard way when technology let mini and micro computers usurp the applications from mainframes, even with a market monopoly. And Microsoft learned this with the original Windows releases (following Apple's success with the Mac SDK) by - literally - giving away the SDK and documentation for Windows development to end-run the tightly controlled OS/2 development environment.

(2) - If you make source code available you WILL have branches occurring. However, this is countered by providing the supporting community with leadership and responsiveness that permits extensions, repairs and changes to be incorporated into the main stream product with benefits for all involved. Leadership requires a LOT of truthful communications, and the tolerance of "splinter religions" that continue to depend on your core product, but are just out of sync enough to preclude re-integrating into the main branch. Among other issues...

(1) - If you are going to document your internals in order to permit access to them, then you have to do it in a covenant with the community that engenders true mutual dependence. Almost identical to (2), you have to ensure a tremendous amount of communication in order to not strand products without warning when changes are introduced, and you absolutely MUST document ALL interfaces ACCURATELY. This means keeping the docs fastidiously up to date, and if errors are uncovered, immediately confess to them and make amends. If you do this, you can provide warnings that certain specifications are not recommended for use, as they may cause problems or be subject to changes or removal without warning - and have the community actually respect the warnings.

Regardless of which choice (or combination of choices for a multi-faceted product like an OS) are taken, the key to making ANY of these models work long-term is building TRUST with the user and developer community. And trust is ONLY achieved by demonstrating that YOU trust your users and community developers.

Allowing a development community build a market for your core product with add-on applications, then cutting the community's legs out from under it by creating your own products that use "secret" interfaces and breaking the interfaces that your supporters used is NOT the way to engender trust. Microsoft has done this time and time again to dedicated developers and partners: only their monopoly position has allowed them to continue this practice.

Redmond has made the bed it is sleeping in through years of abuse. Whatever choice they make, the results will be solely their own making.

Ex-Transmeta CEO Ditzel joins - wait for it - Intel

Brett Brennan

It's not about Transmeta, it's all about VIA

VIA's little engine that could, it's C7 and Eden very low power CPU technology has been a small but persistent thorn in Intel's side for years. Recent models of the VIA cpu technology are achieving performance that is in line with Intel's Atom announcement, at lower costs. VIA also have been making inroads in the set top box market, possibly the biggest new consumer market on the horizon.

Who better to complement the Bay Area behemoth than someone with real experience in battling VIA on the micro-power "computer-in-a-CD-footprint" front? These two announcements (Atom and Ditzel) show Intel's turning away from simply fighting AMD over the mainstream chip market and looking to new greener (in more ways than one) fields.

As a long-time VIA mini-ITX user, I have been waiting for this to come from Intel. It will certainly heat up the very low power battle, and, given that VIA has JUST entered into the sub-100nM fabrication foray, could trigger some additional partnerships or mergers on that side of the chip war. Indeed, with AMD licking its woulds from the core battles gone wrong, AMD is not in a position to buy VIA or vice-versa, leaving Intel free to attack here with confidence.

Things will be interesting in this arena for the next year or two. Keep tuned...

Terrorist robots dissected - anatomy of a scare

Brett Brennan

It doesn't have to be that big to make a big bang

We always consider targets like 10 Downing Street or The White House. In reality, there are plenty of "soft" targets that have greater impact to more people.

A couple of US$500 "autonomous" RC aircraft hitting several electrical power towers or sub-stations at the same time could cause a major electrical crisis, as the sub-station failure in Florida state last week demonstrated. The same effect could be achieved by hitting a couple of refineries on the Houston, Texas ship channel; again, the historical precedent of the Texas City disaster shows how bad this could be.

These attacks would not be devastating the way the World Trade Center or London Underground attacks were, but hit several targets one after another could, with the press "fearleading", become true "terror" events.

We have to keep focused on the fact that terrorists don't need to kill masses of people to get a good panic. That's why it's called TERRORISM - it's all about the scare.

What we really need is for people of the Western world to take a page from the Israelis: no matter what "terror" occurs, realize that it's localized and the equivalent of a teen temper tantrum. Put it into the perspective of how many people get killed in a bus crash or a bad fire or in random murders DAILY: wrecks, fires and wanton murder are the price we pay for living in the "modern" world. Ignoring terrorists is the price we have to pay for freedom: carry on with our lives in the face of random adversity.

You folks across the Pond in England should listen to your grandparents about their lives during the Blitz. There you had REAL terror - bombs falling from the sky - and yet they carried on.

As a parting shot: back during Persian Gulf 1 I had to do extensive business travel through the US. There were several times that I was the only passenger on an airliner, and nearly the only person in the airport (LAX, PHX, CGV) because of the fear terrorists instilled by threatening to blow up US aircraft. Many co-workers would not travel at the time: I chastised them for their failure to do their job to uphold our freedom.

It's our job, nay, our DUTY to ignore these gnats of terror and get on with our lives.

The day we marginalize the terrorists is the day they fail - forever.

(I never flame, but this topic really pisses me off. Sorry about that.)

Nokia starts tagging photos

Brett Brennan

Anyone ever hear of a database?

With the proliferation of "consumer" database tools (Access, MySQL, SQLite, etc.) it's easy enough to set up an application (or even do it manually) to build a database that has cross-referenced tag data as attributes in different entities that have a relationship to a photo file name. You can then search the relationships using standard query language or forms queries. OLE (remember OLE?) allows you to click on the file link and open the picture.

Of course this requires either some user work (writing the app or linking up the tools) or the purchase or open-source search for the appropriate tool(s). But if you have thousands or tens of thousands of images (and some of my professional photog friends DO have libraries this size - several terabytes of images) you are going to be doing some tagging already - even if it's simple automated addition of date-time-lat-lon to the images.

Nokia's concept is certainly a step in the correct direction. If they could add a short voice note or, better yet, a voice note to text tagging application in the phone, then truly Nokia would be Gods among Men...

(BTW - great rejoinders, Andrew!)

Scientist warns against technology addiction

Brett Brennan

What about *ACCEPTABLE* addictions?

How about *READING* "addiction": spending your "down" time reading books? Or the aforementioned Television "addiction"? Or, even worse, our "addiction" to work - 40+ hours a week in behavior that has been "proven" to be as detrimental to our health as alcohol abuse?

I guess it all comes down to what one group of people consider "balanced" behavior versus another group. Is reading books every evening instead of watching television for an "addictive" amount of time considered abnormal? Is working at a skill you really enjoy - and often getting paid for it - considered an "addiction"?

Usually an "addiction" is defined as a behavior that adversely affects your life; that is, a behavior that causes physiological, psychological or financial damage to you and your family or close associates. "Traditional" addictions like alcohol, drugs or gambling have clearly identifiable symptoms and consequences. However, "substitution" of one behavior for another that does NOT have adverse life impacts, or at least no worse than the replaced "acceptable" behavior, shouldn't qualify as an addiction - unless they start having the same impact to your life as one of the "traditional" addictive behaviors.

So substituting computer or technology use for time that would be spent reading, watching television, playing chess, watching a movie are NOT addiction: they are simply "life-style choices" that technology makes available today.

And the real biggie - work "addiction" - is actually encouraged, as it decreases the cost of productivity...at the expense of both quality of life and physiological health.

Tell you what: I won't consider it an "addiction" until the police set up checkpoints for "excessive work behavior" late at night and haul me off to a Caribbean resort until I "learn my lesson" and pay my leisure debt to Society...

Vista SP1 kills and maims security apps, utilities

Brett Brennan

It's all about documenting the kernel

Or, as Dr. Strangelove put it: "When you build a doomsday bomb you have to TELL people about it!"

Since MS is loathe to "open the kimono" on their internal API, it's not surprising that third-party vendors have to write through "holes" that they reverse-engineer. And, it is the third-party's responsibility to fix the problem - NOT Microsoft's - as the third party is the one exploiting the hidden API.

This all boils down to "you get what you pay for". If you want more aggressive system protection that that offered by a vendor, you take the risk of future failure. That's the trade-off, and the third party vendor AS WELL AS THEIR CUSTOMER needs to understand this. Alas, most technology users don't do their homework, or at least, are likely to complain when these issues occur.

Sun's approach is in many ways admirable; however, I'd be willing to bet that there are "undocumented" APIs in Solaris that, while not frequently employed, may still "break" with intermediate updates.

There is also some historical precedence for this kind of updating by MS. Back in the 1970's IBM had a serious problem with customers using "undocumented" features of their mainframe OS to support various business functions. Since major updates were infrequent, the use of these features could become business-critical before an update would come along and break them. IBM decided to address this in the early 1980's by doing two things: IBM increased the frequency of updates to "discourage" customers from having time to find the "holes", and it simplified the update patching procedure (which until then required assembly language programming skills from "Systems Programmers" to implement on a custom basis) to become more automated and less "open" to hacking. The result was an increase in the stability of the mainframe OS, and, after an initial screaming from customers that had to modify all their non-compliant software, better reliability and simplified maintenance of their applications.

I'm not a Microsoft "fanboy" - indeed, I'm an unrepentant Linux user - but, MS DOES own the product, and they can change it as they see fit. Customers have the options of either not upgrading (see all the XP reversions after Vista) and living with the "reduced" functionality, or dealing with the changes.

If anything has occurred since Microsoft introduced Vista, it is that MS has taught Jill Consumer to start acting like Fortune 100 data centers: don't upgrade Windows until the NEXT revision is introduced - about a year.

Treehuggers lose legal fight to solar-powered neighbour

Brett Brennan
Paris Hilton

There may be precedent

Most communities have laws that require the removal of items that can cause damage to a neighboring property, provided that the neighboring property is within all building/maintenance codes and standards. I, for example, had to remove a tree (the only tree over 3 meters tall in my entire neighborhood) as it had the potential for crashing down on my neighbor's home. (BTW, I did so without being asked or served upon: since I'm never home, I figured that it was better to prevent the damage in my absence...)

"Illegal growth" in California *USUALLY* refers to trees that are growing on a property line and encroach with a large part of their bulk into another property. (My tree - although I was in Arizona - was "illegal growth".) I'm betting that these trees were of this type of "illegal". Again, an interpretation of the law that is, in most cases, completely reasonable.

Now, with all that said, someone should have done a site survey - and building inspection - for the solar installation before construction, and these issues should have been identified much earlier than after installation. Being familiar with the areas of California that are "redwood territory", however, it's much more likely that the "installer" was a local Hippie (yes, they still exist) with little practical experience - and even if they did warn the solar folks about possible shade, they were certainly ignored. Indeed, it may go event further on the case law side: if the building (I'm assuming here) that has the solar panels installed predates the trees (entirely possible in NoCal, especially since it seems the trees are NOW a bigger problem), then the law is probably correct in requiring removal or maintenance.

A final note: revenge for the "tree huggers" may still be at hand. Another "quirk" of construction in the redwood forest areas is that, due to insane environmental and use restrictions imposed by these self-same "Hippies" (many of whom started out as squatters that then acquired "owner" status over the past half century) is that most homes in these areas are wildly in violation of building and use code. A visit from a "real" building inspector will probably find the solar "palace" in multiple violations - even to the point of red-tagging the property until very costly and possibly impractical updates are made. (FYI: most of these homes are sold "as-is", meaning if you want it, you take it without an inspection, something EVERYONE does in that area...)

On the other hand, one call for an inspection may trigger another...and the war escalates. Maybe Mr. Grundy's suggestion of bongs at sunrise is going to come to pass anyway...

EU to ban the patio heaters that ate the planet. Not.

Brett Brennan

It's about smoking. Period.

Living in the former colony of the United States, I've personally been assaulted by the anti-smoking Nazis complaining about my "polluting" their air at 30 meters. Over here, some municipalities are banning smoking on patios, sidewalks, parking lots, in autos - anywhere that one single sensitive child might be exposed to instant death from tobacco. Forcing people outside to smoke - with no possible option for voluntary membership in a smoking-only club or area - was supposed to be an inconvenience to stop smoking.

Patio heaters have suddenly become a "hot" item here, as most pubs with a patio have added them for the comfort of their smoking patrons. Now the same people that banned all forms of indoor smoking are banning outdoor heating under the guise of "saving the planet" - as this reads better than bluntly stating that they are making it as uncomfortable as possible for smokers.

John has gotten this article correct on all counts: leave moral judgment out of the equation and target a problem to solve, and do so in ways that will make a real difference.

But, once again, the issue isn't about stealing sawdust: it's still stealing wheelbarrows. Government and business want people to stop smoking so they don't have to raise taxes or increase health benefits to pay for any problems. They also don't want the market driving up prices for resources and utilities - like electricity, water, gas, fuel - so they restrict the uses of the general population to allow them to continue to consume.

The day that I see government offices - the REAL offices, where governors, senators, congress-critters, etc. work - without incandescent lights, lower (or higher) temperatures and COMPLETELY without smoking areas (indoor ones at that) THEN I'll start taking this seriously. Until then, fookem.