Boy, I am always amazed at the breadth of stuff that goes on weekly, surrounding people’s preferred operating systems, new hardware press releases and so on.  For me, it’s one of the best things about the internet: constant information from all corners of the globe, seeking an audience and advocate elsewhere.

Intel, AMD and the new kid in town

Image via CrunchBase

So, this week there has been loads of stuff which caught my attention, only a short list of which I have time to share.  First things first, Ars Technica : a constantly vibrant source of interesting news out there in the technosphere.  Featured in its hallowed pages was the title ARM’s Eagle has landed: meet the A15“.  Indeedy, ARM is developing more processor chips which are beginning to compete with the likes of Intel’s Atom and AMD’s lesser-known Geode.

AMD Geode™ LX 800@0.9W Processor

The exciting thing here is that a third player is entering the midst of a traditionally two-horse race: GPU/CPU design and manufacture (AKA AMD vs Intel).  Similarly to the console race of 2007-ish, a third player getting involved (in the console war, this being Microsoft‘s XBox 360) does great things for the market and the larger picture.  Who would have thought, against the mighty 360 or PS3, that the Wii would have competed so well?


We’ll see how this plays out in a different way with chip manufacturers though but, as with most of these things, the early adopters of SmartBooks (Netbooks with phone capabilities, typically powered by ARM processors) will likely be Business types and Linux users who aren’t just taken in by the big names.

The Apple is finally ripening
Finally. Sense at Apple.  Well, some at least. Developers are creative, resourceful individuals.  So throwing down the gauntlet by restricting their development languages was kind of a draconian, hard-line gesture by a company pimping itself as cool and trendy.  Sorry Fanbois, but it was a bit Microsofty, actually.  Which is actually unfair to Microsoft, as they are generally far less restrictive about this (as this list of programming languages illustrates..).  Then again, 99.4% of malware is aimed at Windows users.

But back to Apple, this Ars story describes the change in stance at Cappuccino.

How nice of them to open up their policy as well as opening up their iOS 4.1 BootROM in the same week!  In case anyone thinks I have a grudge against Apple, far from it.  This vulnerability intended feature clearly demonstrates that Apple are committed to opening up their systems and allowing users to fully use what they have purchased.  Brilliant!

Oh, but then there are still situations which make you wonder.  Like the stealthy Apple OS-X update that kept “fanbois strangely silent“…   I’m not sure I would have described Apple’d products as a “mutant virus“, but their loyal customers’ thinking probably is.  But then, Apple build fashion statements, not computers.

Open systems continue to gather pace

There’s an interesting article at O’Reilly on debunking the 1% myth.  The 1% myth is the idea, forever purported by some in the industry, that Linux only has 1% of desktop market share.  Succinctly put, as there is no way of actually measuring this accurately, it’s a false claim (as the article details).

Talking of open software, media player Amarok is looking more and more beautiful.  What’s not to like about this, especially when it’s free?

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News abounds today of Google’s statement, relating to its operations in China. The statement indicated that Google would consider exiting China completely if it could not operate, with government approval, in an unrestricted manner. The post is here: business, to turn away just under 20% of your potential revenue to comply with your own principles must be a hard call to make. But Google is global, and perhaps 4.8 billion people in the rest of the world is a sufficient number to target with AdWords campaigns…

But what is really happening here? It’s difficult to believe that Google would invest so much time and effort, installing services in 2006, and then expect that within 4 years Beijing would accede to Google’s “wisdom” and suddenly allow freedom of speech. Within 4 years? After thousands of years of communist, dynastic and, occasionally, even tyrannical rule? No, somehow this seems unlikely.

It’s a surprising move by Google; one that could incite anything from a murmur of disquiet amongst the ranks of young Chinese teens, avidly seeking knowledge and understanding, to full-blown protests, perhaps even riots. It’s something of a political move, too: reading between the lines, it would appear that Google suspects Beijing of orchestrating the cyber-attacks on it and the twenty or so other organisations, as mentioned in their blog. By saying “play fair or don’t play at all”, Google may be vocalising the sentiments of the underclasses, still struggling to be heard from within the provinces.

Something that has not been mentioned (to my knowledge) so far in the press is the opportunity to expose Hong Kong. Under Chinese rule, but with special provisions (such as more liberal allowances on internet services), Hong Kong would present a potential new base for Google’s Chinese operation. But perhaps that’s a step too far?

The question remains whether it’s a viable exercise, and for viability, read “bottom-line”. Implementing the required censorship and publishing restrictions as required by the Chinese government will likely have been more technical trouble than they’re worth for Google, who elsewhere in the world have hands-down probably the most advanced information and revenue infrastructure to be found.

But information and revenue go hand in hand in Google’s business model. The less information, the less dynamism on-site, then the less interest there will likely be and the less uptake, over time. Google works in the west because there are virtually no limits, within the law, on trading ideas and services. In the far east, Google may have just observed a synergy that works to the detriment of its model. It may also be outgunned by larger powers at work; Beijing’s insurance.

We shall see if Google’s gambit, encouraging closer but more open ties with Beijing, will pay off.

Today is Document Freedom Day. To celebrate, many of us open source netizens are doing the right thing and rejecting email attachments sent in proprietary formats, such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Access – 95, 97-2003 and so on.

The campaign is quite simple: refuse locked-in file formats.

The Free Software Foundation has provided some interesting examples of “polite” rejections to send to people who have emailed an attachment with a proprietary file format.

It’s a difficult thing, to tell someone that you are rejecting their attachment through choice.  You fear that it comes across as being awkward.  Breaking the social “norm” and standing for something you believe in is rarely painless.

There are ways to deal with this though, and the best way is probably humour.  It’s a serious message, yes, but that doesn’t mean it has to be all haughty overtones and morally correct principles shoved in people’s faces.  Making it funny will make it stick just as well.

Here are a few of my suggestions for handling your email rejections with a bit of added spice.  It’s a safe assumption that your friend uses Microsoft Office, so you could include this link at the end (

  • “Thanks for your email attachment.  Unfortunately, my dog ate it. He likes anything that is completely unpalatable, especially proprietary file formats.  He doesn’t seem bothered at all with open standards formats like the ODF, though.  Could you re-send your file using that format please? “


  • “Thanks for the document.  Sadly, we do not use proprietary file formats any more as the internet has brought about a revolution in open document format usage.  It happened so quickly that no-one noticed!! Please could you re-send your file in Open Document Format (ODF)?..”
  • “Thanks for the information. Regrettably, I am unable to open this format of document because I have become enlightened.  In my new karmic state, I only desire peace and harmony, and closed-off formats disrupt my inner sanctum.  Please could you re-send this file in natural, organic and eco-friendly Open Document Format?”


And of course, you MUST MUST MUST include a link to the Document Freedom Day web site, or to the Free Software Foundation, or to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or to the Open Rights Group, or …


Thanks for watching!

Apple’s attempt to sell me an iPad
(the image has now been deleted, but depicted Apple’s QuickTime-only web site with the plugin not working – or failing-over nicely, in my browser)

So, I can’t quite work out why I might want or need an iPad. Amusingly, a friend of mine posted a link on Facebook to Apple’s “TV” adverts on its website.

What I saw was the image, opposite.

Hmm, strange. Is this product only for people who already use Windows and/or a Mac? Being unable to install QuickTime (which is for a “PC” or Mac only) means I am unable to view this product. Apple are unable to do the most basic thing with sales and actually demonstrate to me why this product is good.

Which then led me to think, perhaps it isn’t.

My eyes have been opened to yet another case of foul play by a megacorp.

As if their package management isn’t disgusting enough
(, /their BIOS
configuration on laptops of the recent few years leaves MUCH to be desired.

On the bottom of my HP Compaq 6715b laptop is a removable panel which
covers a memory slot and a Mini-PCI-E connector. “Great”, I thought,
having a non-functioning Broadcom card in there, “I’m going to install
an Intel 4925 AGN wireless card here because it’s supported by the
firmware/kernel I use (CentOS 5.3) – and I’m loath to building a new
kernel when I can just plug in a new card ;-)”.

My card, £15 off Ebay, arrived this morning and I carefully fitted it.
Booted the machine, went into the BIOS settings to ensure it was
enabled, and…. wait a minute, it isn’t listed. Perhaps it’s broken…
or …perhaps HP have imposed a blacklist of vendors/subsystems which
THEY don’t allow to be recognised in MY computer. Not listed in lspci,
nor dmesg… basically nowhere.

Is this legal? Did I ever see any restriction declared ANYWHERE before
buying this machine that stated “HP retains sole right to how this
machine is used and with what”..?

What point is there putting this restriction in?! Someone buying a
budget laptop isn’t going to source their over-priced parts from the
OEM! Why, darn it, why?!

If you have – or rather, are thinking of buying an HP, Dell or IBM
laptop, I’d suggest reading these first:

I’ve thought about actually re-flashing my BIOS with modified code,
partly out of sheer bloody-mindedness towards HP (oh, and I would
publish, intricately, the solution), and partly just out of the
practical need for wireless networking. But now, I’m just baffled by
the whole thing.

Hilariously, as a final insult, the latest BIOS update from HP for my
machine, “updates the Computrace OPTION ROM to version 866”. So…
you’re telling me I have this “Computrace OPTION ROM” installed, huh?

HP –

BlackHat (deactivate the rootkit) –

Is there no goodness left in the world? Can old ladies not be helped
across the road any more? MUST we buy battery hen eggs instead of free
range?! Like, where’s the love, man..?

No doubt open-source proponents will rejoice over this news: The British government has decided to increase its use of open-source software in the public services field. It will be adopted over Windows whenever it delivers the best value for the money. Schools, govenment offices and public agencies will all give open source a new look.

read more | digg story

Ok, so perhaps it’s me. I can live with that. But the reason I pause for thought on this is that I recently received a link that a friend emailed to me. It was a link to a site with a video of computer technology that is now 20 years old. It really made me stop and take notice.

Here’s this computer running on a 25MHz processor, with more responsiveness than my 2GHz laptop. Is this progress? It doesn’t seem like it to me. Surely I should not only have the tools on my desktop today, but my desktop should have evolved into something more capable too?